Narach Philosophy

THE LAW OF ACTION: HOW DESCRIBED IN THE VEDAS


There can be no action without a purpose or cause; and its result is for the sake of purusha or the soul. There can only be one action at a time; and actions may be divided into main and subsidiary ones. We have to express all this in language; and it can be done in various ways.

Result of action: Let us consider the characteristic marks of effect or the results of action. This effect or result is meant for the sake of something else; and Badari says that it is for the purpose of acquiring some object, or wealth, or attribute, or purifying one's self. Jaimini says that it consists in action to, for that may be the result of our aim.

For the sake of the soul: The result, however, is for the sake of purusha or the individual soul; and the soul too is for the sake of action; and all these are connected together by means of purpose.

This is a universal law, applicable to all cases and in all circumstances; for if there be no purpose, there can be no action. The result of an action follows action; were it otherwise, we should be able to get the result without action; and a person is moved to action because of the effect or result he expects to produce. The purpose and qualities of a person become one in action, for that is the law of action.

The soul is said to be the enjoyer or experiencer of the result of action, and so it is the soul that is said to feel pleasure and pain. In that case the soul must be deemed to be an actor too. The point of view of the Sankhya is somewhat different. While it agrees that all result is meant for the sake of purusha or the soul, - the highest result is that which makes for the purification of the soul, and so makes it free. The Bhagavad Gita also tells us that all action is meant for the purification of the soul. The Sankhya, however, believes that it can be attained by means of knowledge.

One action at a time: A person can engage in only one action at a time, and there is good reason for saying so. This is a characteristic of all, for it is a universal law. But all action is performed for the sake of something else, and this should be accepted, even as the sacred books tell us.

Not applicable to subsidiary action: While this is the prescribed order of things, it does not mean that there is a fixed relation of time and place so far as subsidiary actions are concerned. The Mimansa has divided action into two kinds, that is main and subsidiary, or deliberate and reflex. The law of one action at a time applies only to deliberate actions, because subsidiary or reflex actions can go on at the same time. There is a fixed relation of time and place in respect of deliberate, and not subsidiary, actions.

But there is a relation in respect of deliberate action or action characterized by the function of the intellect; and we have the testimony of wise and trustworthy persons to prove that it is so. This is proved by the fact that subordinate (or reflex) actions are without deliberate purpose or aim. But where the subordinate action of a person cannot be integrated, there should be a separate statement about it. The word in the text is sabda, which means oral testimony of wise and trustworthy persons. We know from their statement that there is a fixed relation of time and place in respect of deliberate action. We have no other means of finding this, and have no reason to doubt their statement.

Use of language: This leads to a consideration of how ideas should be expressed in language. When an idea is not covered by a statement already made, and it is necessary to properly describe it, - it should be possible to do so by means of a single expression. But where the matter is intricate or causes confusion, and there are other obstacles in the way, a separate statement may be necessary.

When the subordinate parts of an action are performed for the sake of something else, they should normally be taken separately, and not closely connected with one another. Where, however, they are put together, they should be deemed to be there not because of any inherent connection with one another, but for some other purpose. Indeed, it is not a rule, that they should be placed in close proximity to one another; and that is so because we desire to have as perfect a statement as possible. If, however, any part of the statement relating to the subordinate parts of an action is in excess of the requirements of the case, we should accept it in a general sense, and without any close connection with the main action. The difference between the statement and the object to be described arises from the difference in the purpose of each, because each symbol has a meaning of its own. The purpose of the text regarding the subordinate parts of an action is that the character of the idea should be properly expressed.