Narach Philosophy

ENERGY AND ACTION: THE LANGUAGE OF THE VEDAS


Energy means activity which pervades each part of an organism. We can divide energy into parts, but not action, which is a unit, and is characterized by a purpose; and its success is due to the power of predominant thought that prompts action.

All actions are inter-dependent, and cannot be separated from one from one another or the language that describes them. Hence there is an intimate connection between an object and its name.

This is the basis of the language of the Vedas. There text is authoritative, and no unauthorized additions should be made.

We can understand its meaning from the words themselves. The meaning of some has specially been explained; while of others we must understand from the context or the effect they produce.

Where there is a doubt about an occurrence, we can understand it from its description, for there is nothing that cannot be described in words.

There is no error or impropriety in the language of the Vedas; and so a substitute expression can be used only if it has the same meaning as the original one. But it is not easy to find an exact substitute; and so it is possible that, in such cases, the language is not perfect.

The chief difficulty in connection with the text is that it is not easy to understand. But if we find that the description of an object is inconsistent, we should attach more importance to the object than the description; and if there is an inconsistency between an object and its use, we should attach more importance to its use. But there should be a method in our work, and we should be able to connect the parts with the whole. When, however, there are a number of meanings, we should take those which are apposite.

Energy is activity: In all forms of energy there should be activity; and this true of all things that exist. This activity is to be found in every single part of the whole organism, though its purpose is fulfilled by the principal part, - the remaining parts being subsidiary to the latter and ministering to its ends. If the principal part does not function, the whole organism suffers from its evil effects; while, on the other hand, if it functions properly, the whole attains to a degree of excellence, because of its close connection with the principal part.

Action, purpose and result: Jaimini says that while we may divide energy into a number of parts, we cannot divide action in the same manner; and a single statement in connection with the commencement of an action should serve to explain the character of the whole. But, as the purpose of each action is different, there must be a mention of at least one purpose at the commencement of such action, just as we find in the case of other plans. This would enable us to have a proper idea of action; and this is proved by the fact that we find that we are able to accomplish our purpose even though we might have committed mistakes in regard to the manner of performing an action. This is due to the power of predominant thought that prompt us; and its effect can specifically be seen in actions which are to our liking, because of the state of our desire. But this success is also due to close application, and if we do not apply ourselves closely to our task, we cannot succeed in this way; and there is oral authority to that effect in connection with the manner of doing things. This is borne out by the fact that we find that when we deliberately abstain from an action, we do not feel any disappointment. The word in the text is "sabda", the testimony of wise and trustworthy persons in acquiring definite knowledge. Its chief basis is said to be personal experience of such persons.

Action and language: All actions are inter-dependent, and one action has share in another. Actions cannot be separated from one another, nor from the form of words which express their idea. Hence there should be unity between the idea of an action and the name given to it, just as in the case of the character of the cow and its name; for the name should be full of life or expressive of the object described.

The point of this is that when we utter the word "gau", meaning a cow, we understand that it means a cow, and it gives us also an idea of the character of the cow. The word "gau" may be divided into ga, u, the meaning being "(ga) the senses of knowledge, associated with (u) the senses of knowledge"; and, as this name is said to have been given with a special design, we may conclude that the ancients believed that the cow was endowed with specially keen sense-organs. Further, as the idea of the senses corresponds to that of magnetic energy or special properties of attraction, it also means that they believed that the cow or its milk had such properties. It is in this way that a name expresses the character of an object.

Language of the Vedas: This is the character of the language of the Vedas. The text of the sruti is authoritative; and unless we are specially instructed to do so, we should not make any additions of our own to it, because it would be contrary to the laws of learning. Indeed, there is no need to make any additions, because the statement of all the required particulars is found in the same place in the text. But an addition may be made if its meaning is uniform with the rest of the text. The rules in regard to making an addition is based on the meaning we obtain, in whatever it is done; for it is necessary that we should get a proper meaning, and that indeed is also our desire.

How to obtain a meaning: The meaning of a word is contained in the word itself: for instance, the meaning of the word Agni as a god (or a great natural power) is not derived from the meaning of some other word; and it means a god because that is its own meaning. Agni means intellect, as has already been explained; and intellect is the highest "division" or form of Nature. Hence, as a god represents a great power of Nature, and intellect is such a power, Agni is described as a god. Again, the Mimansa tells us that the meaning of the word is contained in the word itself, that is, we can obtain it from the context in which it is used or its division into parts. But there are some who deny this on the ground that the text does not define the meaning of the word. Even so the text does not define the meaning of the word svamin; but we understand its meaning as soul, master or lord from the result arising from its use, and the result arises from its connection with action. Thus we can understand the meaning of the word svamin, as referring to the soul, from its use in the text and the result that is obtained. If a word has a number of meanings, we have to take that which is the least imperfect; and it is in this manner that we get the meaning of the word svamin from the context. The same is the case with the word karma-kara (a workman, servant), because of the reference to his being hired or paid a wage. Thus we get the meaning of a word from the result of its use; and so the character of a person is connected with his actions, and even the desire to do a certain deed indicates the same.

Power of language: If there is a doubt about what has happened, we can find it out from its description. We cannot say that there are things that cannot be described in words, because it is all within the power of the mind to describe them; and it is the mind that enables us to make a correct use of words.

The mind has two characteristics, - nama and rupa - name and form: that is, when we give a name to an object or cast up its image, it is the mind that is functioning. Hence there can be no description beyond the powers of the mind, or of language, for the mind expresses itself in its form. The Sutra does not occur in certain texts. The word for the mind is khadira, which refers to the moon, a symbol of the mind.

Language of the Vedas: We are told on authority that there is no error or impropriety in the use of words in the text of the Vedas; and so a substitute or alternate expression should be used only if it has the same meaning as the original word, because anything else would convey a very different sense. It may not, however, be possible to find an exact substitute, with an identical meaning, specially where the text deals with fundamental ideas or the eternal character of things. It is possible that in such cases even the original language is not perfect, because perfection can never be achieved, and we are always wanting to achieve it; and that is the reason why the more we study the text, the greater is the knowledge we acquire.

The chief difficulty and how to overcome it: It is not correct to say that this would be so in any case, however great our devotion to the task; for the chief difficulty is not that the language is not perfect, but that the text does not make any sense at all. But there is a way out, and if we find that the description of an object is inconsistent, we should attach more importance to the object than to its description, because the object is the primary thing, and the description is for the sake of the object. Again, if we find that there is inconsistency between an object and its use, we should attach more importance to its use. In case there is no reference to an object, we should see what arises out of it as a result, because what remains of objects is their use. There should thus be a method of doing things in connection with each part of the entire text; and, as it is possible to get a rational meaning in this way, we should be able to explain each part of the whole. When, however, there are a number of meanings, we should take those which are most opposite, for that is the measure of their excellence; and the rest of the text is intended to contribute to that excellence.