Understanding MAdhyamaka - 3

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 23 18:40:40 CDT 2000

On Fri, 23 Jun 2000 14:24:44 PDT, nanda chandran <vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>Objection : ShUnyavAda has no pramAna to establish itself.
>Answer : The validity of pramAnas (means of knowledge) themselves
>cannot be established. Like fire which cannot burn itself, a
>pramAna cannot prove itself. A PramAna cannot be established by
>another pramAna, for that would mean infinite regress (ie the pramAna
>which acted as the basis of proof would itself need another pramAna
>as proof for its own existence, which itself would need another
>pramAna and so on). A pramAna cannot be proved by an object of
>congnition (prameya), for that itself depends on the pramAna for
>proof of existence! So the validity of pramAnas can be established
>neither in itself, nor by other pramAnas nor by prameyas nor by

 The invalidation of pramANas that the shUnyvAdin talks about is
 precisely the logical equivalent of digging his own grave! Agreed,
 a pramANa cannot be established by another pramANa, a prameya, accident,
 etc. But what the shUnyvAdin *fails* to recognize is this: in order to
 *invalidate* a pramANa, what is needed is another pramANa (eg. shruti)
 that provides a "bAdhaka jnAna", sublating knowledge to invalidate
 the pramANas.
 Every pramANa is powerful in its own sphere ( svavishhayashuuraaNi hi
 pramaaNaani shrotraadivat.h | Shankara's sUtra bhAShya) like hearing,
 for example. Suppose we hear drum-beats in a dark forest, we think it
 is some person beating the drum. Upon shining a torch light in the
 vicinity, we  see that the "drum-beats" are being caused by the wind's
 causing a tree branch to strike the drum. But until the knowledge
 provided by the eye was not available to us, we could not negate the
 notion that the drum-beating was by a person, *even if* a companion
 of ours kept saying "no, it is not a person, it is not a person."
 There has to be a "bAdhaka-jnAna" (sublating knowledge) provided by
 some other pramANa to invalidate a pramANa. A man with failing
 eyesight, for example, trusts what he hears more than what he sees,
 precisely because he knows that what he hears is capable of negating
 what he sees.

 What the shUnyavAdin does is to declare all pramANas invalid (and this
 is important as per Shankara and VAchaspati) *without* first establishing
 a higher pramANa in the sense the higher pramANa declares a higher
 reality that makes all pramANas invalid.

 Even though the advaitin says the pramANas are not valid, one important
 difference, among others, is that the advaitin declares the pramANas
 to be invalid on the strength of the shruti-pramANa which provides
 us the bAdhaka-jnAna.

 What happens in the case of the shUnyavAdin is that he accepts only
 the laukika-pramANas (conventional pramANas) and then proceeds to
 "prove" them invalid. This is the equivalent of a wood-cutter who
 sits on the branch of a tree and cuts off the very branch he is sitting
 on. If he has to do that, he must first grab on to a different branch
 of the tree, to prevent himself from falling down!

 That is why Shankara says, regarding this, "sikatAkUpavadvidIryate",
 "it crumbles like a well dug in sand."


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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