[Advaita-l] Why are Vedas Pramana?

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Sun Jun 24 08:50:57 CDT 2012

There are classic responses from Sri Subrahmanian, Sri Vidyasankar, Sri
Sadananda, Sri Sudhakar and Sri Lalitalalita on the apaureshyatvam thread.
I hope that further questions raised by Sri Subrahmanian will lead to an
enlightening discussion on the topic.

As pointed out by Sti Lalitalalita, it is more important to establish Vedas
as a valid pramana than it is to establish that they are apaureshyatvam.
There are some astika traditions that did not concern themselves with
apaureshyatvam of Vedas or even outright rejected that idea but accepted
them as a valid pramana. I  personally think that the validity of Vedas as
a pramana is closely linked to apaureshyatvam . This is because the limits
of pratyakshadi pramanas will apply to Vedas if they are paureshya.
However, it is still of value if Vedas can be established as a pramana as
it is he means to knowledge of dharma and jnana.

Modern science serves a very useful purpose by eliminating intentional
cheating and unintentional errors by accepting only what can be objectively
verified. But it assumes that all knowledge is verifiable. But to be
verifiable, an event should be repeatable or leave evidence. By this count,
we have to reject all dreams as they are subjective. Any non-repeating
random event that violates naturalistic laws and leaves no evidence of its
occurrence for us to verify post-facto has to be rejected. An example of
this category is a visit by an extra-terrestrial being. In such cases, the
only means to knowledge is a verbal testimony of a truthful and inerrant
reprter. It is not only such rare events but even dreams have to be
rejected because they cannot be objectively verified. Even if technology
advances an we find neurological traces that dreams leave, we cannot
correlate the trace with the individual experience unless we accept the
subjective experience as prima-facie true. Of course, once the correlation
is established between seeing a pot in a dream and the neurological trace
subsequent reports of a dream vision of a pot will be objectively
verifiable. But the first time correlation needs acceptance of verbal
testimony. Even in the waking state, we have to rely upon verbal testimony
to accept our experiences. As children, we see a red pot and correlate the
word red and pot with the object. We accept - based on verbal testimony -
that others see the red pot the same way as we do though logically we know
that it cannot be so as our senses are not the same as others. The need for
verbal testimony as a means of knowledge is beyond question.

However, how do we establish that the speaker is true and inerrant? When we
(ancients) hear(d) Vedas from the rishis it seems to be a matter of faith
that they are speaking the truth and are not mistaking their experience.
 The other approach is not to assume either truthfulness or inerrancy but
accept them as axioms as Sri Vidyasankar had suggested to build a framework
of thinking. If that framework serves our purpose of becoming happy, it is
valuable though may not be true. I would be happy to hear what others think
and if there are works on sabda pramana that addresses the issue of
validity better.

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