Friday, May 28, 2010

The Unassailable Glory of Lord Narayana -- Part 1: The Lord Extolled by the Vedas

The Veda, which forms the basis of sanAtana dharma (The Eternal Religion), is believed by all Astika-s (people who accept the authority of the Veda) to be unauthored (apauruSeya). It contains eternal truths which are not authored by anyone, human or even divine. All the great Acharyas of the different philosophical schools in sanAtana dharma concur on this one fact. Classified as Rg, yajuH, sAma, and atharva, and containing four sections (samhita-s, brAhmaNa-s, AraNyaka-s, and authentic upaniSad-s), all portions of the Veda are taken to be authentic in their entirety by all major philosophical schools, including advaita, vishiSTAdvaita, dvaita, and other schools of Vedanta. The Veda has been passed down from time immemorial, solely by the mode of rigorous study through listening, repeating, and chanting.

Students in a traditional Vedic school

Our great Lord Narayana is known as "vedAnta-vedya pratipAdyaH" which means "The Lord who is known from the eternal Vedic texts". Hari, one of the names of Lord Narayana, is uttered along with the divine praNava (the syllable "Om"), at the beginning and end of Vedic chants thus: "|| hariH om ||". This was mentioned by Kambar (kambanATTAlvAr in Tamil), the Tamil poet who sang Valmiki's Sanskrit Ramayana in beautiful Tamil, in the following invocatory verse at the beginning of his work:

"ஆதி அந்தம் அரி என யாவையும்
ஓதினார் அலகு இல்லன உள்ளன
வேதம் என்பன மெய்ந்நெறி நன்மையன்
பாதம் அல்லது பற்றிலர் பற்று இலார் "
Translation: Those great souls, who are devoid of selfish interests and therefore neutral, who chant the timeless and immeasurable Veda, beginning and ending it with "hariH om", do not put their faith in anything other than the tender feet of the One (i.e., Lord Vishnu or Narayana) who Himself is the truest way (to the highest human end, i.e., liberation) and is an ocean of auspicious qualities.

Let us enjoy the following passages from the commentaries of Sri Adi Sankara and other pUrvAcArya-s in his disciplic succession that confirm that it is none but Lord Narayana (known by various names such as Vishnu, vAsudeva, and Hari) alone who is to be known from the study of the Veda. We first take a look at the commentary to the Bhagavad Gita verse 15.15 and the commentaries to it:
sarvasya ca-ahaM hRdi sanniviSTo mattaH smRtirj~nAnamapohanaM ca |
vedaishca sarvairahameva vedyo vedantakRt-vedavit-eva ca-aham ||
(Bhagavad Gita 15.15)

In the above verse, Lord Narayana, in his Krishna form, teaches the following to Arjuna: "I am seated in the hearts of all beings. Memory, knowledge, as well as their loss come from Me. I alone am to be known from all the Vedas; I am indeed the author of Vedanta as well as its knower."

Sri Sankaracarya explains Lord Krishna's words here thus: "(Lord Krishna says): 'I am the Supreme Soul, the Paramatman to be known from all the Vedas. I alone am the originator of the Vedantic traditions, and it is I who know the Vedic teachings.' Thus, the majesty of the Lord, the Bhagavan who is known as 'Narayana' by name, are stated": vedaisca sarvair-ahameva paramAtmA vedyaH veditavyaH | vedantakRt vedAntArtha sampradAyakRt ityarthaH | vedavit vedArthavit eva ca aham | bhagavataH Ishvarasya nArAyaNAkhyasya vibhUtisaMkSepaH uktaH. Sri Anandagiri who wrote "glosses" (Tiika) to many of Sri Adi Sankara's works explains here that the statement of the Lord in the current verse removes any doubt that may linger in one's mind as to whether the Supreme Brahman extolled in the Vedas is different from Bhagavan Narayana: "vedavedyaM parambrahma bhagavato(a)nyAditi sha^nkAM vArayati -- vedairiti". Indeed, Sri Sankaracarya says in his commentary to the Bhagavad Gita thus:
"It (the Bhagavad Gita) expounds specially the nature of the Supreme Being and the Truth known as vAsudeva, the Para-brahman, who forms the subject of the discourse": paramArtha-tattvaM ca vAsudevAkhyaM parabrahma-abhideya-bhutaM visheSataH abhivyaj~nayad vishiSTa-prayojana-sambandha-abhideyavad gItA-shAstraM  (Introductory Chapter, Sri Sankara's bhagavadgItAbhASya).

"(Lord Krishna says) 'I, the Supreme Parabrahman known by name as vAsudeva, am the source of the whole world. From Me alone evolves the whole universe in all its changes, including existence and dissolution, action, effect, and enjoyment'": ahaM paraM brahma vAsudevAkhyaM sarvasya jagataH prabhava utpattiH | matta eva sthiti-nAsha-kriyA-phalopabhoga-lakSaNaM vikriyA-rUpaM sarvaM jagat pravartate |  (Sri Sankara's commentary to Bhagavad Gita, 10.8)

Moreover, in his commentary to the Kathopanisad verse 1.3.9, Sri Sankara says: "The statement here that 'He obtains The Supreme Abode of Vishnu' refers to entering the Supreme Abode and State of the all-pervading Brahman, the Supreme Soul, known by name as 'vAsudeva' ": tadviSNor vyApanashIlasya brahmaNaH paramAtmano vAsudevAkhyasya paramaM prakRSTaM padam sthAnam satattvaM-iti-etad asAvApnoti.

Echoing all the above points, Sri Anandagiri writes in his gloss to Sri Sankara's commentary (15.15) that Parabrahman cannot refer to anyone other than Bhagavan Sri vAsudeva -- "vedavedyaM parambrahma bhagavato(a)nyAditi sha^nkAM vArayati -- vedairiti".
The Lord as Sri Parthasarathy Perumal deity in the temple of Triplicane (Chennai, TN, India) - He is in His battlefield attire, ready to serve His devotee, Arjuna

Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati, in his magnum-opus "gUDhArthadIpika" (a glorious, independent commentary to the Bhagavad Gita) explains here (15.15) that even though the Vedas contain hymns to Indra and other devas, it is still only Bhagavan vAsudeva alone is to be known from the Vedas as He is the in-dwelling supersoul of all: "vedaishca sarvaih-indrAdi-devatA-prakAshaih-api ahameva vedyaH, sarvAtmatvAt". Sri Sarasvati then explains that Vedic passages such as --
"They call Agni as Indra, Mitra, and Varuna; they also say that He is the divine Garutman of beautiful wings. The sages speak of Him, who is one, in many ways; they call Him Agni, Yama, mAtarishvan."
(Atharva Veda, 9.10.28)

and "... for He is all the devas" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.6) are to be understood in that way.

As if to reiterate all these, Sri Sankara explains as follows, in the Vishnusahasranama Bhashya:

"shabdasahaH" (# 912):

He (Vishnu) is known as "shabdasahaH" as He is the one who alone is proclaimed by all the Vedas unanimously: sarve vedastAtparyeNa tameva vadantIti shabdasahaH

"kathitaH" (# 848):

vedAdibhir-ayameka eva paratvena kathita kathita iti kathitaH | sarvairvedaiH kathita iti vA kathitaH | "sarve vedA yatpadamAmananti", "vedaishca sarvairahameva vedyaH", "vede rAmAyaNe puNye bhArate bharatarSabhaH! adau madye tathA cAnte viSNuH sarvatra gIyate" iti shruti-smRtyAdi-vacanebhyaH |

Translation:  He (Vishnu) is known as kathitaH since He alone is declared as supreme by the Veda and Vedic texts; or He who is described by all the Vedas. The following statements from the shruti (Vedas) and smRtis confirm this:

"All the Vedas describe His status.." (Kathopanishad 1.2.15),

"I alone am to be known from all the Vedas" (Bhagavad Gita 15.15),

"Vishnu is sung everywhere at the beginning, middle, and end of the Vedas, the holy rAmAyaNa and the mahAbhArata, O Best of the lineage of Bharata!" (Harivamsa, 3.132.95).

[Sri Taraka Brahmananda Sarasvati, in his gloss on Sri Sankara's Vishnusahasranama Bhashya, has explained some finer points in the above explanations.]

Govinda ("govindaH", #539):

The word "go" can be taken to mean "speech/words", and hence "govindaH" is one who is known through the "words", i.e., the words of the Vedanta. The Vishnutilaka text says, "You are known as Govinda as you are to be known through scriptural texts": gobhiH vANIbhiH vedyata iti vedAntavAkyairiti vA govindaH | 'gobhireva yato vedyo govindaH samudAhRta' iti viSNutilake |

The Lord is known only through the timeless Vedic statements. He cannot be known by experimentation and logical inference, as He is beyond what we can perceive. Moreover, the Vedic statements are unaothored. Any compromise on any of these points would lead to cyclic logic. This is also highlighted by Sri Sankara's explanation to the divine name "Govinda". Sri Amalananda Sarasvati was another Acharya who commented on Sri Sankara's works. In his work "vedAnta kalpataru" (a gloss on the "Bhamati", which is a sub-commentary to Sri Sankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras), he explains this while refuting the views of Saivas, Pasupatas, and Vaiseshikas (in Sutra 2.2.37) by saluting Sri Hari thus:

"tat-sukha-advaitabodha-AtmsvabhAva haraye namaH |
vedAntaika pramANAya kutarkANAM abhUmaye ||"
Translation: "Salutations to Lord Hari, who is blissful, who is without a second, who is pure and transcendental by nature, who is inferred from the texts of the Vedanta alone, and who cannot be understood by those who rely solely on pointless argumentative means."

Yet another point relevant to this discussion: In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Sri Krishna says: "I am the sacred syllable Om (known as Pranava)in all the Vedas". (Bhagavad-Gita 7.8). Here Sri Sankara adds "In Me (Lord Krishna), who am that Pranava, all the Vedas are woven" (tasmin praNavabhute mayi sarve vedAH protAH). Closely related to this Gita verse are the following divine names occurring in the Vishnu Sahasranama:

"mantraH" (#280)

Sri Sankara explains in his commentary that the Lord is called "mantraH", which means "the sacred chant", as He exists as the Rg, yajuH, and sAma Vedas (RgyajussAma-lakSaNaH mantraH). Moreover, He is the one revealed in those sacred chants (mantra-bodhyatvAt-vA mantraH) - this is the second explanation given by Sri Sankara.

"praNavaH" (#957)

Sri Sankara explains this name as: "praNavo nAma paramAtmano vAcaka oMkAra tat-abheda-upacAreNa-ayaM praNavaH" meaning, "The Supreme syllable 'Om', the Pranava, denotes the Paramatman, the Supreme Soul. He is hence said to be verily the Pranava itself."

Thus, it is indeed Lord Narayana who is the object of all Vedic knowledge and meditation.

(to be continued)

[1] Free online viewer/downloads of (a) the Sanskrit original and English translations of of Sri Sankara's Bhagavad-Gita commentary, and (b) Sanskrit texts of Sri Anandagiri's and Sri Madhusudana Saraswati's commentaries for the same: see under this article.
[2] Sanskrit commentary and English translation of Sri Sankara's commentary are adopted from the book titled "Visnusahasranama - with the Bhasya of Sri Samkaracarya, translated into English in light of Sri Samkara's Bhasya" by R. Ananthakrishna Sastry, published by Adyar Library and Research centre (1980 edition).
[3] English translation of Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati's "Gudhartha Dipika" commentary to the Bhagavad-Gita can be bought online at this link.
[4] Relevant page from Sri Amalananda Sarasvati's Kalpataru can be viewed here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Web Analytics