Narach Philosophy

ACTION AND THE MIND: THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION


In all actions, of whatever kind, the mind comes first, because of its attribute, desire; and this is represented by the exclamation vashat, and also the invitation to eat and drink. The acts of buying, marrying, etc. are of the same kind; but they should also be performed as a sacrifice; and that is why those words are so important.

An animal is associated with purodasa or Nature; and the idea of sacrifice in connection with Nature should be understood from the "sacrifice" of animals, the offering of substances mixed with clarified butter, and the sight of an intelligent person. Nature is represented in terms of curd and water, or animals; but it is generally conceived to be a fluid substance, and is represented by curd, milk and water.

A perfect function of the mind or the intellect is the result of unity of action; and it is easy to understand this idea of perfection by means of that of sacrifice. The number thirteen represents the idea of perfection or completion of things; while the number fifteen signifies a sudden end to all action.

These expressions signify perfection of different kinds; but that alone is real perfection which attains its end through sacrifice; and it is easy to understand its idea in the text.

Importance of the Mind; how described: In all acts of emulation the mind (Soma) comes first; so also in all acts of sacrifice associated with the soul (in honor of Indra); and that is so because of the nature of desire (or what relates to Soma or the mind); and this is represented in the text by means of the exclamation "vashat", as well as by the invitation to eat and to drink. The acts of buying, approaching, shining in front, marrying, holding, laying down, and binding together, are all of that kind. But each of these actions should be regulated by sacrifice, because it is a form of sacrifice. But the mind (Soma) is praised most because of its part in action, though there is praise for other too; and that is how we understand each principal name in the Vedas. This would explain why a whole book of the Rig Veda is devoted to the "praise" of Soma: it is intended to explain the character and functions of the mind.

As has already been explained, Soma refers to the mind, and Indra to the self-conscious soul. The Mimansa tells us that the mind comes first in all actions, of whatever kind, including those associated with the soul; and that is an attribute of the mind. Now Vashat is an exclamation uttered by the Hotr priest at the end of the sacrificial verse, on hearing which the Adhvaryu priest casts the oblation offered to the deity into the fire. We have explained that the Hotr priest refers to the mind, and the Adhvaryu to the sense; and so the exclamation signifies that the mind directs the senses to act.

Nature and Animals: We can now understand the reason for the association of animals with nature (or purodasa). The Mimansa tells us that the reference to animals in the sacred books is really a reference to Nature and its powers, because that is how we get the idea of their personification as gods. Indeed, an animal should be regarded as a modification of the idea of Nature; and that is so because of the universal conception of the great forces of Nature, which are personified as gods. The idea of sacrifice associated with Nature can be understood from the consecration of animals affected by sprinkling holy water on them, as well as from the ceremony of carrying fire round the sacrificial animal. The idea of offering a substance mixed with clarified butter as a burnt offering is derived from the same source; and we get the same idea from the sight of a capable or competent person.

There are a number of such references to animals in the sacred books, and they need to be interpreted in this light. For instance, we have a reference to a host of monkeys and bears in the Ramayana, and they constitute the great army of Rama, the hero of the Epic. It would be impossible to understand the idea of the Epic as a Veda or a book of knowledge, as it is described to be, in its existing form; but if we understand the real meaning of names, in accordance with the method explained in the Mimansa, we shall find that it is really a narrative of different systems of philosophy. We shall find that Rama, who is also spoken of as Chandra or the Moon, refers to the mind; while the ten headed Rakshasa, Ravana, represents the ten senses of knowledge and action; and the conflict between them corresponds to that between the mind and the senses, and the systems of thought based on their character. Sita, in this "story", refers to the idea of Sacrifice in Nature; and both Rama and Ravana lay claim to her; but, for obvious reasons, it is Rama alone who can succeed. In this conflict of ideas both seek the assistance of nature, Rama of the monkeys and bears, and Ravana of his brother Kumbha-karna, who represents the vegetable kingdom as symbolic of Nature. The whole story has been composed in this form, and will be explained in this light in its proper place.

The gods represent the great forces of Nature which, in their turn, are represented by animals; and so the gods are represented in the form of animals too, as human beings and others. Nature is governed by the law of Sacrifice: that is to say, it is characterized by goodness, intelligence, etc.; and this idea of the law of Sacrifice is described in terms of the "sacrifice" of animals, for they represent Nature. As fire refers to intelligence, carrying the fire round an animal would imply that we agree that animals have intelligence. Clarified butter refers to goodness, while fire or "burnt offering" to intelligence; and the two together give us the idea of sacrifice. The sight of a capable and competent person shows that there is both goodness and intelligence in Nature; for a man, being an animal, is part of Nature too.

Nature and a fluid Substance: Nature should be regarded as being of the form of curd or coagulated milk, because that is said to be its common appearance. (Curd is said to represent Nature; and that is its idea in the story of the Bhagavat Purana, where Krshna is described as being very fond of both butter and curd. As Krshna is God, this would represent the affection of God for Nature, or of Purusha for Prakrti. The same is expressed in terms of the love of Krshna and the Gopis, as well as the sixteen thousand "wives" of the Deity. As a woman refers to Nature, they all represent different forms and forces of Nature, which are drawn towards God. All this will be explained in its proper place). Or it is like water or a liquid substance, if we take into consideration the totality of Time. (This means that if we take into consideration long periods of time, Prakrti or Nature appears to be not like curd, but like water; so Nature is described in terms of Water both at the beginning and end of life. This will explain all references to Water in the sacred books, and their association with God: for instance, Vishnu is said to lie on the waters at the commencement of life, and so on. The different forms in which water appears would also refer to Nature: for instance, we have been told that the cloud does so. Similarly, river, seas, ocean, etc. all refer to Nature or Prakrti). But it may be described in terms of an animal, if we consider it in terms of our next of kin, or life nearest allied to our own. (This would explain the reference to monkeys and bears in the story of the Ramayana. They represent Nature, as being nearest allied to man).

Nature, however, is generally conceived to be in a fluid state, and is represented by curd, - which is the product of both curd and milk. Or we may regard milk and curd to be the same, because they are made by the same power. (It is the same power of Nature that produces milk in the cow, and curd out of milk). On the other hand dadhi (or thick curd) arises from general hardening (and so represents the process of hardening in Nature); while water, because of the importance of curd, is, as we might say in popular language, for the sake of the curd. (We cannot have curd unless there is water in milk; and so water may be said to be there for the sake of curd. But it has another significance too. We have been told that the original form of Nature corresponds to that of water, but in course of time it hardens into that of curd; and this may be said to be the relation between water and curd. It may be of interest to point out that the ancients believed that whatever is in the organic cell is also in Nature; Yatha pinde tatha Brahmande; and the organic cell is like curd or a jelly-like substance. Thus when there is a mention of water in the sacred books, we should take it that it refers to Nature in its pristine form; whereas a reference to curd gives us the idea of Nature in its later or mature state). All this is in accordance with the law of Nature, as we can see every day.

Mind, Intellect and unity of Action: When we see a perfect function of the mind (Soma) or a clear function of the intellect ( a sacrifice lasting twelve days), we find that it arises from unity of action. We have explained that Soma refers to the mind, and the number twelve to the intellect; and so a sacrifice lasting twelve days would refer to the action of the intellect.

Sacrifice and Nature: When we hear the expression "he sacrifices", we may take it that the perfect being who is said to sacrifice, is Pravrtti, which is synonymous with Prakrti or Nature. Pravrtti means activity or active life; and the idea of Prakrti is the same. The point of this Sutra is that when there is a reference to sacrifice in the sacred books, we should take it that it normally refers to Nature or Prakrti: that is, Nature is characterized by the law of Sacrifice, or acts in accordance with it. This has already been explained.

Perfection of the Mind; how described: If we take a certain period of time, say two days or nights, we shall find that we get the idea of wholeness or perfection from the sacrifice or proper function of the mind; and this is signified by the direction that a person should make a sacrifice. the reference in the text is to the eleventh night; and the number eleven, as has already been explained refers to the mind. This Sutra tells us that there is a direction that a person should make a sacrifice on the eleventh night; and that means that his mind should always function in a spirit of sacrifice.

The number Thirteen: On the thirteenth days or nights the sacrifice is completed, because there is, on these nights, a direction in regard to a certain posture, which signifies the attainment of objects; and so we may reasonably infer that this number represents the idea of the completion of things.

The Mimansa tells us that the number thirteen represents the idea of the completion of things, or the attainment of objects. This would explain the reference to the thirteen years of exile of the Pandavas in the story of the Mahabharata. Of these the first twelve were to be spent in the forest, and the last in a place where they could not be discovered. We have seen that a forest refers to Nature, and the number twelve to the intellect; so that they were required to examine the whole problem of Nature in the light of the intellect. Then, as after the intellect there is the unmanifest soul, they had to remain unknown during the thirteenth year; and, as this completes the whole inquiry after truth, the number thirteen represents this idea of completeness there too. All this has already been explained.

The number Fifteen: Again, when an action is suddenly concluded, its idea of perfection is represented by the fifteenth day or night. There is also a mention of the path of those who drink water out of pitchers. These expressions give us an idea of wholeness or perfection. When a person suddenly decides to give up all things, retire into a forest, and lead a simple life, drinking water out of a pitcher, it is something good, and may be said to be a kind of perfection; but it is a limited kind of perfection.

Perfection through Sacrifice: These expressions convey the idea of a certain kind of wholeness or perfection, because that is the meaning of these words. But real perfection is that which attains its end through sacrifice, because that is the teaching of the sacred books; and it is easy to understand this symbol or mode of expression of the idea of sacrifice. real perfection is attained by means of sacrifice or good, intelligent, selfless and self-controlled action. It is on this kind of action that the Bhagavad Gita lays emphasis throughout.