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Re: ARTICLE : Puraanas

Posted By H. Krishna Susarla (susarla.krishna@tumora.swmed.edu)
Fri, 3 Jan 1997 15:21:02 -0600

Namaste. Sorry for the late reply. I was not able to access my news server
for some time, so I decided to try out Deja News. I was rather refreshed to
see that I had received a reply from you that was at least relatively civil
this time.

Ramakrishnan wrote:

>I fail to see what my comments on some totally unconnected thread has to
do
>with this thread on Satya Sai name calling. I am sure you'll come up with
some
>ingenious explanation for it. Anyway,

Well, my rather not-so-ingenious explanation is as follows:

When I first posed this question to you, you had conveniently disappeared.
I never saw a reply, and I figured that you owed us all one for what seemed
like a very rash remark on your part. Since you had resurfaced in the Sai
thread just long enough to attack Michael Tandy (something which I'm sure
you enjoyed doing), I thought it prudent to catch you again before you
left.

Perhaps I should have renamed the thread appropriately. My apologies. But
in any case, we can continue with the discussion.

>Take the Padma puraaNa for example. In one place (I paraphrase) "A man who
>worships any God other than Vasudeva is like a man sinking a well in the
banks
>of the Ganges". In another place, the same puraaNa says "Uttering the name
of
>vishhNu, the wrath of shiva is kindled, so let not even the name of
vishhNu be
>uttered". Notice that these verses are present in all recensions (Bengali
and
>Western) and hence one cannot dismiss the one of the statements as an
>interpolation. See Ludo Rocher, The Puranas, History of Indian Literature
for
>details about these verses.

For the time being, I will take it as a given that there are verses in the
Padma glorifying other deities besides Vishnu as supreme. However, as I am
sure I have pointed out on many an occasion, the Bhagavad-Gita which is
accepted as pramaana by practically every school of Vedanta declares one
deity - Krishna or Vishnu to be supreme - to the clear exclusion of all
other deities.

Therefore, if a more reliable source of information says one thing which
contradicts a less reliable source of information, then I am sure you
realize which should be accepted to the exclusion of what. This I suppose
is why the puraanas are accepted as supporting authorities. The only
exception is the Bhaagavatam, which declares only Krishna/Vishnu to be
supreme, and is considered by some sampradaayas (including the Gaudiiyas)
to be fully consistent with shruti.

>The first one (fools and the Ganges) directly contradicts verses from the
>shvetaashvatara upanishhad, atharva shira upanishhad, kaivalya upanishhad,

>rudra prashnaH, and a host of other shruti. The second (wrath of shiva
etc)
>directly contradicts purushha suuktam.h, some verses in the naaraayaNa
>upanishhad, nR^isimha taapaniiya upanishhad, and a host of others.

Hence, nothing in puraana is accepted as pramaana if there is a conflict
with shruti.

Also, it is not clear to me how the verse about the Ganges contradicts the
SU. I have pointed out before that context requires the references in SU to
Shiva and so on to be interpreted as references to Vishnu. Why? Vishnu's
name is invoked in the very beginning, and He is described in the SU as the
one who gave birth to and instructed Lord Brahmaa. Lord Shiva is obviously
not being described in this scripture.

However, the comment that you made was that Gaudiiyas were not concerned
with Vedanta because they "prefer to stick to puraanas." As I am sure you
are aware, Gaudiiyas are especially oriented around the Bhaagavata Puraana,
with other Puraanas quoted as supporting evidence. Thus, in order to
substantiate comment #1 (regarding the Gaudiiyas not being genuine
Vedantists), you would have to show what in their philosophy is
contradicted by shruti. After all, you did say that you accepted puraana as
long as it did not conflict with shruti, and that this is the "position of
all genuine vedanta schools." If some of the puraana is pramaana, then a
philosophy based on that is still Vedanta, seeing as how it is concerned
with that which is at the end of the Vedas.

Thus in this
>case the verses in the Padma puraaNa are merely artha vaada. artha vaada
is
>some statement made to glorify something as worthy of being done, i.e., in
this
>case the verses serve merely to assert that the worship of shiva or
vishhNu is
>desirable. See any miimaamsa text for details, eg, miimaamsa paribhaashhaa
by
>kR^ishhNa yajvan. In short the artha vaada is to say "Do this, it's good
for
>you". It's not to be taken literally since it contradicts well known
shruti and
>is hence not pramaaNa.

See above. In order to say that a school which bases its philosophy on the
puraanas is not Vedantic, it would have to be shown that the evidence it
uses is apramaana. If you assume that some of the statements are
artha-vaada (leaving aside for the moment the question of whether or not
artha-vaada is the only means of explaining such statements), that may be
fine for such statements where a clear cut shruti conflict can be
demonstrated. However, the same label cannot be applied to any or all of
the Puraanas arbitrarily unless shruti conflicts can also be demonstrated
for them as well.

>Or you could take the approach, hara, shiva, rudra, niilakaNTha etc in the
>shruti praising shiva, is actually praising vishhNu. Of course the
shaivites
>take the exact opposite view and claim naaraayaNa, vishhNu etc refer to
shiva.
>One could deliver long polemics based on etymology and it just depends on
your
>preference, whose side you take (shaiva or vaishhNava).

I don't honestly think that it simply depends on preference. If the
Absolute Truth is simply subjective, then it would not be Absolute by
definition. Or if you mean that there is an Absolute Truth but the means by
which we choose to realize it is subjective, then that would make any
excercise in choosing religion a pointless endeavour since it would be
influenced by our conditioning by maayaa. To put it another way, one who is
in illusion is in no condition to arbitrarily select a religion which will
lead him to self-realization. I would like to think that there would be
some help in allowing us to determine which explanation of the means and
the end is most valid, and there is.

The Bhagavad-Giitaa is accepted by both Vaishnava and advaitist schools as
pramaana, and since it claims to speak on the subject of the Vedas, it
should be taken as a guide in this matter. Your own Shrii Shankaraachaarya
wrote one of the first extant commentaries on it, as I am sure you realize.
Thus, it would seem that the test of a philosophy's validity should be in
how well it explains Bhagavad-Giitaa. If the advaitists explicitly rejected
the Giitaa, then I would not propose such a test. However, they do accept
it, so they must agree that it is also giving the essence of the Vedas as I
believe Shrii Shankaaraachaarya himself wrote.

Or you could follow the
>more logical, way of advaita :-).

I hope you don't take this as a prelude to hostility, or as an invitation
to more mud-slinging, but the fact is that I have not ever been shown by
you how advaita is more logical than any dualistic system of Vedanta. You
may recall that I posted some very serious questions to you about certain
advaitist tenets some months ago on this forum. Your reply was that my
questions were too esoteric, and instead of answering them, you chose
instead to continue an inflammatory tirade that had nothing in the way of
philosophical value. Meanwhile, someone from the Ramakrishna/Vivekananda
group tried his best to answer my questions, but he contradicted himself
so frequently that it was clear he could not be taken as a serious
representative of advaita. I don't have the URL's of this conversation
right now, but I will be happy to look for them in case you don't remember
what I am talking about.

In fact, this has been the general pattern of our encounters, with me
posing a question regarding how you resolve a certain doubt in advaita and
you replying with flames about how my posts are simply beneath you or some
such thing. If you want me to be convinced of the logic of advaita, then
you must be prepared to debate about the logic of advaita - instead of
simply flaming me and then later boasting that you "defeated" me.

The fact is, I would really like to discuss advaita, if for no other reason
than the fact that it helps me to develop new questions for my elders
regarding achintya bedha-abedha. I think one can gain a better
understanding of one's own philosophy of choice by trying to understand the
contrary points of view. I would like to discuss, for example, why there
are two accounts of the relationship between jiivas and Brahman -
pratibimba vaada and pariccheda vaada - and which one best represents
Shankaraa's take on advaita. I would also like to discuss the concept of
maayaa being anirvachaniiya (sp?) and what the scriptural evidence is for
this concept of a third category of "not real or unreal." I also would like
to know how one convinces a skeptic that an illusory world replete with
qualities can have its origin in something which is nirguna. Naturally, I
will present my views as a skeptic. If this distresses you, then I suggest
it might be worth your while to consider my questions quietly, and allow
someone with more experience to answer instead. Being skeptical does not
necessarily mean being offensive. Despite everything you have said with the
intention of angering me, I have never said anything to slander or offend
any sannyaasi in Shankara's line. You can search all of the SRH/ARH
archives if you wish, but you will never see me taking swipes at
Shankaraachaarya or Gaudapaada, or in any modern-day disciplic descendent
of these personalities. On the other hand, I have seen you quite explicitly
attack Prabhupada, and I even posted the URLs showing those situations.
When you refused to apologize for those comments, I took it to mean that
you were more interested in picking fights than in discussing the "logic of
advaita." I do believe, however, that people can change, and I don't have
the energy or the desire to hold a grudge. However, I would like to see
more discussion of philosophy, rather than sarcastic remarks, verbatim
reposting of distorted criticism, flame bait, etc. You will probably accuse
me of the same, and all I can say in response is that the archives are up
for everyone to see. I may have been abrasive in response to remarks which
were themselves offensive, but I never attempted to provoke you into
mud-slinging.

>In any case all the schools sha.nkara, Raamaanuja or Ananda tiirtha's,
while
>they may have different views about puraaNas, do not use the puraaNas to
argue
>with their opponents. This is merely because they know that the puraaNas
>themselves have verses praising different deities in different places (eg,
the
>Padma PuraaNa).

First of all, I must point out that this is something of a digression.
After all, what some schools do is besides the point; there may be others
who do use the puraanas to argue with their opponents, and in order to
ignore the latter and use only the example of the former, it would have to
be shown how only the former are scholarly and the latter are not. If we
take you statement that the Puraanas are pramaana as long as they do not
conflict with the shruti, then it is not clear how using the saattvik
portions of the puraanas (here defined as those which are consistent with
the Vedas, as HPR stated on the Maadhva mailing list during the raasa-liila
thread) makes one less of a scholar. If anything, the reliance on
statements which are contradicted by shruti might be taken as an indication
of scholarship (or lack thereof), but it is not clear how this would be so
for Puraanic statements for which no conflict is demonstrated. If one feels
it necessary to demonstrate or disprove the validity of a statement, he can
always turn to shruti. But he can't arbitrarily reject something from
Puraanas based on whim alone.

The explanation of arthavaada I gave is probably not acceptable
>to non-advaitic schools. However, they will argue only on the basis of
shruti
>and claim any smR^iti contradicting the vedas (whatever they may think
that the
>vedas mean) are apramaaNa.

So it is then necessary to argue on the meaning of the shruti then, yes?
But such arguments are only mandated when two people have a different idea
of what a particular shruti-vaakya means. There still is no harm in
starting off with the Puraanas.

This may surprise you, but Gaudiiya Vaishnavas do not "prefer to stick to
the Puraanas," at least, not to the extent of excluding all else. Baladeva
wrote commentaries on the 10 of the principal Upanishads, and other
aachaaryas such as the six Gosvaamiis, Bhaktivinod, Bhaktisiddhanta, and
Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada were familiar with them and quoted them in their
writings. However, for the widespread distribution of Vedic knowledge, they
do rely on the Bhaagavatam since non-dviija classes cannot study the
shruti. Even advanced souls relish the message of the Bhaagavatam, as
stated in the famous aatmaa-raama shloka, so it is excellent for study both
by the twice-born and the shudras. If there is a specific problem with
study of the Bhaagavatam, then it must be explicitly shown how it
contradicts shruti.

So the position of say a dvaitin, on the verses
>praising shiva in the Padma puraaNa, would be that it is apramaaNa. Note
>however that this explicitly accepts the superiority of the vedas, atleast
for
>arguments with other schools.

Puraanas are considered to be part of the Vedas, but most of them are
accepted conditionally since they are not shruti.

>OTOH, at least on the net, you people keep quoting some verse from Padma
puraaNa
>(supposedly, I am not sure that it exists since no one else, not even the
>Madhvas seem to have heard of this verse

The verse you are probably referring to is the "four sampradaayas" verse
which is not found in any extant version of the Puraana. However, it can
nevertheless be seen to be correct since the only schools mentioned are
those which have understood the Vaishnava, dualistic conclusions of the
Vedas. If you wish to say that the verse is wrong because some of the
schools mentioned therein have not understood the Vedas, or that there are
other schools with a proper understanding which have been omitted, then we
can debate on that basis. However, the practice of quoting verses from lost
sections of the Puraanas is certainly not unique to any one school; such
verses still cannot contradict the shruti in order be valid.

and given your school's record of
>quoting non-existent verses, eg, from the kR^ishhNa upanishhad),

"school's record of quoting..." Interesting. But let's face it, aren't you
being a little rash here? All we know is that there are two different
versions of the Upanishad, one which contains two chapters and the other
which contains only one. The latter is found in a book published by
Motilal, which also includes such texts as the "Allah Upanishad" calling
into question the validity in arbitrating Motilal as the authoritative
source of info on the Upanishads. There is no reason to say for certain if
the verses quoted are nonexistent, unless you are privy to some other
information of which I am not aware. If you are, I would like to know. I
myself am also looking into it. I suspect that either the Motilal folks
made a mistake or that they simply count the Upanishad differently. Some
Upanishads are nested within Braahmanas or Aaranyakas, and several chapters
from these works are often arbitrarily labeled as an Upanishad. If this is
the case, then the question might be whether the verse is from an Upanishad
or Braahmana/Aaranyaka. However, that question would be irrelevant since
both are shruti and thus pramaana.

which would
>be dismissed as artha vaada by us. Of course for this one has to know how
>_vedantic_ schools operate. On being told by everyone (including the
Madhvas,
>whose name your school uses to claim an "unbroken lineage")

Like the previous comment about "quoting nonexistent verses" this one also
is conspicuous for its dishonesty. Gaudiiyas don't *use* the Maadhva name
to claim an unbroken lineage; they list their paramparaa from Madhva
because that is the correct listing. No claim was made of representing
Madhva's philosophical position; as anyone familiar with Vedic philosophies
knows, even someone who wishes to teach a new understanding of the Vedanta
must still be initiated in a bona fide sampradaaya. Madhva was first
initiated by a Shankarite, and began writing his dvaita-vaada commentaries
even before meeting Vyaasa (or so my understanding goes); Vallabha came in
Vishnuswami's line, etc. I'm sure there are other examples, but in all
cases the scripture is still the basis for judging the correctness of a
philosophy. In order to study the scripture one must be initiated in some
sampradaaya.

If you wish to keep claiming that the paramparaa listing through Madhva is
incorrect, then it behooves you to show how this is so. I will thank you to
do this yourself, rather than repeating verbatim previous articles or
referring me to some posting buried within heaps of archived newsgroup
articles. At least if you are going depend on someone else to think for you
in this matter, I request that you put forward the specific points
concerning the sampradaaya affiliation rather than leaving it for me to
knock down ghosts.

I have already pointed out that H.H. Vishvesha Tiirtha spoke very highly of
Srila Prabhupada and the Gaudiiya paramparaa at the Maayaapur Samaadhi
inauguration. I have this on very good authority from devotees who were
actually there, and I even managed to obtain a transcript. In response to
this, you simply said that the information was unreliable, but gave no good
reason as to why. If this is going to be your response to any evidence
which contradicts your position, and there is no way to prove this to you
short of you hopping into a time machine and going back to the exact time
and place where it was said to have happened, then it is clear that you
really aren't debating in good faith.

that this verse
>won't cut any ice, you people repeat it once again and again and again. At
>which point people belonging to _vedantic_ schools throw up their hands
and
>retire. Of course this "our school is authorized" (sic) is taken at face
value
>by Westerners and Indians who do not have much idea of vedanta.

Once again, you are misrepresenting Gaudiiyas in an attempt to evade the
real issue. Yes, Gaudiiyas quote the four sampradaayas verse and state that
theirs is an authorized school. But they also prove it by going to shaastra
and showing the evidence for everything they say, something which you
ironically refer to as "Giitaa-thumping" in the next part of your message.
If it is Giitaa-thumping to debate on the basis of scripture, then it is
clear that there is no way according to you of demonstrating the validity
of any philosophy. In that case, we might as well return to the utilitarian
Hindu sentiment of accepting everything at face value as long as it agrees
with us simply because we can find one or two good things about it.

No insult is
>meant to many of the of the Westerners who are second to none in their
>understanding of Vedanta, I am talking about the more general audience,
>especially the giita-thumpers you can see in airports a lot of times.

What you are talking about is a straw man, and we both know it. What's the
matter, Ramakrishnan, did you try to challenge one of those airport
devotees and find yourself in a humbler position than you were in before
the challenge? Or do you just object to devotees discussing Bhagavad-Giitaa
with Westerners, since members of your school have been unsuccessful in
arousing the interest of these people in your version of its teachings?
Either way, Chanakya Pandit's famous maxim seems relevant here: he states
that it is the people who have no potency of their own who criticize those
who do. The fact that you rarely discuss a specific problem with these
airport encounters of yours suggests that you are simply ventilating. I
fail to see how any of this is even relevant to the subject of the
Puraanas.

>Now I hope you are not trying your usual ring-around-the-rosy technique
with me
>again. I am slightly hard pressed for time and would appreciate it if you
>desist from your usual tactics. Namely, asserting that the quotes I gave
don't
>exist,

Well, let's see now. You just made that assertion about the Krishna
Upanishad, despite the fact that you have no authoritative knowledge of
your own to make that judgement. Did you actually go so far as to speak to
a pandit about the length of the Upanishad, or did you base your attack
solely on Motilal, simply because you relished the opportunity to
criticize? It seems to me that you are more interested in picking fights
and winning them rather than in determining the truth.

without referring to the books I quoted, diversionary tactics of various
>sorts, etc.

Speaking of diversionary tactics, Ramakrishnan, what did the sampradaaya
affiliation of Gaudiiyas and Maadhvas have to do with the current subject?
What do alleged accounts of "Giitaa-thumping" in airports have to do with
it?

I find it continually amusing that you bring up all sorts of diversionary
tactics, then assert that it is I who do these things. I can't tell if you
really are this dishonest, hoping that people are stupid enough to just
accept what you say, or if you just write your postings so quickly that you
don't stop and think about what you are saying. Either way, I'm observing
the same pattern here as in your previous postings, namely, that you end an
argument by accusing me of doing all the things which you yourself had just
done.

When I first started responding to this, I was optimistic that maybe I was
dealing with a new Ramakrishnan who would stick to the subject and stay
civil, discussing only philosophy and refraining from flame bait. Having
reached the end, I am considerably less hopeful, seeing as how your old
pattern
has reemerged. I fully expect that your response will be full of the usual
condescending remarks, sarcasm, and flaming, and accusations that I am the
one who is responsible for these things. If such is the case, I will just
have to assume that a philosophical answer is unavailable, and that you are
attacking me simply because you don't want to admit when you are wrong.

regards,

H. Krishna Susarla
UTSW Class of '99
http://www.swmed.edu/home_pages/personal/krishna

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