Dharma Charcha. (धर्म चर्चा)

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Channel to inquire about Dharma as maintained by scriptures & their interpretation by traditional āchārya-s.
"धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः।" ~मनुस्मृतिः ८/१५

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The previous section has provided a diversity of views regarding the Veda. Starting
with what later parts of the Veda have said about its earlier parts and mere recitation of
it, and after referring to the views of some sutras, Smrtis and literary works, as well as
of Kautsa and Bhartrmitra, it has briefly outlined the views of four darśanas (philosophical systems) and Vyākaraṇa. The positions of the two Mimāṃsas, (purva, prior, and uttara, later) are passim in the first chapter and earlier sections of this chapter.

These are followed by presenting the perspectives offered by the Manusmrti, the Brhad-devata, the Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad Gita.

The various views may be classified as follows. There were
# 1. Those who thought the Veda contained only gibberish, but potent when uttered
— a ridiculous theory; it would make the Veda a collection of incantations and would make morality meaningless.

# 2. Those who held that its injunctions and prohibitions have no moral effects, a theory which would be correct only if all action has no moral effect;

# 3. Those who rejected its authority on the ground that only sense perception and inference can be the sources of truth; that would be the position of the Lokāyatas or Cārvākas.

# 4. Those who would admit the teachings of the omniscient too to be sources of valid knowledge, but deny omniscient authorship to the Veda. Of these, the Jainas and Buddhists is an intelligible viable position if transcendence (the trans-empirical, param) is
denied; for the irreligious and the atheistic can be congruent (of course, not necessarily) with the moral, while the religious and the theistic are also not necessarily so. But, according to Gaudapada and Udayana or Jabali and Carvi on logical or scientific grounds transcendence can be neither proved nor disproved; while its denial can be demolished, and argumentative affirmation of it can be destroyed. Curiously, all the adharmic (non-moral) men indulging in evil actions (duskrta) whom Rāma and Kṛṣṇa fought and destroyed were neither atheistic, nor avaidic. They were worshippers of (four-faced) Brahma or Siva, performers of Vedic rites and askesis. Hanuman found
fire-sacrifices and Vedic chanting in the houses of all the demons (rākṣasas) in Lanka.

This becomes clear from the following Gita citations:—
1. The supreme Imperishable (aksara, Brahman) which the Veda-knower proclaim, which the men of self-control freed from passion attain, desiring which brahmacarya (life of chastity, truth and study) is practised-that is what Bhagavan Krsna briefly declared to Arjuna. The yogi who knows well Brahman, the individual soul, etc., transcending the fruits of the merit mentioned in the Vedas, sacrifices, askesis and charity,
goes to the highest state.'

2. The highest form of God, described in chapter XI, was shown to Arjuna by God being pleased (prasannena), but no one else in the mortal world can behold it by the Vedas, sacrifices, study, charity, rituals or intense askesis. Only by exclusive devotion (bhaktya ananyaya) God in that form can be known and seen in truth, and entered into.

3. The true nature of the body and self has been chanted by the Rishis in various ways;
in several Rig and other Vedic metres in a discriminative way; and in the reasoned decisive sentences indicating Brahman found in the Upanishads.

4. The peepal tree (the transmigratory world, 'samsara') has an upward root (Brahman) and downward branches (cosmic intellect, egoism, subtle elements, etc.) It is called imperishable (because though it is undergoing destruction every moment, it has been in existence from beginningless time and sustains the beginningless and endless series of bodies, etc.). The Vedas are its leaves (for, like leaves which protect a tree, they protect the world by revealing Dharma and Adharma, as well as their causes and results). He who knows this tree (of samsara along with its root, Brahman) is a knower of the Veda (he knows the meaning of the Veda).

5. Only God is to be known through all Vedas; He is the maker of the Upanishads and
the knower of the Veda. Since He transcends the changing and is superior to the changeless, He is well-known in the world and the Veda as the Supreme Person.

6. Aum Tat Sat is the threefold designation of Brahman. With it, in ancient times Brahmins, Vedas and sacrifices were ordained. The theologians after pronouncing OM undertake, as prescribed, acts of sacrifice, charity and askesis. The seekers of liberation pronounce Tat (That) and then undertake the same acts without coveting their fruits. Sat means the real, the good as well as any praiseworthy action. Action meant for, as well as steadfastness in, sacrifice, askesis and charity is also called Sat, but if these are without faith they are Asat.

The justification for the critique of the Veda in chapter 11 of the Gita has been given there itself, as already explained. In two verses of chapter IX some of this is reiterated more clearly.

The first verse affirms that the performers of Vedic 'soma' sacrifices worship the One God through them, and being purified from sin do go to heaven and enjoy celestial delights. But, the next verse after pointing out that through such enjoyment when their merit is exhausted, they come back to the mortal world, concludes that devotees of the Dharma of the three Vedas who crave for the objects of desires and pursue them manage only to get to heaven and then return to earth, but do not obtain any kind of Liberation.

Here and at other places too the Gita affirms that like charity and askesis, sacrifices do purify, but its considered and definite opinion is that they ought to be performed without attachment and abandoning fruits. It also broadens the concept of sacrifice (yajna) and teaches that the best sacrifice is. that of knowledge, because as already referred to, all other, sacrifices arise from action and cannot lead to freedom.

Real sacrificial action is well-performed action without attachment, and that liberates20; all other action binds. 'So, in the Gita whenever the Sruti, Vedas or the Dharma of the three Vedas, appears to be disvalued or disparaged, the reference is only to Vedic ritualism performed in a mechanical way solely for fulfilling desires here or in heaven. The teaching in the portions of the Veda other than those which deal with this is not different from that of the Gita

to discuss here the problem of "Sruti-dvaidha" (conflict of Vedic precepts), apparent or actual, and contradictions (seeming or otherwise) between Srutis and other Shastras or among the latter. But the Gita has itself provided a solution for that: "One ought to take refuge in one's own reason". (2:49)

After completing his teaching, the divine teacher of the Gita advised:
"Reflecting on this fully, do as you wish to do.” These principles as well as What the Gita has said about the Veda in its several chapters, provide a useful guide to determine which is a Shastra and which is not and to what extent Shastra is to be followed. Detailed discussions of this occur in the Mahabharata and other works.

The last sentence is explained by Sankara thus: Vedic works have endless fruits. Whatever profit is in them is included in the profit which a renunciate knower of the absolute reality gains through his knowledge. Sankara takes the metaphor in the verse to mean: small containers of water like wells, tanks, etc., have only limited uses (bathing, drinking, etc.), but a huge full reservoir of water is of unlimited use. For example, it can in addition to catering to the needs of bathing, drinking, etc., provide for the irrigation of huge tracts of land.

The bliss of Brahma-jñana (Brahmanknowledge) includes the fruits of all possible good actions/ rituals. In support of this interpretation Sankara quotes a Sruti text, "Whoever knows That obtains the fruits of all the good works that people may perform", and a Gita text, "All action without remainder culminates in knowledge".(2:46) The latter text significantly follows these
statements: (i) knowing that all kinds of sacrifices spring from action, one becomes free, and

(ii) the sacrifice of knowledge (jñana-yajña) is superior to that of things (dravya-yajña). Different but no less enlightening is Ramanujacarya's explanation of the same sentence:—

"A thirsty man should drink from a tank only as much water as he needs and not all that is in it. Like that, to a follower of the Vedas who seeks liberation, in all the Vedas only that which is the means to liberation must be acceptable, not anything else in them."(gita 2:46)

This implies that although all the Vedas contain besides the means to liberation what is not so, a believer in Vedic authority desiring liberation should accept only what is conducive to it.

Chapter 11 of the Gita contains two more important verses on scriptural authority:
"When your thinking becomes free from the pollution of delusion (indiscrimination), 15 then you will become indifferent 16 to "What is to be heard and what has been heard in the Veda (srotavyasya srutasya ca).
" When your thinking distracted by the Sruti becomes immovable and steadfast in enstasis, then you will attain yoga (discriminative insight)." 17 (2:52-53) For one free from 'pollution' mentioned in the former verse, Sankara explains, the yet to be heard and the already heard from the Veda become infructuous.
"Tadā śrotavyārh śrutaḥ ca niṣphalaḥ pratipadyate iti abhiprāyaḥ."

He further adds: The Srutis throw light on the relations between many ends and means.
By hearing them thinking becomes distracted; but the wavering of the mind due to this must be stopped in order to steady it.
"Aneka-sādhya-sādhana-saiḥbandhaprakāśana śrutibhiḥ śravanaiḥ vipratipanna nānāpratipanna vikṣiptai ca saha . . .

All this does not mean that the Gita does not accept the authority and validity of the Veda. It does so very much. In chapter XVI after distinguishing between the divine and demonic types among men, in the last two verses of it, according to Sankara, the Gita teaches that — "only by relying on the authority of Shastra. it is possible to abandon the demonic lot and adopt good conduct (sreyācaraṇa); so for both Shastra is the cause".

These two verses are:
"who injunctions of Shastras and lives wantonly, will not attain perfection, happiness or the ultimate goal".
"Therefore, let the Shastras be your authority in determining what is duty and What is not. It is appropriate for you to act with a knowledge of the dictates of Shastras". (16:23-24)

As Shastras can be only those which are the sources of the knowledge of what is duty
and what is not,18 and as only they can properly prescribe or prohibit any actions, obviously the Vedas are Shastras par excellence. They certainly are meant in the two verses. To the extent the Smrtis and Itihasa-Puranas supplement and amplify what is in the Vedas, the former too are Shastras. The Gita claims its own teaching to be Shastra;(15:20) as already said, Sankara refers to the Gita as a Shastra. The Brahma-sutra refers to it as a Smrti; 1;2;6 in his sutra-bhasya Sankara quotes from the Kurma Purana stating the citation is from a Smrti.4;3;11 I do not propose

Srīmad Bhāgavata

Among the Purāṇas, one of the most, if not the most, profound and spiritual is the Srīmad Bhāgavata. What it says about the Veda is most interesting. In the chapters of its middle skandha dealing with the Ajāmila story, this Purāṇa contrasts the Dharma of
the three Vedas dependent on the Gunas12 with the pure "Bhāgavata Dharma"
(Dharma of loving devotion to God, or bhakti-yoga); and comments thus: "Alas, most of these great men, deluded by, divine Māyā, do not know that bhaktiyoga consisting of utterance of divine names, etc., is the highest Dharma; and that the glorification through recitation of God's qualities, actions and names, is entirely sufficient for the removal of sin. So, with their intellect dulled by the flowery honeyed language of the three Vedas they get involved in huge empty rituals.”

This is a devaluation of Vedic ritualism.
A chapter in the tenth skandha of the Bhāgavata is concerned with the problem, how can the Srutis conditioned by guṇas (guṇa-vṛttayaḥ) deal with Brahman, indescribable and devoid of guṇas, which is beyond existence and non-existence? The problem is sought to be resolved by narrating a legend of personified Vedas lauding God to wake him up at the end of the dissolution of the world (pralaya)! Known as "Veda-stuti"
(Vedic Laud), it consists of 28 verses expounding a number of mostly Upanisadic sentences in a quite original way. They are supposed to show how the Vedas deal with Brahman. But here, to illustrate the attitude of this Purāṇa to the Veda, I would only provide the translation of an introductory verse before the beginning of the gātha and
of the very last verse of this chapter, which comes after the gātha is finished and
extolled. First, the former:

(1) "This Upanishad related to Brahman was borne (dhṛta) in mind by the primordial
ancestors; whoever bears it likewise with faith reaches 'kṣema' (Iit. security, felicity;
ie., highest state), having nothing (ie., freed from conditions, upādhis)". Here we find the real Srutis are impliedly taken to be the Upanishads only and it is attempted to show how they are able to talk about the Absolute. In another sloka the portion of the Veda which praises rituals, though accepted as God's word, is dismissed as confusing the
obtuse. Now the last Sloka: "One should constantly meditate on Hari, the absolutely free and fearless, devoid of
Maya (the world-cause). The origination, sustenance and dissolution of this universe
are His projective imaginative willing. He is the lord of the unmanifest (avyakta, prakrti) and Selves (jivas). Having projected all this, He entered into it along with the jiva as its Self and made different kinds of bodies and governs them. Just as one in deep sleep does not attend to one's body, a jiva who attains Him becomes free
from Maya."


The second great Indian epic, Valmiki's Ramayana, is considered to contain the essence of Vedanta. Vaishnavas of the school of Ramanuja-acharya believe it to be
(i) an interpretation of the dvaya-mantra which teaches about both what is to be
attained and what leads one to it, the means and the end, the choosing of the means and self-dedication to the Divine and

(ii) an explanation of the Gayatri-mantra, which is believed to be the essence of the Veda.

Acharyas of that school as well as a commentator of the Ramayana, Govindaraja, have endeavoured to show this in their writings. For the Vaishnavas it is a long Scripture on the doctrine and practice of surrender to the Supreme Person (dirghasaranagati-

Without going into all that, I will refer only to what this epic
says about the Veda in two places.
In the Ayodhya-kāṇḍa in the course of rebutting a materialistic position which also denied scriptural authority,

Rama is described as having said the following: "The universe is established in Truth. The highest Dharma is Truth. Truth is the lord of the Universe.10 All have their roots in Truth. There is no position or abode higher than Truth. The Vedas have their foundation in Truth (or, they have their glory due to it).

'Vedaḥ satya-pratiṣṭhanaḥ'. Therefore, one should be devoted to Truth."11
This implies the Veda teaches truth and hence its authority.
In the Yuddha-kāṇḍa occurs (four-faced) Brahma's laudation of Rama in the course of which we find, among others, these utterances: "You are Nārāyaṇa, the immutable Brahman, the eternal Truth, the ultimate Dharma, the Supreme Person, the Creator. You are of the nature of (or the very self of) the thousand-branched
[Sama] Veda, the teacher in various ways of the Dharma of diverse types and the best among the best. 'Sahasra sṛṅgo Vedātma śata-jihvo mahārśabhaḥ’ The Vedas
are your breath. There is nothing that can be without you. It may be concluded
that, according to the Ramayana, the source of the Veda is the immortal divine Person and it teaches the saving truth.

Kapila continues and concludes thus:— For all people the Vedas are the authority; they cannot and should not be violated. Both the Brahmans, i.e., Brahman in its verbal form and in its absolute nature (Sabda- and para-brahman) are to be known; one who knows the former well would be able to know the latter. Actions done in the following manner indirectly lead to eternity.

Those who perform sacrifices and other rituals without expecting anything, just because it is Dharma to perform them, are freed from all passions, egoism and sins, obtain certain knowledge and hold fast to it, and work for the good of all beings. They are always content, happy, peaceful, sincere and honest, and conduct themselves according to the Vedas.

There have been many like that,
Kshatriyas, Brahmanas and others, who remained as grhasthas and never abandoned actions. They do attain everlastingness (anantya), says the eternal Veda.

Actions purify and knowledge liberates. The eternal Dharma of the strivers which culminates in liberation may be practised independently by the renunciates, or conjointly with their duties by others in any station of life (as celibate-students, householders, or forestdwellers).

Persons belonging to any caste or station in life can practise this safe and faultless Dharma and attain Moksha. The one and same Dharma is, indeed, fourfold (as the four ashramas), and everyone in any situation may follow it. Thus in the path of knowledge all ashramas are unified, and all castes are eligible for it. The paths to Brahman, the Supreme, are sincerity, patience, peace, non-injury, truth, straightforwardness, non-malice, non-arrogance, modesty, tolerance and tranquillity.

No human being is precluded from cultivating them. That which the happy and contented who possess these and have certain knowledge attain is the ultimate good, the supreme end. According to Kapila while the Veda-knower is one who knows the Vedas and what is to be known through them, anyone else only emits 'gas'. A Veda knower knows everything, as everything is established in the Veda. Whatever is and is
not, has its basis in the Veda.

What is known from and knowable in the Veda (Kapila
finishes) is righteousness and truth, the Self of all, Brahman, which is the good established in total relinquishment (samasta-tyāga), tranquillity (sama) and contentment (santoṣa).

Kapila, in response to the above, sets forth what he deems to be the correct Vedic position, which may be summarised as follows:—

"The strivers (yatis) after the supreme state (para gati) following the path of knowledge, sure in their mind, determined to relinquish and be liberated and having relinquished, are freed from all desires, impurities, sin and grief, and devoted to Brahman, become It and are established in It. There is no purpose in their becoming grhasthas.

While there are various and several types of rituals performed by the devout, the pure, steadfast and contented who have given up all action and have taken recourse to Brahman satisfy the gods by their knowledge of Brahman only. If one 'safeguards' one's hands and feet, speech, belly and sex organ 9, one is a true brahmin; if one has not done so, what can one do with askesis, sacrifice or oneself?

He, who with minimum necessary worldly possessions, lives in peace and contentment, knowing the nature of reality, and the causes and conditions of all that is happening and the destiny of beings, who is fearless of all and of whom all are fearless, and who has become the self of all beings, is a true brahmin. Such a person's conduct and behaviour is what truly reflects the Vedic norm; it is what interpenetrates all Dharmas.

Those who cannot conform to it consider actions conducive for treading the path of knowledge useless. As for other actions and rituals, first, it is difficult to understand their nature and procedure; secondly, even after understanding them it is very difficult to perform them; and, lastly, even after performing them one finds their fruits to be transient.

To the questions at the end of the last paragraph, Kapila's answers are: Whatever is
performed according to Shastra results in welfare. Whoever follows the path of knowledge Shastra and supported by argumentation and impelled by desire and aversion, become
subject to egoism cannot achieve Shastraic knowledge, but cite Shastra to justify their
position. They are, indeed, unbelievers in Shastra who 'rob the Veda'-83 they enter into
darkness only. But the others who rightly understand Shastra see that involvement in the
gunas of prakrti (basic stuff of the universe) results in being affected by aversion, desire,
anger, falsehood and pride. So, strivers engaged in self-control, aiming at the supreme state, relinquish good and evil.

According to him, it is certain
(i) that for the non-sacrificer there is neither this world nor the other, and
(ii) that liberation is impossible without discharging the three debts.

Only the grhastha, he thinks, does productive work (śrama), performs sacrifices and askesis and sustains the continuity of the human race as well as supports those who have become renunciates abandoning all productive work and rituals, because of their disbelief, foolishness, hopelessness, idleness or tiredness. Thus the position
of the grhastha being the root of all Dharma, how can it be true, Syumarasmi asks, that 'from the house liberation is impossible'? He further argues that according to sruti anything other than Vedic utterances cannot be Shastra.

A man with family accomplishes something very difficult, for he is engaged in scriptural study, sacrifices, begetting and bringing up of children and cultivating straightforwardness (honesty, ārjava), while pursuing some occupation for the maintenance of himself and his family; and if, in spite of doing all this, he has not done all that ought to be done and, consequently, there is no liberation for him, Syumarasmi exclaims, then fie (dhik) upon such a doer, what is done and such profitless labour !

He concludes:
liberation or whatever is the ultimate good must be attainable by relying on Vedic utterances; not to admit this leads to nihilism (nāstikya) and violation of the Veda.
Finally, he begs Kapila to comment on his thesis and enlighten him as to whatreally is welfare (nirāmaya) and eternity (anantya).

(3) A question was asked, "who should be supposed to be a brahmin, the one who knows the 5 Vedas, including itihāsas and purāṇas, or the one who knows 4 Vedas, 3, 2, 1 only, or not even 1? " The reply was: "As the One Veda was not known, many were made.

In the essence of the One Veda of the nature of Truth rarely is someone found to be rooted. Without knowing at all the true nature of the Veda some suppose themselves to be great wise men.... The brahmin who has read much is merely a well read man; do not consider anyone who can just talk a lot a brahmin. Only he who does not swerve from Truth is to be known as a brahmin. Those who know the mantras but do not know what ought to be known from the Vedas, are not really knowers of them".

From the 'Kapila-go-samvada' in the Santi-parva, which is actually a dialogue between Kapila and Syumarashmi. In order to know the truth, as the latter himself states, he submits for the former's consideration the thesis that the Vedic ideal is the married householder (grhastha) who

(i) fulfils the duties pertaining to his caste and station in life,
(ii) carries out the ritual and actions necessary for discharging the three debts which everyone owes7, and
(iii) performs sacrifices8, the obligatory ones and also those which will take him to heaven; for (according to him) except through sacrifice heaven is impossible, and men, animals, plants, etc., all, desire heaven.

Along with the sacrificed animals, etc., continues, the sacrificer goes up to heaven.


From the 'Pati-vratopakhyāna' (the Story of the Chaste Married Lady) in the Araṇyakaparva:— "It is very difficult to know the eternal Dharma, which is established in truth. The elders laid it down that Sruti is the authority for Dharma. Dharma is subtle and appears in diverse ways. [It cannot be said that the actual nature of Dharma becomes
manifest just from a study of the Veda.]

Although you are pure, a knower of Dharma and engaged in study of the Veda, I think you do not know Dharmas in it’s true nature".

So admonishing, a chaste married lady advised a brahmin to go to a righteous butcher to learn Dharmas. In the teaching imparted by the butcher, the following appears to be a part of what is striking: "The essence of the Veda is truth, of truth sense-control (dama) and of the latter relinquishment (tyaga)" 6. "Non-injury is the supreme Dharma, and that is established in truth. Having basis in truth, the inclinations of a good, man proceed (or take from)". "The unsurpassed behaviour of the good has only three steps: do not harm, give and speak truth".

From the 'Sanatsujata-parva' (the Teaching of Sanatsujata) in the 'Udyoga-parva':
(1) A question was raised, “will one who has studied the three Vedas be defiled by the
sins one has committed, because there are texts like “one who is purified by the three
Vedas becomes glorified in brahmaloka'?" The reply given was, "Neither singly nor
together can the three Vedas save one from the result of one's actions; I am not telling
anything false. The Vedas cannot save a sinner or a deceitful person continuing to
deceive. For the attainment of the Supreme Self the Veda has propounded tapas, sacrifice, etc., through which sin is destroyed and merit gained; then through the light
of knowledge will come sakṣātkāra of the Supreme Self. Thus from knowledge only is the Self attained"

(2) There is no one who knows the Vedas; or there may be some rare one who knows
their essence. He who knows only the Vedic sentences does not know what ought to be
knowable through them. But he who firmly abides in truth knows what ought to be
known through Vedic sentences.

Manu — the Law Giver

The Manu-Smrti has lavished the highest praise on the Veda, considering it to be the
Scripture par excellence and its authority and validity paramount. In its second chapter occur these remarkable verses:—

"It is not good to have desire 5 (kāma); yet there is no desirelessness. But acceptance and study of the Veda as well as 'Vedic Karma yoga' is dependent on desire (or, arises from desire). The will is the root of desire, and sacrifices are generated by the will. All vows, religious observances, restraints and Dharmas are considered to be products of the will. In this world no action whatsoever of a desireless one is seen; whatsoever one does is the doing of desire. One who is wellengaged in actions goes to the immortal world, and, also, here he has all his desires fulfilled as willed by him".

In its last chapter after saying all that has to be said on the rise of results of actions, the
Manu-Smrti continues as follows:
"Now hear about the action which, for a brahmin, produces the supreme good (naihsreyasa).

Regular study of the Veda, askesis (tapas), knowledge, control of the senses, non-injury (ahimsa) and service of guru: this constellation is the highest in producing the supreme good. Now, here of all these auspicious actions, one is said to be the most productive of the supreme good for a human being. It is the knowledge of the Self which is considered the best among them; it is the foremost of all branches of knowledge (vidyas); and by that immortality is attained. Among
these six actions Vedic action is to be cognised as action most conducive of good in
life and after death. In the different components of 'Vedic karmayoga' all these are included one after another.

Vedic action is twofold, involved (pravrtta) and uninvolved (nivrtta); from the former happiness and prosperity, and from the latter the supreme good are attained.

Involved action is motivated by desire here and in the other world; while desireless action done with knowledge is taught to be uninvolved action. One who performs involved action becomes like gods, while one
who performs uninvolved transcends the five elements (pañcabhūtas). Seeing the Self in all beings and all beings in the Self, thus seeing the Same (samam paśyan) the sacrificer of the self attains self-rule (svarājya). A superior brahmin, even neglecting all the prescribed actions, ought to be diligently engaged in the
knowledge of the self, tranquillity and regular study of the Veda" .


According to Kapila,
• The Veda is neither eternal, nor a product.
• No one could have produced it: for a person in bondage, lacking omniscience, could not have authored it, while a 'liberated’ person would not have a motive to do anything.

• The Veda itself says it is a product; so it cannot be eternal.
• The Veda came into existence spontaneously, like the grass and trees in a forest.
• Its validity is intrinsic and self-proved.

The Saṅkhya-kārika, considered the oldest available work of this system, says for the complete eradication of suffering there is neither an empirical, nor an 'anuśravika' means. 'Anuśravika' is what is transmitted orally from person to person, generation to generation, continuously; and that is known through Scripture, viz., the Veda. "Anuśravika" means are defective, says the Karika, because
• they are impure as in sacrifices, etc., they involve injury to beings,
• their effects (heavenly happiness, etc.), are impermanent, and
• they may create jealousy, etc., due to inequality of their fruits.
So, freedom from suffering, Samkhya teaches, will be possible only through nonempirical and non-scriptural means.


According to Yoga, God is the perfect Guru untouched by any defect whatsoever.
Scriptures are the proof for this; and Scriptures have their proof in the perfect quality of God's 'sattva' (principle of light and harmony). Both Scriptures and perfection are present in God's sattva, and there is an eternal relation between the two. God having resolved to instruct all beings in right knowledge and Dharma composed the Scriptures,


Sacred tradition, it says, is authoritative, because it is 'their teaching' (tadvacana). The
author’s reliability guarantees its authority. The Veda is not eternal; it is the work of some persons or person. Nevertheless, it is authoritative, because it deals with Dharma.

Nyāya — the school of logicians

Early Nyāya maintained that the Veda is the work of reliable persons; while later Nyāya mentioned God as its author.

The latter argued that the omniscient and compassionate creator of the world, who can be known through inference, could not have left beings without teaching them the means of attaining the good.

The teaching of this Being, who is like a father of all, must have been preserved with great respect by the earliest beings. The Veda embodies that Divine teaching. None else except an infinite omniscient being could have authored a work like the Veda as its contents are so unique, profound, all-embracing and consistent.

The Veda, for Nyāya, is inerrant and free from contradictions. If it were not the authentic Scripture, it could have neither established the institution of four castes and four stages of life, nor would it have been acceptable to generations of good men from immemorial times till now.

Reasoning cannot give the entire truth; it cannot establish
what is 'good' or 'bad'. Any inference opposed to perception or the Scripture is only an apparent inference. In the realm of Dharma, Nyāya holds, reason is useful only in protecting the truth revealed by Scripture from heresies, and has no positive role.

Vyākaraṇa — the school of Grammarians

The Vaiyakaraṇas claim that the purpose of grammar is
1. to protect (raksa) Vedic forms which must remain changeless;
2. to provide appropriate words through conjecture (uha);
3. to make available an easy method of grasping the language; and
4. and to clear doubts.


SOME ANCIENT VIEWS (Author — unknown)

Paraskara in his grhya-sutras informs us that in his time those who planned to become priests just learnt the mantras by heart, while Adityasena, a commentator on Laugakshi grhya-sutra mentions that many celebrants at rituals knew only how to recite the mantras without knowing their meaning and that they even insisted it was useless to know it.

Venkata Madhava thought that even the authors of some kalpa-sūtras did not fully understand the mantras. Some Smrtis like Daksa, Ausanasa and Yajnavalkya had to exhort that one should not limit oneself to learn how to recite the Veda but also learn its meaning.

All this means from very ancient times usually most learnt the Veda by rote without caring to know what it meant. Naturally, such reciters known as 'chandasas' or srotriyas were looked upon somewhat contemptuously, as is evident from literature.

They were dubbed as "ignorant of the Veda" and as its "sellers". For instance, the Bhojacaritra narrates that when some srotriyas came to seek an audience with king Bhoja, himself a scholar-poet and a great patron of poetry, literature and scholarship, his chamberlains "laughing in fun at them" (kautukat hasanto) went to the king and reported that "at the gate were standing chandasas, enemies of poetry, with ugly discoloured teeth and their hands placed on their hips"4. This image of mere Vedapathakas as lacking in commonsense, refinement, scholarship and proficiency in anything useful or productive, still by and large continues.


- The entire ocean of sacred texts; the Veda, Tantra, Purāṇa and epics (Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata) etc. are meant to reveal only what cannot be known through cognition and reason. There is no need for scriptural validation in empirical matters which can be known through science.

- Scripture cannot contradict knowledge gained from the two other sources; but its authority is infallible in matters pertaining to Dharma and Brahman.

- Scripture neither produces anything new nor alters what is. There are some modern scholars who attempt to demonstrate that subatomic physics and neuro-physiology are hidden in certain Vedic texts. But the Veda is neither validated by these findings if proved to be correct nor invalidated it they are proved to be wrong. The purport of the Veda is not science, physiology,
biology, history etc.

The essence of the Veda has to be assiduously contemplated upon for years in a sustained way with faith, by one who has
refined the mind through ethical living; one may then eventually ‘realise’ it.

Itihāsa purāṇābhyām vedam sam-upabṛmhayet |
Bibhetyalpa śrutād vedo mām ayam prahariṣyati ||

One should interpret the Veda through means of the Itihāsas3 and Purāṇas. The Veda dreads a person of little learning fearing “he will misunderstand me!”
(Vasiṣṭha Dharma sūtra 27:6)

Sages & Direct Realisation

The Rishis (sages) through Yoga had a direct realisation (sākṣātkāra) of the Ultimate Truth (Brahman) and the way to attain that experience (Dharma) and through personal instruction (upadeśa) they taught it to others. Direct realisation may occur to an ordinary person, a contemplative or a god.

One who has directly realised the Truth and desires to communicate that experience
without some ulterior motive, is considered to be a “reliable person” (āpta) whose testimony is acceptable.
There is an interesting text which says:—
“When the Rishis were flying up, human beings asked the gods, ‘who among us will now become a Rishi?’ The gods bequeathed this tarka-Rishi (logic/reason) to humankind.

The tarka so given was that which was drawn out by inference from reflection on the meaning of mantras. Therefore, whatever a learned person infers (arrives at through reflection) becomes ‘sageness’ (arsam).” (Kumarila -
Tantra-vārttika 1.2.49)

This is an important text which permits one versed in the Veda to ponder over its meaning and deduce from it something new as the need arises, and that will be just as good as the teaching of a Rishi.

In yore there were sages to guide you; now in their place reason shall do so — this is
what the gods ordained.


There is a passage in the Bṛhadaraṛyaka Upaṇiṣad— “Meditate on Speech as a cow.... Her calf is mind”,
Sankaracharya interprets it as follows:—
The word ‘Speech’ means the Vedas .... It is mind (the calf) which makes (stimulates) the Veda (the cow) to reveal its meaning (its milk), for the
Vedas proceed forward only in a subject thought of by the mind”. Unless the calf approaches the cow, takes its teats into its mouth one after another, sucks, and gently butts its mother’s udder with its head now and then, milk does not flow. Similarly, only a mind which has become active and
reflected deeply and long over a relevant matter (eg., Dharma and /or the Brahman), can study the Veda and absorb and digest its meaning. To the unprepared inactive mind the Veda would mean nothing, just as a cow cannot give its milk to its calf which does not approach it and become proactive in the right manner.

In Vedānta, reason (tarka) is employed —
(i) to ascertain the true purport of Scripture which is our only source of knowledge concerning Dharma and Brahman,
(ii) to remove doubts and contrary beliefs and
(iii) to convince us of the probability of the existence of what is to be known, i.e., Brahman.

The dialectic used by Vedanta must be —
(1) based on Scripture;
(2) must elucidate the content of Scripture, and
(3) must not be opposed to it.
Both Mīmāmsa and Vedānta are hermeneutic philosophies, in which exegesis, apologetics, epistemology, metaphysics and ethics are synthesised.
According to both the great teachers, Gauḍapāda and Śankara, the true meaning of
the Veda must be ascertained with methodical reasoning, and nothing else.


If a text exists it must have had a author. We in fact do not know who the authors of the Purāṇas were, so we simply say it was “Vyāsa” — the compiler. In the books on Law (Smṛti) written by various sages, in the 18 Traditional Texts (Purāṇas) and the two great epics (Itihāsas) Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata the direct injunctions are buried in a mass of verbiage of a purely descriptive character.

These descriptive passages are relegated to the category of arthavāda as such need not be taken as absolutely correct with regard to biological, geographical or historical fact.
These works were intended for the general public, who are of varying degrees of intelligence and thus Vyāsa and the others inserted every kind of material in their works from pure injunctions to apparently useless and banal stories.

The sole purpose was to make these works attractive to all people. Another element was aesthetics and pleasure in an age in which the main form of
entertainment was story-telling, to delight people with beautiful descriptions and entertaining fables.

There were and are some teachers of the Madhva and Gauḍiya sampradāyas who emphasize Purāṇa as the highest Scriptural authority but this is not accepted by the two major schools of Vedānta. The highest authority is the Veda only, because the transmission of the Vedas over 1000’s of years has been perfect and there has been no interpolation.

Itihāsa purāṇābhyām vedam sam-upabṛmhayet |
Bibhetyalpa śrutād vedo mām ayam prahariṣyati ||

The Veda is to be interpreted through means of the Itihāsas and Purāṇas. The Veda dreads a person of little learning fearing — “he will misunderstand me!” (Vasiṣṭha Dharma sūtra 27:6)

The primary sources of knowledge are the Vedas Upaṇiṣads, the Purāṇas and Itihāsas are authoritative only in so far as they confirm and elucidate the Vedic teachings.

They are not accepted as independent sources of knowledge by Śankara and Rāmanuja as Mādhava claims they are.


If we accept this account literally then there are a number of problems that need to be

1. How could one individual in a pre-computer age compose and transmit so many millions of verses without ever writing them down — writing came much later — the Puranas were transmitted orally for thousands of years before they
were written down.

2. Since they were transmitted orally from teacher to disciple for thousands of years how can we be certain that nothing in them has been changed since Vyāsa originally composed them?

3. If Vyāsa was in fact an incarnation of God and therefore omniscient, how
come there is so much confusion and so many conflicting statements in the Puranas? There are biological errors, scientific errors, geneological errors, historical errors, geographical errors, legendary errors etc.

4. If Vyāsa was God then why did he compose scriptures praising Śiva and saying that Vishnu is his podiatrist, then praising Vishnu saying that Siva is his cleaner, then praising Devi saying that both Siva and Vishnu are her gate-keepers etc.?? How come God himself doesn't know who the Supreme Being really is and communicate that to us in clear and uncompromising terms?

5. Surely God being omniscient could have forseen this theological confusion and
not created it in the beginning? If he did it on purpose then the only reason would be to prove that Brahma, Viṣṇu, Śiva and the Devi are all ONE Divine Godhead playing different but equal roles.

6. Vyāsa did not compose all the Purāṇas — the oldest and the most authentic of the Puranas — the Vishnu Purāṇa was narrated by Parāśara — the alleged father of Vyāsa. (It is claimed that Vyāsa later redacted and rearranged it).

7. The Brahma-sūtras which were written to clarify the teachings of the Vedānta
(Upaṇiṣads) are extremely abstruse, unclear and subject to many interpretations.
Surely an omniscient being could have provided explicit clarification rather than cause further confusion and sectarian fission.

8. Most of the Purāṇas mention the Buddha who was an historical character but are confused about his actual parentage and biographical details as well as his teachings. Buddhist monks — śramanas are also mentioned. Any mention of the Buddha and his sangha would prove that the texts must have been composed after 500 B.C.E. The apologists claim that the Buddha mentioned in the Purāṇas is not the historical Gautama Buddha.

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