What happens when the Veda prescribes malefic actions? Vīrarāghavācārya’s take on the Śyena

To my knowledge, Veṅkaṭanātha’s Seśvaramīmāṃsā (henceforth SM) has been commented upon only once in Sanskrit, namely in the 20th c. by Abhinava Deśika Vīrarāghavācārya.
Vīrarāghavācārya continues Veṅkaṭanātha’s agenda in reinterpreting Mīmāṃsā tenets in a Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta way.

On the meaning of dharma and on the polemics between a sādhya and siddha interpretation of the Veda, he writes:

Deities need to be pleased (ārādhya), what needs to be realised is the result.

(ārādhyā devatāḥ, sādhyaṃ phalam, ad SM ad PMS 1.1.1, 1971 edition of the SM, p.10)

Similarly, within the commentary on SM ad PMS 1.1.2, Vīrarāghavācārya interprets a quote by Parāśara Bhaṭṭa according to Maṇḍana’s distinction among various deontic concepts and then adds a further level:

The instruction which has necessarily to be performed is the command. The permission is the instruction which presupposes a desire for the experience of a result which is not forbidden. It has as content something desirable. An instruction having as content a forbidden purpose (as in the case of the Śyena) is a permission which has occurred automatically [but will be later subdued] (āpātānujñā).

The added level is labelled āpātānujñā. This is, as far as I know, a neologism. It indicates the fact that prescriptions about malefic sacrifices are not the Veda’s final words on the topic. They look like prescriptions, but in fact:

  1. like all other textual passages presupposing human desires, they are only instructions about how to reach something, they do not state that one should desire it.
  2. on top of that will then be sublated insofar as they presuppose a purpose which is prohibited in another part of the Veda.

Point 1 is a standard Mīmāṃsā devise to justify Vedic passages about malefic sacrifices. Vīrarāghavācārya adds point 2 to the landscape, thus highlighting that the textual passages about malefic sacrifices are ultimately sublated insofar as the purpose they presuppose is prohibited.

Vīrarāghavācārya probably formed the term āpātānujñā on the basis of āpātadhī. This is a term introduced by Rāmānuja and discussed at length by Veṅkaṭanātha. It means `automatic understanding’ of the Veda, the one one gathers while learning the Veda by heart without caring for investigating into its meaning. Such an automatic understanding will be later revised while one investigates the meaning of the Veda. Vīrarāghavācārya implicitly suggests that it can even be completely reversed.

Have readers ever encountered the term āpātānujñā?

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.

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