Khyati: Sources of knowledge

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Khyati: Sources of knowledge

Post by gangajal on Thu Jul 02, 2009 2:00 pm

A brief meditation on Khyati

Introduction

Khyati (Epistemology or sources of knowledge) has been a fierce
subject of debate in India for many centuries. How can one have valid
knowledge (Prama) and what are the proximate means (pramanas) to valid
knowledge? This issue is important in Indic dharma systems because of their
claim that dhyana (meditation) or japa (repeatation of mantra) can lead to
supreme knowledge. An objection raised to this claim is the possibility that
dhyana or japa might be deluding people. How can one know that the experiences
claimed by Yogis are not hallucinations? Vedantic Acharyas were sensitive to
these issues.

Pramanas

Vedanta darshana developed the idea of pramana (proof) to answer the objections to
the Yogic experience. Historically, three basic pramanas have been accepted by
various Vedantic groups (some groups accept more pramanas). These are (1)
Pratakshya (direct perception), (2) Anumana (inference) and (3) Sabda Pramana
(Vedas). Pratakshya is sensory perception. Every minute of our waking life we
gather data through this means. Anumana allows us to deduce from indirect
evidence. Sabda Pramana is simply the Yogic experience obtained through
spiritual practice. Vedas are simply the most ancient spiritual experiential
data that is available to us. The Rishi, who wrote the Svetasvatara Upanishad,
directly affirms that:

I know this great Person (Brahman) who is resplendent like the sun and is
beyond darkness. By knowing Him alone one transcends death; there is no other
path to go by. (Svetasvatara. Upanishad 3.Cool


This kind of bold affirmation of Truth is important for a beginner.

Lokayata objection

Even these pramanas were objected to by some people, specially, the Nastika
Lokayatas who followed the teachings of Rishi Charvaka. They rejected Sabda
Pramana as irrelevant since it is not based on sensory data. They also
rejected Anumana as insufficient and even dangerous. The point they made was
that many people have inferred, falsely, the presence of a ghost in a dark
night which turned out merely to be a tree. They rejected any data that is not
obtained through Pratkshya.

Reply to Lokayata objection

Astika groups say that such a position would say that senses and reason are
the only sources of knowledge. This raises a very important question. How can
one know if the reality that we see through our senses and by applying reason
is the ENTIRE reality? Can Lokayatas give a guarantee that such is the case?
Then there is the question of dropping Anumana from the list of pramanas.
Modern Science says that quarks can never be directly observed but can only be
inferred through experiments. If you drop anumana then even modern science
will come to a screeching halt.

Sabda Pramana

Astika groups assert that Sabda Pramana is extremely important in spiritual
practice. Why have they taken such a stance? Sabda Pramana is absolutely
necessary for a beginner. How can one even start one's enquiry into the
Ultimate Reality without some body of pre-existing knowledge? Jaimini points
out that the Veda (sabda Pramana) is the source of our knowledge just where
pratakshya and Anuman fail to be of assistance to us (Mimansa Sutra I.i.5).
Sayanacharya says in the introduction to his commentary on Rig Veda that the
chief function of Sabda Pramana is to communicate the knowledge of the two
higher ideals of dharma and moksha and the proper means to their realization.
Vedantic Acharyas were, however, sensitive to the charge that Yogic experience
is merely hallucinatory. It is entirely possible that a single rishi may be
misled and his experience may be just a hallucination. So Vedantic Acharyas
have made the Sruti a library and NOT a single book. Sruti record the
collective experience of many rishis. It is of course true that even many
rishis might have been misled but the chances are smaller. The second
precaution they took was to see if the best minds of Hindus would accept the
Vedas as sabda Pramana for a long period of time. The argument was that if the
best minds think that there is some truth in the Vedas then one's confidence
in the Vedas increases. Thirdly, there is always the route of spiritual
practice and directly testing the Vedic claims. Finally, there have been men
like Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sankaracharya and many others who have claimed that
they have had the same experience as the Rishis.

gangajal

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Re: Khyati: Sources of knowledge

Post by maya3 on Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:39 pm

This is a good question.

I often wonder the same thing. I think that no matter what a person experiences in the end it still comes down to belief. We cannot prove our experiences to other people and if their is not proof that it is not a hallucination then it's still a belief.

Maya
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Re: Sources of knowledge (I didn't intend to start a new thread)

Post by Michael5810 on Mon Aug 09, 2010 7:45 pm

Replying to the postings that I've copied below my own addition:

Sure, when it comes to an person's strong intuitive perception of Reality, there's no way to prove to someone else the validity of that perception.

If a spiritual teacher makes statements about _verbal_ metaphysics and ontology that make sense to you, then you might be inclined to have faith in the accuracy of his statements about more difficult-to-verify matters, such as intuitive perceptions of Reality, and then that faith can serve as encouragement for your interest in such questions. And of course if you've had any similar intuitive perceptions, then the teacher's words can serve as confirmation of your own perceptions, especially if his verbal ontology arguments or statements make sense to you.

I don't claim to be saying anything that you don't already know. One risk in discussion is that of saying what someone else already knows. But that's ok, right? I'm not that arrogant, no matter how I might sometimes seem :-) Let me say a few words about verbal ontology:

As I've said elsewhere, there's one thing for sure: That you exist. The existence and reality of experience and its subject (you). I'm not saying that things are necessarily as we experience them. I'm just saying that the _fact_ of experience is for sure. And it's real, and you're real, if anything is. ...Because any evidence that you have for anything is in your experience.

Now, beyond that, nothing can be proven (except maybe by personal intuitive experience that can't be conveyed or argued to another person--But here I'm talking about verbal ontology).

But, even when nothing can be proven, that doesn't mean that things can't be said. Suggested. And hypotheses or positions can be compared by standards such as un-arebitrariness, parsimony, simplicity and elegance.

So we needn't quit talking when we get to what can't be proved.

How about the ontology that says that the innermost you, that "from-the-inside view that is our experience", the Self, is what fundamentally is--and is, in fact all that really is?

That ontology only posits one entity, the Self. The worlds can be explained as mere possibility-worlds. I've discussed that at length at another thread in this Hinduism forum. Not posited as existent, the worlds need no further explanation.

That's parsimonious, because it only posits one real entity. And, since the innermost you, the Self, are the one thing whose existence you're sure of, you're real if anything is. Therefore, the suggestion that you are what fundamentally is--the Ultimate Reality--is the position that best avoids unnecessary supernumary assumptions.

Sure, for instance, a Physicalist might claim that, on the contrary, the ultimate reality is a hypothetical objective fundamentally-real physical reality that he believes in. An objective physical world defined from a 3rd person point of view that even he admits isn't really anyone's point of view. Doing so, he's making a big extra unnecessary assumption. He's assuming an unnecessary number of real entities, indulging in added hypothetical assumptions.

Parsimony is economy of assumptions.

And he's saying that that phsyical world, an object of experience, and epistemologically secondary to experience, is actually ontological primary and prior to experience and its subject, and is more ontologically fundamental.

Yes, the Physicalist can say all that, but, when he does, he's proposing an unparsimonious, inelegant, roundabout, awkward, and Rube Goldbergish ontology.

Additionally, Physicalism has an arbitrariness problem, because it posits, as the ultimate reality, a physical universe that is one possible configuration of a complex physical system. One configuration out of infinitely many possible ones. Arbitrary. Does anyone think that the ultimate reality would be something arbitrary? One arbitrary possible configuration of a complex physical system?

I can't prove that that the Physicalist is wrong, but we can compare by the available standards.

I understand that Physicalism isn't the topic of this thread or forum, but I merely mention it as an example, in a discussion of what can be said about reality and existence.

So, even in verbal ontological discussion, things can be said about what fundamentally is, even if they can't be proven. And, as I said, one thing is known for sure.

The postings to which I'm replying:


I often wonder the same thing. I think that no matter what a person experiences in the end it still comes down to belief. We cannot prove our experiences to other people and if their is not proof that it is not a hallucination then it's still a belief.

Maya


Khyati: Sources of knowledge



by gangajal on Thu Jul 02, 2009 6:00 pmA brief meditation on Khyati

Introduction

Khyati (Epistemology or sources of knowledge) has been a fierce
subject of debate in India for many centuries. How can one have valid
knowledge (Prama) and what are the proximate means (pramanas) to valid
knowledge? This issue is important in Indic dharma systems because of their
claim that dhyana (meditation) or japa (repeatation of mantra) can lead to
supreme knowledge. An objection raised to this claim is the possibility that
dhyana or japa might be deluding people. How can one know that the experiences
claimed by Yogis are not hallucinations? Vedantic Acharyas were sensitive to
these issues.

Michael5810

Posts : 86
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Location : Fort Pierce, Florida

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