Veda is like the Sun – Epistemology of Indian Darshanas #4

Sri Chandrashekara Bharati

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

These are quick notes for Brahma Sutra Bhaashya (authored by Sri Shankaracharya) classes that were taught by Swami Paramasukhananda, which I was a student of during 2011-2013. What I feel like recording I record. They are not a substitute for live classes, but done as my cogitation.

For other such short notes, check –

  • Prasad.


Veda is like the Sun

This is the fourth in a series of posts (refer post 1, post 2, post 3). As mentioned before, the Veda is regarded traditionally as shabda pramaana, the means of knowledge, for things which lie beyond the ken of pratyaksha (sense-organs) and the logic applied on them.

The use of shabda in the world often is based on pratyaksa. For instance, person A trusts person B, who informs him about how Himalayas was. Person A has never visited the place, so he gets knowledge about the Himalayas from Person B’s words. Thus, person B’s words function as pramaana for person A. However, Person B has himself seen the Himalayas, thus his words are based on Pratyaksha. Thus, the shabda pramaana is a secondary pramaana, based on person B’s direct sensory perception.

The Veda however is different. The words in the Veda are not traditionally not held to be conceived by any individual author (or a group of authors) based on some knowledge they directly perceived. Rather they are held as something which was simply passed on, from Ishwara to the first Acharyas, and then from them to the next disciples, and so on in the Guru-shishya Parampara. Thus, the Veda is held to be a primary pramaana, a prathama pramaana. At all points of the lineage of Guru-shishyaas, the Veda is in transit, merely passing on from one generation of Gurus to the next. At no point, the knowledge is said to have originated from a person or a group of individuals. This aspect of the Veda is known as “apaurusheyatva” of the Veda, or the quality of being not authored by a individuals. Therefore the Veda is also called “Shruti”, or “That which is heard” (not that which is composed). The scriptures obtained by individual or group compositions based on the primary knowledge obtained from the Veda are called “Smritis”. For instance, Dharma Shaastras, etc.

The Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad says   –

.. अरेऽस्य महतो भूतस्य निश्वसितमेतद्यदृग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्वाङ्गिरस ..  – Bridaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.10
“The Vedas are like the breath of Ishwara…”

This seems like a tall claim. But this is how it is viewed in tradition. Thus the Brahmasutra (authored by Bhagavan Veda Vyaasa) and its commentator, Sri Shankaracharya say – 

“शब्द इति चेन्नातः प्रभवात्प्रत्यक्षानुमानाभ्याम् ” – Brahmasutra  –

In the Bhaashya to this above Brahmasutra, Shankaracharya says – “Pratyaksha” here means Shruti, or the Veda. Anumaana means Smritis, which contain the knowledge gained via application of the logical pramaanas to the Veda.

” वेदस्य हि निरपेक्षं स्वार्थे प्रामाण्यम् , रवेरिव रूपविषये “- Bhaashya to Brahmasutra

“The Vedas are like primary pramaana, dependent on no other pramaana for revealing its knowledge. Just like the Sun reveals the form and colour of objects of the day, similarly the Veda reveals it knowledge dependent on no other”. 

Therefore we look at Veda as a prathama pramaana, one which needs no further confirmation. What the Veda reveals is final.

But how to find out what the Veda reveals? Because the Veda is in the form of words, it is subject to misinterpretation and correct interpretation also. Thus, a systematic method called Mimaamsa has been structured to glean this correct knowledge from the Veda. This post talks about this.

What is the guarantee that the gleaned knowledge is indeed correct? For this, we must take recourse to the definition of pramaana, covered previously. We do this in the next post.


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