shabda as pramana

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Mar 3 16:43:47 CST 2002

During this thread you've clarified what you meant so I am only going to
address one topic and that is the validity and scope of Shruti as pramana.

On Wed, 20 Feb 2002, nanda chandran wrote:

> Also remember that even for availing of the shruti as a pramaana, you need
> both pratyaksha (perception) and anumaana (inference) - the first for the
> ability to read and the second for understanding what the shruti teaches
> about brahman. What use will the shruti be to a fool?

What use is perception to the blind man?  What use is logic to a madman?
That different pramanas require skillfullness or preperation in order to
be used effectively is hardly controversial.  A more interesting question
is can the shabda pramana be reduced to a kind of perception or inference?
Now what the scope and validity of the pramanas is a huge topic in our
philosophy and there may have been schools that have suggested what you
said.  But Vedanta (following Purva Mimamsa in this case) disagrees.
Sadananda has clearly explained some of the reasons why.  I would like to
add just one more.  In the Mimamsa sutras, an opponent objects to the idea
of apaurusheyatva because we see the names of Atri, Brghu and other Rshis
are attached to various portions of the Vedas.  The answer is they are not
the composers of those mantras but their discoverers only.  Just like we
can say Newtons' laws of motion even though things moved before Newton was
born and would still move even if he had never existed.  Perception and
inference are highly dependent on the perceiver/inferer.  Some people try
and justify their deviations from the siddhanta by saying an "enlightened
master" has said this or that based on his experiences.  But Shruti is
Shruti whether it is said byan "enlightened master" or a village pujari.
It doesn't depend on experiences.

> Even if it is apaurusheya it is only with your senses and mind that you
> study the shruti right?

The point is not just *your* senses and mind but the senses and minds of
all the generations that came before you.  Words have meanings independent
of individual fancies.  That a particular person might have greater or
lesser skill in using it is a problem with every pramana not just shabda.

> Whatever might be the validity of the shruti in
> itself, yet for the aspirant still it greatly depends on his ability to
> understand what's taught in the shruti.


> It is due to the difference in
> intellects that we see various Vedaantic schools which though differing in
> their interpretations still claim that theirs is the true reading of
> Vedaanta.

You would be hard put to claim the intellects of Vishishtadvaitin and
Dvaitin acharyas are inferior to those of ours.  Variant readings are due
to having different assumptions even before opening the book.  And even
then look how much the various schools of Vedanta have in commmon
conceptually--atma, brahman, moksha, vairagya etc. are concepts they all
share.  There have been many million Vedantins over the years.  Why are
there many less than millions of interpretations of Vedanta?  Because
words put a boundary on ideas.  You may be able to stretch them a little
but there is a point at which you can stretch no further without breakage.
But I put it to you that a vishishtadvaitin or dvaitin would feel more in
common with an advaitin than an advaitin would with some new age

> Even in Advaita we have the Bhaamati and Vivaarana schools. Infact
> I would make a distinction between the Advaita taught by Gaudapaada, Sri
> Harsha and Citsukha and the Advaita taught by others. There's an outright
> distinction in the path itself between the two.

A distinction in theory maybe but in the path itself?  I don't think so.
Care to back that statement up?

> But it is to be noted that in Advaita logic only has a negative value -
> nothing positive is sought to be gained by logic

This btw is another argument for the seperate validity and authority of
Shabdapramana.  Shruti (even in the famous "neti neti" text as I showed
earlier in this thread) doesn't just say what Brahman is not but makes
positive statements about what it _is_.

> So that would mean that it depends on the person more than it does on the
> shruti. If the shruti were absolute then anybody who studies it should be
> liberated.

They are!  It just takes some people longer than others :)  As an analogy,
it took me three tries to pass calculus in college.  Does that affect the
truth or validity of calculus in any way?

> So two points to note here is :
> 1. the shruti itself is not absolute and
> 2. without the intellect you cannot gain the maximum out of even the
> relative knowledge provided by the shruti.

I would summarize my points as follows.

1.  While all pramanas eventually boil down to the intellect, it is useful
to distinguish them because the way the intellect used is different.
Intellect as used for vision is in fact useless for syllogistic reasoning
etc.  Thus we say that each pramana has its' own sphere of authority which
the others cannot intrue upon.

2.  Shabda (the words of the Vedas and the shastras based upon  them) is
in fact the only pramana which can give proximate knowledge of Brahman
because it is the only one which is not subjective.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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