More than once in Mahābhārata (Mahabharata) it has been said (to someone), “You have a brain of that proverbial śrotriya (srotriya) brāhmaṇa (brahmana) who despite having no clue of the Vedas utters Vedic chants by heart and thinks that he is walking the path of religion solely by virtue of that” –
śrotriyasyeva te rājan manda kasyavipaścitaḥ
anuvākahatā buddhiḥ dharmamevaikamīkṣate.
Kuntī (Kunti) said this to Yudhiṣṭhira (Yudhishthira) in Udyogaparva. Bhīma also said the same to Yudhiṣṭhira when the latter one was unwilling to ascend the throne after the great war – anuvākatā buddhirnaiṣā tattvārthadarśinī.
In general anuvāka (anuvaka) means ‘to pronounce or to utter after’. This is one of the methods of teaching the Vedic texts in which the teacher recites a part of the text and the pupil utters it after him, mimicking the master. A few Rigvedic verses make a sūkta (sukta); a collection of some sūkta is called anuvāka; a collection of some anuvāka is called a maṇḍala (mandala). While teaching reciting hymns, the master makes the pupil practice recitation on the units of small anuvāka, as suggests Sāṃkhyāyana Gṛhyasūtra (Samkhyayana Grihyasutra) –kṣudrasūkteṣvanuvākam. Yāvadvā gururmanyet. Anuvākasya vā.
While teaching in this method, the pupil first says, “Master, please recite the Vedic hymns” – śrutiṃ bhotaanubrūhīti. To this the master responds, “I am reciting the Vedic hymns and you recite them after me” – śrutiṃ te anubrabīmi iti. This method of teaching acquires the mechanical attitude of parrot-like uttering of words without comprehending them. It might lead one to observe the Vedic rituals but does not impart the knowledge of the Vedas which the hymns are supposed to do. That is why this behaviour is considered characteristic of a śrotriya brāhmaṇa of bad and inferior quality.