Narach Philosophy

THE LAW OF ACTION AND THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION (PART-2)


This method of interpretation implies a deliberate plan on the part of the author. There are, however, certain works where the common meaning of the words is satisfactory, and this method should not be adopted. The popular idea of sacrifice is based on a misconception; and if we pierce though the "disguised" form of words, we shall understand what it means, and the whole idea would be found to be consistent throughout.

If we understand the text in this light, we shall find that Agni refers to the intellect; and that will enable us to understand the whole text in terms of Dharma or the law of life. There are some treatises which maintain that we can achieve our goal without action. But that is not the idea of the Vedas: only they have to be understood in a different light,- in the same manner as we understand the meaning of Agni as intellect.

Existence of a plan: The merits of this method of interpretation is due to its connection with an intelligent plan; and because this connection is perfect, it leads to a result very different from the apparent meaning of words. It is in this manner that we can pierce through the "disguise" of words; and so we might say that the meaning obtained by means of this method has been given to it by the author himself according to design or plan; and its unique character is due to the excellence of this mode of expression.

Importance of intention: The idea of importance is important; for in making expiation by means of sacrifice, the most important thing is intention, because it is closely connected with sacrifice. The words in the text give us the idea of sacrifice, because we find that they fit into it completely, and nothing is left out when we put them in their proper place according to this plan.

It is necessary to have a proper idea of Sacrifice. It is, as the Bhagavad Gita tells us, born out of action. It is, therefore, a kind of action which alone does not make for bondage. It may accordingly be described as a good, intelligent, and selfless action, meant for the benefit of all. It is in this sense that an act of Nature, like rain, is said to be a sacrifice. The Mimansa tells us that the Vedas deal with sacrifice in this sense of the term.

A different meaning: In certain parts of the text, however, there is a different method of interpretation, because the current meaning of words is satisfactory, and there is a general agreement about them. In such cases the rule regarding the division of words into part does not apply; and the language of the text is complete in itself, because its result is satisfactory; and it would be a change for the worse to have a different explanation, or to believe that there is a "disguised" form of expression which needs to be seen through. We can have a proper knowledge of the text because of the excellence of its composition; and this proper knowledge is not limited to a particular object, but is of a general or universal character; and we can get it by means of the correct use of words, because no technical terms are used. In such cases we can understand the idea of an action or the meaning of a word in the same manner as we hear it; that is, in its current, common form.

A great deal of the language used in the Bhagavad Gita is of this kind, and the common meaning of most words is satisfactory. It is only in the case of certain names of persons or things, that we need to apply a different method of interpretation to understand them.

Popular idea of sacrifice: There are some who believe that the injunction in the sacred books in regard to the performance of sacrifices refers to actual sacrifices, which are to be performed with material objects, and which yield certain results, which are actually experienced. All these sacrifices are associated with certain actions, which have to be performed.

Based on a misconception: But this idea arises from seeing only the "disguised" form of words used in the text; and if anyone should doubt this statement, he should examine the principal part of the text in this light; and then he can satisfy himself if the meaning is correct. He will find that the new meaning is all connected together through the meaning of words, and fits into the text to make a complete whole. Indeed, it may be compared to the possession of a new wife, and its difference from the old, to her being separated from her former state. If the new meaning stood in isolation, unconnected with the text, it would indeed be worthless; for then there would be some action or result which would apparently have been omitted and would need to be supplied.

The real idea of Sacrifice has already been explained. The common idea of Sacrifice, says the Mimansa, is based on a misconception, for we see only the "disguised" from the words, without understanding their meaning.

Meaning of Agni: When we see through this "disguise" we find that Agni (the god of fire) means "intelligence"; and if we interpret the word according to this rule, we find that it refers to a fundamental concept of philosophy. It is in this manner that we assign the meaning "intelligence" to Agni, as a result of which we get the idea of Dharma or the law of life.

The word Agni may be divided into A,g,n,i and of these A refers to the intellect, g and n to the senses of knowledge, and i to the mind. The meaning of the word accordingly is "A the intellect associated with g and n the senses and i the mind". As we shall see in the course of this work, the sense of knowledge can refer also to those of action and vice versa, for one of them, the Tongue, is both a sense of knowledge and of action. Thus the two letters g and n, although they refer to the senses of knowledge, would include those of action too. Hence the word Agni gives us a complete idea of the function of the intellect in association with the mind as well as the senses.

There are innumerable reference to Agni in the sacred books, from the Vedas downwards; and all of them can be interpreted in this light. For instance, we are told that there are three kinds of Agni or sacrificial fire; Garhapatya, Ahavaniya and Dakshina; and they are commonly interpreted to mean "the householder's fire, received from his father and transmitted to his descendents"; "consecrated fire taken from the householder's perpetual fire and prepared for receiving oblation"; and "the southern fire" respectively. But if we understand this their idea correctly, we shall find that the Garhapatya refers to the function of the intellect in association with the soul ("master of the house"); Ahavaniya refers to its function in the world abroad; while Dakshina refers to skill in action, by means of which one can act and yet be free from the bondage of action.

A different view: But different books follow different plans; and we are told that we can achieve the highest end by refraining from action; but this is an erroneous view. The Mimansa tells us later on that this view appears to find a place in the Vedas too; but the prohibition against action should be understood not in an absolute but relative sense, as a prohibition against evil and dangerous actions.

The view of the Vedas: The Vedas repeatedly tell us that it is only by means of action that we can succeed in achieving results; and in order to understand this properly, what has been stated in respect of Agni, should be extended to the other gods as well. This means that in order to understand what the gods of the Vedas really signify, we should divide their name into parts, as in the case of Agni. We are told that the gods refer to the great forms and forces of Nature. The text has two meanings, which are consistent in themselves throughout, and the reference to action in this manner is intentional. The Sruti too repeatedly tells us that there is another or a different meaning besides the apparent one.