Narach Philosophy

THE PROBLEM OF ACTION: THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION


The task of the "master" or the soul is to acquire something. The impressions of previous actions impel the soul to act; and the other faculties engage in action because of the soul. The urge to action depends on the nature of the soul; and, as all souls are not equal, their actions are different; Tapas or meditation too is a cause of this difference; but all other faculties depend for their action on the soul. Desire too is associated with the soul.

The Mantras also refer to the soul; and we should understand them in their proper light.

Actions may be referred to by the different organs of the body in which the soul abides. We should interpret the text in the light of action, the idea of which is described in different ways; but the fruit of action always belongs to the soul.

Action implies improvement as well as change, but not the creation of a substance; and this is stated in the Vedas.

As action implies change, the form of words in the text has to be changed in order to get their real meaning; but this change should be made only when we are unable to get a suitable meaning otherwise. There is an element of Time in action, and it too implies change; but its idea is dealt with elsewhere. Further, we should not divide into parts words which are not in close proximity to one another.

Task of the soul: The task of the "master of action" (the soul) is to acquire something, - for this is the object of his action. The word in the text is Svamin which, as has already been explained, refers to the soul. The acquisition of something can be the task of others (other faculties of man) only if it is so expressly mentioned in the text.

Impressions of previous actions: There are impressions of acts, done in a previous state of existence, on the powers or faculties of purusha or the individual soul, which, so far as we are aware, compel it to engage in action. All this is clearly described in the Bhagavad Gita; and there is reference to it in the Upanishads too. It is a cardinal point of Hindu belief, and explains the law of human action in terms of continuity of life without end. But all the faculties, associated with the "master of the sacrifice" (the soul), engage in action, because of the importance of the soul. The word in the text is Yajamana, which means "master or institutor of the sacrifice"; and that, as has already been observed, refers to the soul. All this is quite well known; and we know it from the fact that they all depend on the soul. The dependence of the other faculties on the soul is rendered in the Upanishads in terms of the story of the "quarrel" of the Pranas or the organs of man, each striving for supremacy. In the end they are satisfied that they all depend on the vital breath, the vehicle of the soul.

Action and nature of the soul: The impelling urge to action depends on the nature of the soul; and, as all souls are not equal, their method of performing actions are different. As all souls do not begin their journey of life at the same time, they may be said to be at different stages, and so are not equal. The Mimansa has told us that the impressions of previous actions impel the soul to action; and if we assume that the soul begins its journey through life at some time, we will also assume that the story of its action begins at that time; and then the chain of action can go on without end. This gives us a rational explanation of inequalities between man and man; and that is the idea of inequality between souls. But this theory postulates that we must agree to begin the story of life somewhere.

Tapas or meditation is also a cause of this difference, as we find from the achievement of results in ordinary life. But the general idea in regard to the other faculties has already been explained; and because they all depend on the soul, the latter cannot be restricted to any one of them.

This means that all faculties of man have their fixed abode in the body, - all except the soul. It is obvious that the senses have their fixed place; and the ancients fixed the mind in the lower, and the intellect in the upper, part of the head. But the soul was conceived to be free to move among all these faculties; and they function when it is associated with them. Thus, when the soul associates itself with the eye, the latter sees; when it associates itself with the ear, the latter hears; when it associates itself with the lower part of the head, corresponding to the brow, there is thought; and when it associates itself with the upper part of the head, there is judgment or decision.

Desire and the soul: Desire too is associated with the soul, because of its connection with the object to be achieved. As the soul is conceived to be an actor, desire must necessarily be associated with it. It may be of interest to observe that both Nyaya and Vaiseshika associate desire with the soul. It can be associated with the other faculties only when so expressly mentioned. Desire is said to be a special attribute of the mind. But that only means that when the soul associates itself with the mind-centre, a man has desire; even as when the soul associates itself with the eye, a man sees.

Mantras and the soul: The Mantras too, when they do not refer to the performance of action, are like that (that is, they refer to the soul). They are associated with the inspired and wise ones in this way, as we may see for ourselves.

How to understand them: A mantra, occurring in two places in two different sacred books, is true in respect of both, because it is full of meaning; and we should recite mantras in such a manner that we understand them. An unlearned person is verily not intended for the task.

Action and Adhvaryu priests: We find from an account of the text, that actions are referred to what belongs to the sacrificer; and they should indeed be referred to that. The "sacrificer" is the soul; and what belongs to him are the different organs of the body in which the soul abides. This is made clear in the following Sutra, where we are told that the reference is to the Adhvaryu priests or the organs of the senses. That is the idea of the Adhvaryu priests (the senses), and the whole statement of the text follows an organized plan.

How to interpret the text: In case of conflict of statements, we should interpret the text in terms of action, because that is how the principal ideas have been put together. With respect to the rest, such meaning as is suitable, may be assigned. The idea of action is expressed in terms of orders issued by someone in authority. The Adhvaryu priests also refer to action, as may be seen; but they are subordinate to some one else because action is shared by others (other faculties) too.

It is not the senses alone that take part in action. The other faculties, - the mind, ahankara, and the intellect have a share in it too; and the senses are subordinate to them.

Fruit of action, and meant for whom: When we understand the significance of this, we shall see that the action of the Ritvij priests (faculties of man other than the soul) makes for the fruit or result of action. But the fruit really belongs to the "master" or the soul, because it is meant for it. This can easily be proved, because the object of all action is its result or fruit, which, in every case, belongs to the "master" or the soul; and we know that it is so.

Action and improvement: All action, without exception, is meant for improvement or a better order of things. But while action implies change, it does not mean the creation of a new substance. This is expressly stated in certain special texts of the Vedas; while with regard to the rest, the idea is not so explicit. If, however, there is an error of interpretation in regard to a portion of the text, it can easily be discovered by means of close study.

Change of form of words: All things are subject to change, and so they are like Nature or Prakrti in this respect; (and that is one of the reasons why the form of certain words referring to these objects is changed). But in interpreting the text we should first of all get the principal meaning of a word, without reference to its parts; and it is only when there is a special cause, - that is, when we get an inconsistent or impossible meaning - that we should resort to its division into parts.

When we divide a word into parts, its whole sense is altered; for the parts have no connection with the text, and the reason for having them is that they alter the sense. We can see the proof of this at once, for this is true of all cases without exception; and we can verify it if we but pronounce the words correctly.

Action and time: There is an element of Time in connection with the performance of all action; but there is a special rule in connection with it. This shall be explained in further detail at a later stage.

Restrictions: It is, however, possible to say that it would not be correct to divide into parts words which are not in close proximity to one another; for instance, if we wish to know the meaning of the word "Viraj" in its rudimentary form, we should know the context in which it is used. Viraj is sometimes described as a male and sometimes as a female power; and we can understand its true character only if we know the context in which it is used.