Philosophical Views and Certain Knowledge

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian ramakris at EROLS.COM
Thu Mar 18 19:49:24 CST 1999

Parisi & Watson <niche at AMERITECH.NET> wrote:

>I have a question that's not so much about the Advaita teachings
>themselves as about our stance in relation to them. I hope it will
>be considered appropriate for the list.
>When bringing up the ideas of Vedanta in contexts outside this
>list, I have occasionally been met with the response, "Have you
>experienced this yourself, or are you just spouting the ideas of
>others?" with the clear implication that it is presumptuous and
>fraudulent to offer as true ideas that I have not verified in my own
>experience. Even here in the list, I have seen the statement, "Those
>know do not speak, and those who speak do not know."

You have asked a very important and excellent question. In fact, it is
of fundamental importance to advaita and by default is quite pertinent
to this list. In fact, the last weekend, I had a conversation with
someone which has a lot of overlap with what you are asking. I decided
to write up an article summarizing my thoughts. I have only a brief
outline right now, so that'll have to wait till I find some time.

But, I will briefly give some indications which may be helpful. Since
this is brief, it may result in extra confusion, but please bear with
me. Your question will be answered if you consider what the means of
knowing are in advaita and understand how they relate to "intuitive"
knowledge of brahman. As usual, shrI sha.nkaras upadeshasAhasrI is
indispensable. Also shrImad sureshvara amplifies these in his
naishhkarmyasidhhi. My article will have all these relevant passages.

For now, you can answer your friend in the following way. Does he know
that arsenic is a poison? How? Did he taste it? It may be elixir
instead of poison, so how come he is not verifying it personally? Will
he not stop his child from eating it and state with utmost confidence
that it is poison? Similarly shruti teaches us advaita. Just like a
medical text says arsenic is poison, shruti informs us about brahman.
In fact, shruti/smR^iti  are the only sources which can teach us about
brahman. Personal experiences of any teacher (even sha.nkara himself)
are NOT VALID in advaita UNLESS they are corroborated by shruti. In
that case there is no difference. More later.


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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