Mimamsa interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (Vidhi)

by Shreebas Debnath | 2018 | 68,763 words

This page relates ‘Parisamkyavidhi (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 9 - Parisaṃkyāvidhi (Introduction)

When there are two alternatives with simultaneity, the Parisaṃkhyāvidhi [parisaṃkhyā-vidhi] prescribes only one and rejects the other. But here prescription is implied and rejection is the purport of the injunction.

As Kumārila Bhaṭṭa says in Tantravārtika——

ubhayasya padārthasya yugapat prāptisambhave |
ekavyāvartako yaḥ sa parisaṃkhyāvidhiḥ ||”

It should be cautiously noticed that in this injuction the dissuation is more strong than the prescription. Its target is to dissuade a man from doing someting, not to instigate him to do something. Here two alternatives are obtained. One is discarded.

So, the author of Arthasaṃgraha defines parisaṃkhyāvidhi

ubhayoś ca yugapatprāptau itarvyāvṛttiparo vidhiḥ parisaṃkhyāvidhiḥ

(And when both üalternativesý are simultaneously established or obtained simultaneously or become simultaneously available, the injuction, which aims at excluding one of them, is the injunction of exclusion).

But in niyamavidhi, the unobtained alternative is prescribed for attaining some invisible result.

The most discussed example of parisaṃkhyāvidhi is:

pañca pañcanakhā bhakṣyāḥ

(Five animals each having five nails may be permitted as edible).

These five-nailed animals are:

  1. rabbit (śaśaka),
  2. porcupine (śallaka),
  3. iguana (godhā),
  4. rhinoceros (khaḍgin) and
  5. tortoise (kūrma).

Each one of these animals possesses five nails. These five animals that are allowed for eating are enumerated in a couplet from the Rāmāyaṇa, wherein the monkey chief Vālin tells Rāma

pañca pañcanakhā bhakṣyā brahmakṣatreṇa rāghava |
śallakaḥ śvāvidho godhā śaśaḥ kūrmaś ca pañcamaḥ[1] ||

The word parisaṃkhyā consists of the prefix pari and the word saṃkhyā. According to the Paninian formulae ‘apaparī varjane’ (1.4.88) and ‘parer varjane’(8.1.5) the prefix ‘pari’ means rejection. Saṃkhyā means knowledge. Therefore, the parisaṃkhyāvidhi, by its derivative meaning, presents such kind of injunction which gives us some knowledge of rejecton. ‘pañca pañcanakhā bhakṣyāḥ’—this injunction also conveys the knowledge of rejection. It does not encourage to eat any kind of animals having or not having five animals. Because man has general tendency or affection to eat animals with or without five nails. So, this is not an apūrvavidhi. The law laid down by an apūrvavidhi can not be known by other means than the Veda. But one can eat the flesh of the aforesaid animals by their natural affection. Vedic injunction is useless for a matter which is obtained by worldly instruction. It generally prescribes such kind of matter which causes supernatural and invisible result.

The above injunction can not be considered as a niyamavidhi also. Because the niyamavidhi prescribes an unobtained matter which has simultaneously some obtained alternatives aslo. Here, in the case of parisaṃkhyāvidhi two alternatives are obtained (prāpta).

These are:

  1. pañcapañcanakha-bhakṣaṇa (eating of five five-nailed animals) and
  2. apañcapañcanakha-bhakṣaṇa (eating of animals other than the specified five five-nailed animals).

Out of these two alternatives only the first one is discarded by the injunction.

So, ‘pañca pañcanakhā bhakṣyāḥ’ means if a non-vegetarian person wants to eat meat, he should take the specified five animals each having five nails in the each leg, but he should not take other animals having or not having five nails. So, this injunction does not encourage a man to eat meat, but it only declares that if one has strong desire to eat meat, he should never eat the meat of the animals other than the specified ones. So, it is a prohibitory injunction. It does not affirm something, but prohibits something. Separation and prohibition of the unintended matter is the function of this unique injunction.

Another example of parisaṃkhyāvidhi, drawn from our ordinary life, is:

ekādaśyāṃ phalāhāraṃ kuryāt”.

This sentence of order does not enjoin the eating of fruit on the ekādaśī day. On the ekādasī a complete fast is observed. But, if anyone can not do this and wants to eat something then he should eat fruit. This is the purport of the sentence. The sentence thus excludes the eating of food other than fruit (phaletarāhāra). It does not enjoin the eating of fruit (phalāhāra). If at all we want to have any āhāra on the ekādasi, we should indulge in phalāhāra (eating of fruit). This sentence has parity with ‘pañca pañcanakhā bhakṣyāḥ’.

Pañcapañcanakā bhakṣyāḥ’ is a smārta (related to smṛti) example of parisaṃkhyā. A śrauta (related to śruti ) example is presented by the sentence:

imām agṛbhṇan raśanām ṛtasyetyaśvābhidh- ānīm ādatte”.

(One should catch hold of the rein of the horse saying, ‘They seized this rein of’ [the horse, which is the means to] the sacrifice).

For the rite named agnicayana (collection of fire), a sacrificial altar is built by the use of bricks. These bricks are prepared from clay, which is brought in sacks tied on the backs of a horse and a donkey. At the time of guiding and controlling the animals, their reins have to be held. The above injunction says that the hymn ‘imām agṛbhṇan raśanām ṛtasya’ is to be recited at the time of grasping the rein of the horse. Here the liṅgapramāṇa (indication) suggests the power to express the seizing of the rein. So, according to indication the above hymn would apply invariably to the seizing of the donkey. But the brāhmaṇa sentence ‘imām.. ādatte’ excludes the grasping of the rein of the donkey. The rein of the donkey is to be grasped silently without reciting any vedic hymn. Here the horse is more lucky than the donkey. Thus the sacred text is dissociated from the seizing of the rein of the donkey. And since the injunction leads to the exclusion of one of the two alternatives, to both of which something may be taken to refer simultaneously, it is an exclusive injunction.

But there is a subtle difference between ‘pañca...bhakṣyāḥ’ and ‘imām...ādatte’. The first injunction does not make ‘pañcapañcanakabhakṣaṇa’ necessary. If we at all want to eat flesh, we should eat the flesh of the aforesaid five five-nailed animals. But it can not be said that if we at all want to utter the hymn ‘imām....’, we must use it in holding the rein of the horse. Because this hymn must be recited at the time of grasping the rein of the horse. Then, the question may be asked: Why this injunction ‘imām....ādatte’ should be regarded as a parisaṃkhyāvidhi? The answer is: Here the grasping of the reins of the both animals is simultaneously obtained (yugapatprāpta); only the grasping of the rein of the donkey is excluded. So, it deserves to be called a parisaṃkhyāvidhi.

The niyamavidhi enjoins something and forbids something. The parisaṃkhyā also here forbids us to recite the hymn at the time of grasping the rein of the donkey, but at the same time it enjoins us to recite the hymn in holding the rein of the horse. So, what is the distinction between a niyamavidhi and a parisaṃkhyāvidhi?

The answer is: While the alternatives in niyamavidhi are mutually exclusive, those in parisaṃkhyāvidhi are simultaneously obtained or adopted. So, a person can not perform a sacrifice on both even and uneven ground simultaneously. If rice-gains are husked by mortar and pestle, those can not be husked by nails or machine. Because they are already husked. Not only that, a person can not husk rice-grains simultaneously by using mortar and pestle and by using machine, for two methods can not be applied at the same time for acquiring only one specific result. But it is possible to hold the reins of the horse and the donkey simultaneously and recite the hymn at that time. Thus the parisaṃkhyāvidhi is distinguished from the niyamvidhi by ‘yugapatprāptiḥ’. Niyamavidhi is characterized by ‘pakṣeprāptiḥParisaṃkhyā directly tells about the exclusion of the unintended matter, but in niyama this exclusion is implied. There is a direct relation between the liṇ suffix and threshing. If threshing by mortar and pestle is regulated, then it is implied that husking by nails etc. is excluded.

Footnotes and references:


Rāmāyaṇa, Kiṣkindhyākāṇḍa, 17.39.

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