[Advaita-l] Apaurusheyatva of Veda

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 13 14:00:18 CDT 2011

> If we understand that 'transcedental knowledge' cannot be worded, then it 
> is easy for us to think twice before sticking the tag of aparusheyatva to 
> veda-s. My questions are :

This is precisely where I think apaurusheyatva of the veda is not being properly
Firstly, in the broader picture of the veda as pramANa, we are talking not only
of vedAnta (uttara mImAMsA), but also of pUrva mImAMsA. In fact, advaita
vedAntins traditionally do not spend much effort talking of the topic, because
they don't need to. The vedAnta system starts off where pUrva mImAMsA stops,
in a very fundamental sense.
That said, it is not necessary that all alaukika knowledge is beyond words. The
statement, "svargakAmo jyotishTomena yajeta," consists of words, tells you about
a svarga that is not known through any other means of knowledge, and it tells
you about the means to this svarga, again something that is not known through
any other means of knowledge. The statement, "tat tvam asi," consists of words,
tells you about your real identity, which you don't know otherwise and implicitly
tells you of the means to realizing that identity. In both cases, the knowledge
conveyed is "transcendental", but it can be and is clearly worded and conveyed
verbally. The svarga and the dharma that are the topics of the pUrva mImAMsA
are accessed and accessible only through vAk.

Yes, brahman is vAcAmagocara, but the veda still expends a lot of verbal energy
to lead you to this realization. If we were to give up on words and their ability to
express things that are out of the purview of ordinary perception, we would not
have any Sabda at all. And Sankara bhagavatpAda need not have written pages
after pages of explanation of the upanishads either.
> (a) Do we really need the label 'aparusheya' to veda-s to do our sAdhana 
> & reap the benefit based on vedic teachings & injunctions ?? 

No, for the example of the naiyyAyikas shows that one can have a very different
view of the status of the veda and still accept the content of the veda and benefit
from it. It will just not be in consonance with the philosophical traditions of the 
pUrva and uttara mImAMsA traditions, that is all. This is where one must clearly
distinguish between what is necessary for personal sAdhana and what is necessary
for a philosophical tradition that is a vehicle for generations after generations of
>From an advaitic perspective, yes, ultimately apaurusheyatva of the veda is also
a concept that is limiting. But then, for the jnAnI who lives and breathes ahaM
brahmAsmi, vedA avedA bhavanti, so the debate about apaurusheyatva is moot
at that point. For those who are still struggling with the process of jnAna, it is
indeed a very relevant debate.
> (b) Are we not happily & comfortably treating the paurusheya texts like 
> geeta & sUtra as valid pramANa as veda-s?? 

The prAmANya of these texts is traditionally accepted because they are not at
variance from the veda. For that matter, the traditional teachers are quite willing
to embrace that portion of ANY smRti that does not directly contradict Sruti.
Sruty-anusAra-ananusAra-vishaya-vivecanena sanmArge prajnA saMgrahaNIyA,
as the sUtrabhAshya tells us. It is possible to do this sort of partial acceptance
for the vedAntin, only because he privileges the Sruti and its apaurusheyatva
in the first place.
> (c) Do we have any reservations with regard to smruti texts just because 
> it is authored by some one!!?? 
> (d) If not, then why this logically unjustifiable claim of apaurusheyatva 
> especially to veda-s?? 

Under this scenario, there is no justification for privileging "tam tv aupanishadaM
purushaM pRcchAmi". Unless one grants the independent status of the veda as
pramANa, without subordinating it to pratyaksha or anumAna or other pramANas,
one will not be justified in the "aupanishadam" part of the above quote.
Moreover, if we were to not accept anything that is not "logically justifiable", then
the first thing that we should reject is "ahaM brahmAsmi". Strictly speaking, there
is NO logical justification for this except through the vedAnta, and therefore from
the veda. If we can see and appreciate the grandeur of "ahaM brahmAsmi" even
as we go about our daily lives assuming the opposite, I don't see why we should
feel so uncomfortable about the apaurusheyatva of the veda that gives us this
statement in the first place! 
> (e) Are we, the saMpradAyavAdi-s, under the impression that veda-s do 
> not serve their purpose unless & until it carries 'aparusheyatva' tag?? 
> (f) What exactly is the problem if we accept that veda-s are the 
> revelation of eternal & ever existing truth through words by some pure & 
> perfect rishi-s at different point of time, the same has been documented 
> haphazardly & later on vyAsa arranged it systematically for the benefit 
> of future sAdhaka-s in veda mArga ?? 

That is exactly what we are saying. We all grant that the veda speaks to us through
words. We all grant that the Rshi-s gave us these words for the first time, at some
unknown ancient point in time. We all grant that our documentation has not been
perfect and that we have lost a large portion of the veda over time. We all grant
that vyAsa arranged them into the Rg, yajus, sAma and atharva portions. 
Yet, we say that the veda as a whole is apaurusheya. Nobody is saying that this
apaurusheyatva means that the veda somehow came to us magically, without
words, without Rshi-s, without the editing agency of vyAsa. That is why I keep
repeating that I think the apaurusheyatva of veda is being properly understood.
I think the problems that many are facing with the concept of apaurusheyatva
are largely because they take it as meaning something other than what it does.

> (g) Are we not wholeheartedly accepting the smruti texts like geeta vAni 
> as deva/Ishwara vAni ?? 
> (h) Without finding any human errors in these texts are we not even 
> recommending it as pramANa grantha for mOksha sAdhana for the 
> non-vedAdhikAri-s?? 

Yes and yes, to both.
> (i) Finally, I am not able to understand what is going to fall on our 
> head if we say tattvamasi, ahaM brahmAsmi ityAdi mAhAvAkya-s are the 
> 'worded' revelation of some mahAjnAni-s just like vAmadeva's findings ahaM 
> manu, ahaM sUrya etc. 

Again, as stated above, these are indeed worded revelations. Nobody who
holds to the apaurusheyatva of the veda claims that somehow the words
"ahaM brahmAsmi" or "svargakAmo yajeta" are not words! Rather, these
are precisely those words and sentences that are described as apaurusheya.

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