ARTHAVAAD IN VEDAS ( Part -2) :
====== History In Vedas And Different Kinds of Arthavadas ======
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.10 there is the teaching pertaining to the ‘creation’ of the Veda-s by Brahman. The mantra reads thus:
स यथार्द्रैंधाग्नेरभ्याहितात् पृथग्धूमा विनिश्चरन्त्येवं वा अरेऽस्य महतो भूतस्य निश्वसितमेतद्यदृग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्वाङ्गिरस इतिहासः पुराणं
विद्या उपनिषदः श्लोकाः सूत्राण्यनुव्याख्यानानि व्याख्यानान्यस्यैवैतानि
" As from a fire kindled with wet fuel various kinds of smoke issue forth, even so, my dear, the Rig—Ved, the Yajur-Ved, the Sama-Ved, the Atharvangirasa, *history (itihaas),* mythology (puran), the arts (vidya), the Upanishads, verses (slokas), aphorisms (sUtras), elucidations (anuvyakhyanas) and explanations (vyakhyanas) are like the breath of this infinite Reality. From this Supreme Self are all these, indeed, breathed forth. "
Sri Shankaracharya, while commenting on this mantra, writes for the
word इतिहासः of the Upanishad: ‘such as the dialogue, etc. between UrvashI and Pururavas (Shatapatha Brahman 220.127.116.11).
Sri S.Subrahmanya Shastri, in the foot notes writes:
इतिहासः पुराणम् इत्यादौ भाष्ये वेदगत-अर्थवादरूपाणि पुरावृत्तानि
ग्राह्याणीत्युक्तम् । भारतादीनामनादिवेदप्रतिपाद्यत्वासंभवात् ।
" By the terms ‘itihaas and puranam’ of the mantra, the Bhashya intends to say: those statements contained in the Vedas, as having ‘occurred’ in the ancient times are to be taken. However, the texts of the Mahabharata, etc. cannot be regarded to be included by these Vedic terms as it would be unreasonable to hold that they have their source in the Vedas. "
Some of such incidents are of the Ajaatashatru – Baalaki episode of the Brihadaranyak Upanishad, Narada-Sanatkumara dialogue of the Chandogya Upanishad , the Shounaka-Angiras exchange of the Mundaka Upanishad and so on.
It would be interesting to note in the Katha Upanishad, for this opening mantra:
Vajasravasa, desiring rewards, performed the Visvajit sacrifice, in which he gave away all his property. He had a son named Nachiketa.
Acharya starts the commentary with the words :
" तत्राख्यायिका विद्यास्तुत्यर्था । "
The story there is by way of eulogizing the knowledge.
The Acharya, consistent with His Brihadaranyaka Bhashya we referred to earlier, writes in the Katha Upanishad context too: this is an Akhyayika, an account of a past event aimed at *eulogizing *, stuti, Arthavada. Now, ‘Arthavada’ could be a statement of an actual incident / event of the past, (भूतार्थवादः) Bhutarthavada, or a mere eulogy: Stutyarthavada (गुणवादः) or even a statement of a fact, in the manner of an allusion, that is already known : अनुवादः.
In any case, all these come under the category of ‘ itihasa / purana’ in the Vedic context. Thus, we have a certain entity in the Veda that is called an ‘ itihasa / purana’ by the Veda itself.
There are then passages that are of utmost importance and have the force of law. These are to be accepted in full, Things that are to be discarded belong to the category of "arthavada" and “anuvada".
The Vedas contain stories told to impress on us the importance of a
concept, stories that raise ideas to a higher level. The injunctions with which these stories are associated must be acepted in full but the stories themselves may be discarded as "arthavada", that is they need not be brought into obsevance.
What is "anuvada"? Before speaking about a new rule or a new concept, the Vedas tell us about things that we already know. They go on repeating this without coming to the new rule or concept that is things known to us in practical life and not having the authority of Vedic pronouncements. This is "anuvada".
Suppose there is an advertisement of a tonic that claims to give you vigour and strength. It carries an illustration showing a man wrestling with a lion. What is the purpose of this drawing? It is a kind of deception, the idea behind it being to induce you to buy the tonic, and make money.
Such "stories" in the Vedas become purposeful only because of the injunctions associated with them and they belong to the category of "arthavada". Why does a doctor print his certificate in advertising his medicine? To persuade people to buy it (the medicine). In this way in arthavada untruth is mixed with truth. The untrue part is called "gunavada". " Anuvada" means stating what is already known. For instance, the statement that " fire burns ".
Mentioning the ingredients of a medicine is an example of "bhutarthavada". "Gunarthavada" is to tell a story, even though untrue, to make it useful for the observance of a rule. "Do not drink liquor" is an injunction (or interdiction). To tell the "story" that a man who got drunk was ruined is arthavada. The purpose- or moral- is that one must not drink. To say that if a man drinks he will be intoxicated is anuvada. All told, the stories or statements belonging to arthavada must make us conform to the commandments of the Vedas.
विरोधे गुणवादः स्यात् अनुवादोऽवधारिते ।
भूतार्थवादस्तद्धानात् अर्थवादस्त्रिधा मतः ॥
Hence we see that there are three kinds of ‘arthavadas’.
1. Gunavada or metaphor where the literal meaning is incompatible with what is established by some other pramana,
2. Anuvada or restatement where the meaning is established by another pramana and
3. Bhutarthavada where the meaning is neither established nor precluded by any other pramanas.
However, this has to be distinguished from the ‘worldly’, ‘loukika’ itihasa / purana. Taking the cases of the composed / authored ones like the Mahabharata, Ramayana and other puranas, we have a definite author like Bhagavan Veda Vyasa, Sage Valmiki, etc. These ‘stories’ are believed to have ‘taken place’ in the setting of the Treta yuga or Dvaapara Yuga. The events recorded in the Veda, however, are different from the above in that they are not events that occurred at a particular yuga-setting and authored by a specific person. We have this one interesting case in the Katha Upanishad.
Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Swamigal, the 35th Acharya of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, gives clarifications on a variety of topics concerning Sanatana Dharma :
Disciple: We find many stories in the Veda-s. Are they accounts of historical events?
Acharya : No. The stories do not relate to actual worldly incidents. The Veda-s, which are like the breath of the Supreme Being, have no beginning. As such, they are not the records of the historical events of any age. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad for instance, contains a discussion between sage Yajnavalkya and king Janaka. This is not the retelling of a dialogue between two individuals who lived in some specific period. An event similar to that narrated could have occurred at some time but it cannot be said that this is what has been cited in the Upanishad. The stories in the Veda-s are meant only as an illustration to teach something. "
Sri Adi Shankarachrya says in Satasloki verse no. 29. :
" Long ago a king named Sanathi had a learned and capable priest by name Subandhu.This priest died as a result of imprecatory rites performed against him by some Brahmanas. His subtle body went to Yama's abode. His brother chanted some Vedic mantras and brought the subtle body back to the earth. This story is narrated in a sukta in the Rig Ved (10.57). From this it is clear that it is the subtle body that leaves the physical body on death and transmigrates and not the indwelling self. "
That the devas possess, in consequence of their preeminent power, the capability of residing within the light, and so on, and to assume any form they like is taught in the arthavâda passage explaining the words " ram of Medhâtithi, " which form part of the Subrahmanya mantra, that " Indra, having assumed the shape of a ram, carried off Medhâtithi, the descendant of Kanva " (Shadv. Br. I, 1). And thus Smriti says that " Âditya, having assumed the shape of a man, came to Kuntî. "
A unique example is: In His Brahma Sutra Bhashyam, Shankaracharya has recounted an interesting Vedic tale. Bashkali was desirous of knowing Brahman. So, he approached the enlightened sage Badhva and requested: ‘Please teach me about Brahman.’ Badhva remained silent. Bashkali repreated his appeal but again the sage did not respond. Being earnest, Bashkali asked for the third time, ‘Please teach me about Brahman.’ The sage said, ‘I have already taught you but have failed to comprehend. This Atma is quiescence.’The source of the Vedic tale is unknown.
When Nachiketas asked for the knowledge of the Fire Ritual in encashment of the second boon) that would take people to heaven, the Acharya Yama taught him this. In appreciation of the disciple’s phenomenally quick grasping and reproducing the method of the ritual, Yama declares.1.16,17 :
" The Mahatma Yama, being well pleased, said to Nachiketa: I will now give you another boon: this fire shall be named after you. Take also from me this many-splendored chain. He who has performed three times this Nachiketa sacrifice, having been instructed by the three and also has performed his three duties, overcomes birth and death. Having known this Fire born of Brahman, omniscient, luminous and adorable and realized it, he attains supreme peace. "
In the ‘aruna prashna’ of the Yajur Veda, we find the mention of this ritual, with the name of Nachiketas, in the expression : ‘ नाचिकेतं चिन्वीत ’. If we hold that the two events are sequential / successive in time, then we end up concluding that the aruna prashna is a ‘later’ portion of the Veda. This would be against the traditional view that the Veda-s are eternal, never composed by anyone at any point of time.
Then, how is one to understand the sequence of the two mantras, the one in the Katha Upanishad and the other in the aruna prashna?
It is here that we have to abandon the worldly method of sequencing events and simply take the Vedic pronouncements ‘as they are’. The Katha Upanishadic ‘event’ of Yama granting the ‘naming’ of the Ritual after Nachiketas is not to be seen as an event in terms of worldly time. This is because, the agni ritual has always been there and the Aruna prashna name ‘Naachiketa’ has always been there. Also, the Katha Upanishad mantra we saw above also has always been there.
In dealing with a sacrifice, the Vedas ask us to pay the daksina in gold, not in silver. According to the Taittiriya Samhita silver should not be given as daksina in sacrifices. In this connection a long story is told to illustrate the "nisedha" or the prohibitory rule regarding silver. ("Do this" is a "vidhi"; "do not do this" is a "nisedha". ) But the words by themselves in such arthavada do not serve any purpose.
Anuvada and arthavada are not of importance and are not meant to
convey the ultimate purpose or message of the Vedas. What we do not know otherwise through any other authority and what the Vedas speak of is "vidhi". And that is the chief "vada", the true tattva, the true intent of the Vedas.
" Om Shanti Shanti Shanti "