[Advaita-l] How to read puranas

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli shankarabharadwaj at yahoo.com
Mon May 23 03:38:06 CDT 2011

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. 

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. 

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 

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

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. 

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. 



Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com 
Sun May 22 22:18:00 CDT 2011[was Re: buddha : according to purANas and other 
hindu-texts ]

On Sat, 21 May 2011, Siddhartha Krishna wrote:

> This goes back to the very basic question....which Purana's and how much 
> in them should be accepted by a Hindu?

All of it but it doesn't mean we have to read and interpret them in a 
literalist way.

The Mimamsakas divide shastra (primarily they talk about shruti but the 
principles apply mutatis mutandis to smrti also.) into mantra, 
vidhi/niShedha, and arthavAda.  Mantra is the formulas used in rituals. 
Although they have literal meanings, they are essentially meaningless for 
the purpose of interpretation because their meaning is in their use. 
vidhi (do this) and nishedha (don't do that) are the principle core. 
That should be the focus of our reading.  It is vidhi and nishedha that 
constitutes dharma.  The rest -- all the stories, history, legends etc. 
are arthavada.  There is no need to treat any of them as either fact or 
fiction but they are not useless either.  Their purpose is to remind us or 
exhort us or warn us about some vidhi or nishedha.  For instance look 
at one of your examples:

> Is the Pushan mentioned in the Isha Upanishad the same as the one whose 
> teeth were broken by Virabhadra in Bhagavatam?

This is in fact a canonical example of arthavada.  The Bhagavata has not 
invented this story. in Shruti (Shatapatha Brahmana also it says 
that Pushan is toothless.  This is supposed to be the reason why when in 
the yajna an offering is made to Pushan, it is to be in the form of charu 

In theory every story mentioned in puranas can similiarly be associated 
with some action or prohibition or the other.  This Mimamsaka framework is 
based on karma only.  Vedantins add jnana and upasana so there can be 
arthavada towards them too.

Applying this to the current discussion, whether or not the Buddha 
mentioned in puranas was real or not is immaterial.  The point of the 
story is clearly to prohibit Buddhist beliefs.  That's all.

> The list is 
> endless. Why we just don't dismiss all this with वेदबाह्याः स्मृतयः याश्च 
> काश्च कुदृष्टयः। सर्वास्ताः निष्फलाः प्रेत्य तमोनिष्ठा हि ताः स्मृताः? If we do 
> why we Sanatanis despise Swami Dayananda and his Arya Samaj so much? Or 
> was Namadev true when he said 800 years ago that if the Muslims are 
> one-eyed, the Hindus are blind (as they have derogatory stories against 
> their own Gods that they worship)?

If such people think that being the mindless slaves of some empty perfect 
abstraction has any value they are quite frankly not worth paying any 
attention to.  Our Devas are imperfect because they are all partial 
manifestations of the perfect truth.  Devas and men are in partnership, we 
by our prayers remove their imperfections and they by their prasad remove 

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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