Thursday, December 23, 2010

The knowability of God

When we accept the existence of God as a knowable Being, the next inquire should be regarding the efficacy of the means to ascertain any positive knowledge about Him. To clearly specify the authentic means for progressing in the path of Brahman realization, Srila Badarayana in the very beginning of his Vedanta treatise declares that shastra is the only way by which one can research about the Supreme. The central idea from the vaisnava perspective is that God is a person, and this implies that He possesses innumerable transcendental attributes which are manifested according to His supreme will. Being so, Lord Krsna reserves the right to make the rules for creation, maintenance and annihilation of the material world, as well as the proper means to get rid of it and attain pure love for Him. The Vedas are the emanation of the Supreme Lord’s breath, and therefore apauruseya or divine. The smrti and the Vedanta are all compiled by the Lord Himself in the form of Dvaipayana Vyasa, and thus there is no question of flaw in the scriptures, though one may find apparent contradictions from the mundane point of view, which can ultimately be reconciled through the lucid interpretation of the vaisnava acaryas. There are several means for acquiring knowledge, but sabda-pramana is the one chosen and given by God for those who desire to obtain knowledge about Him, and to accept this fact is the first step towards the comprehension of the final goal presented in all scriptures. Why is it so? Why not by other means, which might be more appealing to some people or can make more sense to others? Again, because God is a person and He decided that this is the way. Therefore, at least theoretically one should take to this principle from the very outset to be able to delve deeply in the conclusive Vedic knowledge. This is not an exclusive or innovative creed adopted in India, for the Christians and the Muslims similarly accept the bible and the Koran as the words of God or the scriptures composed through divine inspiration, and give proper value to revelation in their theological systems. Moreover, unless we take to this conclusion, words like ‘aupanisada’ (the One Who is known through the Upanisads) would become meaningless. Then, what is the relevance of the reasoning power, such as that used in logical inference? That is relevant as far as it is subordinated to sabda, as the smrti states :

purvaparavirodhena ko ’nv artho ’bhimato bhavet
ity-adyam uhanam tarkah suska-tarkam tu varjayet
(Quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.3)

“Conjecturing about the meaning of a scriptural passage by referring to the statements preceding and following it is called proper logic. One should abandon dry logic, however.”

Here dry logic refers to the process by which one tends to draw conclusions based on premises proceeding from one’s own mental speculation or external perception instead of those clearly defined by the scriptures.

If we thus accept the scriptural statements about God as the definite and flawless description of Him, then we have to accept His transcendental form, qualities, names, entourage, omnipotence, omniscience, etc. and worship Him accordingly, for the shastras abound in such descriptions.