The Upanishads

Each Veda has three components, namely Mantra, Brahmana and Upanishat. Among the three Brahmana is considered superior to Mantra and Upanishat is considered superior even to Brahmana. It can therefore be seen that Upanishat is the most important integral part of the Vedas. The word "Upanishat" is used in the Upanishats themselves several times. In all these cases it is used to convey the sense that it is a "Rahasya Vidya". The analysis of the word "Upanishat" also reveals that it is a secret knowledge acquired by staying close to the Guru. Sri Madhwacharya has said that "Upanishat can also be taken to mean "Swayogya Parijnana". This is why Upanishats are considered the essence of Vedic literature.

Since Vedas are innumerable ("Ananta Vai Vedaha") it follows that Upanishats are also equally so. Among these one hundred and eight are considered important according to the reference in Muktikopanishat.

Madhwacharya is the one and only Acharya who has shown in his Bhashyas on all the ten Upanishats that, like all shastras, they proclaim the supremacy of Vishnu and preach Bheda and not Adwaita.

The Madhwa Bhashyas on Dashopanishats are of very profound value for many of its unique features. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • Since Upanishats are basically Vedic literature, for their study it is very necessary to know the propitiated deity, the Rishi who revealed the work and in certain cases the meter of the work. Without these prerequisites, the study would not only futile but bear negative consequences.

    The earlier Bhashyakaras never incorporated these vital details. Madhwa Bhashyas give this information in respect of each Upanishat well supported by authoritative references.

  • The language of Upanishats is very simple but the subjects which they propound are profound. The presentation is cryptic. Though one can make out the literal meaning of the words and sentences the import of these remains enigmatic. This is a unique feature of the Upanishats. This is the reason why tradition has warned that Upanishats should viewed only in the light of Itihasa-Puranas

    In other words it means that Itihasa-Puranas are the first Bhashyas of Vedic lore. Without their help the purport of the Vedas will never be revealed. Madhwa Bhashyas are the only ones which follow this cardinal rule and the profuse quotes from Itihasa-Puranas serve as eloquent testimony to this.

  • Madhwa Bhashyas are the ones which brought to light that, in addition to Itihasa-Puranas, there were other works like Ruksamhita, Yajuhsamhita, Aitareya Samhita and similar ones (probably works of Veda vyasa), which provided explanatory light on the Vedas and that to get at the real import of Upanishats, they should be studied in the ambit of these works. As an example it might be noted that in the Aitareya Bhashya, extensive quotes are given from Aitareya Samhita to explain complex ideas.

  • To understand Vedic literature it is very essential to have knowledge of Vedangas like Shiksha, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chandas, Autisha and Kalpa. This is why they go by the name Vedanga. Among these, the importance of Vyakarana and Nirukti is even greater. Most Veda Bhashyakaras have made very little use of these and they have been totally ignored in Upanishat Bhashyas. A few references which make their rare appearance at best stop with Panini and none refer to earlier Vyakarana works. Madhwa Bhashyas are brilliant exceptions where profuse quotations from ancient works like 'Maha Vyakarana' and 'Vyasa Nirukta' have been given to support the statements made in the Bhashyas.

  • Brahma Meemamsa and Brahma Sutras are the irrefutable guides for deciding all shastrarthas. Without there aid it is impossible to give a final verdict on any spiritual matter.

    Madhwa Bhashyas has made ample use of these axiomatic works as supportive authorities.

  • The role of "Veda Nirnayaka Lingas" like Upakrama, Upasamhara, Abhyasa, Apoorvata, Phala and Arthavada - the elements which determine the interpretation of Vedic literature, is of prime importance. So are Shruti, Linga, Samakhya, Vakya and Prakaranas. In Madhwa Bhashya complex phrases like "Aham Brahmasmi", "Tattvamasi" and others are analyzed and interpreted as per the prescribed canons.

  • Since Upanishats are purely spiritual works, all the words, sentences and incidents should be interpreted in the spiritual light. Madhwa Bhashyas examine all Upanishats from this perspective.

  • There are only a handful of sentences (actually only five) in Upanishats, which to the non-critical eye appear to convey Abheda. The arguments of some that only these represent the purport of Vedas and therefore Vedas propound Abheda is demolished by Madhwa Bhashyas, by critically analyzing these statements, as already mentioned as per the prescribed yard sticks, and proving beyond doubt that these also propound only Bheda just as "Dwasuparna Sayuja Sakhaya" and many others which abound in the scriptures.

  • Madhwa Bhashya uses abundant quotations from scriptures to firmly establish the interpretation ruling given therein and to resolve apparent contradictions. As an example, for establishing the Rishi Devata details in Eeshavasyopanishat extensive quotations from Padma Purana, Bhagavata have been given in support of this information.

  • The Bhashya is very comprehensive and devotes considerable space and attention to clarify complex subjects. It gives equal importance to certain rare words like Aataki, Pradraanaka, Charaka, Karaka, by explaining meanings of these with irrefutable references from the scriptures.

  • Each topic is discussed briefly before a detailed substantiation is presented based on definitive sentences - quoted verbatim form scriptures. This is a unique style of Madhwa Bhashyas, which is seen in Upanishat Bhashyas as well.

  • The prime principle which pervades all the Upanishats is "Brahma Tatwa". Next to it is the "Prana Tatwa". Brahma Tatwa propounds the Sarvottamatva of Sri Hari. Prana Tatwa proclaims the Jeevottamatva of Mukhya Prana. Srimadacharya has repeatedly highlighted that these form the core of all knowledge in the Upanishats.

  • At several places in Upanishats the phrase "Tadapyesha Shlokaha" appears along with the name of a Rishi. No other Bhashya has explained the significance of this phrase. Srimadacharya is the only one who offers a clarification. It refers to that Rishi who had the first revelation of the corroborating Veda Mantra - one who is superior to the Upanishat Rishi.