Mimamsa interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (Vidhi)

by Shreebas Debnath | 2018 | 68,763 words

This page relates ‘Criteria of a Difference of Rite’ of the study on the Mimamsa theory of interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (vidhi). The Mimamsakas (such as Jaimini, Shabara, etc.) and the Mimamsa philosophy emphasizes on the Karmakanda (the ritualistic aspect of the Veda). Accordingly to Mimamsa, a careful study of the Veda is necessary in order to properly understand dharma (religious and spiritual achievement—the ideal of human life).

Chapter 4.5 - Criteria of a Difference of Rite

All the righteous rites are different from one another. There are some yardsticks for ascertaining their difference. These are different words, repetition, number, name, accessories and a different context. To explain: A sacrifice, a gift and an offering (homa) are different from one another because of different words expressing them. They are denoted by the words ‘to sacrifice’ (yajati), ‘to give’ (dadāti) and ‘to offer’ (juhoti) respectively. Here the verb ‘to sacrifice’ is related to sacrifices like the ‘Agnihotra’, the ‘Darśapūrṇamāsayāga’ etc. It denotes the whole sacrifice with its rites and necessary materials. But the verb ‘to offer’ means ‘the throwing of oblation to fire only’. Again, the verb ‘to give’ means ‘the termination of one’s own right from or over a thing and the establishment of another’s right to that thing.’ Here the ‘sārthakya’ axiom applies. We have already known that more words indicate more meanings (‘śabdādhikyād arthādhikyam’). The prayājas of the new-and full-moon sacrifices are expressed by five sentences like “samidho yajati ” etc. If it is accepted that one of these five sentences enjoins function and other four sentences enjoin the accessories to the rite, then one may put the objection that there is no determining factor that only one sentence has that quality of expressing the main rite and others do not have that quality. So, it is established that all five sentences have equal power to enjoin the rite. Now, the question arises: If one of these sentences lays down the rite, then the repetition of that enjoining by other sentences becomes redundant. Then what are the necessities of the other sentences? From the repetition it is understood that each succeeding rite is different from the preceding one. So, the word ‘yajati ’ (to sacrifice) in the śruti proves, on the ground of repetition, that the rites (Samidhyāga, Tanūnapātyāga etc.) are different.

In the injunction, “tisra āhutīr juhoti ” (One should offer three oblations). (Taittirīya-saṃhitā. II. 3. ix. 3) although there is the absence of repetition of the word ‘juhoti ’ (should offer), the number ‘three’ becomes related to ‘homa’, which is the meaning of the verb ‘to offer’. It proves that these three homas are mutually separate or different. Here number makes the different among many rites.

Different names also show the difference of rites. For example, the sentence,

athaiṣa jyotir athaiṣa viśvajyotir athaiṣa sarvajyotir etena sahasradakṣiṇena yajeta

(Now this is Jyotis [light]; now this is Viśvajyotis [universal light]; now this is Sarva-jyotis [all-light]; one should sacrifice through this, with a thousand [cows] as remuneration for the priests expresses three sacrifices called Jyotis etc.)

This passage is mentioned under the topic of Jyotisṭoma sacrifice. Here three sacrifices are different from the Jyotisṭoma sacrifice and from each other because of their different names from Jyotisṭoma.

Sometimes different rites are identified by different accessories.

For example, in the sentence,

tapte payasi dadhyānayati, sā vaiśvadevyāmikṣā, vājibhyo vājinam

(He should add curd to hot milk; that fresh cheese belongs to the Viśvadevas, and the whey is for the Vājins)
   (Mai. S. [=Maitrāyaṇīsaṃhitā?] I. x. i)

A sacrifice related to Viśvadevas and its material, viz., fresh cheese, is prescribed. This sacrifice and fresh cheese are inferred from the clause “vaiśvadevī ” (That fresh cheese belongs to the Viśvadevas). Not only that, in the clause, “vājibhyo vājinam” (And the whey is for the Vājins.) another sacrificial rite to the deity Vājin is prescribed. In this rite whey is the material. The material whey is not used in the previous sacrifice to the Vaiśvadevas. Because the previous sacrifice is confined to the accessory fresh cheese. So whey can not be related to that sacrifice as an accessory. One may argue that there may be an option between the whey and the fresh cheese as between rice grains and barley; for the whey and the fresh cheese do not have the same status. Actually, the fresh cheese is ‘utpattiśiṣṭa’ (that which is prescribed in connection with origination). But the accessory whey is prescribed by another sentence in a rite originated by the injunction related to the Viśvadevas; so it is something enjoined in connection with what has already been originated. It is called ‘utpannaśiṣṭa’. Between these two, the ‘utpannaśiṣṭa’ is stronger; for it is proved as an accessory of rite at the time of the origination of the rite. But the whey is cognised later. So, it is weaker. For this reason, the whey can not be related to the previous rite. It is then related to the latter sacrifice to the Vājins. Hence here is difference of rites owing to an accessory. Here fresh cheese means coagulated milk, and the whey means the water that is left.

In the same way, there is a statement in the way of kuṇḍapāyins

upasadbhiś caritvā māsam agnihotraṃ juhoti

(After going through the ceremonies called Upasads, one should offer the Agnihotra for a month).

Here no previous rite is present. A new rite named Agnihotra which is similar to the famous Agnihotra sacrifice is enjoined. Here the context is new and it is perceived as the presence of a new rite. The well-known Agnihotra sacrifice is not restated here; because if with regard to a rite already known, more accessories than one, viz., sequence and the duration of a month, are enjoined, then there will be a split of the sentence. So, here is a difference of rite on account of a different context.

So, different words, repetition, number, name, accessories and different context—these six matters are criteria for which a rite becomes different from other rites.

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