Narach Philosophy

SACRIFICE AND THE INTELLECT: THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION (PART-3)


When a word is divided into parts, we may begin from the beginning or the end as may be convenient: only we must remember that there is a cause for all things. According to some there should be no change in the form of words used in the text. But a change should be made where necessary, and for reasons already explained. A disguise means that we need to have a proper meaning of the text; and there are rules in regard to the manner of seeing through it, both as to whether words should be divided into parts or not.

If the meaning of the words taken as a whole is incompatible with the character of the text, we should be able to find an alternative meaning; for, if the parts of the word are the same, it would be wrong to construe it in only one way. If an expression is quite new, its form should not be changed, unless there are express directions to that effect in the text. If the meaning of a word has not been defined in a special way, we cannot define it ourselves; but if we are unable to get a proper meaning, we can divide a word into parts; but the word cannot come to possess any new properties by reason of this division.

A name is formed when we utter a particular word and and give it a particular meaning; but certain words express the idea of a single action, and no change should be made in their form. This, however, does not apply to a word like tvach. The form of the word medha-pati should not be changed, for its meaning has been defined.

In this method of interpretation we get two series of words, the original one and that formed by means of division into parts; and we should see that they correspond each to each in an exact order. The word swami has a special meaning; and so also Devata; and they retain their meaning throughout. Words which express the idea of a single action should remain unchanged in form. The form of the names of a large number of gods should be changed; and their idea should be connected with one another.

Method of interpretation: When a word is reduced to its rudimentary form (or divided into parts), so far as its meaning is concerned its first part is like a subsequent part. In the whole mass of the parts of a word, the meaning is due to its rudimentary form, and is not effected by the manner of construing it; and we can understand this if we see through its disguise.

When we divide a word into parts to understand its real meaning, it makes no difference whether we begin with the first letter or syllable and proceed step by step, to the last, or begin with the last and go back step by step, to the first; for all these are symbols, with definite meanings; and when they are brought together in a word or name, it means that certain ideas or substances are connected together in a certain way. For instance, we may divide the word Krshna into K, r, sh, na; and it would make little difference to the idea whether we begin with K and end with na, or vice versa. In some cases, however, there is a definite advantage in beginning from the one or the other end; but, on the whole, there is little substantial change in the idea. In the case of Krshna it would clarify the idea if we begin with K, for it gives us the idea of Nature; so that we get the idea of God, beginning with Nature and ending in the supreme intellect; and that is what Krshna really signifies.

The true state of a thing is produced by means of some definite cause, according to its place; and we can understand this if we see through the disguise of words. According to some, however, there should be no change in the form of words, as it is unauthorized; but they say so because they look only to the symbols used in the text (and not to their meaning). On the other hand a change should be made where necessary, and for reasons already explained. This Sutra does not occur in some texts. The point of this is that when we see through this disguise of words, we understand not only the real idea of a thing, but also its cause.

Purpose of a disguise and the need for piercing through it: A disguise is for the purpose of desiring to bring out the real meaning of the mantras or the hymns of the Vedas; and there are rules in connection with the method of seeing through it, both in respect of words taken as a whole and divided into parts. A disguise does not refer only to the division of words into parts. The meaning of certain words has been specially defined, and they have to be taken as they are, and not divided into parts: yet they too are under a disguise, which is pierced when we take them as defined.

If we find that the common meaning of a word, current among the people, is defective, we should take it that it is incomplete, and so understand it in the light of its completer or more highly evolved form. Indeed, in such a case there should be good reason for allowing a word to remain in its original form, without dividing it into parts; for it would be improper not to make a change in order to remove a defect, specially when there is no difference between the two forms of a word; and a change is made in order to remove the defect. But when the defect has been removed, the meaning of words in the latter form should be as suitable as in the original one. Indeed, when we get the true meaning of the text, we find that it is free from defect; and we see an illustration of this in our own desires, because we understand what is proper when we are free from the influence of what is improper. This Sutra does not occur in certain texts; but it clarifies the idea of the preceding one. We understand a thing as being free from defect only when we refer it to our own desires; that is, when we like a thing without any reservation, it appears to us to be so. Similarly, the new meaning would appear to be free from defect when we like it.

Need of an alternative meaning: If we find that in case we accept the meaning of the text as it is certain erroneous ideas arise and they are incomplete with the character of the text, we should be able to find an alternative meaning; because if the parts of a word are the same, it would be wrong to construe it in only one way; and we come to this conclusion because we are able to get a better explanation; and its excellence is like a double sacrifice. But we should do this (find an alternative meaning by means of dividing words into parts) only when there is no suitable meaning, and anything else fails to satisfy us. All expressions, however, are not like that; for instance, Dyava-Prthivi is not an expression of this kind, because we can get its meaning from the origin of the sounds which compose it.

This Sutra does not occur in some texts. the point is that, if the original meaning appears to be good enough, but the new one is better, we should accept the latter, for it is doubly good, or a double sacrifice. We have already explained that a sacrifice is a good and intelligent act. Further, Dyu and Prthivi, commonly spoken of as Dyava-Prthivi, are said to refer to Heaven and Earth. But this meaning can be understood from the sound or letters which compose their names, when it would be found to refer to the senses of knowledge and action.

If an expression is quite new, its form should not be changed (the "new" expression does not refer to newly coined words, made to express new ideas, to which the Mimansa has referred a number of times. The "new" expressions in the present Sutra refer to words used only once and not repeated again); and it is not necessary to point to any precedent or rule in such a case. But if we change the form of such an expression, it should be done in accordance with some express direction in the text; and, if the rules are the same, the idea of adhrigu, in what relates to a Soma sacrifice should be obtained in the same manner. (Adhrigu is the name of a formula concluding with an invocation of Agni. As Agni refers to the intellect, and Soma to the mind, "the idea of adhrigu is what relates to a Soma sacrifice" means the use of the intellect in connection with the function of the mind; and we have seen how closely allied the two can be. The next Sutra tells us that we should not divide the word adhrigu to get its real meaning, but substitute one expression for another, the function of the intellect for adhrigu, and the mind for soma, when we shall understand what it means). In this case the meaning is to be found in a substitute expression, because no change of form is necessary.

Method of division of words into parts: If the meaning of a word has not been handed down (or explained) by the sacred books themselves, we cannot hit upon the correct explanation ourselves; but if we are unable to get a proper meaning, we should resort to this method of interpretation (by means of division of words into parts). A name is intended to convey an idea; and if its meaning is obtained from the name itself, we should retain its existing form; for it cannot come to possess any special properties by reason of its new formation (or division into parts). The essence of this has already been explained; for when we take words as a whole, with their parts joined together, the meaning that we get is not of a lasting value, whereas we understand them better by piercing through their disguise.

Formation of a name: (This is how a name is formed). We utter a particular word once, and give it a particular meaning; and then repeat the same: when we do this, it should be construed to be a name, with a limited connotation or range of activity. But there are a number of words the form of which is not changed, just as there is no change when there is only one action to describe. But the term "once" (referred to in the previous Sutra) means "acting suddenly or at once"; and it follows from this that this rule cannot apply to the word tvach (skin). In such a case we have to go down to the rudimentary form of a word in the manner explained, proceed from one part to another, and add them together, till in the fully lengthened form we get the name and its meaning.

Meaning of Medha-Pati: The expression medha-pati (or lord of sacrifice) is always used in the sense of one who has mastered the great forces of Nature (and so is described as the lord of the gods). This is the inherent connection between the two expressions (medha-pati and "lord of the gods"); and so if we find that this expression has been used, but we do not understand its meaning, we should not make any change in its form but accept its idea as explained.

The "lord of sacrifice" is really the soul; and it is for this reason that is called the "lord of the gods", for the soul alone can master the great forces of Nature, to which the gods refer. Indeed, even as the Sankhya tells us, Nature itself acts for the sake of the soul, and so is subordinate to it. We are required to accept the meaning of the word medha-pati or "the lord of sacrifice" in the manner explained, that is, as the soul.

Application of this method: When we apply this method of interpretation, we get two series or assemblages of words (the original one, and that formed by division into parts); and we should see that the second corresponds to the first in an exact order, the first word of the first series to the first word of the second series, and so on.

Swami: There are certain words which have special meanings: for instance, whenever the word swami (or master) is used in the text, its higher meaning is associated with the idea of a god or the great forces of Nature (the word swami or master also refers to the soul; and so it is associated with the idea of the gods in the same manner as medha-pati, and for the same reason); while with regard to the idea of a "wife" some other word (and not swami) is used.

It might, at first sight, appear to be incongruous (or meaningless) to associate the idea of a "master of sacrifice" with that of a god; because if he offers a sacrifice, it would be because he wants to gain some object; whereas if he is called a 'master' it should mean that he has already obtained everything. But if we divide the word into parts in accordance with the general rule, we shall find that the idea of a master is contained in the word (swamin) itself. But if the word is associated with two gods, it is only once that it needs to be drawn out of its original form, and divided into parts; for the word has only one meaning throughout the text; and that is so because of its permanent connection with its parts and the meaning given to it. And thus, since this connection is known, the form of the word can be changed in its light.

The Mimansa tells us that we can get the meaning of "master" or soul from the word swamin (or swami) itself, if we divide it into parts. There are a number of ways of this division; and we can derive the word from swa, which means "the soul". It may also be derived from swa and min, when the meaning would be "master of property". Thus we find that both the meanings, master as well as soul, are contained in the word itself.

Words expressing the idea of a single action: Nevertheless, when a word expresses the idea of a single action, it should not be divided into parts, because it would lose its meaning thereby.

How to obtain the meaning of gods: The rule in regard to a large number of gods is that there should be a change in the form of their names; that is, they should be reduced to their rudimentary form by means of division into parts. But even in their case it is only when we are unable to get a proper meaning, that this should be done; and even though the gods express their own separate or individual ideas, there should be a close and constant connection between them. The gods of the Vedas represent the great forces of Nature; but while these forces can be separated, there is also a close inherent connection between them. The same, says the Mimansa, should be the case with the gods.