Mimamsa interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (Vidhi)

by Shreebas Debnath | 2018 | 68,763 words

This page relates ‘Apurvavidhi (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 7 - Apūrvavidhi (Introduction)

Injunctions are also classified into three categories according to their obligatory force. The previous classification was presented according to the nature of injunctions. This later classification focuses on the functions of injunctions.

This classification includes three kinds of injunctions. These are:

  1. Apūrvavidhi [apūrva-vidhi] (new or original injunction),
  2. Niyamavidhi [niyama-vidhi] (injunction of restriction) and
  3. Parisaṃkhyāvidhi [parisaṃkhyā-vidhi] (injunction of exclusion).

Out of these injunctions, the apūrvavidhi enjoins something which is not obtained by any other testimony. It lays down a thing, which is absolutely or totally non-established i.e. a thing which is not established by any other means of proof.

Kumārila Bhaṭṭa wrote in his ‘Tantravārtika’ on the Mīmāṃsāsūtraparisaṃkhyā[1]

vidhir atyantam aprāptau niyamaḥ pākṣike sati |
tatra cānyatra ca prāptau parisaṃkhyeti gīyate |”{GL_NOTE::}

It means,

“a (new) injunction (takes effect) in (the case of something) absolutely non-established. An injunction of restriction is found when a matter is not established as an alternative. When the establishment is there and elsewhere simultaneously, it is sung as (i.e. declared to be) an injunction of exclusion.”

Here the first quarter of the above śloka (verse) tells about the apūrvavidhi, the second quarter expresses the nature of the niyamavidhi and the second part of the verse introduces the parisaṃkhyāvidhi.

Laugākṣi Bhāskara gives the meaning of the first quarter of the verse—

pramāṇān-tareṇāprāptasya prāpako vidhir apūrvavidhiḥ.”

It means,

“The injunction, which establishes (a matter which is) not established by any other means of proof is a new or original injunction.”

This injunction causes to get the unobtained matter. So, it is called apūrvavidhi. Here ‘apūrva’ means a matter which was not obtained or was not in our hand before.

Paṭṭābhirāma Śāstrin explains this injunction in ‘Arthāloka’,

pramāṇāntareṇātyantam aprāptam arthaṃ yaḥ prāpayati so’prāptaprāpakatvāt apūrvavidhir ityarthaḥ.”

For example,

yajeta svargakāmaḥ

(A person desiring heaven should sacrifice.)

This vedic sentence lays down a sacrifice for the purpose of attaining heaven. Here the sacrifice for attaining heaven is such a matter which is not known from any other source of knowledge other than this vedic sentence. If there was the absence of this sentence in the Veda, then it would have been impossible for us to know sacrifice as the producer of heaven from any other knowledge. A person can not know this causality between sacrifice and heaven through perception. No one has seen heaven. So, one can not make any inference also. Because for having an inference one needs the knowledge of co-relation and this knowledge of co-relation between hetu and sādhya also depends on the repeated perception (bhūyodarśana) of the inferrer (anumātṛ). It is also impossible because of the same reason i.e. none has seen heaven. Analogy is also impossible because it depends on perception. Therefore, only vedic sentence (verbal knowledge) is the only means to know the causality between a sacrifice and its result heaven. Only the Veda decrees that there is a casual relationship between a sacrifice and heaven. The above vedic sentence is that declaration.

This view is explained in lucid Sanskrit language in the commentary ‘Arthāloka’ by Paṭṭābhirāma Śāstrin,

etadvākyāpravṛttidaśāyāṃ svargaphalajanakatvaṃ yāgasya pramāṇāntareṇa na viditam, anenaiva tadvidhānāt samanvaya ityarthaḥ

(In case of non-application of this sentence [‘yajeta svargakāmaḥ’] the state of being the producer of heaven of sacrifice can not be known by any other proof of knowledge. Only by this sentence it has been laid down. So, there is connection [causal relationship between sacrifice and heaven]. This is the purport here).

If ‘A’ is done then we will get ‘B’ as a result of doing ‘A’. If this kind of knowledge can not be known from perception, inference, analogy, implication (arthāpatti), non-recognition or non-perception (anupalabdhi) etc. and where the smṛti-texts and conduct of authentic persons (śiṣṭācāra) also can not be treated as proof, then only the Veda enjoins that matter. The vedic sentence expressing that unique subject is called the apūrvavidhi. It is a vidhi or apūrvavidhi which enjoins a matter for the first time.

So, Kumārila Bhaṭṭa says in Tantravārtika

“‘vidhir atyantam aprāpte...parisaṃkhyeti gīyate |
ityasya padyasyārtho’yaṃ yasya mānāntareṇa na |
prāpta yadarthatā tasya tadarthatvena yo vidhiḥ ||
so’pūrvavidhisaṃjño’sau ‘svarge’tyādividhir mataḥ |
svagārthatvaṃ hi yāgasya nānyamānapramāpitam ||”

The gist of these verses is that the injunctions like ‘yajeta svargakāmaḥ’ etc. are apūrvavidhis ; because their subject can not be testified by any other proof than the Veda as it can not be proved that a sacrifice can produce heaven by any other proof than the Veda.

If a stick is utilized, a pot is made. If the stick is not utilized, then the pot is not made. So, if there is a stick, there is a pot—this is the form of the method of constant and invariable concomitance (anvayapaddhati). If there is not a stick, there is not a pot—this is the form of the method of logical discontinuance (vyatirekapaddhati). With the help of these two methods we come to know from worldly uses that a stick is the cause of a pot and a pot is the result of a stick.

But a sacrifice is the cause of heaven—this kind of knowledge can not be had from worldly uses (lokavyavahāra). Only the injunction ‘yajeta svargakāmaḥ’ declares that. So, it is an apūrvavidhi. This is the real nature of Veda.

This nature matches with its definition given by the ancient sage Yājñavalkya. According to him,

pratyakṣeṇānumityā vā yastūpāyo na vidyate |
enaṃ vidanti vedena tasmād vedasya vedatā ||”

(The supernatural knowledge which can not be obtained through perception, inference etc., is obtained only from the Veda. So, the Veda is called ‘Veda’).

The Veda is a reservoir of consolidated and supernatural knowledge with the help of which the human being can meet his four principal objects (caturvarga) i.e.:

  1. dharma (religious and spiritual achievement),
  2. artha (money or wealth),
  3. kāma (lustre) and
  4. mokṣa (salvation or liberation from bondage).

In the introduction of his commentary on ‘Taittirīyasaṃhitā’ of Kṛṣṇayajurveda, Sāyaṇācārya also wrote,

iṣṭaprāptya-niṣṭaparihārayoṛ alaukikam upāyaṃ yo grantho vedayati sa vedaḥ

(The Veda is defined as the book which informs the supernatural means for getting the desired goal and means for eradicating the undesired goal).

These definitions establish the superiority and authenticity of vedic knowledge over other proofs regarding the supernatural matters.

The apūrvavidhi is the same as vidhi or pradhānavidhi or utpattividhi. It tends to secure what is otherwise at all not available. It is a perfect (imperative) command according to modern law. It supplies an urgent necessity and ‘you shall do it’ is its appropriate form.

Footnotes and references:





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