Narach Philosophy

ACTION AND PURIFICATION: THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION


The highest end of action is purification; but this applies to deliberate and not accidental action. The idea of purification of material objects is part of the idea of sacrifice. The Vedas enjoin action, and not their fruit; but we need to understand their language correctly to grasp their idea. This may be illustrated by the idea of Heaven.

Purpose, action and result are connected together like the limbs of the body; and that is the subject matter of the Angas, limbs or parts of the mantras of the Vedas.

The result of an action is achieved more by skill than Time; but if we have done our best and yet failed, we can attribute the failure to Time. The decay of the body may be caused by Time; but, apart from this, the result of an action is due to the character of the impelling force.

Action and purification:

The highest form of action is not only to purify the actor, but also the material objects used in connection with it; and if we study the Vedas properly, we shall find, as a result, that this is the explanation of their real meaning.

But action does not begin with the object of purification, although that is its end, and the most important one. This however, does not apply to occasional or accidental action, which arises in a very different way; and it may or may not contain the idea of purification. We cannot say that this is true of all kinds of actions, because the purpose of deliberate and accidental actions is different.

Purification and sacrifice:

The idea of the purification of the material objects used in connection with a sacrifice is part of the idea of sacrifice itself; for, if we separate the two, the very idea of sacrifice would become meaningless.

The Mimansa has told us that, in order to give satisfaction or joy, a thing must transform itself; and joy is of the essence of the idea of sacrifice, for it is meant to minister to the well-being of all. Similarly, the material objects used in a sacrifice are transformed or purified; and that is the reason why they are regarded as sacred.

Indeed, the ancient idea is that Nature itself is transformed into the idea of God by means of sacrifice; that is to say, when we believe that Nature acts in accordance with a law that is both good and intelligent, and makes for the well-being of all, we have transformed Nature itself into God, for that is the real idea of God. This, as has already been observed, is illustrated in the story of Sikhandin in the Mahabharata.

Vedas and action - their language:

The Vedas enjoin action, but not its fruit; and what is not given in them should not be accepted. The Bhagavad Gita also tells us that we are entitled to act, but not to claim the fruit of action. The language of the text is appropriate, and we should understand that there can be no effect without purpose. But if the language does not appear to make sense, we should take it that even words in close proximity to one another have not been properly connected together. The sruti is really part of a great whole ( and all parts of it should be connected together).

Words have their meaning, even as qualities convey their own idea; and that is the best meaning which cannot be substituted by any other. A word can have but one meaning, because it can refer to but one impelling force. This can be illustrated by means of the idea of Heaven, as being that which is desired by all without exception; it is also a matter of faith.

Limbs of the body and Angas of the Vedas:

Purpose, action and result are connected together like the limbs of the body; so says Karshnajini. Atreya says that there can be no action without result; and if the result is not known, it should be inferred. Thus the praise mentioned in the angas (limbs or parts) of the Mantras of the Vedas is not merely praise, and is meant for a different and higher purpose. That is, the angas of the Mantras of the Vedas deal with the problem of purpose, action and result, which are said to be connected together like "angas" or limbs of the body; and that is why there parts of the Mantras or hymns are called angas. The praise mentioned in them is meant to describe all this.

This refers also to the idea of Heaven, for there is an idea of Heaven in all good actions, even as there is an intelligent purpose in each part of sacrifice. This is how purpose is fulfilled in accordance with the law of life; and it is in accordance with the same law that there is an urge of desire. It is this that is to be found in the angas or sub-divisions of the Mantras of the Vedas, because the whole idea is so excellent. This law, however, includes the fulfillment of desire, because it is meant to be so; and the angas deal with the objects of desire, as is clear from the explanation of the text; and the reference to the result of action is to be found in the principal word, in all cases without exception.

Result, skill and time:

This result is brought about by skill in action, and is not connected with the origin of purpose (or desire); and there is always an impelling force which brings about the union of action with result, and the connection between them is important. We cannot say that the sruti refers to Time as the cause of result, for Time is not the cause; for a result does not occur merely because of the passage of time, but requires intention and the meaning of achieving it. Nor can we say that Time has this double meaning (The double meaning of Time would refer to the idea of its own passage and the means of achieving result), because it has but one; and we cannot explain it in that way, because its original meaning is different.

The Mimansa tells us that the idea of Time is limited to its own passage, and we should not imagine that it can, by itself, secure results. But, if after putting forth our best effort we still fail to achieve our end, we may attribute the cause of failure to Time. The idea of Time is thus linked up with failure and death, as this is its ancient conception; and it is for this reason, as the Mimansa tells us later on, that Time cannot be represented as a god.

Idea of Time in the text:

Again if, in our study of the text, there is a doubt about the time of occurrence, we should conclude that there is a reference to Time only of there is a special mention of it. If there is an impelling force, making for a certain result, we should not bring in Time, because it cannot accomplish everything.

Time is the cause of decay:

An injury to the limbs of the body is the result of some definite cause; but they are all connected with Nature, and so bring out the importance of Time. This Sutra brings out more clearly the ancient concept of Time as the cause of natural decay of the body. Time may be said to be a great natural force that changes things for the worse; and so is the cause of deterioration, death and decay. So far as success in life is concerned, we must attribute it to effort, not Time. But where there is no question of this action of Time, all things happen at their own proper time in accordance with the universal character of the impelling force.