Thursday, 21 February 2013

The first work of Madhwacharya

भगवद्गीताभाष्यम् or Bhagavadgītābhashyam
Madhwacharya has written 39 works and they cover a variety of topics on Vedas, religion and philosophy. These works together are called Sarvamoola Grantha and they deal with Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavath Gita and almost all of them showcase the Dwaita way of life.
Madhwacharya began writing at a very young age. A matchless scholar and erudite commentator he had the rare ability to dictate several subjects at the same time.
One of his first works is the Bhagavadgitabhashyam. Generally, this is believed to be his first work and as the name itself suggest it deals with the meaning of the Gita and several of its intricacies.
The book shows the scholar that Madhwa was and his brevity of language and compact syntax is amazing. The book is full of quotations from several other sources such as Vedas, Puranas, Samhitas and Itihasa and the young Madhwa makes a point with each such quotation.
Madhwa makes a point here that the Gita has at a minimum ten meanings. What he seems to say here is that the entire Gita is something like a continuing allegory, pregnant with meanings. The meaning of the words depends on the context and the words have multiple meanings and thus multiple interpretations.
There is an interesting story about this work. Madhwa took it to
Badari and recited it before Vedavyasa or Narayana. The benedictory verse of the gitabhashyam ,“Devam Narayanam Natva” ended with the word “Shakitah”. The word Shakitah in Sanskrit means he (here it is Madhwa) has written the bhashya as per his ability.
However, Madhwa's disciples who were accompanying him were astonished to hear a  voice emanating from the Lord’s idol that he should change the word “Shaktitah” to “Lesatah”, meaning that he-Madhwa-had the capability to give more and varied interpretation of the Gita than what he had given or written. Thus, Natayana himself stamped his seal of approval on this work. 
Another work , भगवद्गीतातात्पर्यनिर्ण, or Bhagavadgitatatparyanirnaya,  compliments the Gitabhashyam in at least two ways. Firstly, it gives some alternate meanings to Gita and secondly it takes on some other commentaries on the Gita and criticizes them. Madhwa tears to pieces Adwaitha commentary.
Both these works are excellent commentaries on the Gita and succeeding Madhwa philosophers and saints including Jayatheertha or Teekecharya, Raghavendra Swamy, Vyasaraja and others have given us sufficient interpretative texts. The Prameya Deepika Vyakhya is an excellent  commentary by Raghavendra Swamy on Gitabhashyam.
Madhwa starts off in the Gitabhashyam by explaining the importance of the Mahabharata and then continues with a scholarly explanation or rather interpretation of  certain events and incidents of the Gita. However, there is no word by word meaning of the Gita here. He takes up many verses which he felt had been either wrongly interpreted or distorted. Here, he has given explanations to about 250 to 300 stanzas, starting with the 11th sloka of chapter 2 of the Gita.
Earlier commentators had adopted he question and answer method of interpretation. They had themselves posed the question and answered it. Madhwa did away with that and took up only those verses which needed to be interpreted correctly, He also takes in a historical perspective of the Gita as against the earlier method of literary perspective.   
Interestingly, Madhwa also finds no difference between Karma and Jnana. In fact, the two complement each other and there is no dichotomy.

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