śabda-pramana as means of knowing

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śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 21, 2012 11:52 am

On another thread Tobes made the following remark in response to my deferral to standard Buddhist cosmology:

tobes wrote:I'm sorry to stride in on my epistemological horse again.....

But this is tantamount to saying: my cosmologically grounded claim trumps your cosmologically grounded claim because......

Well, because why?

Because you accept the verbal testimony of those within your tradition (and the cosmology of that tradition), but not the verbal testimony (and the cosmology) of those outside of your tradition. For what reason and with what justification?


This is a valid question and in terms of Buddhist epistemology it is fair to say that śabda-pramana (knowing through the testimony of an authoritative source) is an acceptable means of knowledge.

One noteworthy example of this in action is how Dharmakīrti attempts to establish the Buddha as an authoritative source of knowledge to prove the existence of rebirth in the face of criticism from a materialist. It is by means of the Buddha's testimony on the subject that we know rebirth to really exist.

Be that as it may, I think most people in our present day would not accept this means of knowledge, even Buddhists despite the fact that traditionally śabda-pramana was acceptable. It is not enough to defer to scripture anymore.

Some might see this as a positive development, but on the other hand in a religious context denying scriptural authority or the testimony of those individuals held up as realized masters will inadvertently undermine the validity of much thought and practice.

Thoughts?
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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby zerwe » Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:20 pm

Huseng wrote:On another thread Tobes made the following remark in response to my deferral to standard Buddhist cosmology:

tobes wrote:I'm sorry to stride in on my epistemological horse again.....

But this is tantamount to saying: my cosmologically grounded claim trumps your cosmologically grounded claim because......

Well, because why?

Because you accept the verbal testimony of those within your tradition (and the cosmology of that tradition), but not the verbal testimony (and the cosmology) of those outside of your tradition. For what reason and with what justification?


This is a valid question and in terms of Buddhist epistemology it is fair to say that śabda-pramana (knowing through the testimony of an authoritative source) is an acceptable means of knowledge.

One noteworthy example of this in action is how Dharmakīrti attempts to establish the Buddha as an authoritative source of knowledge to prove the existence of rebirth in the face of criticism from a materialist. It is by means of the Buddha's testimony on the subject that we know rebirth to really exist.

Be that as it may, I think most people in our present day would not accept this means of knowledge, even Buddhists despite the fact that traditionally śabda-pramana was acceptable. It is not enough to defer to scripture anymore.

Some might see this as a positive development, but on the other hand in a religious context denying scriptural authority or the testimony of those individuals held up as realized masters will inadvertently undermine the validity of much thought and practice.

Thoughts?


That is certainly a curious example. śabda-pramana is heirarchically a last resort of proof for oneself or others. It is the only thing one can employ regarding topics where

a conclusion could not otherwise be generated. When engaged in debate there has to be common ground (something that is acceptable for both parties) or there is no debate.

In this case it would seem that the only possibility is that the materialist must also be a buddhist.

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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:33 pm

zerwe wrote:That is certainly a curious example. śabda-pramana is heirarchically a last resort of proof for oneself or others. It is the only thing one can employ regarding topics where

a conclusion could not otherwise be generated. When engaged in debate there has to be common ground (something that is acceptable for both parties) or there is no debate.



That is the challenge of śabda-pramana: to prove that the authority in question is a valid source of new knowledge.

However, when discussing things amongst fellow Buddhists (the discussion in question with Mint of course was different) one should not have to prove the Buddha as an authority. He should be held in common as an authority and his testimony valid, the interpretation of which will naturally differ.

However, this is not often the case anymore. Many self-declared Buddhists do not really believe the Buddha's testimony to be valid. They test it out against their own limited (unenlightened) experience and anything found unappealing or disagreeable they reject for "lack of proof".

This is problematic for a number of reasons. Some might demand proofs that are agreeable and testable by all parties, but the Buddha is on record as having said that initially until one has the ability to truly understand things it must be taken on conviction. In other words, without appropriate yogic insight you cannot verify a number of truths as proposed by the Buddha, which renders most parties unable to personally verify them. See the following:

"Excellent, Sariputta. Excellent. Those who have not known, seen, penetrated, realized, or attained it by means of discernment would have to take it on conviction in others that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation; whereas those who have known, seen, penetrated, realized, & attained it by means of discernment would have no doubt or uncertainty that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation."

SN 48.44
PTS: S v 220
CDB ii 1689
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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby zerwe » Sat Apr 21, 2012 9:21 pm

Huseng, I agree there are some who simply reject things. There are certainly things that many of us will not have proof

of in this lifetime and this is the reason we would rely on scripture. What I have learned is that one should generate faith

in the aspects of the doctrine that are testable. In this way we can generate faith in the conquerors words regarding topics of which we have no way to gain experiential knowledge of.

However, to reject things out of hand would seem closed minded and not receptive to dharma. There is a danger of becoming non-receptive to dharma when

we refute all that we cannot prove. We should test and continue to question, but keep our minds open at all times.

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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby tobes » Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:53 am

Just to be clear, the context of my critique was simply this: some Buddhists have been arguing that Buddhism is coherent on purely rational or logical grounds.

And therefore using a logical epistemic framework as the sole basis to criticise theistic traditions.

I have been pointing out, with respect to the four noble truths and in relation to Huseng's cosmological claim, that sabda-pramana plays a critical epistemic role - that there are certain key tenets in Buddhism which we cannot know empirically or rationally, but which, are important predicates, upon which, many Buddhist 'truths' rest.

And so, it seems to me that it is very hypocritical to critique other traditions for using predicates which are not grounded logically or empirically. Within the corpus of various theisms for example, verbal testimony seems to play important roles - isn't that prophecy et al??

So I don't think that the Buddhist has to accept the content of those testimonies, but I do think that the Buddhist needs to acknowledge that there is a certain epistemic kinship: the experience (and writing etc) of particular figures within particular traditions has some kind of priority and importance.

The implication: is to have an attitude of humility and quietism about those other traditions.

Not the attitude: because Nagarjuna logically critiqued the Sarvastivadan's, and because I have read Nagarjuna, I am an all powerful logician who can demolish all other views. That is a very conceited delusion.

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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:14 am

Excellent post, Tobes.
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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby zerwe » Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:05 am

tobes wrote:
The implication: is to have an attitude of humility and quietism about those other traditions.

Not the attitude: because Nagarjuna logically critiqued the Sarvastivadan's, and because I have read Nagarjuna, I am an all powerful logician who can demolish all other views. That is a very conceited delusion.

:anjali:


Certainly. The teachers I have had the pleasure to receive teachings from would say no different.

I am not familiar with Huseng's "cosmological claim," and there are certainly some who may suffer from the delusions you mention, but

from what I understand, these logical grounds are also the foundation for reconciling all of the conquerors teachings so that

that all three turnings are without contradiction. So, the logical epistemological framework does not serve as a sole basis for criticizing theistic traditions, but

serves as a basis of, more importantly, leading oneself and others to correct understanding and in the establishment of the middle way from the extremes.

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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:31 am

tobes wrote:I have been pointing out, with respect to the four noble truths and in relation to Huseng's cosmological claim, that sabda-pramana plays a critical epistemic role - that there are certain key tenets in Buddhism which we cannot know empirically or rationally, but which, are important predicates, upon which, many Buddhist 'truths' rest.


You are mistaken that we cannot know them empirically or rationally. They can be known, experienced, validated and vindicated with appropriate yogic insight.

They cannot be reproduced under laboratory conditions, but nevertheless the key tenets of Buddhism can be empirically verified.



The implication: is to have an attitude of humility and quietism about those other traditions.


This was seldom the case historically.


Not the attitude: because Nagarjuna logically critiqued the Sarvastivadan's, and because I have read Nagarjuna, I am an all powerful logician who can demolish all other views. That is a very conceited delusion.


Nobody here seems to possess such an attitude. But keep in mind that if one has mastered Nāgārjuna's ideas then they will demolish all other views.
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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby mindyourmind » Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:55 pm

Also, does Right View really imply that we should have this neutral view towards other traditions?

Personally I have always found it quite possible to disagree, even strongly, with other traditions without feeling that I cannot "prove" my own case, or that I cannot disprove theirs.

I suppose we are talking about more than one topic here, and I have no objection to the general thrust of what Tobes is saying - as long as that respectful approach to other positions does not end up in actually accepting all that could be possibly true, which is equally disrespectful to such traditions.
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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:15 pm

mindyourmind wrote:Also, does Right View really imply that we should have this neutral view towards other traditions?


It is compassionate to point out the faulty views of others and persuade them to adopt a view oriented towards real liberation. The Buddha himself disagreed with the Brahmins, Jains and others, telling them why they were wrong.

To sit on the fence is often just a result of doubt.

I suppose we are talking about more than one topic here, and I have no objection to the general thrust of what Tobes is saying - as long as that respectful approach to other positions does not end up in actually accepting all that could be possibly true, which is equally disrespectful to such traditions.


We can respectfully disagree with non-Buddhist and even fellow Buddhist traditions while maintaining appropriate decorum and crushing them in debate.

Nāgārjuna when he refuted Sarvāstivādin ideas of inherent existence did not hesitantly say, "Oh well, maybe sorry to say, but y'know, um, not to offend ya', but I really think all dharmas lack inherent existence and here's why ... I hope you don't think I'm being disrespectful. Cool?"

No, he made his point clearly and without sugar coating his arguments or the fact that he might have offended or even undermined the whole careers of others.

When your liberation is on the line sugarcoating things only leads to confusion, doubt and other mental hindrances.
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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby mindyourmind » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:21 pm

Huseng wrote:
mindyourmind wrote:Also, does Right View really imply that we should have this neutral view towards other traditions?


It is compassionate to point out the faulty views of others and persuade them to adopt a view oriented towards real liberation. The Buddha himself disagreed with the Brahmins, Jains and others, telling them why they were wrong.

To sit on the fence is often just a result of doubt.

I suppose we are talking about more than one topic here, and I have no objection to the general thrust of what Tobes is saying - as long as that respectful approach to other positions does not end up in actually accepting all that could be possibly true, which is equally disrespectful to such traditions.


We can respectfully disagree with non-Buddhist and even fellow Buddhist traditions while maintaining appropriate decorum and crushing them in debate.

Nāgārjuna when he refuted Sarvāstivādin ideas of inherent existence did not hesitantly say, "Oh well, maybe sorry to say, but y'know, um, not to offend ya', but I really think all dharmas lack inherent existence and here's why ... I hope you don't think I'm being disrespectful. Cool?"

No, he made his point clearly and without sugar coating his arguments or the fact that he might have offended or even undermined the whole careers of others.

When your liberation is on the line sugarcoating things only leads to confusion, doubt and other mental hindrances.



Well put. I'm afraid that people often, in trying to come across as respectful and tolerant, also send a message of acceptance, even agreement.

But of course, Tobes is saying more than just that.
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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby tobes » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:31 pm

Huseng wrote:
tobes wrote:I have been pointing out, with respect to the four noble truths and in relation to Huseng's cosmological claim, that sabda-pramana plays a critical epistemic role - that there are certain key tenets in Buddhism which we cannot know empirically or rationally, but which, are important predicates, upon which, many Buddhist 'truths' rest.


You are mistaken that we cannot know them empirically or rationally. They can be known, experienced, validated and vindicated with appropriate yogic insight.

They cannot be reproduced under laboratory conditions, but nevertheless the key tenets of Buddhism can be empirically verified.



Of course, but my point is that until the point whereby yogic insight is attained, ones does not have empirical verification. So how do practicing Buddhists know to practice Buddhism?

They must rely upon non empirical and non rational epistemic methods.

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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby tobes » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:34 pm

Huseng wrote:
mindyourmind wrote:Also, does Right View really imply that we should have this neutral view towards other traditions?


It is compassionate to point out the faulty views of others and persuade them to adopt a view oriented towards real liberation. The Buddha himself disagreed with the Brahmins, Jains and others, telling them why they were wrong.

To sit on the fence is often just a result of doubt.



Indeed, if you're a Buddha, you should probably do this.

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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby tobes » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:45 pm

Huseng wrote:
We can respectfully disagree with non-Buddhist and even fellow Buddhist traditions while maintaining appropriate decorum and crushing them in debate.

Nāgārjuna when he refuted Sarvāstivādin ideas of inherent existence did not hesitantly say, "Oh well, maybe sorry to say, but y'know, um, not to offend ya', but I really think all dharmas lack inherent existence and here's why ... I hope you don't think I'm being disrespectful. Cool?"

No, he made his point clearly and without sugar coating his arguments or the fact that he might have offended or even undermined the whole careers of others.

When your liberation is on the line sugarcoating things only leads to confusion, doubt and other mental hindrances.


My point about Nagarjuna's refutation of Sarvastivadan metaphysics is this: he sat down and wrote one of the great treatises in the history of ideas, dealing with Sarvastivadan arguments with incredible precision and depth. Argument by argument, category by category.

In order to achieve such a thing, he had to very deeply understand Sarvastivadan metaphysics.

So my point is that if one wants to emulate the cogency and efficacy of Nagarjuna's approach, one must *MUST* engage with ones interlocutors sufficiently.

Otherwise it is merely hot air and pseudo logic.

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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby 5heaps » Wed Apr 25, 2012 4:56 am

Huseng wrote:One noteworthy example of this in action is how Dharmakīrti attempts to establish the Buddha as an authoritative source of knowledge to prove the existence of rebirth in the face of criticism from a materialist. It is by means of the Buddha's testimony on the subject that we know rebirth to really exist.

Be that as it may, I think most people in our present day would not accept this means of knowledge, even Buddhists despite the fact that traditionally śabda-pramana was acceptable. It is not enough to defer to scripture anymore.

this type of pramana doesnt just mean you accept it because someone else said it.
you accept it based on your correct ascertainment that the person lack the capacity for error regarding what they are talking about.
you yourself forming this correct ascertainment requires more and more skill the harder the topic gets.

absent this correct ascertainment, just merely believing what is said is not a valid cognition of any sort. in fact its a sgra-spyi (dra chi) a mental image based on just hearing something and conceiving it merely as a conjured imagination.

(ps. thats not the only proofs Dharmakirti gives for rebirth)
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Re: śabda-pramana as means of knowing

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:04 am

5heaps wrote:
this type of pramana doesnt just mean you accept it because someone else said it.
you accept it based on your correct ascertainment that the person lack the capacity for error regarding what they are talking about.
you yourself forming this correct ascertainment requires more and more skill the harder the topic gets.


In the case of Buddhism as a Buddhist you generally should accept what the Buddha taught as true once he is established as a valid authority and source of new knowledge.
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