The Veda, Intuition and Philosophy
The influence of the Veda is remarkably perceptible in the development and growth of Indian science, art, literature and philosophy. It has been affirmed that the Veda contains a vast body of scientific knowledge and that it anticipates even the most modem ideas of Physics, Chemistry and Astronomy. It is true that it is difficult to prove this affirmation since such a proof would require a vast and difficult research. But there is no doubt that among many possible interpretations of the Veda there could be a possible line which could open up various clues and deliver to us some startling conclusions which would prove that the Vedic seers had by some special methods of knowledge known what the modem science has now discovered or is still groping to discover. In any case, it is true that the Indian scientists who developed astonishing ideas and concepts of Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine and Physics and Chemistry refer to the Veda and Vedantic knowledge as the source of their inspiration and knowledge.
In regard to philosophy, Veda occupies a very special position. The Indian system of philosophy that specializes in logic and epistemology (Nyaya Philosophy) distinguishes between various means of knowledge, and affirms that the Veda itself is the supreme means of knowledge. And this is the position which is accepted by all the other philosophies which claim to have been derived from the Veda. These philosophies include, apart from Nyaya, also Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Poorva Mimamsa, Uttara Mimamsa and the varied interpretations of the philosophy of the Uttara Mimamsa, notably the philosophies of Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa, Nimbarka, Vallabha, Chaitanya and others.
The Veda is also known as Shruti. The word 'shruti' literally means that which is heard. Now it has been contended that the Vedic knowledge is a result of a special hearing. This hearing is not
sensual, but it is something which occurs when all senses are withdrawn and when even thought process is silenced and surpassed. It is a phenomenon that occurs on a plane of consciousness known as that of Intuition (a word which hardly connotes what it is intended to connote).
In other words, it has been held that intuition is a means of knowledge that is distinguishable very clearly from the knowledge derived by senses or by reasoning or by analogy. The knowledge derived by intuition is not only direct but it springs from the identity of the subject and the object which are related to each other in the process of knowledge. This process does not need to depend upon the exercise of the senses. This knowledge sees even when eyes are closed, it hears even when ears are sealed. Again, this knowledge is not ratiocinative. It does not strive to arrive at a conclusion on the basis of premises and by the help of some universal principles. This knowledge is immediate, there are no premises in this process. The conclusions are themselves the states of experience intimately identical with the objects of knowledge. Finally, this knowledge is not open to fallacies, doubts or errors, since these deficiencies belong only to senses or to the processes of reasoning. The intuitive knowledge is, therefore, regarded as authentic and true. Just as the light of the sun can be proved only through light itself, even so the light of this knowledge can be proved through this very light. This knowledge is, therefore, also known as swayam prabha, self-luminous.
It is affirmed that the entire gamut of the Vedic knowledge is intuitive. It is self-luminous and true.
On this basis, it has been held that the Vedic knowledge is authentic and authoritative. Also, when there are disputes arising from conflicts of sense-observation and of diverse philosophical reasonings, they can all be resolved by referring to the authentic knowledge of the Veda.
An important element of Indian philosophy which admits the Veda as an authority is that it does not accept the conclusions of philosophical reasoning as conclusive, unless they are supported also by the pronouncements of the Veda. Indian philosophy, therefore, considers Shruti as a conclusive criterion of truth. Thus we find Indian philosophers adducing philosophical arguments in support of their philosophical point of view, but their final argument is always a statement from the Veda. And it is this
statement from the Veda which brings the debate to the final end.
It is necessary to distinguish between the authority that is assigned to the Veda in Indian philosophy from the authority that is assigned to dogma.
It is true that both of them claim unquestionablity and both of them claim superiority to reason. But while the authority of dogma cannot be verified in any fresh or repeatable experience, the authority of the Veda can, it is held, be verified in a fresh and repeatable experience, even in an abiding experience. Thus when it is said that Indian philosophy admits Shruti as the final authority, what is really meant is that Indian philosophy admits experience intuitive experience as the final authority.
This subject of the authority of the Veda in Indian philosophy is extremely important, and as a matter of a purely philosophical discussion, it is a highly controversial issue. Much of this controversy is due to the fact that in course of history, Veda did come to be used as an unquestionable dogma.
It is this tendency to reduce freshness of intuitive knowledge to a body of dogmatic revelations that produced a reaction among some of the robust minds and spirits in India. Thus there arose in India a very powerful anti-Vedic tradition, and there are a number of philosophies which refuse to accept the authority of the Veda. The important among them are the philosophies of Jainism, Buddhism, Charvaka.
It must be said, however, that the Vedic seers themselves did not regard their own experiences to be used dogmatically. The Vedas themselves are a record of experiences and they were never intended to be a dogmatic authority. The Upanishadic seers did not look upon the Veda as a dogma. They endeavoured to compare their experiences among those of the contemporaries and of the Vedic forefathers. Fortunately, this tradition of comparison and verification of the Vedantic knowledge did not die away completely. And thus it was possible in India to continue spiritual research and to arrive at new spiritual truths. And it seems that it is this tradition which has now begun to gain ascendancy and the future of Indian philosophy is sure to break a new ground that will affirm intuitive experience as an authority and superior means of knowledge but which will reject it as any binding dogma.