Hinduism Through Its Scriptures – 2: Scripture

Author: Ananth Sethuraman.

Featured Image Credit: Thesaurus.plus

Introduction

edX is a provider of massive open online courses [Ref 1]. It was founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

One of the courses that edX offers is titled Hinduism Through Its Scriptures [Ref 2]. The course covers some concepts from the angle of Western Indology, rather than the angle of adhyātma.

In this article, we will take up one of these concepts, the anādi nature of achieving ānanda. We will see that the word “scripture” is not compatible with the anādi nature of achieving ānanda.

The Word “Scripture”

Observation

The title of the course contains the word “scriptures”. As the course proceeds, we learn that the referents of “scriptures” are the Vēda-s, the Upaniṣad-s, the Manusmr̥ti, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, the Gītā, the Purāṇa-s and the Bhakti poems.

Comment

The word “scripture” is not a good choice for the Vēda-s, the Upaniṣad-s, the Manusmr̥ti, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, the Gitā, the Purāṇa-s and the Bhakti poems. Scripture is an English non-translatable—a concept of Christian theology that does not work well when it is imported into adhyātma.

Clusters of Concepts

A single concept cannot generate a coherent theory. It is a cluster of concepts that generates a coherent theory. In geometry, for example, the concept of point cannot generate the theory of geometry. Rather, it is a cluster of the following concepts—point, line, angle, triangle, rectangle, circle, polygon, area, congruence and similarity—that generates the theory of geometry.

In Christian theology, the concept of scripture is clustered together with other concepts such as revelation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, intentionality, and prophet. This cluster of concepts can be termed “history-centric cluster” for short [Ref 3].

Let us see how the history-centric cluster of concepts generates a coherent theory. A revelation is a rare historical event. In a revelation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, out of His intentionality, selects an individual. The selected individual is known as a prophet. The prophet gives lectures to the public. The prophet’s lectures reveal information that was hidden from the public earlier. The prophet’s lectures deserve a special name, scripture.

To sum up, Christian theology puts scripture into the history-centric cluster of concepts: scripture, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, revelation, intentionality and prophet. The history-centric cluster of concepts generates a coherent theory.

When the word “scripture” is imported into adhyātma in order to refer to the Vēda-s, the Upaniṣad-s, the Manusmr̥ti, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, the Gītā, the Purāṇa-s and the Bhakti poems, a logical contradiction emerges. What would be adhyātma’s analog of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? The most likely candidate is the paramārthika referent of the words “I”, “me”, “mine” and “myself”—variously termed ātman, brahmaṇ, tatva, tēj sthān, emergent property, Consciousness, Awareness, the Self, the Universal Spirit, the ‘I’, etc. What would be adhyātma’s analog of a prophet? The most likely candidate is an individual who has seen (or grasped or accessed) the paramārthika referent. What would be adhyātma’s analog of the statement that prophets are rare? There is no analog. Seeing (or grasping or accessing) the paramārthika referent is a skill that, in principle, all humans can acquire.

It is here that the word “anādi” becomes useful. Anādi is used when there is no way to determine in which period of history something happened. Consider the following questions: In which period of history did human beings learn to dance? In which period of history did human beings learn to sing? In which period of history did human beings learn to play sports? We can reply “anādi” to these questions, for there is no way to determine in which period of history these things happened. Seeing (or grasping or accessing) the paramārthika referent is “anādi.”

The word “anādi” cannot be applied to prophets. Indeed, Jesus is dated to the 1st century CE.

There is a loose end to tie up. We used the phrase “the anādi nature of achieving ānanda” above, in the section titled Introduction. But in this section, we have referred to the anādi nature of seeing (or grasping or accessing) the paramārthika referent. The two go hand-in-hand: achieving ānanda goes hand-in-hand with seeing (or grasping or accessing) the paramārthika referent. Both have an anādi nature.

Action Item For Swadeshi Indology

To the extent that Swadeshi Indology uses English, Swadeshi Indology can use “works” instead of “scriptures” in order to refer to the Vēda-s, the Upaniṣad-s, the Manusmr̥ti, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, the Gītā, the Purāṇa-s and the Bhakti poems.

Appendix

When clusters of concepts are imported back and forth between Christian theology and  adhyātma, they give rise to logical contradictions, decrease clarity of concepts and promote controversy. This fact is often noticed in translation of Sanskrit works of adhyātma into English, so it is termed Sanskrit Non translatable [Ref 4, Chapter 5]. The same fact is also noticed in inter-faith discussions, so it is termed the sameness myth [Ref 5].


About Author: –

Ananth Sethuraman has degrees from IIT Madras (Chennai) and Iowa State University. He is employed in a number of engineering companies. View More…


References: –

Ref 1 : https://www.edx.org

Ref 2 : https://www.edx.org/course/hinduism-through-its-scriptures-2

Ref 3 : https://rajivmalhotra.com/library/articles/problematizing-gods-interventions-history/

Ref 4 : R Malhotra, Being Different, HarperCollins Publishers India, 2011. ISBN 978-93-5116-050-2

Ref 5 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGYFgK6iVwA&list=PLTa5Ckx4a44Yy7KWmfd_-yL-_VHsbcAnb&index=2&t=0s

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: