[Advaita-l] Mantra, Brahmana, Mimamsa and Vedanta (was RE: How to read puranas)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 15 10:40:32 CDT 2011

Changing the subject line - I think a few clarifications are in order here.
> "Brahmana is in its widest sense any part of shruti which is not mantra. "
> This makes sense, especially if we read significant parts of Aranyaka as 
> arthavAda without attaching it to the guna/artha karma. However the 
> classification of Aranyaka predates mImAmsa and there is no reason why the 
> entire non-samhita must be treated as brAhmana. 
> The question is whether mImAmsa cares for anything that is arthavAda for the 
> sake of it, I guess not. It is more utilitarian in it view, explicitly saying 
> the reason why the mantra exists and why the other portions of veda exist (all 
> for the sake of yajna). From this viewpoint I do not think mImAmsa has any real 
> reason to worry about the entire upanishad-aranyaka part. 

The distinction between saMhitA and brAhmaNa is well established even prior
to any pUrva mImAMsA analysis or interpretation of the veda texts. Indeed, the
primary distinction between the kRshNa yajurveda and the Sukla yajurveda in
terms of content is that in the former, the mantra and brAhmaNa portions are
found interspersed with each other, whereas in the latter, they are demarcated
very explicitly in their internal  arrangement. Whether a given text is called
saMhitA or mantra or brAhmaNa or AraNyaka or upanishad or some combination
of these terms(*) is a matter of context and varies from veda to veda, or even
SAkhA to SAkhA. A text is called AraNyaka only because it was originally meant
to be learnt in the forest, not in the village/settlement. These distinctions of
where one must learn a text have not been strictly followed for a long time now.
The term upanishat is given to a text that contains teachings about brahmajnAna
and/or upAsana-s leading to jnAna.
Mantra (or saMhitA) vs. brAhmaNa (and/or AraNyaka) are content descriptors
and should be clearly distinguished from the pUrva mImAMsA categories of vidhi
and arthavAda. There can be arthavAda in both the mantra portions and the
brAhmaNa or the AraNyaka portions. And vidhi-s are rarely found in the mantra
portions of the veda. They are more often found in the brAhmaNa or AraNyaka

e.g. atha tam agnim indhIta/AdadhIta, audumbarIbhis samidbhir agniM paricaret, 
uddhRta paripUtAbhir adbhiH kAryaM kurvIta, na nishThIvet, na vivasanas snAyAt -
these are vidhi-s in the first chapter of the taittirIya AraNyaka, also called the
aruNa praSna. There are many more vidhi-s found in various contexts in this one
AraNyaka chapter itself.
Inasmuch as pUrva mImAMsA has to worry about what is a vidhi, what type of
vidhi it is, etc., it has to very much worry about the texts traditionally labeled as
AraNyaka or upanishad or brAhmaNa. Much of the content in these texts is indeed
described as arthavAda, but the vidhi-s are right there in the middle of the rest.
A lot of careful attention is therefore paid in the PM analysis to the exact wording
of sentences, what grammatical tense or mood is used, whether there is an
implicit vidhi or not, even when an imperative or optative verbal construction is
not employed, etc.
Indeed, as far as textual analysis is concerned, the key point where vedAnta parts
company with pUrva mImAMsA, is over the question of a vidhi to renounce all
action. PM says that by definition a vidhi can only impel one to perform a new act
(apUrva vidhi) or tell us how to do it (niyama vidhi) or how not to do it (parisaMkhyA
vidhi). Vedanta, at least in the advaita tradition, says that a vidhi can also impel one
to renounce all action, and indeed the bRhadAraNyaka upanishat 4.4.22 does contain
a vidhi to renounce. The discussion on this point is found in brahmasUtra bhAshya
3.4.27, where SankarAcArya points out that the mAdhyandina pATha has the word
paSyet, conveying an explicit injunction, as compared to the word paSyati in the
kANva pATha. In the bRhadAraNyaka bhAshya 4.4.22, he interprets the word
pravrajanti as pravrajeyuH, and takes it as an injunction to renounce action.
> "But suryanamaskara etc. definitely fall under the purview of karma and 
> therefore PM."
> The sUrya namaskAra itself is karma, but the mantra bhAga under discussion is 
> the Aruna pAtha which is by definition not associated with karma. Esp when there 
> is no brAhmana that associates the pAtha with namaskAra/Asana/kriya. 

The sUrya namaskAra is a smArta karmA, not Srauta karmA. As done nowadays,
with recitation of the aruNa praSna, it may well be a recent regional innovation
(relatively speaking). One would be hard pressed to find a brAhmaNa sentence
ordaining or praising the vast majority of smArta karmA rituals. Much of this is
just to be taken as part of SishTAcAra. 
It should also be remembered that svAdhyAya-pravacana of the entire veda or
portions of it, involving ritual recitation, is in itself a karmA. As such, recitation of
a chapter from the taittirIya AraNyaka, whether by itself or in combination with a 
sUrya namaskAra practice, would seem to fall comfortably under the general
injunction to study, preserve and transmit the veda (svAdhyAya-pravacanAbhyAn
na pramaditavyam). And there is also arthavAda in praise of this general karmA
(svAdhyAya-pravacane eveti nAko maudgalyaH, taddhi tapas taddhi tapaH).
* Although most texts called upanishat are in the brAhmaNa/AraNyaka texts, they
are also found in the saMhitA portions. The most famous example is the ISAvAsya
text, which is entirely within the Sukla yajurveda saMhitA. 		 	   		  

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