April 11th, 2020
The exegetical format or paradigm is called an Adhikaraṇa which comprises of a fivefold process.
• viṣaya vākya — the specific Scriptural sentence under discussion between two parties.
• samśaya — formulating the doubt which has arisen as to the correct and relevant meaning of the sentence.
• pūrva-pakṣa — study the position of the opposing party and present their unsound interpretation.
• uttara-pakṣa — the refutation of the former position using the rules of logical debate and argument and presentation of the reasoned interpretation
• nirṇaya/siddhānta — arguments for the conclusion reached. Some ācāryas include nirṇaya in the uttara-pakṣa and insert saṅgati here. Saṅgati is the relevancy of the discussion with the specific context.
All commentaries on the Brahma-sūtras and other texts etc. are presented in this format.
There are 3 ways in which knowledge and information are acquired:—
• Direct perception (pratyakṣa) — tangible evidence available to the five senses.
• Inference/reason (anumāna) — evidence based upon reason and critical thinking.
• Valid testimony/teaching (śabda) — knowledge acquired from a trustworthy witness.
So for example using an NCIS episode – the team arrive at the murder scene and the first thing they do is assemble the evidence – they then take the evidence back to the HQ and being formulating a time-line, motive and apply rational thinking. Then finally they call in the witnesses and take statements. All the statements conform to the evidence and logic.
The Vedas are considered as trustworthy testimony regarding metaphysical matters but their testimony must conform to evidence and or reason.
The same principle applies to all the Scriptures.
TRUTH is defined as
- conforming to the thing as it is
- Is coherent – logical
- Has a practical application to daily life.
IN the Puranas it states that Vishnu sleeps on a multiple-headed snake floating on an ocean of milk.
Is this true?
- is there any tangible evidence? NO
- Is is credible and coherent? NO
- Can we fetch the milk for use in our coffee? NO
So the conclusion is that is it not true on a literal level so we need to apply interpretative principles to discover a deeper meaning. And there are three possible levels of meaning.
- śabdārtha – literal meaning
- bhāvārtha – the metaphorical meaning
- lakṣyārtha – the deeper spiritual meaning
So in our example of Vishnu on the Ocean of Milk – it makes no sense on a literal level.
When analysed from a metaphorical point of view is makes perfect sense – please see Hindu Iconography for a detailed exposition.