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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mīmāṃsā thought outside Mīmāṃsā school

Jayaratha, the author of a learned commentary on Abhinavagupta's Tantrāloka employs Mīmāṃsā hermeneutic tools in order to prove that a certain statement, found in a Śaiva Scripture and directly contradicting the Vedic mainstream, is to be followed. So, interestingly enough, Mīmāṃsā tools are implemented completely outside their precinct, in a theistic and non-Vedic (though not anti-Vedic) frame. The following discussion is excerpted from his commentary on TĀ, IV. Verses in bold are Abhinavagupta's one.

(The discussion originates out of a śaiva verse saying that there is no purity nor impurity.)

But [an objector may state]: the distinction (viniścaya) referring to pure, impure, etc., occurs because of a command (codanā) [hence, it cannot be invalidated] || 228 ||

A command is a prescriptive sentence, as it has been said:

«A command is a statement inciting [one] to undertake an action» (ŚBh ad 1.1.2)

What has been prescribed by that as being pure, is pure whereas what is [prescribed] as other [than pure], is other [than pure]. Because there is a smṛti:

The apertures which are over the navel are all fit for sacrifice |

those which are located under [the navel] are not fit for sacrifice. And from the body alone are the impurities removed ||

With the mention (grahaṇa) of “etc.” [in the TĀ verse] what it eatable and what is not, etc., is [meant]. || 228 ||

[Obj.:] «But if indeed the very command is the condition for the distinction between pure and impure, then what flaw would there be [in obeying it]?» But also in regard to the non-distinction between them this very command pronounced by Śiva is the condition: “There is in this case no purity nor impurity”. Hence [Abhinavagupta] stated:

Let it be so, nonetheless this very command has been pronounced by Śiva |

«But if there is no distinction as far as the status of command of both [prescriptions], which one shall be valid (pramāṇa), so that relying on that we can prescribe the distinction between pure and impure?» Having so doubted, [Abhinavagupta] stated:

Which one shall be true? If you ask so, [I answer] that this [argument] has been expanded in another [text] || 229 ||

In another [text], means that here, on the other hand, [this argument] will not be expanded, for fear of [composing] [too] extensive a book. Here, indeed, a word endowed with the [appropriate] convention is independent in regard to the general conveying of [its] meaning [but] [its] dependency is unavoidable in regard to the ascertainment of a meaning different from the above said (i.e., conventional) one, since [in order to do that] it [has to] refer to a person (i.e., its author). Hence, [a certain statement] becomes valid just because it has been said by a reliable [author], else, on the other hand, it is certainly invalid. So it is ascertained. And therefore, in case of this very (vā) Vedic command, the single Supreme Lord alone –who has directly perceived all elements (dharma) and has as His aim the desire to raise the whole world – is the foundation (nibandhana) of [its] validity, because all Instructions have been taught by Him. Nor is it possible to say that the Vedic command is without an author, since it is endowed with a certain arrangement [of words] [and] since all arrangements have an author. And hence, the truth does not differ in both commands. So, we do not know relying on what we have to distinguish (viveka) between pure and impure, etc. Nor is it correct [to say] that the two are reciprocally in a relation of suspender and suspended, since they have the same strength, because one does not seize the condition of a feebleness in one of the two. [PP:] But there is indeed a condition of feebleness in one of the two, because all other Sacred Texts are outside the Veda [and, hence, less reliable than it]. As it has been stated WHERE?:

«Generally, everyone follows (anuvṛt-) the Vedic path (vartman) |

A Tradition (āgama) which is external to the Veda, on the other hand, is certainly a fraud (vañcanā) ||»

And therefore the invalidation of all other Traditions has indeed the Veda as its author, hence the distinction (vibhāga) between pure and impure is correct because it relies precisely on it. || 229 ||

[S:] But if it is so, why should not also that [śaiva command] invalidate (bādha) the Vedic commands, due to [their] being external in regard to it? In fact, we do not detect (utpaś-) any strong reason in one of the two, so that the other would be necessarily invalidated. Hence (tad), [Abhinavagupta] stated:

If [you say that] the Vedic [command] invalidates [the śaiva one], then why could not it be the opposite? |

[PP:] But if it is so, both would be invalid, since they would be reciprocally hindered, so nothing would be established. [S:] It is not so, because a strong reason of validity, namely the fact of having been composed by the Lord, is present in both, [PP:] Then, this is even more a reason of invalidity, since although there is a single teacher they contradict (vyāhan-) each other. [S:] It is not so, because they have been taught in this way according to the difference of the responsible person [hearing them]. In fact, the Lord has commanded purity and [impurity] in general as referring (viṣaya) to all people, whereas as referring to specific [people] [he has commanded] this [śaiva command]. Hence, in the tswo there is no flaw amounting to invalidity. Therefore, the truth of both commands is the same, because of their [respective] situation, due to the fact that they have a different content. So it is established. ||

But how can their truth be the same, since the prescription about purity, etc., has been invalidated on a certain theme, although it was [generally] active (pravṛtti) because of its having as content all people? Having so doubted, [Abhinavagupta] stated:

If you consider correctly the invalidation [you see that] it can be made by an exceptional rule (apavāda), because of [its] having a specific content, whereas the [general] prescription has been prescribed in general | 230cd-231ab |

If indeed you understand correctly the functioning of the invalidation, then no command will loose its truth. To elaborate: the prescription of an exceptional rule, which is specific because it has no [general] occasion [of application], if there is an occasion (avakāśa) [for its application], always invalidates the universal (utsarga) prescription, which is general –so say the experts on sentences (i.e. the Mīmāṃsakas). The universal rule, in fact, although it has gained stability through applying to all contents, defines a specific content for the exceptional prescription and then remains non invalidated on [all] other contents. As has stated the author of the Cūrṇikā (possibly the Mahābhāṣya):

«Having defined the content of the exceptional [rule], then the universal [rule] remains»

For this very reason, although it is invalidated in some [cases], its invalidity cannot be suspected, since on [all] other contents it is well grounded as valid. And this invalidation is of two kinds: [invalidation] because of achieving the same effect or because of contradiction. Among them,

The offering of water with a ladle, prescribed in general [with]

«he should offer water with a ladle (camasa)»

is invalidated by the prescription of milking a cow, which is an exception, because of having a specific content, that is, one who desires cattle

«In the case of one who desires cattle, he should offer with the milking of a cow»

because it achieves the same effect, that is, offering of a liquid (ap).

The eight-edged sacrificial pole, though generally prescribed as having as content all rituals, [in]

«the sacrificial pole is eight-edged»

is invalidated with this exceptional prescription because of contradiction:

«In the case of the Vājapeya, [the sacrificial pole] is four-edged» || 230 ||

But even if it is so, what [has this to do] in regard to the [argument] we are dealing with? –Having so doubted, [Abhinavagupta] stated:

And purity and impurity, generally prescribed, are indeed invalidated in regard to the person who knows the reality. And so is it in this [verse] –so is it explained || 231cd-232ab ||

That is (arthāt): these purity and impurity, though prescribed as having as content all people, generally, through a Vedic command, in case of the one who knows the reality are indeed invalidated, that is, they are not non-invalidated, because of contradiction. In this regard the cause is And so is it in this [verse] –so is it explained. This means the prescriptive sentence pronounced [above], having as content the one who knows the reality and being exceptional:

«Here there is no purity nor impurity […]» || 231 ||

[PP:] But in this case it is not correct to say that it is a prescriptive sentence, because the distinction between pure and impure is seen in common experience without any invalidating instance, since [such an invalidating instance] would be contradicted by perception and the other instruments of knowledge. Therefore, this is certainly a commendatory statement (arthavāda) [and not a prescription, hence it has no epistemological value]. That, in fact, is usually (bhūmnā) said to exist as a single sentence together with the prescription, and for this reason it has a meaning only insofar as it aims at that and not by itself. For this very reason there is no contradiction with the other instruments of knowledge, because it does not point at its own nature. In fact, due to a commendatory statement the faith in the prescription increases, so that a person initiates an activity in its regard in an attentive way. As has been said:

«The potency of prescriptions faints, the cognition of [the prescription's] praiseworthiness enhances it» (cf. avasīdantī hi vidhiśaktiḥ prāśastyajñānenottabhyate VM II).

Therefore, is this [verse about purity and impurity] just the commendatory statement subsidiary –insofar as it excites interest through its praise– to the prescription which is directly stated in Sacred Texts,

«He should not adore the liṅga consisting of earth, minerals, jewels, etc.|

he should sacrifice to the inner liṅga, in which all created things vanish ||»

or to the one which one can deduce,

«one should become a yogin completely free of conceptualisations»?

Having so doubted, [Abhinavagupta] stated:

And there cannot be any suspicion of being a commendatory statement or [any other non prescriptive sort of statement] in case of a sentence [uttered] by the Great Lord || 232 ||

As has been said:

«This Scripture (tantra) is a prescriptive text, there are never commendatory statements |


[And], in the same way:

«The Tradition of Śiva is not a commendatory statement | »

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