Reason, Faith & Experience.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 27 17:15:36 CDT 2000

S. V. Subrahmanian <svs_shankara at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

>For eg., Shri VidyaShankarji's reply:
> >that every utterance of a God-realized person is really Shruti for one
> >is one with God, there is no separate identity, in which case when he
> >God speaks, which for the hearers is Shruti.  Does it work that way ??
>Not directly.  (WHY NOT ?)

The answer was embedded in my last paragraph in that post.

Ask yourself the question, "How do I know that a person X is God-realized?"
Do you accept it because most people say so? Do you accept it because your
parents told you so? Do you accept it because of having analyzed something
about the person yourself? Do you accept it out of faith in his words,
because they have come true in certain past occasions in your life? If I
were to tell you, "no, this person X, whom you consider to be God-realized,
is not really so," on what basis will you disprove my stand? If I were to
give examples and arguments to support my stand, would you simply close your
ears and refuse to listen to me, or would you go ahead and prove me wrong?

You see, no matter where you turn, you need a balance between faith and
reason. There is no point in constructing a sharp divide between the two. In
any system of reasoning, there are always bound to be some axioms that are
simply taken as self-evident and true. If you do not think that a particular
axiom is self-evident, your reasoning has to be eventually outside that
particular system. It is only in experimental science that one can devise
ways to test previously unquestioned axioms, but the minute something is
shown to be false, science simply moves on to the newly discovered thing
(eventually) and tries to make sense of it. But every time such a thing
happens, you will still have individual scientists who stick to the old
theory and those who move to the new. Still, no established axiom ever gets
disproved by assertion. The scientist has to conduct all the necessary
experiments and carefully analyze the results, before throwing out
something, or establishing something new.

There are individual constructions of knowledge, and there is a social
construction of knowledge. There has been no time in history when things
have remained absolutely static. There have been many God-realized persons,
but there have also been many fakes. If we were to keep looking at the words
of every man who claims to be God-realized (or whom his followers claim to
be God-realized) as Sruti, how would we distinguish between the real and the

The answer lies in the very words of those whom we consider God-realized.
For example, does Sankaracharya ever say that his own words are Sruti? No.
He takes the established classification of Sruti-smRti-itihAsa-purANa, and
only says that what he says is in accordance with the Sruti.

>What is faith ?  If it is belief without proof, clearly it is beyond
>the realm of the mind.  Where does it reside ?  How is it created ?

How so? It is still within the realm of the mind. It is perhaps not amenable
to the intellect, but faith is nevertheless a mental attitude.

>How is it fostered ?  I am not asking for the steps involved for
>I know that 6 billion people with 6 billion steps.  But what is
>the process ?

There is no single process. At the innermost core, there has to be implicit
trust. By making it impersonal, our tradition has tried to iron out
individual idiosyncracies. When I read the gItA, there is immediately
something in it which I find to be of high significance in daily life. The
same thing goes for the upanishads and other such texts too. Therefore, I am
willing to take them as a guide and am willing to listen to the tradition of
teachers that has explained these texts well.

>How does one get faith in an Acharya ?  Again if you give karma as
>the answer you are taking me beyond the realm of senses and mind.
>If that is the case then why bother with reason at all.  Discard it
>on day one of your sadhana and blindly accept somebody as the Guru

The question still remains, whom do you identify as your Guru and how? If
the person you choose to follow turns out to be a charlatan, what happens
then? Take a look at all the people who blindly followed somebody like David
Koresh in Waco, Texas. You can have faith, but it also has to be a reasoned
faith. You have to decide your own balance. What works for me may not work
for you.

Say you have found a Guru who is a most ideal person, based on whatever mix
of faith and reason you employed in your search for one. For your individual
needs, his words can and should be given top priority. But that is no reason
to upset the time-tested and established set of texts that constitute Sruti.
And if this Guru is from the Advaita tradition, he will himself have already
accepted this classification, so no real conflict should arise, don't you

Best wishes,

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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