[Advaita-l] Apoureshyatva - Faith or Logic?
rkmurthy at gmail.com
Mon Jun 25 07:50:03 CDT 2012
On 22 June 2012 23:40, Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Even within the perspective of science, there are numerous ways to think in
> a philosophical way about the prior existence or non-existence of living beings
> and about the origins of life itself. I don't think biology or any other science
> needs to be inextricably wedded to the notion that there is no existence of the
> general except in that of its many particulars.
Thanks to Vidyasankar for presenting the argument so beautifully. I
have often encountered similar questions from fellow sAdhaka-s and my
approach has always been that one must steer clear of exceedingly
short-sighted and simplistic interpretations which unnecessarily lead
to a false pitting of science against the mImAMsaka and other such
At a fundamental level, one must also remember that the Veda's
independent prAmANya is on atIndriya vishaya-s only. When understood
to its fullest extent, this in itself is sufficient to prevent such
false pitting. Biological evolution is a well-established scientific
theory based on pratyakShAdi pramANa-s, and at a fundamental level,
the Veda simply has no jurisdiction in the matter. Even if one thinks
that biological evolution is false, the arguments have to be based on
laukika pramANa-s and not on the Veda.
Coming to Sri Subrahmanian's questions, I think there can be several
ways of addressing the matter. But I will take a cue from
Vidyasankar's post and provide one possible approach. The idea is not
to provide an "answer" but to merely illustrate why one need not get
stuck with short-sighted or simplistic interpretations that lead to
the kind of false pitting mentioned above.
Here are two ideas:
1. Apply the differentiation of general and particular to the Veda
itself, i.e. look at what we specifically refer to as Veda (a corpus
of literature largely in pre-classical Sanskrit) as a particular case
of a generic Veda which is "trans-linguistic". I am sure there would
be enough pointers to this kind of idea in the shAstra itself.
2. Think of terms like "manuShya" and "prithivi" used in the shAstra
as being more generic than "homo sapiens" and "planet earth". For
example, manuShya could simply mean any jIva that is capable of
exercising judgement in the matter of karma (act, don't act, act
differently). There is no need to presume that in the entire cosmos,
homo sapiens is the only jIva with the ability to do so. Likewise,
prithivi could be any loka where such manuShya-s live.
With these two ideas, let us look at Sri Subrahmanian's questions:
We could take Vidyasankar's approach and say that the generic Veda
manifested itself in the particular form we know (pre-classical
Sanskrit etc) when the concerned R^iShI-s were born. For humans who
lived before, they either had access to the Veda in some other form,
or were born purely for bhoga in accordance with their past karma. For
that matter, a human living in, say, Peru just 800 years ago would not
have had any inkling of the Sanskritic Veda. Neither did they know of
any derived texts such as the smR^iti-s, itihAsa-s, etc.
The point about jIva-s needing to be anAdi etc can also be easily
taken care of. As long as one does not insist that manuShya means homo
sapiens only and that prithivi means planet earth only, there is no
problem. Indeed, one would think that a Hindu rooted in his tradition
would intuitively appreciate the idea that there could be infinitely
many prithivi-s, infinitely many types of manuShya-s and infinitely
many manifestations of the Veda. Biological and other forms of
evolution could proceed at their own pace in each of these cases, with
the time trajectories being vastly different.
I honestly don't see any problem unless one insists on straitjacketing
the Veda, strips it of its cosmic grandeur and restricts its essential
insights to one particular form of life on one particular piddly
By the way what would happen if a big asteroid were to strike our
planet tomorrow and wipe out all life on it? How would Sri
Subrahmanian's questions change if he were to take into account this
As mentioned earlier, I am not saying all this to provide specific
answers. There could be any number of ways of looking at these things.
The point is simply that by straitjacketing our intellectual
traditions and presenting them (falsely) as being pitted against this
or that scientific or other laukika pramANa based theory, we are only
a doing a great disservice to our dharma and our intellectual
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