[Advaita-l] Apoureshyatva - Faith or Logic?

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 9 13:35:37 CDT 2012

Namste Vidyasankarji,

I think Shri Rajaram may be sort of trying to tell us that before the Gayatri was revealed to Vishwanitra the  Trisandhyas performed earlier were not effective and it is just like saying that before he could send his messages from his Blackberry the earlier ways of sending messages were not effective.

Sunil KB

 From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
To: Advaita List <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> 
Sent: Monday, July 9, 2012 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Apoureshyatva - Faith or Logic?

Dear Rajaram, 

I deliberately waited a while before posting what is going to be my last contribution to this round of
discussion on apaurusheyatva.  Let me begin by thanking you for giving me many opportunities, at
least once a week, to practice equanimity towards stuti and nindA


> I have a lot of respect for Sri Vidyasankar myself and it is unfortunate that it is he is making these points. It is the force of the theory of biological and linguistic evolution. 
> BTW, your theory of evolution of dharma leads to many
> inconsistencies. Before Gayatri mantra is revealed, people didn't chant
> that during sandhyavandanam? 

That said,

>IMO, these theories are like a deaf man describing a movie without the sabda because I know astrology is eerily accurate, acharyas have displayed unnatural powers >beyond science etc. 

Yet, I am not the one who wanted to "re-establish" apaurusheyatva of the veda and then gave up
by citing its incompatibility with evolution of biological species followed by linguistic evolution! My
stance, that veda apaurusheyatva is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for accepting
veda prAmANya, has been a consistent one throughout.

I confess I don't understand what your basic goal is. Is it to prove apaurusheyatva of the veda by
taking into  account a contemporary scientific worldview? Is it to discard all scientific endeavor as
inherently a-dhArmika? Is it to condemn those who say that they have no problem with accepting
the pramANa of science in one intellectual domain and that of the veda in another? 

As I see it, you have to make sense of your own position yourself. Let us leave aside scientific
theories and concentrate for a bit on viSvAmitra revealing the sAvitrI mantra. Personally, I have
no problem with saying that a viSvAmitra lived in the distant past of the current cycle of yuga-s,
that he was the first to reveal this mantra within this cycle and that before he did so, it was not
adharma for people not to do japa of this mantra on a daily basis.

The samAdhAna for this position is easy too. As time passes in each catur-yuga cycle, the innate
adherence to dharma on the part of people decreases (dharmasya glAnir bhavati). As and when
necessary, someone special comes along and does something to renew it. These are whom we
recognize as avatAra-s or AdhikArika purushas.

Such renewal nececssarily means a change from that time forward. Nothing wrong with that. A
living tradition accommodates change, with time taking care of what is acceptable as compatible
with the existing tradition and what is to be discarded. In this scenario, what about the people
before that time? For those like vasishTha (and certainly there were many of those, it was the
age of Rshi-s after all), japa of this mantra was superfluous and the rest (everybody else) did
not have the adhikAra for it. One way or the other, people for whom a daily chanting of sAvitrI
mantra was a requirement were not born before the time of viSvAmitra. viSvAmitra became a
Rshi and revealed the mantra at a certain juncture of time, because japa of this mantra by many
people became something that was necessary for the preservation of dharma only AFTER his
time. Such is the nature of what you call "prophecy" in the veda-s. Such is the nature of religious
duty and I would be the first to grant that science has nothing to do with all this.

According to your position, even before a viSvAmitra appeared in this cycle, people would have
been committing sin by not doing japa of the sAvitrI (gAyatrI) mantra. That is indeed not my
position, as I have pointed out above. It is up to you to figure out from your position how the
priests of viSvAmitra's father and grandfather, who were certainly brAhmaNa-s, could have daily
chanted a mantra that was to be revealed many years later by viSvAmitra, as per the "prophecy"
of the veda. If it was already available to everybody from the previous cycle, where was the
necessity for another viSvAmitra to appear in this one, torture himself and others through his
tapas, unfairly curse rambhA for his own failings, abandon the new-born SakuntalA, intensify
his tapas, gain a cherished acceptance as a brahmaRshi from vasishTha and reveal the sAvitrI
mantra somewhere along the line? And where is the necessity for a future viSvAmitra to appear
in the next cycle and go through this process all over again? If the viSvAmitra who revealed the
mantra is to be claimed to be different from the one described above, what proof is there for 
that stance? If it is the same and you have some other magical explanation for the structure of
time that makes all this possible, I would be fascinated to find out what that is, whether it be
from a traditional paurANika/dArSanika standpoint or a contemporary scientific/sci-fi perspective. 

As Bhaskar pointed out, you are indeed setting up a strawman argument and knocking it down,
when you say something like,

> If it is not through incorrect inference, how do we
> know rishis lived at a point in time and the Vedas were non-existent 
> before
> he first rishi appeared? Brahma, by your logic, must have been quite
> ignorant to start with.

I have never given any room for anyone, including  you, to use the term "non-existent" in this
context. On the contrary, I have taken great pains to point out the difference between prior
non-existence and a general non-availability prior to the time of a Rshi who revealed some 
part of the veda to the ancestors of those who are its custodians today. And I absolutely don't
see how you jump to brahmA even from this flawed argument of yours. As for how the veda
gets known to brahmA, see SvetASvatara upanishan mantra - yo brahmANaM vidadhAti
pUrvaM yo vai vedAMSca prahiNoti tasmai. There was a primordial time when brahmA came
into being and the veda was then given to him, before being revealed to the Rshi-s whose
names are associated with the mantras.

One doesn't need any inference, correct or incorrect, to say that Rshi-s lived at different times.
Mere common sense is enough, And it is nothing more than what the itihAsa-purAna itself tells
us about the Rshi-s. I don't have to recount the entire story of vasishTha and viSvAmitra to you,
I'm sure. Is there anything in the legend for anyone to think that the many years of viSvAmitra's
tapas as per that story happened in one instant, at the beginning of time? If it all happened in 
a previous cycle, what about the direction of the arrow of time within THAT cycle? The logic or
otherwise of the life of a Rshi and his role in revealing some part of the veda does not go away.

> How do we know that someone will not give a new vidhi in
> the future? 

Something like this is also accounted for in the itihAsa-purANa, to the extent that one can find
a linear temporal logic in them. Please recall the story of Svetaketu and how he made a new
vidhi with respect to strIdharma. What was not adharma for women, prior to his time, became
so as a consequence of the rule that he laid down upon all women. Therefore, no one can say
that the same vidhi-s are operative at all times and in an invariant manner. Such rigidity of
rules is certainly not what the tradition itself says about what is dhArmika behavior and what
is not. And even at any given point of time, what is dharma for one person is not necessarily
dharma for another.
I will conclude by reminding you that the pUrva mIMAMsA view of veda apaurusheyatva has
little use for any sort of origin story of the universe, whether it be a religious variety of creation
or a secular variety of contemporary science like the big bang. And the proponents of nyAya,
from gautama to udayana and gangeSa, whose dhArmika credentials we have no reason to
doubt, had no use for the concept of apaurusheyatva. Yet, both darSana-s accept pramANatva
of the veda and both fall within the ambit of Astikya and dharma.

I see little point in continuing this discussion from my side now. At some later time, when I have
some more leisure to write things up, I will address Bhaskar's questions on how apaurushyetva
of the veda is treated of differently in advaita vedAnta as compared to pUrva mImAMsA.

Best regards,
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