Mimamsa interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (Vidhi)

by Shreebas Debnath | 2018 | 68,763 words

This page relates ‘Adhikaravidhi (Introduction)’ 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 5 - Adhikāravidhi (Introduction)

Adhikāravidhi [adhikāra-vidhi] indicates the ownership of the result produced from the sacrificial work. The owner enjoys the result

For example,

yajeta svargakāmaḥ

(One desiring heaven should sacrifice).

This vedic injunction lays down a sacrifice for getting heaven and by laying down that sacrifice it implies the state of being an enjoyer of the result produced from that sacrifice and this result goes to the person who desires heaven.

The sentence, “yasyāhitāgner agnir gṛhān dahet so’agnaye kṣāmavate’ṣṭākapālaṃ nirvapet” (That keeper of fire [āhitāgniḥ], whose house fire might burn, should offer a cake prepared in eight potsherds to the devouring [kṣāmavat fire], lays down an action on an occassion of the burning by fire and informs us the ownership of the result in the form of the destruction of sin which is to be produced from that sacrificial work, goes to the person who has such an occasion. Simply, all persons are not entitled to perform this rite. Similarly, the injunction, “ahar ahaḥ sandhyām upāsīta” (He should wait upon the twilight day and night), informs that the ownership of the result in the form of preventing of sin to be caused from the waiting upon of the twilight, goes to that man who has purity (mental and physical) and who leads his life by following the prescriptions laid down by the sacred treatise, at the proper time.

The ownership belongs to him only who is characterised by the qualification. We come to know about that qualification from the injunction in which the qualification is stated as a distinguishing attribute of the man. As in the kāmyakarman (optional rite) the desire for the result, in the naimittikakarman (occasional rite) the ascertainment of the occasion and in the nityakarman (regular rite) like waiting upon the twilight leading a life, pure and marked by the performance of necessary acts at the times enjoined (śucivihitakālajivitvam) are the attributes of the performers. For this reason,, though the adhikāravidhi, “rajā rājasūyena svārājyakāmo yajeta” (A king, who is desirous of rulership of heaven, should sacrifice with the Rājasūya), enjoins the Rājasūya sacrifice for getting rulership in heaven, yet it does not express the enjoyership of the man who merely desires rulership in the heaven; but only that person is here entitled to that sacrifice who desires that result after being a king. Because in the aforesaid injunction kingship also has been declared to be an attribute or a distinguishing factor of the qualified person.

Two qualifications are necessary for this sacrifice. These are:

  1. desire of rulership in heaven and
  2. being a king.

Both attributes are equally important. If one adjective is absent, then the injunction does not apply. So, it is clear that a brahmin or a vaiśya does not have the right to perform a Rājasūya sacrifice, though he may cherish the intension to perform that sacrifice in his mind.

Similarly, the injunction, “svādhyāyodhyetavyaḥ” (The Veda of concerned branch should be read) is relevant to a student who wants to know the meaning of the vedic sentences completely because it is required for a sacrificial ceremony. Though the adjective is not here heard, yet this quality (desire to know the meaning of the Veda) is essential and inevitable for the right performance of any sacrifice. For that reason, a śūdra is not entitled for performing a sacrifice. He does not have the knowledge of the Veda according to the adhyanavidhi. So, he has not any saṃskāra (impression) regarding sacrificial work. He has not also placed the fire. So, he can not be called an āhitāgni. Vedas were supposed to be read by the person who wore the sacrificial thread. And this wearing or bearing of the sacrificial thread was laid down only for the upper three classes i.e. brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya and vaiśya. Placing of the sacrificial fire was also prescribed only for the three upper classes. So, as because śūdra was out of that three classes and he was void of requisite qualifications, he was not entitled to do sacrifice.

Though the rathakāra (a kind of śūdra caste) has been given the right to place the fire in the rainy season by the injunction, “varṣāsu rathakāro agnīn ādadhīta” (A rathakāra should place the fire in the rainy season), yet he is not supposed to do a sacrifice because he has not the total knowledge of Veda by svādhyāyavidhi. He should know only that portion of Veda which deals with the placing of fire, not more than that. But to perform the Darśapūrṇamāsayāga etc. a complete knowledge of Veda is necessary. With the absence of that knowledge, the rathakāra is incapable of doing a sacrifice. For, according to the maxim, “ākhyātānām arthaṃ brūvatāṃ śaktiḥ sahakāriṇī” (For verbs, which express a meaning, power is a help-mate), an injunction applies only to that man who is capable of performing the thing enjoined.

It should be mentioned here that Appaya Dikṣita has discussed the views of some philosophers regarding the right of śūdra to the act for acquiring knowledge. He said in his ‘Siddhāntaleśasaṃgraha’, (3/4/2) that a śūdra posseses the right to the act of acquiring knowledge; because though the recitation of the veda according to the pronunciation of the preceptor and Agnihotras acrifice etc. are impossible for a śūdra, yet he has the possibility of muttering of the great mantra like the five-lettered mantra “namaḥ śivāya” (I convey my obeisance to Lord Śiva.) and he can perform austerity, donation, pākayajña (giving food to others) etc. Because the smṛti-texts have prescribed these rites for all castes. Any man or woman of any caste can mutter the above mantra for getting salvation. It is also not true that a śūdra does not have the intension of acquiring knowledge, for it is accepted in the smṛti that the four castes have the right to listen to the itihāsa and purāṇa. So, a śūdra may be eager to acquire knowledge after realising the importance of knowledge from purāṇa etc. Now, A question arises: What will be the logical explanation of the ‘Apaśūdradhikaraṇa’ of Brahmasūtra (1/3/34)? Spreading the knowledge of the sacred treatise among the śūdra is also prohibited by the Vaśiṣṭhasmṛti (18). The answer of these questions is that only those rites and actions are prohibited for a śūdra which do not fit him for performance. He must have knowledge regarding his duties like maintaining truthfulness, purity, performing the śrāddhakarman etc. For these knowledges, he should listen to purāṇa etc. From purāṇa etc. he can have the knowledge about the unity of the jīvātman and Brahman and gradually this knowledge will help him in getting salvation.

The adhyayanavidhi has not been prescribed for woman. So, they have not right to perform sacrifice independently. But they can do it with their husbands. Marriage gives them the opportunity to share works and in the result with their husbands.

So, there is a smṛti text,

pāṇigrahaṇāt tu sahatvaṃ karmasu tatha puṇyaphaleṣu.”

If women are not engaged in sacrificial work then the watching of the clarified butter (ājyāvekṣaṇa) as a part and parcel of sacrifice will not take place, resulting the incompleteness of sacrifice. So, women of brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya and vaiśya castes are qualified for sacrifice dependently. A man of these three castes having his wife can perform a sacrifice. If he does not have a legitimate wife, he can not do the sacrifice. So, he is also dependent on his wife with regard to sacrifice. Any kind of sacrificial rite is also qualified by the efficiency of the person. So, though the three classes have the right to perform a sacrifice, yet the sacrificer should not be a blind, lame, dumb, deaf etc. Because ‘kārtsnyena kartur vidhiḥ’ or, an injunction is laid down totally for the sacrificer. There will be no substitute for him. If he is lame, walking for the deity viṣṇu is impossible for him. It will lead the performance into an unfinished task. So, ‘yajeta svargrkāmaḥ’ means not only the person having the desire of heaven should sacrifice, but also means that the sacrificer must have the physical and financial efficiency similarly. The birds and deities can not perform sacrifice because of their inefficiency. A bird can not utter a hymn, and can not understand the meaning of it and the deities have no form according to the Mīmāṃsakas. Deities are of the form of hymns. So, how can a deity without any form perform the sacrificial rites? They are not eligible for sacrifice. If they perform any sacrifice, it will be a mental sacrifice and not physical.

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