Narach Philosophy

THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION: THE FUNCTION OF THE INTELLECT AND THE MIND


There are certain cases where it is necessary to divide words into parts to understand their meaning. But this method is subject to certain restrictions, which may be illustrated by means of the word aveshti. But all words must have the same meaning throughout, and variations must be specified.

Certain ideas are expressed in special ways; for instance, certain parts of the text are repeated to explain certain ideas. The parts of a great action can be expressed in terms of the days for which a sacrifice or a great action is said to last; and this can be understood by means of the parts of words. Certain parts of words are combined together to express the idea of the combination of the actor and the result of his action. The idea of Time is expressed by means of a change in the form of words; and so on.

Different objects act in different ways, and their meaning can be obtained by means of the parts of words. The function of the mind implies a function of ahankara or the I-as-an-actor. The term "simultaneous" is used only for the sake of illustration.

We can understand objects by means of their characteristics; but there is a difference between brain and brain. The function of the intellect involves the idea of Time. There is a difference in the intellectual powers of creatures, though they retain certain common characteristics.

Certain words in the text are repeated once or more frequently to express certain ideas. Consecration of knowledge means the exercise of intellectual powers in connection with action; and this is described by means of parts of words. There can be only one action at a time. Principles are more important than words. The idea of simultaneity should be understood in its proper light; and so should certain words like havish-krt, etc.

Rule of interpretation: As there is unity or cohesion of ideas in the sacred books, the rule is that, if we find that there is mention of unusual or unheard of things relating to time and place in connection with the function of the mind, we should divide words into parts, when we shall get the correct meaning of the text. The word in the text is raja-suya which, as has already been explained, refers to the sacrifice or proper function of the mind in association with the senses and the intellect.

These unusual expressions are due to the cleverness of the author; but, even as one would desire it, there is a rule, telling us that, in such cases, a whole expression is composed of parts. When we examine the origin or development of such expressions, we should remember that there is a fundamental unity of idea in the text, and that each separate note conveys a meaning of its own. It is in this manner that we can understand all other meanings of words.

Restrictions: We cannot say that this method of interpretation is without restrictions, because there is a specific mention of them; and their object is to prevent hasty conclusions. There is, however, but one purpose underlying this, namely, to enable us to understand the real meaning of the text; while with regard to special meanings, there is a repetition of names to enable us to do so.

An Illustration: This principle is illustrated by means of the word aveshti; and we can understand its real meaning by piercing through its "disguise". We can also get it from the word itself by associating it with the idea of desire. It does not refer to sacrifice (as is commonly believed); and we can understand it if we connect it with the letters or syllables of which it is composed.

The common meaning of the word aveshti is "appeasing or expiation by means of sacrifices"; but the Mimansa tells us that it does not refer t this idea of sacrifice. We are asked to interpret it in two ways, by piercing through its "disguise" (that is, division into parts), or associating it with the idea of desire; and both would give us the same meaning.

The word aveshti, (ava, ish, t, i) would accordingly mean "(ava) away from (ish, "to desire") desire, associated with (t) the senses of knowledge and (i) the mind". It accordingly refers to "desirelessness or absence of desire".

The second method is that we should associate it with the idea of desire: and so we may divide the word into Ava-ishti, when the meaning would be "(ava) away from (ishti) desire"; and we see that the meaning is the same in both cases. We may, therefore, be satisfied that it is correct; and so the word aveshti illustrates the principle referred to in the previous Sutra, namely, that it prevents hasty conclusions.

As desirelessness, in the sense that we may not seek desires is of the essence of the idea of sacrifice, we can now understand why the word has sacrifice or expiation by means of sacrifice for its meaning. It is in this manner that the real and common meanings of words are linked together.

System of interpretation: In the case of all intelligent actions which purify, there is but one system, according to which each word has but one meaning throughout; and we can understand it if we pierce through its "disguise". If, however, there is an express mention of a different way of interpretation, the system should be varied accordingly.

Explanatory repetition: The connection between the different parts of the text should always be represented by means of explanatory repetition to illustrate the idea.

A great action; how described: In a great intelligent action, lasting twelve days, there are a number of different parts, which can be understood separately, because each has special characteristics of its own; and that can be understood by reducing words to their rudimentary form. Since each part of this action is characterized by intelligence, the idea of all can be completely understood at once in terms of the parts of words referring to such action, as clearly as if it were performed at mid-day.

The number twelve refers to the intellect, as eleven does to the mind, and ten to the ten senses of knowledge and action.

Action and its fruit; how described: Since the fruit of action is closely connected with the doer of the deed, certain parts of words should be combined or uttered simultaneously, just as we express the idea of the intellect by means of the word Agni, and of the intellect and mind combined by means of the word Agni-shomiya. (Agni refers to the intellect, and Soma to the mind; and the combination of the two is Agni-shomiya).

Parts of Time; how described (number Twelve): When there is mention of Time, with its parts, there should be a change in the form of words which represent this idea (in order to understand their meaning); and this is illustrated by the number twelve.

The number twelve refers to the intellect, which again is identified with the sun, as the mind is with the moon. As Time too refers to the sun, and may be said to be a kind of radiation from it, the number twelve also refers to Time. It will be found on examination that it constitutes the basis of the calculation of the time of day and night, the months of the year, as well as the great ages of Time, all of which are multiples of the number twelve.

Other cases: Words signifying preparation for engagement in a great action should be taken separately, because they have a clear connection with the text in that way; and it is in this manner that we can understand other meanings too.

Even where things have a separate, cause or impelling force, if they are closely connected together because they occur at the same time they should be governed by the same system. These words have to be governed by the same rule that govern Time, to which reference has already been made.

But there is a difference between such things, as a result of which their actions are different; and the meaning of these words should be found in the parts of their principal words and the connection between these parts. It is in this manner that we can understand all such meanings. The meaning of the expression svah-sutya is like that; and there are a number of different animals whose meanings have to be understood in the same manner.

Svah-sutya means "tomorrow's preparation for Soma"; and, as Soma refers to the mind, and morning to time, it refers to the function of the mind in relation to time, morning, when the mind is said to be at its best. It means, therefore, the best function of the mind.

We have to understand the meaning of a number of animals in the same manner. The sacred books refer to a number of animals, horse, cow, dog, serpent, swan, fish, etc., etc., and they all express special ideas of their own.

Mind and ahankara: In the development of the function of the mind there is an implication of the function of ahankara or the I-as-an-actor and we can understand this if we refer the idea to Prakrti, as in the case of the invocation of the deity.

The words in the text are sutya and subrahmanya; and the former refers to the function of the mind, and the latter to ahankara or the I-as-an-actor, as has already been explained.

A deity, as has already been explained, refers to the great forces of Nature; and the Mimansa tells us that we can understand the idea of the relation between ahankara and the mind if we refer them to their origin from Prakrti, the idea of which is expressed by means of the invocation of the gods.

Now the Sankhya tells us that Prakrti is at first in a state of rest; and then, when it begins to create, the first thing to arise from it is Mahat or the intellect; then from the intellect arises ahankara or the I-as-an-actor; and from ahankara the mind, the ten senses, and their objects. We may conclude from this that the function of the mind implies a function of ahankara as well, for the mind is said to arise from it.

This may be explained also in a somewhat different manner. We cannot conceive of action without reference to a state of rest; and, as Prakrti implies action, we must think of it in a state of rest at first. Then, before there is action, there must be a decision to act; and as this is a function of the intellect, Mahat or intellect is said to arise from Prakrti. But there must be a doer of the deed before an action take place; and that gives us ahankara arising out of the intellect. But the doer of the deed cannot act without desire or the organs of the senses and their objects; and so we are told that the mind (which has desire for its attribute) and the senses and their objects arise simultaneously out of ahankara or the I-as-an-actor. This would appear to be a simple, rational way of explaining the evolution of life from Prakrti.

Idea of simultaneity: Again, when Indra is described as "one who acts simultaneously", the implication of time (indicated by simultaneity) is for the sake of illustration, and is not intended to convey anything specific.

No one can perform more than one action at a time, not even Indra who, as has already been explained, refers to the self-conscious soul. When, however, it is stated that he can perform a number of acts simultaneously, we are to understand the idea of simultaneity in a relative sense; that is to say, Indra or the soul can perform a large number of action, and quickly too. Indra is accordingly called satakratu, or the performer of a hundred (innumerable) deeds.

Interpretation by means of characteristics: Among the multitude of animals there is one who is supreme by reason of his being able to collect water in a small jar, fight with a weapon or bear a lance, sow seed, and cook food; and we should be able to understand from this that it refers to the characteristic features (of a man). But there may be a difference of opinion in the matter; and, in case of doubt, we should see if the description may not refer to some deity; for it may indeed be the action of Prakrti (or Nature).

What is possible for man is even more possible for a great. Force of Nature or a deity; only in such a case the idea of "cooking food" may be very different, ripening corn, for instance.

The word in the text is linga, which has a number of meanings, including "the image of a god; Prakrti". It has been taken in the latter sense here.

Difference between brain and brain: There is a difference between brain and brain (or the intellectual powers of men), because we know that there are some who are unfit to perform good and intelligent deeds (acts of sacrifice); and that is the teaching of the sacred books even in regard to our own people, relations and friends. Indeed, the main point is that we should understand all things in the light of the intellect, because our own people are different from one another, so far as intellect is concerned.

Intellect and Time: The intellect does not act at once or without deliberation, because there is always a difference of time between the function of the intellect and the doing of the deed.

Difference of intellectual power: There is a difference of intellectual power among different classes of men, because their development is not the same. We can see for ourselves that it grows (or decreases), so that it cannot be the same in all. Even though the members of a species have the same name, the brain (or the cranium that contains it) of some may be like a small earthen pot (with little substance in it). Nevertheless, each one persists in retaining his original form; and they can all multiply and spread (in different places). The word in the text is vrddhi, which means both "growth" as well as "decrease, cutting off".

Repetitions: It has already been explained that a person acts as a whole (or as a single unit) in all that he does in a proper manner. But in such a case there may be a number of meanings of the text, when, in order to understand it, there should be a repetition of the same idea, and we should read the text again. But if the actions in question refer to different persons, this method requires that there should be several repetitions to enable us to understand the meaning, for that is the peculiarity of the text.

The Mimansa has told us that it is for this reason that the body has been compared to a chariot, which moves as a whole, though it consists of a number of parts.

This Sutra is a part of the previous one in certain texts; while in others it does not occur at all. It would be advisable to retain it, as it brings out the distinction between an action performed by one person and by several.

Special cases: In the case of certain expressions which mean "gift", "reaping", "crossing over", and "pouring clarified butter over the sacrificial fire", there should be only one repetition, as in cases where only one person is concerned, because there is only one motive of action. But where an action is described in more ornate language, (there may be several repetitions) as in cases where a large number of persons are concerned.

Consecration of knowledge: When we speak of the consecration of knowledge, we mean a repeated exercise of our mental powers arising from a repeated performance of action.

There is a reference to the "sacrifice of knowledge" in the Bhagavad Gita and we are told that all action is made more complete in knowledge; and the Mimansa says the same thing.

Idea of repetition: With regard to a case where an action is referred to but one person, there is the method of division of words into parts to explain its meaning; and that is the reason why there is one repetition (or statement) only.

This Sutra would appear to be more appropriate as following No. 45, for it is a continuation of the same idea.

Action and parts of words: In case of words denoting selection or a process of the intellect, every part of a word should denote a separate action.

One action at a time: As there is only one urge to action at a time, there can be only one action at a time. This is true in all cases, in a state of unconsciousness or sleep, in conscious action like crossing a river, in an act of Nature like rain, and in an act of private consultation. It is so even in death, when all things come to an end.

Ideas are higher than sounds: Higher than the sound of the hymns of the sacred text are the principles they teach. We require this in the case of the people too, after they have spoken at length.

Meaning of simultaneity: There is no conjunction or combination of actions, because they cannot occur at the same time. But if we understand things in a special way, we may use the word "simultaneously". Hence we should utter the words havishkrt, adhrigu, puronuvakya, and manota separately, to indicate the difference of time in regard to the occurrence of things. The adhrigu formula signifies that the time fixed is over; and the same idea is expressed by means of the statement, "It is going to be done".

There can be no real simultaneity; but when we use this expression, it should be understood in a special sense, as referring to the performance of a number of actions in quick succession.

Havish-krt means "preparing an oblation". Adhrigu is the name of a formula concluding with an invocation of Agni. Puronuvakya means "an introductory verse". Manota is a hymn in Rig Veda containing the word Manota. It also refers to the deity to whom the offering during the recitation of that hymn is dedicated. It may refer to Agni too.