Narach Philosophy

THE VEDAS AND THE METHOD OF INTERPRETATION (PART-1)


The subject matter of the Vedas is action. They are an exposition of Gunas or the attributes of nature. And refer to the laws of knowledge as well as action; which are necessary to discover. We can do so if we interpret the text correctly by means of the application of the rules of grammar. There is authority for this method of interpretation. However, this method has not been followed because of ignorance and want of application. In fact, the Vedas really refer to the laws of nature. Hence they are said to be non-eternal.

They are not eternal as they give expression to conflicting opinions and do not yield the desired result. Also no other meaning is possible as they are the joint composition of a number of authors, and deal with matters that are not eternal. Indeed, we find that they have the meaning of the laws of nature, and are meant to be a praise of these laws. This is also the traditional view and there is no contradiction in it; and if a person is unable to understand them in this light, he should seek the assistance of a competent teacher.

The Vedas are really an exposition of the Gunas or the attributes of nature. This is so as the Gunas are the most important part of nature; for it is chiefly in this form that it appears to us, when we look at it from a distance or in a broad perspective.

The Gunas are said to be born of Prakrti or nature in the same sense in which a child is born; for there is a natural desire to have something that will last for some time. And that is why Prakrti creates Gunas and lives through them. It is also for the same reason that we praise knowledge (for it lasts); and the more complete the knowledge the longer it lasts. Thus the most perfect knowledge belongs to the Supreme. However, we find that knowledge is connected to action.

We see that certain results follow from certain causes. So we might say that broadly speaking, certain special results will follow from certain special causes. The idea of knowledge and action is the same as has been explained in the previous systems. Nevertheless, there must be a law governing the two; but such a law has not yet been discovered, and a mere statement of their relationship would be useless.

An Objection: We cannot deal with the question in a popular way, because that is already known and has no bearing on the idea of a law. It maybe argued that all that can be said in the matter ha already been said, and nothing more can be added now. Further, it maybe contended that it is impossible, in a number of places, to construe the text of the Vedas in the light of action; and so it is best to regard these books as consisting of hymns of praise addressed to the gods.

According to some, the Vedas deal with the problem of the soul as their principal subject matter. However, this is not correct, as we find that they deal with the world of prakrti or nature, which is not permanent. This has been stated to be their subject matter; and that is how they are taught and explained. Further, all Vedic literature is of the same kind, as they deal with the problem of action. They tell us what actions to perform and how to perform them. We find that man is always engaged in action; and this should enable us to acquire definite knowledge in regard to the law of action. Any contradiction of the fact that there is action everywhere should be disregarded; for we know that it is impossible. Moreover, if there is consistency of this kind of meaning throughout, we must not drag in some other meaning; specially, as against it, a reference to a law would be inappropriate. Again, if it had been the intention of the authors of the Vedas to expound a law, the language of the text should have been different.

An Answer: There is a good reason for coming to the conclusion that the Vedas deal with the law of Prakrti or nature, because the same can be proved, and we can get it from the text itself. The text of the Vedas does indeed support the view that it refers to the praise of the gods; but that is its first or direct meaning, without being pressed into some other sense. But even as praise it appears to be meaningless; and we might ask if it is not improper to have praise that is meaningless. While we cannot deny that the text does refer to the praise of the gods, we hold that, it is in this way that it is commonly understood. It is only in a secondary sense, that the primary idea is that of being a law. We are, however, prepared to agree that, if the text does really refer to the laws of Prakrti or nature, this conclusion should be based on well-established facts, and not on some special statements or analogies; for the latter would nullify the very idea of law. But, as a matter of fact, we get the idea of law from the text of the sacred books themselves. For we get this meaning from the very language of the text, when we apply correct grammatical rules. But he alone will understand who is learned or wise, for the language needs to be properly understood.

How to understand the text: We cannot get the correct meaning of words from their common form; but we can do so by referring them to Prakrti or nature, which is described as "achetana" or inanimate. That, however, should be done when the common meaning is contradictory; and a student of the Vedas can easily find out the real meaning of the text in this way. The reference to the laws of nature should be made when we are unable to understand the correct meaning of the text and are confused. Further, we should understand that it would be meaningless for the Vedas to refer to something that is ephemeral. It may, however, be argued that the meaning of words cannot be a special one; but in this connection we might repeat that the text has a secondary meaning which refers to the praise of the gods.

Special mention of this method: Indeed, there is a special mention of this method of interpreting the text; and there is an explanation of its idea too; and the principal subject matter of the Vedas is found to be consistent when interpreted in this light. Further, if we make use of this method and understand words in their correct formation, we find that the text does not contain any censure of the action of any one; and the explanation of the meaning of words is in accordance with what is found in a dictionary. At the same time, a single thread of thought runs throughout the text, and there is no contradiction in it anywhere.

Cause of failure to understand: We do not know this explanation of the Vedas for want of application and ignorance on the part of those who read them. But we find that they do refer to Nature, which is said to be non-eternal; and we get this meaning from the text itself; and so our conclusion is that the language of the Vedas refers to the laws of life.