Vedic Hermeneutics


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About the Book:

This book maintains that the Veda is what makes known knowledge not accessible to empirical means of knowledge and what is not contradicted by what is knowable through history, science, reason and common sense. Its content is only what relates to Dharma and Brahman. It can be rightly interpreted through principles laid down by the Nirukta and the two Mimamsas.

What is taken to be the Veda by the principal tradition is indeed so. It has been rightly said, "The meaning of its earlier portion is illuminated by the smrtis and its later by itihasa-puranas" The bhasyas of Madhva, Sayana, Atmananda and others are of invaluable help in comprehending its purport. This work endeavours to show this to be the case. The Rgveda asserts the unity of Being and yields the knowledge of it. The Yajurveda informs us about the supreme action. The Samaveda chants and meditates on what the first Veda lauds or describes. The Atharvaveda propounds the closeness, if not the identity, of Being and Man.

About the Author:

Prof. K. Satchidananda Murty (b. 1924) has been a university professor of philosophy for a quarter century, a vice-chancellor, UGC National Lecturer and National Fellow, General President of the Akhila Bharatiya Darshan Parishad (1963) and the Indian Philosophical Congress (1968). Since 1980 he is the Chairman of the latter, and from 1988 Member, Steering Committee, the Federation International des Societies de Philosophie. From 1984 to 86 he has been the National Fellow of the Indian Council of philosophical Research and from 1986 to 1989 the Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Commission.

Pro. Murty was the first to receive the coveted Dr. B. C. Roy National Award, the highest available in India, for Philosophy. The President of India awarded him Padma Bhushan in 1984. Starting with the "Vachaspati" (Hon. D. Litt.) degree of Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, Varanasi, in 1980, in subsequent years he received the honorary doctorates of a number of Indian universities. He is hon. Dr. Phil. of the University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, and the USSR Academy of Sciences, and Hon. Sc.D. of Sofia University, Bulgaria. He has been Visiting Professor at Princeton, and is Honorary Professor of the People's University, New Delhi; Banaras Hindu University; university of Hyderabad and Andhra University.

Back of Book:

This work is an attempt to understand and interpret the Vedas by a contemporary leading Indian philosopher, who while aware of modern Indian and Western Vedic scholarship and exegesis, prefers to rely on the Nirukta, the two Mimamsas the smrtis-itihasas-puranas, and Sayana and other bhasya-karas.

From the Preface:

I am neither a "Vedavratasnata" (i.e., one who has "completed one's Vedic and scientific studies and one's vows"), nor a "Vedaparaga" (i.e., "one thoroughly conversant with the Veda"); I wonder how many of those who have written on the Veda in Western or modern Indian languages, or have translated it into them, have been such. I have been only endeavouring to do upasana of sruti-bhagavati for quite a long time: From the middle of the 30s to the beginning of the 40s one of my major preoccupations was to understand and elucidate the work which, according to the understand and elucidate the work which, according to the Varaha-purana, is "the three Vedas, ultimate bliss and united with the knowledge of the import of Reality", and which, according to A.K. Coomaraswami, is a "compendium of all Vedic doctrines", viz., the Bhagavadgita. As I have not so far succeeded in this task to my satisfaction, it still engrosses me and is likely to be life-long. In the first half of the 40s I intensely studied the Isa, the smallest, but one of the most profound and the only Upanisad which is to be found in the Samhita portion. Then, from the mid-40s to mid-50s I was obsessed with srutipramanyavicara" (=thinking about the authority and validity of the Veda). As I find I cannot be satiated by Vedartha-cintana (meditation on the import of the Veda), however much I may indulge in it, I may never become free from this passion also. The results of my study of texts dealing with yajna along with relevant sociological and anthropological literature, were published in 1973.

One of the gratifying things I could do at Tirupati when I headed the S. V. University there (1975-78) was to make its Oriental Institute prepare and publish in Telugu in 1978 a 'vivrti' (explanation) of the first forty suktas of the Rgveda, according to the bhasya of Madhvacarya and Raghavendra Svami's Mantrarthamanjari based on it. It contains word-by-word meaning (pratipadartha) of every mantra, followed by its substance in simple prose, written by Dr. S. B. Raghunathacharyulu. It appeared with a 22-page introduction by me. Thus was published for the first time in a modern language-a monotheistic interpretation of these suktas according to the greatest Dvaita teachers.

When I was with the University Grants Commission (1986-89), one of my first acts was to help establish a centre for Vedic studies in a state university in the East of India, and later I could provide special assistance to promote Mimamsa studies in a premier central university in the North. After sanctioning grants, as universities are autonomous, the UGC could only hope they would be utilised properly for purposes earmarked.

The chapters in this book and the notes of them will give an indication of some of the books I more often used. But I may mention that among the older works those of Yaska, Sayana and Atmananda, and among the modern those of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sri Aurobindo and T.V. Kapali Sastry were very helpful. I am indebted to the two epics and the Srimadbhagavata, as well as to the writings of the great masters of Mimamsa and Vedanta for enabling me to comprehend to some extent and assess however inadequately the purport of the Veda. Every modern Indian like me, who has used the Western editions and translations of the Veda and the monographs and articles on it by Western scholars, ought to be grateful for the immense benefit derived from them. Since the mid-80s I have used the Samhita texts edited by Pt. S.D. Satvalekar, and published by Svadhyaya Mandal, Paradi, Gujarat.


Introduction ix
Preface xix
A Right Approach to Sacred Lore
I. Nature & Contents of the Veda 1-6
II. Importance of Knowing the Meaning
of the Veda
III. Interpretations of the Veda 9-13
IV. Eligibility for Study of the Veda 14-17
Notes 18-20
The Content of Sacred Lore
I. Interpretative Methodology 21-27
II. Interpretative Freedom Through Tarka 28-31
III. The Vedic, An Argumentative Faith 31-34
IV. Attitudes to the Veda 34-56
V. Epitome 56-65
Notes 66-72
Unity and Essence of the Veda
I. Harmonising the Vedas 73-79
II. The Veda and Empirical Knowledge 79-81
III. Yajna 81-90
IV. The Meaning of the Veda 91-93
Notes 94-97
Index 101-105

Sample Pages