[Advaita-l] Apaurusheyatva of Veda

Omkar Deshpande omkar_deshpande at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 12 17:46:19 CDT 2011

<<<Really, there ends the matter. In the pUrva mImAMsA system, the apaurusheyatva of the
veda and its validity as a pramANa that is independent of pratyaksha, anumAna etc are quite
axiomatic. You either accept the axiom if you want to get further into the system or you reject
it, that is all.>>>

This was what I thought too -- that apauruSheyatva and validity are ultimately axiomatic rather than something proven from more fundamental premises. I'm not sure though that others here are saying the same thing. 

<<<And if somehow a "proved" statement sounds better than an "unproved" one, to our minds,
especially attuned to our own ways of thinking, let me remind readers that no system of thought
(including the modern sciences) can escape at least an axiom or two. You absolutely need to
have some "givens" before you can go about proving anything else.>>>

I agree with this too. If the consequences of accepting the Vedas' validity as axiomatic was restricted only to claims about ultimate reality in an abstract sense, there would be no issues with it. For example, even though geometry/algebra is founded on axioms, it turned out that mathematical predictions had an amazing accuracy and that there were many important discoveries in science that were based on the mathematics following from those axioms. (True, non-Euclidean geometry also got support later, justifiably leading to the question of which set of axioms was true) Is there an analog of that in the axiom of apauruSheyatva? 

What happens when there is a conflict of axioms (or predictions based on different axioms)? The problem (well, at least it's a problem for me) is that the traditional schools of Vedanta have a very different view about the past than the one accepted by modern science, such as the long time spans corresponding to the different Yugas where humans are said to be present (clearly conflicting with evolution), and these views are derived from the Puranas which are considered authority too, because of their conformance to apauruSheya Vedas and authorship by omniscient Vyasa. Moreover, as Bhaskar prabhuji asked, there are references to local entities, places and people, and the kind of culture depicted in the Vedas (an agricultural society that had domesticated cows and other animals, and had some urban centres, hierarchy in society etc) can only have existed within the last few thousand years, according to modern science. If one had to apply Occam's Razor, then
 at least what modern science says is grounded in multiple empirical disciplines and there are hundreds of independent pieces of research on a whole variety of issues (human evolution, origin of agriculture, domestication of animals, continental drift, human migrations out of Africa, etc) that when faced with a conflict, it is difficult to accept that the axiomatic foundation of Vedas' validity should override everything else that modern science may find that goes against the view of the past that the tradition has accepted. So Occam's Razor for a modern scientist would lead to the viewpoint that the Vedas were revealed to (or seen by, or composed by, depending on what axioms one chooses here) the Rishis within the last few thousand years, in the language of the culture that they were placed in. As people in that culture tried to systematize their place in the whole universe, they applied their minds to different philosophical problems, and came up with
 a variety of allied texts such as the Mahabharata, Puranas, etc that had a historical core but which were also embellished with various theories about origin etc that the culture could derive meaning from, but which are also in conflict with modern science. If all such specific claims are going to be inseparably associated with, and ultimately following from the axiom of apauruSheyatva or the axiom of validity of Vedas, then it's very difficult to accept such an axiom, at least for someone who does give weight to modern science. It seems more economical at that stage (if one had to choose between the two) to say the Vedas are human compositions too, and that is what explains the references to civilization, culture, and geography within the last few thousand years, and within the region of South Asia. Note that this is totally independent of what Indologists say based on their textual analysis, so I'm not relying on them to be correct here -- I'm purely
 referring to scientific accounts of the past. Even though I agree to some extent with what you said:

<<<in the end analysis, this
rejection of the veda would also be as much an article of faith on their part as its acceptance is
for the mImAMsaka. >>>

when the choice is between the two options I mentioned above, acceptance of parampara claims requires a lot more faith than acceptance of modern science's claims, so it's not an equal degree of faith on both sides. That is why I asked about the Yoga school's epistemology, because that one can be mapped in some way to what modern science follows. 

I would appreciate it if you can throw some light on whether one can go with both modern science and Vedantic traditions on these conflicts, or one has to necessarily choose one out of the two. 



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