Narach Philosophy

LAW OF ACTION AND INACTION


A law is a statement of general truth; and what is said to be true of one man may be deemed to be true of all; and it is this that we should find in the sacred books. All this is described in the Vedas in accordance with certain rules; and we can fix upon the meaning by reading the text in accordance with Krama. It is necessary to have knowledge of science to be able to understand the idea of action, which is related to Time; and that will enable us to have knowledge of the soul. The sacred books enjoin action, but do not promise their fruit.

They also contain prohibition against action; but that does not mean inaction: it only means prohibition against action that ought not to be done by a good man.

All these things were taught a long time ago, and we have forgotten them; but it is not difficult to understand them, and we can do so by means of proper study. But we should understand all these things in the light of human effort; and this will enable us to know what are duties of a Brahmana.

Idea of law from particular to general: If we prove the object of the pursuit of the soul in one case, it means that we have proved it in all cases. The word in the text is purusha, which generally refers to the soul in the Mimansa as well as the Sankhya. But it is possible to interpret it as "a man", at least in the present case.

Whatever is true of one creature in accordance with the law of its nature or birth, must be true of all without distinction; and so, when in the text there is a reference to the soul in any affair, it means that any one who likes may take part in such an affair. It is not necessary to find out the intention of the text in every case; because if we say that "a man" has the sense of "any man", it is because we do not assign any special attributes to a man; and any other meaning would be improper, because what is important is the idea of the doer of the deed, and not a particular person. Indeed, a single direction in the text should enable us to understand it (this Sutra does not occur in certain texts); and, if we succeed in doing so, we should be able to indicate the plan of the whole from the connection of its parts. Similarly, we should take it that, if the text is an exposition of the law of life, it should be the best of its kind (or composed in the most perfect form).

Fixed rules: We cannot say that this is but one of the many ways of understanding the text, because if we have a different meaning, we find that there is no close connection between its different parts. Nor can we say that the cause of this interpretation is the desire to get a particular explanation, because the rules of interpretation are fixed; whereas actions are not fixed, for we se that they are of different kinds and often clash with one another.

The argument may be summed up as follows:-

There are definite rules of interpretation; and if we do not follow them and pursue a different course, we find that the text does not make any coherent sense.

We cannot follow a new method of interpretation merely because we desire to get a particular meaning, for the rules of interpretation are fixed, and we cannot have any new method we like.

On the other hand there are innumerable action, and if we were to follow our own inclination in regard to the method of interpretation, there would be an equally large number of methods of interpretation; and as there are no fixed rules in regard to action, there would be no fixed rules in connection with these methods of interpretation too. But, as the rules of interpretation are fixed, while action are not, it follows that there is a design in the whole method.

We can understand this if we read the text according to Krama.

We should fix upon the meaning of the text by reading it according to Krama, because the text has been composed in that manner; and if the new meaning could arise merely because of our desire to understand the text in a particular way, there would be no fixed rules in regard to the method of interpretation, just as there can be no fixed rules in connection with a thing that does not exist. As, however, there is a fixed rule by means of which the text can effectively be interpreted, it should be regarded as the governing principle in respect of all that concerns the doer of the deed. The whole idea has to be understood in the light of action and the doer of the deed.

Knowledge, action and its fruit: In all action, having a bearing on time, we should have knowledge of science; and that will enable us to acquire knowledge of purusha or the soul. We are directed to perform such actions even if we make mistakes. But the sacred books do not tell us that we can obtain the fruit of actions for ourselves; and it is an error to suppose that there is any such direction in them. Hence the fruit of action should not be deemed to consist in wealth; and even if we are unable to achieve any result, the direction to act has its own value; whereas, so far as the result is concerned, it depends on the will of the gods.

Action and inaction: Prohibition against action is not inaction. When there is a prohibition, this non-activity should be taken to be a form of activity in respect of things prohibited, because there are many forms of inaction.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that he who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is a wise man; and the Mimansa means the same thing when it says that inaction is a form of action in connection with prohibited things. That is to say, when we refrain from doing something that has been prohibited, we are really engaged in a kind of action.

Character of the Vedas and their idea of inaction: The directions of the sacred books are full of purpose, and they need to be understood in the light of the object of purusha or the soul; but if we are unable to understand the intimate connection between the two (sacred books and the soul), it would be a violation of rules to force the meaning into something else. But what is taught in them requires the work of a life-time to understand. Moreover, all the Vedas are equally important, and we should seek such means of understanding them as would lead to success; and, in order to do so, we should make a repeated study of them; and understand the idea of inaction referred to in them, in a secondary sense, - that is, only when it is meant to serve the purpose of purusha or the soul (or is good for a man). Absence of action serves the purpose of the soul at the last stage of a man's existence, when he has done his life's work, and is at the point of death. This has already been explained.

This is a self-evident truth and requires no argument to prove it; but it seems that we cannot say so, because these things were taught long ago, and need to be restated to be understood. This tells us that even in the days of Jaimini, when he wrote the Mimansa, people had forgotten the real idea of the Vedas, which had been composed long before his time.

Idea of Time: But it is not an impossible task: for instance, if in the text we find a description of the characteristics of Time, we should take it that it is a statement regarding Time. Things like this relate to eternal truths or the origin of things, and can be understood only by means of proper study; and that would enable us to know the proper reason for this explanation, as well as the inner design of the composition of the text. Again, when we try to understand things relating to tradition or immemorial custom, we should do so in the light of the purpose of the purusha or the soul (or human effort); and so we shall find that there is general agreement in regard to the duties of a Brahmana (or an intelligent person), namely, that he should act in the light of the proper function of the mind, acquire knowledge, and have offspring. The Bhagavad Gita tells us of the natural duties of a Brahmana who, as has already been explained, refers to an intelligent person.

According to Manu and Taittiriya Sanhita a Brahmana has three obligation, to the Rishis, to the Gods, and to his deceased ancestors. To the first is his study of the Vedas; to the second worship and sacrifice; and to the last the procreation of a son. The idea of the Mimansa would appear to be the same.