[Advaita-l] 'End' not 'Means'

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue May 2 17:57:39 CDT 2006

On Fri, 28 Apr 2006, Aditya Varun Chadha wrote:

> Ofcourse, but you must by now be anticipating the question: where do
> these myths, rituals and power relations come from? Scriptures are a
> recording of values learned through evolution. Even going by the
> scriptural tradition, one asks, where did brahma get the vedas from?
> Scriptures have to be derived from pratyaksha as seen by some saguNa
> entity (or entities).

You can argue that in the other direction.  In many cases what you
perceive is conditioned by your own experiences, culture etc.  People in
the USA would be horrified to eat dog meat but would not blink at eating
beef which we would find disgusting.  In both cases, the taste of the meat
does not explain the (often physical) reaction.  How do you seperate the
pratyaksha caused by shabda from the shabda caused by pratyaksha?

> this may be so for someone who refuses to see how simple
> stimulus-response events interact to form complex systems.

When they form complex systems, it becomes pointless to talk about the
simple mechanisms.  Knowing about the simple mechanisms has no predictive
power.  I think this is a big problem with reductionism as applied to
ethics instead of nice co-operative atoms.

In the 1970s-80s New York was a very dangerous place with high rates of
crime of all types.  When Rudolph Guliani became mayor, he tried a novel
approach.  He directed the police to crack down on minor crimes like
begging, graffitti, vandalism etc. stuff which they normally wouldn't pay
much attention to.  Taken in isolation, these types of crime were minor.
But suppressing them brought the rates of _all_ types of crime down
because it is theorized people felt safer or more proud or some other
counter-intuitive thing.

Another of my interests is Linux and Open Source software which is also a
case where simple actions (individual programmers) can lead to complex and
impressive results.  (Software better than Microsoft's.)  but it has
produced its share of failures too.  A big reason why many companies
aren't using Open Source software yet is because it can be too much of a
gamble to know if you are going to end up with a diamond or a dud.

> When someone refrains for stealing even in the improbability of punishment,
> it is because of various pratyakSa reasons. These may vary from "I
> would like it if this was done to me", or "forming this habit could
> get me into trouble", etc.

The problem is when you try and quantify the pratyaksha reasons.  What
percentage is due to "I wouldn't like it," what percentage is due to "I
could get in trouble" etc.?  If you don't know that you cannot isolate the
variable for your experiment.

> These ideas ofcourse have been encoded in
> scriptures, but they are in the scriptures because someone saw them
> pratyakSa. In the scriptures or not, all ethical dogma can be derived
> purely from pratyakSa. Since pratyakSa is contingent on individual
> perception, dogma may in varying contexts be proven of varying value.
> The key point is to inquire where the scriptures came from. Who/what
> was the SrotA, and who/what the vaktA

In that case we have plenty of evidence from history.  (and as I
mentioned before I think the evidence is against egalitarianism.)  But how
can historical evidence be used as the basis of an experiment?  We are
trying to predict the future are we not?

> sure. the scriptures say what they say because someone wrote them down
> after placing faith in the senses (the mind, especially). So while it
> can be helpful to use the scriptures (based on someone else's faith in
> their own senses) as guiding tools, when the mind is in contradiction
> with the scriptures, one should recognize what they are (expression of
> someone's faith in their senses) and take on a more objective stance
> (put trust in one's own senses, even if for a wee little second). Yes,
> it is arguable whether this is a more objective stance or not, but for
> example even in seeking a guru, one trusts one's own senses first, and
> then surrenders to the one whom the senses accept as the "right Guru".

One doesn't even have to be a philosopher to know the mind can play tricks
on you, desire can overpower reason or reason can simply fail to be
applied.  It is better to place faith in somebody elses senses if
objectivity is the goal.

>> And what will be your criteria for attainment of mukti?  Where is mukti
>> defined?
> at the same place from where acceptance of ramaNa maharshi and those
> who took the more traditional path as muktas comes from.

You mean the Vedas?  The same ones you are trying to falsify?  Tautology.

> Actually I do not see (yet), is a logical and nuanced exposition of
> the impossibility of the experiment too much to ask?

You cannot realistically isolate the variable, set up a control or even
objectively define the result.

> I am asking you to show me why the "effect of vedic reading on women"
> cannot be studied. If a woman wants to find out whether reading the
> vedas is harmful for her, all she has to do is pick up copies and start
> reciting.

Btw, When we talk about studying it is not just idly leafing through the
pages, but a deliberate program of actions starting with upanayana,living
in the house of the Guru, placing samidha on his fire, learning suktas for
upto 12 years, and concluding with samavartana.  It is done for spiritual
reasons and though there may be material or intellectual benefits, they
are secondary.  It is a cultural performance of great significance to the
performer and society.  After all people don't just suddenly start picking
up 3,000 year old volumes because they finished the newspaper early.

I am assuming that this theoretical woman wants to study the Vedas because
she thinks there will be some spiritual benefit to it.  On the basis of
that assumption, I am saying that there will be no benefit.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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