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Re: phala-srutis

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Thu Jul 09 1998 - 10:53:21 PDT

Dear and revered Sri.Anbil,
Many thanks for your succinct and clear note explaining why "phala-sruti"
is "sruti". I am not sure I need to go the trouble of referring the matter
to any scholars here in India. I've now been sufficiently informed, nay
"regaled" even, by your own "stylish" note ! 

Jokes and banter apart, there was a serious reason why the question struck
me in the first place.

It was an old "mImAmsa" verse I'd read somewhere but I can't remember
where.
Here is the verse I noted down in my old scrap-book which I unhesitatingly
"embark upon" to share with you (you who are definitely not "everyone or
anyone" to me) even at the risk of being mistaken for "showing off my
ignorance"! ):

           "upakrama-upasamhArow abhyAsa-apUrvatA phalam     (note the word
"phalam"!)
              arthavAdo-upapatti cha lingam tAtparya-nirnayE

According to my notes scribbled here, since Vedic texts are sometimes very
difficult to unravel or interpret the 'mImAmsa-sAstras" lay down in the
above verse 7 ways in which Vedic pronouncements or "mahAvAkyA-s" are to be
understood. There are 7 methods of understanding a piece of Vedic discourse
or passage:

(1) "upakrama" and
(2) "upasamhAra"

mean respectively "the initial" and "concluding" part of a work. If the
"initial" and "concluding" part of a Vedic treatise or commentary speak of
the same subject-matter or idea then, it may be safely assumed (according
to the vedic pundits) that the same idea is the central matter about which
the whole of the Vedic passage deals.

(3) "abhyAsa" is repeating an idea or theme. In a certain Vedic passage, if
a single idea is repeated again and again then that is taken to be the
central theme of the passage.

(4) "apUrvatA" I learn denotes an idea that does not get mentioned at all
in the narrative or ideological flow of a passage but appears quite
suddenly, as it were in mid-stream, out of the blue! The idea or theme
which thus gets expressed afresh is then taken to be the central purpose or
import of the Vedic passage concerned.

(5) "phala" (which is very interesting to me personally and which is what,
believe me, sparked my question to you) means "fruit", "benefit", "reward"
or "result". If in the course of a Vedic work or speech, it is said,"If you
act in this manner you will gain such and such fruit or benefit", it means
that the central purpose of the work or speech is to persuade you to act in
the manner suggested so that you may reap the fruit or "phala" held out.

(6) Sometimes (the scholars say) in a Vedic passage a number of ideas or
points are dealt with. Even a story based on such various ideas may be
woven and narrated. In the course of such narration a particular matter
will receive special attention. This particular point then must be
considered, I learn, as the central purpose of the passage. This method I
understand is called "arthavAda".

(7) Finally they say that Vedic passages where a certain viewpoint is
sought to be established with sound reasoning then that viewpoint is to be
treated as its central thesis. This the scholars say is called the
"upapatti" method of interpreting the Vedas.

Now many years ago I once had a gentleman-friend (a true "paramEkAntin" in
my opinion) who confided in me that he actually fought shy of reciting the
"phala-sruti" portions of the Vishnu-sahasranAmam because reciting the
divine 1000 "nAmA-s" of the Lord was "phala" or reward in itself! Where was
the need then to recite the tail-end string of "shlOkA-s" purporting to be
"phala-sruti-s" and which often take the good part of 3 or 4 extra minutes
to mutter ?

His was a very valid point, indeed!

Then it occured to me suddenly to ask him if he accepted the view of our
revered "AchAryA-s" that the "mahAbharatha" was indeed a fifth-Veda i.e
"pancha-Veda"?

He looked at me in a puzzled way but shook his head and said,"Of course I
do!".

"Then do you accept," I said,"that the "mahAbhAratA" too may contain, like
the 4 other Vedas, certain great "veda-mahAvAkyA-s"?

"Perhaps, yes", the man said.

"Why do you say "perhaps"! Don't you think that passages like the
"vidura-neethi", the "bhagavath-gitA", the vishnu-sahasranAmam" or the
"yaksha-prasna" are all truly the equivalent of "veda-mahAvAkyA-s?", I
persisted in quizzing the gentleman.

He thought deeply and nodded his head in agreement.

"Then if Vishnu-SahasranAmam" is a Veda-maha-vAkya," I continued,"how many
of us can lay claim to a full and deep understanding of its true message,
idea or central theme?", I queried.

"Not many," the gentleman admitted,"but you might get some idea if you
diligently followed the "bhAshyA-s" of our great "AchAryA-s"."

"Have your studied the "bhAshyA" of Sankara or Bhattar?", I quizzed on.

"Yes, a bit".

"So what have they taught you about the "mahA-vAkya" which the Vishnu
SahasranAmam you say verily is?"

The gentleman remained silent in thought. For a while he scratched his head
and then sheepishly admitted, "Not much, but I learnt something about the
Lord's "kalyana-guna-s" here and there."     

I laughed and then put my arm around him and said,"Swami, don't be so
ashamed. I too am in the same boat. I have done SahasranAma-pArAyanam for
the good part of the last two decades and am yet to truly grasp and
understand even a fraction of its exalted message notwithstanding poring
over "bhAshyA-s", texts, commentaries and inter-Net summaries of it all!".

"But," I exclaimed to the gentleman."adiyEn actually and very firmly
believes that the sum and substance of the entire Vishnu-SahasranAmam lies
in its alluring "phala-sruti". Hence even if I fail to recite the 1000
nAmA-s on a certain day I usually make up by reciting in full the
"phala-sruti" portions instead!".

The gentleman was shocked at my statement!

"What! You hold the "phala-sruti" to be the equivalent of the main
"sahasranAma"? What nonsense! How can anyone accept it? What is the
"pramAnam" you have?", he thundered at me.

It was then that I quoted to him the "mImAmsa-sAstrA" above which says :

        "upakrama-upasamhArow abhyAsa-apUrvatA phalam     
              arthavAdo-upapatti cha lingam tAtparya-nirnayE

and which also explains that one of the valid ways in which a "vedic"
"mahA-vAkya" can be interpreted is  through the "phalam" method  or, as in
the case of the "SahasranAmam", through its wholesome and magnificent
"phala-sruti" !!

The man shook his head, nodded disbelievingly and walked away with a
bemused look on his face!!

Hope you like my "style", Sri.Anbil!

adiyEn,
Sudarshan