Narach Philosophy

ACTION, PURPOSE AND SACRIFICE: THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION


We must choose the meaning of a word that suits the context best, as in the case of the word Svaru. Acting means drawing something near to one's self. Action requires the use of a limb of the body, and different limbs perform different actions; and this is signified by the word Upavesha. The words Juhoti and Harana have similar meanings.

We cannot accept the common meaning of words; and must have new ones as in the case of ajya, or make a selection, as in the case of Sam-yavana. The meaning of certain terms is specially defined: for instance, Mitra and Varuna signify renunciation of action when the work of life is done.

There is purpose in action, and its idea is illustrated by the Soma sacrifice. Action with a purpose arises because of a close connection between the actor and the objects of life. All purpose has its value; but the final purpose of action is purification.

There is no fixed time or place for action; but all purpose is governed by a law, according to which the purpose of action is not so much the attainment of material objects, as perfection or purification.

Sacrifice means the association together of action, a proper person and a deity; and the same idea is expressed by the word Juhoti. Dana or charity is connected with the idea of renunciation. It is a law that when one action ends, another begins. It is action that creates, and so is linked up with a purpose.

How to understand the text: It is in this manner that we have to understand the meaning of the text. For instance, the word Svaru is not limited to a single meaning to complete its sense, and has a number of meanings in connection with its own actions. We can find out its correct meaning from the different ways in which it is used in the text; and there it must be taken as a part of the whole context, and referred to its cause. One of the meanings of the word is a "piece of wood"; and it is also associated with a sacrificial post, as may be seen.

The word Svaru has a number of meanings, "a large piece of wood, stake, sacrificial post, sacrifice, sunshine, thunderbolt, etc.". The Mimansa illustrates this by giving two meanings of the word, indicating that we must select the more suitable one.

Action and its differentiation: When we say that a person does something, what is meant by doing is that he has drawn something near himself. The most important part of action is the function of a limb of the body: he has drawn something near to himself, and, in order to be effective, it (action) must be apportioned among the different limbs of the body; and it is this that makes for diversity of action. This (idea of action) is signified by the word Upavesha; and we get it when we depart from its more common meaning.

The common meaning of the word Upavesh is "a stick of green wood used for stirring the sacrificial fire". But this would not appear to make much sense. On the other hand, if we derive the word from Upavish, which means "to be active or effective", we can understand that it signifies "effectiveness", referred to in the Mimansa. We shall then understand that its more common meaning, associated with "stirring the fire", refers to making action effective too.

The idea of "a stick of green wood used for stirring the sacrificial fire" is explained in the Mimansa as representing one who dies in the midst of a great good action, even as a stick of green wood is burnt or charred in the process of stirring the fire; and this is another idea of "effectiveness".

Meaning of Juhoti and Harana: There are other words like Juhoti and Harana, which too have to be understood in their supplementary sense; and that is how we get the real meaning of the text.

The word Juhoti, as we shall see at the end of this part of the discussion, gives us the idea of purification in action; and it is in this sense that we have to take it. Its more common meaning, as referring to certain sacrificial ceremonies, would not be satisfactory.

The word Harana has a number of meanings, "carrying, holding; removing, dividing; a hand; arm"; and of these, the last two, being the instruments of action, would give us the best idea.

Common meaning is not the real meaning: We cannot say that the common meaning of a word is its real meaning, because it does not give us a proper connection between things, and so we get no meaning at all; and, as we do not get any satisfactory result, we have to thing of another method of interpretation, as in the case of the word "ajya". We have explained that the real meaning of the word ajya is "goodness".

In some cases we have to choose the meaning that suits the context best: for instance, there are some who explain the word Sam-yavana in one way, an some in another; and we have to choose the best or better meaning. The word Sam-yavana means "mixing, mingling", as well as "with Yavana", a word which has a number of meanings; and we have to select that which suits the context best.

Mitra and Varuna: The meaning of certain expressions has been defined in a special way; for instance, when the rod of authority is handed over to what belongs to Mitra and Varuna (or the priest of that name), it represents the idea of one who has done his life's work, and sits in a great posture of devotion.

The idea of Mitra and Varuna has already been explained. When invoked together, they refer to action during life, and renunciation at the end of it. The "rod of authority" represents the idea of a just point of view; and the meaning is that when a person has done his life's work, he is justified in renouncing action and sitting down in a posture of meditation. This is the idea of Siddhartha (Siddha-artha) or one who has satisfied all his objects; and so Buddhism, founded by Siddhartha, is a creed of renunciation at the end of one's life. It may be said to be perfection in the part of death.

Purpose and action: There can be no action without a purpose; and when a person engages in action, his action and purpose are linked together like flowers in a garland, each following each in order. We can see this for ourselves when a person engages in action. Purpose is born with a man, according to the teachings of the Vedas; and he goes on from one action to another, because after achieving one purpose he goes on to another. This is illustrated by the Soma sacrifice in which we are shown how purpose is achieved.

Action and purification: It is because a person is brought into contact with the objects of life, that a desire arises within him, and it is followed by action with a purpose. It is in this manner that action takes place, and all purposes have their place; (but they make for bondage too, and so) the Vedas speak of purification (by means of which a person can act and yet be free from taint). This is emphasized by the Bhagavad Gita a number of times.

Object of action: There is no fixed rule in regard to the relation between the actor, place and time; but they are always associated together in any plan of things. But the sruti says that all purposes are governed by a law. That is indeed true, but in so far as it relates to the attainment of material objects. But that, according to the sruti, is a secondary object of action, because it only gives rise to action and is not its end; while the highest end of action is purification.

This leads us to the idea of Sacrifice; and Sacrifice, according to prescribed rules, means the association of a proper person with the great forces of Nature and action; and we get this in the light of the accomplishment of all things. The words in the text are Dravya and Devata. Dravya has a number of meanings, including "a fit and proper person", and that is what has been taken here; while Devata or a god, as has already been explained, refers to a great force of Nature.

The idea is that an action can be called a sacrifice only when a fit and proper person, who is both good and intelligent, takes part in it, and the great forces of nature assist; and then alone can we accomplish our object or achieve success. The Bhagavad Gita tells tells us that "rain arises from sacrifice"; and that would illustrate the role of the great forces of Nature in what is called an act of sacrifice.

The same idea is expressed by means of Juhoti, with the addition of sprinkling water. Juhoti is a technical term for certain sacrificial ceremonies; and water refers to Nature or Prakrti; and the reference to the latter emphasizes the role of the great forces of Nature in an act of "sacrifice". It is this that is signified by the word Juhoti.

Dana or an act of charity or gift is clearly connected with the idea of renunciation, because it implies an admission that someone else has a prior claim to the possession of what is given away as a gift.

Action is without end, and it creates: There is no end to action, because it is a law that when a person has done one deed, he must have another object to pursue. Again, it is action that creates; and it is for this reason that it is linked up with a purpose. This is true of all things without exception; and, so far as the commencement of an action is concerned, - the cause in every case is the same. This cause is purpose.