[Advaita-l] definition of apauruSheyatvam ?

Ramakrishna Upadrasta uramakrishna at gmail.com
Thu Sep 8 10:33:26 CDT 2011

2011/9/8 Ramakrishna Upadrasta <uramakrishna at gmail.com>:
> 2011/9/8 श्रीमल्ललितालालितः <lalitaalaalitah at gmail.com>
>> I want to know definition of apauruSheyatvam ?
>> Please, confine this thread to laxaNa of apauruSheyatvam and it's
>> examination.


Sometime back, I seem to have copied the following excerpt from
Chandradhar Sharma's book "Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy" on
the above subject as found it reasonably thorough. As I read it now, I
find that the discussion therein is academic, though quite relevant
and thought provoking.  I am posting excerpts of it, as I think it may
help facilitate the discussion.

Note 1: Earlier in the day, I posted a much bigger excerpt and it the
Advaita-L mailer rejected it because of size limitations. It is good
in a way, as the book is not open source! If someone wants to read the
section, please mail me in private.

Note 2: I remember that there is a relevant discussion in Swami
Satprakshananda's translation of Vedanta Paribhasha as well.



SHABDA-PRAMĀṆA has got the greatest importance in Mīmaḿsā. Testimony
is verbal authority. It is the knowledge of supra-sensible objects
which is produced by the comprehension of the meanings of words.
Kumārila divides testimony into personal (pauruṣeya) and impersonal
(apauruṣeya). The former is the testimony of the trustworthy persons
(āptavākya). The latter is the testimony of the Veda (Vedavākya). It
is valid in itself. It has intrinsic validity. But the former is not
valid in itself. Its validity is inferred from the trustworthy
character of the person. It may be vitiated by doubt and error and may
be contradicted afterwards. The Veda is eternal and authorless. It is
not the work of any person, human or divine. The sages are only the
'seers' not the authors of the Veda. The Veda is not composed or
spoken even by God. The Veda deals with Dharma and the objects denoted
by it cannot be known by perception, inference, comparison or any
other means of valid knowledge. Hence the Vedic injunctions can never
be contradicted by any subsequent knowledge. And there can be no
internal contradictions in the Veda itself. Hence the Vedic testimony
is valid in itself. Prabhākara admits only Vedic testimony as real
testimony and reduces human testimony to inference because its
validity is inferred from the trustworthy character of the person.
Again, testimony may give us knowledge of the existent objects
(siddhārtha vākya) or may command us to do something (vidhāyaka
vākya). Kumārila admits the distinction between existential and
injunctive propositions and limits the scope of the Veda to the latter
(abhihitānvayavāda). The Veda deals with injunctions. Prohibitions are
injunctions in disguise. The Veda commands us to do certain things and
to refrain from doing certain things. It deals with the supra-sensible
dharma or duty. If we follow the Vedic commands we incur merit and if
we do not, we incur demerit. Action, therefore, is the final import of
the Veda. The Veda is broadly divided into Vidhivāda or injunctions
and Arthavāda or explanations. The existential or the assertive
propositions of the Veda are merely explanatory passages which explain
the injunctions of the Veda which are its final import. Prabhākara
takes a strictly pragmatic view of all knowledge. Knowledge leads to
successful activity. Action is the only import of knowledge. He,
therefore, refuses to accept that knowledge deals with existent
things. All propositions must be injunctive. All knowledge, whether
Vedic or secular, points to activity. The so-called assertive or
explanatory propositions in the Veda are authoritative only when they
help persons to perform their duties (anvitābhidhānavāda).


Testimony is verbal cognition and is derived from the meanings of
words which compose sentences. To uphold the eternality and the
authorlessness of the Veda, the Mīmāḿsaka puts forward the theory
that words and meanings as well as their relation are all natural and
eternal. A word (shabda) is made of two or more letters (varṇa) and
is a mere aggregate of the letters and not a whole (avayavi), though
the letters must occur in a particular order. A varṇa is regarded as
an articulated sound. It is eternal (nitya), omnipresent (sarva-gata)
and integral (niravayava). It is different from its sound (dhvani) if
it is spoken and also different from its symbolic form (rūpa) if it is
written. The sound and the form are merely its accidental features
which reveal it. A varṇa is eternal and immutable, while its dhvani
and rūpa are momentary and changing. If many varṇas are spoken, they
are manifested through a temporal series of utterances; if they are
written, they are manifested through a spatial series of written
symbols. The sound and the symbol are only the vehicles of the
manifestation of the eternal varṇa. When a varṇa is pronounced or
written in ten different ways, there are not ten different varṇas,
but only ten different manifestations of the same varṇa. Therefore a
word which is an aggregate of two or more eternal varṇas is itself
eternal. A word does not signify the particular things which come into
existence and pass away, but the eternal universals underlying these
particulars. Hence the meanings or the objects denoted by words, being
universals, are eternal and unchanging. And the relation between a
word and its meaning also, being natural, necessary, inseparable and
internal, is eternal and unchanging. This relation is not
conventional. It is due neither to God's will nor to convention as the
old and the modern schools of Nyāya respectively believe. It is
natural and eternal. Language is not a creation of the human or even
the divine mind. Philology is a natural science. The conventional
element in language is secondary (sahakāri) and helps the
manifestation of the eternal words and their meanings, just as light
helps the manifestation of sight. The Naiyāyika also believes in the
authority of the Veda, but he regards the Veda as the work of God and
so challenges the eternality and authorlessness of the Veda. According
to him, words are not eternal and language is due to the divine will
or to convention. The Mīmāḿsaka refutes this view and points out that
only the sounds and the symbols are created and destroyed, while the
real words are eternal. Words are manifested through human efforts.
The sounds and the symbols are the vehicles of the manifestation of
the eternal words.

But even the permanence of the word and its meaning and the relation
between the two does not make the Veda eternal. The Veda is a literary
work consisting of sounds and symbols. According to the Mīmāḿsā view,
all the uttered or written words are really permanent, though the
sounds and the symbols through which they are manifested may be
evanescent and changing. Then what is the difference between the Veda
and any other literary work? The Mīmāḿsaka answers this question by
saying that the Veda is authorless, while all other works are the
creation of their authors. The order in which the words occur in the
literary works is determined by their authors and therefore the works
are subject to defects, doubts and errors. But the order in which the
words occur in the Veda is self-determined and therefore intrinsically
valid. The Veda is not the creation of any author, human or divine. It
is selfproved and self-manifesting. The particular order in which the
words occur in the Veda (ānupūrvī) is self-determined and eternal. It
is the permanence of the text of the Veda which is emphasized by the
Mīmāḿsaka. The Veda together with its text is eternal and authorless
because the words, their meanings and their relation are all eternal
and because long-standing tradition is silent on the authorship of the
Veda. This view of the Mīmāḿsā cannot be supported by any rational
argument and remains more or less a theological dogma.

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