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The New Path Madhvacharya Trod In Explaining The Vedas

Once, while the young ascetic Madhvacharya was on a pilgrimage, in a village of Kerala, he met an assembly of scholars proficient in the Vedas. They had heard of his profound Vedic knowledge and were eager to hear his discourse. One of the scholars requested Madhvacharya to offer his interpretation on a hymn from the Aitareya recension. Madhvacharya recited the hymn perfectly; his recitation resembling the deep sound of the thundering clouds enthralled them. However, his interpretation, though offered with all supporting evidence, did not satisfy them. They insisted that it had a different meaning. Accepting their interpretation, Madhvacharya said: ‘Yes, that is also one of the meanings. Shrutis can have several meanings, with a minimum of three. The Mahabharata has at least ten meanings. And, each word of Vishnu Sahasranama Stotra has at least a hundred meanings.’

The scholars challenged him to explain the hundred meanings of the first word vishva in the Vishnu Sahasranama. They totally surrendered to him when they realized the profundity of his knowledge. They could barely keep up with his interpretations, which flowed like a river.

The above anecdote highlights the new path that Madhvacharya trod in explaining the Vedas. He was of the view that each and every hymn in the Vedas had at least three meanings: the deity such as Agni or Indra; the Supreme Being, Vishnu, who dwells in them; and the adhyatma, spiritual meaning. Madhvacharya has also shown this method of interpretation in his commentary on the Rig Veda, where he has given three meanings to the forty hymns of the first Mandala.