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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Validity of the Veda and of other Sacred Texts

The debates on the validity of the Veda and of other Sacred Texts depend either on the Mīmāṃsā or on the Nyāya approach (or on both). That is, either they employ the argument of the authorlessness of Sacred Texts in order to prove their validity, or they ground it on their author, God himself. An instance of it is the following passage of Jayaratha's commentary on Abhinavagupta's Tantrāloka (§IV) (on this theme, see also my italian blog,

On the other hand there can be such a possibility in regard to a [statement] which has not been employed by an intelligent [author]. Hence [Abhinavagupta] stated:

[Such] suspicion of having a false meaning, in fact, could always occur in regard to the doctrine (nigama) which has been completed in this way without [the participation of] any intelligent [author], [and hence] bears the nature of ether [which is also uncreated but certainly not a valid instrument of knowledge just because of being uncreated] || 233 ||

Indeed, in regard to this doctrine, that is, in regard to the Vedic teaching, always, that is, at the time of hearing a prescriptive or commendatory sentence, there occurs a doubt of reflective (prekṣāpūrvakārin) [people] of having a false meaning, that is, regarding its having an untrue meaning –this is possible, since this (Veda), has been completed in this way, that is, as having the nature of prescriptions and commendatory statements according to the other opinion without [the participation of] any intelligent [author], that is, as something which has not been authored by an intelligent person, like the roar of a thunder. For this very reason it has been said [that it] bears the nature of ether, because of being almost empty [of meaning] through its having no meaning. With exactly such intention it has been said in another text:

«People have faith in the Vedic sentences relying on that very revered Lord, without beginning, who is a reliable speaker | On the other hand, no clever one at all would reach confidence because of their having no author. So has been explained before || » || 233 ||

But when the Supreme Lord alone, who is tantamount to an uninterrupted knowledge, is present in the form of an Instruction (sāstra), which suspicion of falsity could there be? Hence, [Abhinavagupta] stated:

God, who is the Instruction, quite full of the entire nature [which derives out of His] uninterrupted knowledge, abodes [in the Sacred Texts]: there cannot be anywhere [any] falsity || 234 ||

There cannot be anywhere [any] falsity: for this, the cause is the first part. || 234 ||

But we have learnt that the Lord is the author of all Instructions (śāstra). Not, on the other hand, that He alone is their essence. This never heard before (apūrva) statement, why has it been said? Having so doubted, [Abhinavagupta] stated:

Like the Lord, desirous [of it], wishes to exist in the form of the existence |

So he abodes [as the Instructions], since he wishes to exist in the form of setting forth (abhidhā-) His own nature of it || 235 ||

This means: like indeed the Supreme Lord is desirous to exist in the form of the existence of knower and knowable, etc., –which is tantamount to [everything] which can be expressed– because of the greatness of His desire, so he exists as the nature of everything which can be expressed. So, that is, in the same way, through the repetition (āvṛtti) of the word “so”, he is desirous of existing in the form of setting forth, that is, expressing, His own nature –which excludes (apavah-) everything else– of the whole expressible, being the knower and the knowable–, so he abodes as the nature of Instructions, which is the fact of being expressive. || 235 ||

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