[Advaita-l] Anarthakya & self-consistency (changing the subject heading)

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com
Mon Mar 16 13:57:44 CDT 2009

>Anarthakya is a general principle in the mImA.msA theory
>of language and interpretation. essentially it prevents
>data-mining the texts to come up with conclusions we are
>comfortable with. Essentially if two different statements
>*seem* to contradict one another, one cannot be picked
>over the other, common ground has to be sought.
>While the mImA.msA is strictly applied to shruti and smR^iti ,
>this is used even in Indian jurisprudence. P.V.Kane has shown
>how the Indian jurisprudence is largely indebted to this principle.
>Franklin Edgerton calls this principle a "sound" way of interpreting

As a general principle, there cannot be a legal system anywhere
in the world, without some strict and logical method of seeking
common ground where there appears to be contradiction. Given
a set of source texts, one has to look for internal self-consistency
when interpreting them, or else the entire system built upon them
will fall.

Specifically with respect to advaita vedAnta, one has to remember
that it is also a mImAMsA, although different from pUrva mImAMsA
in its goals and axioms. The entire set of SankarAcArya's bhAshyas
presupposes a lot of prior grounding. One does not need to have all
this background of learning in order to liberate onself from saMsAra.
However, studying the bhAshyas and discussing subtle points of
philosophical importance in them does require this background.

Thus, for example, if we read a statement in the sUtrabhAshya that
may be capable of two or more interpretations, we have to look for
clarification in the gItAbhAshya and the upanishad bhAshyas, or
else we are in danger of misinterpreting the bhAshyakAra. We
cannot pick and choose what we like.

Re: adhyAropa-apavAda, it is a pedagogic technique. In one sense,
it is a way of ironing out seeming contradictions in the texts. In a
more powerful sense, it is also a way of showing why the texts
deliberately speak in seemingly contradictory ways, in order to
point to the reality behind verbal descriptions. There are many
examples from gItA and the upanishads that we can point to here -

sarvendriya gunAbhAsaM sarvendriya vivarjitaM

nirguNaM guNa bhoktR ca

dUrastham cAntike ca

satyaM cAnRtaM ca satyam abhavat ... asad vA idam agra AsIt |
tato vai sad ajAyata | ... (taittirIya)

sad eva saumyedam agra AsIt (chAndogya)

The last two examples are perhaps the most powerful for advaita


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