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The Ascertainment of Intent

The Vedic literature gives the following guidelines for the

interpretation of obscure passages:
abhyäso 'pürvata-phalam
artha-vädopapatté ca
liìgaà tätparya-nirëaye

"The factors to consider in interpreting obscure shastric

passages are; upakrama, the beginning (the author's preamble);
upasaàhära, ending (the author's concluding words); abhyäsa, what is
repeated again and again; apürvatä, what is unique and novel;
phalam, the fruit indicated; artha-väda, the author's statement of
his own intention; and upapatti, the logical implication"

1. upakrama-upasaàhära

The beginning (upakrama) and conclusion(upasaàhära) of a

particular section can be looked at to identify the theme.
The beginning and the conclusion should deal with the same
subject matter, in which case we can get an idea about the

2. abhyäsa

Abhyäsa is repetition. Sometimes a particular thought is

repeated many times in a section. That gives a clear idea
about the tätparya. If its purpose is not to teach that, it
would not repeat the same idea many times. For ex: tatvamasi
is repeated 9 times in the sixth chapter of Cändogya upaniñad.

3. apürvata

Apürvata means unprecedented, or unknown before or original.

Vedas have to convey something that is not knowable otherwise.
If they convey only what is known by other means then Vedas
become redundant. So if there is a thought that is present in
the section that is original and unique to the Vedas, even
though it be cushioned amidst various other known facts, that
could be identified as the tätparya.

4. phalam

Phalam means fruit or result. The train of thought should lead

to a result or should point to a benefit. If there is no
benefit or result like a statement “the crows in heaven are
white”, then it is not considered a çästra at all. It is
accepted by all that çästras indicate a phalam. By knowing the
phalam we can get an idea as to what tätparya is.

5. artha-väda

Eulogy or arguments/narratives supporting/encouraging a

particular idea/act. By knowing what is being eulogized and
for what purpose we again gather information about the
tätparya. arthaväda is not meant for taking it at face value
but to focus on what is being eulogized. Mostly stories are
used to induce or support a particular idea. The focus is on
the idea and the stories are only a support. This is another
means of knowing the tätparya.

6. upapatté

Two explanations presented here, one is to look at what is

being demonstrated by examples or analogies. The other is to
follow the train of thought logically and find out what is
implied by it. By that again we can come to a conclusion about
the tätparya.