Narach Philosophy

THE LAW OF ACTION AND THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION (PART-1)


Different words express different ideas, and their meaning can be understood in the light of their context. The meaning of certain words has been specially defined; while in the case of others it can be obtained by dividing them into parts. But no fixed rule can be laid down. Certain conditions must, however, be satisfied. In certain other cases we can do as we like.

Words and their meaning: Different words express different ideas of action, because we have to do different things; but if we repeat the same word without a different cause, it would be useless. But for instance, we should be able to get the meaning from the context. If there is a reference to the full moon, the subject matter should indicate it even though there is no mention of its form. However, if words convey different meanings in different context, we cannot use them in the same sense everywhere.

Special meanings: The special meaning of a word arises from its connection with the text of the Sruti; and so too the idea of its attributes; and when we know the purpose for which it is used, we can settle its meaning.

Defined meanings: There are certain words the meaning of which has been defined. For instance, the word Upansuyaja refers to the full moon. This is necessary in cases where the subject is not under discussion in the text. But we can get this meaning from the connection of the parts of the word itself; and that is how we get the meaning in a majority of cases. We resort to this because we get certain expressions which make little sense. For instance, there is nothing special in the sprinkling of clarified butter over Agni; but when we do this, we understand the whole idea clearly; and find that any other meaning would be irrelevant to the context.

Method of division into parts: The rule in regard to the meaning of a word through its parts arises from the fact that this division is made in conformity with a common practice, and there is plenty of sacred authority in support of it. There is the same connection with the combined word Pashu-Soma, where we get a combination of two substances (Pashu and Soma); and this combination is not useless because we get its meaning by means of this division. Pashu means an animal, while Soma means not only the moon, but also the mind. So Pashu-Soma means (Soma) the mind of (Pashu) an animal; and the Mimansa tells us that animals have a mind. The sacred books also tell us of five kinds of Pashus or animals, men, horses, cows, goats and sheep.

Rules cannot be laid down: We cannot lay down rules in connection with such formations; we should only remember that when we sub-divide a word formation into parts, we should be very near its correct meaning. For the substance itself is made up of parts, corresponding to which we have the parts of a word; otherwise no purpose would be served by this division.

Certain conditions should be satisfied: If the current meaning of a word correctly conveys the idea of the attributes associated with an object, it should not be divided into parts to serve some other purpose. When we divide a word into parts, we should preserve their position as it is in the word; and if we wish to divide into parts a word connoting action, we should do so after due reflection. The clear idea of the text, obtained in this way, should be such as meets with general approval. In case we can interpret a word in two ways, which are equally balanced, we should go in for a new combination only if there is some special merit in it. If no special purpose is served by analyzing a word connoting action, its meaning in its place in the text should be accepted. Again, if there is mention of a result, we should see that there is a reference also to its cause or action - for a result is always connected with action. If there are two ways of interpreting a word, and they appear to be of equal value,- we should select the meaning which fits in with the peculiar character of the context; and in normal cases it should be associated with action.

Special cases: There are some special cases. In the hymns composed by Saubhari addressed to Purusha and in the concluding passage of a Saman hymn which is sung in chorus, we can do as we like. In all these cases, as the author has said what he has desired, all that is necessary is that they should be pleasant to hear. The meaning if the concluding portion of a Saman hymn, sung is chorus, depends on the repetition of certain notes. Saubhara means "of Saubhari"; and the latter is the name of the author of the hymns of the Rig Veda addressed to Purusha. The Mimansa tells is later on that it is necessary to divide into parts words used in the Sama Veda. Here we are told that in certain hymns, which are sung in chorus, we may or may not do so, for the result is the same.