Importance of Puranas in the Advaita tradition

Ashish Chandra ramkisno at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 8 03:41:29 CDT 2000

Namaste everyone,

According to the Meemansakas, the Puranas are arthavAda. I believe reading
in the book Hindu Dharma that Puranas are to be given just as much
importance as the Vedas. Since Advaita tradition has traditionally endorsed
the Meemansakas' (Purva meemansakas) position  of Puranas being arthavAda,
how are the two to be reconciled? Our history is gleamed from the two
Itihaasas. But Puranas too have sections devoted to history of sages and
kings. Are these considered as arthavAda also that can be dismissed as

It is often the contention of Hare Krishnas that Advaita is a false
doctrine, based on some sections of the Padma Purana that they often quote.
To that we say that Padma Purana is a late creation, most probably
post-Shankara (or that it was wilely revised), and that the Vedanta
tradition has relied more on the Upanishads and Vedanta Sutras than Puranas
themselves, which are anyway considered arthavAda. This can possibly cause
anyone to turn around and say that we don't believe in the position of the
Purva Meemansakas regarding the Puranas and hence our objection to Advaita
stands (no matter how incredibly superficial it may be e.g. some of the Hare
Krishnas' arguments I have read against Advaita). Besides this is the book
Hindu Dharma which teaches us to regard the Puranas as being authentic.

It is another thing to say that Puranas are arthavAda. But is that
tantamount to saying that the stories in Puranas are not true? I do
understand that for Advaita, this question of whether or not history is
depicted in Puranas is of little relevance. I also believe I have read that
Puranas can cause moksha for those who are not qualified/authorized to study
the Vedas. While one must not truly bother with things like the historicity
of an event because faith should possibly suffice, I cannot but help
thinking that should a doubt were to catch hold of me regarding anything
that I have read in the Shastras, will that not be ultimately detrimental to
my faith in the same, and will this not adversely affect my pursuit of Jnana
and moksha? For example, when Sruti says that there was once a Dasharadanya
war, I am to believe it. However, when the Puranas talk of Raja
Harishchandra, it is not necessary for me to believe that a person like Raja
Harishchandra existed - it is enough that I get the message i.e. satyam
vada. After all, the story of the hare and the lion is also arthavAda. If
Puranas can also cause Moksha, then why not just take the position that
Puranas are true when not in conflict with Vedas and false otherwise? Why
call them arthavAda and leave open the possibility of a loss of faith in an
aspirant? Sage Jaimini too considered the Upanishads as arthavAda but we
don't endorse that position. Why this chasm?

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