Narach Philosophy

THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION: DESIRE, PURPOSE AND ACTION


The special characteristic of this explanation is that it enables us to understand the working of the laws of Nature and the great forces associated with them, which are otherwise unintelligible. Desire is an inseparable attribute of the mind; and once it begins, it goes on without end, expressing itself in newer and newer forms, and beginning its course each time afresh. It is a precursor to action; and may be compared to a preliminary sacrifice.

All action is meant to secure some purpose, and it involves an exercise of the intellect. But this applies to animate and not inanimate objects. All this is given in the sacred books, and we can understand it if we interpret them aright. We shall then find that they refer to the law of action, and that the idea of a preliminary sacrifice fits into that of desire. In this manner we can explain the idea of ajya as well as prayaja. The word pasu is self-explanatory; but we have to change the form of the word kapala to understand its meaning.

So far as the planets are concerned, each name has its own special meaning, and they refer to the great forces of Nature. But if we divide these words into parts, we should make use of our knowledge to understand their idea. When we find that the meaning of the text is self-contradictory, we should understand that it is possible to get its correct idea by changing the form of words; but it is necessary to have knowledge to be able to do so, for different words have to be treated in different ways. We do not give any meaning we like to a word, and have often a good reason for doing so.

Each action is meant to secure an object, for which necessary means have to be provided. There must also be a sequence of cause and effect; and it is in this manner that we get the meaning of an obscure word by reducing it to its rudimentary form.

Special characteristics of this explanation: The special characteristic of this explanation is that when we substitute one meaning for another, we come to know the working of the laws of Nature, and the association together of the great elemental substances of which it consists; for all this has been taught in an indirect manner.

Desire and the mind; a precursor to action: Desire is an attribute of the mind, and is associated with it from the beginning; and when once it begins its course, it goes on, expressing itself in newer and newer forms. It is very important to understand this; for such is the nature of the mind that, when desire seeks a new object, it begins its course every time afresh. (Desire is a precursor to action, and) may be compared to a preliminary sacrifice, though the latter may not have the same connection with the mind and there is unanimity of opinion on the point.

As sacrifice refers to action, a preliminary sacrifice is something that may be said to precede action; and, as desire does so too, they may be said to have common characteristics. Desire is intimately connected with the mind, and the two are inseparable; but not so a preliminary sacrifice and the mind. However, we can compare desire and a preliminary sacrifice, as being similar in certain respects, as both are precursors to a great action.

Object of action: All action is meant to secure some object, and there can be no action without some purpose or aim; and the latter arises because of its connection with the intellect. But this does not apply to inanimate objects like a pillar or a stump of a tree, which is fixed in one place. Purpose is always associated with the intellect. In order to have a purpose or aim, it is necessary to come to a decision; and that is the function of the intellect.

The sacred books, and how to understand them: All this is described in the sacred books, and we can understand it if we interpret them right. But it is only when something is obscure or is left unexplained, that we should change the form of words in order to understand their meaning; and we shall find that the names are like that, because the outward form of the Mantras (or hymns) is like that; and so the idea of prayaja (a preliminary sacrifice) would fit into the narrative, when we see through the "disguised" form of the word.

When we understand the idea of the text, we shall find that the idea of prayaja or a preliminary sacrifice fits into that of desire, to which it has been compared. We are told that we can get this meaning by seeing through the "disguised form of the word", that is, by dividing it into parts. Prayaja, pra, ya, ja would then mean "(ja) peculiar to or connected with (ya) attaining (pra) very much"; and that which is "very much connected with attaining an object" may easily be said to be desire.

It is possible to hold that we should be able to get the meaning of the word ajya, and its connection with Agni in the same manner; and that should give us its connection with some force of Nature (deity), because of the similarity of action between the two. Ajya, as has already been explained, refers to goodness; and we can get its meaning by means of division into parts, in a manner similar to that of prayaja. Agni refers to the intellect; and so we can connect ajya or goodness with it.

A god or deity refers to the great forces of Nature; and both intellect and goodness can be conceived to be great forces that work through different forms of life in Nature. It is not only man, but other creatures too, that are characterized by both goodness and intelligence; and so they may be said to be like forces of Nature. Hence, both ajya and Agni can be connected with the idea of a god. Indeed, Agni is always personified as a god; and the Mimansa tells us that ajya too can be conceived of in the same manner.

Pasu: This, however, does not apply to the word pasu, for its meaning is obtained from the word itself; though we can get it by piercing through its "disguise" as well.

The word pasu means "an animal". The Mimansa says that the word is self-explanatory, though we can get its meaning by dividing it into parts as well. Pasu - pa, s, u - would then mean "(u, s) the senses associated with (pa) their objects"; and this would be the rudimentary idea of an animal, a creature who has senses of knowledge and action, and associates them with their objects. It is said that there are five kinds of pasus or animals, men, horses, cows, goats, and sheep; and of these the cow and the horse symbolize the senses.

Kapala: But in the case of the word kapala, it is necessary to change its form and divide it into parts; for its meaning is obscure, and leaves something to be explained; and if we divide it into parts, we shall get a proper meaning in the same manner as we do in the case of the word svaha. That is the object of an imperfect or obscure word, for it makes the sense self-contradictory. We cannot say that the defect persists even after a word has been divided into parts; for we find that it disappears, as in the case of the word kapala.

The common meanings of the word kapala are "a cup, an alms bowl, and a skull"; but they are obscure. The word may, however, be divided into k, pa, a, la, when its meaning would be "(k) the intellect (apa) away from (a) leading to or association with (la the functions of the ten senses". It signifies, therefore, a decision by the intellect to refrain from all action; and that is symbolized by the "alms-bowl" and "skull", for a man must believe his end to be near if he renounces action, and seeks to live on charity. We have already explained the meaning of svaha, - sva, a, ha, - as expressive of the satisfaction of the soul at action, so that action is blessed, and continues without end.

Plants: As far as the planets are concerned, each particular name has a particular meaning, so that we can understand their ideas properly. Where, however, the name of a planet is not mentioned, there is always some other word, with a special meaning, to convey its idea; and, as it refers to a great force of Nature (deity), the whole idea is properly arranged in this way. There is no inconsistency between the idea of a planet and a great force of Nature (deity), because we are able to infer that a planet is really such a force; and if, in this case, we change the form of a word and divide it into parts, we should make use of our knowledge to get its meaning.

According to the ancients, the planets are seven in number, the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn; and to these are added Rahu and Ketu or the "ascending and descending nodes". These are obviously great forces of Nature, as the Mimansa tells us. It may be of interest to point out that these planets were believed to correspond to all that is in Nature: the Sun to the intellect; the Moon to the mind; and the remaining five planets to the five great "elements", - Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth - and their respective properties and the corresponding senses of knowledge and action. All these figure in ancient astronomy as well astrology; and the whole idea has been discussed at some length elsewhere.

When to change the form of a word: When we find that the text is self-contradictory, we should understand that there is a second meaning too; and that is the reason for the change of form of words, for it enables us to explain the real meaning of the text. Indeed, where the text is self-contradictory, the form of names should be changed.

In certain cases, however, we may have to add something to find out the real meaning of an expression, as, for instance, in the case of the word prayaja, for each part of a word may refer to a different force of Nature. Similarly, the word charu should be regarded as a variation of havis, because of its connection with sacrifice; and we shall find that it is so when we arrange it properly and understand it aright. Similarly, the word odana is a variation of anna, because it is connected with it; but in this case there are no two meanings of the words. But in this case, says the Mimansa, the idea is clear enough, and there are no two meanings of these words.

The literal meaning of the word prayaja, as already explained, is "that which is very much connected with obtaining something"; and when we understand this to refer to desire, we are adding something of our own to make the idea intelligible.

The word charu means "a kind of vessel; an oblation of rice, barley, or pulse, boiled with butter and milk for presentation to the gods or the manes". But if we divide it into parts"cha, r, u"the meaning would be "(cha) the mind, associated with (r) the senses of action, and (u) the senses of knowledge". It refers, therefore, to the function of the mind in association with both the senses of knowledge and action. It is, accordingly, a complete function of the mind, which may be identified with that of the intellect, as we have been told. Now havis means a burnt offering; and, as fire refers to the intellect, it signifies the function of the intellect. Hence charu is a variation of havis, when we understand what these words really signify. Similarly, odana means "cooked rice", and anna means "food"; and the one is a variation of the other, for rice is said to be the best kind of grain.

But in the case of the word kapala a doubt arises within us as to the propriety of its meaning, and we consider it necessary to change its form and that, because of the special characteristics of its principal part, is true of charu too; but we can understand it because of its being regarded as another havis or bunt offering, and also by seeing through its "disguise". The meaning of kapala has already been explained. The relation between charu and havis or the function of the mind and the intellect has already been explained. On the other hand the meaning of the word odana ("boiled rice") is suitable in itself; but the form of even this word may have to be changed if it is used in connection with some extraordinary statement; and it is in this manner that we see through the "disguise" of words. Normally the word odana does not need to be divided into parts, because its meaning as "boiled rice" is suitable, and it can easily be substituted for anna or food, as has already been explained. But in certain circumstances the form of even this word may have to be changed.

Cases of "Disguise": We see that the word kapala has this "disguise" when we consider its meaning in its original form; while in the case of other words this arises from our inability to understand them; and in some cases it may also arise from contradiction. These are three different ways in which we can understand that a word has a "disguise": we may have a doubt about its real meaning, as in the case of the word kapala; or we may not be able to understand it at all; or the meaning may be contradictory.

Reason for a meaning: But even though a word may have another meaning, (it cannot be anything we choose to call it: for instance,) we cannot say that kapala means "a cake of flour". (There must be a reason for giving a certain meaning to a word: for instance,) the word charu means "a pot or vessel", because it is connected with "drinking", and a vessel or pot can hold a liquid; and in the absence of this distinction we would always be uncertain about its idea. But in the case of the word charu, we can get its real meaning by piercing through its "disguise"; and if we break it up into parts, we shall do away with all that is meaningless in its original form; because so long as we associate it with the idea of eating (a cake of flour), we cannot get the idea of action out of it.

This means that even the ordinary meaning of a word, believed to be under a "disguise", has some reason for it. It may be called its secondary sense; and this would explain how the meaning of the Mantras is as continuous as the philosophic rendering of the hymns. This is equally true of the "stories" of the Epics and the Puranas, which are as continuous as their more philosophic explanation. We have explained that the real meaning of the word charu (cha, r, and u) is that it refers to the function of the mind in association with the senses of knowledge and action. We cannot get this meaning of the word if we associate it with the idea of eating.

It has, however, been observed, that the word is connected in a secondary sense with the idea of "drinking"; and that is the reason for its meaning as a "vessel or cup"; and the idea of "drinking" is connected in a subsidiary way with that of the mind too. We have explained that Soma refers to the mind; but it is also said to be a kind of wine; and we have explained that the "juice" of the plant refers to desire, which is an attribute of the mind. Hence, the idea of "wine" or "drinking" is connected with that of the mind; and, as the energy of the mind is said to be electric, wine would possess some electric properties too. It is in this manner that primary and secondary ideas are connected together in the sacred books; and the two meanings of the text appear to run as if on parallel lines.

Action, objects and means: Each action is meant to secure some object, for which necessary means must be provided; for instance, if we wish to make a round mass of things, we must mix them together; and in order to mix them together, we must "throw" or "pour" them into one another. Even so, if we wish to cook anything, we need to provide fire underneath and a cover or lid on top.

Sequence of cause and effect: Further, there must be a sequence of cause and effect; for instance, we cannot get the idea of what is very large or very small from a cake of flour, because the argument has nothing to do with the desire for eating. Similarly we cannot get the idea of shining or blazing out of it. Thus, when the meaning of a word is indistinct or obscure, we can get its real idea by reducing it to its rudimentary form.