Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

The Secret of the Veda’ – A First Attempt: Commentaries or Bhāṣhyās on the ‘Vedās’ (contd.)

Rāmānujāchārya :
Important saint of ‘Sri Vaishnavisam’ and one of the most dynamic characters of Hinduism. He was both a philosophical as well as a social reformer. His celebrated system of philosophy known as ‘Vishishṭādvaita’ or ‘Qualified monism’ is ‘Advaita’ or ‘non-dualism’ with a ‘Visēsha’ or ‘qualification’. It admits plurality. Sri Ramanuja’s ‘Brahman’ or ‘Lord Narayana’ subsists in a plurality of forms as souls (Chit) and matter (Achit). His most famous books are:
1. Sri Bhashyam - The commentary on Brahma Sūtrās that establishes Vishishtādvaitic Siddantham.
2. Vedānta Sāra 3. Vedānta Deepa 4. Vedānta Sangraham - These three provide shorter and intermediate versions of the commentary on the Brahma Sūtrās.
5. Gitā Bhashyam,- Self explanatory.
6. Sharanāgathy Gadhyam - Prose type composition on his ultimate surrender to Lord. Recommendation, assurance and the Lord's reply.
7. Sri Ranga Gadhyam- Does not contain detailed philosophical debates. Instead it is a pure expression of devotion and gives a detailed description of the God ‘Sri Ranganatha’ as the repository of countless gunās, that he calls as Kalyāna guna meaning ‘virtuous’.
8. Sri Vaikunta Gadhyam- The Jivā's travel to Sri Vaikuntam and the beautiful narration of the Parama Padham.
9. Nityam- The Nitya Karma Anushtāna, Recommended daily ritual practices.
Madhvāchārya - (1238-1317):
Also known as Ānanda Tīrtha, he is the founder of the ‘Dvaita’ or dualistic school of Vedanta. Dvaita Philosophy proclaims that God and individual souls are different entities. The souls are eternal but are dependent on Vishnu and co-exist with Him eternally, supported by His will and entirely controlled by Him.
He has written two commentaries on Vedic hymns. The first, ‘Rig Bhāshya’ (in Sanskrit) deals with the first forty sūktās of Rig Veda. He stresses on the ādhyātmic interpretation which is expanded in the works of the disciples of his school namely Jayatīrtha and Rāghavēndra Swāmi. Like in his other works, here too he has upheld the supremacy of Lord Vishnu, and the dependence of all the dēvatās on Him. He has also explained the importance of Rishi, Dēvata and Chandas, in reciting Veda mantrās. The second is ‘Karmanirnaya’ dealing with Karma Kanda.
He has written commentaries on 10 Upanishads, Gita Bhāshya, Gita Tātparya , Brahmasūtra Bhāshya, 4 Purānās, 4 Vedānta Sutrās and about 20 other writings.
On Rig Veda Samhita: Madhvāchārya wrote a commentary on the first 40 sūktās of the first Mandala to illustrate how the meaning of the riks is to be grasped. He holds that in as much as performance of rituals is a necessary part of the Vedic Dharma, a ritualistic interpretation of the hymns is justifiable, but it is wrong to say that the fundamental message of the hymns is observance of ritual. He maintains that the spiritual interpretation gives the central meaning of the mantrās and that all the Vedās point to the supreme object of life which is to attain the sublime status at the feet of Vishnu. His Bhashya is small in volume and barring a few Pundits in the Madhva tradition, most students of the Veda are hardly aware that such a Veda-Bhashya is available, though incomplete.
Sāyana Āchārya - (1315-1387 CE):
A great medieval scholar, who wrote voluminous commentaries on all the Veda Samhitās and on ‘Shatpatha’, ‘ Aitareya’, ‘ Taittirīya’, ‘Talavakāra’ and ‘Chhāndogya’ Brāhmaņās. He flourished under King Bukka I and his successor Harihara II, in the Vijayanagar Empire of South India and has employed a different style for works on each Veda. His commentary on the Rig Veda Samhitā running to over 3000 pages and was edited by Max Müller. It is likely that the core portion of this commentary was written by Sāyaṇa himself, but contributions from his brother Mādhava and other disciples have been noted too. His works consist of invaluable topics dealing with mantrās of the Samhitās along with their ‘Pada Patha’- citations from ancient texts of authority, various traditional accounts, lexicons, meaning of the words of the hymns, at times possibility of other meanings, metre, grammar, accent and etymological derivation of the words of the mantrās. But for his ‘Bhāshyās’, our entire Vedic literature would have been impenetrable and scrutiny of the meaning of the Vedās hardly possible.
Quote from Sri Aurobindo, showing his appreciation to the works of Sāyana, despite completely differing from the basic approach and interpretation to Vedās given by him. “The commanding merits of this great legacy of the past are obvious. Composed by Sāyana with the aid of the most learned scholars of his time, it is a work representing an enormous labour of erudition, more perhaps than could have been commanded at that time by a single brain. Yet it bears the stamp of the coordinating mind. It is consistent in the mass inspite of its many inconsistencies of detail, largely planned, yet most simply, composed in a style lucid, terse and possessed of an almost literary grace one would have thought impossible in the traditional form of the Indian commentary. Nowhere is there any display of pedantry; the struggle with the difficulties of the text is skillfully veiled and there is an air of clear acuteness and of assured, yet unassuming authority which imposes even on the dissident. The first Vedic scholars of Europe admired especially the rationality of Sāyana’s interpretations.”
Sāyana’s interpretation of Vedās is one of practical approach. His intelligence was characteristically led by trust in the ideas or words of others such as Yāska etc., for after all he shared the superstitious beliefs of his age. As a result, the Veda was looked upon as a source-book for ritualism, as a sanction for intellectualism and as a justification for crude materialism. The Mīmāmsakās had already encouraged this outlook, and their preference for the books of Brāhmanās giving ritualistic tracts prevailed all along. The Samhita by a curious reversal of values, became secondary to the Brāhmanās. Sāyanā’s approach to Rig Veda Samhita in his famous Bhashya (commentary) is only through the Brāhmana ideology. He did not accord an independent status to the Samhita, but viewed it only as an appendage to the Brāhmana tracts. Though he did not deny the spiritual view point (like the Mīmāmsakās), his entire focus was on the rituals detailing the performance of rites like the ‘Bōdhāyna Shrauta Sūtrās.
He neither considered the Vedic seers to be mere children or men at their primitive stage, nor did he lay any stress on the explanation based on the sights and scenes of physical Nature. He observed and understood the Veda from the standpoint of sacrificial rites. His endeavor was to discover from the Veda the nature of sacrifice and give a full account of the ceremonies conducted during a sacrifice. The performance of sacrifice is a part of the spiritual life and its aim is to bring about progress of the soul and welfare here and hereafter. The Gods dwell in a world known as Heaven. The forces of Nature are backed by their powers. A particular God presides over a particular force of Nature. All the Gods are combined in the Universal God, and all the Gods are only the different manifestations of the same Universal God. It is the power of the Gods which endows men with power, and men too on their part propitiate the Gods through their sacrifices offered to them. The Gods are satisfied with and nourished by men's humble obeisance and their offering of Soma Rasa, while men in their turn attain to prosperity in this world and secure a better status in the other world.
The Western Indologists who took great interest in Vedic studies, unfortunately followed the ritualistic interpretations of Sāyana to a great extent, ignoring the earlier commentator Yāskāchārya with regard to the three levels of interpretation to Veda Samhitās. Max Muller’s publication of Rig Veda Samhitā along with Sāyana’s commentary provided high academic acceptance value. In turn it influenced more commentators including some leading Indian scholars to the misconception that Rig Veda Samhitā is devoid of wisdom. Also, the Western mind after finding it more logical and understandable, applied their tools of language, grammar, philology etc., to determine the antiquity and crudeness of the ‘Veda’, showing a clear contrast to the modernity and the refined state of ‘Vedānta (Upanishads). Unfortunately, this evolutionary technique appealed to recent thinkers, who thought it to be the safest standard for determining the historical portrait of the entire Vedic literature.
Quotes from Sri Aurobindo: “Yet, even for the external sense of the Veda, it is not possible to follow either Sāyaṇā’s method or his results without the largest reservation. It is not only that he admits in his method licenses of language and construction which are unnecessary and sometimes incredible, nor that he arrives at his results, often by a surprising inconsistency in his interpretation of common Vedic formulae. These are defects of detail, unavoidable perhaps in the state of the materials with which he had to deal. But it is the central defect of Sāyaṇā’s system that he is obsessed always by the ritualistic formula and seeks continually to force the sense of the Veda into that narrow mould. So he loses many clues of the greatest suggestiveness and importance for the external sense of the ancient scripture”………….. “It is the final and authoritative binding of the Veda to this lowest of all its possible senses that has been the most unfortunate result of Sāyaṇā’s commentary. The dominance of the ritualistic interpretation had already deprived India of the living use of its greatest Scripture and of the true clue to the entire sense of the Upanishads. Sāyaṇā’s commentary put a seal of finality on the old misunderstanding which could not be broken for many centuries. And its suggestions, when another civilization discovered and set itself to study the Veda, became in the European mind, the parent of fresh errors”.

1. ‘ The Light of Veda – A Practical Approach ’ – by Sri T.V.Kapāli Sastry
2. ‘ A New Light on the Veda ’ – by Sri T.V.Kapāli Sastry
(Originally written in Sanskrit under the name ‘Siddhānjana – Bhūmika’, translated into English by Sri M.P.Pandit and thoroughly revised by the author himself, in 1952. Published by Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture, Bangalore. (SAKSI) )
3. ‘ Agni in the Rig Veda ’ - by Dr R.L.Kashyap
4. ‘ Why read the Rig Veda ’ – by Dr R.L.Kashyap
to be continued……

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