[Advaita-l] How to read puranas

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Jun 9 23:17:28 CDT 2011

On Mon, 23 May 2011, ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli wrote:

> Mimamsa's division does not apply even to the entire Sruti - it is only for
> Samhita and Brahmana. Their first division of Veda is into two parts - the
> Mantra (Samhita) and Brahmana.

Brahmana is in its widest sense any part of shruti which is not mantra. 
Most of the historically earliest upanishads are part of a brahmana.  For 
instance brhadaranyaka (note the name) is the concluding parts of the 
shatapatha brahmana.  In fact its chapters are called brahmanas. 
Taittireyopanishad is the concluding part of the Taittireya Aranyaka which 
itself is the concluding part of the Taittireya Brahmana and so on.

> While the general principles of Mimamsa, its Pramana Sastra are useful in
> understanding most of traditional literature, the rules are not strictly
> applicable, esp reg vidhi nishedha etc.
> For example, I remember having read some discussion on Surya Namaskara procedure
> along with Aruna mantras, why it should not be done or should be done based on
> Mimamsa principles. It was probably overlooked that Mimamsa does not apply its
> rules to Aranyaka and Aruna Patha is part of Aranyaka.

See above.  Now one place where Vedanta and purva mimamsa part company is 
that the former do not accept the latters analysis of the jnana kanda. 
(Wherever in shruti that might occur.)  But suryanamaskara etc. definitely 
fall under the purview of karma and therefore PM.

> Second reason why Mimamsa cannot be applied to Purana is that Purana's
> statementes are not vidhi/nishedha but essentially recommendations. There is
> always a question of whether it should be taken or not. Sruti gives not such
> option.

On the contrary, Shruti often does.  We recently discussed such a case.
See: http://lists.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/2011-April/026965.html

And there are many instances where puranas state something unequivocably 
and these statements are treated as authoritative in dharmashastras.

> Mimamsa texts themselves explicitly mention some of the smriti 
> statements which cannot be taken as valid.

Smrti has authority only insofar as it is based on shruti.  But when it 
is, the same principles can be applied to their analysis.

> Third reason is that Sruti does not by itself subscribe to a worldview but only
> explains the cosmic phenomenon. Smriti statements in many cases are
> subscriptions to specific worldviews, and hence are subjective in their
> relevance and validity.

Can you give an example of what you mean by this.

> Going by this, the statements on Buddha and Sankara should rather be taken as
> the opinions of smriti kara and not essentially as having the sanction of Sruti,
> much less as "true". In contrast, there is no sruti-kara's relevance when one
> talks of the Apourusheya.

Do you believe the injuction to celebrate Holi (which is not mentioned in 
Shruti) has any force or is it the opinion of some smrti-kara?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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