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Re: correct vs. apaurushEya

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Fri Mar 31 2000 - 14:52:24 PST

Kasturi Varadarajan writes:
> On the other hand the second premise, that the veda is correct, is
> in itself sufficient justification for it to serve as pramANa. So only
> the second premise is needed to develop the philisophy.

Kasturi,

You are only partially correct. The apaurusheyatva 
of the Vedas is necessary for because it is the *only* way of 
having a final authority about an eternal reality. In other
words, think about how you would answer this question:

   Of what nature is Eternal, Absolute Reality?

If we derive our answer based on an authored text, well, how
do we know that the author himself is perfect?

Take for example the case of Pancaratra Agama, believed to
be authored by a perfect being (God).  How do we know that it 
actually is authored by a perfect being, and therefore it is
authoritative?

If we say, "I have faith that the author (God) is perfect. 
Pancaratra is authored by him so it is perfect."

Well, then why do you believe in the perfectness of this
author? Why not also in Mohammed, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, or
Moses? 

If the reply is that one's faith simply rests in 
one's idea of who is God, then Vedanta is cast into the same
lot as all the world's major religions -- basing faith
on subjective reasons in a prophet or one's idea of God.
Anyone who sets himself up as God can therefore claim 
to be an author of Truth.

This is insuffcient for the orthodox Vedantin, because
he or she knows that chances are that authors are imperfect.
How do we know that the supposed prophet or Deity is not
under the sway of the three gunas? Furthermore, how would
we demonstrate in a more objective manner the nature of
reality, without relying on authored and therefore 
possibly incorrect information?

The only alternative is that we have to get these answers
from another source.  Visual observation and inference
are inadequate, because these questions deal with issues
that are supra-sensory and non-material.  So we have to
have access to a trustworthy source other than these.
This source must be unauthored, for otherwise we are left 
with the same dilemma, i.e., that of knowing whether *this*
author is perfect, resulting in infinite regress.  

Now, it so happens that the Vedas have a history of being
considered unauthored, *and* they have a history of being
considered trustworthy, truthful texts (Apta-vAkya). For,
as you say, if something is unauthored but not trustworthy,
it is useless. 

As a corollary to this argument, consider the following
question: can we know that Reality is eternal without
relying on a non-eternal source?

If the Vedas are non-eternal, how can we trust them
when they have not been around to truly be "witness"
to the eternity of Reality?

One may argue, "Well, God is our authority for the
eternity of Reality. Since God is eternal, he is
the eternal 'witness' to his eternity." This places
us back in the personality, faith-based camp. How
do we know that this person claiming to be God is
not lying about his eternity?

Or, if it is argued that "God authored the Vedas,
and the Vedas tell us that He is eternal," what
we end up with is a logical see-saw.  We believe
in the eternity of God because the Vedas declare
it. But we believe in the Vedas because the 
eternal (and therefore perfect) God authored them.

So this is not a valid alternative.

What this means is that we have to accept two axioms:
 (a) The Vedas are unauthored, and therefore eternal
 (b) The Vedas are trustworthy

No matter what, both axioms are necessary. We need
the Vedas to be eternal *and* a trustworthy for them
to be true authorities on Reality.

The beauty of this principle is that this makes Vedantins
in a significant way far more objective and non-emotional
in religious inquiry.  The only two axioms that need to
be accepted in the process of inquiry are the above two.
One need not even accept on faith that Narayana is God --
in fact, one *should* not accept on faith that Narayana
is God. This tenet is derived wholly from the Vedas,
studied in the appropriate manner.

Hope this explains to a certain extent,
ramanuja dasan,
Mani



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