Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Knowability of God

When we accept the existence of God as a knowable Being, the next inquiry 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, Śrīla Bādarāyaṇa in the very beginning of his Vedānta treatise declares that śāstra is the only way by which one can research about the Supreme. The central idea from the Vaiṣṇava 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 Kṛṣṇa 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, therefore apauruṣeya or divine. The smṛti and the Vedānta are all compiled by the Lord Himself in the form of Dvaipāyana Vyāsa  and thus there is no question of flaws in the scriptures, although one may find apparent contradictions from the mundane perspective, which can ultimately be reconciled through the lucid interpretation of the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas. There are several means for acquiring knowledge, but śabda-pramāṇa is the one chosen and given by God for those who desire to obtain knowledge about Him, and accepting 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 into 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 ‘aupaniṣada’ (the One Who is known through the Upaniṣads) 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 śabda, as the smṛti states :

pūrvottarāvirodhena ko’trārtho’bhimato bhavet

ity ādyam ūhanaṁ tarkaḥ śuṣka-tarkaṁ tu varjayet

“Without contradicting the previous and subsequent statements, what must be the intended meaning in this scriptural passage?— Such deliberation is real logic. Mere dry logic should be given up.”

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 śastras abound in such descriptions.

No comments:

Post a Comment