Hindu Dharma: Chandas
Foot of the Vedapurusa
We so often hear people[Tamils] speak of "Chanda-t-Tamizh". Men of devotion say that the praises of the lord must be sung in "Chanda-t-Thamizh". "Chanda(m)" is derived from "Chandas".
"Chandas", as I have already said, means the Vedas. Bhagavan says in the Gita that the Vedas are leaves of the pipal tree called Creation-- Chandamsi yasya parnani. Instead of "Veda", the Lord uses the word "Chandas". However, the "Chandas" I am going to speak about does not mean the Vedas but prosody and represents the foot of the Vedapurusa.
The Rgveda and the Samaveda are entirely poetical in form. The Yajurveda consists of both prose and poetry. It is because poetry forms their major part that the Vedas are called Chandas.
The tailor takes your measurement to make your suit. He will not otherwise be able to cut the cloth properly. Similarly, poetry gives form to our thoughts and feelings. Your shirt has to be so many inches wide, so many inches long, isn't so? Similarly, poetry also has its measurement expressed in "feet" and number of syllables. The Sastra that deals with such measurement is "Chandas" and the text on which it is chiefly based is Chanda sutra by Pingala. People who have received initiation into a mantra touch their head with their hand, mentioning the name of the sage associated with the mantra, touch their nose mentioning the chandas and touch their heart mentioning the deity invoked.
All Vedic mantras in verse are Chandas. Non-Vedic poetry is in the form of "slokas". Prose is called "gadya" and poetry "padya". In Tamil, poetry is called "seyyul", in Telugu "padyam". The term chandas also refer to poetic metre(prosody). There is a metre called "Anustubh" in which are composed the Ramayana and the Puranas.
There are rules governing the number of feet in each stanza, and the number of syllables in each foot. The metre "Arya" is based on matras, syllables short and long. Take the word "Rama": the long syllable "Ra" is two matras while the short one "ma" is one matra. There are stanzas in which each foot is determined by the number of syllables, no matter whether they are short or long. Other metres are based on matras.
Pada or Foot
I said Chandas is the foot of the Vedapurusa. Poetry also has its foot. In tamil poetry there are "iradikkural" (stanzas with two feet), naladiar(stanzas with four feet), etc: "adi" here has the same meaning as "pada", that is foot. Naladiar does not mean four adiyars. Great devotees are called adiyars because they lie at the lotus feet of the Lord. (In Sanskrit too we have similar terms like "Acaryapada", Govindapada", and "Bhaghavatpada". Naladiar means stanzas with four feet.
If "foot" is called "pada" or "pada" in sanskrit, it is known as "adi" in tamil. (It goes without saying that "foot is the English equivalent) A stanza must have a certain number of feet and its metre must have a certain number of letters or syllables. "Pada", "adi", "foot"--thus all languages have words with the same meaning to denote a line of a stanza. The realisation that there is something common to all mankind, something that shows the unity of the human race, is inwardly satisfying.
One-fourth of a mantra or a stanza is called a "pada". In Tamil one out of four parts is called "kal"(that is foot). The foot ("leg")forms one-fourth of the human body. From the head to the waist is one half of the body, and from the waist to the feet is another half. And half of the latter half, i.e. one fourth is "kal" in Tamil or foot(leg). The waist is called "arai" in that language, meaning half.
In Tamil "kal" usually means the entire leg and "padam" or "padam" is used to denote the foot. But in some contexts kal is used in the sense of the foot. For instance, in terms "ullangal" and "purangal" (sole and upper part of the foot respectively) only the foot is referred to. In Sanskrit too "pada" means both leg and foot.
Feet and Syllables
A Vedic mantra or the stanza of an ordinary poem is divided into four parts. In most metres there are four feet and each foot is divided into the same number of syllables or mantras. When the feet are not equal we have what is called a metre that is "visama": "vi+sama" = "visama". "Sama" indicates a state of non-difference, of evenness. When we do something improper, departing from our impartial "middle position", our action is characterised as "visama". The word is also used in the sense of "craftiness" or "cunning". But the literal meaning of "visama" is "unequal".
To repeat, if all padas of a stanza are not uniform they are said to be "visama". If alternate lines or padas are equal they are called "ardha-samavrtta". The first and second are unequal here, so too the third and the fourth. But the first and third and the second and the fourth are equal.
In most poems the padas are equal. Let me illustrate with a sloka with which, I suppose, all of you are familiar:
The four feet of this stanza:
1. Suklambaradharam Visnum
2. Sasivarnam caturbhujam
3. Prasannavadanam dhyayet
Each pada in this has eight syllables.
Only vowels and consonants in conjunction with vowels are to be counted as syllables; other consonants are not to be counted. Then alone will you get the figure of eight. The eight syllables in the first pada are :1. su; 2. klam; 3. ba; 4. ra; 5. dha; 6. ram; 7. vi; 8. snum. The other padas will have similarly eight syllables each.
The stanza with four feet, each foot of eight syllables, is "Anustubh", which metre is used in the Vedas and in poetical works of a later period
How Poetry was Born
There is no tonal variation in poetry as there is in Vedic mantras. The unaccented poetic stanza corresponding to the accented Vedic mantra owes its origin to Valmiki, but its discovery was not the result of any conscious effort on his part.
One day Valmiki happened to see a pair of kraunca birds sporting perched on the branch of a tree. Soon one of the birds fell to the arrow of a hunter. The sage felt pity and compassion but these soon gave way to anger. He cursed the hunter, the words coming from him spontaneously: "O hunter, you killed a kraunca bird sporting happily with its mate. May you not have everlasting happiness".
Manisada pratistham tvam
Agamah sasvatih samah
Unpremeditatedly, out of his compassion for the birds, Valmiki cursed the hunter. But, at once, he regretted it. "Why did I curse the hunter so? " When he was brooding thus, a remarkable truth dawned on him. Was he not a sage with divine vision? He realised that the very words of his curse had the garb of a poetic stanza in the Anustubh metre. That the words had come from his lips, without his being aware of them himself (in the same way as he had, without his knowing, felt compassion and anger in succession), caused him amazement.
It occurred to him that the stanza he had unconsciously composed had another meaning. The words aimed at the hunter were also words addressed to Mahavisnu. How? "O consort of Laksmi, you will win eternal fame by having slain one of a couple who was deluded by desire. " Ravana and his wife Mandodari are the couple referred to here and Ravana was deluded by his evil desire for Sita. Sri Rama won everlasting fame by slaying him. Without his being aware of it, the words came to Valmiki as poetry. Realising it all to be the will of Isvara, the sage composed the Ramayana in the same metre.
The "sloka" (without the Vedic tonal variation) was born in this manner. Valmiki was filled with joy that he had come upon the sloka as a medium that facilitated the expression of the highest of thoughts in a form that made it easy to remember like the Vedas themselves.
Prose is not easily retained in memory, not so poetry composed in metrical form. That is why in ancient times everything was put down in verse. Prose developed [in any significant sense] only after the advent of the printing press after which books began to be produced in large numbers for ready reference, obviating the need to memorise everything.
However it be, in conveying an idea or a message (or in imparting information) poetry has greater beauty and greater power. The Ramayana was the first poetical work, hence its name "Adikavya". We received the gift of the birth of various metrical forms used in the hymns to various deities, in the Puranas and in other poetical works
Some Metrical Forms
"Indravajra", "Upendravajra", "Bhujangavijrmbhita", "Sragdhara" are some of the metres in devotional and other poetical works. Some of them are intricate and only highly gifted people are capable of composing them.
As mentioned earlier, the foot of a stanza with eight syllables Anustubh. With nine syllables it is "Brhati" and with ten "Pankti". "Tristubh" has eleven syllables and "Jagati" twelve. We have a 26-syllable metre ("Bhujangavijrambhita") which belongs to the category of "Utkrti". Beyond this is "Dandaka" of which there are several types. The metre in which Apparasvamigal's Tiru-t-tandagam is composed is related to this metre.
Some metres have beautiful names. In poems composed in a certain metre the flow of words reminds of a playful tiger lunging forward; the metre is appropriately called "Sardulavikridita". "Sardula" means tiger; "vikridita" is playfulness. (This metre, belonging to the category of "Atidhriti", has 19 syllables). Each pada in it is divided into 12 and 7 syllables. Adi Sankara's Sivanandalahari is partly in this metre (a number of verses from the 28th stanza onwards). The initial verses of the part called "Stuti-satakam" of the Muka-Pancasati (which is a hymn to Kamaksi) are in this metre. The concluding one hundred verses, "Mandasmita-satakam", are entirely in this metre. "Bhujangaprayata" is the name of another metre which suggests a snake(bhujanga) gliding along. Our Acharya's Subrahmanya-bhujangam is in this metre. It belongs to the Jagati type with 12 syllables a foot, divided into six and six as in
Our Achrya's Saundaryalahari is in the Sikharini metre. It has 17 syllables in each pada. (It belongs to the category of Atyasti) The 17 syllables are divided into two parts of six and 11. The "Padaravinda-satakam" of the Muka-Pancasati is in this metre. The metre called "Sragdhara" suggests a flow of words breaking through the floodgates of poetry. It has 21 syllables (belonging to the "Prakrti" class) and each pada has three sets of seven syllables. Our Acarya's hymns to Siva and Visnu (describing them from foot to head and from head to foot - padadikesanta and kesadi-padanta) are in this metre.
I mentioned "Indravajra" first. It belongs to the Tristubh category with 11 syllables in each pada. Another 11 syllables metre is "Upendravajra". A mixture of both is "Upajati": Kalidasa's Kumarasambhavam is in this metre.
All these metres belong to the post-Vedic period and are employed in poetical works as well as in hymns to various deities. "Gayatri", "Usnik", "Anustubh", "Pankti", "Tristubh" and "Jagati" are Vedic metres.
"Gayatri" is a maha-mantra, the king of mantras. A mantra is usually named after the deity it invokes. "Siva-Pancaksari", "Narayana-Astaksari", "Rama-Trayodasi": in each of these the name of the deity as well as the number of syllables in the mantra are combined. The deity for Gayatri is Savita. Gayatri is the name of the metre also. The metre too, one should infer from this, has divine power expressed through the sound and tone of a mantra.
Gayatri, unlike most other mantras and slokas, has only three feet. Each foot has eight syllables and altogether there are 24 syllables. Because it has only three padas or feet it is called "Tripada-Gayatri". There are other Gayatris also. The first Vedic mantra, "Agnimile", is in the Gayatri metre.
(The 24-syllable Gayatri metre used in poetry and non-Vedic hymns has four padas, each of six syllables. Usnik has also four padas, each of seven syllables).
So far I have spoken about metres based on the number of syllables, that is without worrying about whether a syllable is long or short. In prosody the long and short syllables are called "guru" and "laghu" respectively. Poems that make no distinction between "short" and "long" are called "vrttas": those based on mantras are called "jati". In the latter type, a short syllable is one mantra and a long syllable is two mantras. Instead of the number of syllables what matters here is the number of matras.
The "Arya-satakam" of Muka-Pancasati is in the Arya metre. Amba, as Arya, belongs to the most plane; so it is proper that the verse used in singing her praises should also belong to an equally high order. That is why they are in the Arya metre, which is based on matras and not on the number of syllables. if you go by the number of syllables you are likely to be misled into thinking that the metre differs from verse to verse.
Uses of Chandas Sastra
Siksa sastra may be said to be a "guard" to ensure the right enunciation of a (Vedic) mantra. But it is Chandas that determines whether the form of the mantra is right. Of course the form of a mantra can never be wrong. The mantras, as mentioned so often, were not created by the sages and are not the product of their thinking. It was Bhagavan who caused them to be revealed to them. Man, beast, tree and other sentient creatures and insentient objects of creation exist as they should be according to the law of nature. In the same way, the metre of a Vedic mantra must be naturally correct. However, Chandas helps us to find out whether a mantra or sukta that is being taught or chanted has come down to us in its true form. We may check the hymn according to its metre and if we find it faulty we may correct it in consultation with people who are well-versed in such matters.
Apart from the mantras, which appeared on their own, are the composition of poets. Chandas is of help in giving shape to poetic thought and imagination. Like tala to music is chandas to poetry.
It is because poetry is composed according to a certain measure and its rhythm determined in a certain order of syllables that it acquires a definite form. It is also easy to memorise. Modern society is discarding all those rules of discipline meant to give it a definite character and purpose. In keeping with this new trend, poetry too is being written without any metre and "poets" compose as they please. People don't realise that to be free means to be firmly attached to a system, that discipline is the road to a higher freedom.
Chandas is the means by which we ensure that the Vedic mantra is preserved in its original form, it being impossible to add one letter to it or take away another. The very purpose of the Vedas is the raising up of the Self. Must we then permit a single sound to be added to it or be taken away?
Each mantra has a deity (the deity it invokes), its own metre and its own seer (the seer who revealed it to the world). Mentioning the name of the rsi and touching our head with our hand have their own significance, that of holding his feet with our head. We first pay obeisance to the sages because it is from them that we received the mantras. We then mention the chandas or metre of the hymn and touch our nose with our hand. Chandas protects the sound of a mantra and is like its vital breath. So we place our hand on that part of our body with which we breathe. Without breath there is no life. While for all the Vedas taken as a whole Siksa is the nose and Chandas the foot, for the mantras proper Chandas is the nose.
When we commence to chant a mantra we must meditate on its adhi devata, or presiding deity, and feel his presence in our hearts. This is the reason why we touch our hearts as we mention the name of the deity.
The Vedapurusa stands on Chandas. " Chandah pado Vedasya": the Vedic mantras are supported by Chandas
Hindu Dharma: Nirukta
Ear of the Vedapurusa
Nirukta serves the purpose of a Vedic dictionary, or "kosa". A dictionary is also called a "nighantu", which term is used in Tamil also. Nirukta, which deals with the origin of words, their roots, that is with etymology, is the ear of the Vedapurusa. It explains the meaning of rare words in the Vedas and how or why they are used in a particular context. Many have contributed to Nirukta, the work of Yaksa being the most important.
Take the word "hrdaya" (heart). The Vedas themselves trace its origin. "Hrdayam" is "hrdi ayam" : it means that the Lord dwells in the heart. "Hrd" itself denotes the physical heart. But with the suffixing of "ayam" - with the Lord residing in it - its Atmic importance is suggested. The purpose of any sastra is to take you to the Supreme Being. "Hrdaya" is so called because Paramesvara resides in "hrd". Thus each and every word has a reason behind it. Nirukta makes an inquiry into words and reveals their significance.
"Dhatu" means "root" in English. In that language one speaks of the root only of verbs, not of nouns. In Sanskrit all words have dhatus. Such words, transformed or modified, must have been adopted in other languages. That is why we do not know the root of many words in these tongues. After all, such an exercise would be possible only if the words in question belonged naturally to them. Take the English work "hour". Phonetically it should be pronounced "h o u r" ("h" being not silent) or "h o a r". At one time the word indeed must have been pronounced "hoar". "Hora-sastra" is the name of a science in Sanskrit, "hora" being from "ahoratram" (day and night). "Hora" is two and half nadikas or one hour. The English "hour" is clearly from this word. In the same way "heart" is from "hrd". There are so many words like this which could be traced to Sanskrit. It must have taken a long time for words in other languages to evolve into their present form. That is why those who speak them find it difficult to discover their origin [or root].
How does it help to listen to someone speaking a language without understanding what he says? It is as good as not listening to him. In other words it is like being deaf. Nirukta finds the meaning of words by going to the root of each. That is why it is called the ear of the Vedapurusa: it is the ear of Sruti which itself is heard by the ear.
Western scholars learned Vyakarna and Nirukta from pandits in Kasi and acquainted themselves with the origin of words as described in the latter sastra. From this they developed the new science of philology. It is primarily from our Vyakarana and the Nirukta that the linguistic science has developed.
From their researches, Western scholars have arrived at the conclusion that all languages have one source. People all over the world are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the area where this primal language was spoken. There are differences of opinion with regard to this area, the home of this tongue. We need have no worry about it. After all, we believe that all places on earth are our home. "Yadum mure!" is a famous Tamil declaration. "Svadeso bhuvanatrayam" - the three worlds are our motherland.
Hindu Dharma: Jyotisa
Eye of the Vedapurusa
Of the fourteen branches of learning basic to our Vedic religion, I have so far dealt with siksa, Vyakarana, Chandas and Nirukta. These four form part of Sadanga (the six limbs of the Vedas). I will now speak about Jyotisa, it being the first of the remaining two of the Sadanga. Jyotisa, which is the science of the celestial bodies and the eye of the Vedapurusa, consists of three "skandhas" or sections. So it is called "Skandha-trayatmakam". Sages like Garga, Narada and Parasura have written samhitas (treatises) on this subject. The sun god, in disguise, taught the science to Maya, the carpenter of the Asuras. The work incorporating his teachings is called the Suryasiddhanta. There are treatises on astronomy written by celestials and sages and ordinary mortals. Of them some are by Varahamihira, Aryabhata and Bhaskaracarya. In recent times we had Sundaresvara Srautin who wrote a work called Siddhanta-Kausthubham.
Why is Jyotisa regarded as the eye of the Vedapurusa?
What purpose is served by the eye? Near objects may be perceived by the sense of touch. With our eyes we learn about distant objects. Just as our eyes help us to know objects that are distant in space (that is just as we see distant object with our eyes), Jyotisa sastra help us to find out the position of the heavenly bodies that are distant in time (their configuration many years ago in the past or many years hence in future).
We can find out directly the positions of the sun and the moon and other heavenly bodies. Just as we can know near objects, even if we are blind, by feeling them with our hands, we can learn about the positions of the heavenly bodies near in time even without the help of astronomy. What is 50 feet away is to be perceived by the eye. Similarly, if you want to know the position of planets 50 years ago or 50 years hence, you have to have recourse to Jyotisa.
We cannot, however, form a full picture of near objects only by feeling them. For instance, we cannot know whether they are green or red. For this, we must see them with our eyes. Again, even if we are able to see the planet with our naked eye, we will need the help of astrology to find out its effects on our life, how its positions in the heavens will influence our destiny.
This is the reason why Jyotisa is called the eye of the Vedapurusa. Vedic rituals are performed according to the position of the various planets [and the sun and the moon]. There are rules to determine this. The right day and hour [muhurta] for a function is fixed according to the position of the celestial bodies. Here again, Jyotisa performs the function of the eye.
This Anga of the Vedas is indeed called "nayana" which word means "to lead". A blind man needs to be led by another. So it is the eye that leads. Astronomy / Astrology is the eye that enables us to fix the hours for Vedic rituals.
Astronomy and Astrology
Astronomy examines the position of the planets and other heavenly bodies. It does not concern itself with how they affect the life of the world or the individual. It is not its function to find out how far the celestial bodies are beneficial to us or how they may be made favourable to us. Such functions belong to astrology. Jyotisa includes both astronomy and astrology.
Telling us about the results of performing a ritual at a given time, keeping in mind the position of the planets, the sun and the moon and the naksatras ( asterisms ), comes under the purview of astrology. The hours favourable to the performance of Vedic rites are determined according to calculations based on the movement of planets. All this entails mathematical work.
The measurements of the place where a sacrifice is to be conducted (yajnabhumi) are based on certain stipulations. These must be strictly adhered to if the sacrifices is to yield the desired benefits. Mathematics developed in this way as a handmaid to the Vedic dharma.
Ancient Mathematical Treatises
Jyotisa, as we have seen, consists of three sections. There was a scholarly man in the Matha who was particularly learned in this science. We wished to honour him with a title and decided upon "Triskandha-Bhaskara". "Skandha" literally means a big branch springing from the trunk of a tree. The three skandhas of Jyotisas are : siddhanta, hora and samhita.
The siddhanta-skandha deals with arithmetic, trigonometry, geometry and algebra. The higher mathematics developed by the west in later centuries is found in our ancient Jyotisa.
Arithmetic, called "vyakta-ganita" in sanskrit, includes addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. "Avyakta-ganita" is algebra. "Jya" means the earth and "miti" is method of measurement. "Jyamiti" evolved with the need to measure the sacrificial place :"geometry" is derived from this word. The "geo" in geography is from "jya". There is a mathematical exercise called "samikarana" which is the same as "equation".
The sixth Anga of the Vedas, Kalpa ( I will speak about it later ), has a great deal to do with the fifth, that is Jyotisa. Kalpa has a section on "sulba-sutras". These sutras mention the precise measurements of the "yajnavedi" (sacrificial altar). The character of the yajnabhumi is called "cayana". The sulba- sutras deal with a number of cayanas like, for instance, the one shaped like Garuda. They tell us how to construct a brick-kiln ---the number of bricks required for the cayana of such and such shapes. The siddhanta-skandha is used in all this.
There is an equation in the Apastamba sulba sutras which could not be proved until recently. Westerners had thought it to be faulty merely as they could not solve it. Now they accepted it as right. That Indians had taken such great strides in mathematics, thousand of years ago has caused amazement in the West. There are a number of old equations still to be solved.
Our sastras mention branches of mathematics like "rekhaganita, "kuttaka", "angapaka", etc. "Avyakta-ganita" is also called "bijaganita".
Eight hundred years ago there lived a great mathematician called Bhaskaracarya. An incident in his life illustrates how relentless destiny is. Bhaskaracarya had a daughter called Lilavati. The great astrologer that he was, he found that she had "mangalya-dosa" in her horoscope, but he felt confident that he could change his daughter's destiny, as foreshadowed by the stars, with his ingenuity and resourcefulness, as an astrologer. He decided to celebrate Lilavati's marriage during a lagna in which all the planets would be in positions favourable to the bride. This should, he thought, ensure that Lilavati would remain a "dirgha-sumangali".
In those days there were no clocks as we have today. A water-pot was used to measure time. It consisted of an upper as well as a lower part. The water in the upper receptacle would trickle down through a hole into the lower container. The lower part was graduated according to the unit of time then followed ---nazhikai (nadika), one sixtieth of a day or 24 minutes. So the time of day was calculated by observing the level of the water in the lower container. ("Water-clock" and "hour-glass" are English names for such an apparatus. Since water evaporates quickly sand was used instead. )
According to the custom then prevailing, Lilavati's marriage was to be celebrated when she was still a child. On the appointed day, she sat beside the water--clock and bent over it fascinated by the apparatus. As she fumbled around a pearl from her nose--stud got loosened and fell into the apparatus lodging itself in its hole. The flow of water into the lower receptacle was reduced. So what the clock indicated as the hour fixed for the marriage was not the right one---the auspicious hour had passed. Nobody including Lilavati, had noticed the pearl dropping into the water-clock. When they came to know about it, it was too late. They realised that destiny could not be overcome.
Later Bhaskaracarya wrote a mathematical treatise and named it "Lilavati" after his daughter. The father taught his widowed daughter mathematics and she became highly proficient in the subject. Lilavati deals with arithmetic, algebra, etc. It is a delightful book in which the problems are stated in verse as stories. Bhaskaracarya also wrote the Siddhanta-Siromani which deals with how the positions and movement of the heavenly bodies are determined.
We learn the text of an edict in the Pracinalekhamala that a Gurjara (Gujarat) king had made an endowment to popularise the works of Bhaskaracarya.
Parts 7, 8, 9 and 10 of Euclid's Geometry are believed to be lost. All the 12 books on mathematics in Sanskrit are still available. "Making additions several times is multiplication; carrying out subtraction several times is division. " We remain ignorant of such easy methods of calculations dealt with in our mathematical texts.
Varahamihira lived several years before Bhaskaracarya, that is about 1, 500 years ago. He wrote a number of treatises including the Brhat-Samhita and the Brhajjatika. The first is a digest of many sciences, its contents being a wonderful testimony to the variety of subjects in which our forefathers has taken strides. Brhajjatika is all about astrology.
Aryabhata, famous for his Aryabhatiya-Siddhanta, also lived 1, 500 years ago. The vakya--ganita now in use is said to be based on his Siddhanta. Varahamihira and Aryabhata are much acclaimed by mathematicians today.
All these books on mathematics also deal with the movements of the celestial bodies. There are seven "grahas" according to the ancient reckoning--the five planets and the sun and the moon. Rahu and Ketu are called "chaya -grahas" (shadow planets) and their orbits are opposite of the sun's and the moon's
Planets and Stars
How do the planets differ from the stars? The planets revolve round the sun; the stars do not belong to the sun's "mandala" [they are not part of the solar system]. If you hold a diamond in your hand and keep shaking it about, it will glitter. The stars glitter in the same way and twinkle, but the planets do not twinkle.
The sun and the stars are self-luminous. The stars dazzle like polished diamonds. The planets Jupiter and Venus shine like the bigger stars but they do not twinkle. The sun too has the brilliance of the stars[it is in fact a star]. If you gaze intently at the sun for a moment the watery haziness surrounding it will vanish. Then it will look like a luminous disc of glass floating in water and it will not be still. The moon is not like it. I will tell you how to prove the sun twinkles. Observe the sun sun's light pouring down from an opening in the roof. Observe similarly moon's light also coming into your room. You see the sun's rays showing some movement but not the moon's. The planets are also like the moon.
If the star is a big one, we may be able to see its light refracted into the seven colours(vibgyor), like the colours emanating from a brilliant diamond.
The sun is called "Saptasva" (one with seven horses--the sun god's chariot is drawn by seven horses). It is also said that there is only one horse drawing the chariot but it has seven different names. "Asva" also means "kirana" or ray. So "Saptasva" could mean that the sun emits seven types of rays or colours. It is of course the same light that is split into seven colours. In the Taittiriya Aranyaka it is clearly stated that the same "asva" or ray has seven names: "Eko asvo vahati saptanama. "
The stars are self-luminous, while the planets shine by reflected light. The light of the stars is not still. That is how we say, " Twinkle, twinkle little star ". The stars rise in the east and set in the West. The planets too travel westward but they keep moving a bit towards the east every day. It is like a passenger walking westward on a train speeding eastward. The seven planets thus keep moving eastward
The Grahas and Human Life
The conditions of man corresponds to the changes in the position of the nine grahas. A human being does not enjoy happiness all the time nor does he always suffer hardships-- that is he experiences a mixture of happiness and sorrow. While he may be pushed up to a high position today, he may be thrust down to the depths tomorrow. It is not man alone that is subject to changes of fortune. Establishments too have their ups and downs, so also nations.
The sages saw a relationship between the position and movements of the planets and the destiny of man, the sorrow and happiness experienced by him. There is a branch of astrology called "hora--skandha". If we knew the planetary position at the time of commencing a job or enterprise, with its help we should be able to find out how it would take shape, how we would fare in it. If our horoscope is cast on the basis of the configuration of the planets at the time of our birth, our fortunes over the entire period of our life can be predicted.
Different reasons are given for the ups and downs in a man's life for his joys and sorrows. It is similar to finding out the different causes of the ailment he suffers from. The physician will explain that the disease is due to an imbalance in the "dhatus". The mantravadin will say that it is due to the gods being displeased with the patient, while the astrologer will observe that it is all in his (the patient's) stars. The pandit versed in Dharmasastra will explain that the illness is the fruit of the man's past actions, his karma. And the psychologist will express the view that the bodily affliction is related to an emotional disturbance. What is the true cause?
All these different causes may be valid. All of them together go to create an experience. When it rains it becomes wet and the place is swarmed with winged white ants. Frogs croak. All these are indicators of the rain. Many outward signs manifest themselves as the fruits of our past karma. They are all related to one another. The course of the planets governing our life is in accordance with our karma. We come to know the consequences of our past actions in previous births in various ways. Astrological calculations help us to find out such consequences as indicated by the heavenly bodies.
Where can you discover water? Where does ground water occur? Or where do streams flow inside the earth? By what signs on the surface do you make out the presence of water underground? How are perfumes manufactured? What are the right measurements for a house? These questions are discussed in the samhita-skandha of Jyotisa. Also omens and signs.
"Sakuna" is one thing, "nimitta" quite another. "Sakuna" literally means a bird: only signs connected with birds come under the category of "Sakuna". All things in this world are interrelated: all happenings are linked to one another. If we know the precise scale and manner in which events are woven together, we would be able to know everything. Everything in this world occurs according to the will of the One Being and according to a precise system. So with reference to one we can know all others. Palmistry, "arudam" (a method of divination), astrology, all are interrelated.
What does a bird flying from right to left indicate? What is foretold by the chirping of such and such a bird? Question like these belong to the sakuna-sastra. "Nimitta" means omen. "Nimittani ca pasyami viparitani Kesava" says Arjuna to Krsna before the start of the battle of Kuruksetra. He uses the right word "nimitta" while we use the word "sakuna" carelessly. When a cat crosses our path it is an omen; when an eagle flies above us it is a sakuna.
To go back to Arjuna. The Lord tells Arjuna: "Nimittamatram bhava Savyasacin". This is in answer to Arjuna telling Krsna, lamenting, that it is sinful to kill one's enemies [or one's kin]. Says krsna: "I have already resolved to slay them in this battle. So they are already as good as dead. It is I who will kill them. You are a mere tool" (Nimittamatram bhava).
A nimitta does not produce any result on its own. It points to the result that has already been ordained by some other factor--or, in other words, it merely indicates the fruits of our past karma
Modern Discoveries in Ancient Works
There are a few scientific discoveries that are not found mentioned in Varahamihira's Brhat-Samhita.
How do heavenly bodies remain in the skies? How is it that they do not fall? Everybody thinks that it was Newton who found the answer to such questions. The very first stanza in the Suryasiddhanta, which is a very ancient treatise, states that it is the force of attraction that keeps the earth from falling.
In Sankara's commentary on the Upanisads there is a reference to the earth's force of attraction. If we throw up an object it falls to the ground. This is not due to the nature of object but due to the earth's force of attraction. "Akarsana-sakti" is force of attraction, the power of drawing or pulling something. The breath called "prana" goes up, "apana" pulls it down. So the force that pulls something downward is apana. The Acarya says the earth has apana-sakti. The Prasnopanisad (3. 8) states: "The deity of the earth inspires the human body with apana". In his commentary on this, Sankara observes that, just as an object thrown up is attracted by the earth, so prana that goes up is pulled down by apana. This means that our Upanisads contain a reference to the law of gravitation. There are many such precious truths embedded in our ancient sastras. Because of our ignorance of them we show inordinate respect for ideas propounded by foreigners, ideas known to us many centuries before their discovery by them. Our Jyotisa is also some thousands of years old. Even so it foresaw the mathematical systems prevalent in the world today.
At the beginning of the kalpa, all grahas were in alignment. But over the ages they have changed their courses. When another kalpa commences, they will again remain in alignment.
The "samkalpa" we make before the performance of any ritual contains a description of the cosmos, a reference to the time cycle, and so on. All this is part of Jyotisa.
Centuries ago, we knew not only about the earth's force of attraction but also about its revolution round the sun. Aryabhata, Varahamihira and others spoke of the heliocentric system long before the Western astronomers or scientists. Until the 16th century people in Europe believed that the earth remained still at the centre of the universe and that the sun revolved around it. They further believed that this was how day and night were created. If anybody expressed a different view he was burned at the stake by the religious leaders.
"It is the earth that revolves around the sun, not the sun round the earth", declared Aryabhata. He used a beautiful term to describe the logic behind his view : "laghava-gaurava nyaya". "Laghu" means light, small, etc and "laghava" is derived from it. The opposite of "laghu" is "guru", weighty, big, etc. "Guru" also denotes a weighty personality, a great man, like an acarya or teacher, one who has mastered a sastra. If the acarya is guru the disciple must be laghu. The student is small and "light" compared to his guru. So he goes round the latter. This is based on "laghava-gaurava nyaya". By adducing this reason for the earth going round the sun, Aryabhata combined science with a traditional sastric belief.
In the old days religious leaders in Europe were opposed to science and even burned scientists as heretics. But today we join the descendants of the very same people to make the preposterous charge that the Hindu religion stood in the way of scientific advancement, that it ignored the matters of this world because of its concern for the other world. As a matter of fact our traditional sastras are a storehouse of science.
"The sun remains still and it is the earth that goes round it. It is only because the earth revolves round the sun that it seems to us that the sun rises every day in the east and sets in the west". This is mentioned in Aitareya Brahmana of Rgveda. The text says clearly : "The sun neither rises nor sets".
That all learned people in India knew about the earth's revolution is shown by a passage in the Sivotkarsa-Manjari by Nilakantha Diksita who was minister of Tirumala Nayaka. One stanza in this work begins like this : "Bhumir bhramayati" and from it we must also gather that the author's great-uncle, Appayya Diksita, also knew about this truth. What is the content of this verse?
Siva is called "Astamurti". Earth, water, air, fire, space, the sun and the moon, the yajamana or sacrificer--they are all the personification (murti) of Isvara. Among them only the yajamana has no bhramana or motion. All the rest have bhramana, says Appayya Diksita. That he has said so is mentioned in the verse in question by his younger brother's grandson, Nilakantha Diksita.
We see that air has movement, that fire does not remain still, that water keeps flowing. When we look up into the sky, we notice that the sun and the moon do not remain fixed to their spots. As for space, it is filled with sound and it cannot be still. But the earth apparently stands still. Even so, says Appayya Diksita, it has motion. "It revolves".
Let us now consider the shape of the earth. Europeans claim that they were the first to discover that the earth is like a ball, that in the past it had been thought to be flat like a plate. All right. What word do we use for "geography"? "Bhugola sastra", not just "bhu-sastra". We have known from early times that the earth is a "gola", a sphere.
We call the universe with all its galaxies, "Brahmanda". It means the egg created by Brahma (the cosmic egg). An egg is not exactly spherical in shape, but oval. According to modern science the universe too is oval in shape. The cosmos is always in motion, so observe modern astronomers. "Jagat" is the word by which we have known it from Vedic times. What does the word mean? That which does not stand still but is always in motion, that which "is going".
In our country too there were people who refused to believe that the earth rotates on its axis. I will tell you the view of one such school of thought. The earth's circumference is about 25, 000 miles. So if it rotates once in 24 hours then it means it rotates more than 1, 000 miles an hour or 16 or 17 miles in one minute. Those who did not accept the fact of the earth's rotation tried to prove their point thus :"There is a tree in Mylapore [in Madras]. Imagine there is a crow perched on one of its branches. It leaves its perch this moment and soars high and, by the next minute, it perches itself again on the branch of the same tree in Mylapore. If the rotation of the earth were a fact how would this be possible? The crow should have descended to a place 16 or 17 miles away from where it had started.
I have not checked on how this argument was answered. But when I asked people who know modern science they said : "Surrounding the earth for some 200 miles is its atmosphere. Beyond that there are other spheres. When the earth rotates these too rotate with it". I may have gone slightly wrong in stating the view of modern science. However it be, there is no doubt that when the earth rotates, its atmosphere also rotates with it.
What are called Arabic numerals actually belong to India. This fact was discovered by Westerners themselves. The zero is also our contribution and without it mathematics would not have made any advance. Bhaskaracarya established the subtle truth that any quantity divided by zero is infinity ("ananta"). He concludes one of his mathematical treatises with a benedictory verse in which he relates zero to the Ultimate Reality.
When the divisor goes on decreasing the quotient keeps increasing, does it not? If you divide 16 by 8 the quotient is 2; if the same quantity is divided by 4 the result is 4. Divided by 2, the quotient is 8. Divided by zero? The quotient will be infinity. Whatever the number divided, the result will be infinity if the divisor is 0. Bhaskaracarya gives it the name of "khahara". "Kham" means zero, "haram" means division. Bhaskaracarya says : "I pay obeisance to the Paramatman that is Infinity"
Not Blind Belief
"Hindu sastras are all nonsensical, " exclaim critics of our religion. "They say that north of the earth is the Meru mountain, that our one year is one day for the celestials residing there, and that the sun revolves round it. They believe that, besides the ocean of salt, there are oceans of sugarcane juice and milk, in fact several kinds of oceans. They describe the earth with its five continents as consisting of seven islands. It is all prattle. "
Why should the ocean be salty? Who put the salt in it? Why should not there have been an ocean tasting sweet or of milk? Is the talk about the seven islands and the seven oceans absurd? What to the sastras say about the position of the earth, the same sastras that speak about the seven ocean, and so on? "Meru is situated on the northern tip of the earth, " they state. "Directly opposite to it is the Pole star(Dhruva). "
The northern tip of the earth is the North pole. Is the Pole star directly opposite to it? No. "Eons ago, " scientists explain, "it was so. But later big changes took place and the earth tilted a bit. " The sastras refer to a time when the Pole star was directly opposite the North Pole and at that time the seven islands and the seven oceans must have existed. When the rotating earth tilted a bit the oceans must have got mixed and become salty and in the process the seven islands must have become the five continents.
If there is a place above the North Pole it must be Meru where we have our svarga or paradise. Let us imagine that this earth is a lemon. A spot on its top is the Meru peak. In relation to that spot any other part of the fruit is south. Where can you go from there, east or west? You can go only south. You will learn this if you mark a point on the top of the lemon. For all countries of the earth, for all "varsas", north is Meru. "Sarvesamapi varsanam Meruruttaratahsthitah. "
On the North pole it is six months day and six months night. We must have been taught this in our primary classes. It means our one year is one day on the North pole. This is what is meant by saying that our one year is one day for the celestials.
When the earth rotates, the northernmost and southernmost points are not affected. In some places there will be sun for 18 hours and in other places only for six hours. There are many differences in the durations of day and night with regard to different places on earth. Only on some days does the sun rise directly in the east and is overhead without departing even by one degree. On other days it rises from other angles(from north-east to south-east). Such is not the case on the North pole. There the sun shines six months and the other six months it is darkness. And, again, during the sunny months it would seem as if the sun were revolving round this place(the North pole).
The six-month period when there is sun in the North Pole is called uttarayana and the similar sunny period on the South Pole is daksinayana.
The North Pole is called " Sumeru" and the South Pole "Kumeru". ("Sumeria" is from Sumeru. In that land, it is said, the Vedic gods were worshipped. ) Just as the North pole is the abode of the gods, the South pole is the abode of the fathers (pitrs) and hell. To see the gods and the pitrs who are in the form of spirits and the denizens of hell one must obtain divine sight through yoga. Merely because we do not possess such sight we cannot deny their existence. There was Blavatsky who was born in Russia, lived in America and later came to India. She speaks about the worlds of the gods and of the spirits. A great scientist of our times, Sir Oliver Lodge, affirmed the existence of spirits and deities and stated that mankind could benefit from them. If you ask why Jyotisa, after dealing with the science of astronomy, should turn to spiritualism, the answer is that there is no contradiction between the two as supported by the example of a scientist like Sir Oliver who too turned to spiritualism.
Our sastras came into existence at a time when mortals mixed with the gods. We would be able to appreciate this fact if we tried to understand the samkalpa we make at the time of performing any religious function. The samkalpa traces the present from the time of creation itself. From Jyotisa we learn the position of the grahas at the commencement of the yuga: then they were all in a line.
Some calculations with regard to heavenly bodies today are different from those of the past. And, if the findings at present are not the same as seen in the sastras, it does not mean that the latter are all false. The sastras have existed from the time the grahas were in a line and the North pole was directly opposite the Pole star. Since then vast changes have taken place in nature. Valleys have become mountains, mountains have become oceans, oceans have become deserts and so on. Geologists speak about such cataclysmic changes, and astronomers tell us about the change in the courses of the heavenly bodies. So what we see today of the earth and the heavenly bodies is different from what is mentioned in the sastras.
The date of creation according to Jyotisa agrees more or less with the view of modern science.
Kali yuga--the age of Kali--has a span of 432, 000 years. Dvapara yuga is twice as long, 864, 000 years, Treta yuga is 1, 296, 000 years and Krta yuga 1, 728, 000 years. The four yugas together, called maha yuga, are 4, 320, 000 years long. A thousand mahayugas add up to the period of 14 Manus. The regnal period of a Manu is a manvantara. There are royal and republican rulers on earth, but God has appointed Manu as ruler of all the worlds. There are fourteen Manus ruling the world successively from the creation of man. The word "manusya" and " manuja" are derived from Manu. So too the English word "man". In the samkalpa for any ritual we perform we mention the year of the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata. If we go back to the first Manu, Svayambhuva, we arrive at a date for the origin of the human species which agrees with the view of modern science.
The Sanskrit word, "man", means to think. Manu was the first of the human race with its power of thinking. There is a saying in English :" Man is a thinking animal. " "Since man's distinctive characteristic is his capacity to think the descendants of Manu came to be called "manusyas. "
The life-span of the fourteen Manus put together make one day(daytime) of Brahma, that is 4, 320, 000, 000 years. His night has the same length. While one day of Brahma is thus 8, 640, 000, 000 years his one year is 365 such days and his life-span is 100 such years. The life of his cosmos is the same. When Brahma's life comes to an end the Brahman alone will remain and there will be no cosmos. Then another Brahma will start creation all over again. It is believed that Hanuman will be the next Brahma.
Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka, Suvarloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka comprise the seven worlds. The gods, mortals and so on live in these worlds. Bhuloka, Bhuvarloka and Suvarloka form one group. "Bhurbhuvassuvaha, " we pronounce this so often while performing rituals. The remaining four belong to higher planes. When Brahma goes to sleep at night the first three worlds will be dissolved in the pralaya (deluge). This is called "avantara-pralaya"("intermediate deluge"). All other worlds will perish when his life-span ends.
Scientists say that the heat of the sun is decreasing imperceptibly. Without the warmth of the sun there will be no life on earth. Scientists have calculated the time when the sun's heat will be reduced so much that life on earth cannot be sustained. Then this world itself will perish. The date on which this will occur agrees with that given by our sastras for the next "avantara-pralaya".
Half of Brahma's allotted life-span is over. This life-span is divided into seven "kalpas". Now we have come more than half way of the fourth kalpa, "Svetavaraha". We mention in samkalpa how old Brahma is at the time we perform a rite, which year we are in of the saka era, also the year according to the 60-year cycle beginning with Prabhava--all details of the almanac including the day, the asterism and the lagna. The date of Brahma's appearance, according to this calculation is said to agree with the view of modern science of when this cosmos came into being.
Brahma is called "Parardha-dvaya-jivin". It means he lives for two "parardhas". A "paradha" is half the number meant by "para". When Brahma is called "Paradha-dvaya-jivin" it means he lives as many years as is meant by 2*1/2 paras. Two half paras are the same as one para. Then why say "parardha-dvaya" instead of just one "para". The reason for this is that Brahma has already completed half of one para and is going on 51. So it is meaningful to use the term "half of para"[two half-paras].
Fourteen Manus reign successively during one daytime of Brahma which lasts a thousand caturyugas. So one manvantara is 71 caturyugas. Now running is the 28th caturyuga, the Vaivasvata manvantara. And of it, it is Kali yuga now. In our samkalpa we mention all this and, in addition, the day according to the moon, the Lagna, etc. We also mention how we are situated in the space, from the Brahmanda down to the locality where we are performing the function (for which the samkalpa is made). It is all similar to writing the date and address on a letter
A ray of light pouring through an opening in the roof of a building falls on a particular spot. Normally, we shall not be able to tell where the same ray of light will fall next year. But a prediction can be made with the help of Jyotisa. This is how it was done in the olden days. A pearl attached to a thread was hung from the roof. If a man was able to indicate correctly in advance where its shadow would fall on a particular day, he received a reward from the king. One's competence in other sastras is established through argument, but in Jyotisa it has to be proved by actual demonstration. You cannot deceive anyone by employing the methods taught by this science. The sun and the moon are witness to what you do. "Pratyaksam Jyotisam sastram. "
Hindu Dharma: Kalpa
Hand of the Vedapurusa
The sixth limb or Anga of the Vedapurusa is Kalpa, his hand. The hand is called "kara" since it does work (or since we work with it). In Telugu it is called " sey ". Kalpa is the sastra that involves you in "work". A man learns to chant the Vedas, studies Siksa, Vyakarana, Chandas, Nirukta and Jyotisa. What does he do next? He has to apply these sastras to the rites he is enjoined to perform. He has to wash away his sins, the sins earned by acting according to his whims. This he does by the performance of good works. For this he must know the appropriate mantras and how to enunciate them correctly, understanding their meaning. Also certain materials are needed and a house that is architecturally suited to the conduct of the rituals. The fruits yielded by these must be offered to the Isvara. Kalpa concerns itself with these matters.
Why does a man learn the vedas? Why does he make efforts to gain perfection with regard to the purity and tone of their sound by learning Siksa, grammar and prosody? And why does he learn Jyotisa to find out the right time to perform rituals? The answer is to carry out the injunctions of Kalpa.
How is a rite to be performed, what are the rituals imposed upon the four castes and on people belonging to the four asramas (celibate students, house-holders, forest recluses and ascetics )? What are the mantras to be chanted during these various rites and what are the materials to be gathered? What kind of vessels are to be used, and how many rtviks (priests) are needed for the different rituals? All these come under the province of Kalpa.
A number of sages have contributed to the Kalpa sastra. Six sages have composed Kalpasutras for the Krsna-Yajurveda which is predominantly followed in the South - Apastamba, Baudhayana, Vaikhanasa, Satyasadha, Bharadhvaja, Agnivesa, Asvalayana and Sankhayana have written Kalpasutras for the Rigveda but the former's is most widely followed. For Sukla-Yajurveda there is the Kalpasutra by Katyayana. For the Kauthuma, Ranayaniya and Talavakara Sakhas of the Samaveda, Latyayana, Drahyayana and Jaimini respectively have composed Kalpasutras.
Kalpa contains Grhyasutras and Srautasutras for each recension. Both deal with the 40 samskaras to be performed from conception to death. The cremation of the body is also a sacrifice, the final offering: it is called "antyesti" and it is also to be performed with the chanting of mantras. "Isti" means a sacrifice and in antyesti the body is offered in the sacred fire as a "dravya" or material.
A Brahmin has to perform 21 sacrifices: seven "haviryajnas" based on agnihotra; seven pakayajnas and seven somayajnas. Of them the seven haviryajnas and the seven somayajnas are not included in the Grhyasutras. They belong to the Srautasutras. Together with these there are forty rites for a Brahmin -- they are called samskaras. A samskara is that which refines and purifies the performer.
Agnihotra is performed at home and yajnas [of a bigger type] in specially constructed halls. While the srautasutras contain instructions for the conduct of big sacrifices, the Grhyasutras are concerned with domestic rites. The names given before are of the authors of Srautasutras.
The Kalpasutras deal with the forty samskaras and with the eight "Atmagunas" [qualities to be cultivated by individuals]. Apart from the seven haviryajnas and seven somayajnas (together 14) the remaining 26 belong to the category of Grhyasutras. Among them are garbhadhana, pumsavana, simanta, jatakarma, namakarana, annaprasana, caula, upanayana and vivaha. I shall be dealing with them later.
The eight Atmagunas are compassion, patience, freedom from jealousy, purity or cleanliness, not being obstinate, keeping a cool mind, non-covetousness and desirelessness. These are among the "samanya-dharmas", universal virtues, to be cultivated by all jatis.
When we do "abhivadhana" [as we prostrate ourselves before the fire or before a preceptor or any elder], we mention, among other things, the sutra that we follow. To illustrate: Samavedins mention Drahyayana-sutra. Drahyayana has authored only Srautasutra. Another, Gobhila, has written a Grhyasutra. In the old days when it was a common practice to conduct big sacrifices the Srautasutras which deal with them were mentioned in the abhivadhana. This practice continues though we no longer perform srauta sacrifices and go through only such functions as marriage which are dealt with by Grhyasutras.
In the past even poor people performed srauta rituals. They got all the materials required by begging. Brahmins who were called "prati-vasanthasomayajins" conducted soma sacrifices every year during the spring [that is what the term means]. If a man had enough income to meet three years' expenses (of his family) he conducted the soma sacrifice during every season of spring.
Now there is a decay in all fields. Things have turned topsy-turvy. People spend three times their annual income but, ironically enough, owing to changes in trade and commercial practices all, including the rich, suffer from poverty and hardship. There must be moderation in everything. All the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our times have led only to indigence even in the midst of plenty. The rich man has brought himself to a position of not being able to afford all his expenses. With moderation alone will there be the means to do good works.
The sikha, the pundra and the religious rites vary from sutra to sutra. Some wear "urdhva-sikha" [lock of hair on the crown of the head], some "purva-sikha" [lock of hair on the forepart of the head]. Similarly there are differences in wearing the marks on the forehead: some wear vertical marks (urdhva-pundra) and some horizontal (tripundra). These are according to the tradition one follows.
Cayana is an important feature of sacrifices. There are two types of sulba-sutras in Kalpa: "samanya" (ordinary or common) and "visesa" (special). There are sulba-sutras by Katyayana, Baudhayana, Hiranyakesin and so on. In the south there is what is called "Andapillai-prayoga". "Andapillai" belong to Tiruppanantal and was named after the deity Ganesa ( "pillayar ") of Tiruvidaimarudur (Tanjavur district). It is according to his method that srauta works are performed. The srauta sacrifices are large-scale sacraments not conducted in the home but in a "yagasala". Rites that are not so big are "grhya" and performed at home. Since big sacrifices have become rare, the Grhyasutras have gained greater importance. Besides, alien sastras, alien practices, are becoming more and more popular.
All our sastras have one goal, that of holding the lotus-feet of Isvara. Whatever we read must be in the form of an offering to the Lord and it must be capable of bringing us Atmic merit. Our sastras belong to such a category. It is a matter for regret that the conduct of srauta works (havir and soma sacrifices), which are of the utmost importance to the Vedic religion, has become very rare.
Among those who have authored Kalpasutras, but for Drahyayana and Katyayana, all the rest, like Apastamba, Baudhayana and Asvalayana, have written both Srauta and Grhya sutras.
Apart from the above two types of sutras, we have the "Dharmasutras". These deal with a man's individual, domestic and social life. The Dharmasastra is based on them. What we understand by the English term "law" is derived from them. They are also the basis of the moral and legal sastras of Manu, Mitaksara and so on. (The following Dharmasutras have been handed down to us: those of Vasistha and Visnu for the Rgveda; those of Manu, Baudhayana, Apastamba and Hiranyakesin for the Krsna-Yajurveda; and those of Gautama for the Samaveda). Since the Atharvaveda has hardly any following its Kalpasutras are not in observance.
Kalpa deals with rites in their minutest detail. All the actions of a Brahmin have a Vedic connection. Through each and every breath he takes in, with each step he takes, he will be able to grasp the divine powers for the well-being of the world because of this Vedic connection and only because of it. The Kalpasutras contain rules with regard to how a Brahmin must sit, eat, wear his clothes and so on.
This "limb" of the vedas also deals with the construction of houses. Why? The design -- or architecture -- of a Brahmin's dwelling must be such as to help him in the performance of his duties according to the scriptures. If, say, there is a rule about the doorway where he should offer the " vaisvadeva-bali ", should not the doorway be constructed in the required sastric manner? Is the modern "flat" suitable for such rites? The character of the place where the " aupasana " is to be performed is described in Kalpa. A class-room where children are taught has to meet certain requirements: it must have a desk, benches, etc. The laboratory has to be different from it. Similarly, the architecture of a house and the design of a class-room differ functionally.
I perform puja. The place where I do it must have a certain special character. All rooms are similar in a bungalow. If a puja is performed in such a place, rules regarding ritual purity and difference based on varna and asrama cannot be properly maintained since people will come crowding together. The bungalow is built according to the white man's way of life. There must be separateness and at the same time togetherness; there must be a place for everybody. Even if we wish to have a place according to our customs and traditions, the new type of house does not help in this way. Our architecture has developed according to our traditions and needs. A cement floor cannot be maintained clean after eating. When washed or scrubbed with water, the " eccil " will spread. Westerners living in bungalows (or flats) eat at table.
We must build our houses according to our architectural science. The term "grhastha" itself is from "grha" (house). Those who observe ritual purity in matters like eating, living and clothing, must build their houses according to our architectural concepts. But we are now accustomed to living in houses built in an alien style. At first we may feel some qualms about the difficulty in practising our customs and traditions. Eventually, however, we are likely to get used to style of living and become careless about our religious observances. Instead of abandoning such houses, we abandon the religious and other practices which are part of our dharma.
I shall be speaking to you in some detail about the 40 samakaras included in Kalpa when I deal with Dharmasastra.
We have discussed ten of the caturdasa-vidya, the fourteen branches of vedic lore - the four vedas, Siksa, Vyakarana, Chandas, Niruktha, Jyotisa, and Kalpa. Four remain.
Hindu Dharma: Mimamasa - Karmamarga
Explication of Vedic Laws
Of the fourteen branches of learning(caturdasa-vidya), after the four Vedas and the Sadanga, we have the four Upangas of the vedas remaining. "Upa+anga"="Upanga. "The prefix "upa" is added to suggest what is auxiliary to a subject. "Sabhanayaka" means speaker; "upa-sabhanayaka" means deputy speaker. In the same way we have, after the six Angas(Sadanga), the four Upangas. These are Mimamsa, Nyaya, the Puranas and Dharmasastra.
"Mam" is the root of the word "Mimamsa"; "san" is the pratyaya. "Mimamsa" means "esteemed or sacred inquiry", an exposition. What is esteemed or worthy of worship? The Vedas. Mimamsa is an exegesis of the Vedas. Nirukta explains the meaning of the words of the Vedas, also their etymology in the fashion of the dictionary. Mimamsa goes further, to find out the significance of the mantras, their intent. It also gives its decisions on these points.
We have already discussed the karmakanda and the jnanakanda of the Vedas. Karmakanda is called the purva-bhaga,the first or early part of each Vedic recension, and the second or concluding part is the uttara-bhaga. Mimamsa too is divided in this way into Purvamimamsa and Uttaramimamsa. The first holds that sacrifices and other rites of the karmakanda form the most important part of the Vedas, while the second maintains that the realisation of the self taught in the jnanakanda is their true goal. I spoke about the Uttaramimamsa when I dealt with the Upanishads and the Brahmasutra.
Uttaramimamsa, that is the Brahmasutra as well as the Upanishads, constitutes"Brahmavidya" or vedanta here. It is the foundation of the three important philosophic systems - Advaita (non-dualism or monism), Visistadvaita (qualified non-dualism or qualified monism) and Dvaita (dualism).
Our present subject is Purvamimamsa. As a matter of fact the term "Mimamsa" itself usually denotes "Purvamimamsa". But mention of it brings to mind Uttaramimamasa also.
Every system has, as we have seen its sutras, bhasya, and vartika. The Purvamimamsa-sutra is by Jamini Maharsi, its bhasya by Sabarasvamin and its vartika by Kumarilabhatta. Kumarilabhatta's Bhattadipika remains the most important Purvamimamsa work. Kumarila was an incarnation of Kumarasvamin or Subrahmanya. Prabhakara has written a commentary or Purvamimamsa in which he expresses views which, on some points, are divergent from Kumarlibhatta's. So two different schools are identified in Mimamsa-"Bhatta-mata" and "Prabhakara-mata". Let us consider Mimamsa in general terms, ignoring the difference between the two schools. "Bhattamata", it is obvious, gets its name from the fact that it represents the views of Kumarilabhatta.
Jaimini's Purvamimamsa-sutra is a voluminous work and has twelve chapters,each having a number of "padas" and each pada having a number of "adhikaranas". In all, there are 1000 adhikaranas.
The Vedas constitute the law of Isvara. Since they are eternal and endless the law is also eternal. All of us are the subject of the monarch called Isvara. He has engaged many officials, authorities, like Indra, Vayu, Varuna, Agni, Yama, Isana, Kubera, Nirrti and so onto take care of this world. They need a law to protect the creatures of all the fourteen worlds. How should we, the subjects of Isvara, conduct ourselves according to this law, how are the officials appointed by Isvara to rule over his domain? We may find out the answer to these by examining the Vedas. There are judges who deliberate on the laws of this world and resolve doubts concerning them with the help of lawyers. If the Vedas are the law that determines how dharma is to be practised, it is jaimini who interprets the meaning of this law. His interpretation is Mimamsa.
When there is legal dispute, a verdict is given, say, according to the decision of the Allahabad or Bombay high court based on similar cases. The decision given by one court with regard to one case may be applied to a similar case that comes up before another court. In Jamini's Mimamsa a thousand issues (or points) are examined, taking into account the views opposed to those of the author of the sutras, and the meaning of the Vedic passage determined with cogent reasoning. To explain: first, a Vedic statement is taken up; second, questions are raised about its meaning ("samasya"); third, the opposing school's point of view is presented ("purvpaksa"); fourth, that point of view is refuted ("uttarpaksa"); and, fifth, a conclusion is arrived at ("nirnaya"). The process of arriving at the meaning of each issue or point constitutes an adhikarana.
The sutras of Jaimini are very terse. Sabara's commentary on them is called Sabaram. The word "sabari" usually means a hunter. "Sabari" of the Ramayana, they say, was originally a huntress. Sabara, the Mimamsa commentator, had an aspect of Isvara in him. It is believed that Isvara composed the commentary (Sabaram) when we appeared as a hunter to grant the Pasupata weapon to Arjuna.
Since it has one thousand adhikaranas, Purvamimamsa is called "Sahasradhikarani". One must add here that in this work the meaning of the Vedic texts are determined by countering many a captious argument ("kuyukti").
While Purvamimamsa concerns itself with the meaning of the karmakanda of the Vedas, Uttaramimamsa deals with the meaning of the jnanakanda, that is the Upanisads. The Upanisads speak primarily of the Paramatman and our inseparable union with him. Vyasa, in his Brahmasutra, determines the meaning of the divine law constituted by the Upanisads. Ironically enough, the sage who composed the sutras for Uttaramimamsa, Vyasa, was the guru of Jaimini who composed the sutras of Purvamimamsa.
Suresvaracarya wrote a commentary on the Taittiriya and Brhadaranyaka Upanisads from the non-dualistic point of view. It is not worthy that he had earlier been and adherent of Purvamimamsa. He made the transition from the path of works to the path of jnana, on becoming a disciple of Sankara and wrote a commentary on his guru's bhasya. Before becoming a disciple of our Acarya and a sannyasin he was called Mandanamisra. The story goes that Sankara approached Mandanamisra for a philosophical disputation during a sraddha performed by the latter. Vyasa and Jaimini were the two Brahmins to take part in the ceremony
No Concept of God in Mimamsa
Why should the Acarya have sought a debate with Mandanamisra, the mimamsaka? ( A mimamsaka is an adherent of Purvamimamsa. We Uttaramimamsakas are called "Vedantins". ) The Acarya it was who revivified the Vedic religion and re-established it on a firm footing. Why, then, should such a preceptor have been critical of Mimamsa which is an Upanga of the very Vedas we prompted?
Before answering this question, we must consider the goal of any sastra or system, whether it be Mimamsa or anything else. Any discipline, to repeat what I said before, must have the ultimate purpose of leading us towards Isvara. I further observed that even subjects like grammar, lexicography, prosody had such an end in view and that was the reason why they were included among the fourteen branches of Vedic learning. Now what is the concept of God like in Purvamimamsa?
We must here consider how Vedanta or Uttaramimamsa views God, for it is the system to which is the Acarya gave his whole-hearted support and which he also commented upon. After all, it is the Acarya who chiefly matters to us. And to him it is that Vyasa's Brahmasutra matters most. What does this text have to say about Isvara?
The Brahmasutra declares : "Karta sastrarthavattvat. " It means Isvara is the creator of the cosmos. Even adherents of other religions call God " Karta ". But Isvara is more than a Karta and has one more function. We do good and bad - good actions and bad actions. It is Isvara who vouchsafes us the fruits of such actions: "Phalam ata upapatteh". Isvara is the "phaladata" (giver of the fruits of our actions) of our karma. We do good and evil with our mind, speech and body. The lord is witness to all this and he dispenses the fruits of our actions. These are the two characteristics (laksanas) of Isvara according to Uttaramimamsa.
What does Purvamimamsa say about Isvara?
Both Sankhyas and mimamsakas belong to the Vedic system. But the Sankhyas believe that Isvara is not the Karta or author of the jagat (universe). "Isvara is pure knowledge, jnana, " they say. "This cosmos is insentient, made of earth and stone. What constitutes jnana cannot be the cause of insentient matter. To believe that Isvara is the author of the universe is not right. "Such is the Sankhya view. Supporters of Sankhya describe Isvara, who unattached to the universe and is pure jnana, as "Purusa". It is this Purusa that our Acarya calls the ultimate "Nirguna-Brahman" (the Brahman without attributes). However, he criticises the Sankhya concept maintaining that the Nirguna-Brahman itself becomes the Saguna-Brahman of Isvara to create the world and to engage itself in other activities.
To mimamsakas only such rites matter as are enjoined on us by the Vedas. They are silent on the question of Isvara and of who created the world. However they are emphatic on one point - that Isvara is not the one who dispenses the fruits of our actions. They don't quarrel on the point of whether or not Isvara is the Karta of the universe. They declare : "It is wrong to claim that Isvara gives us the fruits of our actions according to whether they are good or evil. He is not the one who metes out the fruits of our actions. It is the Vedic works performed by us that decide the fruits to be earned by us. "
So adherents of both Sankhya and Mimamsa, in their different ways, reject the view of the Vedas and the Brahmasutra that Isvara possesses the two laksanas mentioned earlier. The mimamsakas believe that Isvara doesn't dispense the fruits of our actions because, according to them, the Vedic works we perform give rewards on their own. We earn merit or demerit according to how the Vedas and sastras view our actions. So it is our karma that brings its rewards or retribution, as the case may be, not Isvara.
Among the religious systems that accept the Vedas, Sankhyas and Mimamsa alone hold the view that Isvara is not the creator of the world, that he does not award the fruits of our actions
Nyaya and Mimamsa :They brought about the Decline of Buddhism
Many believe that Buddhism ceased to have a large following in India because it came under the attack of Sankara. This is not true. There are very few passages in the Acarya's commentaries critical of that religion, a religion that was opposed to the Vedas. Far more forcefully has he criticised the doctrines of Sankhya and Mimamsa that respect the Vedic tradition. He demolishes their view that Isvara is not the creator of the world and that it is not he who dispenses the fruits of our actions. He also maintains that Isvara possesses the laksanas or characteristics attributed to him by the Vedas and the Brahmasutra and argues that there can be no world without Isvara and that it is wrong to maintain that our works yield fruits on their own. It is Isvara, his resolve, that has created this world, and it is he who awards us the fruits of our actions. We cannot find support in his commentaries for the view that he was responsible for the decline of Buddhism in India.
Then how did Buddhism cease to have a considerable following in out country? Somebody must have subjected it to such rigorous attack as to have brought about its decline in this land. Who performed this task? The answer is the mimamsakas and the tarkikas. Those who are adept in the Tarka-sastra(logic) are called tarkikas. The Tarka is the part of Nyaya which is one of the fourteen branches of Vedic learning and which comes next to Mimamsa. People proficient in Nyaya are naiyayikas; those well versed in grammar are "vaiyakaranis"; and those proficient in the Puranas are "pauranikas".
Udayanacarya, the tarkika, and Kumarilabhatta, the mimamsaka, opposed Buddhism for different reasons. The former severely criticised that religion for its denial of Isvara. To mimamsakas, as I have said earlier, Vedic rituals are of the utmost importance. Even though they don't believe that it is Isvara who awards us the fruit of our actions, they believe that the rituals we perform yield their own fruits and that the injunctions of the dharmasastras must be carried out faithfully. They attacked Buddhism for its refusal to accept Vedic rituals. Kumarilabhatta has written profusely in criticism of that religion. He and Udayanacarya were chiefly responsible for the failure of Buddhism to acquire a large following in this country. Our Acarya came later and there was no need for him to make a special assault on that religion on his own. On the contrary, his chief task was to expose the flaws in the systems upheld by the very opponents of Buddhism, Kumarilabhatta and Udayanacarya. He established that Isvara is the creator of the universe and that it is he who awards the fruits of our actions.
I am mentioning this fact so as to disabuse you of the wrong notions you must have formed with regard to Sankara's role in the decline of Buddhism. There is a special chapter in one of Kumarilabhatta's works called "Tarkapadam" in which he has made an extensive refutation of Buddhism. So too has Udayanacarya in his Bauddhadhikaram. These two acaryas were mainly responsible for the decline of Buddhism in our land and not Sankara Bhagavatpada. What we are taught on the subject in our textbooks of history is not true
Buddhism and Indian Society
In my opinion at no time in our history did Buddhism in the fullest sense of that religion have a large following in India. Today a number of Hindus, who are members of the Theosophical Society, celebrate our festivals like other Hindus and conduct marriages in the Hindu way. There are many devotees of Sri Ramakrsna Parmahamsa practising our traditional customs. Sri C. Ramanujacariyar, "Anna" (Sri N. Subramanya Ayyar) and some others are intimately associated with the Ramakrsna Mission but they still adhere to our traditional beliefs.
When great men make their appearance people are drawn to them for their qualities of compassion and wisdom. In the organisations established after them our sanatana dharma is followed with some changes. But a large number of the devotees of these men still follow the old customs and traditions in their homes.
Many regard Gandhiji as the founder almost of a new religion (Gandhism), and look upon him as one greater than avataras like Rama and Krsna. But in their private lives few of them practise what he preached- for instance, widow marriage, mixing with members of other castes, and so on. People developed esteem for Gandhiji for his personal life of self-sacrifice, truthfulness, devotion and service to mankind. But applying his ideas in actual life was another matter.
It was in the same way that the Buddha had earned wide respect for his lofty character and exemplary personal life. "A prince renounces his wife and child in the prime of his youth to free the world from sorrow": the story of Siddhartha, including such accounts, made an impact on people. They were moved by his compassion, sense of detachment and self-sacrifice. But it did not mean that they were ready to follow his teachings. They admired the Buddha for his personal qualities but they continued to subscribe to the varnasrama system and the ancient way of religious life with its sacrifice and other rites. Contrary to what he wished, people did not come forward in large numbers to become monks but continued to remain householders adhering to Vedic practices.
Emperor Asoka did much to propagate Buddhism; but in society in general the Vedic dharma did not undergo any change. Besides, the emperor himself supported the varnasrama dharma as is evident from his famous edicts. But for the Buddhist bhiksus(monks), all householders followed the Vedic path. Though they were silent on the question of Isvara and other deities, some book written by great Buddhist monks open with hymns to Sarasvati. They also worshipped a number of gods. It is from Tibet that we have obtained many Tantrik works relating to the worship of various deities. If you read the works of Sriharsa, Bilhana and so on in Sanskrit, and Tamil poetical works like that of Ilango Adigal, you will realise that even during times when Buddhism wielded influence in society, Vedic customs and varnasrama were followed by the generality of people.
Reformists today speak in glowing terms about Vyasa, Sankaracarya, Ramanujacarya and others. But they do not accept the customs and traditions I ask people to follow. Some of them, however, come to see me. Is it not because they feel that there is something good about me, because they have personal regard for me, even though they do not accept my ideas? Similarly, great men have been respected in this country for their personal qualities and blameless life notwithstanding the fact they advocated views that differed slightly from the Vedic tradition or were radically opposed to it. Our people any way had long been steeped in the ancient Vedic religion and its firmly established practices and, until the turn of the century, were reluctant to discard the religion of their forefathers and the vocations followed by them. Such was our people's attitude during the time of the Buddha also. When his doctrines came under attack from Udayanacarya and Kumarilabhatta even the few who had first accepted them returned to the Vedic religion
Sankara and Non- Vedantic Systems
The Acarya views the last stage or asrama in a man's life as the years during which he renounces Vedic works and devotes himself to meditation and metaphysical inquiry. But, unlike the Buddha, he does not want Vedic karma to be given up in the earlier stages. According to him, only after a man cleanses his consciousness through years of Vedic rituals is he to become exclusively devoted Atmic inquiry. First accept the karma that Mimamsa asks us to perform and finally give up that very karma as suggested by Buddhism.
The Acarya goes along with systems like Buddhism, Mimamsa, Sankhya, and Nyaya up to a point. He accepts them on a certain level, but on another level he disapproves of them. Each of these systems regards one aspect of truth to be final. Our Acarya harmonises them all into a single whole Truth
According to Sankhya, the Atman is Purusa and is the basis of all, though, at the same time detached from everything. In its view Maya which keeps everything going is Prakriti. The cosmos is contained in 24 "tattvas" ["thatnesses" or principles or categories] of which Prakrti is one- Prakrti is indeed the first of these and it has the name of"pradhana". From it arises the second tattva of "mahat" which is the intellect of Prakrti (like the intellect of man). From mahat(the great) is derived the third tattva of "ahamkara", the ego, self-consciousness, the feeling that there is a separate entity called "I".
Ahamkara divides itself into two: first as the sentient and knowing life of a man, his mind, his five jnanendriyas and five karmendriyas. The second is constituted by the five "tanmatras" and the five "mahabhutas " of the insentient cosmos. The jnanendriyas are faculties with which a man gets to know outside objects: the eyes that see objects, the nose that smells, the mouth that tastes, the ear that hears and the skin that feels by touch. With his karmendriyas he performs various actions. The mouth serves as a karmendriya also since it performs the function of speech. The hand, the leg, the anus and the genitals are all karmendriyas. The "asrayas" for jnanendriyas are sound (ear), feeling, sparsa (skin), form (eye), flavour or taste (mouth), smell (nose). These five are tanmatras. The tattvas in their expanded insentient forms are space (sound), air (feeling or touch), water (flavour), earth (smell), fire (form)- these are mahabhutas. Thus Prakrti, mahat, ahamkara, mind, the five jnanendriyas, the five karmendriyas, the five tanmatras, the five mahabhutas- all these make up the 24 tattvas.
These tattvas are accepted by non-dualistic Vedanta also. According to it, it is Isvara (the Brahman with attributes) who unites Purusa (or the Atman without attributes) with Prakrti or Maya. Sankhya, however, is silent on Isvara.
The three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas, according to the Sankhya philosophy, are accepted by all Vedantic systems including non-dualism. Sattva denotes a high state of goodness, clarity and serenity; rajas is all speed and action and passion; and tamas denotes sleep, inertia, sloth. The Gita has much to say on the subject in its "Gunatraya-vibhaga yoga". The Lord says: "Nistraigunyo Bhava" (Go beyond all three gunas and dwell in the Atman). Sankhya also believes that all undesirable developments are due to an imbalance of the gunas and that they must be maintained evenly. But, unlike the Gita, Sankhya does not tell us the means to achieve this- like worship of Isvara, surrender to him, Atmic inquiry and so on.
Purusa alone has life, Prakrti is inert. By itself Prakrti is incapable of performing any function. It manifests itself as the 24 tattvas only in the presence of Purusa. But Sankhya also speaks contradictorily that Purusa is "kevala-gnana-swarupin" unrelated to Prakrti. "Kevala" means what is by itself, isolated, without the admixture of anything else. "Kaivalya" is the name Sankhya gives to liberation. The state in which an individual, after discarding the 24 tattvas and being released from inertia, remains in the vital Purusa by himself is "kaivalya". (In Tamil "kevalam" has somehow come to mean "inferior" or "unworthy". )
Advaita also has the goal of one being absorbed in Purusa, that is the Atman, and discarding all else as Maya. To attain this state, the Acarya has cut out a path for us, the path that takes us to final release through works, devotion and philosophic inquiry. Sankhya does no such thing. Most of its teaching relates to forsaking the 24 tattvas.
Another unsatisfactory aspect of Sankhya is this. Purusa (the Atman) is jnana by itself and has no function. Prakrti has a function but is insentient and without jnana. How does this insentient Prakriti unfold itself as the 24 tattvas? According to Sankhya, this phenomenon occurs in the presence of Purusa. This is not a convincing explanation. How does Prakrti perform its function under Purusa that has no function? Supporters of Sankhya answer: "Are not iron filings brought into motion by the presence of a magnet? Does the magnet consciously want to keep them in motion? The magnet is by itself and the iron filings are in motion. Similarly, though Purusa is by himself, Prakrti is activated as a consequence of its vitality. "
Purusa and Prkrti work together like a cripple carried by a blind man. The cripple cannot walk and the blind man cannot see. So the cripple perched on the shoulders of the blind man shows the way and the latter follows his directions. Similarly, Prakrti which has no jnana carries Purusa who is full of jnana, but Prkrti without jnana is behind all affairs of the world. This may sound good as a story or a metaphor but it does not make sense unlike the explanation provided by the Advaita concept- that the Nirguna-Brahman becomes Saguna-Brahman (Isvara) to conduct the world.
Another important difference between Advaita and Sankhya is this. Although Sankhya believes in a Purusa made up of jnana it does not state unequivocally like Advaita that all souls are the same as Purusa. All individual souls, according to Sankhya, exist by themselves. Though the ideas of Sankhya are confusing sometimes, it is regarded as one of our basic systems of philosophy. ("Sankhya " means enumerating, numbers: from it comes Sankhya. )
The author of Sankhya Sutra is Kapila Maharishi. Notable works of this system are Isvarakrsna's Sankhya karika and Vijnanabhiksu's commentary on the Sankhya-sutra.
The Gita too deals with Sankhya. When Bhagavan Krsna speaks of the two paths, Sankhya and Yoga, He means jnana by the former and karmayoga by the latter (not Rajayoga. )
Sankhya does not go beyond asking us to have an awareness of Purusa separate from Prakrti. Rajayoga, however, goes further from this point and tells us the practical means, the "sadhana", to be followed to become aware of Purusa dissociated from Prakrti. The concept of Isvara and devotion to him is part of yoga and it has lessons to bring the mind under control. What generally goes under the name of yoga is Patanjali's Rajayoga, according to which yoga is the stopping the mental process (or the oscillating vitality of consciousness). It is this yoga that has become popular in Western countries.
Sankhya and yoga are not included in caturdasa-vidya but, all the same, they are important among our sastras.
Though devotion to Isvara is not part of Mimamsa, it accepts the authority of the Vedas. Likewise Sankhya too respects the authority of the Vedas and does not support belief in Isvara.
Buddhism on the one hand, Nyaya and Mimamsa on the other which were opposed to it, and Sankhya, which does not accept Isvara but respects the pramanas of the Vedas: of these our Acarya accepts elements that are to be accepted and rejects elements that are to be rejected. He establishes the Vedantic system which harbours all these and which is their source. Sankara's view is not at variance with the ultimate message of Buddhism, that is the exalted state of jnana. He accepts some of the basic concepts of Sankhya like Purusa that is jnana by itself and equivalent to the Nirguna-Brahman and Prakrti which is the same as Maya. At the same time, he accepts the Vedic rituals of Mimamsa and the Isvara of Nyaya. But he sees each of them as an aspect of the one Truth, not as the final goal which it is to the various individual systems mentioned. He integrates these different aspects into a harmonious whole in his own system of thought
Mimansa and Adi Sankara
As we have already seen, Udayana and other supporters of the Nyaya system criticised Buddhism on the score that it was silent on the question of God, while mimamsakas like Kumarilabhatta attacked the same because it did not favour Vedic rituals. The acarya was in sympathy with these views and believed that Vedic sacraments, considered all-important by the mimamsakas were essential to the cleansing of the mind and to the proper conduct of the affairs of the community. However, he was opposed to the mimamsakas not only because they did not accept an entity like Isvara as the dispenser of the fruits of our actions but also because they did not believe that, after being rendered pure by works, there is any need for one to go further and take the path of jnana. He also did not agree with their view that to become a sanyasin giving up all karma is not right.
Kumarilabhatta and Mandanamisra are particularly important among the mimamsakas. The Acarya had a debate with Kumarilabhatta during the last days of that mimamsaka and won him over to his viewpoint. Similarly, Mandanamisra also became a convert to Advaita Vedanta and came to be one of the Acarya's chief disciples assuming the title of Suresvaracarya.
If the Acarya opposed Mimamsa, which is one of the fourteen branches of Vedic lore, it was not because he thought it to be wholly unacceptable. He was in agreement with the sacraments dealt with in that system, but he differed from it on the question of devotion to the Lord. He further believed that the fruits yielded by the rites, rewards like paradise, must be dedicated to Isvara and that in this very act of renunciation the mind is purified. Sankara's teaching is this: it is only if we realise that Isvara is the Phala-data, the one who awards the fruits of our actions, that we will not be tempted by petty rewards like paradise. Only then will we be inspired to go beyond to attain the higher reward of inner purity. The Vedic works were wholly acceptable to our Acarya. But for the mimamsakas they were an end in themselves; they did not transcend them to become devoted to the Supreme Godhead and to acquire jnana, the final realisation that Isvara and we are one and the same. Sankara criticised mimamsakas for their failure to understand this truth. That he did not oppose Vedic karma is proved again by the fact that in his upadesa (teaching) -it is called Sopana-Panchaka- before giving up his body he made the admonishment that the Vedas must be chanted every day and that the rites mentioned in them must be performed.
Vedo nityam adhiyatam
Taduditam karma svanushtiyatham
The Acarya, however, taught us not to stop with karma (performed for the sake of karma), but to go beyond it. The rites that we conduct must be made an offering to Isvara. This is a means of obtaining inner purity and also that of receiving instruction in jnana. That is the time when we must give up all karma to meditate upon the teaching we have received, indeed meditate on it with intensity and make it our inner experiential reality. Sankara takes us, step by step, in this way to final release. He opposed the mimamsakas because they failed to understand the purpose of Vedic karma and refused to go beyond it.
We must accept the Mimamsa system's interpretation of the Vedas, especially because it surrenders wholly to the "Sabda-pramana", the sound of the Vedas, its authority, and it is in this spirit that it has understood the meaning of the scripture. An interesting thought occurs to me. Mimamsa does not surrender to a perceptible God nor seek to understand his form. Does that matter? The Vedas themselves constitute a great deity. The sound of the Vedas does not take the form of a deity that can be seen with our eyes but one that can be perceived with our ears. Let us perform the works that that sound bids us to do without asking questions. Such an act implies an attitude of surrender and it is in this spirit that the mimamsakas have determined the meaning of the Vedas. So whether or not they believed in a tangible God, they knew the God that could be grasped by the ears. (that is they had a good understanding of the meaning of the Vedas)
Determining the Meaning of Vedic Texts
The Vedas, as we know, contain "vakyas" and "adhyayas". How are we to know their content, their meaning? What must we do to find out their purpose, their message?
The rules according to which the Vedas are to be interpreted are contained in the Mimamsa sastra. If the Vedas are the law, Mimamsa is the law of interpretation. As I said before, when the government enacts a great number of laws doubts arise as to their intention and application. So to interpret these the government enacts another law. Mimamsa is such a law with reference to the Vedas. It formulates certain methods to discover the meaning of the Vedic texts.
Six methods are mentioned: upakarma-upasamhara, abhyasa, apurvata, phala, atharvada, upapatti. According to Mimamsa the meaning, the intent, of the Vedic Mantras may be understood by applying these methods
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the lotus feet of Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswami ji and my humble greatulness to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and great Devotees , Philosophic Scholars, for the collection)