[Advaita-l] Apoureshyatva - Faith or Logic?

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri Jun 29 09:34:05 CDT 2012

Dear Omkar,
> If pauruSheyatva is "decisively" disproved, then apauruSheyatva stands
> automatically proven. The question is whether pauruSheyatva is
> actually disproved decisively (by the arguments given by the
> traditionalists), or whether the arguments against pauruSheyatva are
> merely raising some uncertainties about the pauruSheyatva claim.

Yes, I agree with you. The critical point is the decisiveness of the proof.
But then, what are the criteria to determine decisiveness? Just as people
change their belief systems over 5000 years, they change expectations
of what constitutes decisiveness in a proof as well. And a lot of it is merely
a cultural construct, in my opinion. The average man does not really think
about what makes something decisive for his own acceptance. He goes
by what (and how) the majority of his contemporary human beings think.
> No one knows who exactly authored the Chaitanya Upanishad for
> instance. But that does not prevent even the dvaitin from assuming
> that it is an authored text that has acquired the status of an
> Upanishad, the historian will say. Why assume that this phenomenon (of
> composed texts being given the status of being unauthored) is only
> recent in time, the historian will ask. It could very well have
> happened with every single text that is claimed as unauthored today.

And that is precisely why I think the dvaitin argument is weak and not
decisive for someone questioning these from a contemporary historical
> On the other hand, traditional dvaitins at least, consider the
> attribution of an author to the Vedas as an instance of
> kalpanA-gaurava and will consider it more economical to believe that
> the Vedas have never had an author. After all, historians cannot point
> to any particular person or group of persons in history, and provide
> evidence that those people were authors of the Vedas. And traditional
> dvaitins are confident that they do have an anAdi-paramparA going back
> indefinitely in time, which has always maintained that the Vedas have
> had no author, and that the burden of proof lies on the historian to
> disprove this claim.

advaitins would also say that it is kalpanA-gaurava to attribute authors
to the veda texts. It is a different mindset altogether, really, that is called
for. In the contemporary context, an author takes pride in his or her own
personal kalpanA when they write something. In the traditional Hindu
mindset, it is fidelity to paramparA that is important, not sva-kalpanA.
And someone unique has to come along, like Caitanya (no offense meant
to sympathizers of gauDiya vaishnavism), I suppose, to effect changes to
paramparA and incorporate their own sva-kalpanA into a new paramparA.
In any case, if one takes the traditional attitude, along with the fact that
Sabda/Agama/Aptavacana is a pramANa in its own independent right, then
one will see no need to question apaurusheyatva of the veda. If one takes
the attitude that Sabda is fine only in a pedagogical context, and that it is
fallible when it comes to establishing absolute truth, then well, one will
necessarily have problems with apaurusheyatva.
> So there is a difference of opinion about who bears the burden of
> proof -- does the historian bear the burden of proving that the Vedas
> are originally authored, or does the tradition bear the burden of
> proving that the Vedas have always been considered as apauruSheya (and
> were not originally authored). This difference of opinion exists even
> though the historians will agree with the tradition that the Vedas
> have been considered apauruSheya for a long time (although not by all
> Vedic schools - the Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools did not do so). But

If a historian were to demand proof from the traditionalist, the traditionalist
will have to decide first what kind of traditionalist he is - the naiyyAyika kind
or the mImAMsaka/vedAntin kind. 

And if the historian were to lay conditions for the decisiveness of the proof,
the argument then goes out of the bounds of logic right there, in my view.
That is because,
> the historian will say that it is the tradition that bears the burden
> of proof, because apauruSheyatva is an "extraordinary" claim, which
> requires extraordinary evidence, to be able to convince a historian or
> a scientist.

the extraordinariness of a claim is also highly dependent upon cultural
constructs and time, is it not? The more "extraordinary" the claim, the
more "decisiveness" that will be expected of the proof. And just as there
are no universally agreed upon criteria for what constitutes decisiveness,
there are no universal criteria for what makes a claim extraordinary and
the degree of it extra-ordinariness.
Two hundred years ago, a claim that man could fly like a bird would have
been extraordinary. Today, although a man cannot grow wings himself,
he can sit in a plane and travel like a bird. Even fifty years ago, the concept
of near-instantaneous communcation across the earth would have been
extaordinary. Today, iPads are children's toys. When these children grow
up, what they consider an extraordinary claim will be vastly different from
what we consider extraordinary even today! 

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