Narach Philosophy

THE PROBLEM OF ACTION


Action implies a close connection between objects. All persons are entitled to act; but the manner of action of each is different. The actor maybe described as a man; but the term "man" refers to the whole human species, and so a woman is an actor too. But if the term "man" expressly refers to the male, it should be taken to be so.

There are some who believe that a woman cannot own property; but she can do so; only she is second to man; but what belongs specially to her is the power to bless and to remain chaste.

The four castes represent the same idea of subordination and inter-connection of things. When it is said that the sudra cannot act, the reference is to the efficient cause of action; and the meaning of the word is a different one. When the Vedas say that the sudra cannot act, we should understand the sense in which they say so. We should also understand the sense in which they say that the three castes can acquire wealth.

We must not, however, forget to consider the function of the soul, which cannot in any case be omitted. Not only has the word sudra another meaning, but also some other words like Sandhanvana and Nishada; and they need to be properly understood.

Definition of Action: When an action is performed, the different objects associated with it are closely connected with one another, because they are subordinate to one another. It is in this manner that even an inefficient person can play his part in action. We find, in every case, that there is action only if there is such a close connection; and we might say that this closeness of connection itself is a form of action.

All are entitled to Act: As an action is performed for the sake of its result, all persons should be regarded as entitled to act, as the sacred books tell us. But they also tell us that the manner of action of each is different, and should be understood in the light of action taken as a whole.

The actor in terms of Man and Woman: According to Aitisayana, an actor should be described as a man (or a word in the masculine gender), because that is the best way of doing so. We should accept his view; but, if in spite of this, we misinterpret or find fault with the text, the error would lie in our own lack of knowledge. Badarayana says that the reference to "man" is to the species of the human race (as opposed to an individual), and so the term is used without any special distinction of sex. For that reason even a woman should be regarded as an actor, because so far as the species is concerned, there is no distinction (between man and woman); and we cannot admit that there is any. (This sutra does not occur is some texts). But if the term "man" is distinctly said to refer to the male, we should take it to be so in accordance with what the sacred books have said.

Woman and wealth: There are some who believe that, so far as the possession of wealth is concerned, the reference should be to man as such, because they alone can have wealth. They state that woman cannot have wealth, because they can be bought and sold, an so are like property or wealth themselves. They also give another reason in support of their contention, - namely, that all action is meant for the sake of some one else, - and so woman should be intended for the sake of man. But we find that so far as effort to secure a certain result is concerned, there is no distinction between a man and a woman; and this is proved by the fact that the two are united together to secure a common end (an offspring). So far as the purchase of a woman is concerned, it is only a matter of custom; for we can see for ourselves that women do posses wealth; and if a woman can do so, it follows that she can also act; and this can easily be proved. But even if a woman is "bought", she can still own property through some one else (or through devotion to her man). Indeed, she is closely connected with the ownership of property, because we see that both man and woman seek the fruit of action jointly; and we see that it accrues to both.

It is for this reason that the union of the two is said to be like a sacrifice of both. But, as in an action we have a principal and a subordinate part, the word "second" should refer to the wife, for she is not the equal of man; but what belongs specially to her is the power to bless and to remain chaste.

The Four Castes: The four castes represent the same idea of subordination and inter-connection of things in every case. According to Atreya, it is only the first three castes that have a right to act, because there is a special reference to that effect in the sacred books, - for the forth caste cannot be included in anything that is connected with the intellect. the four castes refer to the intellect, ahankara the mind, the senses and the objects of the senses. As the forth caste or sudra refers to the objects of the senses, it cannot obviously engage in any action which refers to the intellect. (Atreya is a descendant of Atri, a great Rishi and author of a number of Vedic hymns). While the sruti says that the Brahmana is associated with all things connected with the intellect. A Brahmana refers to the intellect, for that is the meaning of the word. Badari says that it is only in the sense of an efficient cause that action is limited to the first three castes; and because of this every one should be entitled to act. (Badari is the name of a philosopher. He says that the sudra (objects of Nature) cannot act in the sense of being an efficient cause of action: they can only be the material cause of action).

However, as there is some other meaning attaching to the text, it should (at first) be taken as it is. If the text says that the sudra cannot act, we should accept it: only we should understand the sense in which the words are used. If we do so, we shall find that what is stated in the text is correct; for the material objects of Nature cannot be the efficient cause of action; and so the sudra, who refers to these objects, cannot be said to act in the same sense as the intellect or the mind. But the description should have a bearing on the matter under discussion: and we cannot say that it is not so, - on the ground of imperfect knowledge of the text. In any case, we cannot construe it as we like; and when we understand the correct formation of words, we shall find that we get the real meaning from the words themselves, for that is the beauty of this form of composition. If we interpret these names correctly, we shall find that we get the real meaning from the words themselves.

However, if the Veda says so, we must agree that the right to act belongs to all with the exception of the sudra. It is possible to says that we cannot accept this, on the ground that we need to know all the parts of action, and the sudra cannot be excluded. But the sruti deals with purusha or the soul, and so refers to the problem of knowledge; and we have to understand the correct use of words in the light of this meaning. it is possible to disagree with this explanation, on the ground that there is (always) a special reference to knowledge, where necessary. That is indeed so, because if there is no knowledge, there can be no action; and it is in this manner that we get the other meanings of the text.

The whole idea may be explained as follows:-

If the Veda says that the sudra cannot act, we should agree, because the sudra refers to the objects of Nature which cannot act by themselves.

But it can be argued that if we wish to understand all parts of an action, the objects of Nature cannot be excluded, because they are the material cause of action.

This is true; but we have to understand the context in which the first statement has been made in the Veda; and we find that the reference is to the problem of the soul, and of knowledge, not action. The Veda is not dealing with the question of action as such: it is dealing with the problem of knowledge which, however, may, in a certain sense, be regarded as a form of action; and it is in accordance with this that it says that the sudra is not entitled to act; for the objects of Nature cannot, in any case, acquire knowledge, whatever we might say about their part in action.

But it is possible to disagree with this explanation on the ground that there is no special reference to knowledge in this part of the text; whereas it is always there whenever it is required. Hence the reference to action cannot mean a reference to knowledge.

The answer to this is that this is not a correct point of view, because knowledge and action are closely allied, and there can be no action without knowledge: hence if there is a reference to action, it should be construed to include a reference to knowledge too.

It is in this manner that we can understand this as well as all other meanings of the text.

Wealth and its use: The three castes can acquire wealth because it is acquired through action. Wealth is acquired by means of the function of the intellect, mind, and the sense, - represented by the three "castes". The forth "caste" or the objects of the senses cannot acquire wealth, because they are wealth themselves. The same argument has been used in connection with a woman; but where a woman refers to Nature or Prakrti, - as she does in the sacred books - we can understand what the real meaning is: an object of Nature cannot acquire wealth. But because life itself is transitory, we cannot go on acquiring wealth forever; and wealth is acquired only for its use. This can be illustrated by means of what a person does when he has lost a limb, it ceases to be of use to him, and so he does not regard it as his "wealth"; and we find this in everything that takes place, because there is an unfailing connection between wealth and its use. All this has been explained in the Vedas; but he who does not believe in this idea of the three Vedas of sacred descent (or composed by the Rishis) can never be convinced, and must be given up as an impossible man.

Function of the Soul: In this consideration we have kept out "the master of the body" or the soul, whose function, according to what has been taught, is to employ the different faculties of man. It is only in the fitness of things that we should think of the soul or "the master of the body", because of its association with action; whereas it is possible to omit the sudra. We can omit the sudra from a consideration of action, because he refers to the objects of Nature, which cannot be regarded as an efficient cause of action. But we cannot, in any case, omit the soul, because it is by means of it alone that the other organs of the body act. But if there is no action, it is not necessary to think of anything at all: only, in that case, there will be no purpose in anything; and all are agreed on this point.

Special meanings: We can agree that the term sudra has a subsidiary meaning; and that it is not an instrumental cause of action. As language is an imperfect medium of expression, we have to use certain terms to express our ideas; and so the word Saudhanvana may be said to refer to the sudra.  Saudhanvana means "the son of Su-dhanvan or the one with an excellent bow". But Su-dhanvan is said to be the son of an outcaste Vaisya by a woman of the same class; and so he must belong to a "caste" lower than the Vaisya, - and that is the sudra. Saudhanvana, the son of Sudhanvan, is accordingly said to refer to the sudra.

The idea of "having an excellent bow" is not without a significance of its own. The sudra or an object of Nature is a cause of action in the same sense in which a bow may be said to be so. It cannot act or discharge an arrow by itself; and so it may be said to be a material and not an efficient cause of action. The idea of sudra is the same.

Similarly Nishada should be understood to mean Stha-pati; for the meaning of the two words is the same; and we can understand its idea by piercing through its "disguise. The word Nishada is said to refer to a wild non-aryan tribe, described as hunters, fishermen, etc., and also to an outcaste. But the Mimansa says that it has the the same meaning as Sthapati, which means "a king, chief; a Vaisya or even a person of a lower caste who has celebrated the Go-sava sacrifice after being chosen king; an architect, charioteer, etc.". Go-sava is the name of an Ekaha ceremony, which is said to last one day only; it also refers to a Soma sacrifice, or the function of the mind.

Sthapati is accordingly one who has been elevated from a lower to a higher state by means of sacrifice or a proper function of the mind; and the Mimansa tells us that this is the real meaning of Nishada.

It also tells us that we can understand this meaning of Nishada by piercing through the "disguised" form of the word; that is to say, by dividing it into parts, and understanding the meaning of each part. The word Nishada may, accordingly, be divided into N, i, sh, a and da, when its meaning would be "(N) the senses of knowledge ( i ) associated with (sh) the mind, and ( a ) leading to (da) sacrifice". Nishada accordingly, is one who begins at the stage of the senses, goes on to the stage of the mind, and ends in the idea of sacrifice; and this is in exact keeping with the meaning of the word as a Vaisya (senses) who becomes king (mind), and performs a Go-sava sacrifice. There are a number of references to this word in the Mahabharata, where too it has the same meaning.