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Monday, March 11, 2013

Postulating a fruit for a Vedic injunction

According to Mīmāṃsā hermeneutics, a prescription must include a fruit to be realised. This is not an optional element, but an unavoidable building block of its structure, just like the bhāvanā (the action prescribed). Thus, what to do in case no result is mentioned in a Vedic prescription? The Mīmāṃsā answer is the viśvajinnyāya 'the rule about the Viśvajit' sacrifice, so called because it has been elaborated in connection with the case of the Viśvajit sacrifice, which is in fact prescribed without any fruit to be realised through its performance. According to the viśvajinnyāya, whenever no result is mentioned, svarga, i.e., enduring happiness must be postulated as the result. Why exactly svarga? Because it is desired by everyone (unlike particular results, such as sons, cattle, rain, etc.).

A same problem applies in the case of the prescription to study the Veda (svādhyāyo 'dhyetavyaḥ), which also lacks the mention of a result. Vedānta Deśika discusses it in his commentary on Mīmāṃsāsūtra 1.1.1. There he says that one needs to postulate a result which should be desired  by everyone (sarvakāmya), analogically extended (atideśa-āgata) from other sacrificial prescriptions which mention it, obtained through commendatory statements, etc., which name it, and instrumental for the satisfaction of ancestors and gods. The relavant passage reads:

svādhyāyo 'dhyetavya iti vidhes svavākye phalādarśanāt, […] vidhyānarthakyaprasaṅgād viśvajinnyāyena svargaṃ vā bhāvyaṃ parikalpya […] adhyayanacodanāliṅgakātideśāgatajapādhyayanārthavādoktapitṛdevatṛptidvārakaṃ sārvakāmyaṃ phalam upādāya […]

Since one does not see the result (phala) of the prescription ''One has to study one's portion of the Veda'' in the sentence where it is itself [prescribed] (svavākya)[…] since there would be the undesired consequence that the prescription would be meaningless, we have alternatively (vā) postulated a heaven to be realised according to the Viśvajit-rule (and attributed it to the prescription to study). […]
Thus, we have accepted a fruit which is desirable to all, through which gods and ancestors (pitṛ) gain their satisfaction, expressed in commendatory statements (arthavāda), recitation and murmuring, and obtained (āgata) through an analogical extension whose mark is the injunction (codanā) to study.

Why does one's studying of the Veda satisfy gods and ancestors? Because one's study of the Veda is described in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (, but I am copying from Kane) as a Brahmayajña: "4--7 compare ṛk, yajus, sāman and Atharvāṅgiras texts respectively to offerings to gods of milk, ghee, soma and fat and it is stated that the gods being delighted and satisfied with these, bestow on the man who performs brahmayajña affluence and security, life-breath, seed, his whole self and all auspicious blessings and streams of ghee and honey flow for his departed pitṛs" (Kane, vol. 2.1 p. 701).

For further posts on Vedānta Deśika's Seśvaramīmāṃsā, see this one and this one (in Sanskrit).

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