[Advaita-l] 'Vedic History' and 'Worldly History' Part One

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Mar 12 19:17:53 CST 2010


An article with the above title is presented here in two parts.  This is the
first part.

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः
‘Vedic History’ and ‘Worldly History’

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
निश्वसितानि ॥

//"As from a fire kindled with wet fuel various kinds of smoke  issue forth,
even so, my dear, the Rig—Veda, the Yajur-Veda,  the Sama-Veda, the
Atharvangirasa,  *history  (itihaasa),*  mythology (purANa), 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

Sri Shankaracharya, while commenting on this mantra, writes for the
word इतिहासः
of the Upanishad: ‘such as the dialogue, etc. between UrvashI and PurUravas
-   उर्वशी हाप्सरा.’ (Shatapatha brAhmaNa

The Editor of this edition of the Bhashyam, Sri S.Subrahmanya Shastri, in
the foot notes writes:

इतिहासः पुराणम् इत्यादौ भाष्ये वेदगत-अर्थवादरूपाणि पुरावृत्तानि
ग्राह्याणीत्युक्तम् । भारतादीनामनादिवेदप्रतिपाद्यत्वासंभवात् ।

//By the terms ‘itihAsa and purANam’ of the mantra, the BhAshya intends to
say: those statements contained in the Veda-s, 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.//

It would be interesting to note in the Kathopanishat, for this opening

// Vajasravasa, desiring rewards, performed the Visvajit sacrifice, in which
he gave away all his property.  He had a son named Nachiketa. // the 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 Kathopanishad 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.

विरोधे गुणवादः स्यात् अनुवादोऽवधारिते ।

भूतार्थवादस्तद्धानात् अर्थवादस्त्रिधा मतः ॥

//There are three kinds of ‘artha-vAda-s’.  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 pramaaNa-s.


//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".
There is another term called "anuvada". It 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. (
http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part12/chap9.htm) //

(To be continued and concluded in Part two)

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