Mimamsa interpretation of Vedic Injunctions (Vidhi)

by Shreebas Debnath | 2018 | 68,763 words

This page relates ‘Conclusion (categories dependent on injunctions)’ 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 10.1 - Conclusion (categories dependent on injunctions)

[Full title: Categories dependent on injunctions—i.e. (1) mantra, (2) nāmadheya, (3) niṣedha and (4) arthavāda of Veda]

How much the Mīmāṃsakas had shown their minuteness in interpreting the vedic injunctions is proved by the discussions presented in the previous chapters. To make a sacrifice accurate and flawless their endeavour is truly praiseworthy. Definition of injunction, different types of injunctions with their related subjects, category of adhyayanavidhi and śravaṇavidhi etc. have been discussed.

According to the Mīmāṃsakas injunctions are the main category of all vedic sentences. The other categories i.e. mantra, nāmadheya, niṣedha and arthavāda of Veda, are dependent on injunctions. For the application of mantra etc. one has to search for an injunction. Without the injunction, mantra etc. do not express any meaning. They are closely related to injunctions. Now, these are discussed briefly to understand their nature and their dependence on injunctions.

1. Mantra:

Mantras (hymns) are those that call to memory matters related to sacrificial performance. The remembrance of sacrificial deities, substances etc. is to be done by chanting the hymns. This view has been discussed in the 8th chapter of this thesis. Mantras are chanted for producing some visible result i.e. remembrance of sacrificial matters. But in some cases the invisible result is also accepted where the visible result is impossible. For examples, ‘kavacāya hum’, ‘netratrayāya vauṣaṭ’, ‘astrāya phaṭ’ etc. These hymns are not meaningless because these are uttered for creating an invisible result. In fact, the injunction ‘svādhyāyo’dhyetavyaḥ’ includes all kinds of sentences of the Veda. So, no part of the Veda is inessential. Therefore, though the above mentioned hymns do not call to memory matters connected to sacrificial performance, yet they produce some invisible result which results in the completion of sacrifice indirectly.

2. Nāmadheya:

Injunction enjoins some matter. Nāmadhyea (name) defines that matter. For example, in the injunction, “udbhidā yajeta paśukāmaḥ” (One desirous of cattle should sacrifice with Udbhid.), the word udbhid is the name of a sacrifice and this word specifies the matter to be enjoined. For getting a specific fruit, a certain sacrifice is enjoined by the above sentence, because it is not established by any other proof that the Udbhid sacrifice leads to the result of cattle. As a sacrifice in general can not be enjoined, a particular sacrifice alone is enjoined. Now, if anyone asks, ‘What is that particular sacrifice?’ The answer is the sacrifice in the form of Udbhid. The relation between the sacrifice and the name Udbhid is grammatical co-ordination (sāmānādhikaraṇya). So, the verbal understanding of the above mentioned injunction is—by means of the Udbhid sacrifice, he should bring into the effect of cattle.

There are four reasons for understanding a word as nāmadheya. These are:

  1. the fear of admitting an indication of possession,
  2. the fear of split in the sentence,
  3. a scriptural passage declaring of it and
  4. designation or representation with it.

(a) The fear of admitting an indication of possession (matvartha-lakṣaṇābhaya):

Nāmadheya is accepted in the word udbhid because of matvarthalkṣaṇābhaya. To explain: By the sentence, ‘udbhidā yajeta paśukāmaḥ’ a sacrifice is not enjoined for a result and a subsidiary (guṇa) is not enjoined with reference to that sacrifice, because such interpretation would lead to the split in the sentence.

In that case the meaning of that injunction will be—

udbhidā guṇena yāgaṃ bhāvayet, yāgena ca phalaṃ bhāvayet

(One should produce the sacrifice with the help of the subsidiary udbhid and he should produce the result by that sacrifice).

If it is accepted that the subsidiary is enjoined only for the sacrifice to avoid the fallacy of splitting of sentences, then the word ‘phala’ will be redundant. The word ‘phala’ can not be accepted as a restated word, because the Udbhid sacrifice is not enjoined by any other vedic sentence. So, it is unobtained (aprāpta).

As a result of this, no subsidiary is enjoined by the sentence

udbhidā yajeta paśukāmaḥ”.

To avoid the fallacy of splitting of sentence and the redundancy or meaninglessness of the words ‘udbhid’ and ‘phala’ with regard to the interpretation of the above vedic sentence, we have to accept the injunction ‘udbhidā...’ as a viśiṣṭavidhi (qualified injunction). So, the verbal understanding of this injunction is: One should acquire cattle by means of a sacrifice, which is qualified by the name udbhid. In a qualified injunction there exists an indication of possession (matvartha-lakṣaṇā). So, if we do not admit name in udbhid, then we have to take resort to matvarthalakṣaṇā which is a fallacy related to term (padadoṣa).

(b) The fear of split in the sentence (vākyabhedabhaya):

In the sentence, “citrayā yajeta paśukāmaḥ” (One desires of cattle should sacrifice with citrā), the word citrā is the name of a rite from the fear of a split in the sentence. This sentence does not enjoin a sacrifice qualified by an accessory.

Because the subsidiaries are enjoined by the sentence,

dadhi madhu payo ghṛtaṃ dhānā udakaṃ taṇḍulās tatsaṃsṛṣṭaṃ prājāpatyam

(Curds, honey, milk, ghee, grains, water, rice—a mixture of all those [constitutes the oblation] in honour of Prajāpati).

So, it is improper to think that the sentence, ‘citrayā...’ should enjoin a sacrifice qualified by the subsidiary. If it is said that this sentence enjoins fruit and accessory both, then there will be split of sentence. So, the word citrā is a name of a sacrifice. The verbal understanding of the sentence is: ‘citrāyāgena paśuṃ bhāvayet’ (By means of Citra sacrifice one should acquire cattle). Here the split of sentence does not arise. Because there is a relation of grammatical co-ordination (sāmānādhikarṇya) between citrā and sacrifice. Both denote the same matter. Various substances are used in this sacrifice. So, this sacrifice is rightly designated as citrā because the word citrā implies variety of things.

(c) The character of Name from a scriptural passage declaring of it (tatprakhyaśāstra):

The word ‘agnihotra’ in the sentence, “agnihotraṃ juhoti ” (He should offer the Agnihotra) expresses the name of the rite because there is a scriptural passage declaratory of the subsidiary matter of the Agnihotra sacrifice. The above sentence is not a guṇavidhi.

Because the subsidiary matter has already been established by this text viz.

yad āhavanīye juhoti

(When he sacrifices in the āhavanīya fire).

So, the locative Bahuvrīhi compound in the form of ‘agnau hotram asmin’ (In this the sacrifice is in the fire) can not be accepted. The dative Bahuvrīhi compound in the form of ‘agnaye hotram asmin’ can not also be acknowledged to get the deity fire as its accessory. Because the deity fire of this sacrifice has been established by another scriptural passage. Which is that passage?

According to Śabara it is:

yad agnaye ca prajāpataye ca sāyaṃ juhoti

(When to Agni and Prajāpati [he] sacrifices in the evening).

But Pārthasārathimiśra and others choose the hymn,

agnir jyotir jyotir agniḥ svāha

(Agni is light, light is Agni, hail).

Actually, the first sentence enjoins Prajāpati as the deity and it refers to Agni as having been already laid down by some other sentence. It is an injunction about Prajāpati and it contains only an anuvāda or subsequent allusion about Agni. If one sentence lays down two deities, then it will lead to gaurava (cumbrousness). If we want to secure lāghava (simplicity or conciseness), then we must admit that the sentence ‘yad agnaye...’ lays down the deity Prajāpati.

Therefore, the proper other sentence (śāstrāntara) laying down the deity Agni is:

agnir jyotir jyotir agniḥ svāhā”.

It should be mentioned that the deity Prajāpati can not annul the deity Agni enjoined by the hymn:

agnir jyotir...’.

Because only prajāpati is not enjoined in the sentence ‘yad agnaye...’ but it enjoins Prajāpati in addition to Agni which is established in the hymn:

agnir jyotiḥ...’

It can not also be said that both deities are enjoined by the sentence:

yad agnaye...’

Because it is less laborious to admit that the sentence ‘yad agnaye...’ enjoins Prajāpati alone as combined with that Agni, after having further alluded to Agni who is established by another passage, than admitting the enjoining of both as combined.

Similarly, the word ‘samidh’ etc. in ‘samidho yajoti’ (He should sacrifice to Samidh.) etc. are the names of sacrifices because of this “tatprakhyaśāstra’.

The deities Samidh and others of fore-sacrifices are obtained from the hymn,

samidhaḥ samidho agna ājyasya vyantu

(May the fire-sticks severally, [O] Agni, partake of ghee).

(d) The character of Name from designation with it (tadvyapadeśa):

The word ‘śyena’ denotes the name of a sacrifice on account of the designation of the rite with it in the injunction, “śyenenābhicaran yajeta” (One desirous of practising hostile magic should sacrifice with the śyena sacrifice).

Because there is an eulogy i.e.

yathā vai śyeno nipatyādatte evam ayaṃ dviṣantaṃ bhrātṛvyaṃ nipatyādate

(As, indeed a falcon, swooping down, seizes [its prey], so this, swooping down, seizes the hating enemy).

Here, the pronoun ‘ayam’ (idam = this) can not denote the falcon because of the impossibility of its analogy with the same matter expressed by the word śyena. For an analogy at least two matters are necessary. So, the pronoun ‘idam’ denotes a sacrifice. Therefore, the term ‘śyenena’ used in ‘śyenenābhicaran yajeta’ must deonote the Śyena sacrifice because of designation of that rite with it.

3. Niṣedha (Prohibition)

Prohibition is a sentence which turns away a man from doing some action. Injunction creates an instigation to do something. So it serves as an instigator. It instigates a man to do sacrifice etc. The prohibition, on the other hand, intimates negative instigation or determent. For example, “na kalañjaṃ bhakṣayet ” (One should not eat poisoned meat). This sentence prohibits a man from eating of poisoned meat which is the means of the greatest evil or highly undesirable result.

The negative particle in a prohibition expresses the meaning of determent by its secondary power (lakṣaṇā). The meaning of the root can not be construed with the meaning of the negative; for it is subordinate to the objective urge expressed by the verbality in the suffix. The sense of the suffix alone is construed with the meaning of the negative particle. Here it is to be also remembered that the meaning of the negative term is not connected to the objective urge (ārthībhāvanā), but it is connected to the verbal urge (śābdībhāvanā). Because the objective urge is subordinate to instigation which is expressed by the element of the optative. But the verbal urge is the principal in relation to all.

But if there is any obstacle to the construction of the sense of the suffix with the meaning of the negative, then the meaning of the root itself is connected with the meaning of the negative. For example, “nekṣetodyantam ādityam” (He should not see the rising Sun). This sentence is stated after making the introduction with ‘tasya vratam’ (His vow is). This section of the Veda deals with the vows of a graduate student. There are some actions which are to be performed by a graduate. But not seeing is not a matter to be performed. So, in ‘He should not see’, the resolution of not seeing which is the opposite to the root-sense of seeing, is conveyed by the negative by means of indication. One can perform a resolution.

So, the verbal understanding of the above sentence is:

ādityaviṣayakānīk-ṣaṇaṣaṃkalpena bhāvayet”:

(By the resolution of not seeing with regard to the Sun he should bring into existence).

The purpose of this resolution is the destruction of sin. Thus the previous sentence ‘tasya vratam’ is syntactically connected with the subsequent sentence (‘nekṣeta...’). Here the meaning of the negative particle is called ‘paryudāsa’.

There is another obstacle which is the contingency of option (vikalpa-prasakti) in the sentences like:

yajatiṣu ye yajāmahaṃ karoti nānuyājeṣu

(He utters “ye yajāmahe” in all sacrifices [yajati], but not in after-sacrifices).

Here the meaning of the suffix is not connected with the meaning of the negative particle. If it is connected with the meaning of the negative, then in the after-sacrifices there would be the prohibition of the hymn ‘ye yajāmahe’. Prohibition must be preceded by the establishment by some text of what is prohibited, because only an established matter can be prohibited.

And the establishment is from the scriptural text,

yajatiṣu ye yajāmahaṃ karoti ”.

An option is accepted with regard to the prohibition of a scritural text by another text, but an annulment (bādha) is not accepted there. So, the prohibition in ‘anuyājeṣu ye yajāmahaṃna karoti ’ can not annul or set aside the prāpti (establishment) of ‘ye yajāmahe’ in the after-sacrifices, because such establishment proceeds from another scriptural text. A man may have some evil passion to the murder of a brāhmaṇa. Passion (rāga) is thus the basis or root of the murder of a brāhmaṇa. The prohibition ‘brāhmaṇo na hantavyaḥ’ (One should not kill a brāhmaṇa) rightly annuls the passion and sets aside the possibility of killing a brāhmaṇa. A scriptural text is stronger than passion; it properly annuls passion. But in the case under discussion, the opposition is between two scriptural texts viz. ‘yajatiṣu ye yajāmahaṃ karoti ’ which enjoins the hymn ‘ye yajāmahe’ in all sacrifices, and ‘anuyājeṣu ye yajāmahaṃ na karoti ’, which forbids it in the case of the after-sacrifices. Both are equally strong. So, one can not with propriety annul the other. Therefore, one has to admit option between these two scriptural texts.

But an option is not proper. Because it leads to alternative unauthori-tativeness accruing to a text. When one follows the text ‘ye yajāmahaṃ’ in after-sacrifices, the text viz. ‘nānuyājeṣu...’ can not possibly have authoritativeness like the text referring to barley becomes unauthoritative, when one performs a sacrifice with rice-grains. Moreover, a double invisible result is to be assumed, because even both injunction and prohibition are made for the benefit of a man. So, the meaning of the negative particle here is not prohibition, but it means only exclusion. Consequently, the purport of the prohibition here is: In sacrifices different from the after-sacrifices one should utter the hymn ‘ye yajāmahe’, because the negative metaphorically signifies sacrifices different from the after-sacrifices. So, there is no scope of option.

Eight Defects of Option

If there is any possibility of justification otherwise, the option is not admitted. Because this option is vitiated by eight defects. For example, if the performance is first with rice grains, then the authority of the text prescribing barley, consisting in an inducement to utilize its primary meaning, is abandoned, and its unauthoritativeness, in the form of a lack of inducement to utilize that meaning, is admitted. If the performance is done with barley which was first abandoned is admitted, and its unauthoritativeness that was admitted is discarded. So the text prescribing barley is subject to four defects.

Similarly, if barley is first used, the authority of the text prescribing rice grains is abandoned, and that unauthoritativeness of the text which takes the form of a lack of inducement to utilize its primary meaning, is admitted. If rice grains are used, then the abandoned authority of the text prescribing rice grains is admitted, and its admitted unauthoritativeness is discarded. So, the text prescribing rice grains is also subject to four defects. Thus an option is vitiated by eight defects. So, option is generally avoided.

Reasons for Accepting Option

Option is accepted only for two reasons. Firstly, it is admitted sometimes due to things having a common purpose, that is, doing the same function. For example, there is an option between rice and barley. Both rice and barley can produce the cake. Secondly, option is sometimes admitted due to a scriptural text.

For example, in the sentence, “bṛhat pṛṣṭhaṃ bhavati[1] (The pṛṣṭha should consist of the bṛhat), a hymn called pṛṣṭha, which is made up of verses called bṛhat-sāman, is enjoined, while in the another sentence, “rathantaraṃ pṛṣṭhaṃ bhavati[2] (The pṛṣṭha should consist of the rathantara), another hymn called pṛṣṭha, made up of verses called rathantara-sāman, is enjoined. The bṛhat-pṛṣṭha and rathantara-pṛṣṭha are meant to produce different invisible results. So, they do not serve an indentical purpose.

Yet there is an option between them because of the strength of the scriptural statement,

“The pṛṣṭha should either be composed of the bṛhat or it should be composed of the rathantara”.

Now, we may come to the topic under discussion. The negative particle in ‘nānuyājeṣu’ signifies exclusion (paryudāsa). In some cases, even on the contingency of option, prohibition (pratiṣedha) is to be resorted to owing to there being no other way.

For example, there is a prohibition in the Veda,

nātirātre ṣoḍaśinaṃ gṛhṇāti

(He should not take the ṣoḍaśin [a kind of cup to hold the soma] in the Atirātra).

There is also an injunction,

atirātre ṣoḍaśinaṃ gṛhṇāti

(He should take the ṣoḍaśin in the Atirātra).

Though here option arises, yet the negative does not signifie exclusion because of its impossibility. The negative particle can not be connected with the meaning of ṣoḍaśin, for in that case the sentence will give the meaning,  “In the Atirātra he should take something different from the ṣoḍaśin” which contradicts to the direct injunction. The negative particle can not also be connected with the meaning of the word Atirātra. Because then the sentence will mean, ‘In sacrifices different from the Atirātra he should take the ṣoḍaśin’, which also contradicts to the injunction. So, the negative particle here means prohibition—this is to be accepted because there is no other way. Actually, here the option is admitted i.e. sometimes one may take the ṣoḍaśin in the Atirātra or he may not sometimes take it in the Atirātra. Because use and non-use of the ṣoḍaśin are contradictory to each other. So, both of them can not be resorted to in the same performance.

4. Arthavāda (Corroborative Statement)

A corroborative statement (arthavāda) is a sentence, which aims at either the praise or glorification, or blame or censure of a rite. It indicates a purposeful matter. It does not have its own purpose. It only conveys by indication (lakṣaṇā) the praise or censure of a matter to be enjoined or a matter to be prohibited. If this corroborative statement expresses its own meaning, then it will be useless. There will arise purposelessness. Because the Veda is for the purpose of action. One can not say that the purposelessness of the corroborative statement is desirable because the entire Veda leads to matters with purpose by the power of the adhyanavidhi, ‘The Veda should be studied’. Not a single word is purposeless in the Veda. So, the corroborative statements also serve some important purpose i.e. praise or censure.

These statement are of four kinds, being divided into condemnation, eulogy, heroic performance and past incident.

(a) An instance of condemnatory corroborative statement is,

“He who bestows silver, which is produced from tears, in the sacrifice called Barhis, has lamentation in his home before the lapse of a year.”

(b) An instance of eulogistic corroborative statement is:

“He who knows thus has a shining face.”

(c) Heroic performance (parakṛti) means a corroborative statement which tells that a particular work was performed by a great personage.

For example,

“Fire desired, ‘Let me be a voracious eater among the gods’.”

(d) Past incident (purākalpa) is that corroborative statement which expresses something that has been narrated by another; for example, the passage,

“He cursed it, saying, ‘May people kill you whenever they have a mind to (or, by various devices’)!”

Among these, the condemnatory corroborative statement praises the thing enjoined through condemning the things not enjoined by injunction. Since the sentence ‘aśrujaṃ hi rajataṃ yo barhiṣi dadātipurā’sya saṃvatsarād gṛhe rudanti[3] praises the thing enjoined i.e. prohibition of giving silver, by censuring of silver.

The other three kinds of the corroborative statements directly demonstrates eulogy. The sentence “vāyur vai kṣepiṣṭhā devatā...”[4] suggests that the Wind, being swift in movement, is an exceedingly laudable deity, and so a rite which is performed for the deity Wind, is praiseworthy. The purākalpa and parakṛti sentences signify that as such and such sacrifices had been done by the great personage or deities in the past, these sacrifices should certainly be performed by other sacrificers even today.

The corroborative statement again can be divided into three categories. These are guṇavāda, anuvāda and bhūtārthavāda. The previous division was based on the nature of arthavāda. The basis of the second classification is whether the actual content of arthavāda is contradicted by another means of proof, or is supported by it, or is neither contradicted nor supported.

When the content of an arthavāda is contradicated by another means of proof, it is designated as guṇavāda.

For example,

ādityo yūpaḥ

(The sacrificial post is the Sun).

The sacrificial post is used to tie the animal which is to be immolated in it. So, the sacrificial post can never be the Sun. Its identity with the Sun is contradicated by our direct perception. So, the primary meaning of the arthavāda is discarded and we take resort to a new meaning by indication. Metaphorically the above sentence means that the sacrificial post is as brilliant as the Sun. This arthavāda indicates a quality. So it is called guṇavāda.

If the subject-matter conveyed by the arthavāda is established or known from some other means of proof, it is called anuvāda. Here the matter known from another source of knowledge is merely repeated.

For example,

agnir himasya bheṣajam

(Fire is a remedy against cold).

We know from our direct perception that fire is opposed to cold. So, the above example is nothing but a repetition of our perceptual experience.

The bhūtarthavāda conveys a thing happened in the past. The subject-matter of it is real because of its occurrence in the past. So, it is not contradicated with another means of proof.

For example,

indro vṛtrāya vajram udayacchat

(Indra raised the thunderbolt for [striking] Vṛtra).

The nature of these three arthavāda has been precisely described in the following Sanskrit verse—

virodhe guṇavādaḥ syād anuvādovadhārite |
bhūtārthavādas taddhānād arthavādas tridhā mataḥ ||

By this forgoing discussion, it is proved that the hymns, names, prohibitions and corroborative statements are dependent on injunctions for their authoritativeness.

Footnotes and references:


Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa I. 2. ii 4.


Taittirīya-saṃhitā. I. 4. i 2.


Taittirīya-saṃhitā. II. 1. i 1.


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