Narach Philosophy

SELF-INTEREST AND NATURAL DESIRE: HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE VEDAS


Self-interest is inherent in man. It cannot be seen; it can only be understood. Self-interest has two forms, which may be described as natural motive and deliberate motive; and the conflict between them may be seen in the discussion that goes on within us. But the discussion has its purpose too; and it can modify natural motive as well as desire. Natural motive precedes discussion; and it is not only an intelligent, but also a good, desire that can be associated with the idea of sacrifice.

There is a common law of life applicable to all animals, because there is no essential difference between them at any time; and their similarity of behaviour is due not to similarity of motive, but of nature.

Natural desire comes first, and the idea of its purification afterwards. Lower animals are characterized by an urge in respect of primary and not secondary actions and objects; and there is little difference in their milk, which is easily effected by time.

We can understand the text of the Vedas in the same manner as we understand the laws of life relating to animals; and it should be judged in the light of the meaning it yields. For instance, if we find that there is something incongruous in a certain portion of the text, we should take it that it needs a new meaning. But certain conditions need to be satisfied before one meaning can be substituted for another.

Self-interest is inherent in man: Self-interest is not aroused by discussion. It is in the very nature of man, and does not need to be re-stated to be understood, though we often speak of it.

It cannot be seen: We cannot say that it can be seen, - for it is a rule that we can do only one thing at a time; nor can we say that we can see it arise, because it is not possible to do so, unless we mean that seeing is the same thing as understanding, because they are so similar in this case.

Natural and deliberate interest: There are two forms of self-interest, - which may be described as natural motive and deliberate motive. There is an impelling force or cause in all action; but there can be a conflict between this force and the chief purpose that a man may have in view when he acts. Hence this impelling force may be called natural motive. But because of the special importance of discussion that takes place within us, this natural motive may be an obstacle in the development of action. But discussion has its own purpose too, because it is produced by some cause, and may be said to be a modification of natural motive itself, for it is closely connected with it. Again, desire improves through discussion; and the purpose of desire, when it is associated with discussion, may be compared to putting fire in a sacrificial fire place. But discussion does not produce desire, because it is meant to serve the purpose of desire; and we can see the proof of it ourselves.

When desire is associated with discussion, that is, when our motive of action is under discussion within us, the object is that the desire should be purified or rendered fit for action performed as a sacrifice.

Natural motive: Natural motive precedes discussion and may be compared to a discussion that has not yet begun. But all motive, in respect of any action, arises at its own proper time. However, of all desires, the desire to perform an intelligent action alone should, by its very nature, be regarded as preceding an act of sacrifice; but this is not true of all such desires, because of the meaning of sacrifice.

Sacrifice requires that an action should not only be intelligent but also good. Intelligence, however, is a necessary pre-requisite of action performed as a sacrifice; and so an intelligent desire precedes such action. But, as it is only a desire that is also good that can make an act of sacrifice, it is not all intelligent desires that can be associated with sacrifice.

A law of life: The law of life that is true of the five classes of animals is true of all (the word used in the text is Pashu, which refers to five classes of animals, men, cows, horses, goats and sheep. But the law of life that is true of these animals, is true of all, says the Mimansa), for the explanation in all cases is the same; and they continue to remain in their original state without change. Indeed, so far as we can understand, their attributes and objects are the same, and will be so in the future too. We cannot say that they are what they are because of the effect of Time, because they are so made, as part of a great whole. Nor can we say that their similarity of behaviour is due to similarity of motive, because it would be contrary to reason (to suppose that their motives can always be the same).

Natural desire of an animal: The first desire (of an animal is its natural desire) arising from its original state; the idea of its purification comes later, from the object it seeks; and this can easily be proved. There is also an absence of urge in respect of subordinate objects. But there is little difference between any two kinds of milk; and that which has not been mixed with anything should be boiled, because it is affected by time. But that which is mixed with something is also affected by time, and for the same reason.

How to understand the sacred books: As we are able to understand the laws of life relating to animals, we can, in the same manner, understand the meaning of the sacred books; and when we do so, the whole thing appears like a new ray of light. But we must understand them from their own point of view; because what has been taught long ago cannot be connected together by means of present day objects. (The Vedas were composed long ago, and they need to be interpreted in the light of the ideas of their own times. This is as true today as it was in the days of Jaimini when he wrote the Mimansa. But even in his days the original idea of the Vedas appears to have been almost lost). But if we are able to connect things together, we should understand them in the light of the result they yield; and that should be proved to be true by means of definite knowledge.

Indeed, there are suggestions to guide us in the text itself: for instance, if in a portion of a hymn addressed to Agni, there is something which appears to be irrelevant to the main idea, we should take it to be of this kind (that is, that it needs to be interpreted in another way). Again, if a thing is known to be produced by a certain cause, but is not described as such, we should understand that the difference lies in its mode of expression; and that is how one meaning is substituted for another.

Conditions to be satisfied: But the substitute should not have the same meaning as the original word on the ground that its purpose is the same, because that would be contrary to rules; and this restriction makes for excellence of composition of the sruti. But similar statements should stand together and should not be interpreted differently, because there is no difference in their explanation; and in such cases the name should be of the same kind. Indeed, the apparently different expressions are but modifications of the same thing; and have been introduced to relieve monotony, which is otherwise inevitable, because the law of Nature, sought to be described are eternal, and therefore the same. Even so when the same idea is differently expressed, the form of expression should be natural, not forced; and the entire statement should make a coherent whole. This is necessary, because the symbols, understood in their traditional sense, are contradictory; but the name of each principal object has been formed in the light of its special characteristics (and so it is possible to know its exact idea).