[Advaita-l] Advaita vEdAnta - Unit (5)
puttakrishna at verizon.net
Thu Jan 11 14:42:15 CST 2007
The knowledge of any object is called pramA - mA is to measure and pra means
very well. That is, a knowledge established by a thorough analysis and
review is pramA.
The knower is pramAtru.
The object of pramA is pramEya
The source of pramA is pramANa.
As an example, looking at an ornament, the seer of the ornament is the
pramAtru, the eyes seeing it is pramANA and the ornament is pramEya; the
firm knowledge that the object is an ornament is pramA. pramAtru, pramEya
and pramANa form a triad called tripuTi. In advaita, the three merge into
one on realization - there is no bhEda or difference between the three at
the supreme level. Similarly, jnyAna (knowledge), jnyAtru(knower) and jnyEya
(known) form a tripuTi and a realized person will not see any bhEda among
The firm knowledge of different objects or issues are established
differently and they are all recognized as pramANAs. They are
pratyaksha - Direct knowledge
anumAna - Inference by association
upamAna - Comparison
arthApatti - inference by removing inconsistency
Agama - scriptures.
We will discuss these in some details to understand the contexts they are
used or applicable.
pratyaksha pramANa - All objects around us fall into one of the following
five categories - Sound, Touch, Form, Taste and Smell. The living beings
five through their five organs of knowledge respectively as follows - Ear,
Tongue, and Nose. A firm knowledge is established when the respective sense
organ interacts with the object. The source of that firm knowledge, the mind
in this case, is the
pratyaksha pramANA. pratyaksha pramANA is possible only when the sense
organ, the mind and the context of the interaction are all in perfect
condition. A knowledge established by pratyaksha pramANA under these
conditions is called SamyajnyAna (samyak+jnyAna); Otherwise, even pratyaksha
may lead to mithyA jnyAna (mis-understanding) or uncertain knowledge
anumAna pramANa - It is in our experience to know an object or issue by
other than interaction with the sense objects. For example, if we see smoke,
it is possible to infer that there must be fire; this is because, it has
been our experience that, smoke is associated with fire. Thus, the ability
to know an object by its relationship with another object is anumAna
pramANa. However, anumAna has to be confirmed by pratyaksha pramANa, because
if we follow the smoke and visit the place of smoke, we may notice there is
no fire, but the smoke coming from a tobacco product, in which case, the
anumAna pramANa, that it is fire, is negated. pratyaksha pramAna is
therefore called the Nirankusha pramANa (independent pramANa), for it cannot
be negated by any other pramANa; on the other hand the anumAna pramANa can
be negated by pratyaksha pramANa.
upamAna pramANa - The knowledge obtained by comparing an unknown object with
that of a known object is called upamAna pramANa. For example a person knows
However, he does not know a wolf. A friend tells him that a wolf looks like
a dog. So, if the person spots a wolf in a forest or countryside, he
identifies it as a wolf by
comparing it to the knowledge of the dog he has. upa is near or close (known
in this context) and mAna is to understand; thus upamAna is knowledge by
comparing to a
known object. upamAna has limitations and cannot be all encompassing.
arthApatti pramANa - arthApatti is an inference from circumstances, when the
presented knowledge is inconsistent with the facts. For example, a child's
the child is very intelligent; however, the child fails in every grade and
progresses very slowly. So one has to understand that the child is not
intelligent or is dull. Such a
knowledge arrived at by removing the inconsistency between the presented
knowledge and facts, is called arthApatti pramANa. The legal system uses
this extensively, when the statements of a witness are inconsistent with the
findings, say by investigators.
Agama pramANa - This is also called shruti pramANa. When it comes to issues
beyond the reach of human mind or intellect, shruti pramANa is the only
means to acquire the
knowledge of that issue or object. Shruti has been accepted as the final
source, since it is apourushEya - not created by any human/humans. They are
the statements of Brahman, presented along with creation. The following five
rationales have been offered to establish the apourushEya of Agamas.
(1) There is no authorship for vEdas - If there was an author, the human
ego would have revealed it.
(2) It is so comprehensive that a single human could never have composed
(3) There are no contradictions in the shrutis - So this rules out
possibility of multiple human authors; if there were multiple authors,
contradictions would be the norm.
(4) Its spelling, punctuations and intonations have been retained over
time; a human composition could not have survived in original form over
(5) There are many facts in vEdas that humans have come to recognize and
understand only in recent times; if humans had composed vEdas, they would
have known about these facts.
These rationale establish that the shrutis are not human creations. How did
the shrutis come about?
Sri Krishna gives a clue to this in gIta 10-6.
"maharshayah sapta pUrve chatvArO manvah tathA
madbhAvA mAnasA jAtAh yEshAm lOka imAh prajAh " - Thec seven great Rishis
and four manus were born of My nature from My mind; and from them have come
forth all these beings in the world.
The seven Rishis and four manus are the most evolved souls of the previous
kalpa or creation. These are the mantradrishTA, to whom the vEdas were
revealed in their meditation (they were not the creators). The vEda has come
to be handed down by them and maintained through generations.
Therefore issues related to dharma / adharma, nature of Brahman and nature
of jIva has to be understood from the Agama only; such understanding is
Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih ( Om peace, peace, peace).
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