[Advaita-l] additional doubts!!

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 12 19:35:53 CDT 2011

An older post of mine may provide a perspective.

There seem to three issues
a. Does Advaita Vedanta adopt a rigid/absolute stance when it comes to declaring
the Vedas as the only pramana for self-knowledge?
b. As followers of this tradition then, how do we view or reconcile this fact
with other spiritual traditions?
c. Do all spiritual traditions say the identical truth in different ways

With regards to the first question - there can simply be no two opinions that
the Shruti the Smrti as well as Shankara's bhashyas (as well as Sureshwara's
vartikas for that matter) all repeatedly, consistently and categorically affirm
that the ONLY means of knowledge of Brahman, or self-knowledge, is the Shastra.
There is no leeway that allows for any other pramana besides the Shastra to be
operational in leading to self-knowledge - mystic experiences included.

In BrahmaSutra 2.1.27 "tu shruteh shabdamulatvat"

Shankara in his bhashya here also clarifies "...partlessness is accepted on
account of its very mention in the Upanishads and the Upanishads are the ONLY
authority about It" and further "So what need has one to argue that the nature
of Brahman, whjose power is beyond all thought, cannot be ascertained UNLESS it
be through the Vedas?" and moreover "Hence a supersensuous thing is truly known
from the Vedic source ALONE".

In a different part the famous sutra BS 1.1.3 "Shastra yonitvat"
Sastra is the ONLY pramana for knowing Brahman.
It is only from the Sastra that Brahman is known.

Similarly in innumerable instances in the Introduction to the Br.Up for example,
in the Upadesha Sahasri, in the Sutrabhashyas, etc Shankara explicitly affirms
that the knowledge of Brahman can be obtained ONLY from the Shastras.

It is important to again note in this instance that the Vedas are not scriptures
authored by Rishis based on their personal experiences or "revelations". They
are not even authored by the SUpreme Lord Himself. They are simply imparted by
the Supreme Being at the beginning of each cycle of creation without effort as
in breathing out. (The Br.Up 3.4.10 refers to the VedAs as verily the breath of
Brahman) So even the Lord does not have any liberty in "creating" the Vedas - he
has to impart them in strictly and exactly the same way as they were in the
previous kalpa since beginnigless time. So unlike other spiritual traditions our
faith in the VedAs is not based on the circular logic that the VedAs are true
because God created them and God is true because the VedAs says so" - it is
precisely in this sense that the VedAs are considered to be coeval with
beginningless Creation - and hence are called `apaurusheya'

So a firmrooted and unswerving faith in the VedAs - which is termed being an
"astika" - is central to any seeker in advaita vedanta. "shraddhavan labhate
jnanam" in the words of Bhagwan KrishnA.

Certainly the vaidika margA is not one easy to obtain. In the words of the
Vivekachudamani "For all beings a human birth is difficult to obtain, more so is
a male body; rarer than that is Brahmanahood; rarer still is the attachment to
the path of Vedic religion" So one can certainly be grateful and privileged to
come into the fold of a tradition that is based on the Vedic path.

It is very likely that persons such as Ramana Maharishi or Nisargadatta who were
born into a Vaidkia tradition had prior births of exposure to the vaidkia marga
- in fact Ramana had stated as much, and has at the same time acknowledged the
VedAs as being the source of knowledge of Oneness with the Supreme. Similarly
many of the modern Westerners who write about Oneness and the like (Tolle,
Walsch, Chopra) have themselves acknowledge - some more halfheartedly - that
they have been exposed to "numerous" source of Eastern philosophy in this birth.

Now the question is raised: does our faith in the VedAs as being the sole
pramanA for self-knowledge then mean we condemn or reject the validity of other
spiritual traditions?
The answer is no - we do not. Every spiritual tradition has validity in and of
itself. And the correct interpretation of what the tenets of a given spiritual
system are is best left to the proponents of that system. Hoisting advaitic
interpretations to scattered statements in their scriptures, is in my view
unjustified. Ishwara's Order is perfect and it will ever ensure that a sincere
devout seeker belonging to any tradition - be it Abrahamic, Sikh, Jain, dvaitic,
etc - will never be forsaken. As per the doctrine of karma each person is born
in a religion and environment suitable for his or her own further
advancement."tasyaahaM na praNashyaami sa cha me na praNashyati" This is
Krishna's resounding promise - that My devotee I shall never forsake. How He
navigates their journey to salvation is not our concern. The following is an
excerpt from the SutaSamhita/Skanda PurAnA

" Listen with faith, O sages, to what I say as to the truth of the various
paths. Vedas, DharmaShastras, Puranas, Vedangas and minor Vedas; ...........the
Pashpuata, Soma, Bhairava and other ligamas with their hundred varieties;
Vaishnava and Brahma agamas ; the agamas of the Baddhas and the Arhats;
.........the Tarka-sastras in all their vastness; the profound Mimamsa, as also
Sankhya and Yoga : all these and many more Shastras, the Omniscient Divine Being
has made in brief. It is only by the Grace of Rudra that Devas like Brahmas and
Vishnu, Siddhas, Yakshas, Rakshasas, Munis and men make the Shastras again, in
brief or in extenso. The wise say that each of these sastras is intended for a
particular class according to the individual qualification, not all for one. As
all streams ultimately empty themselves into the ocean, so all these paths
ultimately lead to the Mahesvara Himself. Worshipped in what form soever by
people as ordained in their respective scriptures, He assumes that form and
takes the devotee on to the next higher step. By His Grace man attains to
superior paths. The Divine Being worshipped in the form in which He is
represented in these paths takes the devotee step hy step onward to the path of
the Veda. The form which the Divine Being assumes in the path of the Veda is the
immediate cause of salvation. Even there the form of the Divine Being as
represented hy the ritualistic portion of the Veda only stimulates a longing for
knowledge while worshipped in the form presented in the theosophical portion He
leads the devotee to moksha through wisdom. As the highest salvation is only of
one kind, the knowledge wliich leads to it must be of one kind and of one kind
onlv. The Vedanta treats of Shankara as the non.dual Atman. No other path treats
of Him directly as the Vedanta does. Therefore knowledge produced by the Veda is
alone wisdom. Knowledge obtained by other means is avidya, unwisdom. The other
paths cannot themselves lead to moksha, they are serviceable only as leading to
it through the intervening steps. Mahadeva, as known by the Vedanta, directly
gives moksha; as known and worshipped in the other paths. He leads to moksha hy
gradually taking the soul on to the direct path. Wherefore he who treads the
path of the Vedanta should not change it for any other. For those who tread the
path of the Veda, nothing is hard to attain. There alone lie the supreme mukti.
Wherefore the different paths are useful to the different individuals for whom
they are specially intended. Whenever other paths are opposed to the Vedanta in
their theories as to the nature of Isvara, as to the cause of bondage, as to the
cause of the Universe, as to mukti, and as to what constitutes wisdom, and so
on, those theories, to be sure, have been furnished in accordance with the
prevailing desires of the ignorant whose minds are darkened by the mighty
delusion, not because they are absolutely true in themselves, but because they
serve, by holding out some legitimate pleasures, to ultimately bring them round
to the right path when their sins have been washed away in the waters of the
more or less pure morality therein inculcated. As man allures an erratic cow by
holding out grass, so does Mahesvara first hold out some pleasures and then
gives supreme wisdom as the mind becomes perfected. 'Thus these paths, laid out
as they are by Shiva, are all of them true and serviceable. How can Shiva be a
deceiver? He is supremely merciful, omniscient, and altogether stainless. Yet,
of all the paths, the path of the Veda is the best, as conducing to all good.".

WHen we try to interpret other scriptures based on our own knowledge of VedAntA
we undermine the ability of acknowledged Masters of that tradition to interpret
it in the way they see fit. Would the Pope or any minister or bishop preach
AdvaitA or acknowledge that someone like Ramana achieved salvation without first
accepting Christ as His one True God and Savior? Would a Maulvi consider that
someone like Amritananda Ma who rejected the idea that Allah was the one and
only true God and Reality had achieved the status of Total Oneness with the
Supreme. Do we feel that our ability to interpret Buddhist thought is better
than hundreds of Great Buddhist masters who in trying to interpret the teachings
of the BuddhA founded various schools and subschools of Buddhism itself. Isnt
what MahAvirA taught best left to someone who has devoted his lifetime in the
pursuit of the JainA mArgA, and who will never acknowledge Satyam-JnAnam-Anantam
Brahman as taught by the Upanishads? How, without such knowledge, Ishwara will
enable the emancipation of the varied followers of all these different faiths
need not be our concern. Every devout follower whatsoever be his faith will by
the strength of his devotion develop the qualities of ahimsA, amanitvam,
adambhitvam, arjavam, kshanti, shama, dama, brahmacharyam, and so forth and
gradually also total vairagyAm which really are the gateways to MokshA - be it
videhamukti or kramamukti. So while a Vedantic student who is caught up in his
own system's intellectual superiority may choose to never progress beyond a
lifetime of intellectual pursuit and jugglery, and fritter away this life
without taking the effort at inculcating shadsampatti, a devout Muslim for
example may instead make use of this lifetime far more effectively in working
towards his emancipation, by a strict adherence to the principles of his own
religious faith, without ever wondering about the intricacies of ajahallakshana,

We need not dilute the import of nor attempt to reinterpret our own scriptures
in order to accomodate or provide bypass routes for non-believers of our
traditions - it is quite unnecessary (and in many ways patronizing).

For example - the oft-quoted rishibhir bahudha geetam - what does this statement
mean? Does this mean that all religions speak of the One Reality in different
ways? Absolutely not! What Krishna is indicating here that IN THE VEDAS various
mantra-drshtAs such as Vashishta have described the One Reality in many ways and
so has the author of the BrahmasutrAs - BAdArayana. One cannot now reinterpret
this and say this also applies to proponents of every other belief system in the
world like Islam and BahAi etc. Another oft quoted mantra of all-inclusiveness
is "ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti" Let us examine the entire sloka here
"Indram mitram varunam agni mahuradho divyah Sa suparno garutman Ekam sat vipra
bahudha vadanti agnim yamam matariswanam ahuh" They call it Indra, Mitra,
Varuna, Agni as well as Garutman of heavenly plumage. Truth or Reality is One,
but the learned (Brahmanas) refer to it in different names like agni, yama,
This is a mantra from the Rig VedA which affirms that all the deities that are
worshipped in the ritualistic section of the VedAs are in reality varied forms
of the one ParamAtman. It does not mean that every religion's version of "Real"
or the concept of what Reality is, is necessarily the same or identical. What
separates the Vedic path from others is that most of the other religions will
say - "Believe in my God or be prepared to spend eternity in Hell".

Can the testimony of certain self-realized Masters be considered a equally valid
pramana? Yes - as long as such testimony is in line with the VedAntA - and again
here it is not the testimony itself that is the pramAna but the oneness of such
a testimony with what VedAntA affirms that becomes the pramAnA - for example if
a self-realized soul were to proclaim that there is no Ultimate Eternal Reality,
then such a teaching and the teacher is best ignored by us. For example the
BuddhA would certainly be considered Self-Realized in the same manner as we
would consider hundreds of other Masters. And yet we find Bhagwan Shankara
saying the BuddhA was incoherent, deluded, and malicious - all in one sweeping
statement! So if someone acknowledged as one of the Greatest Sages of our times
can be so charactized by our beloved AchAryA then we should certainly question
if we as ignorant jivAs have the capacity to trust any achAryA who does not base
or at least reconcile his own teachings and experience with the VedAs.

We have a lot of ground to cover in our own as yet fragile hold on the Truth and
in the severely limited time we have in this human birth to understand and
assimilate VedantA which we have fortunately been privileged to be learning in a
sampradaya which has been preserved since time immemorial. Let us conserve our
efforts and energies in that, instead of trying to find similarities with the
hundred other prominent religious faiths in the world, or wondering about the
mechanism of those we find "self-realized", seemingly bereft of the benefit of
direct Vedic teaching.

Hari OM
Shri Gurubhyoh namah
> On Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 3:52 PM, Bhaskar YR <bhaskar.yr at in.abb.com> wrote:
>> praNAms
>> Hare Krishna
>> After reading bhakti's role in advaita vedAnta, I am getting some
>> additional doubts with regard to 'required tools' or qualifications  to
>> obtain paramArtha jnAna.
>> (a) is advaita paramArtha  jnAna happens only to Astika-s (theists) who
>> have firm belief in god & scriptures??
>> (b) how can a non-hindu or atheist (nAstika) or any 'outsider', who does
>> not want to believe in god & scriptures, but would like to get this jnAna
>> (without the aid of shAstra & bhagavanta or outside the traditional
>> circle) ??  dont we have any jnAni-s outside hindu Astika saMpradAya ??
>> (c) prior to jnAna, is it mandatory requirement for the advaita sAdhaka to
>> believe in god's existence & to have unconditional faith in sacred hindu
>> scriptures or whether he has to  be a hard core theist ??
>> (d) if the (c) is an indispensable requirement for the jnAna  then advaita
>> jnAna realization would be restricted ONLY to the sAdhaka-s in hindu
>> religion in general and theists in particular.  In that case advaita jnAna
>> has the limited boundaries in hindu god & scriptures.
>> (e) if the (c) is not a necessary requirement then we cannot say
>> shravaNAdi sAdhana are the only  direct means for realization..And further
>> this would prompt us to say, anybody, at any point of time through any
>> means can get this realization..this stand  goes against the convictions
>> held by sampradAyavit-s.
>> (f) finally, can a person be a non-dual jnAni but still a nAstika??
>> Any clarification from the prabhuji-s would be appreciated.
>> Hari Hari Hari Bol!!!
>> bhaskar
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