Thursday, March 17, 2011

Purva Mimamsa - Part III

In the previous posting, the basic postulate of pUrva mImAmsA (PM) was
said to be the eternality of all words and meanings, as well as the
relationship between the two. But is the postulate true, and if so, how
can we ascertain it? The postulate is not subject to scientific
enquiry, for it cannot be scientifically determined whether or not
words/meanings exist independent of the mind, for the simple reason
that words/meanings are not entities that can be physically
experimented upon. Like most branches of philosophy, the theory can
only be subject to critical and logical examination to see how well it
stands up against objections, and also if there are strong
counter-objections to the opposing theory. This will be done in the
remaining sutras of Jaimini's pUrva mImAmsA sUtras (JPMS) in the first
pAda of the first adhyAya. 

As an aside: for the sake of comparison of the philosophy of PM (which
holds the eternal nature of words) with other schools of thought :-
In contemporary Western philosophy, the reality of mathematical objects
such as numbers (1,2,3...) or geometrical shapes (circles, lines,
points, ...) are of serious concern, as it is no easy task to establish
these as real and eternal entities. In fact, theories such as formalism
(mathematical objects are just symbols) and platonism (mathematical
objects are eternal and exist in an unchanging non-physical realm) both
have certain good points and suffer weaknesses, and hence have their
own contenders and defenders. In spite of much thought that has gone
into this branch of philosophy, there is presently no consensus as to a
universally acceptable theory of mathematical reality. Mathematicians
themselves are divided on this issue, with famous mathematicians
believing in either Platonism (Roger Penrose) or formalism (David
Hilbert). There was recently an article condensing and criticizing ALL
the various theories -- "Philosophy of Mathematics: Why Nothing Works",
by Hilary Putnam in "Words and Life" (1994), pp. 499-512 [1]

In JPMS 1.1, verses 6-11 will consider the various objections as to why
words are transient entities, which will then be refuted in verses
12-17. Verses 18-23 will finally present arguments for the eternality
of words.


JPMS 1.1.6: 
karmaike tatra darshanAt.h .
"Some hold that the word is caused [giving reasons such as], 
[First Objection]: 'We find it perceptible only after an effort.'"

First pUrvapaksha: We find that all words are brought into existence
only after an effort of speech by the person who uses the word. What is
brought into existence has to be caused and non-eternal. 

asthAnAt.h .
"[Second Objection]: 'Because it does not persist.'"

Second pUrvapaksha: We find that words do not exist when they are not
uttered. Therefore they are non-eternal.

karotishabdAt.h .
"[Third Objection]: Because of the use of the word produces (utters)
[with reference to words.]"

Third pUrvapaksha: People generally say "shabda karoti" which means "he
makes or produces the word." If the word is produced, it must be

sattvAntare yaugapadyAt.h .
"[Fourth Objection]: 'Because the word is found (to be pronounced by
[many persons] and in (many places) simultaneously."

Fourth pUrvapaksha: As a matter of fact, we find that one and the same
word is perceived by more than one person, and also in more than one
place, at one and the same time. This is possible only in the case of a
substance that is omnipresent, all-pervading, or that which is limited
in its extent, but capable of being brought into existence at more than
one place at the same time. Since we know that the word is not an
all-pervading substance, it must follow that when perceived by
different persons at different places, it must be produced in so many
places. It must be admitted that any single word is not one, but many,
all produced in different places.

prakR^iti vikR^ityoH cha . 
"[Fifth Objection]: Also because of their having original and modified

Words such as "dadhi atra" become modified into "dadhyatra". Since no
modification can occur in an eternal entity, words must be non-eternal.

vR^iddhiH cha kartR^i bhUmnA asya .
"[Sixth Objection]: Also because a multiplicity of persons uttering the
word bring about an increased magnitude (in the word-sound)."

When many persons pronounce the same word, there is always an increase
in the magnitude of the word-sound. This proves that the word is
modifiable, and hence non-eternal. 

samantu tatra darshanam.h .
"[In both cases] the [momentary] perception (of word-sounds) is equal."

With this aphorism begins the refutation of the arguments set forth in
sUtras 6-11. Regarding sUtra 6, when a person makes an effort to utter
the word, he makes manifest the sound of the word, but does not cause
the word to come into existence. The word that is already in existence
is now perceived by means of its utterance. Therefore, this can well be
explained by the theory of *momentary perception* of the word, as well
as the theory of *momentary existence* of the word.

sataH paramadarshanam.h vishhayAnAgamaat.h .
"It is of that (word) which already exists that there is non-perception
at other points of time (before and after the utterance), and this is
due to the fact that [at such other points of time] there is no
operation (of the manifestive agency) with regard to the object

The previous sUtra pointed out that the theory of momentary perception
as well as momentary existence of the word can both be used to explain
the objection of sUtra 6. The present sUtra refutes the objection given
in sUtra 7, and also shows that only the theory of momentary perception
of the word holds true (and the theory of momentary existence of the
word is false), as this theory can alone satisfactorily explain the
perception of the word for the duration of the utterance of the word.
The reason is: If the word were brought into existence when the word
was (first) uttered, the word should be continued to be perceived for
all the time AFTER the (first) utterance. For example, we perceive a
jar for all time between its creation and destruction. If the word had
been brought into existence only after its (first) utterance, why is
not the word perceived for all the time after that utterance (i.e. till
its destruction - if one can imagine words to be destroyed at all)? 
Whereas the theory of momentary perception of the word explains sUtra 7
very well, for the word always exists, but is perceived only for the
duration of the time that the word is uttered. Human utterance of the
word is, therefore, the "manifestive agency" of the word. 

prayogasya param.h .
"[As for the use of the word 'produces'] that refers to the utterance
[of the word]."

Regarding sUtra 8, we reply saying that it refers to the utterance of
the word that is already existing. For instance, when one says, "make
some hay", we mean that hay is to collected, not produced.

Adityavad.h yaugapadyam.h .
"The simultaneity [of perception by many persons] as in the case of the

In reply to sUtra 9, we say that the sun can be seen at the same time
by many persons at different places, yet it is one only. In the same
manner, it is quite natural that the word should be one and eternal,
and yet perceived by different people at different places at the same

varNAntaram.h avikaaraH . 
"It (the change produced by the conjunction of letters) is a different
letter; it is not a modification (of the original word)."

Replying to sUtra 10, the word "dadhyatra" is an entirely different
word, since the letter "dhya" is a different letter from either "dhi"
or "a".

naada vR^iddhi paraa .
"The great increase [of magnitude] belongs to the tone (and not the
word itself)."

Regarding sUtra 11, only the tone of the word is increased in
magnitude, not the word itself. 

nityastu syAt.h darshanasya paraarthatvaat.h .
"On the other hand, [the word] must be regarded as eternal, specially
because the utterance is for an altogether different purpose."

Having completely refuted the opposing theory of the momentary
existence of words, the author (Jaimini) proceeds to put forth forward
reasonings in support of the eternality of words. The whole idea of the
transient nature of words is based upon the notion that utterance
brings the word into existence. It is here declared that it is not so;
we utter the word not for the purpose of creating the word, but for
expressing what the word denotes. In fact, if the word were produced
and transient, it would be destroyed when the utterance of it ceased,
and so not being in existence at the time the hearer could comprehend
the meaning. The very fact of there being comprehension of the word
shows that the word is not evanescent, but lasting. 

sarvatra yaugapadyaat.h .
"Because in the case of all [words], there is simultaneity or unanimity
[of recognition]."

We recognize a word, say "cow", that we have heard on previous
occasions. This would not have been possible had the word been
destroyed when the utterance ceased. 

sangkhyaa abhaavaat.h .
"Also on account of the absence of number."

In ordinary parlance, when a certain word is uttered more than once, we
say that it has been used more than once, not that it has been created
so many times. If the word were created and destroyed each time, we
should have spoken of so many words, and not of the same word as
uttered so many times. Therefore, words are eternal. 

anapekshatvAt.h .
"Because of the absence of cause."

In the case of objects that are destroyed, we can identify something as
a cause of destruction, but in the case of words, we can find no such
cause. Therefore words are indestructible. 

prakhyaabhaavaat.h cha yogyasya .
"Also because what is percepbitle [by the ear] is not what is spoke of
(in the Vedic declaration 'the air becomes the word')."

Opponents of word-eternity bring forth the Vedic text 'the air becomes
the word', in support of the contention that the word is produced. A
combination of air particles cannot be called the word, therefore, the
text does not refer to what we know as the word. 

linga darshanaat.h cha .
"Also because we meet with [texts] indicative [of eternity of words]."

Texts such as "vAcha viruupinityayaa" speak of the word as eternal.
Hence words are eternal.


Notes: We have now established the theory that ALL WORDS ARE ETERNAL,
which means that the words of the Vedas as well as the words in other
texts such as the Buddhist scriptures or even Kalidasa's poems are all
equally eternal. In the next posting, we will see how to extend this
theory so that it makes the Vedas alone free of error regarding objects
that are beyond sense-experience, but not so other texts!

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