We must not make any alteration in the language of the text; and if a word has a bearing on the idea of action, we should accept its meaning without changing its form. When we change the form of a word, the meaning may appear to be unusual; but we will not err, because certain technical terms have been used to guide us.
The real meaning of a word is often very different from its common one, and we can understand it by dividing it into parts, or by referring it to its origin or root. In case of doubt, we may take its common meaning, though it may not be its Vedic sense, for the latter is usually obtained by dividing it into parts. There is nothing irregular in this method of division, for the whole word remains intact, and at the same time we are able to get the correct meaning of the text. However, roots of words should not be divided into parts; and the roots and parts of the same word should, as far as possible, not be mixed together.
How to divide a word into parts: When we divide a word into parts, we may commence with the first part and go on step by step to the last, or we may begin with the last and go back step by step to the first, as suits us best; and when the plan of the most important part has been fixed, the rest will be found to fit into the whole scheme. This applies to single words as well as to compounds.
Miscellaneous rules: This method of interpretation is not governed by any hard and fast rules but there are certain directions to guide us, and they may be summed up as follows:
When to divide a word into parts: It is not necessary to divide all words into parts to understand their meaning. We should do so when the text, does not make sense otherwise.
Effect of division into parts: When the form of a word is changed in this manner, it becomes an entirely new word, with no connection with its original form.
Uniformity of meaning: The same word should have the same meaning throughout; and the meaning of a fundamental word cannot be obtained from some other word.
Selection of meaning: If a word can be interpreted in two ways, which are equally balanced, we should divide it into parts only if it serves some special purpose. We should select the meaning that suits the context best, and has a bearing on the idea of action or a law of life.
Words connoting action: The form of words connoting action should, as far as possible, not be changed.
Cause and effect: If there is mention of a result, we should see that we get a reference to its cause as well.
Fitness of meaning: When we get a new meaning of a word by dividing it into parts, it should fit into the whole context, and not stand in isolation by itself.
Authority of the Sruti: The meaning of the entire text should be in accordance with the teachings of the sruti, and that will convince us of its correctness. We shall find that the description of ideas and objects is so accurate, that they appear to be like living creatures.
No arbitrary meaning: We cannot give any meaning we like to a word, for there is often a good reason for the meaning that is assigned to it. We should bear in mind that each action is meant to secure an object, and requires that necessary means should be provided for the purpose. There must also be a sequence of cause and effect. We must bear all this in mind when we attempt to find out the meaning of an obscure word by reducing it to its rudimentary form. Indeed, the meaning can be regarded as properly fixed only when it yields a proper result; and, in any case, it must arise from the word itself, with all its parts intact.
The idea of God: We can understand the idea of a large number of gods by dividing their names into parts. The planets too are a kind of gods. There are also a large number of other names the real meaning of which can be obtained in the same manner.
Confirmation of meaning: When we divide a word into parts, the meaning should be obtained from the parts of the word itself; and there should be a confirmation of it as we proceed with the text.
Rules of grammar: We should divide words into parts in strict accordance with the rules of grammar, and follow the best grammarians. We should bear in mind that there is unity of idea underlying the whole text; and we must not omit any part. In case of doubt we should consult competent teachers, though there may be a difference of opinion among them too.
Result of bad arrangement: If words or their parts are badly arranged, we cannot get the correct meaning.
New expressions: If an expression has never before been used, its form should not be changed, unless there are directions in the text itself requiring us to do so.
Definition of meanings: If the meaning of a word has not been defined in the text, we cannot define it ourselves. We may divide it into parts to get its meaning; but it cannot come to possess any new properties by reason of this division.
A single action: Words which express the idea of a single action should not be divided into parts.
Dropping of parts: When we divide a word into parts, some parts which have the same meaning may be dropped.
Parts with the same meaning: The parts of words which have the same meaning should be in close proximity to one another; and this rule applies to all principal words.
Variations: All words should have the same meaning throughout; and if there are any variations, they should be specified.
Interpretation of Vedic hymns; Rig Veda: In the Rig Veda we usually get the correct meaning of words by dividing them into parts. In a number of cases, however, there is no conflict between the new and the original meaning of words. But it would as a rule, be advisable to divide words into parts, and then we can always check up whether the meaning is correct or not.
The Gayatri verses and certain other hymns have to be interpreted by means of division of words into parts. There are, however, a number of words which have to be interpreted in a different way. But we must not mix up words, or omit any part of the text, and need to use our intelligence to interpret it.
In the hymns of the Rig Veda, beginning with the word Manota, the form of words should not be changed. We can understand their meaning in different ways; and, in certain cases, from the effect they produce.
In the Pavamana hymns, sung at the Jyotishtoma sacrifice, it is necessary to change the form of words. We are also permitted to make a change in the text at our discretion. The words used are quite new, and the method of interpretation depends on the nature of the text; and the only test is that we should be able to understand it properly.
Sama Veda: The different Saman hymns constitute a single whole, and can be understood by dividing words into parts. But this need not be done in all cases, especially in connection with words which refer to action. In the Brhat-saman and Rathantara-saman hymns it is necessary to divide words into parts.
Special cases: There are also some special cases which need to be dealt with in a special manner.
Numbers: For instance, there are certain special ideas attaching to numbers, and we have to use our intelligence to understand them. We may take these numbers as a whole or in parts, and they may also be compared to certain things. But we should accept what the sacred books say about them; and the idea of their totals is important.
Phenomena of nature: The idea of the great phenomena of Nature has been dealt with in a special manner. The new and the full moon belong to this class, for they are governed by their own laws.
Desires of animals: The idea of the attributes of animals cannot be obtained by means of division of words into parts, or they have their own characteristics; and the theory of the division of words into parts does not apply to them, because the nature of their impelling force is different. But we can represent the function of their mind and its relation to desire by means of division of words into parts; though even this is not possible in all cases. The desires of animals are accordingly described in a special manner, which may appear to be new, but is significant, and would be found to be appropriate too. The language of the text in connection with matters of sex is sometimes plain, and sometimes ornate, as occasion requires; but we can understand the idea by piercing through the "disguise" of words.
The test of correctness: The test of correctness is the result that is achieved. But if we divide a word into parts and find that the meaning of one part fits into that of the following two, we may take it that it is correct; and then we can arrange our ideas of action by means of inference. This method of interpretation involves a complete substitution of one meaning for another, with a new natural order of connection between words which would itself be a test of its correctness; and, according to Jaimini, it would be stupid to ask for more.
The value of this method: This method of interpretation means a new approach to the Vedas, and throws a new light on their value. The special character of this explanation is that it enables us to understand the working of the laws of Nature and the great forces associated with them, which are otherwise unintelligible. In this manner we can understand the nature of desire and its relation to action, and several other things. Indeed, the very idea of the Mantras or hymns of praise addressed to the gods is transformed into that of an account of the great laws of Nature, thus making for the glory and greatness of the Vedas.