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Re: Vedic evolution

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Thu May 20 1999 - 10:45:26 PDT

I have said pretty much all that I wish to say on this
subject. I notice that the few who are discussing this
with me now are affiliated with the Gaudiya sampradAya.
We can all continue this discussion offline.

A few concluding points to clarify my argument:

1) The original question was how to reconcile scientific
   opinion and the teachings of the Vedas.  People are free
   to believe in the literal truth of Puranic cosmology, and
   I don't want to convince them otherwise. I am merely stating
   my opinion that *if* one finds evolution irrefutable (as I
   personally do, others are free to disagree), it is fully
   reconcilable with Vedanta.

2) I don't wish to engage in debate over Hare Krishna views
   on pramANas here either.  However, it is accepted by all
   mImAmsakas and Vedantins that each pramANa is svataH-prAmANya,
   intrinsically valid, so pratyaksha needs to be given full
   weight in its sphere of influence.

3) It has been argued that Ramanuja only makes these points
   in the context of Advaita. This is true of almost all of
   Ramanuja's philosophy. It, however, does not mean that
   Ramanuja did not espouse these as general principles. This
   is easy to deduce from Ramanuja's and Desika's works.   
   Specifically, pratyaksha is to be trusted absolutely 
   because it is the 'upajIva' of Sruti.  If Sruti and pratyaksha
   come into conflict, one's understanding of Sruti must be
   wrong, so Sruti must be reinterpreted (whether concerning
   the chemical constitution of water or otherwise).

4) Sense perception is by its very definition limited. It cannot
   perceive the super-sensous, nor that which cannot be detected
   by that sense.  One does not need to study Vedanta to come to
   this conclusion, and I stated this in my first post. However,
   given certain sensory data, which much be trusted according to
   Ramanuja, how is one to reconcile that with Sabda? This is the
   question I sought to address.

5) Sri Vaishnava acharyas, to my knowledge, have not specifically
   addressed the topic of historicity or evolution. It is not their
   primary concern, frankly. I am stating *their* opinion on the pramANas
   and *my* opinion on how to reconcile conflicts in the pramANas
   based on principles elucidated by the acharyas.  By the way,
   there is very often not just _one_ Sri Vaishnava opinion on a
   subject. There is a certain degree of intellectual freedom on some
   issues, as in most schools of Vedanta.

In short, if you think that taking the Puranas literally in every
aspect is satisfying and convincing, go ahead. I am not going to
challenge you. In the same vein, I reserve the right to reconcile
conflicts my own way, and I believe I am being fully faithful to 
Vedantic principles. My words are addressed to people who are trying 
to make a similar reconciliation.

rAmAnuja dAsan,