The purpose of Hindu Scriptures

RamiSivanAuthor: Rami Sivan, Hindu priest and teacher of Indian Philosophy.
May 26th, 2020

The function of Scripture in Hinduism is to instruct us in that knowledge which we cannot derive from the two primary sources. (ajñāta jñāpam iti śāstra).

The primary sources of knowledge are:–

  • pratyakṣam – direct, tangible, empirical EVIDENCE.
  • anumāna – logical, rational, critical thinking -REASON.

and if we cannot derive the required knowledge from these two sources then only do we revert to:–

  • śabda/āpta-vākya – the teaching of the Scriptures and the instruction of the guru.

BUT most importantly, neither the Scripture not the Guru’s teaching should contradict evidence and reason. Nothing from the Veda should contradict evidence and reason.

Both Rāmānujācārya and Śankarācārya have said that if 100 Vedic verses declare that fire and water can co-exist – they are to be rejected.

Madhvācārya – the great realist said;–

Na ca pratyakṣa siddhim anyena kenāpi bādhyaṁ dṛṣṭam | candra prādeśatvādi viṣayaṁ tu, dūrasthatvādi doṣā yuktatvās apaṭṭu | na ca jagat pratyakṣasya apaṭutve kiñcin mānas ||

Sense perception is its own standard of truth. It cannot be negated by inference or Scripture. The moon’s small size and other such erroneous perceptions are accountable as being due to distance and other conditions. There is no reason to reject the evidence of sense-perception regarding the existence of a world external to our minds. (Madhvacharya — Tattvodyota page 7 refutation of māyāvāda)

So all knowledge pertaining to the real and natural world of physics is obtained from the physicists and scientists. Science is the basis for material knowledge.

The only function of Scripture is to direct us in our quandaries regarding metaphysics — the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, identity, time and space.