Narach Philosophy

THE LAW OF ACTION: NEED OF KNOWLEDGE, ACTION AND TIME


So long as there is life, there must be action. We can understand this if we fix the meaning of words according to the Krama or method of reciting the text. The sacred books also tell us that action must cease; and we must understand what this really means. There are a variety of actions, but there can be only one action at a time. Action does not consist in a name; the law of one action at a time applies to all kinds of action; but it is the best action that can be performed at the time.

It is necessary to have knowledge to understand the law of Dharma; and we can understand it if we interpret the text correctly. In certain cases, however, it is easy to understand the whole idea. Certain actions are more important than others; but the most important thing in this connection is Chitta or intellect, because it is its special function to decide.

All knowledge is relative, and its idea is illustrated by that of a ceremony lasting twelve days.

There is an impulse to action, and a discussion within us as to its pros and cons; and when we decide to act in a certain manner, it means that the balance of judgment is on that side. There is an element of time in action; and the impulse in connection with certain religious and virtuous actions is irresistible. While each action has its own cause and a separate method of performance, a combination of a number of actions shows how all kinds of actions are mixed together in life.

The law of action: We find from this discussion that so long as there is life, all things must conform to the Dharma (or law) of action; and the Vedic texts all agree that this is the law of the actor.

How to understand time: When we wish to see through the "disguise" of words relating to the Dharma or law of action, we should settle their meaning by means of the Krama method of reading the text; and if we do anything else, the whole thing would become meaningless.

Meaning of cessation of action: We are taught that action must cease, and also that if there is time, there should be variety or different kinds of actions. But because life is transient, it is not possible to have it so forever. There is, accordingly, an apparent contradiction between these statements; but so far as the actor is concerned, it is necessary for him to act in accordance with the law of Dharma; and the direction in regard to time can only be a reason for his action.

Variety of actions: What is called variety of actions includes a number of things, - name, form, good actions, statement of differences, repetition of a word or sentence, censure, effort, acquisition of knowledge, command, and thought of death; and these give us an inexhaustible store of reasons for action in many different ways. Nevertheless, there can be only one action at a time.

Character of action: We cannot have action merely by calling it so or giving it a name. It requires direction or impelling force, without which there can be no action. The law of one action at a time applies to all kinds of action; and so far as giving it a name is concerned, it can easily be coined. Although we can perform only one action at a time, it is, at the time, the best action we can perform.

How to understand the text: It is only when a person has knowledge that he can understand what is taught about Dharma or the law of life; and the idea of it can be obtained by dealing with the text in the same manner as we deal with what relates to Agni. The Mimansa has told us that the real meaning of the word Agni is "intellect", and so all that relates to Agni has to be understood as referring to the intellect. We can get this meaning by dividing the word into parts. If we do the same with regard to other words used in the sacred text, we shall be able to get a new meaning, which will have a bearing on the idea of Dharma or the law of life.

There are no two opinions in the matter, for all authorities are agreed; and the whole idea is expressed so briefly, that nothing can be gained by having it otherwise. It is meant to be understood not by one person, but by all; and we can have a clear and complete idea of the whole in this way.

Importance of certain actions and of Chitta: Even though we can perform one action at a time, certain actions, such as censure, effort, complete acquisition of knowledge, and speech are more important than others; and the most important place is given to Chitta (intellect), because it is the effective cause of action. That is so because (it is the function of the intellect to decide, and) we can proceed to action only when there is an order or decision to that effect.

It is the principal function of the intellect, Buddhi or reason, to discriminate between different things, and arrive at a conclusion or decide.

Perfection is a relative term: When we speak of perfection, we should understand that the term is used in a relative sense, when reference to something preceding it; and so we should understand it to mean "the best according to our knowledge". No special argument is required to prove this, because if we take a thing out of its whole, we find that we get no desire or impulse to action. All things are therefore, connected together, and that is illustrated by the idea of a ceremony lasting for twelve days, to which there is a reference in the sacred books.

Process of action: If there were no impulse to action, a person would not be able to act at all, with the result that the laws of action would be proved to be untrue. But we find that there is an order from within, calling upon us to act; and, as this order is constantly repeated, there is a corresponding repetition in the text to express the idea of this law. Before we act, however, we find that there is an order to act on the one hand, and a prohibition against it on the other; and when in the end we act or do not act, it means that there is a balance of judgment on that side.

This refers to a certain discussion that always goes on within us before we act. We have to consider the pros and cons of an action, and, with it, arguments for and against it; and have to decide whether to act or not to act. All this involves an exercise of our judgment or the function of the intellect; and it is for this reason that the highest place in action is given to Chitta or the intellect.

Action and time: Action involves a reference to Time. When there is a conflict of statements about the time of an action, we ask, in a manner of speech. When did it take place?

An irresistible impulse: In certain actions, specially those which we regard as religious, or of a virtuous character, the impulse to action, as we have often heard, is of an irresistible character; and the explanation of it can easily be understood.

Difference and harmony in action: Each action has a separate cause, and requires a separate method of performance; but, though there is lack of unity because a number of opposite forces are at work, - the connection between the laws of action gives us an idea of how all kinds of actions are linked together.