True Authority, According to Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī

This is a translation of Tattva-sandarbha 10 & 11, with “my” comments inset. Please think about the implications of excluding “Statements of Scholars” and “Tradition” from śabdha-pramāṇa and the significance this has on 95% of what is most often spoken on contemporary disscussions of śāstra (like Bhāgavatam classes or public lectures).

~ ~ ~ ~ = ~ ~ ~ ~

People have four flaws, beginning with misperception.

The four perceptive flaws are (1) misperception (bhrama), confusing one thing for another, (2) delusion (pramāda), believing in our misperceptions, (3) dishonesty (vipralipsā), hiding or ignoring evidence of the flaws in our misperceptions, and (4) perceptual ineptitude (karaṇāpāṭava), the foundation of misperception.

Therefore, our ability to ascertain the veracity of anything is limited, particularly in regard to things of a spiritual nature which are, by their very nature, beyond the boundaries of normal perception. For that we certainly require assistance from the uncommon words of the Veda.

All the numerous ways of trying to know reality can be classified as a particular blend of the these three fundamental strategies: 

1) Empirical perception (pratyakṣa) 
2) Logical deduction  (anumāna)

3) Expert instruction  (śabda)

“Empirical perception” involves many forms of direct measurement (pratyakṣa) as well as indirect observation of the remote effect one entity exerts upon another (ceṣṭā).  

“Logical deduction” involves many forms of extrapolation. Some examples are comparisons (upamāna), probabilities (arthāpatti), inferences (abhāva), and inclusions (sambhava).

“Expert instruction” means to receive valid information from someone who is an expert authority on a subject. However, this does not deserve to be a separate category unless the expert authority ascertains veracity on the basis of something other than empirical perception or logical deduction. For example, statements of scholars (ārṣa) seem like “expert instruction,” but it is relegated to Perception or Deduction if the scholars base their instruction primarily on their own empiricism or logic. Tradition (aitihya) is similar. Many people may accept an idea for a very long time, but this sort of authority is differentiated from “expert instruction” and relegated to the other two categories if the source of the tradition is someone’s perception or deduction.

If “expert instruction” does not originate from empirical observation or logical deduction, where does it originate? Śrī Jīva explains…

The beginningless and perfect words of the Veda are self-manifest and communicated to all people through paramparā.

Knowledge (“Veda”) is inherently contained within objects manifest by Viṣṇu, it simply takes a very developed and clear intellect to perceive all the knowledge inherent in the universe. The clearest, most developed intellect, in the person of Śrī Brahmā Jī, makes exactly such perception and then expresses his understanding in words, thus putting Veda into a spoken form accessible to those with less superhuman intellect. Brahmā’s explanation becomes inaccessible to the intellects of humans at certain points in history, which is when Vyāsa reconfigures Brahmā’s Veda into a myriad of Veda, Upaniṣad, and Purāṇa.
The Veda grants accurate knowledge of all things, worldly and transcendent. Therefore the ultimate basis upon which we can ascertain the validity of a statement is the Veda, in all places, at all times, and for all subjects both wondrous and common.

“Logic and argument cannot prove or disprove transcendent things.”

— Vedānta Sūtra 2.1.11

“Argument is not capable of determining things that are beyond comprehension.”

— Mahābhārata Bhīṣma.5.22

“Such knowledge is born from Śāstra.”

— Vedānta Sūtra 1.1.3

“The Śruti is the ultimate root of the veracity of all concepts.”

— Vedānta Sūtra 2.1.27

“The Veda is the only eye through which anyone — human, ancestor, or god — can see the Supreme and come to understand the ultimate objective and means.”

— Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.20.4


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