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Discussions on the doctrines of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Please place practical questions under the Miscellaneous forum and set this aside for the more theoretical side of it.

Rupanuga tradition - How should we 'debate' our philosophy?

Kamala - Sun, 13 Feb 2005 18:07:45 +0530
Sri Jiva Goswami has delinated ten types of evidence or pramana, of which Sruti is the most reliable. Arguably, his approach is stricter than some other Gaudiya Vaisnavas who have emphasised personal revelation as a means to understanding divinity.

But even if we don't exactly resonate with his strict approach, his analysis is useful to Gaudiya Discussions in that deep thinking about each of these categories and how our own and others' arguments fit into them might help us critique eachother's philosophical positions without getting into personal conflicts. In the outside world, lawyers, debaters and other students of rhetoric hone their skills in framing their arguments and critiquing others. But we don't need to be particularly scholarly to adapt some of these techniques to improve the quality of our discussions here, along with basic knowledge of what constitutes a spurious rebuttal, for example:

Straw man: "...when you say "do bhajan" you really mean "smoke pot", so your advice is bogus."
Ad hominem: " are a follower of Bububabaji, so you're just defending his line."
Generalisation: " Nanavadis are all the same, you seek only to destroy the authentic pure line of Ninivadis."
Displacement and patronisation: "...I'm sorry my dragging a dead dog into your temple room disturbs your fragile faith."

So - any views on how as Rupanugas we should frame our philosophical debates, in order not to become embroiled in rajasic disputation? Is it even desirable to debate with those with opposing views? Should we just withdraw and try to let our life be our example?

There is also an interesting thread on Vedic epistemology with posts by Jagat and Madhava on this which is still open...

QUOTE(Jagat @ Jul 7 2004, 01:58 PM)
The following is from Ananta Dasji's Madhurya Kadambini commentary.

PramANa or evidence is the means to determine the authenticity of an object. PramAtA yenArthaM pramiNoti tad eva pramANam. Srimat JIva GosvAmIpAda writes in Sarva-saMvAdinI:

yadyapi pratyakSAnumAna-zabdArSopamANArthApatty-abhAva-sambhavaitihya-ceSTAkhyAni daza pramANAni viditAni, tathApi bhrama-pramAda-vipralipsA-karaNApATava-doSa-rahita-vacanAtmakaH zabda eva mUla-pramANam –

“Generally there are ten types of evidence, namely pratyakSa, anumAna, zabda, ArSa, upamAna, arthApatti, abhAva, sambhava, aitihya, and ceSTA. zabda, or zruti, however, is accepted as the most authentic evidence because it is free from the four defects of bhrama (illusion), pramAda (confusion), vipralipsA (cheating) and karaNApATava (defect of the senses).

We will briefly explain how the other nine types of evidence are not wholly dependable.

PratyakSa: The knowledge directly perceived by the five sense organs, namely eye, ear, tongue, nose, and skin, and the mind, is known as pratyakSa. The knowledge perceived through these senses can never be reliable because of the above mentioned four defects of delusion, imperfect senses, etc. The reality of an object cannot thus be known by pratyakSa. For example, a magician makes things that do not exist in reality appear real to the senses. How can transcendental things then be proven through the material senses?

AnumAna: According to nyAya-zAstras, knowledge inferred from our common observations is known as anumAna. The usual example given is girir vahnimAn dhUmAt, “Since I see smoke on the mountain, I can infer that it is on fire.” We have all seen, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” Thus when we see smoke coming from behind the mountain we presume that there is a fire on the mountain. But since smoke may also be visible even after the fire has been extinguished by rain, the above presumption is faulty. AnumAna or presumption is thus also defective.

ArSa: The sayings of the sages (RSis) are known as ArSa. Due to the differences in the theories of different sages, ArSa is also unacceptable as a valid pramANa.

UpamAna: Ascertaining knowledge of an object based on comparison with another object of similar characteristics is known as upamAna. If one says, “lotus-like face”, still one cannot have complete knowledge of the face simply by seeing a lotus. Therefore, upamAna is also defective.

ArthApatti: Sometimes a fact is directly perceived and thus cannot be rejected, but the cause of that fact is not so perceived; in such cases one may speculate on the cause through common sense. This is known as arthApatti. For example, if one sees a very healthy person, but never sees him eating or drinking in the day time, which is generally expected, then one may reasonably deduce that this person must be eating or drinking during the night. However, arthApatti is also an unreliable source of knowledge, because this person may be healthy because he is taking some special medicine or because he has received the blessings of a god.

AbhAva: An object cannot be perceived by the senses if it does not exist in their proximity. For example, a person standing on one side of a high wall cannot see a pot lying on the other side of the wall. Incomprehension of the existence of the pot is called abhAva.

Sambhava: One hundred exists in one thousand. When such an understanding appears in the intellect, it is known as sambhava. AbhAva and sambhava can never ascertain the Absolute Truth, since He is completely beyond all material conceptions.

Aitihya: A fact accepted in society as common knowledge being passed on by tradition, although no one knows who said it and when, is known as aitihya-pramANa.

CeSTA: Knowledge of an object or its number perceived by raising the fingers or another bodily gesture is known as ceSTA. Aitihya and ceSTA are also unacceptable as authentic types of evidence for spiritual matters.

zabda: zAstras, or zabda, are apauruSeya, not made by any mundane person. It is also known as Apta-vAkya, or absolutely accurate verbal authority. ApauruSeya means a fact manifested from the Lord, who is all knowing, all powerful, full of auspiciousness, and full of compassion. zabda-pramANa is thus free from the previously mentioned four defects of imperfect senses, tendency to cheat, illusion and inattentiveness.

JIva GosvAmI further writes in Sarva-saMvAdinI:

anyeSAM prAya-puruSa-bhramAdi-doSamayatayAnyathA-pratIti-darzanena pramANaM vA tad-AbhAsaM veti puruSair nirNetum azakyatvAt, tasya tad abhAvAt. ato rAjJA bhRtyAnAm iva tenaivAnyeSAM baddha-mUlatvAt, tasya tu nairapekSyAt yathAzakti kvacid eva tasya taiH sAcivya-karaNAt, svAdhInasya tasya tu tAny upamardyApi pravRtti-darzanAt. tena pratipAdite vastuni tair viroddhum azakyatvAt. teSAM zaktibhir aspRzye vastuni tasyaiva tu sAdhakatamatvAt.

“Regarding other types of evidence, the person ascertaining any fact may be bewildered due to the false perception of his senses and the existence of the four defects. It therefore becomes impossible to verify the authenticity of such facts. There is no such doubt, however, about zabda-pramANa. As servants are completely under the control of the king, so too are other types of evidence dependent on zabda-pramANa. In certain cases, other types of evidence support zabda-pramANa, but zabda-pramANa itself is completely independent. It dominates other types of evidence and is self-evident. No other evidence can oppose the facts determined by zabda-pramANa. zabda-pramANa is most effective in cases where other types of evidence are unable to touch the facts.”

Because zabda pramANa has emanated from the Supreme Brahman, no opposing evidence is accepted. Vedic zAstras appear from BhagavAn Himself. evaM vA are asya mahato bhUtasya nizvasitam etad yad Rg-vedo yajur-vedaH sAma-vedo’tharvAGgirasa itihAsaH purANam – “O Maitreya! Rg-veda, Yajur-veda, SAma-veda, Atharva-veda, ItihAsa (MahAbhArata and RAmAyaNa), and other PurANas appear when the all-pervading Parabrahma exhales.” (MaitreyI UpaniSad) In other words, all this knowledge emanates from Him.

If the words of the Lord are the self-evident crest jewel of all evidence, one may ask whether the words of Buddha-deva, who is a manifestation of the Lord, will be accepted as such evidence? zrIla JIva GosvAmI replies to this question,

na ca buddhasyApIzvaratve sati tad-vAkyaM ca pramANaM syAd iti vAcyam. yena zAstreNa tasya IzvaratvaM manyAmahe tenaiva tasya daitya-mohana-zAstrakAritvenoktatvAt

“Though He is the Lord, His words cannot be accepted as evidence, since the very zAstras that describe Him as Lord say that He has composed zAstras to bewilder the demon-like atheists, rather than to deliver the Absolute Truth.” (Sarva-samvAdinI)

Gaurasundara - Tue, 15 Feb 2005 04:46:17 +0530
That was an excellent post regarding the different types of "evidences" one may need to employ in a debate. On another VaiSNava forum, the moderator had an excellent link which I will give here.

It explains clearly that to engage in a discussion and exchange views in order to reach a consensus, we first need to learn how to formulate a logical argument.
Madhava - Tue, 15 Feb 2005 20:39:31 +0530
I would not see most Gaudiya Vaishnavas, educated or not, engaging in extended debates with people who are set out to prove their own points.

Even when defeated,
a man of great will,
no matter how wrong,
argues still...

Understanding this, Vaishnavas rarely spend time arguing with people unwilling to hear. In fact, one of the ten nAmAparAdhas reads as follows in its entirety:

azraddadhAne vimukhe 'py azRNvati yaz copadezaH ziva nAmAparAdhaH || Padma-purana, Brahma-khanda 25.15-18 ||

"One who describes the auspiciousness of the Name unto those who are faithless, opposed and unwilling to hear, is an offender against the Holy Name."

Hence, if we bring our most sacred items, such as the specifics of our wondrous bhajana-path to the forefront of debate, allowing non-believers to defile them with their harsh words, we are indeed digging ditches on the path we walk.

Of course, sometimes there is a need to, among Gaudiya Vaishnavas, clarify matters concerning the interpretation of our foundational texts. Often we find that a plurality of interpretations is a viable possibility. At other times, however, disagreements may take place. At such times, all concerned would do well to reflect on the three modes of nature and the subsequent modes of debate.

Tamasika - Settled in the destructive mode, the debater sets out to shred the view of the opponent without an attempt to establish a positive conclusion.

Rajasika - Settled in the passion for self-establishment, the debater sets out to establish his own view as the correct with any cost, using all means necessary to attain this goal, distracting and derailing the discussion when the odds turn against him.

Sattvika - Settled in goodness and striving for enlightenment, the debater dispassionately reviews both his own and the opponent's views, attempting to reach the truth regardless of its source.

In the end, it seems to just come down to the modes of nature we are influenced by. Now, of course now we get into concepts such as "transcendental passion" and all that, which in my opinion are more often than not poor excuses for raveling in the lower modes of nature.

Sometimes a Vaishnava, naturally situated in the mode of goodness by the virtue of his bhajana, may briefly debate with a debater who represents the categories that are less likely to bear a fruitful outcome for the sake of attempting to attract him to a higher mode of existence. However, should he not strike a chord, he will rapidly withdraw and bring the debate to a close so as to not waste anyone's precious time and endeavors, and also to not lead anyone to unnecessarily commit aparAdha.