Narach Philosophy

THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION: THE PROBLEM OF ACTION (PART-2)


The idea of giving in charity: giving away one's self means giving away everything; a person can give away only what he has; neither the earth nor the sudra can be given away. It is only what belongs to a person that should be accepted as a gift by a priest. One action follows another, and one aim is succeeded by another. We cannot say that what remains after an action is its result, for the result is uncertain, and may be different from what is intended.

An examination of an action spread over a number of days shows that one action follows another; and this is expressed by the number 112 or Prakrti; and both imply change as well as increase. Prakrti may be described in a number of ways: as something that confers benefits, or as something that is beyond all measure or limitations. It is natural for a person to narrate action, of some other person or of past times; and this is what the sacred books contain; and we can get this meaning by dividing words into parts, when it will be found to have a bearing on the laws of life. We can translate the text in this light by this means.

For instance, if someone is stated to have lived for a thousand years, it cannot possibly refer to a human being. It can refer only to a law of life, which would, of course, include man; and so there is no incongruity in the reference to a man living for a thousand years,- for the reference is really to a law of life. Indeed, the term man refers to the whole human race; and so we might say that the whole includes each individual too.

According to Lavukayana if there is a difference of opinion about the meaning of a word, it should be divided into parts. But there are certain terms the meaning of which has been defined: for instance, a full year refers to Prakrti, and so also a large number of days.

Idea of charity or gift: If a person gives away his own self, it means that he gives away everything without exception. A person can give only what he has, and anything else would be impossible. Nor can the earth be given away, because it belongs to all without distinction. It would be improper to give away the earth; and so, if a person does so, he should retract, and give away something which is his own in a special way. Again, what is permanent can have no connection with what is impermanent; and the sudra too cannot be given away according to sacred law. The sudra cannot be given away as a gift, because he refers to the objects of the senses or Nature itself. This has already been explained in the Dharmashastra. Then, when a person makes a gift to a priest, the latter should accept only that which belongs to the person,- for there is agreement of opinion that that is the real meaning of a gift.

One action follows another: When nothing is left, it means that there is an end to a thing; and this is how an action is completed by means of certain things. An action may be said to come to an end when the things that are associated with it come to an end. Even so, after one action has been completed, another remains to be done; and that is clearly inherent in the plan or design of action. We can understand in this manner how one aim follows another.

It maybe argued that nothing is left after a deed is done, and what remains is its result or effect, and the manner of our taking it. But this is not correct, because of the uncertainty of our getting the result. It often happens that in a series of undertakings,- because of our determination to achieve our end - we do something which we had not intended or desired; and this too shows that there is no conflict (with the previous statement that one action follows another). Indeed, if we examine action spread over a series of days, we shall find that this is the law of action, applicable to all cases without exception. This is a universal law of life,- that one action follows another without a break; and it can be proved in a number of ways.

The number 112 or 1200 is like Prakrti itself. The text has Dva-dasa-satam which can mean 112 or 1200; and both numbers refer to Nature or Prakrti. Or it represents the idea of the action of Prakrti; but it would not be so if the latter had some other characteristics; and this can easily be proved. Indeed, there is change implied in both (this number and Prakrti) without any distinction; and they can be made more numerous by repeated procreation (or multiplication). We have seen from the idea of numbers, as explained here, how the idea of multiplication and creation is the same.

The following Sutras tell us that those numbers represent the idea of change or evolution in Prakrti; and have to see how that can be proved. The word for change in the text is vikara, which has a number of meanings "a production or derivation from Prakrti; and it is in this sense that it needs to be understood here: that is to say, it refers to the evolution of life from Prakrti.

This is described in some detail in the Sankhya, which tells us that when Prakrti begins it course, the first to arise from it is Mahat or the intellect, from which arises Ahankara or the I-as-an-actor; and the latter gives rise to the five attributes of the five great elements, and the ten senses of knowledge and action.

Thus we see that it is possible to divide this process into two parts, intellect, ahankara, and the five attributes of the "elements" and the sense on the other; and the former consists of seven parts, and the latter of sixteen, the multiple of which is 112, giving us a complete idea of the evolution of Prakrti.

It is possible to deal with the number 1200 in a similar way. The Sankhya tells us that the action of Prakrti may be compared to the passage of time, and the same idea is repeated in the Mimansa. Now the ancients divided Time into Yugas, Manvantaras and Kalpas; and the Yugas are said to be four in number; while the duration of all the four constitutes a Manvantara; and thousand Yugas make a Kalpa. The basis of all this is a Yuga.

Now the four Yugas are Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali; and their duration is said to be 1,728,000, 1,296,000, 864,000, and 432,000 years of men respectively. It will be found on examination that all these figures are multiples of the number 1200, which may, accordingly be said to refer to Time or to Prakrti. Indeed, the number 1200 is itself based on the idea of the number 12, which is the real number representing the idea of Time or of Prakrti.

Thus we see how the numbers 112 or 1200 refer to the idea of the evolution of Nature or Prakrti.

Idea of Prakrti, how expressed: The idea of Prakrti arises also from that of conferring benefits, like a ray of light from a heavenly body. This corresponds to what the Bhagavad Gita calls the higher form of Prakrti, which is said to be the life of all creatures and to sustain the universe. The idea of Kama-dhuk or the "cow of plenty", which is said to confer benefits, would be of this kind. All that remains of Prakrti is so measureless that it is impossible to reckon it,- because the sate of our intellect is so limited; and any other expression for it should be of the same kind, so far as enumeration is concerned. Any description of Prakrti would refer to it as measureless. Equally so, it is not subject to any limitations; and can be even more than this, by means of the many uses that can be assigned to it,- because of the different ways in which it exists. This is how its meaning is explained.

Narrative form of the Vedic text: It is natural for a man to give an account of another person or of former times. Indeed, the act of narration should serve some useful purpose too; and this purpose is to be found in the sacred books in spite of apparent contradictions. Its character (or nature) can be seen from the details given in the text (if we divide words into parts), just as we may divide a thing into five (or some definite) parts; and, as it is connected with the Vedas, its teaching should refer to the law of life (Vidhi); and the explanation of the meaning should be such that the conclusion has a bearing on these laws; and it should be possible to translate it in their terms.

An Illustration: when there is mention of a thousand years as being the duration of the life of someone, i can refer only to things the life of which can last so long, because it is impossible to refer it to a man. It is a figurative expression, and we can see that it has some other meaning. This Sutra does not occur in certain texts. It is said that Rama ruled Ayodhya for ten thousand years; and we have to understand the idea in a similar way; for he too represents a great system of thought which prevailed for a long time. The Mahabharata tells us that the terms hundred, thousand, hundred thousand refer to an infinite or an indefinitely large number. Nevertheless, because of the reference to the law of life, there should also be a reference to the law of man (as a part of the law of life); and there is no incongruity in this idea, because there is a latent connection between the law of man and the law of life. Karshnajini (a philosopher) says that when we speak of the law of man, we speak of the law of the human race, because it would be improper to speak of it as such if it referred only to an individual. But if it refers to the whole race it means that it refers to each individual too.

Method of interpretation: According to Lavukayana (a philosopher) if there be a conflict of opinion in regard to the meaning of the text, one way of reading it should be such that we divide words into parts.

If there is mention of a full year, we cannot understand its meaning, because it passes on; and so it should be deemed to refer to Prakrti, because of the special reference (made to it in this connection); and that is also the idea of a large number of days. We have already explained that the idea of Time is closely connected with that of Nature or Prakrti, as both refer to change, which is action conceived in its widest significance.