[Advaita-l] logic and shastra

Sanjay Srivastava sksrivastava68 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 14 16:37:22 CDT 2005

On 6/14/05, Mahesh Ursekar <mahesh.ursekar at gmail.com> wrote:
" Shruti is a pramana, I agree. But according to Vedanta, pratyaksha is also a
pramana and is on par with Shruti."

Rightly said. Both are independent pramanas with different
jurisdictions. You cannot use a pramana to prove or disprove the other
since they would not operate in the same field.

 "If you say that Shruti's word is final then that is makes it a dogma
and not a pramana! "

If I say that eyes are the only valid pramana for seeing, does it make
me dogmatic? I see a flat earth even though the earth is spherical, a
blue sky even though it doesn't have a color. A jaundiced person might
see everything as yellow, even though it is not. In all these cases
the person does not loose faith in the validity of eyes despite
consistent contradiction with reality. Is it being dogmatic?

One cannot  construct a world view based on absolute doubt. There is
no sense organ including the mind that has not given you a faulty
knowledge sometime. Absloute doubt is a position that is
philosophically unassailable yet absolutely useless to solve our
existential problems. Faith in other means of pramana is intuitive
because it is based on the physiology of our body-mind setup--
nonetheless it is a faith.  There is no way you can prove that other
pramanas are actually reflecting the reality, but you trust that they
do. However, these pramanas do not give a worldview that is absolute.
Vedanta stretches this faith to include shruti as another pramana to
give the worldview of absolute reality.

 "Infact if you think that science is bedevilled by observation,
Shruti suffers from interpretative

Science also suffers from interpretive maladies. It is only at the
maturity of a hypothesis that it is considered conclusive knowledge.
Even at that stage, sometimes it is completely overturned by a new
theory. This is not to discredit science but just to remind that it
has also got its limitations.

"The same scripture means vastly different things to different
schools. I was talking with an ISKCON monk the other day and his
belief is that consciousness is a product of the soul and Krishna is
supreme reality. For him Brahman of Advaita was insignifcant. And his
pramana was the same Shruti you use for your Advaita! So, who decides
what Shruti is saying?"

I do not know anything about ISKCON but I have had some exposure to
bhagvan madhva's teachings. As far as living one's life is concerned,
there is hardly any significant difference. Principles of ishvararpana
buddhi and prasada buddhi are the guiding posts there also, though
philosophical reasons are different. It is only at the absolute level
of describing the nature of reality that the differences arise. I
believe that the problem at the absolute level is associated with
describing the indescribable. If the differences are really
fundamental, how could a shankara or ramakrishna engage in seemingly
dualistic bhakti?

"However, the beauty of science is that it does not suffer from
subjectivism. It is independent of caste, colour,

I am not sure whether the above is unqualified truth. Even if it were,
it would just mean that nature of science is different from shruti.
Since their subject matters are different, we should not be surprised
by this discovery.

"Say that through advances in science we find that consciousness is a
product of some new physics and is in the realm of the brain only.
Then, where would Advaita stand? Could not it's claim to reality seem
less strong?"

The consciousness as you have put above is different from the one that
is talked about in vedanta. The consciousness that you are talking
about is some property that can be observed. This is not the vedas are
talking about. Vedas are talking about the self which is ever a
subject and can never be objectified. If it can be objectified as you
have put above, it is very truly not in the jurisdiction of shruti.

" In fact, most scientists today would question very very strongly claims of
 consciousness being the ultimate reality. Even the good Dr. Goswami's
 assertion that the universe is self aware with consiousness as the
 substratum is based largely on conjecture. His explaining the Alain Aspect
experiment is just one interpretation of the phenomenon but there are many
others (multiple univserse theory, string theory to name two)."

The method of science works by objectifying something. The
consciousness as a property of something as put above may or may not
be the ultimate reality. No quibbles here. It is the consciousness as
self, which can never be objectified by any means, that is the subject
matter of vedanta. If it is something that can be described, observed,
put to test and concluded upon-- it is something else we are talking

" So, can you give me a reason, other than faith, why you would consider the
 pramana of Shruti to be more important than pratyaksha?"

I am not sure if shruti is considered more important than pratyaksha.
It is just different. If you meant proving the validity of shruti by
other pramanas, it would be impossible by definition. If it is a
pramana, it cannot be proved by any other pramana. A pramana can be
accepted or rejected, but it can never be proved. Whether the eyes can
actually see can never be proved by ears. The only test is to open the
eyes and see if it makes sense. In other words, use the pramana as
given and see if it works.

In the final analysis, it is all about having a worldview that is
consistent and makes sense and puts an end to the suffering of jiva.
With your closed eyes you touch someone and think that you are
touching your daughter. You open your eyes and find that she is infact
your sister. You have given more validity to eyes than touch. But then
you see a pencil dipped in water and it looks bent. You touch the
pencil and conclude that it is straight even though it looks bent. You
have now given more validity to eyes than touch. What has gone through
in between is how consistently the pramana can explain your world view
in totality.  The sages say that accepting shruti as pramana fits all
the pieces of the puzzle together. The only way to test the validity
of this claim is to accept its truth and see if it works for you.


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