Mantra vs Brahmana (was Re: [Advaita-l] Aruna Prashna)

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at
Tue Jul 5 11:23:53 CDT 2005

--- Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian
<rama.balasubramanian at> wrote:

> c) Sri Mahasannidhaanam, the previous head of the Sringeri
> Mutt, in
> his Srimukham to the book, thinks suurya namaskaaram with
> aruNa
> prashnam is an excellent way of worshiping suurya.

Of course, that unquestionably settles the practical use of the
mantras for sUrya namaskaara.

Any further talk about this can only be theoretical, so if
anyone wants to stop reading here and disregard this posting,
please do so.

> The point of all this is that rituals and the braahmaNa 
> statements
> have interpretations other than the merely obvious. Anyone can

> come up
> with obvious meanings. Going to the proper sources, be it the 
> ancient
> nirukta and bodhaayana or the modern masters like 
> Mahasannidhanam will
> make adhyaatmic interretations clear. suurya namaskaaram is 
> indeed a
> great meditation, and this is seen only if the adhyaatmic 
> meanings of
> the passages are understood.

There are two points to be noted here:

1) For the practical use of mantras, shraddhA or faith in the
efficacy of the mantras and devotion towards the deity is
fundamental, independent of whether or not the meanings of the
mantras point to that deity. Even if sentences which are totally
out of place are recited with great shraddhA and bhakti to a
chosen deity, no one will doubt that the prayer will be fruitful
on account of the firmness of the worshipper's faith.

2) There is a theoretical side to the use of mantras for a deity
- mantras are generally used depending on the primary deity to
which the meaning of the mantras refer to.

What is absolutely necessary for any prayer is 1), but to have
also 2) is a good thing. If I'm not mistaken, mahAsannidhAnam
was principally referring to 1) while speaking of the use of
aruNa prashna for sUrya namaskAra and only tangentially to 2).

The best way to decide on whether the primary deity of the aruNa
prashna is sUrya, according to the intended meanings of the
mantras, is to simply consult the shAyaNa commentary, which is
considered to be the greatest commentary on the Vedas by far.
I'm virtually certain that shAyaNa has NOT considered the aruNa
prashna as referring primarily to sUrya. The person whose views
were quoted in that letter is an authority belonging to the
Sringeri Math, who has extensively studied shAyaNa's commentary.
It is highly improbable that he would be mistaken in this

> I thought a little more about this and apologize for my
> mistake in
> identifying the laghunyaasam as a mantra below.
> In general mantra statements are addressed to a particular
> devata.
> Example, rudram, etc. When the devata is not explicit, yAska
> in his
> nirukta, says that bR^ihaspati is to be considered the devata.

The main deity of the aruNa prashnaH is ApaH, a reading of the
shAyaNa commentary will confirm this (if shAyaNa has indeed
commented on this prashna).

> Now braahmaNa statements can be of two kinds. The first being
> descriptions of how to perform rituals and the second being
> meditations.

According to the sources I have come across, brAhmaNa statements
involving karma are of two kinds - vidhi/nishhedha and

(I think some others have categorized some Vedic statements as
part of the "upAsana kANDa" too, but I don't know much about it.
In VedAnta, there exists a class of BrAhmaNa statements that do
not have anything to do with karma, but that is not being
discussed here.)

I guess "vidhi" can translate as "how to perform rituals", but
I'm not sure "arthavAda" translates well as "meditations". It is
more like a statement that qualifies action.

> The meditations can be either associated with
> rituals or
> not, as the brahma suutra makes clear. Sankara does point out
> many
> meditations are indeed a) associated with rituals and b) can
> give the
> same benefit as the ritual if properly performed. The reason,
> he says,
> is that it is exceedingly difficult  to not perform
> actions/rituals.

I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that you are taking

> The laghunyaasam seems to belong to the categoryof
> meditations not
> associated with a particular ritual.

I will ask the above question to a Pandit during my India visit
later this year.


> Now the aruNa prashnam has brAhmaNa statements describing the
> aruNaketukam, pu.skaraparNaih, etc. I was thinking about these
> when I
> hastily identified the laghunyaasam as a mantra. The question
> is
> whether such statements can be used as part of a ritual.
> a) In the brahma yajna, ritual par excellence, one is supposed
> to
> recite passages of the samhitaa, braahmaNa etc. Here recital
> of the
> passages is itself the ritual. The second prashnam of the
> taittiriiya
> aaraNyakam points out the importance of doing brahma yajnam.

>From what I'm aware, brahma yaGYa is considered more of an
upAsana than a kriyA. It is definitely of a different class
altogether from other yaGYas. As for example, the pashu to be
sacrificed is one's own anger, which sounds more of an upAsana
than a kriyA. Even if it is taken as a kriyA, it is most
definitely an exception among the yaGYas.

> b) In the mahaanyaasam described by bhagavaan bodhaayana, the
> pratipUruSha section beginning with pratipUruSham eka kapaala,
> etc is
> part of the raajasuuya mantras where rudra is described as
> being one
> without a second (eko eva rudro na dvitiiya etc). After the
> samhitaa
> passage, the braahmaNa passages are also recited which clearly
> describe the ritual, sacrifice of an animal, etc. So
> bodhaayana seems
> to think it's ok to use braahmaNa passages in a ritual (not
> merely for
> understanding *how* to perform the ritual)

Does BodhAyana explicitly classify the Vedic sentences that
speak of the ritual as BrAhmaNa sentences, or do you suppose
that they must be brAhmaNa sentences on account of their
description of a ritual? If it is the latter, you should be
aware that mantras can also describe a ritualistic procedure.

For example, read KumArila's commentary on the mImAmsA sUtra
1.2.31, where he says that the Vedic text "devasyatvetyArabhya
gAyatreNa chhandasaa aadade ... iti chaturbhirabhrimaadatte,"
that speaks of picking up the abhri (spade) for the ritual is
actually a mantra.  So just because a text speaks of a
ritualistic procedure does not automatically make it a brAhmaNa

What was mentioned was that there are BrAhmaNa sentences in the
aruNa prashna that should not be used towards a kriyA. The
question is - are all brAhmaNa sentences not used towards a
kriyA, or is there a specific category of brAhmaNa sentences
that appear in the aruNa prashna that should not be used towards
a kriyA?

More importantly, has BodhAyana (or Apastamba or any other
ancient authority) spoken about the aaruNa ketuka chayana? If
so, do they consider the aruNa prashna as a prayer to be
performed for sUrya namaskaara? I think it is unlikely that the
ancient authorities like BodhAyana saw the aruNa prashna as
anything but a sacrifice to ApaH. The shrauta, GR^ihya, or kalpa
sUtras will easily confirm this.

The vaidIka karmas that are commonly performed have a firm basis
in Vedas + smR^itis + logic. In other words, all of them are
simply derived from shruti and smR^iti using very
straightforward reasoning, seldom requiring contrived
explanations. This includes agnihotra, saMdhyA vandanaM, vivAha
saMskAra, etc. which are all derived from shruti and smR^iti
devoid of any "special mystical reasons". Of course, there is
some shishhTAchAra also involved in the procedures, but it is
peripheral to the rituals established in shruti and smR^iti.

It seems that the use of the aruNa prashna for sUrya namaskaara
comes not from shruti and smR^iti, but from shishhTAchAra, and
is likely not traceable to any text before the 14th century or
so, indicating that it is comparatively recent. It also seems
that the aruNa prashna was initially used as a sacrifice to ApaH
but only later as a prayer to sUrya.

It is definitely not outside the realm of possibility that the
aruNa prashna was initially chosen by someone who wanted to
worship sUrya and took up these mantras with shraddhA and
bhakti, but without much knowledge as to the meanings of the


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