[Advaita-l] Apoureshyatva - Faith or Logic?

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Mon Jun 25 13:34:55 CDT 2012

On Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 6:20 PM, Ramesh Krishnamurthy <rkmurthy at gmail.com>wrote:

> At a fundamental level, one must also remember that the Veda's
> independent prAmANya is on atIndriya vishaya-s only. When understood
> to its fullest extent, this in itself is sufficient to prevent such
> false pitting. Biological evolution is a well-established scientific
> theory based on pratyakShAdi pramANa-s, and at a fundamental level,
> the Veda simply has no jurisdiction in the matter. Even if one thinks
> that biological evolution is false, the arguments have to be based on
> laukika pramANa-s and not on the Veda.

Dear Sri Ramesh ji,

The quote I provided from the Sringeri Acharya's conversation does not say
or imply that the biological evolution is false.  It only says that
applying it to the Vedic system is faulty.  And several reasons were
provided for this.  So, to insist that only laukika pramanas should be used
is not fair for the very question that was posed to the Acharya linked the
biological evolution to the Vedic revelation, etc.

> Coming to Sri Subrahmanian's questions, I think there can be several
> ways of addressing the matter. But I will take a cue from
> Vidyasankar's post and provide one possible approach. The idea is not
> to provide an "answer" but to merely illustrate why one need not get
> stuck with short-sighted or simplistic interpretations that lead to
> the kind of false pitting mentioned above.
> Here are two ideas:
> 1. Apply the differentiation of general and particular to the Veda
> itself, i.e. look at what we specifically refer to as Veda (a corpus
> of literature largely in pre-classical Sanskrit) as a particular case
> of a generic Veda which is "trans-linguistic". I am sure there would
> be enough pointers to this kind of idea in the shAstra itself.

I will leave this out for I have not discoursed on this topic before here.

> 2. Think of terms like "manuShya" and "prithivi" used in the shAstra
> as being more generic than "homo sapiens" and "planet earth". For
> example, manuShya could simply mean any jIva that is capable of
> exercising judgement in the matter of karma (act, don't act, act
> differently). There is no need to presume that in the entire cosmos,
> homo sapiens is the only jIva with the ability to do so. Likewise,
> prithivi could be any loka where such manuShya-s live.

In the Taittiriya Upanishad bhashyam for the mantra: annaat puruShaH  (from
food man is born..) Shankara raises a question: When so many beings are
born from food, why mention only purusha?  And answers: because only a
manushya is an adhikArin for the vedokta karma.  And in the shastra a
'manushya' is essentially a homo sapien and even defined so:
shiraHpANyAdimAn - the one with heads, hands, etc.  In fact the anna maya
kosha itself is demonstrated in the upanishad here with the humanistic
model: head, right and left hands and torso etc.  And Shankara even gives
examples such as when one turns to the sun (east) and stretches his arms
sideways, the right hand is pointed to the south, dakshina, etc.  And the
brahmasutra has an adhikarana to decide whether or not devataa-s too have
karma adhikAra and concludes that they might have adhikara for jnana but
only manushyas have karma adhikara.  All said and done, in the shAstra,
that is tradition, it is only the homo sapien species that is meant by the
term manushya.  There is no need or reason for the shastra to imagine other
beings in other lokas who might have karma adhikara.  It is addressed to
us, homo sapiens, and wants us to relate to it in the most natural way.

For the term prithvI, it is simply earth, not restricted to planet Earth.
Prithvi is the effect after the element water, in the vedic context.   But
the term 'pArthiva' is from prthvI and exists in all physical created
objects in gross form and in subtle form in sUkshma shrIram too.  So there
can be jivas in pitR loka, deva loka and Brahma loka including the fourteen
lokas - seven above and seven lower ones.  These are necessarily not
restricted to just the planet Earth.

> With these two ideas, let us look at Sri Subrahmanian's questions:
> We could take Vidyasankar's approach and say that the generic Veda
> manifested itself in the particular form we know (pre-classical
> Sanskrit etc) when the concerned R^iShI-s were born. For humans who
> lived before, they either had access to the Veda in some other form,
> or were born purely for bhoga in accordance with their past karma.

There is no admissibility to this proposition in the vedic context.  Only
animals and devas are born chiefly for bhoga, in the latter case they can
try for moksha but the former do not have that faculty.  In the case of
humans it is his bounden duty to seek and know his status and act
accordingly.  That is why there is the upanayana samskara and the gurukula
thereafter.  If he fails, he invites sin.  Till he gets the ability to seek
for himself, his parents have that responsibility of grooming him to that,
in the form of upanayana and sadAchAra shikShaNa.  And for this reason the
Veda has to be there.  If it is not made available it is the fault of
Ishwara.  Ishwara can fault the jiva only when the latter has not made use
of the teaching provided.  That is the idea underlying the reply of the
Sringeri Acharya.  In order to preclude the possibility of humans,
non-rishis, coming into being before the rishi the Vedic srishti is just
commencing with the prajapati, marIchi, etc. people, with the already
available vedic knowledge.  For, the first-born BrahmA is endowed with
vedic knowledge, which he automatically imparts to his mind-born
prajApatis, and so on.  All this may not fit in the evolution theory but
that is  not the problem of the Veda/tradition.  They are not worse off
without accommodating the evolution theory in their scheme.  And they will
continue to reject/refuse/refute such attempts even at the risk of their
being dubbed short-sighted, simplistic, etc.  And such of those who have
attempted to do this have been clearly kept away as a-sampradaayic.  But
they will not and cannot prevent individuals forming their own ideas about
these.  A traditional teaching of the prasthana traya will not include
these topics in the syllabus.

> For
> that matter, a human living in, say, Peru just 800 years ago would not
> have had any inkling of the Sanskritic Veda. Neither did they know of
> any derived texts such as the smR^iti-s, itihAsa-s, etc.
> The point about jIva-s needing to be anAdi etc can also be easily
> taken care of. As long as one does not insist that manuShya means homo
> sapiens only and that prithivi means planet earth only, there is no
> problem. Indeed, one would think that a Hindu rooted in his tradition
> would intuitively appreciate the idea that there could be infinitely
> many prithivi-s, infinitely many types of manuShya-s and infinitely
> many manifestations of the Veda. Biological and other forms of
> evolution could proceed at their own pace in each of these cases, with
> the time trajectories being vastly different.

All this can exist as fanciful thinking but the tradition, as I pointed out
above, will not accept it.  They do not see any need or reason for it.  If
they are rejected for not accommodating these ideas, they are not

I honestly don't see any problem unless one insists on straitjacketing
> the Veda, strips it of its cosmic grandeur and restricts its essential
> insights to one particular form of life on one particular piddly
> little planet.

Are you implying that those who reply to such questions, as for example,
the Sringeri Acharya and the disciple ( a modern educated post doctoral
scientist) are insisting on straitjacketing the Veda and stripping
it...etc?  I do not see any problem in their holding views such as they
do.  After all, they are trying to show how one can understand the shastra
by not contradicting it.  And the specific question that was put to the
Acharya by the disciple did show that it was contradicting the shastra.

> By the way what would happen if a big asteroid were to strike our
> planet tomorrow and wipe out all life on it? How would Sri
> Subrahmanian's questions change if he were to take into account this
> possibility?

Well, I will not be there to witness the effects of such a catastrophe.  It
is, now, purely hypothetical.

> As mentioned earlier, I am not saying all this to provide specific
> answers. There could be any number of ways of looking at these things.
> The point is simply that by straitjacketing our intellectual
> traditions and presenting them (falsely) as being pitted against this
> or that scientific or other laukika pramANa based theory, we are only
> a doing a great disservice to our dharma and our intellectual
> traditions.

I think you are surely not implying that the Sringeri Acharya, by giving
those replies, was doing a great disservice to our dharma and the thinking
traditions.  Nor have they pitted the shastra against science.  They have
the greatest respect, regard and appreciation of both.  In fact, if one
reads Sri Umesh ji's writings about The Acharya, one can appreciate how
'scientific' the latter was. You can have a talk about these with
traditional scholars whom you know of and find out what they have to say.

I am not being skeptical while responding as above.  Somehow, I was taught
and trained in that line.  Many of those Vedantins who have influenced me
were themselves scientists.  I thank Sri Vidyasankar for his ideas on this,
especially his showing that science and shastra need not be fused.  I have
said what I was taught and understood on this/these topic/s.   My intention
is not to contradict anyone.


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