Narach Philosophy

THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION: THE LAW OF ACTION (PART-1)


Let us consider certain words that are said to have a "disguise". The word Soma is such a word; and it has not been properly understood because it has been taken as a whole word, and not divided into parts. The word sruch is another; and we cannot accept its common meaning, because it would render the whole idea incomplete.

Desirable things have been associated with the new and the full moon. Animals too have desires; and the only difference between them and men is that the latter have desires relating to religious devotion. the number eleven refers to the function of the mind, expressed in two ways, - attraction and repulsion. There is the idea of action too; but in the case of animals it is expressed in terms of yupa or the sacrificial post, but without reference to desire. The idea of the number twelve is important. The idea of a piece of pasture land, as also of things that have a body or material form, is expressed in terms of "this, that".

Where action cannot be described properly, it is compared with its ideal form. Even active life or the life of an active man is represented in the same manner; and this has been done to keep knowledge a secret.

Activity arises from association with desire and the Gunas (or attributes of things); and we can escape from the evil effects of actions by distinguishing between different kinds of actions; and so one activity is changed into another. A single action cannot be divided into parts; but there is an option before it is undertaken. An option is determined by means of singleness of aim; but a person may not be able to exercise it. This gives rise to different aims; but in case of difference of opinion, the matter has to be decided by reference to the intellect, which alone can make for action.

We can understand the idea of the gods of the Vedas by dividing their names into parts; and they represent Nature which is truly imperishable. Nature is represented by means of herbs or the vegetable kingdom, as that is its most obvious form. It is also represented by means of a cloud (containing water); and it is in this manner that we can understand the meaning of the text. When water is sweetened, every part of it is transformed; and it represents the idea of the transformation of Nature; and Nature is indeed unborn.

Certain "Disguised" Names: Let us consider certain specific symbols or names used in the text, and which, with the meaning they have in their "disguised" form, appear to be like names.

Soma: The word Soma is of this kind, for we are told that there should be appearance of activity in Soma, because of the appearance of desire; and we can understand the idea if we see through the "disguise" of the word. It has not been properly understood, because the word has been taken as a whole (and not divided into parts).

If we know that Soma means the mind, we can understand that, as the attribute of the mind is desire; wherever there is desire, there must be an activity or function of the mind: or we might say that the mind becomes active by means of desire; and so there is activity in Soma (mind) because of the appearance of desire.

As the Mimansa has explained, in order to pierce through the "disguise" of a word, we need to divide it into parts. The word Soma has accordingly to be divided into sa, u, ma - when its meaning would be "(sa) the mind associated with (u, ma) the sense of knowledge". But, as we have two letters for the senses of knowledge, - and the idea of the sense of knowledge and action is closely intertwined, and the Tongue is both a sense of knowledge and action, - we can take it that there is a reference to the senses of action too.

Sruch: The text contains the word sruch (the common meaning of which is "a wooden ladle for pouring clarified butter on the sacrificial fire"). But this is followed by certain words by way of explanatory repetition, from which we find that no ladle could have been meant. We cannot say that the word does mean a ladle, on the ground that it occurs in a formula which cannot be changed; because if it were so, it would require a number of other words to complete the sense (and they are not to be found in the text). We hesitate to accept this conclusion because we do not apply ourselves to the task of finding out the real meaning of the text.

Similarly, the word sruch would mean (sru) to rouse or stir (ch) the mind. Sruch means, therefore, "stirring the mind"; and that is why it is said to be "a ladle for pouring clarified butter on the sacrificial fire", - for clarified butter refers to goodness as an attribute of desire or the mind; and Sruch is something that stirs the mind or produces desire.

Desire and the moon: We should understand that there are desirable things in the world; and we find (from the text) that desires are associated with the new and the full moon.

As has already been explained, the Moon refers to the mind, which has desire for its attributes. We have also pointed out that the new moon refers to desire, and the full moon to its completion in action; and so desires are associated with the new and the full moon.

The number Eleven: There is in things associated with the number eleven (mind or desire) something that is related to the pressing out of the Soma-juice; and that can be understood in two ways from the sight of what is seen. It is the idea of this activity that is to be found in the parts of words. With regard to animals, the same idea is to be found in the sight of yupa or the sacrificial post. But the essence of the idea of Soma is not obvious (in the word itself).

The number eleven refer to the mind, as being the eleventh after the ten sense, or the five "elements" and their five properties, to which the ten sense are closely allied. As desire is a special attribute of the mind and inseparable from it, this number can refer to desire as well. Soma refers to the mind, and its "juice" is obviously desire. Thus we might say that the mind is related to desire (or a thing associated with the number eleven - the mind - is related to the pressing out of the soma juice - or desire.

Desire expresses itself in two ways, - attraction and repulsion. It is in this idea of the different activities of the mind that is expressed in the different parts of words; and so, in order to understand these activities, we have to divide words into parts. This is the logic of this method of interpretation.

Yupa or the sacrificial post, as has already been explained, refers to action meant for the benefit of all. But there are a number of these sacrificial posts in a great sacrifice, indicating that there are a number of different kinds of such actions that a person has to perform. The point of this Sutra is that in the case of animals the different kinds of actions are expressed in terms of sacrificial posts.

The number Twelve: Among numbers the idea of the number twelve is specially important. We have explained that the number twelve refers to Time, Prakrti, as well as the intellect.

This, That: The idea of a piece of pasture land (or a place of residence) is expressed by means of "this, that, etc."; and these expressions would apply to other things that have a body or material form.

Action and the Ideal: So far as action is concerned, - where it cannot properly be described by means of the of the application of this rule (that is, in proper terms), we can get the totality of its result, as well as its necessity, together with the idea of the doer of the deed, by means of comparison with its ideal, because that is how the whole idea has been knitted together. The idea of activity can be represented in the same manner too, because it refers to action; and this has been done so that it may not easily be understood.

If, for instance, the author is unable to properly describe the functions of the mind in a particular case, he may compare it with the Moon, which is a symbol of the mind, and so can be regarded as its ideal. Similarly, the character of Prakrti may be referred to the Ocean or to water in general; and there are a number of such instances in the sacred books. The Mimansa tells us that the Vedas contain an account of knowledge of the ancients, some of which is secret knowledge, and is not meant to be easily understood.

Means of Freedom: Activity arises from association with desires and Gunas or the attributes of things; but we can escape from the evil effects of action by distinguishing between kinds of action; for activity can also arise from another state of change, - namely, the purpose the intellect has in view.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that all action arises from the three Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), which are said to arise from Nature or Prakrti. It is these that make for the bond of life, - Sattva for knowledge and joy, Rajas for action, and Tamas for heedlessness and sleep. All things in the world, faith, food, penance, alms and sacrifice, as well as renunciation, knowledge, action, actor, intellect, fortitude and joy - partake of the character of Gunas or the attributes of Nature. Indeed, there is no entity on earth or among the gods in heaven that is free from the three Gunas, born of Prakrti: so says the Bhagavad Gita. We have been told that the appearance of desire means the activity of the mind; and now this Sutra tells us that it is desire that makes for all activity. This means that the mind is associated with all action.

According to the Sankhya we can escape from action itself by means of discrimination, when we realize that the soul is different from all that is in Nature. This, however, is not what the Mimansa says. It only tells us that we can avoid the evil effects of actions by distinguishing between different kinds of actions, and doing only good and intelligent deeds. We have the same idea in the Bhagavad Gita, which tells us that we cannot obtain freedom from action by refusing to perform actions or by means of renunciation; but a person can attain to the highest goal by performing actions without any attachment. It is also necessary to distinguish between action, inaction, and improper action.

We have been told that activity arises from association with desires and the Gunas; but it is also due to the function of the intellect, which enables us to distinguish between kinds of actions, and so to avoid their evil effects.

Action and Option: A single action cannot be divided, because it has a single direction or urge; but there is an option before it is undertaken. This option arises as a result of conclusions drawn from things with opposite properties. This refers to a consideration of the pros and cons of things.

Determination of Options: An option is determined by means of singleness of aim, and it marks a change from an existing state. It is possible that a person may not be able to exercise his option, because he may have indistinct ideas about things, for it depends on the nature of the conclusions he is able to arrive at. We can see in this manner that a person may have different aims. But where there is divergence of opinion, the matter has to be decided by reference to the intellect, because that is how all action is performed; and it is by means of the intellect that all things connected with action are produced. Intellect plays a most important part in action, for it has to decide to act; and without its decision no action can take place.

The idea of the Gods: We can understand the idea of the gods of the Vedas by dividing their names into parts. This is how the idea of the principal gods of the Vedas has been explained. They represent nature, which consists of imperishable matter, and is uncreated or unborn; and that is so because of the essence of its vital power; and we can arrive at this conclusion by making a study of its character.

The word in the text is Hiranya, which has a number of meanings, including "imperishable matter", which would appear to be the most suitable here. There are a number of references to Hiranya and Hiranya-garbha (the Golden Egg) in the sacred books; and they have all a reference to Nature. The Bhagavad Gita also tells us that not only Purusha (God), but Prakrti too, is without beginning; that is, it is unborn.

Nature; how described: Nature is said to consist of herbs (or the vegetable kingdom) because that is its most obvious or manifest form. We can also understand it from the use of the word charu (a cloud is a receptacle of water, which represents Nature) in the text; and it is in this manner that we can get a properly developed (or mature) meaning of the sruti.

There are a number of references to plants, medicinal herbs, forest life, and different kinds of grain, - all of which have a bearing on the idea of Nature or Prakrti. We have seen that the sacred fig-tree refers to it; and all reference to forest life in the sacred books are really references to the ideas associated with Nature. It may be of interest to observe that Karna in the Mahabharata and Kumbha-karna in the Ramayana represent the philosophy of Nature or Prakrti. The word Karna has a number of meanings, one of which is "furnished with chaff (as grain)". It refers, therefore, to grain as the seed of the vegetable kingdom, fit for cultivation; and the idea of these two characters can be understood in this light throughout the two Epics.

Sweetened Water: When water is sweetened, all its ingredients share the property of its sweetness (or what it contains), as a result of which its own character is transformed. Sweetened water represents the idea of the transformation of Prakrti into something that is sweet, or as embodying the idea of God. This can be done by means of the idea of Sacrifice, which can sweeten Prakrti, and link it up with God. It is this idea that is expressed in terms of the transformation of Sikhandin from a woman (Prakrti) into a man (Purusha or God) in the story of the Mahabharata.

Nature is Unborn: When we look at Nature as it is in its entirety, we cannot resist the conclusion that it is unborn, if we accept its essential attributes; and that it is in conformity with the statement previously made, that Prakrti is unborn.