ishhTa-prApti and anishhTa-parihAra
Anand V. Hudli
anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 2 14:20:50 CDT 1999
Shankara in his commentary on the bR^ihadAraNyaka-upanishhad
sarvo .apyayaM vedaH pratyaxAnumAnAbhyAM anavagateshhTAnishhTa-
The entire Veda is engaged in revealing those means to obtaining
the desired (good) and getting rid of the undesired (evil) that are not
revealed by perception (direct sensory experience, pratyakSha) and
This is a very important point for the following reason. If the
Vedas were to tell us about ways of attaining things that can be
attained by ordinary perception and/or inference, the Vedas become
redundant. But if the Vedas are redundant, we are lead to an absurd
conclusion. We know, for example, that Vedic mantras were "seen" by
ancient Rishis with some kind of a superhuman power. If the Vedas are
redundant in that they reveal what can be gained by ordinary experience
then we would have to accept the fact that all those ancient Rishis were
no better than any common person of today. Herein lies the absurdity.
Therefore, the Vedas must be unique and not redundant.
"ishhTa-prApti" means obtaining the desired or good. There are many things
that we know to be as means to "ishhTa-prApti." For example, if I
see a fruit, I know that eating it would be an "ishhTa-prApti". This
is a case of ishhTa-prApti the means for which is revealed by
direct perception. There are other "ishhTa-prApti"s the means for
which are revealed by inference. For example, I see that my friend
is putting away some of his money in a 401K plan that will eventually
reward him with a lot of money. Moreover he tells me a lot of people have
been doing this many years. From this I infer that if I did the
same thing as he, I will get a lot of money too, eventually. The means
to "ishhTa-prApti" in this case is provided by inference or anumAna.
"anishhTa-parihAra" means getting rid of or avoiding the undesired.
There are many things that we know to be means to "anishhTa-parihAra."
If I am cold, I know I need to wear suitable clothing. This is a case
where the means for anishhTa-parihAra is revealed by perception.
There are other "anishhTa-parihAra"s whose means
are to be inferred rather than learnt through directly experience.
I hear that accidents happen during bad weather such as a snow storm.
From this I infer that I should not drive during bad weather. I don't have
to go through an accident in bad weather in order to reach this
conclusion. This is a case where the means to "anishhTa-parihAra" is
arrived at by inference.
In the vedic sentence, " agnihotraM juhuyAt.h svargakAmaH", "one who
desires heaven should perform the agnihotra", both the desired object
heaven and the means of achieving it, ie. the agnihotra, are not known
through perception and inference. This is a case of "ishhTaprApti" the
means for which is revealed by the Vedas. In the statement, "sarvaM
pApmAnaM tarati, tarati brahmahatyAM yo .ashvamedhena yajate, ya u chaina-
mevaM veda", makes it known to us that for getting rid of the all sin,
even the sin of brahmahatyA (killing a brAhmaNa), the ashvamedha yajna is
to be performed. Here again, the means for getting rid of the sins and the
sins themselves are not known through perception and inference. But these
are known through the Vedas. This is case of "anishhTa-parihAra" the
means for which is revealed by the Vedas.
In the final analysis, we come to VedAnta or the upanishads which are
the jnAna-kANDa of the Vedas. Here too, the Vedas are engaged in
revealing the means for ishhTa-prApti and anishhTa-parihAra. What is
the ishhTa-prApti here? It is mokshha or the attainment of Brahman. What
is the anishhTa-parihAra? It is the removal of ignorance, ignorance which
makes us mistake Brahman as something else. What is the means for
attainment of mokshha which is also the means for removal of ignorance?
It is the statements of vedAnta such as "tattvamasi" "neti neti", "neha
nAnAsti kiJNchana", etc.
sAyaNa express the same opinion as Shankara in his introduction to the
commentary on the yajurveda:
ishhTa-prApty-anishhTa-parihArayoH alaukikaM upAyaM yo grantho vedayati
sa vedaH |
The work that reveals the supra-mundane means to obtaining the desired and
getting rid of the undesired (evil) is veda.
The following also serves as yet another pithy definition of veda:
pratyaxeNAnumityA vA yastUpAyo na budhyate |
enaM vidanti vedena tasmAdvedasya vedatA ||
That means which is not known by either perception or inference, is
known (by the knowers of Veda) through Veda. That is the vedatva of
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