Did ṛṣis author the Veda? UPDATED

A Mīmāṃsā and Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta view about it

In his Seśvaramīmāṃsā (ad 1.1.29), Veṅkaṭanātha discusses the problem of the authorship of the Veda while being a Mīmāṃsaka, but also trying to condede something to theism.

For instance, he is less straightforward than Mīmāṃsā authors in ruling out the role of the ṛṣis. Mīmāṃsā authors spoke of the ṛṣis mentioned in connection with some Vedic parts as having just recited (and not authored) those parts in an excellent way. Veṅkaṭanātha does not deny his opponent’s claim that ṛṣis could see parts of the Veda they did not learn with a teacher. Nonetheless, they only see what they are eligible to see, through powers given to them by Prajāpati. They also don’t see anything new:

For this very reason, also the fact that the ṛṣis have done the sūtras, the [Vedic] parts (kāṇḍa) (Brāhmaṇa and Upaniṣads) and the mantras (i.e., the Vedic saṃhitās), conforms to previous acts (i.e., they have uttered them as they were in the previous kalpa), [and] the immediate perception (sākṣatkaraṇa) of a part of the Veda which has not been studied [by them] by ṛṣis who had specific powers given [to them] by Prajāpati conforms with their various eligibilities. For this reason, in this way there is no author of the Veda. Therefore, in all times the Vedas are only recited by a sequence (paramparā) of people depending on someone else (paratantra).

ata eva ṛṣīṇām sūtrakāṇḍamantrakṛttvam api prācīnakarmānuguṇaṃ prajāpatipradattaśaktiviśeṣāṇāṃ tattadadhikārānuguṇam anadhītavedabhāgasākṣātkaraṇam eva. tad evaṃ na vedakarteti sarvadā paratantrapuruṣaparamparādhītā eva vedāḥ.

In other words, ṛṣis are an exception to the normal transmission of the Veda, they are not at its origin. And they don’t see anything more than what people learn through their teachers.

Now a question to you, dear readers: I am not sure about my interpretation of the compound sūtrakāṇḍamantrakṛttvam. This is found in the same context also in Veṅkaṭanātha’s Nyāyapariśuddhi, but I could not find it in any other text. I am not sure about its meaning, since the Vedic kāṇḍas (karmakāṇḍa and jñānakāṇḍa) do include mantras. Nor did Veṅkaṭanātha mention here mantras of altogether different origin… Moreover, sūtras are generally accepted to have an author, so that they don’t really belong to the same group. What could be meant here?

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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4 thoughts on “Did ṛṣis author the Veda? UPDATED

  1. Dr. Freschi,

    You could post your question to — https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/bvparishat

    I have read somewhere that all R^shi-s have PRakhyaa — the power to have the “Vision.” But only R^shi-Kavi-s such as VAlmeeki have both PRakhyaa and UpAkhyA, the latter being the ability to present the “Vision” in a verbal form. This raises the question: If the “Vision” is not verbally manifest, in what mode is it in? Isn’t mantRa that the R^shi’s PRakhyA “sees” already “SabdEna anuviddham,” to use a phrase from BhaRtR^hari?

    I confess I am raising this in the capacity of a philosophically curious layman.

    • Thank you for your answer. I am not aware of philosophical texts distinguishing between the two abilities, but would be happy to read further references, if you know them.

      As for the bvparishat, unfortunately, I do not have the adhikāra for posting there (“The mailing list is open for all Indians”).

  2. Dear Elisa,
    the issue is an intriguing one… I am thinking on it. But, just to understand it better. The last compound should be read as paratantrapuruṣaparamparādhītā or paratantrapuruṣaparamparādhīnā? For the translation seems to follow the second lectio.

    • Many thanks for pointing it out, Gianni, I checked the manuscripts and they all read -ādhītā, I just imagined to have read -ādhīnā. I updated the post accordingly.