Narach Philosophy

THE LANGUAGE OF THE VEDAS AND HOW TO UNDERSTAND IT


The language of the mantras of the Vedas does not appear to be in harmony with the object described; but every word is not like that. It is only when the original meaning does not refer to the law of life that we should reject it; and we shall find that the language of the Vedas, when properly understood, does refer to the law of life.

If that be so, how do we get the common meaning bearing on the idea of sacrifice? On the other hand, if this be the real meaning of the text, and we are also able to get another meaning, should not the latter too refer to the idea of sacrifice, for both of them are obtained from the same undivided text?

This is a reference to the Krama method of reading the text, which enables us to transform a mantra or a hymn of praise into Vidhi or the law of life. Indeed, if the Vedas have any real value, they should have a different interpretation. We are led to this conclusion by the use of certain special terms in the text. But it is necessary to have a regular system of interpretation, which indeed exists, but requires skill to use it.

For instance, we can easily understand the meaning of the word Tvashtr, but not so of the number thirty. Again, there are certain words the meaning of which has been defined, and they have to be understood in that light. There is personification too: for instance, Desire is personified as a god, and associated with the Soma juice.

The language of the Vedas: The mantras (believed to be hymns of praise, addressed to the gods) refer to a number of objects closely connected with one another; but certain words appear to be missing, which need to be supplied, in order to understand the text. But if there are no real gaps, the original connection of words must have been based on some other meaning, about which there must have been a consensus of opinion. But if the common meaning be the real one, it should not contain anything contrary to rules of morality or what is enjoined. For instance, there is such an incongruity in the description of Indra; and when a person breaks rules of morality, his description should correspond to his actions; but it is not so in this case.

We have already been told that there are certain descriptions in the text of the Vedas which appear to reflect on persons otherwise held in high esteem; and that leads us to believe that there is likely to be some other meaning of the text.

Need of a new meaning: It maybe argued that if the text of the mantras has a different meaning from the apparent one, it should be so in the case of ahvana or invocation of the deity too. But this is not necessary, for it only lays down the proper time for the invocation of the deity; and there is no reference to any attributes or auxiliary acts, as can easily be proved. It is only where the meaning of the word, in its original form, appears to be incompatible with our conception of the law of life, that we should reject it. Indeed, if we recite the hymns correctly, we shall find that they refer to the law of time or life.

An objection and an answer: It may, however, be argued that the original meaning, bearing on the idea of sacrifice, could not have come out of nowhere; and so that is the real meaning of the deities. But if that be their real meaning, - and yet there is another way of interpreting the text as well, - the latter should also convey the idea of offering a proper sacrifice; and in both cases all that is taught should remain continuous and whole, like a garland of flowers. We are justified in saying this, because both the meanings refer to the same language, - taken in its entirety and without division.

Krama and its significance: There is mention of the Krama method of reading the Vedas; and we find that it is like a "disguise" in which the narrative contains all that we seek; and the governing rule is that a mantra or a hymn of praise should, in the light of these names and what has been taught, be the same Vidhi or the law of life.

Need of a new meaning: But we can say this only when we get both the meanings from the same text. But the meaning in its original form is valueless, because it does not yield any result, nor does worship or going to the sanctuary of a god give the promised fruit. This applies to the teaching of all the mantras; and if this is the real meaning of the Vedas, their only purpose would appear to be to minister to eating and drinking; and so both their form and teaching would drag us down, because that is what is said to be enjoined. If, however, the Vedas have any merit of composition, the hymns, charming as they are should serve as a single instrument of thought, and both the meanings converge to but a single sense.

Special terms: There is a special mention of certain symbols or terms which convey the same idea in all circumstances. They have been used in connection with Indra; but, as they do not retain their special meaning, they should not have been used. A god represents an aspect of nature or prakrti; but if the word has two meanings, there is an implication that there is something in respect of the whole text which has not been properly expressed, and something needs to be taken from the one to the other side.

Need of a system: At the same time it would not be possible to get the correct meaning without a system; and the system is there, only it requires skill to use it; and if we try to "seize" the text or grab at its meaning, we shall not succeed. As has already been observed, the real meaning is like possessing a wife; and if we grab at it, the whole work would be badly done and suffer from contradictions.

Instances: We can get the meaning of the word Tvashtr (as Mind) from the reference to drinking Soma (which means the same thing); but if the two ideas are not equal, we cannot always succeed in this way. For instance, the number thirty has a very different meaning.

Tvashtr is said to be god, "the heavenly builder and creator of living beings". He is also said to be a maker of divine implements specially of Indra's thunderbolt. The Mimansa tells us that he refers to the mind, because of the reference to his drinking Soma, which also means the mind. This means that Tvashtr is conceived to be the supreme mind which creates all things. The special attribute of the mind is desire; and the Upanishads tell us that creation takes place through the desire of the Supreme. Indra's thunderbolt would accordingly refer to the function of the mind.

The number thirty is a multiple of 3 and 10; and the one refers to the mind and the other to the senses of knowledge and action, as the Mimansa tells us later on. Hence it refers to the function of the mind in association with the senses. We cannot get the meaning of this number in the same simple way as that of Tvashtr, for it requires a different approach.

Words with defined meanings: There are certain words, the meaning of which has been defined: for instance, Vashat signifies performance of action; and Chhanda means desire, regarded as an obstacle in our path. Similarly, when there is a joint reference to Indra and Agni, we should be able to distinguish between them from the character of the conclusions that are drawn; and though close to each other, we should be able to get at the idea of each one separately.

Desire as a god; its character: Desire may also be personified as a god. There is desire in all creatures, but one and the same desire does not exist among all. According to Aitisayana the common character of all desires is that they arise from attachment, attachment to drinking; and claim that they are entitled to have the Soma juice. (Aitisayana means a descendent of Itisa, about whom very little is known. But his opinion is cited in the Mimansa in more than one place).

This means that there are certain desires which are both intelligent and good, and so are personified as gods; for all desires are not obstacles in the path of our progress. The Bhagavad Gita also tells us that Krshna or god himself is desire, unopposed by Dharma (good and intelligent desire, meant for the benefit of all), he should regard it as the voice of god within him. Desire is personified as a god in the sacred books in the form of Kama-deva, "the god of desire" or "desire regarded as god"; and he is also spoken of as the god of love, because that is the highest and purest form of desire; and so Kama-deva is said to be the name of Vishnu, the supreme creator, himself.