Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Shastra is the only pramana for self-knowledge part 2
I wanted to touch on two points - one of which I forgot to mention in my last post.
The first adhikartvam for jnAnA for those considered unfit or unqualified for the study of
the VedAs.(Brahmasutra 1.3.38). Here Shankara does admit that such persons, as a
result of good works done in their past lives, can indeed gain self-knowledge
from the ItihAsAs and PurAnAs, instead of directly from the VedAs. The point to
be noted here is that theseÂ scriptures are indeedÂ based on the VedAs alone,
and have the VedAs alone as their source.
For example - this is how the RAmAyanA is presented-
Vedavedye pare pumsi Jate Dasarathatmaje
Vedah Pracetasadasit Saksadramayanatmana
"As the Supreme Being, who is so exalted as to be known by the Vedas, was born
the son of Dasaratha, the Vedas themselves took birth as the child of Valmiki
[in the form of the Ramayana]."
And of course the MahAbhAratA is popularly referred to as the fifth VedA.
So one can see that the PuranAs, and even the itihAsAs,Â are nothing but the
VedAs in essence.
On a side note, in this context about VidurA, it is interesting to note the
words of the Wise VidurA himself in the MahAbhAratA, Note here how the King, a
kshartiyA, and recognizes and acknowledges, ViDurAchArya who by birth is a
ShudrA, as his teacher, and how ViduRa himself, though Wise, responds by a
adherence to Dharma....the following passage well illustrates the concept of
DharmA in our tradition.
Dhritarashtra said: If there is anything still left unsaid by thee, O Vidura,
say it then, as I am ready to listen to thee. The discourse is, indeed,
Vidura said: O Dhritarashtra, O thou of the Bharata race, that ancient and
immortal Rishi Sanat-sujata who, leading a life of perpetual celibacy, has said
that there is no Death. That foremost of all intelligent persons will expound to
thee all the doubts in thy mind, both expressed and unexpressed.
Dhritarashtra said: Do thou not know what that immortal Rishi will say unto me?
O Vidura, do thou say it, if indeed, thou hast that degree of wisdom.
Vidura said: I am born in the Sudra order and, therefore, do not venture to say
more than what I have already said. The understanding, however, of that Rishi,
leading a life of celibacy, is regarded by me to be infinite. He that is a
Brahmana by birth, by discoursing on even the profoundest mysteries, never
incurs the censure of the gods. It is for this alone that I do not discourse to
thee, upon the subject.
Dhritarashtra said: Tell me, O Vidura, how with this body of mine I can meet
with that ancient and immortal one (Sanat-sujata)?
Vaisampayana said: Then Vidura began to think of that Rishi of rigid vows. And
knowing that he was thought of, the Rishi, O Bharata, showed himself there.
Vidura then received him with the rites prescribed by ordinance. And then after
having rested a while, the Rishi was seated at his ease.
Vidura addressed him, saying: O illustrious one, there is a doubt in
Dhritarashtra's mind which is incapable of being explained away by me. It
behoveth thee, therefore, to expound it, so that listening to thy discourse,
this chief of men may tide over all his sorrows, and to that gain and loss, what
is agreeable and what disagreeable, decrepitude and death, fright and jealousy,
hunger and thirst, pride and prosperity, dislike, sleep, lust and wrath, and
decrease and increase may all be borne by him."
The second point has to do with mystics. Mystics are
certainly not a 20th or 21st century phenomenon! From Meerabai to Sant Kabir to
Guru Nanak to Sant Tukaram there are hundreds of thousands of mystics who have
ever graced our land. Shankara in the Sutrabhashyas does make a reference to
them [- I had previously quoted this, not too long ago,Â but i think it is worth
repeating here again -]
Purvapakshin: Your account does not leave open the possibility of the authority
of the Smrti-texts, such as the Yoga Sutras and the Samkhya source-texts, or the
authority of rishis like Kapila. The Samkhya is also not concerned with things
that are "to be done" but only with true knowledge, which is the means to
release. But there is no room in your account for the texts of the Samkhya and
so they thereby become meaningless. Since many people cannot understand the
meaning of the shruti-texts, they rely on the Smrti-texts, which are composed by
recognized authorities (prakhyata-pranatr). And the knowledge (jnana) of such
men, like Kapila, is said to be unobstructed (aprahita) like that of the rishi
Siddanta: If we admit your doctrine, then it, in turn, will render other
Smrti-doctrines useless (like the "Vedantic" portions of the Gita, e.g.). And it
is not possible for someone to perceive (upalabhate) super-sensory (ati-indriya)
objects (artha) without the aid of revelation (shrutim-antarena), because there
are no means (nimitta) to do so.
Purvapakshin: It is possible in the case of siddhas like Kapila because they
have unobstructed (aprahita) knowledge (jnana).
Answer: No, because powers (siddhi) such as super-sensory perception are
dependent upon certain practices (anushthana) and such practices are
characterized by things that are "to be done" (codana).
Nor can we count on some recognized (prasiddha) sage (mahatmya) like Kapila,
since even here there will be no foundation, because the teachings of these
recognized sages (mahatmya), as well as the founders of the other schools
(tirthakara, i.e., the Buddha, Mahavira, etc.), all mutually contradict one
Besides, even assuming that we can trust in the authority of these siddhas,
because they instruct by way of so many different doctrines (bahu-siddhanta),
their teachings will all be in conflict (vipratipatti) with one another. And
then, as people are multiform (vaishvarupa) in their opinion (mati), (if we
accept these teachings) the undesirable consequence (prasanga) will follow that
truth (tattva) will be unregulated and without basis (avyapasthana). The Vedic
revelation, on the other hand, is an absolutely independent (nirapeksham) and
self-constituting authority (svarthe pramanyam). But human dicta
(purusha-vacasam) are dependent upon an external basis and mediated (vyavahita)
by memory (smrti) and discourse (vaktr).
(Brahma Sutra Bhashya 2.1.1)
Shankara concludes this section with a very categorical assertion -
"We have thus established the perfection of this - our knowledge- which reposes
on the Upanishads, and as apart from it perfect knowledge is impossible, its
disregard would lead to 'absence of final release' of the transmigrating souls."