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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why starting with ritual and not directly with Vedānta? Veṅkaṭanātha's answer

Should a Vaiṣṇava really first start with the study of the ritual action (i.e., with the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā) and only later on reach what really matters, i.e., the study of Vedānta? —This seemed to have been a popular question at Veṅkaṭanātha's time, as testified most of all in his Mīmāṃsāpādukā:

It is possible to investigate on ritual action (karman) also immediately after the investigation on brahman. Therefore, the brahmakhaṇḍa [of the Veda, i.e., the Upaniṣads] should precede, and this (investigation on karman) should come after (and not the other way round, as the sequence of Pūrva- and Uttara-Mīmāṃsāsūtra would suggest). If it is so, the announcement of an investigation in the form of "Now, the desire to know the brahman" (i.e., Brahmasūtra 1.1.1) would regard the whole Veda, and the announcement in the form "Now, the desire to know the dharma" (i.e., Mīmāṃsāsūtra 1.1.1) would regard only what is explicitly heard [in it] (i.e., the dharma=karman). Therefore, given that there is nothing which makes one decide between the alternatives, there is no unity of the śāstra (i.e., of Pūrva and Uttara Mīmāṃsā). […] If you say that in the brahmakhaṇḍa one investigates on Sāmaveda verses, and that these are included in the karmakhaṇḍa, which thus needs to be done first, then [remember] that also the investigation on the brahman should be done before that on the karman, since Viṣṇu is the object of voiceless sacrifices and thus the cognition of various sacrifices […] depends on the cognition of him.
(Satpathasaṃcāra commentary on the Mīmāṃsāpādukā 1.1.15)

The following is (most probably;-)) Veṅkaṭanātha's answer:

Without a specific cognition of the ritual actions, one cannot perform the Udgīthas and the other [Vedic offerings and recitations]. Even without a specific cognition of the All-pervader one can perform a ritual action. The immaculate cognition which has the All-pervader as its content does not come first because it is independent.

(Satpathasaṃcāra commentary on the Mīmāṃsāpādukā 1.1.15)
In other words, it is out of the sequence and thus does not need to come first. Thus, the sequence is ruled by other principles, such as the fact that the ritual actions need to be investigated in order to be performed.

What led a Viśiṣṭādvaitin to the wish and need to inglobate Mīmāṃsā in his philosophy?

For further posts on Veṅkaṭanātha, check here. For his struggles with Mīmāṃsā see here ("retrospect").


ombhurbhuva said...

Possibly this is analogous to the question as to what came first in the order of literary compositions, poetry or prose. Thinking analytically one might consider that poetry requires a mastery that presupposes prior competence in plain speech. That is not the case of course as the literature of all cultures demonstrates. In the matter of the divine, worship used the materials to hand to express the immediate realisation. How do we prove this, how can we rationally establish this is a later event. In the bible there is no Theology because it’s all theology.

elisa freschi said...

It is an interesting suggestion. Are you saying that poetry:ritual=prose:theology? In other words, ritual would be the non-analytical approach to the same reality later on reflected upon.

अश्वमित्रः said...

[Thinking analytically one might consider that poetry requires a mastery that presupposes prior competence in plain speech. That is not the case of course as the literature of all cultures demonstrates.]

Well, maybe not ALL cultures. Like, who would know anyway?

I guess probably people were always pretty masterful in plain speech before they started writing poetry.

ombhurbhuva said...

we are talking here about ritual which is symbolism in action which naturally lends itself to poetry the most heightened form of expression.

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