Narach Philosophy

THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION: INTELLECT AND MIND, SACRIFICE AND SATISFACTION


There are different ways of reciting the sacred text, each of which has a bearing on the idea of sacrifice. Intellectual perception alone is real knowledge; and it is by its means that we can measure Time, which is divisible into parts. Similarly, there is a conciseness of expression in the idea of numbers, e.g. the number eleven; and it can be divided into parts like the duration of Time; but the division should be such as can appeal to common sense, and follow a well defined pattern. We cannot expand the number three in the same way; and its meaning has been defined; so is that of the word prshtha.

The different Saman hymns constitute a single whole, and can be understood by dividing words into parts; but this need not be done in all cases, especially of words which refer to action. It is not necessary to divide the word tri into parts, for its meaning has been defined; and we can understand the meaning of the word stoma by means of inference in connection with the word Tri (meaning "three"). In the case of Brhat-saman and Rathantara-saman hymns, we can get their meaning by dividing words into parts.

Pleasure or enjoyment in association with physical objects arises because of the action of the mind and the intellect; but an interval of time is necessary for its recurrence. Enjoyment is not meant for students; all their life should be a sacrifice. Their time of enjoyment will come when they enter the next stage, that of the householder's life. There are good reasons for making these divisions of life; but they are chiefly a matter of convenience, for life is a whole, yet divisible into parts.

One tenth expresses the idea of division; and the number ten of multiplication. Similarly, one animal can express the idea of the character of many. The meaning of a number of words in the text can be obtained by reducing them to their rudimentary form, as in the case of Ritvij priests, and the institutor of the sacrifice. But the idea of "the master of the sacrifice" is not the same as that of "the master of the house".

In the case of a number of synonyms there is a special mention of the manner in which their meaning can be obtained; but they must not be contradictory. The function of the intellect can be like that of the mind. Sacrifice makes for purification of action; while dakshina or "sacrificial fee" expresses the idea of skill. The idea of the division of time is like that of curdled butter, together and yet apart.

All the faculties of a man get their share of satisfaction in performing action; and we can understand this by dividing words into parts. When we get a detailed description of an object in this way, it should convince us that we have hit upon the correct meaning. The whole process is intellectual, and enables us to think in a continuous chain. There are, however, different ways of interpreting ideas; for instance, the function of the mind can be expressed in terms of wearing clothes, though it may necessitate a change of words to their rudimentary form.

Different ways of recitation and their idea: There are different ways of reciting the sacred text, and each verse has its own bearing on the idea of sacrifice (or good and intelligent action); and where a strophe consisting of three verses is concerned, we have to get the meaning by piercing through the "disguise" of words.

The Mimansa has told us that there are three ways of reciting the Vedas, singing, silent recital, and normal tone. The first indicates that the form of words should be changed; the second that it should not; while the third would leave the matter undecided. We are now told that in a strophe consisting of three verses, we have to divide words into parts.

Knowledge and perception of Time: Intellectual perception alone is real knowledge; and it is only by its means that we can measure Time, which exists for the sake of something else. When we rise to a height of thought, and understand the many-sided application of the laws of life, we can understand the nature of Time. We can also see that it can be divided into two parts, and represented in terms of the duration of a day. There is no contradiction in this, because Time itself is divisible into parts, and we do not think of it as a whole.

We have already explained that the idea of Time is purely intellectual, and so too of its division into Yugas, Manvantaras and Kalpas. It may be of interest to observe that the ancients measured Time in, terms of the motions of the sun and the moon, and their system continues to this day. But the sun and the moon represented, according to them, the energy of the intellect and the mind respectively; and so we might say that they measured time in terms of the latter; and this would show how purely intellectual the whole conception is, for the mind itself may, for practical purposes, be identified with the intellect.

Time is the cause of change in all things in the world, but is not affected by anything itself. Hence it may be said to exist for the sake of other things, not its own. It is in this respect like Nature or Prakrti, which is said to exist and act for the sake of the soul.

The ancients may be said to have understood the nature of Time. We have already stated that they believed that it could be represented in the form of a Serpent-wave. As we can conceive of it only in terms of the intellect and the mind (or the sun and the moon), it may be said to be of the nature of a radiation, emanating from the sun and the moon, specially the sun; and science tells us that these radiations have the form of waves. One of these radiations or waves is Time, and it has the form of a Serpent, as the ancients conceived it to be.

The ancients divided Time also in terms of day and night; and so the sacred books tell us of the day and night of men, of the departed ones, of the gods, and of Brahma himself and Yugas, Manvantaras, and Kalpas are all associated with this idea: for instance, a day of Brahma is no less than a whole Kalpa, consisting of innumerable years. We have a reference to this in the Bhagavad Gita too.

Idea of Numbers: Similarly, there is a conciseness of expression in referring to numbers, as consisting, for instance, of eleven parts, because they conform to the same pattern as the duration of time (that is, can be divided into parts in the same manner). We have to express ourselves briefly, because an unnecessary expansion of language is prohibited. But the division should be made in such a way that it appeals to the intelligence of the common man; and when we expand our idea, it should follow the fundamental pattern that has been laid down. We should, as far as possible, accept this idea of the expansion of numbers; and in case of doubt, understand them in the light of their connection with the pattern.

We have seen how we can understand the idea of numbers, 5, 6, 10, 11, etc. We have to refer them to the corresponding dravyas or fundamental substances of philosophy, like the "elements", mind, senses, etc. For instance, the number eleven is made up of the ten senses and the mind, making a total of eleven. It is in this way that we expand these numbers. This division is said to be like the division of Time in the sense that each part, though connected with the other, is yet separate, and has its own story to tell.

Words with defined meanings: We cannot, however, expand the number three in the same manner, because It can be identified with something that we know, even like the word prayaja. Similarly, the meaning of the word prshtha is fixed, and it conveys the same idea wherever it occurs in the text: only the difference of its shades of meaning should be understood in the light of the context. Prshtha, as has already been explained, refers to action.

The number three, as has already -been explained, refers to the mind; but that may be said to be its definition, and we cannot get at its idea in the same manner as in the case of the number eleven. Prayaja means "pre-sacrifice", but really refers to desire, as a precursor to action; and this has already been explained. This too may be said to be a definition or a special explanation of the word.

Saman Hymns: The different Saman hymns, when intelligently grasped, constitute a single whole, like the number three; and the exalted meaning of these hymns is obtained by reducing words to their rudimentary form. But their formation is not simple like that of the number three, because their connection with the rudimentary form is not complete. We cannot say that this is contrary to the rules of interpretation, because it is really in accordance with them: only in case of doubt we should not divide into parts words which refer to action, because they conform to their own pattern.

We do not get the idea of the number three in the same manner as of the number eleven. Both of them convey the same idea, but the manner of getting at their meaning is different. Whereas we have to expand the idea of the number eleven into ten senses and the mind, that of the number three may be said to constitute a single whole. The Saman hymns are said to be like that, and need to be interpreted in the same way. Further, we are told that the Sama Veda refers to all that belongs to the living; and all living creatures are characterised by desire, which, is an attribute of the mind. As the number three refers to the mind, it is in this sense too that there is a connection between the Sama Veda and the number three.

As the hymns of the Sama Veda are intended to be sung, we can obtain the real meaning of words by reducing them to their rudimentary form. But it cannot be obtained in the same simple way as that of the word tri, which by division into t, r, i, gives us the idea of the function of the mind in association with the senses. We have to use some intelligence in this case, as the idea of the senses of action is repeated twice (t, r); and instead of omitting one, we have to take it that the other refers to the senses of knowledge. But in the case of words used in the Sama Veda we have to use our intelligence on a more extensive scale, when we shall find that the meaning is all in accordance with the rules of interpretation.

Tri and Stoma: If we make a change in the contents of the number three, we shall have to do so in the case of all numbers (because it is a typical number). The meaning of the word stoma is obtained by means of inference in connection with the idea of this number. We have seen that we cannot get the meaning of the number three by expanding it in the same way as the number eleven.

If we divide the word stoma in the same manner as we divide the word tri, we shall get its meaning too; for then s, ta, u, ma would mean "(s) the mind associated with (ta) the senses of action and (u, ma) the senses of knowledge"; and we see that the meaning of tri is similar too. The letters u and ma in this case refer to the senses of knowledge, and one of them can easily be omitted. This, as the Mimansa has told us, is in accordance with the rules.

Brihat and Rathantara Saman Hymns: In the case of Brhat saman and Rathantara saman hymns we should apportion ideas, and understand them in the same manner as we understand the word visvajit. That would give us the best meaning, because no other meaning can come anywhere near it; and we can understand it by piercing through its "disguise". These hymns would appear to constitute the essence of the Sama Veda; for Krshna describes himself in terms of Brhat-saman hymns in the Bhagavad Gita.

Visvajit means "all-conquering"; but it is also a particular name of Agni which, as has already been explained, refers to the intellect. The Mimansa has told us that it refers to action, action of the intellect by means of which we can conquer everything. The Mimansa tells us that we can understand the meaning of these hymns in the same manner as we understand the real meaning of the word visvajit.

Mind, Action and Enjoyment: When we rise to a height of thought, we realize that there is enjoyment in association with physical objects possessed of shape or form, because of the different actions of the mind and the intellect; and this sequence (of the function of the mind and the intellect, followed by enjoyment) is expressed in accordance with a certain pattern. This enjoyment comes at its appointed time at last; and whenever the function of the mind and the intellect is repeated, enjoyment is repeated too, because it is connected with action every time; and it comes at its appointed time at last. But the recurrence of enjoyment arises from the passage of time, for a difference (or interval) of time is necessary for the purpose.

The text refers to the number thirty-three which, as we have seen, refers to the function of the mind and the intellect. It is a multiple of three and eleven, and refers to all that they signify. It is said that there are thirty-three gods; and that, as we have explained, refers to all manifest forms and forces of Nature.

Division of life into parts: Those who are initiated as students cannot have enjoyment, because they are at a stage of life when enjoyment is not open to them. At this stage even food should be taken in a spirit of sacrifice. The time for enjoyment comes later; and that is so because there is a statement in regard to the division of life into parts, with reference to the functions of the mind, by means of which, life itself is praised by all. As when one day ends, another begins, even so there is a rule that there is a higher life (after that of a student). We can give a thousand reasons to explain the theory of the divisions of life; but they are like the functions of the mind, and there is no particular rule against the idea.

The stage of life, after that of a student, is that of a house-holder or a family man; and, as the basis of this life is desire, conceived in its widest significance it is associated with the function of the mind, which has desire for its attribute, in a special way. The reason why this life is praised is that it enables a man to realize the idea of sacrifice, for he must act selflessly, intelligently and for the benefit of the whole family to keep it up.

The ancients divided life into four stages: of a student, a householder, one to whom the whole world is a family, and one who in the end must pass away. All this means different forms of knowledge and action, which are linked together by means of desire, which is an attribute of the mind. Hence they are said to be like the function of the mind.

Ten and tenth part: We speak of the tenth part of a thing, because it can easily be given away. Similarly, we speak of the tenth day, because there is a direction in regard to it as signifying something special; and the reason for this is that it fits into the context. This would appear to be the basis of the decimal, system, which makes for easy division; and it is believed to have originated in India.

This would appear to refer to multiplication, the basis of which is the number ten. It may be of interest to point out that the numerals, from one to ten, had their origin in India; and they constitute the basis of all mathematical calculation to this day.

Animals: If there are a number of animals, we can know the nature of all from the nature of one; but there is no prohibition, of the nature of a rule, against praising an object in parts, though that does not make for any definite knowledge (or ascertainment), as we are told. Although one animal can give us an idea of the nature of all, there is no objection to describing different or a number of animals. That would not, however, add substantially to our fundamental knowledge, says the Mimansa. This means that there are instances of both kinds in the description of animals in the Vedas.

How to obtain the meaning of words: The word satra is one which can be understood by being reduced to its rudimentary form; and this, as we are expressly told, is true of many other words. It is not necessary to point out each word of this kind, because a single statement should suffice. However, we know that all kinds of words are mixed together in the sacred text; for there are many words, and it would serve no useful purpose to make a separate statement in regard to each. But in the case of a number of words we have to get their meaning in the same manner as we get that of the Ritvij priests, that is, by reducing them to their rudimentary form.

Satra (sa, t, ra) means "(sa) the mind associated with (t, ra) the senses of action", and so it refers to the action of the mind. It is accordingly said to be a great Soma sacrifice; and Soma, as we have seen, refers to the mind, and sacrifice is action. The letters t and ra both refer to the senses of action; but the two together would refer to the senses of knowledge and action, as has been pointed out in a number of other cases.

Institutor of sacrifice: Even so there should be the institutors of sacrifices too, who get their status as such because of their association with the names of the Ritvij priests. This should explain the idea of the purification of the doer of the deed, as in the case of one who kindles the sacred fire; but if we have any doubt about the propriety of this method, we should deal with these words according to their pattern. "The institutor of the sacrifice" is the Yajamana who, as we have already explained, refers to the soul; for it is the soul that calls upon the Ritvij priests or the different faculties of man to engage in action. Action of this kind makes for the purification of the soul, even as the Bhagavad Gita tells us.

Fire refers to the intellect; and so "kindling the sacred fire" means acting intelligently and in a spirit of sacrifice. Such an action is said to purify the soul and make for freedom from the bondage of action. When we get a reference to the institutors of sacrifice, etc., we can understand the idea of the purification of the soul by means of intelligent action performed as a sacrifice: that is what the Mimansa says. But if we do not understand all this, we should deal with words according to pattern, that is, divide them into parts or not as suits the occasion.

Master of a sacrifice and master of a house: We cannot say that the idea of the name svami is the same as that of grhapati ("master of the house"); because if we understand the character of that which is well known, it does not mean that we can say the same of one that is not so well known, by means of the same characteristics. The word svami refers to the soul, as we have explained; and so does grha-pati or "the master of the house"; for the body is the house in which the soul abides. But the idea of the two, says the Mimansa, is not the same. Indeed, broadly speaking, we can conceive of the soul in two ways: as an actor, and as a spectator; and the former would appear to correspond to grha-pati, and the latter to svami. This is supported by the reference to the "Garhapatya fire" or the "fire of the householder", in connection with the three forms of Agni; and that, as we have explained, means intelligent action for the preservation of one's self and the family. Hence grha-pati is the soul as an actor, and svami as a spectator. It is easy to understand the idea of the soul as an actor, but not as a mere spectator; and the two cannot be identified.

Synonyms: In the case of a number of words which are used as synonyms, there is no special mention of the manner in which their meaning can be obtained.

Contradictory statements: We cannot make two contradictory statements at the same time; for instance, we cannot say that something has been undertaken as a sacrifice and has not, for the two things are entirely different; and it is only an awkward person who can make such statements.

Intellect and mind: The function of the intellect can be like that of the mind, when we take into consideration a certain posture (or approach to a problem), especially where a large number of souls (sacrificers) are concerned; and that is so because of the close connection of the intellect with the mind. The expression in the text is "sacrifice lasting twelve days"; and the number twelve refers to the intellect, as eleven does to the mind; while sacrifice is action. Hence it refers to the function of the intellect.

The Mimansa has already explained that the mind and the intellect may for practical purposes be identified; and we have pointed out that when the intellect desires anything, it is called the mind. The word for the mind in the text is satra, which refers to a great Soma sacrifice, or a function of the mind. The word for "soul" is Yajamana in the text. The point of the author is that when a number of persons take part in an action, it is difficult to distinguish between the function of their mind and the intellect. In the case of an individual it is easier; for the special attribute of the intellect is decision, judgement, or discrimination, which is difficult to spot in the case of a group.

Sacrifice: Sacrifice makes for wholeness (or freedom from taint); and this happens even where a number of persons engage in an act of sacrifice. In this "wholeness" of action there are a numbers of parts; and the rule in regard to the payment of dakshina signifies, every time, a difference of action; but the excellence of it arises from the unity of actions of all. This is what the Bhagavad Gita says too.

The word in the text is svami, which refers to the soul, but more as a spectator than an actor. But even one, who believes that his soul is a mere spectator, must act; and so the svami too engages in action. The idea of dakshina has already been explained: it signifies skill in action; and each "priest" who takes part in a "sacrifice" is given his dakshina because he has done the work specially assigned to him with skill. Hence dakshina signifies skill in the performance of different actions. But with all this difference, there must be unity in all parts of an action.

Division of days: The rule regarding the division of days is that they are like curdled butter together and yet apart. Curdled butter is butter and curd mixed together; and yet the two can be separated. The idea of the division of days or Time is similar. We can divide Time, and yet it is a continuous whole.

Jyotishtoma: With regard to what relates to Jyotishtoma (mass or rays of light), there is a completeness of action (dakshina); and that is so of all (rays of light), because, like Nature itself, they are engaged in the same action. Hence there should be a change of form of these names (in order to understand them). This Sutra tells us that in order to understand the idea of Jyotishtoma we should divide words used in that connection into parts. It also tells us that these rays of light have a number of common characteristics.

Function of the Intellect: There is an express statement that in an intelligent action (ceremony lasting twelve days), there is a distinct measure of skill (dakshina) in each part (every day); and that is the pattern of expression in other actions too. In order to understand them, the form of all these words should be changed. The number twelve refers to the intellect; and a ceremony lasting twelve days, to intelligent action. This has already been explained. The Mimansa tells us that in order to understand the part played by the different faculties of man in a certain intelligent action; we need to divide words into parts. This is made more explicit in the following Sutras.

Need of change of form: In case we are unable to apportion the share of payment for work done (among the different agents or faculties), we should change the form of all the words used in that context, (when we shall be able to do so); because the distinction between them is expressed by means of the parts of these names.

Function of different faculties: The proper arrangement of all (the agents of action or faculties) goes on, according to the fundamental nature of each, every day; and we can understand it because we can isolate and consider all of them separately. It is, however, possible to say that we cannot always do so, because their meaning or purpose is not always the same, and they appear to be different at different times. But we should be able to distinguish between them by understanding their names in their correct formation, just as we interpret the expression "a ceremony lasting twelve days".

It is possible to isolate the different faculties of man, his intellect, ahankara, mind, and senses, and say which function has been performed by each. We have seen that the mind and the intellect can function in a similar way; the mind is sometimes spoken of as an organ of sense. The Mimansa, as we shall see in the course of these pages, also tells us that there is a close connection between ahankara and the mind, and ahankara and the intellect. It is therefore possible to say that we cannot always distinguish between these faculties of man; but the Mimansa says that we can, if we understand the text aright; for though connected, these faculties are different from one another too. A ceremony lasting twelve days refers to a great function of the intellect, as has already been explained.

How to decide: When we get a detailed description of an object by means of this "disguised" form of expression, we should be convinced in every case that it is correct; because this "disguised" form is of an all-pervading character, like the power of intellect (Agni) itself. Its strength or efficacy consists in the fact that the text contains certain words whose meaning remain, as far as possible, unchanged; and that enables us to measure the correctness of the whole. The whole system is purely intellectual; and in this process of thinking, the "residue of thought" (or what is left over) is most important, because it enables us to continue to think and, in due course of time, to understand everything.

What the Mimansa says in respect of the Vedas is equally applicable to the Epics and the Puranas. Their text contains certain words, which can be taken in their common connotation, and they suggest what should follow; and then, if we reduce certain other words to their rudimentary form, we are able to understand the real meaning.

An illustration: If we desire to express the idea of the mind according to this pattern, the direction is that it should be done in terms of wearing clothes; and it is for this reason that the wearing of clothes has for a long time been regarded as the correct thing. It is in this manner that we can express the idea of the mind; we must think of it in its essential character; and when we understand what it implies, we can bring it down (or express it in terms of the common life of man). If however, in this process we are unable to find a rational meaning, we should reduce words to their rudimentary form. The connection between the mind and wearing clothes has already been explained.

The Mimansa tells us that there are two ways of getting at the correct idea of the working of the human mind. We should understand its essential character, and find out how a normal mind works; and then express its idea in terms of the common life of man. For instance, the special attribute of the mind is desire; and we see that what distinguishes man from other animals is the desire to wear clothes. Indeed, it is man alone who can make and wear clothes; and the other necessary desires, to eat food and have shelter he shares with other animals too. But clothes are a special characteristic of man, a civilized man; and so we may associate the idea of wearing clothes with the function of the mind.

But if in spite of all this, we are unable to understand the meaning of the text, we should divide words into parts; and this is the second way of understanding the idea. In the present case the word for clothes is vasa, v, a, sa meaning "(sa) the mind (a) associated with Nature"; and so we might say that the idea of wearing clothes is in harmony with the character of a natural, normal mind.