What is the scope of arthavada in Hindu scriptures? It can be used to explain or explain away lot of inconsistencies in Hindu scriptures? Like an eulogy to a particular deity can be called arthavada. Some other examples can be: Benefits of chanting some names, worshipping a deity etc.. Similarly, one may say the difference between jiva and isvara is given in scriptures so that jiva can worship isvara. Or one may say that everything is brahman is told so that we don't feel dejected seeing our condition. Some sects are monotheistic, some accept three gods, some accept 5 gods, 6 gods etc.. Everyone of the sect leaves out or explains other things differently. For eg.. some monotheistic sect have their explanation when other deities are called brahman. Neither can we say that accepting 5 gods is unifying because they also have to explain statements where Indra, Agni are called brahman. I don't even know how many more are referred by brahman in whole of the Hindu scripture. If one says everything is arthavada, scriptural study is simply a waste of time and better to leave it altogether. Where do we draw the line between arthavada and actual truth?

  • 1
    yes, scriptural study without guidance of one ABLE guru is at least not spiritually uplifting.And Indra and Krishna and Shiva and Durga/Kali etc are one and the same to a realised soul, He/She may just love one form more than the other though. Demigurus try to highlight differences between them.
    – user17294
    Apr 1, 2019 at 6:00
  • @Pratimaputra then you can close it as opinion based Apr 1, 2019 at 6:04
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    @Pratimaputra it's false to generalize to say that realized soul don't see any difference b/w all. A/c to this, all vaishnava, shaiva and shakta sampradayas with monotheistic flavours are demisampradayas. Apr 1, 2019 at 6:08
  • yes realised soul does not Himself belong to any sampradaya.He may preach a sampradaya for welfare of the society but never can say anthing that denigrates any god or sect as He sees the One in all.
    – user17294
    Apr 1, 2019 at 6:20
  • Oh you demi, semi, bemi ... or whatever you are people, please refrain to fight between themselves and your personal beliefs and belief systems in the comment section. Be satisfied with your own beliefs and do not misuse the comment section. Apr 1, 2019 at 8:11

1 Answer 1


If one says everything is arthavada, scriptural study is simply a waste of time and better to leave it altogether. Where do we draw the line between arthavada and actual truth?

The belief that Arthavadas are false, is held primarily by followers of the Mimamsa school and by neo-Vedantins.

Ramanujacharya in his Sri Bhashya refutes the belief that Arthavadas are false, and establishes the fact that Arthavadas can only be Arthavadas if they're true.

Firstly, the Mimamsakars say that words only have the power to denote things that are to be done, and cannot provide any factual information about the state of things as they are:

....words are means of knowledge only with reference to things to be done; and hence the matter inculcated by the Veda also is only things to be done. From this it follows that the Vedânta-texts cannot claim the position of authoritative means of knowledge with regard to Brahman, which is (not a thing to be done but) an accomplished fact. - Sri Bhashya of Ramanujacharya

So, Mimamsakas believe verses like "Let him perform the râtri-sattras" enjoin things to be done, whereas verses like "Those who perform certain sattra-sacrifices are firmly established" do not convey anything to be done, hence are arthavada; they don't convey any information about the state of things as they are, and are only meant to encourage the reader to perform the action that the arthavada encourages.

Now according to Sri Vaishnavas, this view doesn't make any sense, because for one, all words are the same, so if they can provide information about things to be done, then they can also provide information about the state of things. Secondly, if those non-injunctive verses are arthavadas, and arthavadas are meant to encourage the reader to perform the accompanying actions, then the arthavada should give factual information, because otherwise it defeats its purpose.

For example, the Vedas say things like "Indra performed this yajna and defeated Vrtra. One who performs this yajna defeats his enemies. Therefore, let him perform this yajna." Now the "Therefore, let him perform this yajna" is the injunction and "Indra performed this yajna and defeated Vrtra. One who performs this yajna defeats his enemies." is the arthavada. Now, one who reads this will naturally think that he will defeat his enemies if he performs the yajna, just like Indra defeated Vrtra when he performed the yajna. Otherwise, how does he know the yajna is meant to destroy his enemies? If all that was meaningful from the verses is the injunction "let him perform this yajna", then why should he perform the yajna when he doesn't know what it accomplishes? So, the arthavada conveys factual information:

When an arthavâda-passage describes the heavenly vorld as a place where there is no heat, no frost, no grief, &c., this is done merely with a view to those texts which enjoin certain sacrifices on those who are desirous of the heavenly world. Where another arthavâda says that 'those who perform certain sattra-sacrifices are firmly established,' such 'firm establishment' is referred to only because it is meant as the reward for those acting on the text which enjoins those sattras, 'Let him perform the râtri-sattras' (Pû. Mî. Sû. IV, 3, 17). And where a text says that a person threatening a Brâhmana is to be punished with a fine of one hundred gold pieces, this statement is made merely with reference to the prohibitory passage, 'Let him not threaten a Brâhmana'(Pû. Mî. Sû. III, 4, 17). - Sri Bhashya of Ramanujacharya

Now, assuming those verses in the Vedas are powerless to describe the glories of heaven, then why should the reader perform those yajnas to earn heaven?

Now to be aimed at by action is to be the object(karman) of action, and to be the object of action is to be that which it is most desired to obtain by action (according to the grammarian's definition). But what one desires most to obtain is pleasure or the cessation of pain. When a person desirous of some pleasure or cessation of pain is aware that his object is not to be accomplished without effort on his part, he resolves on effort and begins to act: in no case we observe an object of desire to be aimed at by action in any other sense than that of its accomplishment depending on activity. The prompting quality (prerakatva) also, which belongs to objects of desire, is nothing but the attribute of their accomplishment depending on activity; for it is this which moves to action. - Sri Bhashya of Ramanujacharya

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