You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : December 1998

Musings on Sita's "agni-pravEsam" # 12

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Mon Dec 14 1998 - 09:46:04 PST

Dear members & beloved friends who are following this thread,

"pratyaksha-pramANa", in Vedantic parlance, is the evidence of truth which
the naked eye readily offers. That which the eye sees, the mind
unhesitatingly believes, isn't it?

When we make a statement, "This piece of cloth is white in colour", to
another person, the truth of that statement can be easily verified by him
upon picking up the cloth and having a "good look" at it himself. Having
satisfied himself that the cloth is indeed white in colour, the person will
say to you,"Ah, yes, this cloth is white and you speak the whole truth,
indeed!".

This is "pratyaksha-pramANam".

The truth of the world around us can be apprehended most often by
"pratyaksha-pramANam". It is a safe, credible and scientific means of
attaining incontrovertible knowledge.

Unfortunately, "pratyaksham" is also sometimes a notoriously unreliable
means of knowledge. While "seeing is believing", more often than not,
"seeing is also, alas, make-believing".

Suppose the person to whom you have handed over the piece of cloth to
verify happens to suffer from acute jaundice or terminal hepatoma of the
liver.... what do you think will be his retort to your statement that "This
piece of cloth is white in colour" ? 

He is most likely, I am sure, to turn to you and say rather
indignantly,"White?!
What rot! This cloth is yellow in colour. What's wrong with your eyes, my
friend, are you colour-blind?".

Now this, simply and starkly, according to the Vedas, is the problem with
"pratyaksha-pramANam" : the infirmities and limitations of sight, or for
that matter, of any sense-organ or of even any highly evolved human
faculty,
very often lead us hopelessly astray and wayward in our pursuit of Truth.  

        *****************      **************        ****************

Now let's turn our attention, friends and members, to the Ramayana and to
the scenes of the "agni-pravEsam".

When He saw Sita ..... "pratayaksha-pramANa" ..... what did Sri.Rama say?

"prAptachAritra-sandEhA mama pratimUKhE stiThA I
 depO nEtrAturasyEva pratikoolAsI may driDam I"

meaning:

"I can't stand the sight of you, Sita .... you are revolting to me....my
eyes flinch from you as if they were diseased and can't bear the glare of
light."

In this monumentally Freudian admission of frailty, we see how the Lord
contrived to demonstrate to us  that "pratyaksha-pramANam" failed Him, too,
in His effort to apprehend the self-evident Truth of Sita's pristinity
......that Truth about Her, which otherwise gloriously emanated forth to
all and sundry
gathered there.... certainly to persons like TrijithA or HanumAn .... the
very Truth which emanated forth in all its dazzling form akin to the Vedic
depiction of it as "aaditya-varnam tamasas-parastAt....."!

In saying that He was unable to set eyes on Her, just as "diseased eyes"
could hardly bear the dazzle of light, Sri.Rama was playing precisely the
same part as our poor, jaundiced friend who, as we explained above, could
see in the fabric of a spotlessly white piece of cloth nothing but a swathe
of pathological yellow !

Very clearly thus, "pratyaksha-pramANa" failed Lord Rama in His pursuit of
the real Truth about Sita..... just as surely, the Vedas tell us, it will
invariably fail us too in our own perennial efforts to attain to
"para-brahmi-c" Truth .....

      ***********             *************               **************

Next what about "anumAna" ?

We'll take it up in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
sudarshan