Narach Philosophy

THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION (PART-9)


If a single note expresses the idea of principal things, they should be found together, and should have the same maker. All things are connected together in accordance with a law; and even so the meanings of all expressions are connected with the principal word; but not so the meanings of parts of words where the great forces of Nature are concerned. In other cases, however, it should be possible to have this connection; and it is in this manner that we understand the meaning of the text. Each part of a word is separate, because it has to correspond to each part of an action, and has a bearing on the idea of the principal word; but not so in the case of the great forces of Nature.

There is a theory in connection with the idea of the parts of a word, which enables us to understand the rest of the text. In certain cases we can easily understand the meaning of an expression from that of its parts, for they have been formed in accordance with this theory. In the case of animals, however, this theory needs to be modified, because the nature of their impelling force is different; but we can represent the function of the mind and its relation to desire in this manner. With regard to words formed in accordance with this theory, we can understand their meaning from their parts.

An intelligent action is connected with the great forces of Nature; but the latter may be different at different times. If the principal word is removed, we cannot understand the meaning of the text.

We can understand the real idea of the gods only if we divide their names into parts; but it requires intelligence to do so, and there should be general agreement about it. No great knowledge is, however, required to understand all this. There appear to be two intelligent conceptions of life in the sacred books, and according to one of them we are required to renounce all action. But we should understand what all this really means. A principle or rule means that what applies to one case should apply to all similar cases too; but, as there are different categories of actions, there are also different sets of rules.

A single word and principal things: If a single note is used to describe something in connection with principal things, they should be found in the same place and at the same time, and should have the same maker.

Connection between objects, actions and words: If there were no prescribed law, we should have to admit that there is no close connection between actions. But since there is a law, and things are closely connected with one another, the meaning of all expressions should be related to the principal word. But this is not so with the parts of a word in their relation to the principal word, in the case of the great forces of Nature, with reference to their relation to the objects of life. But if each action is governed by a law, it should be possible to express the idea of this connection by means of a single note, because it can be closely connected with the principal object. Thus, all parts of a word can be closely connected with one another; and it is in this manner that we can understand the rest of the meaning of the text.

The expression in the text is Dravya-Devata; and we have explained that Devata refers to the great forces of Nature, and Dravya to certain fundamental substances like the great "elements," etc.

Parts of a word and the principal word: There is a reason why each part of a word should be separate, even as we find in the case of the principal word; because it is a law of life that all action is performed for the sake of something else; and it is necessary to remember this, because the idea of action is not always clearly understood. The text is so arranged, that each part of a word has a bearing on the idea of the principal word, and can be explained in its light; and it is in this manner that the whole text has been integrated.

Forces of nature and parts of words: But the idea of the great forces of Nature, in their relation to their objects, does not correspond to that of the parts of words, because the direction in regard to the latter is of a subsidiary character, whereas that in respect of the forces of Nature is a special one.

Theory of parts of words: There is a theory in connection with the parts of words, explaining how and why they are brought together, as well as the distinction between them. When we understand this, we shall understand the distinction between the different kinds of actions that has been made by means of them, as also their connection with the principal word, which will enable us to understand the rest of the text.

This theory, as has already been explained, is that a great action is divisible into a number of parts, each of which is denoted by a part of a word. Ordinarily each part of an action is described by means of one or more words; but in this system each letter or syllable does duty for a whole word or even a number of words. It is, therefore, a simpler and briefer way of describing an action.

Now the question is what is the connection of the parts of a word with the principal word in the text? It is obvious that the parts of a word must be connected with one another, because they represent parts of an action, which are connected together in accordance with the law of life. The Mimansa says that the parts of a word are also connected with the principal word, with the exception of cases where we are dealing with the great forces of Nature in their relation to their objects; for these are major ideas, and so the words describing them are complete in themselves, without reference to the principal word in the text.

Illustrations: In words like ishti, rajasuya, and chaturmasya, as they are characterized by unity of action we should find the characteristic features of their parts. We cannot, however, say that the difference in the idea of action, as expressed by them, arises from the difference of Time, because they are conceived as parts of a whole, and we can distinguish between them as we can in the case of animals. They refer to different states of action; and, as they have been formed in accordance with the theory (referred to above), we should know what they mean from the parts of which they are composed. It is in this manner that we can understand other meanings too; and find them in the parts of words.

We have explained that the meaning of the word ishti can be obtained by dividing it into ish, t, i,"(ish, to desire) desire, associated with () the senses of knowledge and (i) the mind". Similarly, rajasuya r, a, ja, s, u, ya would mean "(t) the senses of action (a) associated with (ja) what is produced by (s) the mind (a) woven with (ya) the intellect". It refers, therefore, to the function of the intellect and the mind, in association with the senses of action; and that is the idea of rajasuya as a sacrifice. In the same manner chatur-masya, chatur, m, a, s, ya would mean (chatur) skill associated with (m) the senses of knowledge (a) associated with (s) the mind and (ya) the intellect". It means, therefore, skill in action, where the intellect, mind, and the senses play their part.

We find that these words represent three different states, to which there is a reference in the following Sutra; and so the difference between them is not due to a mere passage of time, when one thing changes into another. They may rather be distinguished as separate ideas, in the same manner as we distinguish between different kinds of animals, men, horses, cows, goats, and sheep.

The three states represented by these words are as follows: - Ishti refers to desire, which comes into being when the mind awakens and is associated with the senses of knowledge at least; Rajasuya is the function of the mind and the intellect, when they engage in real action; and Chatur-masya refers to skill in such action, by means of which a person can act and yet be free from the taint of action, "in the same sense in which the Bhagavad Gita calls Yoga" skill in action.

Case of animals: In the case of animals, however, this theory will have to be modified, because the nature of their impelling force is different. The Mimansa has already explained that the idea of animals is so clear that it is not necessary to divide words into parts to understand their meaning.

The mind: We can represent the action of the mind in this manner, and fit it into the idea of desire, which is its special attribute, and arises at the same time with it, even as we have understood it.

Ishti: With regard to the different ideas of action signified by these (three) names, as they have been formed in accordance with this theory we should be able to get their real meaning from their parts. With regard to the first of these (namely, ishti or desire), the idea of Time is specially associated with it. We can take this word ishti like any other word, for its result will be the same in whichever way we take it. We have seen how we get the meaning of these words by dividing them into parts.

We have been told that desire arises at the same time that the mind begins to function; hence the idea of Time is involved in that of desire. The word ishti, taken as a whole word, means "desire"; and if we divide it into parts we get the same meaning again. This is one of those words which we can take "as we like".

Intelligent action, time, and the forces of nature: If we are dealing with one clear intelligent action (Homa), it should refer to only one act of the great forces of Nature (Devata), if it is declared to have been done at one time. If, however, the times are different, the forces of Nature may be different too. In conclusion we might say that all intelligent action is like that, because anything different is not possible; and this is only an explanatory repetition of what has already been said; (only it has been a stated more directly) because it would be contrary to rules to think of the intellect as being different at different places.

The expression in the text is yupa-ahuti; and the Mimansa has already explained that yupa refers to selfless action; while ahuti means "offering oblation with fire to the deities"; and, as fire refers to the intellect, and the deities to the forces of Nature, it means an intelligent action associated with the great forces of Nature. Yupa-ahuti would accordingly mean such selfless action, implying that the great forces of Nature act intelligently and selflessly; and it is for this reason that the idea of sacrifice can be associated with them; and the Bhagavad Gita can tell us that "rain arises from sacrifice"; for rain may be regarded as the result of a good, intelligent and selfless action of the great forces of Nature.

The intellect of a man is the same, though it may act differently at different times, because of different circumstances.

Importance of principal word: If the principal word is omitted, we cannot understand the meaning of the text; and it would be incorrect to imagine that we can, in spite of it; for the connection between understanding and the principal word is as close as that between the great forces of Nature and the fundamental substances associated with them. Each word, complete in all its parts, is accordingly made to fit into this plan of composition; and we can understand its meaning if we see through its "disguise".

The expression in the text is Dravya-Devata; and Dravya refers to great substances like the great "elements," etc.; while Devata signifies a great force of Nature. The two are obviously connected together.

Meaning of Gods: It is only when we divide words into parts, that we can eliminate erroneous ideas about the gods of the Vedas. Thus if we understand the meaning of the words Dakshina-Agni and Varuna-praghasa, their whole idea would, because of change of place, be altered. There may be no direction to point to this interpretation; but we should understand it in the same manner as we understand the reference to the full-moon. There is at least a direction in regard to the connection with the idea of the full moon; and it is even so in the present case.

The Mimansa has already told us that we can get the real meaning of the gods of the Vedas by dividing their names into parts; and then we shall find that they refer to the great forces of Nature, working intelligently, selflessly, and for the well-being of life itself.

The common meaning of Dakshina-Agni is "the southern altar of Agni"; and of Varuna-praghasa "a periodical oblation offered at the full moon of the month of Ashada, for obtaining exemption from Varuna's noose". But these meanings make little sense. On the other hand, if we understand that the word Dakshina refers to skill, and Agni to the intellect, Dakshina-Agni would mean "a skilful action of the intellect".

Similarly, Varuna is the god of waters which, as the Mimansa has explained, refer to Nature or Prakrti; while praghasa means "a devourer". Thus Varuna-praghasa would mean "Varuna, the devourer" or "Prakrti, the devourer" This obviously implies that a certain belief in Prakrti or Nature makes it into a "devourer"; and that can only refer to Nature being the sole supreme creator of life; for, if we believe this, we must agree that there can be no peace or happiness without renunciation of action, and that means that we must put an end to our life. Hence this belief makes Nature into a destructive force, "devourer".

This is the "snare" or "noose" of Varuna, belief in Nature as the supreme creator of life; and we are told that in order to obtain "exemption" or freedom from it, we must make oblation at the full moon of the month of Ashada. Now, we have seen that the full moon refers to the full function of the mind, when the latter may, for practical purposes, be identified with the intellect; while the word Ashada is derived from A-shada, which means "not to be overcome".

"The full moon in the month of Ashada" refers, therefore to the determination of the mind or the intellect not to be overcome by this belief, and to act in a spirit of sacrifice, by means of which we can act and yet be free from the taint of action, and so be free from the "noose of Varuna".

The idea of the full moon has already been explained. There is authority for the association of the Moon with the mind, for the Rig Veda tells us that the Moon was created out of the Mind of the Supreme; and there are repeated references to the association of the two in the sacred books.

The Mimansa tells us that we have to use our intelligence, and understand the meaning of other words in the same manner as we understand the idea of the full moon, as a full expression of the function of the mind. It is not necessary to have detailed directions or definition of words in every case.

Opinion of learned men: All this, however, is not laid down in the text; but it is obtained by something higher still, the unanimous opinion of learned men; and we invoke their authority, because the idea has not been distinctly expressed.

The language of the Vedas: The language of the Vedas is like that; and that is not due to any difference between the authors of the text, but rather to their fullest agreement; and we can understand their real meaning if we see through the "disguise" of words.

How to understand this: It does not require a great deal of knowledge to understand all this; what is necessary is that we should know the measure of words (or how to divide them into parts and understand their meaning). Thus if we understand the meaning of the word Agni (Agni refers to the intellect, as has already been explained), we can get the meaning of other words too by means of the same principles (of interpretation). There is, however, a difference between the modes of composition of different authors of the text.

Two views regarding intellect: When we think of Agni (or intellect) in the light of any general rules, we find that its idea is the same as that of a great creative power. At the same time there is another equally important view (in connection with the function of the intellect), according to which we are required to, go and dwell in a forest (or renounce action). Hence in any hymns addressed to Brahman, we should have a clear (or separate) direction as to which idea (of the intellect) is meant to be conveyed. But if the statement is the same (in both cases), and there is no attempt at "refinement" (or distinction), it is because there is common ground (in regard to the whole conception of life). Indeed, if we understand the nature of things, we shall realize that there can be no question of associating anything good with what is worthless. But we cannot say that the function of the senses is an evil even in the autumn of our life; and there is unanimity of opinion in the matter. The expressions used in the text in this connection are quite clear, as we can see for ourselves.

Intellect (Agni) is a great creative power; and we create things if we act in its light. This is one view of the intellect; namely, that we should act and create; the other follows. The other important view of life, also in the light of the character of the intellect, is that we should renounce action. As these are two entirely different views of life, there should be a clear indication as to which of the two is really meant.

These two views would appear to correspond to the idea of Nir-bija and Sa-bija Samadhi, to which there is a reference to both in the Sankhya and Yoga systems of philosophy. Samadhi meant "intense contemplation of a particular object, as a result of which the contemplator becomes identified with the object contemplated"; and so it is a function of the intellect. Nirbija-samadhi is that act of contemplation which is not followed by any further action; while Sa-bija samadhi is that which is. The one stands for complete renunciation of action, while the other for action; and both are based on the character of the idea of the intellect. The Brahmana portion of the Veda refers to Brahman.

Both the ideas are correct, only at different stages of life. We must act so long as we live; but when death approaches, we must renounce all action. Hence there is common ground between these two points of view, time or stages of life.

When death draws near, the body becomes "worthless", and we cannot associate any action or anything good with it. It can only be buried or burnt. The expressions in the text mean "shavings, shearings", and "act of sprinkling clarified butter or ghee"; and the former has been rendered as "something worthless", and the latter as "something good". We have seen that "clarified butter" signifies something that is good. A man can cease to act only when he is actually dying; and he cannot regard action as an evil even in the autumn of his life. Renunciation of action is possible only in the winter of life, not it's autumn, that is, only when the end is near.

The text refers to the number "five" which, as has already been explained, refers to the functions of the senses, for there are five senses of knowledge and five of action.

Meaning of a principle: A principle or rule means that what applies to one case should apply equally to all similar cases; for instance, it is a rule that when the mind functions (or desire awakens), we have to pay for it; and if we anticipate this in one case, we should be able to do so in all similar cases too. A principle or theory is like that; and similar statements made in the text are of this kind. But even if there is no express mention of what we should anticipate, we should assume it, if it is warranted by the meaning of the text; for instance, we know from experience that what is true of an initial action is true of a supplementary action too.

The word in the text is peya, which means "to be tasted or drunk"; and that, as in the case of Soma or "wine", refers to the function of the mind or its attribute, desire. The idea is that, if we wish to drink something, or satisfy our desire, we must pay for it. We cannot get something for nothing; and so this may be said to be a principle or a general rule.

Different kinds of action: With regard to serious actions, the rule is that they should be performed after due preparation, and for a higher end. Again, we may have the same kind of actions if the occasion for them is the same. In the case of a supplementary action, if it continues in the same place its withdrawal may be represented in the same manner as an animal "dragged away". But there may still be cases of misconduct, as is well known. This is not a mere supposition, for we know what happens when such acts are done; and we find that the result is like that. It is, however, true that it would be a mere supposition if it had no relation to real action; for an action has a meaning only in the light of its result. This is like a mixture of things, and we have to sort out its purpose from the statement of particulars.

The idea of an animal being "dragged away" is explained in the next chapter, where it signifies restraint in sex life. The idea here is also the same. Indulgence or excess is a kind of misconduct, and it leads to well known evil results.