Thursday, March 17, 2011

Purva Mimamsa - Part IV

In the third posting of the series, words were shown to be eternal
entities. According to the philosophy of pUrva mImAmsA (PM), words are
"used" in a sentence to "convey" meaning, just as one "uses" a vehicle
to "convey" passengers. 

We can easily use the same PM arguments to show that sentences are
eternal, since sentences are wholly composed of words (in a particular
sequence). The meaning of a sentence can also be deduced when given the
meanings of individual words. But sentences have a property that words
do not possess: truth-value. Sentences can be either TRUE or FALSE, and
it is necessary to consider only the former kind in our quest for
knowledge of dharma. Therefore, from the ontology of words, we come to
the epistemology of sentences. All that remains to be shown is: THE
accomplished in the remaining sUtras of the first pAda of the first
adhyAya of Jaimini's pUrva mImAmsA sUtras (JPMS). The gist of the
argument is as follows:

In JPMS 1.1.5, it was said that words were "self-sufficient in
authority", which means that a sentence is implicitly assumed true (or
"authoritative") unless it contains an error. In the case of statements
which contain words denoting objects that can be known by
sense-experience or inference, we can verify their truth or falsehood
from the results of an experiment. But dharma was shown to be outside
the field of sense-experience/inference, so any text that deals with
dharma will necessarily have to deal with objects outside the range of
sense-experience/inference. Since all human experience lies solely
within the range of the senses, any human can only speak of objects
lying within his/her own field of sense-experience. If a person claims
to have *composed* a text that deals with dharma, it is highly suspect,
as it will undoubtedly contain errors in the discussion of dharma. The
primary way to ensure that the text is devoid of error regarding dharma
is to ensure that it is not a product of human authorship. Then the
mImAmsaka's claim becomes that the Veda is not a human product at all,
so this secures the Veda against all objections concerning knowledge of
dharma. Since there is no means of knowing dharma other than an
unauthored text that deals with dharma, the Veda reigns supreme in
dharmic matters.

The JPMS does not "prove" the unauthoredness of the Veda, instead it is
a claim of the mImAmsaka. Now, since it cannot be *proven* that the
Vedas are authored, the assumption remains that the Veda is an
unauthored text.

Continuing with the first pAda of the first adhyAya of JPMS:

JPMS 1.1.24
utpattau vaa avachanAH syuH arthasya atannimittatvAt.h .
"Even though [words and meanings] are eternal, [sentences] would remain
inexpressive because [the meaning of the sentence] does not depend upon
[the meaning of the words]."

pUrvapaksha: Granted that word and meaning are eternal. How does this
prove that the Vedas are trustworthy regarding dharma? Since the
meaning of a sentence is different from the meaning of individual
words, and we have only proven the eternality of words, we must reject
Vedic injunction.

JPMS 1.1.25
tadbhUtaanaam.h kriyaarthena samaamnaayaH arthasya tannimittatvaat.h .
"[In a sentence] all words denoting things are in close juxtaposition
with the word expressive of action; and therefore the meaning of the
sentence is dependent upon the meaning of words composing it."

In answer to the previous sUtra, there is nothing to prove that the
sentence has any meaning other than that afforded by its component
words. For example, we find that the sentence "agnihotraanjuhuyaat
svargakAmaH" expressive of agnihotra sacrifice and also the word
expressive of desiring heaven; the word juhuyaat denotes the action of
offering. The meaning is that "one desirous of heaven should perform
agnihotra", which is nothing more than the denotations of the words
linked together. Hence when the word and its meaning are eternal,
sentences formed by these words is also eternal. Thus the eternality of
sentences having been established, there is nothing incongrous about
the view that the Veda is trustworthy regarding dharma.

JPMS 1.1.26
loke sanniyamaat.h prayoga sannikarshhaH . 
"Just as we find restriction in ordinary parlance, it follows that [in
the Veda also] there would be a similar explanation for the use [of

In ordinary parlance, we find that the meaning of a sentence can be
extracted only when the meaning of its individual words is
comprehended; from this analogy it would be safe to assume that the
meaning of a sentence depends upon the meaning of individual words. 

JPMS 1.1.27
vedaan.h cha eke sannikarshham.h purushhAkhyAH . 
"[According to some] the Vedas are the work of a human author."

First pUrvapaksha: The Veda has a human author, because we find various
sections named after men. e.g. 'KAThaka' is named after 'KaTha',
'PaippalAda' after 'PippalAda', etc. which indicates that the sections
were composed by KaTha and PippalAda respectively.

JPMS 1.1.28
anitya darshanaat.h cha . 
"Also because we find [in the Veda, the mention of many] non-eternal

Second pUrvapaksha: We find statements such as 'auddAlakiH akAmayata'
or 'Auddalaki desired', wherein persons and events are mentioned that
cannot be eternal, therefore they must be a human composition. 

JPMS 1.1.29
uktam.h tu shabda pUrvatvam.h .
"But the eternality of the word has already been established."

Arguments in support of the eternality of all words in general (and the
Veda in specific) have already been established. All that is necessary,
therefore, is to answer the objections in sUtras 27-28.

JPMS 1.1.30
AkhyA pravachanAt.h .
"The name [of Vedic sections] is based upon exceptionally excellent
study and teaching [of that particular person]."

In reply to sUtra 27, we say that the Vedic section KAThaka is named
after KaTha who had made a special study of that section, not that it
was composed by that person.

JPMS 1.1.31
parantu shruti saamaanya maatram.h .
"The other is only a similarity of sounds."

Replying to sUtra 28, there is nothing to show that the word as found
in the Veda was actually the name of a person; it is in fact nothing
more than a chance resemblance of sounds; the word as found in the Veda
has since then been borne as the name of a certain person; that does
not show that in the Veda the word must be regarded as a proper name.
It may be in a totally different sense, for instance, the word
'pravAhana' may mean only the 'excellent carrier'.

JPMS 1.1.32
kR^ite vaa viniyogaH syAn.h karmaNaH saMbandhAt.h .
"[Apparently absurd Vedic statements] may be regarded as inducements
towards certain actions; because of the relationship or connection [of
those sentences] with actions."

pUrvapaksha: The Veda is untrustworthy because it contains absurd
statements such as 'the cows sat at the sacrifice', 'the trees
performed the sacrifice', and so forth. 
siddhAnta: All these sentences are found in the section dealing with a
certain sacrifice. In praise of this sacrifice, it is declared that so
excellent and desirable is the sacrifice, that even inanimate objects
such as trees were induced to perform it. Therefore it is only natural
that men should engage in it.
Thus then, the Veda, not being the work of a human author - whereby it
is free from all discrepencies consequent upon authorship - and there
being nothing in the text of the Veda itself that shakes it authority,
it must be admitted that it is trustworthy in all matters relating


It has been shown that the Veda is a source of dharma since it is
unauthored. But can this claim not be made of any scripture -
specifically the Buddhist ones? The chief pUrvapakshin of kUmArila is
the Buddhist, and it is especially interesting and important to see how
he handles such objections from them. For this, it is necessary to
learn some history of the relationship between the two religions.

PM and Buddhism

During the time of the Buddha, there may not have been much conflict
between Buddhism and Hinduism. In fact, according to the Buddhist
scriptures, upon Buddha's death and subsequent cremation, a Brahmin
named Drona took care of the remains. But a few centuries later,
Buddhists began to coax kings to divert funds away from Vedic
scholarship and towards Buddhist causes and propaganda. This angered
KumArila [1], and his response was to study the Buddhist scriptures and
challenge the Buddhists to a debate on dharma. Vedic tradition has it
that KumArila won the debate, which is highly likely, given that
KumArila was well-read in Buddhism and was aware of all the weaknesses
in the Buddhist scriptures on dharma. 

The Buddhist theory of dharma basically proceeds in this manner,
"Buddha was omniscient; he understood the human condition and the
transitory nature of worldly objects. He composed a scripture on dharma
so that it may benefit humans." There are two problems with this
theory. For one thing, it is impossible to prove that someone who lived
long ago in a far-off place was omniscient. Besides, the Buddhist also
claims that just as all worldly pleasures/pains are transient entities,
so too WORDS ARE TRANSIENT ENTITIES. If words are transient entities
that are subject to change, how is it that the Buddhist teachings on
dharma that were created long ago are still valid to this day? Who
knows if the words have not changed, and are now teaching adharma

It is best to let KumArila speak for himself, since his commentary is
very revealing and is of great historical interest [2]:

"pUrvapaksha: We can prove the eternality of the Bauddha scriptures by
means of the same arguments that have been brought forward to prove the
eternality of the Veda. As in the Vedas, so in these scriptures also,
their authority is self-sufficient, because of their being perfectly
expressive (and comprehensible) assertions; as we have no doubts as to
their meanings; nor have we any mistaken ideas about them. And being,
like the Vedas, without a human author, they are free from from all
discrepancies consequent upon origin; because, as in the Vedas, so in
these scriptures also, the possibility of a human author is absolutely
denied. As for the name "Buddha's assertion", as applied to these
scriptures, it only shows that they were explained (and not composed)
by the Buddha, or that it was Buddha who saw (or found out) these
scriptures; exactly as the names KAThaka, Angirasa, and the like are
applied to certain recensions of the Veda...
"siddhAnta: ...the Bauddhas find themselves unable to set aside the
well-established and unimpeachable authoritative character of the
Veda...they lose their heart by having to fall back upon the device of
repeating the arguments of the opponent; and having no reasons of their
own to bring forward, they say 'our scriptures are eternal' -
forgetting in this all their own former declarations, and only apishly
imitating the assertion of his opponent; and this action of theirs is
exactly like that of the ignorant bridegroom, who was asked by his
father-in-law what his gotra was, but not knowing what it was he said
'my gotra is the same as yours' (not knowing that this would make his
marriage impossible)...
"And when taunted by the mImAmsaka on the point of this argument
belonging to the mImAmsaka, and not to the Bauddhas, they turn round
and say - 'It is our argument, stolen by the mImAmsaka.' And certainly,
if one were to shamelessly continue to bring forward such meaningless
arguments, thereby seeking to deceive other people, he could never lose
his point!
"But by asserting the eternality of their scriptures, in imitation of
the Veda, the Bauddhas give up their well-known theory of the momentary
character of all things (including words). The Buddha has laid down the
momentary character of all things that are brought into existence, such
a text of the Bauddhas being 'All samskAras (impressions) are
momentary; and how can impermanent things have any action? Barring the
two non-entities (destruction and void), all that is cognisable is a
product and is momentary.'
"For certainly, if the weaver took up only the threads, and threw away
the shuttle, when proceeding to weave a cloth, he would be striking
with his fist at the sky. So then, the eternality of words - which is
the staple wood on which the whole fabric of the eternality of
scriptures stands - having been burnt (denied, at least by the Bauddha)
by means of the fire of fallacious arguments, it becomes impossible for
the Bauddha to rear up the fabric anew (in regard to his own
"...hence the assertion 'this dharma-scripture of the Bauddha is
eternal' comes to be absolutely meaningless. Specially as that which is
momentarily disappearing can never be pointed out or spoken of as
'this'; and hence it becomes all the more impossible for it to be
spoken of as 'eternal'. Thus then, there being no chance for the
eternality of the scriptures of those who hold the words to be
transient, and it being impossible for human assertions, treating of
transcendental subjects, to be accepted as 'scriptures of action', the
authority of the Bauddha scriptures (in regard to dharma) is denied, on
the ground of 'asanniyama' - the meaning of this expression in this
case being 'the niyama or acceptance, of assattva or transient
character (of all objects in general, and of words in particular).' "
"Other writers have also explained this concept of apaurusheyatva.
Sayanacharya's bhAShya-bhUmika to the samhitAs and Dayananda
Saraswati's RgVeda Bhashya bhumika can be referred in this regard.
However, they do not anticipate all the objections. They take up merely
the objection of Rishi being the actual author (which is actually
raised and answered in the mImAmsA sutras). Moreover, they concentrate
on the 'eternality' (nityatva) aspect of the vedas. It is only Srimad
Anandatirtha who expounds the apaurusheyatva of vedas (Notice that
apaurusheyatva directly implies flawlessness, but eternality does so
indirectly and through aparusheyatva), considers all other objections
and answers them convincingly."

I will once again let KumArila speak for himself [3]:
"As a rule, the chance of discrepancies in an assertion, depends upon
the speaker; and in certain places the absence thereof (i.e. of
discrepancies) is due to its having a faultless speaker; because the
discrepancies, removed by his good qualities, cannot possibly attach to
his word. Or again, in the absence of any speaker, there could be no
discrepancies, as these would have no substratum (to inhere in)...Thus
then the authoritativeness of the Veda being independent of a speaker,
your adoration of its Author is entirely out of place. For, such
adoration could be possible only if you assume the Veda to be devoid of

Ontology of words-->Epistemology of sentences-->Unauthoredness of Veda

No comments:

Post a Comment