Narach Philosophy

THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION (PART-3)


The real meaning of a word is often very different from its common one; and we can understand its idea by dividing it into parts or referring it to its origin or root. The meaning of certain words has been specially defined: for instance, visva-jit (all conquering) means sarva-prshtha (or universal action); and Jyotishtoma is action,- with special reference to mind-energy or electric energy. If we do not interpret the text in this manner, the whole of it would become meaningless.

It is in the same manner that we get the meaning of Soma, and can understand the idea of the purification of the sacrificer through it.

There is a law in connection with the division of words into parts; and if we follow it, we can get a proper meaning of the word purodasa which, in its original form, makes little sense. But we should not divide words into parts if we get a properly balanced meaning of the text otherwise. On the other hand it should be followed in the case of a word like nirmanthya (to be churned) which makes little sense in its existing form.

It is not possible to accept the ordinary meanings of words like Soma (moon) or uttara-vedi (northern altar of the sacred fire), because they do not make any sense as they are. The explanation of the meaning of a word can be obtained in three ways: by means of its special definition, or its common meaning, or division into parts. The common meaning of the word uttara-vedi is not suitable; but where two meanings are equally balanced, as in the case of the word gati, we can take that which is considered appropriate.

The meaning of certain words like svara-sama, eka-kapala, and amikska can be obtained by piercing through their "disguised" forms; but we can do so when we have the entire text before us. The meaning of certain words is obtained from the function they perform. Thus action may be said to be like a sacrificial post; and so the word yupa (sacrificial post) refers to action. This is a deliberate mode of expression and is not accidental. In case of doubt, we may follow the common meaning of a word, if it serves our purpose; but it may not be its Vedic meaning, which can usually be obtained by dividing words into parts; and in the light of this the word prshtha would mean "action", and no other meaning would suit the text.

How to understand the text: A word that in ordinary speech is the name of an action, may mean something very different when used in the Vedic text; but, even if it is quite new, we can understand its meaning by dividing it into parts. The meaning of a word may also be obtained by referring it to its origin; and the idea of action can be obtained by combining together the different parts of a word; for in the absence of this, it cannot be proved. With regard to a great action, involving the function of the mind, the correct meaning is always associated with the parts of words, and we should take it that that is the correct meaning of understanding the sruti. The word in the text is satra, which means a great Soma sacrifice; and Soma, as we have seen, refers to the mind, and sacrifice to action.

Words with defined meanings: The meaning of certain words has been specially defined: for instance, the word visva-jit has, from the very beginning, the same meaning as sarva-prshtha. Visva-jit means "all conquering"; while prshtha, as the Mimansa explains at the end of this part, means "action". The idea obviously is that a person can conquer or succeed in everything by means of action. Indeed, all that relates to Jyotishtoma is the same as prshtha; for that is the meaning of the word prshtha: or the meaning may be obtained from the idea of a Soma festival, lasting six days; and all this can be seen by piercing through the "disguise" of words. Indeed, the word Jyotishtoma is entitled to be associated with the word prshtha; and we cannot say that there are separate rules in regard to the two words; for if we do so and interpret the text accordingly, the whole language would become meaningless.

We have explained that Jyotishtoma, which is said to be a name of a Soma ceremony, really means "a mass or ray of light"; and now we are told that its idea is the same as that of prshtha or "action"; that is to say, it is really the action of light. The seven divisions of Jyotishtoma would accordingly refer to the seven divisions of light, arising from its action. Soma as has already been explained, refers to the mind; and so does the number six,- for the mind is the sixth after the five senses; and the Mimansa explains it in this manner too. We are told that the meaning of Jyotishtoma can be obtained by referring to the idea of a Soma festival,- that is, the display of the mind or its energy, which is said to be electric. Jyotishtoma may thus be said to be a grand display of electric energy. We are told that we can get the correct meaning of these words by piercing through their "disguise"; and this, as the Mimansa has explained, is done by dividing them into parts, and assigning meaning to these parts. This may also be done by tracing them to their roots. So far as the word Jyotishtoma is concerned, we may divide it into jyotis and stoma, when the meaning would be "(stoma) mass of (jyotis) light"; while the word prshtha, which usually means "height, top", may be referred to its root, pr, meaning "to be busy or active".

This word is generally believed to be made up of pra-stha, meaning "standing forth prominently"; but the Mimansa tells us that we should pierce through its "disguise"; and in that we are not allowed to change "pr" into "pra"; and so the real form of the word is pr-stha and not pra-stha; and its correct meaning, "(stha) standing in association with (pr, to be active) action". This agrees with the meaning of the word as it is given at the end of this part.

Meaning of Soma: It is in this manner that we can understand the idea of the purification of the sacrificer through Soma or the function of the mind. We cannot say that we get the meaning of the word from its original and uninflected form, for we get it by means of its division into parts; and we can understand it by seeing through its "disguise".

Soma refers to the mind; and the sacrificer is the actor or doer of the deed. The Mimansa tells us that if we understand the text aright, we shall also understand how a person is "purified" when he uses his mind properly and acts. The Bhagavad Gita tells us how actions can purify the soul. The Mimansa tells us that we can get the real meaning of the word Soma by dividing it into parts,- sa, u, ma - when the meaning would be "(sa) the mind associated with (u, ma) the senses". This is the meaning of "seeing through the disguise of a word".

Rules regarding division of words into parts: There is a rule in connection with the division of words into parts. We find that when we describe the ingredients of a substance, we get a proper idea of the substance itself; and it is this that has been done in connection with the words used in the sruti. They need to be divided into parts in order to give us an idea of what they contain, like the word purodasa, which tells us nothing in its original form.

The common meaning of the word purodasa or purodas is "a mass of ground rice rounded into a kind of cake (usually divided into pieces, placed on receptacles, and offered as an oblation in fire). The Mimansa tells us that it makes little sense as such, and we can get its real meaning by dividing the word into parts. The word is really puras-dasa, which may be divided into p, u, ra, s, d, asa,- when its meaning would be ,"(asa) obtaining (s) Prakrti, associated with (s) the mind, (ra) the senses of action, (u) the senses of knowledge, and (p) the objects of the senses". The word accordingly gives us the idea of Prakrti, associated with the mind, the senses and the objects, and that is its real meaning. It would be found on examination that its meaning as "a mass of ground rice, etc." is subsidiary to its idea as Prakrti; for rice, as the best kind of grain, which it is said to be, would represent Nature or the whole vegetable kingdom, even as the Mimansa tells us; and its division into parts would correspond to the divisions of Prakrti into intellect, ahankara, mind, etc., as has already been explained. There is also a reference to fire, which would refer to the intellect.

This rule in regard to the division of words into parts should not be followed where there is already a properly balanced explanation of the text; whereas it should be applied in the case of words like nirmanthya, etc., which make little sense as they are. The word nirmanthya means "to be churned", but it makes little sense as such. But if we divide it into nir-manthya, and derive manthya from mantha or man, tha,- meaning "(tha) an auspicious prayer, associated with (man, "to think, understand") thought or understanding". The idea of "churning" is transformed into that of "thinking, observing, understanding"; and so we can understand the real idea of the story of the "churning of the ocean" or Prakrti.

Reason for rejecting common meanings: It is not possible to accept the ordinary meaning of certain words; for instance, we have to reject the meaning of the word Soma as the moon or wine, because it is highly improper to bring forward a vessel containing the one or the other. Soma refers to the mind, and the vessel which contains it is the brain. Similarly, we are unable to accept the meaning of the word uttara-vedi (as the northern altar of the sacrificial fire), because it contains little substance in its original form. The word uttara-vedi does not make sense in its common meaning as the northern altar for the sacrificial fire, specially, as the Mimansa tells us, there is no reference to any altar whatever. But the word uttara also means "higher, superior", and vedi "knowledge, science"; and if interpret it as "higher knowledge", we shall find that it makes sense.

Three ways of explanation: The explanation of the meaning of a word can be obtained by associating it with some special meaning; by taking the common meaning which we have heard; and by dividing it into parts. As we find it difficult to accept the common meaning of uttara-vedi; we have to reject the second meaning, and make use of the first and last. When, however, there are two equally balanced meanings, we should take that which suits the context best, as in the case of the word gati. The difficulty in accepting the common meaning of uttara-vedi is that it does not fit into the context, for there is no reference to an altar; and to interpret it as "the northern altar made for the sacrificial fire" would be to make use of an argument that has not yet commenced.

The meaning of certain words like svara-sama, eka-kapala and amiksha can be obtained by piercing through their "disguise"; but we can understand them when we have the entire text before us, for then we get a direction about what should be done.

The meaning of certain words is obtained from the function they perform; for instance, in a thing that is produced from action, action may be said to be like a yupa or a sacrificial post; and this is a deliberate and not an accidental mode of expression. The word yupa is defined to mean "action"; and is what the Mimansa tells us in a subsequent chapter too, where it is said to refer to action meant for the benefit of all. This would explain why the "animal" (man) has to be tied to a yupa or a sacrificial post if it wishes to be happy and free.

Cases of doubt: In case of doubt we should follow the common meaning of a word if it serves our purpose; but it may not be the real Vedic meaning,- and for reasons that have already been explained. It is in this manner that we get other meanings of the text, because they appear to be on the same level with the real ones; but we can get a proper meaning if we interpret words in the manner explained. When we find that what remains of the meaning of a word has no bearing on the idea of a sacrifice, we should get its real meaning by dividing it into parts, and treating each part as if it were a name by itself. According to this the word prshtha would mean "action", even as we have been taught, and also because no other meaning would suit the context.