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Vidyaranya, aka Madhavacharya (not to be confused with the Dvaita philosopher Madhvacharya), was a famous Advaitin philosopher who was the Shankaracharya of Sringeri and the brother of Sayana, the famous commentator on the Vedas. (I wrote a fictional story about Vidyaranya here.) Vidyaranya helped found the Vijayanagara Empire, and he composed many famous works including the Sarvadarshana Sangraha (a summary of all philosophical schools) and the Panchadasi (a summary of Advaita). But my question is about another work of Vidyaranya, the Pranava Mimamsa, which is a work about significance and use of the syllable Om.

In this excerpt from the Pranava Mimamsa, Vidyaranya argues that when Hindu scripture says "pranavasya rishi Brahma", meaning "Of the syllable Om, the sage who heard it during meditation is Brahma", it's referring to the supreme Brahman, not to the creator god Brahma. Vidyaranya cites several scriptures to show that Brahma was not the seer of the syllable Om, rather Brahma learnt the Vedas along with Om from the supreme Brahman. In particular, he says this:

He, the incarnate power of Vishnu's intelligence, declares in the Satyavata:

"With the heart he extended Brahman to the first sage."

The meaning is as follows: "who", i.e. the Highest Self, "with the heart", i.e. mentally, "extended", i.e. explained, "Brahman", i.e. the Vedas, "to the first sage", i.e. to Hiranyagarbha.

Now I'm pretty sure the incarnation of Vishnu being quoted is Vyasa, for two reasons. First of all, "incarnate power of Vishnu's intelligence" seems like a translation of "Jnana-Shakti Avatara of Vishnu", which is an often-used appellation of Vyasa. Second of all, I assume "Satyavata" refers to the fact that Vyasa is the son of Parashara and Satyavati.

But my question is, what work of Vyasa is Vidyaranya quoting here? Vyasa is the author of the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and the Brahma Sutras, as well as the compiler of the Vedas. Now if a work was called by the appellation "Satyavata", it seems to me that it would probably refer to the Mahabharata.

But does anyone know if this verse occurs in the Mahabharata or any other scripture? The translator says "I have not been able to identify the verse." If it helps, the verse is given in Sanskrit here; it's verse 47.

  • You could have researched properly though... – Surya May 29 '16 at 17:44
  • @Surya Except I can't read Devanagari script. – Keshav Srinivasan May 29 '16 at 17:50
  • @Surya By the way, it's astounding that a renowned Indologist like Patrick Olivelle wasn't able to identify this verse. I guess he doesn't have much familiarity with the Puranas. – Keshav Srinivasan May 29 '16 at 17:54
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Vidyaranya is talking about Srimad Bhagavatam. Bhagavatam says in its very first sloka:

Janmadyasya Yatah Anvayad Itaratah Cha Artheshu Abhijnah Svaraat|
Tene Brahma Hrdaa Ya Adikavaye Muhyanti Yat Surayah|
Tejo Vaari Mrdaam Yatha Vinimayah Yatra Trisargo Amrsha|
Dhaamna Svena Sada Nirastakuhakam Satyam Param Dheemahi|| Bhagavatam 1.1.1

"I meditate upon Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa because He is the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance and destruction of the manifested universes. He is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations, and He is independent because there is no other cause beyond Him. It is He only who first imparted the Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahmājī, the original living being. By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion, as one is bewildered by the illusory representations of water seen in fire, or land seen on water. Only because of Him do the material universes, temporarily manifested by the reactions of the three modes of nature, appear factual, although they are unreal. I therefore meditate upon Him, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is eternally existent in the transcendental abode, which is forever free from the illusory representations of the material world. I meditate upon Him, for He is the Absolute Truth." (Bhaktivedanta Swami Translation)

If you notice Vidyaranya has quoted the exact words as in Bhagavatam - Tene Brahma Hrdaa Adikavaye.

So the Lord taught the Vedas by heart to Brahmadeva who was the first sage - Adi Kavi.

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    Thanks for your answer. By the way, it's weird that Vidyaranya would refer to the Srimad Bhagavatam as the "Satyavata" rather than just naming the work. I guess that was the style back then. – Keshav Srinivasan May 29 '16 at 17:56
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    @Keshav It perhaps gives an insight as to how revered it was even back then, countering people's claim that it "didn't exist till the period of Bopadeva". – Surya May 30 '16 at 2:23

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