[Advaita-l] Scientific method

Bhadraiah Mallampalli vaidix at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 23 10:46:48 CST 2009

Dear Raghavkumar
Thanks for the kind words and rare references about Adi Sankara. 
>We shall have to go further back then even Shankara ?
>It is no doubt heartening to note Sri Shankara emphasised the >compatibility of shruti and yukti(reason) and his enunciation was also  >that shruti cannot contradict reason. If it does, it is over-ridden, >interpreted or reconciled in various ways. 
This is repeated all over in his commentaries. Sankara had the courage to say reject Shruti, but by tradition we do not really delete the statement of Shruti, but simply ignore it for time being until a day when some one is again born who can delve into those details. 
>However, the fact remains that Karl Popper's well-known criterion of >'falsifiability' has never been emphasisied in the post-Vedic era or more >likely perhaps it fell into disuse in our Shruti tradition.
Yes literally it was not done for each line of Shruti, but Sankara did it tentatively when he said there is no cause for liberation. A claim of any swami of having seen the highest reality by following such and such method without realizing the underlying truth is promptly falsified by its being a cause. 
>For example, the theory or relativity PREDICTED something about the orbit >of mercury, and this was actually observed to hold. Thereby the theory >gains in strength. No alternative theory (Newtonian etc) could possible >account for this orbital deviation. 
Good one! I quietly avoided such examples by only talking of ordinary experiments on the earth that do not involve accumulation of the minor differences between Newtonian and Relativistic over long distances.  
>In the case of shruti, the equivalent of this could have been something >like -"by the practise of a certain upanishadic upasana or a yajna, a >childless couple get a child. They could not have otherwise got a child by >natural or in vitro methods. Yet this Upasana/Yajna invokes Adhi-daivic >subtle forces and beings which have the capacity to command or even >over-ride the so-called natural laws, and so it is effective in conferring a >child. Also lets says this works in many cases. Then the upasana or yajna >acquires the status of knowledge. This strengthens the case for the Vedic >World-view."
There is no need to look for such out-of-the-worldly tests that would always be a matter of "belief" even if you happen to succeed many time, be it Sankara's transmigration into a king or Jesus healing sick people.
Shruti "has already" mentioned several worldly tests in vedas that can
stand any amount of scientific testing, one of which is the hierarchy of
waking, dream and sleep states in Makdukya upanishat, treated as part
of Agama prakarana by Gaudapada. Agama prakarana gives solid foundation
for advaita at personal level. The physical locations of waking, dream and
deep sleep states together with an assumption of just three individual
observers one in each state can generate enough complicated test cases;
how many zillions test cases would be generated considering the billions of
cells in these states at any point of time? There are several other verifiable
tests in Chandogya. Yes, literal explanations for these items were not
available in those days (as stated by Sankara himself according to you). 
>Now, ... Vedas were 'frozen' ... even a sincere and respectful attempt to >rediscover the first principles of the Vedas, was looked upon at times as >too audacious an attempt. ...even so it seems to have happened with the >Vedic Karma Kanda particularly... The sampradaya somehow stopped >churning out Rishis but managed to keep churning out sincere and earnest >ritualists who are worthy of respect, no doubt, but they only knew the >mechanical procedures, the mantras etc.. without any idea of the >accompanying knowledge which constituted the first principles of the >Veda. So if we are to look for the origin of the scientific method, we may >have to go back to the Vedic Sages. By the time of Shankara, the Vedic >Mimamsa tradition (karma kanda) had become too rigid. Shankara himself >had to contend with some ultra-orthodox ritualists who said that the >Vedic mantras themselves conferred the results. There was no >intercession by intelligent Devatas or Ishwara, according to these Vedic >ritualists. Such was their contention. Shankara has to say in the >brahmasutra bhashya that "although, today, there are no competent >people with Devata-related jnana, still you can't say that it was as bad as >that in the past as well, since Vyasa etc are said to have communed with >the Devatas etc." (my para-phrase) He implied that in the past there >were competent people who had the anubhava-jnana of the Vedic >mantras. So you cannot just regard the mantras as some kind of white->magic which just produces the adhrishta results. 
The traditionalists were justified in what they did and that is how it should
be. In software you don't trash a program just because you don't have
documentation for it now. The entire vedic corpus needs to bepreserved inspite of the fact we know nothing about it. Now that we know
only a small portion of it called advaita (thanks to Sankara), this one little
fire can be used to search the dark forests of Shrutis for the devatas who
can in turn tell us more about the shrutis. The clues to find devatas are written all over in the shruti.  
>But by the time of Shankara itself, the "scientific approach" seems to >have got diluted considerably. 
No, scientific method was never diluted, otherwise we wouldn't have even had advaita in the first place. The method was just not applied correctly; it
was just being used to enforce the rituals correctly rather than for finding
a meaning for the ritual. Sankara applied it for the first time to a number of
upanishats. There was a lot of follow up to "downstream" subjects, but
there was no followup to "upstream" subjects. 
>But in any case, its worth pursuing the idea with Wikipedia. 
>BTW,Wikipedia hardly gives credit to Bhaskara rather than Pythagoras for >his blessed theorem although Bhaksara pre-dated Pythagoras by almost a >several 100 years.
Yes let us do it one of these days. 
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