Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Rg Bhashya of Madhwacharya

This is a work wherein Madhwacharya has interpreted the first forty slokas of the Rig Veda. According to the Acharya, each sloka and statement in the Vedas has at least three meanings.
Elaborating further on the etymology of the words used in the Rig Veda, he says the underlying meaning when he reads the slokas is that they are all in praise of Vishnu or Hari, who according to him is supreme.
The three levels of understanding are  Adhibhautic, Adhidaivic and Adhyatmic.
The first level or Adhibhatic or agryadidevataparatvene-meaning looking at the slokas from the physical level. The second also called tadantargatavisnuparatvena  is to understand them as a praise to the Abhimana devethes or gods who dwell within us. The final level or adhyatmaparatvena is interpreting them as the Supreme being or Vishnu. All the three levels of meaning is contained in this sloka,

 “tryo'rthah sarvavedesu dasarthah sarvabharate,
Visnoh sahasranamapi nirantarasatarthakam. ”

He commences his brilliant work by starting with “AgnimeelE purOhitam”. He shows us how the words in these forty lines are nothing but a prayer to Vishnu and his glory. Vishnu is supreme and the other gods are dependent on him.
He bases his argument that the Rg Veda means Vishnu on two main planks or doctrines. The first is the repeated use of Omkara as conveying a Brahaman and this means Vishnu and Vedas.
The second is that the entire Vedas and its study is meant to provide us a vehicle to move away from the worldly  to the holy and from the materialistic to the spiritual. Only the supreme being or Vishnu ca help us attain this goal and nobody else. Since Vishnu is supreme and all other gods subordinate, the Rg Veda is an exposition of Vishnu himself. The niruKti of the vedic deities and the adjectives given to them are explained. We can also find a similar explanation in the work or teeke of Jayatheertha and Mamtrartha Manjari of  Raghavendra Swamy
This is not a very big text. There is no colophon or closing notes at the end of the book and, hence, we are unsure whether the Acharya commented further and whether this was among the many parts that he wrote. As even Jayatheertha or Teekacharya wrote his commentary or Teeke on these forty lines only, we can surmise that this is all that has survived.
The text is important from two points. The first is because Madhwacharya shows us how the Rg veda can be interpreted to highlight the supremacy of Vishnu. The second is because he becomes the first saint-philosopher to directly refer and touch upon the Rg veda and comment on it. He is also the first to interpret the Veda, which is among the earliest religious texts of India.
Madhwacharya, here, adopts a poetical form to point out, the supremacy of Vishnu. He thus becomes the first religious leader to give us a totally spiritual meaning of the Rg Veda. 
Madhwacharya draws upon his vast repertoire of Sanskrit and he used many Sanskrit phrases and idioms to buttress his argument. We find that he follows the ancient rhythmical patterns while composing the Rg Bhashya.
Raghavendra Swamy too wrote a commentary on the Rg Bhashya but the text is no longer available. However, we have an oral tradition of this work. But it remains to be seen how authentic this can be.
The first to write a commentary on this work was Narahari Theertha, one of the four direct disciples of  Madhwacharya. Jayatheertha has written an excellent commentary on this text and to date it remains the most outstanding interpretation and commentary of Madhwacharya’s work.
Jayatheertha has written a detailed commentary on Rg bhasya and he explains each hymn of Rg veda and gives their meaning word by word. He also gives us grammatical explanation of the words, Risi, devata, Chandas and also the three levels of meaning.
The Mantrarthamanjari of Raghavendra Theertha is much more simple in style and Rayaru explains the importance of each hymn and he adheres to the interpretation offered in the Bhasya by Madhwacharya and Jayatheertha’s Teeka.  
Another excellent treatise on the Rg Bhashya is “Rgbhasyatika vivrti Padartha Prakasika” by Srinivasa Theertha (1590 – 1640). A disciple of  Yadavarya, some of his works supplements the work of his guru.
His commentary is rather elaborate. He explains the grammatical points in detail by liberally quoting the relevant sutras of Panini and a few other texts of Vyakarana shastra.
The “Rgbhasya Tippani Padartha Deepika by Pandurangi Kesavacharya (1580-1640) is another scholarly book. He was the younger brother of Vidydeesha Theertha who headed the Uttaradi Matha from 1619 to 1631.
His commentary on Rg Bhasya is a magnificent example of  giving  grammatical explanations for the Vedic words occurring in the hymns. He quotes extensively from Vyakarana shastras.
Chalari Narasimhachar (1620-1674) also has given us a commentary on Rg bhasya. He was a contemporary of Satyanatha Theertha of Utaradhi Matha.

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