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Re: dates

skaushik_at_MIT.EDU
Date: Thu Dec 14 1995 - 19:08:46 PST

There is one "slippery slope"  issue concerned with using
the scientific method (i.e. logic and inference) to date Indian
manuscripts. The same very said method can be used to establish
dates for the Vedas (i.e. Sruti) which is supposed to be anadhi.

The traditional argument that I have heard from religious scholars
is that providing dates for Sruti is not in conflict with the notion
of anadhi in the sense that one can say that the dates only refer to
the time when the eternal Vedas were revealed to man. Meaning, a
rishi at such and such a date, through tapas, divinely intuited the
eternal Veda. GTher reason why a particular date was chosen over another
is simply because that particular time was when that portion of the
Vedas was most appropriate for  mankind and hence it was revealed.

Thus, Chandyogya Upanishad  was revealed 900 B.C because in 900 B.C,
the Upanishad was most relevant to the 900 B.C. society. Similarly
the Bhagavad Gita was revealed later because the society did not
need BG till later.

Infact, this argument is used to explain 
away all inconsistencies in the Vedas (from the viewpoint of
conflict with pramaana). For example, if there is something
in the Vedas that conflicts with what we know of science,
then the argument runs as follows: Yes, pramaanam is correct
(as Mani explained in his previous posting), BUT the Sruti
is ALSO correct. Why? There are two reasons: (1) The Sruti is
meant for everyone, the Gods, the animals, mankind and everything
else in the Universe. Thus, from the viewpoint of those who
do not have the same power of inference, then it is appropriate
for them (hence the need all the more for a learned acharya),
or  (2) The Sruti is meant for all time and that what is in 
conflict is in conflict only today but need not be in time
past or in time future.

For example, I think it is in the Chandyogya Upanishad (perhpas
it is Brhadaranyaka) where Krishna (referred to as Dwaraka Putra)
is mentioned. How can Krishna be mentioned if Vedas is anadhi?
Western scholars would interpret this as implying that the
C-Upanishad came AFTER the M-Bharata. Our religious tradition
forces us to interpret that the Vedas merely were predicting
the future.

Another common document whose date comes to question is the
Bhagawad Gita.  For example,  based on Western dating
(I say "Western" to contrast it from traditional for convenience)
B-Gita came AFTER M-Bharata -- infact, it is dated at roughly
200-400 B.C. (post Buddha). The reasoning is based on 
the prose style as well as the fact that none of the earlier
lliterature mention the B-G. This is an important tool in
Western dating, namely, the LACK of observance at an earlier
time. Thus, if there is a large body of literature that makes
no mention of a literary document, then it is argued by
Westerners that the document in question post-dates the
earlier work.

The traditional method would say that the Sruti (even if
B-G isn't "strictly" Sruti) was only useful after that date and hence
its mention.

Another important tool in dating is the appearance of documents
or principal characters in the documents in engravings, temples and
other physical structures that can be scientifically dated. Here
the scientific method is on much more solid grounds. Once again, a
traditional interpretation would argue that the document in question
was only relevant at that time and hence appeared then. Hence, there
is no disagreement with pramaanam.  

Thus, by putting hard dates on even Sruti, the scientific method
wishes us to accept that the documents were all NOT anadhi, but had
a defnite origin, both temporally and spatially. The traditional
method doesn't disagree with the scientific method insofar as the
dating, but disagrees in the conclusion. 

Which method does one want to choose? It is here where faith enters.
Those who believe the Sruti to be truly Sruti, then they will argue
against the conclusion that Sruti has a origin. Those who are
skeptical about the Sruti, they will opt for the "Western."

To me, despite my faith, I do find the dates ascribed to Sruti
(which I tend to accept) very troubling. The traditional method hinges
entirely on faith. One's "scientific" education always makes one
nervous if one has to accept something purely by faith -- but here,
I see no other choice. 

sk