[Advaita-l] Apoureshyatva - Faith or Logic?
rkmurthy at gmail.com
Tue Jun 26 08:40:24 CDT 2012
Namaste Sri Shyam,
I have seen some of your writings on these topics on the advaitin
list. Needless to say, your views and even your basic approach to such
issues are far removed from mine, which was why I never bothered to
respond to you on that list. But now that you have responded to a post
of mine, I am forced to engage with you .
It is clear that you have simply failed to appreciate the spirit of my
post. So instead of taking up your post point by point, I will simply
respond to the last paragraph.
Sri Shyam wrote:
<< To the complete contrary, without first examining the current state
of knowledge of the scientific method and harboring a healthy degree
of skepticism which that very scientific method demands in terms of
rigor, and identifying the limitations of those very concepts and
theories, (instead of blindly accepting them as fact), while in the
meantime, hastening to reinterpret Vedic dictums in a wantonly liberal
manner, in a misguided attempt at avant-garde sensibility, is what
will rob our tradition of any sense of credibility and coherence. And
to undertake such an exercise to accomodate a halfbaked theory of
evolution that cannot stand scrutiny in its own light will certainly
You are totally misrepresenting my position. In fact, you are creating
your own strawman and knocking it down.
First of all, I never said anything about biological evolution except
that it is a "well-established scientific theory", which is simply a
fact in the sense that the vast majority of the scientific
establishment accepts it. If you are of the opinion that biological
evolution is not accepted in the scientific establishment, then you
are free to hold such an opinion - I am not interested in debating it.
At no point did I even venture into giving my own opinions on whether
biological evolution is right or wrong. I do have my views on this
topic, based on my own scientific studies, but they are of no
relevance to my earlier post and I am not even interested in
discussing them, not with you at any rate.
My stance is that the essential teaching/insights of the Veda, and
also the prAmANya of the Veda, are **orthogonal** to scientific
theories such as biological evolution. Such scientific theories have
no bearing on the Veda and its prAmANya, and likewise, the Veda has no
bearing on these scientific theories. Let me also add that by
"essential teachings/insights of the Veda" I am referring to the
teachings concerning mokSha and dharma. To be even more clear, I am
referring to a) the mahAvAkya and related teachings, and b) vaidika
karma and related teachings.
However, **some people** (not me) have the notion that certain
scientific theories such as biological evolution are *incompatible*
with the Veda. Such a notion can arise only from another pre-existent
notion, which is the notion that the Veda (as a pramANa) and
scientific theories have an overlapping domain, so that there is a
possibility of difference of opinion and hence incompatibility. Such a
notion in turn can arise because the Veda *seems to* talk about issues
that are also within the domain of other pramANa-s (such as certain
aspects of sR^iShTi).
Personally, I adhere to the vedAntic teaching that the shruti has no
prima facie interest in sR^iShTi, and indeed it deliberately teaches
mutually contradictory ideas about sR^iShTi in order to drive home the
point that sR^iShTi, and causation in general, are mithyA. gauDapAda
himself makes this point in his kArikA-s. I also adhere to the view,
in line with sha~Nkara's famous dictum of a "hundred shruti vAkya-s
not making fire cold", that it is the laukika pramANa-s that hold sway
on laukika matters.
So I have no personal interest whatsoever in "reinterpreting" any
vedic dictum in accordance with any scientific theories. That was
simply not the intention behind my post.
I would prefer that people appreciate the idea that the shruti has no
prima facie interest in sR^iShTi etc and also that it is a pramANa
only on matters of dharma and mokSha. However, if someone is not able
to internalize the above, the least I would expect is that s/he look
at the shruti (and the various philosophies based on the shruti, such
as the mImAMsA systems) in broad enough terms to avoid a false pitting
against any laukika-pramANa based systems. It was in the latter sense
that Vidyasankar made the following comments in his earlier post:
"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."
"After all, nobody in the tradition is claiming that the Rshis who saw the veda
in our current cycle were all born at time t = 0 when the universe came into
being. If the tradition can say that the veda was seen by a large number of
Rshis who necessarily lived over large periods of time, it can accommodate
quite easily the ideas of biological evolution and linguistic
evolution, by viewing
these two processes as being the mechanisms by which the individuals of each
eternal jAti manifest."
All I was doing was to give some more expression to the above two
comments from Vidyasankar. Both the ideas mentioned in my earlier post
(of applying the differentiation of general and particular to the Veda
itself, and of looking at terms like 'manuShya' in more general terms)
were simply two possible expressions of the more general idea
mentioned by Vidyasankar, concerning the manifestation of particulars
within an eternal jAti. Also, I clearly stated that these ideas were
not meant to be "answers"; their purpose was merely to dismantle
straitjacketed thinking. There could be many other ways of presenting
Vidyasankar's general idea.
Unfortunately, respondents like you (and even Sri Subrahmanian) are
attacking these ideas, and by doing so are simply missing the point.
Funnily, I am in complete agreement with Sri Subrahmanian when it
comes to the centrality of the adhyAsa-bhAShya.
Sri Shyam wrote:
<<Can there be a human form which is purely for bhoga - meaning this
particular human in your fertile imagination has no free will?>>
This idea was first articulated not by me but by Sri Lalitaalaalitah
in an earlier post. He defended it too. I merely presented it as a
consequence of not accepting my more general and preferred
philosophical (not historical) view that any being in the cosmos who
is capable of seeking dharma and mokSha must have access to suitable
teachings (essentially the Vedic teaching in some form, if not in the
particular form familiar to us, which is literature in pre-classical
Sanskrit). I have explained this in somewhat more detail in my
response to Sri Subrahmanian earlier today.
The rest of your stuff about Einsteins and Vishvamitra-s is all
totally irrelevant. Far from being in a position to judge the truth or
otherwise of biological evolution, even your basic understanding of
evolution is evidently flawed. But that is besides the point. I have
already stated my position that the Veda and its prAmANya are quite
*orthogonal* to any scientific theories. These theories have no impact
on the Veda and its prAmANya, and neither does the Veda have any say
(as an independent pramANa) on the truth or otherwise of these
So at a fundamental level, my posts have nothing to do with the truth
or otherwise of biological evolution and neither do they have anything
to do with my own views on biological evolution. The question is
whether our traditional philosophies can accommodate evolutionary
ideas (which is different from whether such ideas are true) and on
this point I entirely agree with Vidyasankar when he says that our
traditional philosophies "can accommodate quite easily the ideas of
biological evolution and linguistic evolution...."
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