A moment please !!!

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Tue Feb 11 16:10:14 CST 1997

On Tue, 11 Feb 1997, VP Nandakumar wrote:

> Hi,
>         I've been part of the Advaita discussion group for the past few days
> have observed that the Vedas and the Upanishads are being used as the ultimate
> references. Even if these are so, can it not be that due to the passage of
> (that's understating that actually!) and the civilization of mankind in
> some of the content might've been outdated or no longer relevant.

The orthoprax advaita position is that the Vedas and upanishads are
eternal, and therefore never outdated, and never irrelevant. How do we
decide which portions are outdated and which are not? Maybe "Tattvamasi"
is outdated, and therefore advaita does not hold true any more. Of
course, the smritis may grow outdated, but never the Vedas and upanishads.
Beyond a point, quoting the Vedas and upanishads is a question of faith.
But I don't see how if we can quote the upanishads for some things, we can
conveniently neglect them as regards other things. Advaita as Vedanta has
to always quote from the Vedas and Upanishads as the ultimate references.

>         Even if the content is relevant, are we sure that we're interpreting
> them correctly? I was under the impression that ADVAITA, DOESN'T ASK YOU TO
> KNOW REALITY. If these are the fundamental concepts, why is it that we take
> whatever is in the scriptures for granted and the ultimate answer? Is it not
> duty to analyze the statements in the scriptures and explore the reason WHY?

Of course, we have to analyze the scriptural statements, but the analysis
is done within a particular frame of reference, dictated by the Mimamsa
and Brahma Sutras. Not every statement in scripture has to be explained
why. When you are told by the Veda that performing a certain rite ensures
the birth of a son, that is to be taken as it is. There is no "why" for
such a statement.

>         For example, the question about a Brahmin becoming asudh if he crosses
> the ocean. Can it be that in those ancient times, lands across the seas were
> truly barbaric and crossing the seas were so difficult and a totally degrading
> experience that the sages might've felt that these experiences would soil a
> man's mind and soul and so made such statements in the scriptures?

How do we define barbaric and degrading experiences? The Vedic Aryans are
described as barbaric nomads in 19th century books written by Europeans.
Were they truly barbaric? If you think otherwise, how do we know that
other people across the oceans in those times were barbaric? Furthermore,
how could the sages have known about these barbarians if they had not
interacted with them themselves?


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