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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can one grasp a meaning which is not attained through any other instrument of knowledge?

According to both the Bhāṭṭa and the Prābhākara school of Mīmāṃsā, the relation betweeen a word and the entity it means is perpetual (nitya). Nonetheless,this does not amount to say that everyone, upon hearing for the first time a word, automatically understands its meaning. Rather, one needs first to acquire proficiency in language use through the usage of elder people and through the ensuing activities (both these aspects may be referred to as vyavahāra). E.g., after having heard one's grandfather ordering:“bring [the] cow!”,one sees one's father bringing a cow.

Through many similar instances, one eventually learns the meaning of the words “bring!” and “cow”.

But, according to the Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā, the meaning conveyed by the Veda is a duty (kārya) which is apūrva, that is, “non preceded [by any other instrument of knowledge]”. This means that no worldly instrument of knowledge can enable one to grasp an apūrva kārya. Hence,how could it be possible to learn the relation between a word and a meaning such as theapūrva kārya through the usage of the seniors? And if this is not possible, how could one understand the meaning of the Vedic words referring to it? In fact,though the relation between Vedic words and the apūrva kārya is fixed,a meaning can be grasped only by people who have previously understood,by means of the linguistic usage of senior speakers,its relation with the word signifiying it. Nor can it be said that one can learn the meaning of Vedic words referring to an apūrva kārya through the Veda itself, as in this case there would be a vicious circle (the elders' usage would depend on the Veda,whose understanding depends on the elders' usage). Summing up (the last element is the result of the previous one/s)

  1. 1. senior speakers linguistic usages
  2. 2. ensuing activities
  3. 3. comprehension of worldly meanings (vyutpatti) by younger people

And:

  1. 1. comprehended worldly meanings
  2. 2. comprehension of Vedic meanings

However, if the Vedic meaning to be comprehended has no antecedent in the world, this process cannot occur. Or, a vicious circles takes place, since the practical activity cannot but be based on the Veda, when a meaning that is accessible only through the Veda is at stake:

  1. 1. apūrva-content imparted from the Veda
  2. 2. one looks at practical activity to comprehend it
  3. 3. practical activity cannot but be based on the Veda
  4. 4. one looks at the Veda to understand the apūrva
  5. 5. loop


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