Pandit Gurudutt Vidyarthi’s works which were first collated, edited and published posthumously in 1897 by his close friend and associate Lala Jivan Das are truly an homage to a person who he calls “one of those rare geniuses of whom any civilized country may justly be proud”.
These works, the fruit of his twenty six years of toil and labour on this earth, are a testament to a life in which “his body, mind and wealth were all at the service of the Arya Dharma and his only occupation was the discovery and the elucidation of Vedic truths”.
The biographical details of his life have been recounted on numerous occasions in different arenas, (a very good summary of his life can be found on this website at http://aryamantavya.in/pandit-gurudatta-great-gem-arya-samaj/ and http://aryamantavya.in/pandit-gurudutt/ ) however what has not been surprisingly brought often to the attention of the uninitiated reading public, are the actual profound, Vedic universal truths that dealt “a death blow to … (Pandit ji’s) old cherished sceptic ideas” and which also shook the false superiority of many self-proclaimed European scholars of Sanskrit and the Vedas of his time.
As these truths are eternal and universal in their application they are as relevant today as they were in the late nineteenth century. This is because the very purpose of the Ved is to explain science, the spiritual and the material, and its proper application in all fields of human existence. This understanding of Vedic science is very necessary if we, the torchbearers of Vedic Dharma’s universal civilisation are always to be at the forefront of our current incredibly fast-moving human development.
Pandit ji being a brilliant scientist as well as a master Sanskrit scholar wished through his works to inform his readers of the right tools needed to interpret and understand these eternal truths. If used correctly by the sincere and ardent devotee of Ishvar these tools could enable him or her to obtain all forms of material, spiritual riches and the greatest prize of all mukti, liberation from birth and death.
In the first of a series of articles, starting with an analysis of his book, The Terminology of the Vedas an attempt will be made to give a summary of some of the countless pearls of wisdom that can be found in The Works of the Late Pandit Guru Datta Vidyarthi, M.A (the pdf version of the 1902 edition published can be found at the end of this piece). These summaries and analyses have been undertaken with the sincere hope of inspiring the modern day reader to delve more deeply into Pandit ji’s actual works and to find for him or herself the right tools needed for the proper interpretation of the Vedas.
Once properly understood it is hoped that the ordinary lay reader will be inspired to study the Vedas and Sanskrit for the purpose of obtaining Ishvar realisation and for obtaining the necessary ammunition needed to fight those destructive pseudo-intellectual forces which seek to misguide the human race from understanding the true universal message of the Vedas.
The Terminology of the Vedas – A Summary
Before we go on to the actual examination of these different methods word must be had about the inspiration behind Pandit ji’s methodology.
In the beginning of this work he dedicates it to the memory of “The Only Vedic Scholar of his time – Swami Dayananda Saraswati”. The use of the word “only” and “of his time” is not only a rebuff to the many puffed up European scholars of his time who claimed that Sanskrit and Vedic literature was their sole domain, but is also in clear denunciation of those indigenous scholars who Swami ji himself believed were the main cause behind the degradation of Indian society due to their deliberate misinterpretation of the Vedas for their own selfish gain.
There can be no doubt that Pandit ji is no ordinary disciple of Swami Dayanand, as he describes himself on the first page of his book (see page 56 of the pdf) as being a “sincere” and a “devoted admirer” of his. From this introduction by the author himself one can therefore expect the ensuing analysis to be like that of his mentor – deep and uncompromising when it comes to the correct interpretation of the Vedas.
Turning to the “The Terminology of the Vedas” (see page 57 of the pdf) he starts his analysis by stating generally that “the question of the origin, nature and eternity of shabda – human articulate and inspired speech has been a very important question in Sanskrit literature”. In his view while it has been the cause of much wrangling in modern times, (i.e. in the nineteenth century) for students of onomatopoeia and other such artificial theories of speech it has also been a question that has been discussed by ancient commentators such as the Nairuktikas, Vyakaranis, even “the disciple of the learned Vyasa the founder of one of the six schools of philosophy, the religious aphorist, Jaimini” in his Mimansa.
Due to the many incorrect preconceived notions hindering the proper interpretation of Vedic terminology it has become necessary he says to carefully examine, study and prune such notions of all irrelevant matter liable to produce error, while at the same time seeking “rational methods” which may throw light on the subject. He reveals that the three methods of interpreting the Vedas are firstly the mythological method, secondly the antiquarian method and lastly the contemporary method and he proceeds to examine the validity of each method in turn.
The mythological method, which is still used widely today by Western Indologists following in the footsteps of earlier Western Sanskrit scholars, views the “Vedas as myths”, “an embodiment of simple natural truths in the imaginative language of religious fiction. This approach maintains that at the time of the Vedas there was a comparatively rude and simple stage of human life and experience”. From this primitive savage state the ideas of God and religion gradually evolved. Primitive man being unable to fathom higher truths used “analogy” to work out that motions like the “wind blowing, the fire burning, a stone falling, or a fruit dropping” is due to the “will” of a supra human being, who once intellectually personified in a form then becomes a “god” by virtue of that primitive savage feeling an overwhelming “sense of his own weakness, humility and inferiority”.
According to this mythological approach the Vedas are then “prayers from such an emotional character addressed to the forces of nature” and are “hymns simply portraying the simple phenomena of nature in the personified language of mythology”. While Pandit ji acknowledges that the human intellect is “analogous”, i.e. makes analogies as part of a natural process of thinking and that it along with the process of mythification are universal, existing everywhere throughout the world, his study of deductive psychology, comparative philology and comparative mythology leads him to the conclusion that “the growth of mythology is deductively informed from the same psychological data”, that is to say that “mythologies as well as mythic practices … arise … either as products of human imagination, working under subdued intellect and petrified reason or as an outgrowth of a distorted remnant of a purer and truer form of religion”.
In emphasising his point he refers to the work of the English Orientalist Edward Pococke – India in Greece or Truth in Mythology, in which geographical names from the Greek civilization are shown to originate from names derived from Sanskrit Indian names. From this study he deduces that “it can be informed that Greece was once colonized by Indians “and furthermore that this was also the case with the “identity of several systems of mythologies and language”. This all leads him to a general conclusion that there is a “uniformity of human nature” that can be derived from mythology.
The uniformity of human nature however is the only actual truth which Pandit ji derives from the occidental mythological method approach to interpreting the Vedas. However the rest of the method’s “specific mythological and philological facts have no independent value” in his estimation. This is because they have “no distinct individualized influence on the terminology of the Vedas”. The greatest inherent drawback of the mythological method he finds is that “it is the symbolization of human thought in the concrete” whereas, the Vedas being books of philosophy and not mythology are in reality expressed in the “abstract … general terms and in ultimate formula”. Unlike mythology, the Vedas has “for its object the elucidation of ultimate truths or laws” which can also be found in the six schools of Indian philosophy, the Darshans and the Upanishads which have both been “substantially drawn out and evolved or developed” from the Vedas. These books of philosophy which are so close to the Vedas, precede the Puranas, he emphasises, the Puranas being the embodiment of the mythological literature of India. For this reason, he is at pains to add “no stretch of artificial reasoning can make them (the Vedas) coincide with the Puranic period”. Moreover any attempt to split up the Vedas into different epochs rendering some portions mythological and others philosophical is evidence he says of the inherent insufficiency of the mythological method as “no one mythological method is capable of interpreting the whole of the Vedas” which proves that the mythological method’s “partial character ….renders it insufficient”.
Before moving on to the next method, Pandit ji neatly summarises his position on the mythological method in this way; the mythological method when considered independently “proves insufficient, considered in conjunction with philology it fares no better and lastly it fails in contrast with the philosophical character of the Vedas”.
Having dismissed the mythological method as being the wrong method for interpreting the Vedas, he introduces and then rapidly destroys the next method beloved of Western Sanskrit scholars, the antiquarian or the historical method. This method involves the interpretation of books and the general literature of the period to which ancient literary records belong. How successful this approach is in correctly interpreting the Vedas depends on he believes firstly the interpreter’s choice of records concerning the event or events of the period which can be relied on, and secondly and most importantly “the faithfulness of our interpretation of the records”. While Pandit ji admits that this method has its merits, he says that “its excellence … lies in the fact that it renders our interpretation of past records less liable to error” and moreover he commends it for acknowledging that “all living languages are daily undergoing changes which accumulate and appear after a sufficiently long interval to have created very different cognate languages” he concludes however that it is wrong that the supporters of this method use it to interpret the Vedas.
He gives an example from the Roman Republic to illustrate this point. He asks the reader to think of the Forum, the main centre of a Roman city. Usually located near the physical center of a Roman town, the Forum in ancient Roman times served as a public area in which commercial, religious, economic, political, legal, and social activities occurred. In this bygone era when the public press and all kinds of media known to Pandit ji and us were unheard of, “the Forum was the only place of resort of all audience, and oratory had a totally different meaning from that of modern times, the Senate signified a different institution from what it now is; Republic or democracy of the people – then existing was what would be to us something like an oligarchy, though very different from it in many essential features”. If this is the case he challenges the validity of adopting the antiquarian method in analysing the Roman Forum of more than two thousand years ago as the researcher’s current understanding of the words Democracy, Republic and the like left unguided “would be inconsistent with itself” as “the medley of two epochs would be such that a critical examination … (could only) be termed as sheer nonsense”.
His criticism of the meddling of two epochs leading to inaccurate interpretations is also seen during his explanation of the final method of interpretation; the contemporary method. Here he criticizes Western Sanskrit scholars using the antiquarian method for fruitlessly trying “to fix dates of these writings by searching in them, in most cases in vain, for any well-established consistent historical facts” for lack of them possessing “the knowledge of (the) historical evolution of Sanskrit literature”. These so called scholars he maintains fail to grasp or deliberately ignore the fact that the “Sanskrit of the Puranas is so different from the Sanskrit of the Mahabharata and that of the Darshanas, which again is different from that of the Upanishads”. In his view there is “a clear line of demarcation” that can be “easily laid down between all types of literature ….” that show very clearly that “one cannot be confounded with the other”.
He criticises without referring to them by name “very well known (but not necessarily very good) professors of Sanskrit” for not applying the contemporary method at all or to have done so, so loosely and carelessly that the modern interpretations of the Vedas by them are rendered “simply unintelligible and absurd”. He goes on to lament that these “learned” professors’ works on the Vedas which are standard study texts even today for students of Sanskrit and Hinduism have derived “their inspiration from commentaries on the Vedas by Mahidhara, Ravana and Sayana” who he underlines were “writers of a period decidedly very much later than that of the Vedas and only well coinciding with our own time”. Evidence of the unbiased nature of Pandit ji’s criticism can be seen here in that despite these commentators being Indian he bluntly calls them “as ignorant of the terminology of the Vedas as we are” and with reference to his previous example of the Forum of the Roman Republic he states that their interpretation of the Vedas according to the meanings existing in their own time “were as wrong as would be the words like democracy in our studies concerning ancient Rome”. Like a strict schoolmaster Pandit ji chides these errant professors for forgetting the “invaluable maxim – the nearer we approximate to the literature of the period to which the Vedas belongs the greater would be our chances of the interpretations being more probable and more correct”.
An example of the “worst” of such authorities, regarded ironically by Western Sanskrit scholars as being among the best, is Theodore Goldstücker. This German Sanskrit scholar who had worked in his lifetime on HH Wilson’s Sanskrit dictionary believed that “no writings of a date anterior to five or six thousand years before Christ seem to have existed” and by saying so Goldstücker was more or less in keeping with the “modern recognized chronology” inspired by the Christian church and its missionaries, a chronology which was in turn successfully imposed on Indian students by professors like Goldstücker. Pandit ji who was well aware of the Vedic belief in cyclical eternity, (the concept which states that the universe and all existence and energy has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space) derides such a notion. He refers to Goldstücker’s belief and that of his ilk that “the whole world seems to have been circumscribed within 8,000 years” as meaning quite ridiculously that “the whole region of intellectual activity of man seems to have been focused on the 6,000 years before Christ”. Here Pandit ji mocks this assertion because it contradicts the teachings of Christian missionaries who preach that the enlightenment of the world only occurred with the advent of Christ just over two thousand years ago!
His criticism of Christianity’s meagre chronology for a universe which is in fact in this creation over a billion years old is backed up by references to “the Shatapatha and the Nirukta which are confessedly books of a much anterior date” and therefore far older than “the commentaries of Sayana, Ravana and Mahidhara”. He categorically states contrary to the prevailing opinion of his time that “we should resort to them and the Upanishads than to the times of the Puranas, of Ravana and of Mahidhara for the interpretation of the Vedas”.
By turning one’s back on the Puranas, and no longer holding it as “the authority on interpreting the Vedas” Pandit ji maintains one can truly then understand that the “Upanishads inculcate monotheism”, the worship of One God as explained in the Vedas. Moreover because in the Upanishads or the Shatapatha there are no references to “Indra, Mitra and Varuna signifying the deities” one should view the God of the Vedas, the Darshans and the Upanishads to be only the Deity, the One and only true God.
It is a travesty he writes that despite the Nirukta laying down “explicit rules on the terminology of the Vedas” such rules to the great detriment of the correct preaching of the Vedas, have gone “quite unheeded by modern professors”. For the benefit of these pseudo-intellectual professors, Pandit ji explains in brief the rules concerning this in the Niruktakara. “In the very beginning of the book … the terms used in the Vedas are Yaugika” he says. He explains that the term yaugika refer to those words which possess derived meaning. He contrasts this then with what words from the Vedas are not – rurhis. Rurhis are those words which have conventional, arbitrary or concrete meanings.
He elaborates on this by further explaining that “a Yaugika word is one that has derivative meaning” i.e. which derives its meaning from its root. The word is “all connotation”, which means that an idea or feeling is invoked from that word, from the literal or primary meaning of its root and it is this connotation which determines its denotation. A rurhi word in contrast again to a yaugika word has no connotative meaning “it is the name of a definite concrete object” and is determined by “an arbitrary principle” which means that its meaning is chosen at random, on a whim.
Why words in the Vedas are interpreted in a yaugika way he explains is because the process of arriving at an ultimate form of the word is a very rich and complete one. “It embodies the whole history of the intellectual activity of men”. The process involves generalisation, the usage of a person’s senses of taste, touch, smell etc. in investigating the objects’ properties. Secondly the sense impressions derived from this part of the process are compared with the sense impressions “already retained in our minds and constituting our past knowledge”. From this comparative study, the similarities which we detect between the two types of sense impressions should give us a “general or generic conception”. Thirdly “to this generic conception we give an appropriate name by synthetically arriving at it from a root”, which means using affixes rather than separate words to express the syntactic relationship with the root.
The process of arriving at a rurhi word is different. There is no generalisation as is the case with the process of arriving at a yaugik word. There is no need for synthesis, no need to add affixes. Words are separate and objects and classes of objects are roughly distinguished in this process by assigning a name randomly to it. It is not a process which requires much in terms of intellectual thought as Pandit ji explains as “here we only discriminatively specify the object we are naming without coming into general contact with it”.
This very clear demarcation between yaugika and rurhi words doesn’t exist with regards to a third class of words which can be interpreted. This class of words is called yoga-rurhi and here two words are synthetically combined into a compound denoting a third object by virtue of the combining of these two words. The relation or the interaction of phenomena are expressed in the resulting words that are created. Pandit ji gives the example here of the word kamala. “The word stands … in relation of the born to mud, the bearer, which leads the word kamala to be called pankaja as panka means mud and ja means to bear”.
In order to prove that his three-fold classification of words are based on solid authorities he quotes first Rishi Patanjali who states in the first aphorism of chapter 3, section 3 of his Mahabhashya – Nama cha dhatujamah Nirukte Vyakarane Shakatasya cha tokam. Naigam rurhi bhavam hi susadhu – which he translates to mean that “etymologically speaking there are three classes of words, the yaugika, the rurhi and the yoga-rurhi”. While some grammarians like Yaska and Shakatayana believe that all words are derived from dhatus, in other words that all words are yaugikas and yoga-rurhis, there are others like Panini who believe them to be rurhis also. But what Pandit ji is keen to explain here is that despite this difference there is unity of thought among “all the Rishis and Munis, ancient authors and commentators” who without exception regard the “Vedic terms as being yaugikas and yoga-rurhis only. Rurhis are only words which are laukika” or non-Vedic.
Towards the end of his explanation of the terminology of the Vedas Pandit ji states emphatically that “the Vedic writers of older epochs do not agree with those of modern times” so he asserts “it is strange to find our modern professors of Sanskrit, well-versed philologists and professed antiquarians so forcibly asserting the value of the antiquarian method “ which unsurprisingly leads them to create such blunders as “finding mythological data in the Vedas or of having come across the facts of a ruder bronze age or golden age in that book of “barbaric hymns”.
Here Pandit ji’s use of the words “our modern professors” is quite telling as at the time of writing and the first publication of this work, the British educational system, and its theorists including the kind of Sanskrit scholars described in this piece had come to monopolise and dictate the study of Sanskrit and the Vedas in the educational mainstream of Indian society. One can sense in this last paragraph by his usage of irony when referring to the discovery by Western scholars of hitherto unknown myths, bronze and golden ages that the young Pandit Gurudutt Vidyarthi is both frustrated and deeply hurt by their misinterpretation of the Vedas, as being mere “barbaric hymns” in stark contrast to their more civilized and sophisticated Bible. His hurt can be understood especially since he himself had in his short life studied Sanskrit and the Vedas very intensely and had accomplished the rare feat of grasping the authentic rules of interpretation from the ancient commentators and from Swami Dayananda himself. He for this reason, keenly felt the despair of his recently departed mentor who in his Satyarth Prakash had lamented that he had come to learn “from a letter of a principal of some German university, that even men learned enough to interpret a Sanskrit letter are rare in Germany”. Furthermore that Swami ji had “learnt from the study of Maxmuller‘s history of Sanskrit literature and his comments on some mantras of the Veda, that Professor Maxmuller has been able to scribble out something by the help of the so-called tikas or paraphrases of the Vedas current in India”. Here Swami ji is obviously referring to Maxmuller’s reliance on the more modern commentators of Ravana, Sayana and Mahidhara who Pandit ji confirms in his book as being “not at all at one “with the commentaries of “ancient scholars of not only the Nirukta, but Nighantu, Mahabhashya and Sangraha”.
Pandit Gurudutt Vidyathi’s book The Terminology of the Vedas in conclusion was and is a necessary work to expose the huge failings of Western and non-Western modern interpreters of the Vedas over the last four centuries. Its importance also lies in the fact that Pandit ji states the actual methods of interpretation sanctioned by scholarly authority which should be used by all serious scholars of the Vedas. The Terminology of the Vedas (see below) should then be studied to grasp the gist of such methods in preparation also for Pandit Gurudutt Vidyarthi’s second more deeper work which follows this (see page 67 of the pdf) – The Terminology of the Vedas and European Scholars in which Pandit ji proves with many examples the validity of Swami Dayanand’s belief about European scholars that “in a land where lofty trees never grow, even recinus communis or the castor oil plant may be called as oak”.
To download the book pls click on the link below:
Works of Pandit Gurudutta