Dissent among a Viśiṣṭādvaitin and a Mīmāṃsaka: What do Vedic words mean?

Within his Mīmāṃsā commentary, the Seśvaramīmāṃsā, Veṅkaṭanātha explicitly dissents from Śabara (also) in his commentary on Pūrva Mīmāṃsā Sūtra (henceforth PMS) 1.1.31 on Vedic words seemingly expressing proper names, e.g., Prāvāhaṇi and Babara (which are used by opponents as an evidence of the impermanent nature of the Vedas).

Śabara suggested that such seeming names in fact only express something else and offered alternative etymological explanations. Veṅkaṭanātha replies that out of context it is clear that specific people must be referred to, but that these people’s roles are recurrently covered at each new era.

The relevant passage by Śabara on PMS 1.1.31 reads:

[The name] ”Prāvāhaṇi” derives from `flowing forth’ (pravah-). [The name] ”Babara” imitates a sound. Therefore, these two [linguistic expressions] express only a permanent referent (artha). Therefore it is said \textbf{The other [ephemeral things mentioned in the Vedas], by contrast, are merely similar in the way they sound.

pravāhayati, sa prāvāhaṇiḥ. babara iti śabdānukṛtiḥ. tena yo nityārthas tam evaitau śabdau vadiṣyataḥ. ata uktam – paraṃ tu śrutisāmānyamātram iti

Veṅkaṭanātha’s rejection of this view reads as follows:

Only Half-Materialists (ardhacārvāka) like this construction (yojanā) [of the sūtra]. Otherwise, how could [such meanings] be connected (anvaya) with [linguistic expressions such as] ”he desired”? (How could ”Babara” be connected with ”he desired” if it is only an onomatopoeia?)

[Obj./in favour of Śabara:] Also in regard to that (”he desired”) one postulates a different meaning.

[R.:] Why should not [a different menaning] be postulated in this way in every case?

All four manuscripts of the Seśvaramīmāṃsā reproduce Śabara’s passage in a slightly different way, including a reference to vāyu as a referent of Prāvāhaṇi:

[The name] ”Prāvāhaṇi” derives from `flowing forth’ (pravah-). [The name] ”Babara” imitates a sound. Therefore, these two linguistic expressions express only a permanent referent (artha), [i.e.], the wind (which flows forth).

pravāhayati iti prāvāhaṇiḥ. babara iti śabdānukṛtiḥ. tena yo nityo ‘rthas tam imau śabdau vadiṣyataḥ vāyum. ata uktam – paraṃ tu śrutisāmānyamātram iti

The mention of vāyu is not present in the published version of the Śābarabhāṣya. Nonetheless, the reference to the wind is well-attested in the Mīmāṃsā subcommentaries on this adhikaraṇa, thus Veṅkaṭanātha could easily be aware of it.

(cross-posted on my personal blog)

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog: elisafreschi.com, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>