[Advaita-l] How to read puranas

ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli shankarabharadwaj at yahoo.com
Tue May 24 00:50:52 CDT 2011

Dear Sriram,

We are talking here of how Mimamsa divides Veda, and not how the Sruti divides 
itself. And Mimamsa is explicit in its division of Veda into Mantra and 
Brahmana. We should also make note of the fact that the Sabda Pramana of Mimamsa 
involves (along with Samhita) Brahmana but not Aranyaka, while Vedanta's Sabda 
Pramana is wider and includes Aranyaka and Brahmana (and Samhita). This is in 
fact the reason why it is specifically called Purva Mimamsa or the inquiry into 
the first part of Veda (the karma bhaga). 

Purana is an instrument in understanding the Veda, along with the other Vedangas 
and Upangas. Where a statement of Purana is not really trying to explain a Sruti 
vakya, that does not necessarily have to be treated in that light. The smritis 
including Puranas do contain several of smriti kaara's opinions and it is not 
necessary to take every statement of Purana in the sense that it is explaining 
the Sruti. 


Venkata sriram P venkatasriramp at yahoo.in 
Mon May 23 11:07:41 CDT 2011Dear Sankar,

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
shruti (atharva veda) as well as mundaka upa. says that
"mantrEShu karmANi kavayO yAnyapashyan" and karma is explained as 
"trayi shadashcha rgyajussAma samAkhyA"
So, the above vAkya is applicable to AraNyaka too.  And upanishad is 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 

To support the above statement, Shri VidyAnAtha panDita says:
yadvEtAt prabhusammitA dadhigataM sabdapramANAcchiraM
yacchabdArtha pravaNAt purANavachanAt iShTaM suhrutsammitAt
kAntAsammitayA yayA sarasatA mApAdya kAvyashriyA
kartavyE kutukI budhO virachita stastyaisprihaM kurmahE 
Shrutis (vedas) like a king dictate the vidhi & nishedha in the form of 
to the humanity; purANAs like a friend adopt the soft language to persuade the 
to tread the path of dharma; and kAvya (poetry) just like one's better half 
(wife / lover) adopt the "sarasa bhASha" (romantic style) in cajoling the 
humanity to tread the path of dharma.  

itihAsa purANAbhyAM vEdaM samupabriMhayEt
bhibhEdyalpa shrutA dvEdO mAyayaM pratarEditi
The vedas should be analysed with the help of itihasa & purana.  Without the 

of these, the vedas get frightened for fear of getting mis-interpreted.
Take for instance, the nArasimha swarupa.  The divine form of narasimha is to be 
interpreted keeping in view several vedic suktas like rudra, manyu, agni & 
vishnu etc. 
His emanation from the pillar (stambha) & His divine form of Lion clearly finds 
the mention in Vishnu Sukta  as "skambha" & "mriga".  Similarly, the ugratva 
finds its mention in manyu sukta & rudra pATha.   

So, purANAs are the pointers to the apaurShEya jnAna.

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