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RE: Religious experiences of others.

From: Rajagapalan, Murli, NCSIO (murli_at_att.com)
Date: Tue May 05 1998 - 09:08:50 PDT

Dear BhAgawatAs,

(Adiyen is glad to join in the bhakti discussions, after having been cut
off from the group for a while because of technical problems in adiyen's
mailing system).

The questions on purANas and ithihaasas remain very interesting even
though they have been asked and discussed several times on the net.
These are some of adiyen's naive viewpoints.

Regarding the issue of comparing and contrasting the psychic experiences
of mystics with testimony found in various scriptural references like
the purANas, ithihAsas, the bible, and the kuran, we have to start by
identifying the means of valid knowledge - viz pramANas.

Ramanuja admits that there are three pramANas:  pratyaksha (valid
perceptual knowledge), anumAna (inferential knowledge), and sabda
(verbal testimony).  We as humans are well aware of the first two means
of knowledge, since it is within our own day-to-day experiential realm.
However, Sabda pramANa (or sruthi) is the ONLY means of knowledge with
which we come to know of the existence of the Brahman, who cannot be
known through our senses or through inference.  The Brahman, according
to the sruthis, is the Only Supreme Principle (parama tattva) worth
knowing, and one who knows this knows all else.

The critic might say:  "Why should I accept what the sruthis say?  After
all, the sruthis talk about something that cannot be perceptually seen
or inferred anyway, and the only way I know of the existence of this
so-called Brahman is through the sruthis.  And even if I am willing to
accept that there is something super-sensual, why should I not accept
what some other scriptural texts say?"

Adiyen's answer to this is four-fold.  Firstly, adiyen believes that
this line of thought is all the more a reason to atleast investigate
into this pramANa, because just as there is no second testimony to prove
the existence of the Brahman, there is no other testimony that
explicitly disproves it.  And after all, if according to what the
sruthis say, we as humans can actually be enjoying inexplicable bliss,
why not atleast consider an investigation.  At this point let us just
have an open investigative mind that is willing to accept (if need be)
that there could be something beyond our senses that can be known to
exist at first only testimonially through the sruthis.

The second reason is this.  If anything is to be called a pramANa (or
means of valid knowledge), it must serve a practical purpose.  According
to the sruthi, the purpose it serves is that it testimonially reveals
the parama tattva (The Supreme Principle) knowing which we (humans) know
all else.  The words "parama tattva" implies that there is no other
principle worth knowing.

The third reason is that sruthis are apaurusheya - they not have a
maker.  An apaurusheya sastra is a very good candidate for being a
pramANa.  Because, since it does not have a maker, it does not have the
defects associated with that maker;  it is not uttered by the
non-trustworthy ( anApta anukta ).  Where do we get this information?
>From the sruthi itself, which claims that it was taught by the Lord
Himself to Brahma at the beginning of creation.  Nowhere is there any
indication of the origin or the originator of the sruthi.  Hence if what
the sruthis say is true, they must be eternal and impersonal
(apaurusheya).

Fourthly, and most importantly, great rshis, azhwars, and acharyas like
Vyasa, VAmadeva, BodhAyana, and NammazhwAr have verified the veracity of
the verbal testimony of the sruthis through upAsana.  This can be
considered the experimental verification of the vedic claim.  If we too
personally need the same kind of proof of the psychological (about the
self) and ontological (about Brahman) claim, we have to tread the path
of sAdhana described eloquently in the sruthis and other ancillary
scriptural texts.

Having briefly given reasons for accepting the authenticity of the
sruthis as a valid pramANa, let us talk briefly about paurusheya
sastras, those that are original personal compositions.  Do we accept
these as valid means of knowledge?  Sure, but only those that do not
contradict the sruthis.  Bhagawad Gita is paurusheya in the sense that
it is the product of that parama purusha, Sri Krishna.  But since it
augments and confirms what is said in the sruthis, we accept it in toto.
 What about purAnas?  We have several of them.  We have saattvika
purANas, raajasa purANas, and taamasa purANas.  Who made these
distinctions?  These classifications have been made in the padma
puraaNa, which has been classified (by itself) as a saattvika purANa.
The other saattvika puraaNas are bhaagawata, visnu, nAradeeya, garuda
and varAha puraaNas.  Again, we have to remember that the yard-stick is
always the sruthi.  We have to weigh and see which puraaNa confirms the
truths enunciated in the sruthis, and which contradicts or distorts
them.  We are fortunate to have been blessed with acharyas who are some
of the keenest and yet most open minds, who do not accept anything that
comes their way without checking it out for its validity.  Similarly, we
also consider the VaikhAnasa and PAncharAtra Samhitas to be valid
pramANas.  Again, the same reasoning.  And so about dharma sastras like
Manu dharma sastra.  In the same vein, the AzhwAr aruLichaiyalgaL (divya
prabhandam) are valid pramANas, since they lucidly present exactly what
is told in the upanishads.

Now we come to ithihaasas.  For this purpose, consider an incantation in
the naaraayaNopanishad, which is a part of the sruthis:

	|| brahmaNyo devaki putro, brahmaNyo madhusoodanom ||
	"The all-encompassing brahman of the upanishads is nothing other than
the one born to Devaki, and the slayer of Madhu."

Here we have specific time-related references of god-heads equated to
the generic eternal brahman.  From this we can infer that Narayana takes
the avatara of Sri Krishna in EVERY dvApara yuga as devaki's son and as
Madhusoodana.  Hence Krishna's avatara is a reality, and so are all the
events that revolve around that like the Geetopadesha to Arjuna.  In the
same vein, the Mahabharatha is a real and eternal happening in the sense
that it takes place as a drama in every dvapara yuga.  So is the
RamayaNa, since the reference of Sri Rama occurs in the Vishnu Sahasra
NAma, which is a part of the Mahabharatha.  So, there is no doubt (if we
accept the sruthis as pramANas) that the ithihaasas are facts, NOT
fictional stories.

Finally, let's come to the intuitive and mystic experiences of Jesus,
Moses, and Muhammad (referred to in a previous posting).  In adiyen's
opinion, these are as much truthful as anything we might ourselves
experience in our daily life.  Was it NarayaNa whom these prophets
intuited?  Since there is nothing to prove it is not, we can as well
say, yes.  Yet, we have to conclude that these sastras are paurusheya.
Because, although Moses or Jesus or Muhammad did not write the
Commandments, the Bible, or the Kuran, they intuited some super-natural
entity which communicated those "truths" to them.  Again, this does NOT
assume there are defects in these sastras.  What we have to do is
measure it with the universal yard-stick, the only apaurusheya sAstra
known to humanity that talks about the parama tattva, namely sruthi.
After all, did our poorvAcharyas not measure everything else like the
Bhagawad Geeta and the PAncharAtra Agama with the sruthi-yard-stick,
although both these scriptures are the words of that parama purusha
himself.  If there are portions of the Bible (et al) that conform to the
sruthis, what prevents us from saying that those portions are valid?
However, if we find portions of it not agreeing with the sruthis, we
have to impassionately reject those, or at least interpret them to
conform to the sruthis.

These are adiyen's humble view points.  Adiyen cannot be certain that
what has been written is error-free, and hence requests the readership
to excuse the inadvertent errors that might have creeped in, and also
step in and correct the erroneous portions.

|| Sarvam Sree KrishnArpaNamastu ||
|| Namo Narayanaya ||

Daasan Murali Kadambi


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