Thursday 21 November 2013

Karma Nirnaya of Madhwacharya

This is generally believed to be the last of Madhwacharya’s works. Just like the Rg Bhashya, here too Madhwacharya shows himself as being conversant with the Vedic language and its idiom.
Here too Madhwacharya takes us to the supreme Being who he calls Vishnu and the underlying thread of this work is the glorification of Vishnu.
There is an interesting legend behind the composition of this work.
Madhwacharya had come to a temple in Ucchabuti near Ujire.
Today, Ujire is a small town near Dharmastala and it is situated in Belthangady taluk of Dakshina Kannada district.
When Madhwacharya and his disciples went to the Janardhana  temple, some of the seers assembled there questioned him on certain aspects of Vedic Mantras and procedures. They thought that as Madhwacharya was a monk, he might not know details about Vedic sacrifices, their meanings and details.
Others accused Madhwacharya of only propagating Tattvajnana as he was not well versed in the karmakanda of the Vedas
Madhwacharya, however, stunned the gathering when he easily outsmarted the gathering and defeated them in the argument. He easily tackled all the queries that the seers put to him and gave them convincing answers about several aspects.
The seers accepted defeat and requested him to explain Mahaa Naamni Mantras of Aitreya  Aranyaka. Madhwacharya then explained to them the meaning and significance of Mahaa Naamni Mantras. He then wrote them in the form of a book which he called  Karma Nirnaya.
This book is also known as Kandartha Nirnaya. This work too gives us a totally new interpretation of the Vedas just as the Rg Bhashya did. Scholars say the Karma Nirnaya is only next to Visnutattva Nirnaya in its extent. It deals with many sacrificial hymns that are generally recited in connection with the Prstha Stotra of the Naiskevalya Sastra, says BNK Sharma, a scholar.
It also deals with the concept of Karmakanda in conjunction with the Brahman. Madhwacharya interprets the Karmakanda in the light of supremacy of Vishnu.
He takes on the theory of Nirguna Brahman and attacks it, saying how can God be without attributes or form. This comes in the opening section where he says Vishnu is Saguna or a supreme being with attributes.
 To Madhwacharya, the Brahman is immortal, imperishable, eternal, and thus the basis of the impersonal Nirguna. He says this is clearly stated in the Geeta. For him, the personal form indicated is generally Narayana or Vishnu.
Madhwacharya then cites several passages in the Vedas investing several attributes to the Brahman. He says the denial of
attributes to the Brahman in some scriptures must be interpreted only in terms of  Prkritic attributes.
He also refutes the concept of Nirvisesa preached by Shankaracharya. How can a Brahman have no characteristics or nirguna of its own, he asks. Shankara had preached that the Brahman has no individual or personal characteristic. Madhwacharya here says there is a personal characteristic as there is a difference between the Creator (Vishnu or Paramatma) and the created (Atma).
Madhwacharya says Nirvisesatva cannot be negative.
The gathering accepts these arguments and then proceeds to question the Acharya on the Mahaa Naamni Mantras, their meaning and how Upasargas or prepositions should be joined to those Mantras.
Madhwacharya says that prepositions like pracetana, pracetaya, aayaahi, pibamatsva, kratuccanda ritham, bruhat, sumna aadehi No vatso should be added to the riks “adhatanyam  jatere prema” and others to get the correct meaning of the mahaa naamni riks.
Madhwacharya then goes on to record the meaning of Mahaa Naamni riks in this book.
He says even works dealing with karmas are actually
hymns in praise of Vishnu. He, therefore, chooses a mantra in the Mahaanaamni meter which apparently praises Indra and explains its significance with reference to Vishnu.
He then goes on to interpret the entire Mahaanaamni hymns word by word. He concludes the work with this Mangalacharana sloka

  namo nArAyaNAyAja bhavazkroSNa rUGmu khaiH  |
  sadA vandita pAdAya zrIpAya   preyase -dhikam  ||

The English meaning says “I prostrate at the lotus feet of  Narayana who is very dear to Madhwa and one who is worshipped by deities like Brahma, Rudra, Indra, Surya and others.
The Acharya tells us here that is very important to know and understand the etymological meaning of a word in addition to the traditional one. He then goes on to say that if Vedas are interpreted etymologically, it can give us the ultimate meaning of Vedas.
He says,

“rUDhiyOgau vinA kashchinnairvArthO vEdagO bhavEt|
tatrApi yougikO mukhyaH sarvatrAsti sa vaidekE||”

Here, he says the etymological meaning should be taken. He asks people to follow the epistemological meaning (yOgArtha) along with the regular meaning of usage (rUDhArtha). He rates the epistemological meaning as more important than the other.One of  the best commentaries on this work is by Jaya Theertha. The first however is by Narahari Theertha.
By the way, the Lakshana Granthas (2), Khandana Traya (3),
Tattva Granthas (4) along with Karma Nirnaya are collectively known as Dasaprakaranas.

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