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Prathamah Kiranah—First Ray of Light
Pramana-nirnayah—Evidence for the Truth
1 May the wonderful moon of Lord Chaitanya, a moon that reveals the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, a moon that creates great waves in the flooding ocean of transcendental bliss, a moon that taught the truth to Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, a moon that removes the darkness, rise in our hearts.
2 Evidence is needed to understand the truth. The philosopher Carvaka accepts only the evidence of direct sense perception (pratyaksa). The Vaisesika philosophy accepts both sense perception and logic (anumana). Patanjali and pseudo— Kapila accept sense-perception, logic, words and analogies (upamana).The mimamsakas accept sense perception, logic, words, analogies and also inference (arthapatti) and the impossibility of non existence (anupalabdhi). The followers of the Puranas accept sense perception, logic, words, analogies, inference and the impossibility of none existence and tradition (aihitya) and equivalence (sambhava) as well. We see all these as evidence for the truth. In this way there are eight kinds of evidence to find the truth: sense perception, logic, words, analogies, inference, the impossibility of non existence, tradition and equivalence.
3 In sense perception, which is the lowest kind of evidence, one says, ‘I see it with my own eyes.’Then there is logic. One may see smoke rising from a mountaintop. Even though one cannot see any fire, by logic one knows a fire exists.
Now we will consider words. Words may be ordinary, such as the statement ‘Five trees grow on the riverbank’, or words may also be the words of the Vedas, like the statement ‘They who wish to go to Svargaloka should perform agnistoma-yajna.’ One may also see how one thing is like another. That is called analogy. An example of that is the statement ‘An ox is something like a cow’.
One may also infer one thing from another. Hearing the words, ‘Chubby Devadatta passed the whole day without eating’, one may infer that perhaps he eats at night.
In the impossibility of non existence, one may understand, ‘In this situation it is not possible a pot is not present.’ In this way one surmises the pot’s existence. In equivalence one may think, ‘Ten is automatically included within a hundred. Therefore, if a hundred are present, then ten are also present within it.’
Tradition is a common understanding. An example is a commonly accepted statement, like the statement, ‘A yaksa lives under that banyan tree.’ Another example is the raising of ten fingers to signify ten pots or other objects. In this way there are various kinds of evidence.
4 Among these different kinds of philosophers, Carvaka, who accepts only direct perception as evidence, says, ‘A bewildered fool who is full of doubts cannot understand the truth. Therefore one should not accept the opinions of others, for they may only be bewildered fools who are full of doubts and who cannot understand the true situation even when they see it with their own faulty eyes. If such persons try to talk about things beyond the material world, intelligent persons will not believe anything they say.”
5 However, in speaking these words Carvaka, even though unwillingly, uses the tools of logic. Therefore he becomes the object of laughter. ‘O Carvaka who accepts only direct sense perception as evidence, why do you sadly sigh as you suspect your wife is pregnant from her paramour?’ A person who never accepts the word of others, thinking others unreliable fools, and who never accepts the process of logic, of deducing one thing from another, must, because he has abandoned all other sources of knowledge, nevertheless accept the statements of others as truth.
6 Words (sabda) and analogies (upamana) are two different kinds of evidence. The vaisesika philosophers accept analogies as evidence. Analogies are different from logic. This we will explain later. Direct perception, logic, and words are the first kinds of evidence. Analogies and the other kinds of evidence are in a different category. his the vaisesika philosophers say.
7 In analogy an ox may be compared to a cow. The words ‘An ox is like a cow’ use the tools of logic. An intelligent person must consider how an ox and a cow are similar. This uses logic. Also, this person must have with his eyes seen how an ox and a cow are similar. This uses direct perception. Therefore an analogy cannot be considered in a category separate from logic and direct perception.
8 (Now inference will be considered). A person who does not eat during the daytime will not remain chubby if he does not eat at night. Therefore the thought ‘His chubbiness is evidence that he eats at night’ uses the tools of logic. Because this person is chubby, one thinks, ‘He must eat at night. If he does not eat at night, and again he fasts during the day, then he cannot remain chubby.’ A person who fasts both day and night cannot remain chubby. Therefore inference also uses the tools of logic.
9 The impossibility of non existence is also not a separate kind of evidence. To assume that it is impossible that a pot or other object not be present implies that one has with one’s eyes seen the situation that demands the pot’s presence. Therefore the evidence called ‘impossibility of non existence’ is not different from direct perception. Equivalence, where one says, ‘Ten is automatically included within a hundred’, makes use of the tools of logic. Tradition does not become a source of evidence if faith in the speaker is absent. Therefore tradition is also included within the evidence of scripture. Ultimately there are only three kinds of evidence: direct perception, logic and scripture. Persons who wish to find the pure truth accept these three as the true kinds of evidence.
10 Sense perception can perceive only what is nearby and gross. It cannot perceive things very near or very far away. For example, the eyes have only limited power to see a bird flying in the sky. Neither can the eyes see the mascara with which they are decorated. Even gross things, when they are present in the mind, cannot be seen with the external senses. Therefore one may say, ‘With my eyes I cannot see the thoughts of my mind’. Sense perception cannot perceive things that are hidden or eclipsed or overpowered by other things, or invisible, or the original ingredients of a blend. In this way with the eyes one cannot see the stars in the daytime for they are overpowered by the sunshine. Nor can one see milk’s potential to become yoghurt. Nor can one see the clouds raining on the middle of the ocean. Nor one can see the atom.
11 The senses sometimes fail to see even what is very close. For example, it may be said, ‘With his unaided eyes Yajnadatta cannot see that his head was shaved by the trick of a magician with mystic powers.’ Even when it cannot be seen directly by the senses, the truth can often be inferred from certain symptoms. This is the use of logic. In this way when one sees smoke on a mountain one may infer the existence of a fire, and when that smoke is followed by a rainfall, one may infer that the rain extinguished the fire.
12 When sense perception and logic both fail, other tools may be used to know the truth. In some situation the nature of the words themselves reveals the truth. Thus the mountains named Himalaya reveal by their name that snow (hima) is present on them. Also, the word ‘ratnalaya’ (storehouse of jewels) implies that jewels are present at such a place. Also, the jewel Suryakanta tells us by its name that it bursts into flames when exposed to sunlight. The evidence that sound gives in this way is independent of both sense perception and logic. That evidence is not established by sense perception or logic nor is it refuted by them. Sound is thus our kind friend and counsellor. With its help we can see what otherwise would be invisible to us.
13 Thus in a certain situation one may be told ‘You are the tenth person.’ The hearer then knows, ‘I am the tenth person.’ In this way sound is a source of knowledge independent of either sense perception or logic. In this way sound can dispel illusion and establish truth.
14 A mantra physician may chant the mantra ‘sarpa-daste tvayi visam nasti’ (Although you were bitten by a snake, there is no poison in you), or the mantra ‘vahni-taptam angam vahni-tapena samyati’ (The limb hurt by fire is now soothed), or the mantra ‘sauvarnam-bhasitam snigdham’ (Now you are effulgent like gold), or the mantra ‘ekam evausadham tri-dosa-ghnam’ (The disease is cured by this medicine). The effectiveness of these mantras is manifest by the mantras themselves. That effectiveness is not refuted by sense perception or logic. It is by hearing that one learns ‘Fire is the medicine for cold weather.’ It is by hearing that one learns the properties of diamonds. One cannot understand those properties by ordinary sense perception simply by looking at them. By ordinary logic one may think, ‘Diamonds are stones that come from the earth. Stones are cut by iron. Therefore diamonds may be cut by iron.’ In this way by mere logic also one cannot know the truth of diamonds. It is by hearing from a knowledgeable person that one understands, ‘Diamonds cut iron’. As far as they are able, sense perception and logic may be the helpful friends of the evidence that comes from hearing. A person whose head has been shaved by the trick of a magician with mystic powers may not be aware of that fact, but a demigod in the sky may call down to him, ‘It is so.’ In the same way one may hear from a knowledgeable person, ‘Iron may cut ordinary stones, but it does not cut diamond’, or ‘fire soothes the suffering brought by cold weather’, or one may believe the words of a person who says ‘The smoke you saw on the mountain was indeed a fire, and that fire was indeed extinguished by the rain. I directly saw it all myself’. When one has no power to see directly, then it is best to hear a description from a reliable person. In this way, for example, from a learned astrologer one hears of one’s astrological chart, or of future solar eclipses, or of other like things.
15 Saintly persons accept that hearing the statements of scripture is the best way to attain knowledge. In the Sruti-sastra it is said:
“I ask about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is described in the Upanisads. I person who does not know the teaching of the Vedas cannot understand Him.”
When philosophers meet and discuss philosophy they will never come to a conclusion that will answer their question, a conclusion they will all accept. For this reason one should know that those questions are answered only in the eternal Vedic scriptures. In the Sruti-sastra it is said:
“The real truth is described by the words of the glorious, eternal Vedas.”
In the Smrti-sastra it is said:
“The words spoken by the demigod Brahma in the beginning of creation are the words of the Vedas. Those words have neither beginning nor end. Those words are glorious and spiritual. From those words all the rules of religion have come.’
Because they are free from the four defects of mistakes, cheating, illusion, and imperfect senses, the words of the Vedas are perfect and faultless.