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Re: ARTICLE : Puraanas (was Re: REQUEST : Sai baba)

Posted By H. Krishna Susarla (susarla.krishna@tumora.swmed.edu)
Fri, 3 Jan 1997 14:52:04 -0600

Vidya wrote:

>Since Ramakrishnan is taking a vacation, let me answer on his behalf for
>the time being. I'm sure he will answer you in detail after he comes
>back. There is no contradiction in his viewpoint.

His viewpoint very specifically indicated that the Puraanas are pramaana as
long as they do not conflict with the Vedas. Thus, taking his words as they
are, without any further embellishing to save face, the contradiction is
pretty evident.

If you quote most
>often from the Puranas, you will never know whether you are
>contradicting the Vedas or not. It is up to those who quote Puranas to
>back up their contentions by a proper exegesis of Sruti. If the Purana
>quoter does not want to learn Sruti first, there is no reason to explain
>about mImAmsA to him.

Well, as I have already pointed out, it is a mistake to think that Gaudiiya
Vaishnava aachaaryas do not study the shruti. Thus, it does not follow that
emphasis on study of the Bhaagavatam would lead one to overlook any alleged
conflicts with shruti. The fact that commentaries exist for it in even the
hard core shruti paramparaas (Madhva's, Raamaanuja's, etc.), and that no
one here has thus demonstrated a conflict, suggest that it is consistent
with shruti.

Furthermore, those who are not twice-born cannot learn the shruti first, so
they must naturally start with study of the Puraanas. Naturally then, study
of the Bhaagavatam is especially emphasized. It is also emphasized because
it deals with that which is at the end of the study of the Vedas, and thus
it is relishable even by advanced souls. If Ramakrishnan objects to this,
then he should show the shruti conflict, since Gaudiiya aachaaryas have
quoted plenty of shruti in their works to show its consistency with the

>That Puranas may be acceptable so long as they do not contradict the
>Vedas does not confer the same legitimacy to the Puranas as enjoyed by
>the Vedas. Any genuine Vedantic school has to first abide by Sruti, and
>only then may smRti be referred to. A school which quotes more often
>from Puranic texts than from the Upanishads is rightfully held in
>suspicion regarding its claim to being Vedanta.

Frankly, I am not at all impressed with the sentiments of individuals who
hold such suspicions, Vaishnava or otherwise. It strikes me as being rather
short sighted to think that study of the Puraanas is not Vedanta when no
clear cut case is made as to why this is so. Of course, it is possible that
such individuals have a different definition of the word Vedanta than I do.
More on this below.

You may recollect that
>even other Vaishnavas did not consider that Gaudiya Vaishnavism was
>Vedanta, which prompted Baladeva Vidyabhushana to write a commentary on
>the Brahmasutras.

However, the Brahma sutras are not shruti, and so this is not relevant
here. Furthermore, he did write commentaries on ten of the principal
Upanishads (only the Ishaavaasya is extant). Both he and Vishnvanaatha
Chakravarti Thaakura wrote commentaries on the Gopaala-taapani, and more
recently Bhaktivinod Thaakura wrote the Amnaya-sutra which contains ample
quotations from shruti, smriti, and aagama.

The claims being made that Gaudiiya Vaishnavism was not Vedanta were laid
to rest; they were simply based on an attitude that Vedanta means only
studying the shruti and treating Puraanas as second-class scriptures. I had
always understood Vedanta to refer to the goal of the study of the Vedas,
and thus I can't see how anyone (especially a Vaishnava) can claim that
study of the Bhaagavatam is not Vedanta. If someone wishes to make that
claim, then it seems only reasonable that they should be able to point out
the specific, alleged flaws in the Bhaagavatam that make it nonVedic.

Ramakrishnan's comment is just an observation that
>Gaudiyas tend to stick more often to Puranas than to tenets of Vedic

Frankly, I think Ramakrishnan's comment was motivated more by personal
dislike of me than of any sincere observation or concern in following Vedic
exegesis. I have seen no evidence in this forum that he was ever concerned
with Vedanta; for someone who wastes time reading the Kaama sutra, he is in
a pretty tenuous position to claim concern with Vedic exegesis.

In my opinion, his comment is quite warranted. Frankly, I
>don't see why every Vaishnava needs to be a Vedantin.

See above.

The two terms are
>not synonymous, you know. You can quote extensively from Puranas and be
>a Vaishnava or a Saiva or a Sakta or a Tantrik. But you cannot give
>Puranas an equal footing as pramANa with the Sruti, and be a Vedantin.

The Bhaagavatam can certainly be given equal footing; where is the shruti
conflict? Gaudiiyas only accept other Puraanas as supporting evidence. The
Bhaagavatam only is considered to be the spotless Puraana. Time and time
again it has been shown to be consistent with shruti. If it is consistent
with shruti, then it is purely Vedic and study of it leads to the same goal
as study of the Vedas. If it is not consistent, then and then only does
Ramakrishnan have a case.

>> In order to make that assertion, you would have to conclusively
>> show that such reliance on the puraanas leads to conclusions which are
>> contradiction to the Vedas, as per your definition of the "position of
>> genuine vedantic schools."
>Not so. The burden of proof is on the one who only quotes Puranas, not
>the other way round. You have to show that quoting from a Purana does
>not lead to contradiction of Sruti.

If one has to search the length and breadth of shruti to make sure there is
no conflict every time he quotes a smriti, then that would make it
prohibitively expensive (time wise) to quote any smriti at all.

It seems only logical to assume then that the burden of proof is on the
skeptic. After all, the Puraanas are authentically Vedic scriptures. Shrii
Jiiva Gosvaamii wrote Shrii Tattva Sandarbha showing how this is so, with
evidence from both shruti and smriti.

Ramakrishnan does not have to show
>the opposite.

So I have to quote every shruti in existence to him in order to prove that
there is no contradiction with the Bhaagavatam? Come on.

Please also remember that your classification of Sattvik
>Puranas vs. others is not worth much when talking about agreement with
>Sruti. For those who want you to base yourself upon Sruti, all Puranas
>are at an equal footing; whether you call one particular text Sattvik or
>not is immaterial.

The classification is not mine; it is in the Puraanas themselves and thus I
see no good reason to ignore it. There does not seem to be any
contradiction of this in shruti, at the very least. To say that all
Puraanas are on an equal footing is still short sighted since not all
Puraanas have the quality of consistency, one of Ramakrishnan's various
points of criteria in judging their authenticity.

>S. Vidyasankar


H. Krishna Susarla
UTSW Class of '99

{my views are my own}

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