[Advaita-l] 'End' not 'Means'

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Apr 27 08:49:27 CDT 2006

On Thu, 27 Apr 2006, Aditya Varun Chadha wrote:

> Let us say that by pramANa, we mean "proof". Any claimed proof can be
> accepted to start with and then subjected to scrutiny for consistency
> both internally and against pratyakSa (if possible). Ethics, as I have
> tried to argue before, ARE subject to pratyakSa. One doesn't not steal
> because one remembers some Sruti Sloka, one practices restraint
> because of the possible consequences (pratyakSa).

A typical society only has one policeman for every few thousand citizens. 
Pratyaksha shows it is very easy to commit a crime without being caught. 
Yet civilization hasn't disintegrated into an orgy of muder, rape, and 
theft.  Why?  Because the "still small voice" of which poets speak is a 
more powerful motivator of behavior than a crude fear of punishment.

> Before studying the Srutis one does not (atleast should not) hold the
> bias of whether one accepts them or not. We don't study Sruti because
> we accept it. We accept (or reject) it because we study it. I hoped
> you'd say something more nuanced than that.

This is fine in theory but it doesn't match reality.  In real life, no one 
approaches ethics in a vacuum.  We all have been brought up in ways which 
influence our behavior.  It has to be that way because unlike some animals 
who are equipped for life and independent within a few hours of being 
born, humans require many years of interaction with other humans before 
they can survive on their own.

So the skeptical position, no matter how useful it is (and I agree that it 
is) is ultimately a pose.  This is why for all their good intentions, I 
think people who rely on a skeptical approach to the "why" of religion, 
end up with weakened faith.  They are a substituting a new set of 
assumtions and claims not clarifying the old ones.

> By "why" I mean to enquire upon the basis (in pratyakSa) of what Sruti
> is saying in this case.

It is saying women have no adhikara to learn Vedas.

> I can rightly seek this basis because as
> explained above, the claim made by Sruti is falsifiable against
> pratyakSa.

Really?  What is the SI unit of Adhikara?

> Saying that women are not fit to study the vedas because Sruti says so
> and that's that, is NOT fine because the claim is in theory
> falsifiable through pratyakSa. The experiment: let several (enough to
> form a statistical sample space) women study the vedas, and see the
> effect on them. If the effect is on average negetive on society as a
> whole, Sruti is upheld, else it is falsified.

It is also important in the design of an experiment to know exactly what 
you are trying to measure.  "effect on society" is too broad and vague. 
There are some historical examples I think are relevant.  For instance, 
Modern Hinduism is said to begin with Ramamohan Roy whose Brahmo Samaj 
scandalized Calcutta society at its inaugural meeting by: having a woman 
read from the upanishads.  Where is the Brahmo Samaj now?  The Arya Samaj 
also made a tenet out this issue.  How successful has the Arya Samaj been? 
But to point this out also relies on some assumptions on my part.

If you could measure how many Vedic-studying women got mukti as opposed to 
a control group that studied e.g. Ramayana then I suppose that would be 
more definitive.  And you would get a Nobel prize for sure :-)

> All this is based on the assumptions that
> * ethics are evolutionary in nature (CAN be developed from pratyakSa,
> as conscientious nAstik philosophers might do). i.e. ethics are
> subject to pratyakSa
> * "Sruti is a fully correct depiction of (spiritual/esoteric/evident)
> reality" is a theory (is falsifiable)

But there's the rub.  Astikas don't accept these assumptions.  So we are 
back to square 1.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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