What is Sruti? was (Re: superstitions (1 of 2))
Subject: What is Sruti? was (Re: superstitions (1 of 2))
From: email@example.com (Vidyasankar Sundaresan)
Date: 7 Nov 1994 12:10:52 GMT
Organization: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
In this debate about advaita being a "superstition", Mr. Tandon now has
come up with an ingenious way of dealing with his own contradiction. In
one post he says I am nitpicking on a technical basis.
I - |> Vyasa did not write the Vedas, he compiled them. The Vedas are
Tandon - thanks for the technical nit pick.
How much this is a technical nitpick is clear on some slight reflection.
The Vedas derive all their authority from the fact that no mortal, not
even an avatara, is supposed to have written them down. It is also not
claimed in our tradition that the Vedas were written by God. It is with
good reason that this is so. The centuries of Indian theologians and
philosophers come to this understanding of the Vedas after much mature
thinking and reflection. In effect, claiming equal authority for the
Puranas by saying that Vyasa wrote the Vedas, just does not elevate the
Puranas to Vedic status, but rather has the opposite effect of bringing
down the authority of the Vedas to that of the Puranas.
Now, what exactly are the Vedas? In short, there are four Vedas - Rg,
Yajus, Sama and Atharva. Each of them consists of Samhita, Brahmana and
Aranyaka. The Samhita usually contains the ritual portions and are
collectively called the karma kANda - the section pertaining to ritual
action. The Brahmanas and Aranyakas contain explanations of the rituals,
and also philosophical treatises leading to Brahman realization. The
Upanishads are part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas. For example, the
Aitareya upanishad is part of the Aitareya Aranyaka. The Brhad Aranyaka
Upanishad reveals by its very name that it is itself an Aranyaka. It
includes many Brahmanas in its text. Under the circumstances, the
Upanishads are also Sruti. Consequently,
Tandon - Neither the Vedanta Sutra nor the Upanisads come under the
category of "Sruti".
is a completely bogus claim, arising out of an appalling ignorance of the
basic texts of our religion. The Upanishads ARE Sruti. They are called the
jnana kanda - the section pertaining to knowledge. The Vedanta Sutras are
not claimed to be Sruti by anyone, so all Mr. Tandon's shouting is against
nothing. The Vedanta Sutras by themselves are meaningless without the
upanishads they refer to, let alone being "crystal clear", as Mr. Tandon
Further, Mr. Tandon says,
"Sruti" in itself does not implies Higher status.
"Smriti" implies to 'memory' or what is written from memory.
I request him to think then, why are two different names given to the two?
Contrary to his wishful thinking, Sruti is "apaurusheya", not composed by
men, while smrti is not so. Why are only the Samhitas, the Brahmanas and
the Aranyakas (including the Upanishads, btw) said to be apaurusheya? If
that is not indicatory of Higher status, what is? Why is there a specific
Sutra of Purva MeemaamSa that says that in case of conflict among various
smrtis or between Sruti and smrti, the Sruti is of greater authority?
Unlike the frog in the well attitude exhibited by the "the Puranas do not
contradict each other" crowd, analysers of the religious texts from some
1500 years ago, came up with this formula for reconciling conflict.
Thus, the Upanishads are Sruti. Tandon has been asking for references, and
accusing me of not providing any, while conveniently sidestepping all the
statements that I have quoted till now. So I quote here some more from the
Sruti, the upanishads.
>From the Chandogya Upanishad, "aitad Atmyam idam sarvam, sa AtmA, tat tvam
asi, Svetakoto" is the teaching repeated nine times, not once or twice, in
this upanishad. This means, "All this is ensouled by That. That is the
AtmA. Thou art That, Svetaketu". This is very clearly a teaching of
Identity or Unity, quite contrary to the doctrine of eternal difference of
Aitareya upanishad - Sarvam khalu idam brahma - All this is nothing but
Brahman. Still Madhva and his followers claim that this universe and the
souls are eternally different from Brahman.
BrhadAraNyaka upanishad - "yatra tu dvaitam iva bhavati, tad itra itaram
sprSati, jigrati...... yatra vA asya sarvam AtmaivAbhUt, tatra kena kam
paSyet, kena kam jigret, ..... vijnAtAram are kena vijAnIyat?" This
follows directly after the famous neti, neti sentence, and means -
Where there SEEMS to be duality, there one sees the other, one touches the
other, one smells the other..... But where the AtmA itself is all this, by
what is whom to be seen, to be felt, to be touched.....? How is the
knowing subject to be known?
This upanishad clearly tells us that in the state of moksha, there is *NO*
duality. All the duality we experience around us is only a "SEEMS to be",
when compared to the state of moksha. Note that while the Aitareya says
all this is Brahman, this upanishad says, in moksha, the AtmA itself is
all this. This is precisely what is interpreted correctly by Sankara as
the non-difference of Atman and Brahman. All the duality in the world
vanishes upon liberation. The extinction of duality is complete, so
complete as per the BrhadAraNyaka upanishad, that the liberated jIva does
not exist as a separate individual any more. It "becomes" one with
Brahman, that which was its true essence all along, but which the jIva
knew not till then. Sankara's bhAshya on this upanishad is most lucid in
its explanation. The best "external justification" for advaita, that Mr.
Tandon challenges me to provide, thus turns out to be the upanishads
themselves. I'm sure that with his keen intelligence, Mr. Tandon himself
realizes this. Maybe that is why he attempts to bring down the Upanishads
to the level of smrti, just like the Puranas that he is fond of.
The viSishTAdvaita explanation of the above passage is also very close to
the advaita explanation, barring the obvious different bases for the two
explanations. In any case, both Ramanuja and Sankara agree that duality is
untrue in moksha, it is realized as untrue all along, even though we
experience it in our world.
Still, advaita is just a "superstition" as per Mr. Tandon's authority,
supported by some spurious verses from one Padma Purana! Well, I hope he
has not fallen from his sattva mode, as a result of reading the advaita
tenets in this post.