Narach Philosophy

THE INSTRUMENTS AND OBJECT OF ACTION


The meaning of the parts of words should be the same throughout. When no particular purpose is served by an action, it should be deemed to be for the benefit of all. This is represented by yupa or a "sacrificial post"; and we can understand its meaning by dividing it into parts. The svaru (another word for a sacrificial post) completes the whole idea of action. Its time of occurrence may, in certain cases, be compared to a sacrificial seat.

If in a great sacrifice a person casts away the best, it means that there is a doubt about the action itself. A person does the best he can at a time; and this is represented by the direction that we should follow up the working of the mind early in the morning, for the mind is at its best at the time. The direction to engage in a sacrifice means the same thing.

Animals too have a mind. The union of the mind with the intellect makes for the best action, as well as freedom from its bondage. The parts of a great action are represented by the days for which a sacrifice is said to last.

The main factor of action is the I-as-an-actor. It may be regarded as an aspect of the soul, which is said to be a non-actor, if we wish to distinguish between the performers of action. But it is not like the intellect, though in popular language they may be taken to be so. We should fix upon the instruments of action in the light of our knowledge; and this enables us to understand the character of the soul. When a person has acquired complete knowledge, he can take these instruments as he likes, because they all serve the same purpose.

A person should do his best, for there is no fixed time for death; and he who dies in the midst of a great and good action is the best. One cannot become the best by a mere study of the sacred books; he does so by acting like a leader, for the leader is really the best.

The difference of opinion regarding action is contained in the sacred books themselves; but their purpose is the same, the attainment of perfection; and when we understand them properly, we find that they support the idea that all good and intelligent actions should be performed.

No one can tell anything about the time of creation of life, for the best of minds cannot know it. When it is said that some one knows, it is only an exuberance of language.

Rule regarding parts of words: If the parts of a word are properly used in a certain sense on a principal occasion, they should be used in the same sense on another occasion too, for that is the rule. It would be found on examination that not only words taken as a whole, but also their parts have the same meaning in the text. These parts consist of syllables and letters, especially the latter; and they have all a number of meanings in Sanskrt. But their range of variation, when used in different word formations, is strictly limited. This applies to all sacred books, from the Vedas downwards (See Introduction, for the meanings of the letters of the alphabet used in the text).

Action for the benefit of all; Illustrated by Yupa: If no particular object is gained when an action takes place, it should be deemed to have been done for the benefit of all, because it has been done at its own time. This is the idea of yupa (or the sacrificial post), because it is not fixed at the time of action; and so only one such post is seen. Yupa means "a sacrificial post"; but, as it is not fixed at a prescribed time, it represents the idea of action meant for the benefit of all. As only one such post is seen at a time, it means that only one such action can be performed at a time.

How to understand this: But we should always have a correct formation of words to get their real meaning; and this should be done at once; because if we know what yupa signifies, we can; from an enumeration of particulars and the application of rules, know that whenever the word is used on other occasions, it will have the same meaning; and that will enable us to understand the whole design at once.

The "correct formation" of a word means its division into parts; and so the Mimansa tells us that if we divide the word yupa into its parts, we shall know its real meaning; and we shall also find that it is used in the same sense everywhere.

The word may accordingly be divided into y, u, pa, when its meaning would be "(y) the intellect (a) woven with (pa) the objects of the senses". Yupa accordingly represents the idea of a highly intellectual action, requiring the function of the intellect in a special manner; and that, as the Mimansa tells us, is to be understood as meant for the benefit of all. This may be said to be a definition of the word. There is a reference to such action in the Bhagavad Gita.

Svaru: The word svaru should complete the whole theory (of action), because it has no time of its own; and we can easily understand the result, which is caused by means of a common conception, and arises from the experience of our own mind.

Yupa means action meant for the benefit of all; and svaru action performed with a purpose; and this completes the whole theory of action. Yupa is fixed at its own time; while svaru has no time of its own, implying that it may be fixed at all times; and so it refers to a very common idea of action, that which is performed with a purpose, and is within our own experience. If we divide the word into s, va, r, u, the meaning would be "(s) the mind, associated with (va) Nature and (r, u) the sense of action and knowledge". It is thus an action performed with a desire, an attribute of the mind.

Time of occurrence: The time of occurrence may be compared to the sacrificial seat; but not always. If, however, there is a statement in respect of it to that effect, it should be taken to be so.

Description of doubt: If in an important action, lasting many days, a person casts away the best of what has been achieved, it should, since it is so unprecedented (or contrary to law) raise a doubt as to whether something has not gone wrong with the beginning or the end of such action.

Idea of early morning work: It is possible that the hand may not, sometimes, act in accordance with the direction of the intellect; still the law of action is that a person does the best he can at a time. It is for this reason that we are directed to follow up the working of the mind early in the morning, for it is at its best at the time.

Idea of breaking silence: If a person breaks silence in order to disclose the truth, and bids us engage in a sacrifice (or a good and intelligent act), it should be deemed to be like that (or for the best).

Case of animals: We see the same characteristic in the case of animals too, as far as their desire is concerned. What is true of men is also true of all animals; they too regard their desires as being the best for them, for the time being. The word in the text is purodasa, which refers to desire, as has already been explained.

Freedom from the taint of action: The object of the union of the function of the intellect with that of the mind is that good actions or actions well performed would become the best in every part. It is only when this happens, that a person can make himself free from the limitations of action for that is the reason for these limitations. For the same reason, a supplementary or minor action cannot take the place of a major one, so far as the fulfillment of its purpose is concerned. The words in the text are Agni and Soma, which refer to the intellect and the mind.

We get the highest form of action when the mind is merged in or identified with the intellect; for then desire becomes one with Dharma, and action is transformed into a sacrifice, by means of which, as the Bhagavad Gita tells us, all the taint of action is removed. The Mimansa says the same.

The reason for the limitations or taint of, action is that we should think of a way of escape; and that leads us to the idea of Sacrifice, the highest form of action.

A major action is action performed as a sacrifice, while a minor one is different. Thus a minor action cannot take the place of a major one.

Parts of an action; how described: In a great sacrifice (or action) lasting many days, each day represents a part of such action, well performed, because that is what it is meant to do.

Importance of Ahankara or I-as-an-actor: But the main thing in action is the I-as-an-actor3, ever ready to act at all different times. It functions at once, and again and again, because it is connected with what has to be done in a very special way.

The word in the text is Subrahmanya, which is said to be a particular recitation of certain Mantras or hymns by the Udgatr priests; and it is sometimes used for the Udgatr priest himself. We have already explained that of the four Ritvij priests, the Udgatr refers to ahankara or the I-as-an-actor; and that is the meaning of Subrahmanya here; it refers to the Udgatr priest or ahankara.

Ahankara and the soul: It is possible to regard it as a part of a mental organ which does not act (that is, the soul), because it enables us to point out its function, in case we wish to distinguish between the performers of action.

Ahankara is usually conceived to be different from the soul, especially where the latter is regarded as a non-actor. But, if we regard the soul to be an actor, ahankara would be regarded as an aspect of the soul itself: that is when the non-acting soul becomes an actor, we call it ahankara or the I-as-an-actor.

It may be of interest to point out that different systems have their own ideas of the soul as an actor. The Sankhya believes that it is really a non-actor, and so entirely different from ahankara. The Nyaya and the Vaiseshika would associate the soul with action; the Mimansa gives us both the ideas of the soul; and so does Yoga; but Vedanta conceives of it purely as an actor, taking the place of ahankara itself.

The idea of ahankara has come to be degraded in later times, and it has been described as Egoism even in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita. It is in this sense identified with abhimana; and its idea is represented in the story of the Epic by Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna, for the latter refers to the soul. If the soul is a non-actor, we must have an actor, and that is ahankara.

Ahankara and the intellect: We cannot, however, say that it is like the intellect, on the ground that, so far as the body of a living creature is concerned, it appears to be like the intellect and functions for its sake, because its action is of a universal character and we can understand this if we know their characteristics; But we cannot say that their characteristics are the same and so they are alike, because we have never been taught like that, and we know that they belong to essentially different types. Nor do they arise from the same action or manner of action, because we see that it is so, if we examine with care the origin of a whole action. In popular language, however, they may be taken as we please, because the terms are not always used in an exact sense.

The function of the intellect is decision, discrimination; while ahankara is a universal actor, ever ready to act at all times. Not so the intellect, which acts only under certain conditions: that is, when there is something to decide.

The functions of ahankara and the intellect are not the same, as we have explained. The special characteristic of the intellect is to decide; while that of ahankara is to act. But, as the intellect may decide to act, it becomes closely associated with ahankara; and that is why the latter is said to act for the sake of the intellect. Nevertheless, they belong to two essentially different types, as the Mimansa says.

When we examine the origin of action, we find that the decision to act comes first, and then someone within us engages in action. The former is the intellect that decides, and the latter ahankara that acts; and it is for this reason that, in the evolution of life from Nature, ahankara is said to arise from the intellect.

Need of definition: We should, however, fix, upon the instruments of action in the light of our knowledge of what is to be done, even as we know the character of the mind together with its desires. The purification of the soul is said to be achieved by this means and when that is done, a person may do as he likes.

There are four instruments of actions (besides the soul), intellect, ahankara, mind and the senses. They all act together; but different actions require more of the one than the other; and it is this idea that is represented by the four Ritvij priests and the three assistants of each, as has already been explained. The Mimansa tells us that we must find out, in the light of what has to be done, which instrument of action is needed most.

The word in the text is rijisha, which means "the Soma plant after its juice has been pressed out"; and we have explained that Soma refers to the mind, and its juice to desire.

The word in the text is yajamana which, as has already been explained, refers to the soul.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that the Yogis, free from all attachment, perform actions with their body, senses, mind, and the intellect for the purification of their soul and the Mimansa says the same.

When we have attained to a state of purification of the soul, we shall find that it is really the soul that acts through all these organs; and so we could take the latter in whichever way we like, for it would make no difference to the idea.

The Best: But a person should make use of the best instruments of action, for his time is limited, and there is no fixed time for death. But he who dies in the midst of a sacrifice (or a great and good action) should be regarded as the best of men; for he is like a stick of green wood used for stirring the sacrificial fire (which burns itself in the task). A person does not become the best merely by reading the sacred books. He can do so only by acting and causing others to act, as a leader does. This is not an improper use of language (to compare the best of men with a leader), because the leader is really the best in respect of what is expected of him.

Necessity of action: But this difference of opinion in regard to action arises from the views expressed in the sacred books themselves. Nevertheless, the object of the whole matter is essentially the same, the attainment of perfection. There is, however, nothing new in this: only what exists already appears to have an entirely new meaning. When we understand the language of the sacred books in its rudimentary form, we realize that all that is associated with action, performed in the light of the full moon, should be done; and we should perform all actions intelligently, because there is no difference of opinion in the matter when the question of death is not involved and the procedure is the same in all cases.

The sacred books really enjoin action; at the same time they contain passages which appear to lend support to the idea of its renunciation too. But there is no essential difference between the two statements, for their object is the same, perfection of the soul; and that can be achieved at one stage by means of action, and at another by means of its renunciation. The latter refers to the time of death; and, as that is inevitable, there must come a time when a person must renounce all action. This is what the sacred books really mean when they speak of renunciation; and the point is made still clearer in the following Sutra.

The full moon, as has already been explained, refers to the full function of the mind, when it may, for practical purposes, be identified with the intellect. It refers, therefore, to action which is characterized by desire that is unopposed to Dharma, to which there is a reference in the Bhagavad Gita. The Mimansa tells us that it is laid down in the sacred books that such actions should always be performed.

We have already explained that it is only at the time of death that a person can renounce all action. So long as he lives, or when the question of death is not involved, he must continue to act, and act intelligently; that is what the sacred books say.

Creation: It is said of all things, without distinction, that creation follows desire: only the time of creation cannot be told. Can we say that this means a reversal of the function of the mind, for which there is no authority? Or that Time alone is the cause of the improvement of things, which are connected with one another? Or can we say that we can know the time of the creation of things, as is the opinion of those who are well versed in the knowledge of the sacred books?

There are a number of references to the creative power of desire (or the mind) in the sacred books. The Taittiriyaka Upanishad has the following, "He wished, may I be many, may I grow forth. He brooded over himself; then sent forth (or created) all, whatever that is". Thus we might say that wish or desire precedes action; and creation is a form of action.

The point of this Sutra is, "Is desire first, or the mind first?" If we agree that desire is an attribute of the mind, it follows that the mind must come first. In such a case can we say that desire is the cause of all action or creation?

In the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda we are told that in the beginning there was but One Thing, and apart from it there was nothing whatsoever. There was nothing but darkness round; and all that then existed was void and formless; and that One was born by the great power of Tapas. Thereafter rose first of all Desire; Desire, the primal seed and germ of the Mind.

We gather from this that Desire itself is a creation, and follows Tapas or "severe meditation", which is a function of the intellect. It is for this reason that we find in the Sankhya that the first creation of Nature or Prakrti is the Intellect, and the Mind comes later.

We cannot say that Time is the cause of creation. There is an element of time in all action or creation, even as the Bhagavad Gita tells us that when an Age of Time comes to an end, all creatures return to Prakrti; and when a new Age begins, another creation takes place; but it is careful to add that it is God who creates.

No one can know the origin of things. The Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda has the following, Who verily knows, and who can here declare it, whence it was born, and whence comes this creation?

The gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being? He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

If even the great Creator may not know the origin of creation, who else can?

But the point of this is that knowledge, in the sense man understands it, is not possible in this case; for knowledge requires a knower and the object to be known; while in the present case, when the Creator creates, there is no duality, for He is one without a second; and so there can be no knowledge as we understand the term.

We cannot know the origin of things: But all this is untenable, as it is contrary to reason. Nor is it a fit case for changing the form of words to understand their meaning, because it arises from a reference to another rule (that is, appeal to reason). Even in the most excellent hymns of the Vedas there is no mention of the powers of the mind which can know the origin of things. We know that animals too have a mind; and the main point in this argument is that we can only compare the mind with the best of its class. The Rig Veda has made it abundantly clear that no one can know the origin of things.

It may be argued that since animals too have a mind, perhaps they may know the origin of things, if man cannot. But, says the Mimansa, so far as man is concerned, the highest mind according to him is the mind of man; and if that cannot understand the origin of things, we are justified in concluding that no one can. It is indeed true that animals have a mind; but we can compare their mind only with the best of its class, the mind of man, who is also an animal. Thus we see that no one can know the origin of things; and so the next Sutra tells us that when it is said that some one knows, it is only an exuberant mode of expression, intended to emphasize things.

An exuberant mode of expression: The reference to knowledge of the origin of things is only an exuberance of language, arising out of a peculiar mode of expression (meant to emphasize things). In the same manner when we are unable to understand the meaning of a thing, we refer it to our ideal, (the highest we can imagine, to see if we can).