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Appendix 10 - Sri Tattva-sandarbha


TRANSLATION: To ascertain the meanings of the four topics hinted at in the previous verse--visaya, as Krsna; sambandha, as vacya-vacaka; abhidheya, (a synonymn for vidheya, or process) as service to Krsna; and prayojana, as love of Godhead--the means of acquiring valid knowledge will be decided.

Human beings are bound to have four types of defects: They are subject to delusion, make mistakes, have a cheating propensity, and imperfect senses. Thus they are unable to understand the inconceivable spiritual reality, for their means of acquiring knowledge by direct perception, inference, and so forth prove inadequate.

SRI JIVA TOSANI COMMENTARY: Without knowing the purpose of a book it is difficult for the reader to take a keen interest in it, so in the previous annucheda Srila Jiva Gosvami outlines his subject and purpose in brief. Now, with the words tadabhajanalaksana-vidheya, he indicates that devotional service as explained in the scriptures is the process to achieve the goal, prema bhakti. But before one practices a process he must have correct knowledge about it. Thus the need arises for discerning the means of acquiring valid knowledge. Subsequently, this portion of Tattva-sandarbha deals with the vaisnava epistemology. In other words, Jiva Gosvami first establishes the validity of the source of his knowledge before analyzing the four topics mentioned in the previous anuccheda. Knowledge is of two types--valid and invalid. Valid knowledge is called prama and he process of acquiring it is called pramana. Pramana also means proof, evidence, or authority.

Jiva Gosvami is interested in an infallible means of acquiring knowledge. Human beings use various means to acquire knowledge, but none of them are infallible. This is owing to the four inherent defects, found in all humans without exception: Every human being has the tendency to be deluded (bhrama), makes mistakes (pramada), has a cheating propensity (vipralipsa), and has imperfect senses (karanapatava). Bhrama, or delusion, is of two types. One type is to consider the body as the self. This delusion is inherited at birth, but its intensity varies depending upon the degree of attachment to one’s body. Owing to this defect we mistake the temporary and misery-causing sense objects as permanent and pleasure-giving. The second kind of delusion is called samsaya, or doubt. It happens when our senses preceive what isn’t present, such as a mirage or an hallucination. At that time we have a doubtful or wrong perception.

Pramada, the second of the four defects, means that inadvertently we make mistakes. If our mind is not cooperating with a particular knowledge acquiring sense--the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, or touch--we do not get the corresponding knowledge. For example, a person may sit through a lecture but miss portions of it on account of the flickering nature of his mind. By inadvertance he fails to get knowledge. This defect is so commonplace we say, “To err is human”.

The third defect is called vipralipsa. It means propensity to cheat. Material conditioning causes a person to consider himself the material body, which can never give happiness due to its temporary nature. Still, out of delusion he seeks happiness through sense gratification. When unable to get it to his complete satisfaction, he takes to cheating in an attempt to improve his chances. As a result, spouses cheat each other, friends cheat friends, politicians cheat the public, and so on. Even in spiritual life sometimes a so-called guru cheats his disciple or the insincere disciple tries to cheat his guru. This cheating propensity manifests at all levels of material existence. Lastly is the defect of karanapatava, imperfect senses. We have five knowledge acquiring senses--eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and sense of touch. These five senses work only in a limited range. The human eye for instance can see between infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths, but there are many other wavelengths that the eye cannot discern, like radio waves, x-rays, and so on. Even within the visible range our eyes cannot see clearly if the light is too bright or too dim, if the object is too far or too close. In this way, upon analysis each sense has some limitation. The conclusion is that whereas perfect knowledge about material objects free of these four defects is not always possible, perfect knowledge about the transcendental realm is altogether impossible. This premise is the cornerstone of Vedic epistemology. Naturally, acknowledging these four defects makes the quest for a reliable pramana more exacting, a greater challenge. In India’s philosophical tradition ten pramanas or valid means of acquiring knowledge are recognized. Some philosophers accept certain combinations of these as valid and reject others. Each gives arguments to support his diverse conclusions. The ten traditional pramanas are:

1. Arsya: These are utterances of a sage or demigod. There are many exceptional sages, Kapila, Gautama, Patanjali, and others, who founded a school of philosophy. They naturally have differences of opinion and therefore the Mahabharata (Vana Parva 313.117) says, na asau rsi yasya matam na bhinnam, “One is not considered a philosopher if his opinion is not different from others”. As they are great thinkers we consider their utterances, but for a common man it is impossible to determine who gives the valid conclusion.

2. Upamana, or comparison: Knowledge about an unknown object can be gained by comparing it to a familiar object. If we have seen a cow, for example, but have not seen a “gavaya” or a forest cow, and if someone tells us that a forest cow resembles a cow, by comparison we can recognize a forest cow.

3. Arthapatti, or presumption: Here we assume an unknown fact in order to account for a known fact that is otherwise inexplicable. For example, if fat Devadatta does not eat during the daytime, one can safely assume that he eats at night. Otherwise his stoutness without eating during the daytime remains unexplained, as Devadatta cannot get fat by fasting nor can he maintain his weight without eating.

4. Abhava, or non-existence: Non-perception of a qualified object by a qualified sense is called perception of the abhava or the non-existence of that object. For example, a book is a qualified object for the visual perception and the eyes are the qualified senses or means of perception. When one does not see a book on a table he experiences it’s non-existence. This is classified as a separate category of perception, because there is no actual contact between the object and the sense instrument. Thus what is perceived is the non-existence of the object.

5. Sambhava, or inclusion: This pramana is based on the experience that the higher quantity includes the lower quantity. A hundred dollars automatically includes ones, fives, tens, and so on. To infer this knowledge, gained by inclusion, is called sambhava.

6. Aitihya, or tradition: This pramana applies when something is known by common belief or tradition but the original source of that knowledge is unknown. For instance, there is a popular belief that the Old Fort in New Delhi was built by the Pandavas. We have no written proof or scriptural authority to support this, but the belief has been passed down for generations to the present day by tradition.

7. Cesta, or gesture: To acquire knowledge through bodily gestures or symbols is called cesta. For instance, one makes a “V” sign with his fingers to indicate victory, or in Deity worship mudras are shown to the Deity to convey certain messages.

8. Pratyaksa, or direct perception: What we directly perceive with our senses may be valid or invalid knowledge; however, only valid knowledge is to be considered as pramana. Sense perception is the principal means of acquiring knowledge in this material world. Both theistic and atheistic philosophers generally accept pratyaksa pramana as one of the means to valid knowledge. Direct perception is of two types--external and internal. An external perception is when knowledge is acquired through our senses. An internal perception is when the knowledge is acquired by our mind. In Bhagavad-gita (15.7) Lord Krsna lists the mind as the sixth sense (manah-sasthani-indriyani). Through the mind we perceive emotions such as pain, pleasure, love, hate, and so forth.

On account of the inherent four defects pratyaksa is not always a reliable process of acquiring valid knowledge. It is limited only to the present time; it cannot extend into the past or future. According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, however, perfected devotees who achieve direct perception of the Lord, His abode, and His associates through their spiritual trance, all have purified senses and have transcended the four defects. Such persons are reliable sources of knowledge because of their purified sense perception. This is confirmed in the ninth chapter of Bhagavad-gita where Lord Krsna says that this knowledge leads to direct realization of transcendence by experience (pratyaksavagamam). Likewise, in the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, the Lord assures Arjuna that in the state of transcendental trance, samadhi, the devotee acquires pure knowledge through his purified intelligence and transcendental senses (buddhi-grahyam atindriyam vetti). This is called vaidusya pratyaksa and it is flawless.

9. Anumana, or inference: This is when we acquire knowledge by deduction. Literally, anumana means “knowing after,” because the knowledge is arrived at after putting together known bits of information to arrive at an unknown but apparently logical conclusion. Such inferred knowledge is based on the probable relation between what is known and what is deduced. That in turn is based on prior direct perception or prior verbal testimony. This means the deduced outcome is dependent on the evidence. This concomittant relation between the evidence and the deducted conclusion is called vyapti.

Inference is of two kinds, inference for one’s self and inference for others. An example of inference for one’s self is when a person may make out the concomitant relationship between smoke and fire and arrive at the universal generalization “Wherever there is smoke there is fire” after repeatedly experiencing it in the kitchen and elsewhere. Then if he sees smoke hanging over a mountain in the distance he may recall his prior experience, that wherever there is smoke there is invariably fire, and thus he concludes, “The mountain is on fire”.

Inference for others consists of a syllogistic formula that has five steps. After arriving at an inferred conclusion a person employs this method, with a view to enable others to arrive at the same inferred conclusion. A syllogism follows this format:

1. Proposition: The mountain has fire.
2. Reason: Because it has smoke.
3. Universal proposition: Wherever there is smoke there is fire.
4. Application: The mountain has smoke.
5. Conclusion: Therefore it is on fire.

Any error in perceiving the cause or any deviation in the universal generalization then the conclusion will be faulty. In the above example, if the observer mistakes clouds over the mountain for smoke or perceives the smoke just after rain has extinguished the fire, then his deduced conclusion will be wrong. Hence, anumana, like pratyaksya, is not a foolproof method of acquiring knowledge.

10. Sabda, or revealed knowledge: Sabda literally means sound, but as a pramana it refers to articulate sound, which has meaning and which is spoken or written by an apta-purusa, a trustworthy person, an authority. Ultimately, sabda applies to revealed knowledge about the transcendental reality that specifically comes through a trustworthy person who is free from the four defects. This kind of sabda is distinct from the sabda used in mundane transactions, called pauruseya sabda, which is not always trustworthy. For Srila Jiva Gosvami sabda is restricted to the revealed knowledge of the Vedas. This is called apauruseya sabda, revealed knowledge from a superhuman source. It originates from the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is received in disciplic succession from a bonafide guru. Apauruseya sabda, therefore, because it is free of the four defects is the perfect pramana.

At present people generally have an aversion for accepting the authority of sabda pramana concerning absolute knowledge because of skepticism about who is a trustworthy source. They say, “Question authority” and they champion knowledge gained by experience or direct sense perception. Yet we constantly rely on knowledge passed through sound in many spheres of life. We depend on knowledge revealed from parents, teachers, books, magazines, T.V., radio, and numerous experts for their knowledge. Hearing from authorities enhances our learning many times over. If it was dispensed with we would be unable to function in our complex modern society.

Those who consider experience superior to sabda forget that experience itself shows that we gain most of our knowledge by hearing, not by experience. Experience is a great teacher, but it is severely limited by the four defects and the time consumed in acquiring it. And ultimately, no amount of experience would give us access to the transcendent spiritual reality. Indeed, pauruseya sabda, despite its usefulness in the mundane sphere, is also not reliable for understanding transcendence. For that apauruseya sabda pramana is our only hope.

As a means of acquiring knowledge, sabda is not limited only to the present time. It extends into the past and future as well. It is the most powerful tool for conveying knowledge from one person to another, especially if separated by time or place, which is precisely the case in relation to the spiritual world. For all these reasons therefore, philosophers in virtually all of India’s traditions accept the revealed knowledge as the flawless means for acquiring transcendental knowledge. To Srila Jiva Gosvami and all followers of India’s orthodox tradition sabda pramana means the Vedas. They alone deliver knowledge of reality beyond our sensual perception. As explained in the next section, the Vedas are not human creations. They are manifest from the Supreme Lord (vedo narayana saksat), who is free from any defect.

In Sarva-samvadini, while discussing the principle of sabda pramana, Srila Jiva Gosvami writes: tathapi-bhrama-pramada-vipralipsa-karanapatava-dosarahitavacanatmakah sabda eva mulam pramanam. Anyesam prayah purusa- bhramadidosamayatayanyatha pratitidarsanena pramanam va tadabhaso veti purusairnirnetumasakyatvat tasya tadabhavat.

“Although there are ten means of acquiring knowledge, sabda is the primary process because all other means are afflicted with the four human defects. In all other knowledge acquiring processes it is difficult for a common person to ascertain whether the knowledge gained is valid or invalid.” Although different schools of philosophies accept varying combinations of the ten pramanas, Srila Jiva Gosvami, following in the footsteps of Madhvacarya, accepts only pratyaksa (direct perception), anumana (inference) and sabda (revealed knowledge) as valid means of acquiring knowledge. Pratyaksa and anumana serve as assistants to sabda. Whenever they may contradict sabda, preference is given to sabda pramana. Some of the scriptural references for these three pramanas are given below:

pratyaksam canumanan ca
sastram ca vividhagmam
trayam suviditam karyam

“A person inquisitive about religion should try to understand the process of direct perception, inference, and the various scriptures (sabda), as these three are the means of acquiring Vedic knowledge.” (M.S 12.105)

pratyaksenanumanena nigamenatmasamvida
adyantavadasajjnatva nissango vicarediha

“Lord Krsna said: With the help of direct perception, inference and revealed scripture know the objects which have a beginning and an end as temporary. Becoming free from attachment to them maintain yourself in this material world”. (S.B. 11.28.9)

In Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.19.17) Lord Krsna includes aitihya, tradition, along with sense perception, inference and sabda as the means of acquiring knowledge, but it is usually accepted as part of sabda, though not necessarily apauruseya sabda.

By accepting only three of the ten pramanas Jiva Gosvami does not exclude the other seven. He says that pratyaksa, anumana, and sabda includes the other seven pramanas. The breakdown is as follows: upamana, arthapatti, sambhava, and cesta are included in anumana; abhava is in pratyaksa; arsya and aitihya in sabda.

In mathematical logic, Godel’s theorem proves the importance of sabda pramana. His theorem states that within any system some parameters always remain unexplained, so a system cannot be understood completely by the known parameters. Knowledge of certain parameters outside the system is required and the only means to this knowledge is by word, because all other means of knowledge lie within the system, the material world. Similarly, to understand transcendence we require knowledge outside our experience. The means to this knowledge is by transcendental word, or sabda pramana. Next, Srila Jiva Gosvami explains what process is suitable in deciding visaya, sambandha, and prayojana and why.


TRANSLATION: For us who are inquisitive, therefore, about that which is beyond all, yet the support of everything, which is most inconceivable and wondrous in nature, direct perception, inference and so on are not suitable means. For this purpose we accept only the Vedas, whose words are transcendental, which is the source of all mundane and transcendental knowledge, and which have been passed down in humanity through unbroken chains of succession since time immemorial.


As already noted, direct perception and inference depend on sense perception, which is limited only to empirical objects and which is subject to the four human defects. They cannot be helpful in understanding a realm beyond our senses. By going back along the chain of causes, we can deduce that such a realm exists, but inference can take us no further; nor can it yield valid knowledge about abhidheya, the process of realizing that world. That knowledge can be acquired only through revealed scripture, namely the Vedas, which are not creations of a mortal being and thus are free from the four defects described earlier.

As stated in the Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.8) the Vedas were sprung from the Supreme Lord at the dawn of creation: yo brahmanam vidadhati purvam yo vai vedamsca prahinoti tasmai, “That Lord, who created Brahma, gave him the Vedas at the beginning of creation.” Anadi-siddha, used in this anuccheda, means that they were not written at a particular date, but exist eternally like the Lord. They originally manifested in this universe within heart of Lord Brahma, the first created being, tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye (S.B. 1.1.1) and were then handed down through disciplic succession. The Vedas deliver both material and spiritual knowledge. Originally knowledge about all phenomena around us such as the trees, water, land, sky, and so forth, along with the divisions of duties for various people according to psycho-physical nature came from the Vedas. This is stated in the Manu Samhita (1.21) sarvesam tu sa namani karmani ca prthak prthak veda-sabdebhya eva’dau prthaksamsthasca nirmame. “The knowledge of the names of various objects and the respective duties of various people was obtained by Lord Brahma from the words of the Vedas and thus he propagated the division of names and duties.” Over a period of time various cultures and languages developed which became alienated from the original vedic culture.

As for acquiring transcendental knowledge, sabda pramana, or the Vedas is the only way. They inform us about the soul’s existence beyond the body, the spiritual planets, the Supreme Lord, His pastimes and so on. All these subjects are beyond the reach of our sensual and mental faculties. Without the sabda method, philosophers like Lord Buddha, who did not accept the Vedas, are unable to say a word about transcendence let alone explain a means to attain it. Sabda pramana is so important that although Lord Buddha is counted among the incarnations of the Lord, on the strength of Vedic testimony, His philosophy is rejected, because it was not based on sabda pramana.

All theistic orthodox schools of philosophy in India, whether monistic or dualistic, consider the Vedas as apauruseya, not written by any mortal being. Some modern scholars do not agree. They speculate various dates for the composition of the Vedas. While most of them agree that the Vedas were composed before 1500 B.C., they disagree about the exact time of their composition. They have yet to arrive at a definitive conclusion.

Here Srila Jiva Gosvami says, anadi siddha sarva purusa paramparasu, “The Vedas are beginningless and have come down in an unbroken chain of disciplic successions”. The words sarva purusa, “all humans,” includes both human beings as well as the super humans, the demigods. These successions begin with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is an infallible entity in all respects. He has no taint of the four defects. Further, in anuccheda nine, Srila Jiva Gosvami has already shown the alternatives to be unreliable. If no other method except apauruseya sabda can give access to transcendental reality, how is it possible that the Vedas can be written or developed by a human being? If that was the case Jiva Gosvami would openly contradict himself, having previously rejected humans as an imperfect source of knowledge because of the inherent four defects.

We have only two possibilities about the origin of the Vedas. Either they are human compositions or they are of divine origin. In response to the first proposal we must consider that no one has been able to prove their authorship by any particular mortal. Even those scholars who speculate about when the Vedas were first composed have shed no light on the original author. They cannot give his name, nationality, occupation, qualification or other such historical details.

One may argue that the name of the author has been forgotten over time and thus it is not logical to consider the Vedas of divine origin. This argument is weak, because they have been handed down through the system of disciplic succession from antiquity to the present. Traditionally the upper classes, called dvijas, belong to a particular branch of the Vedas. Thus when studying their branch they studied the historical data related to it. Even today, when the study of the Vedas have declined, people still know the details about their sakha, or branch of the Vedas, who was the sage originally in charge of it and so on. Thus if the Vedas had a human composer his name would have been handed down and remembered.

On the contrary, from the works of philosophers like Kumarila Bhatta, it is understood that the Vedas are not human compositions. Indologists accept that Kumarila lived in the sixth century. At that time Vedic culture still flourished in India along with the system of disciplic succession, but even then there was no author ascribed to the Vedas. Similarly, one can research even further back and still unearth no trace of any human composer of the Vedas. They have always been revealed knowledge from the Supreme Lord and none other.

One may further argue that the author of the Vedas is forgotten because it served no purpose to remember him. This is also a weak argument for to remember the author of the Vedas is not futile. As stated above, while engaged in Vedic studies or sacrifices one recites the names of his sakha (branch), gotra (lineage), pravara (sub-division), and so on. If the sages that propounded the various branches are remembered, then why neglect to remember the author? Of course, the author is not at all forgotten, because all orthodox Vedic scholars know Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Indeed the theory of the Vedas having a human composer is a recent development advocated by persons who did not come in disciplic succession. They were mostly outsiders, who refused to believe that India hand anything to offer the world in the realm of philosophy and had their own motives for minimizing the Vedic traditions, in that they were eager to convert India to Christianity. They certainly were not eager to be impartial in judging the matter of the Vedas’ origin.

From lack of any definitive proof, therefore, and in light of the many reasonable arguments for their divine origin the first option ought to be discarded. As demonstrated in the last section, the human senses are incapable of approaching the inconcievable object, so even theoretically it is not possible that the Vedas could have been composed by human beings.

In addition, great scholars and saintly persons, such as Sankaracarya, Madhvacarya, Ramanujacarya, Kumarila Bhatta, Rupa Gosvami, and others accepted the Vedas as apauruseya and eternal. These saintly persons are famed for their renunciation, knowledge, and freedom from selfish motives. Naturally a credibility gap exists between them and contemporary mundane scholars who contest the divine origin of the Vedas, but these materialistic scholars cannot be proven free from ulterior motives, nor can their character and conduct compare favorably with that of the great acaryas. Another consideration, and an important one, is that the Vedas themselves repeatedly enjoin that one must first approach a guru in disciplic succession if he wants to understand the spiritual knowledge therein. Thus Vedic knowledge is verifiable and not just a collection of abstract ideas. Mundane scholars, however, puffed up with their years of text book knowledge, presume to flout this requirement, yet consider themselves authorities on Vedic knowledge. In reality, by not applying themselves to the knowledge in the prescribed way they are locked out from its mysteries. The attempt of such hapless scholars to understand the Vedas outside of the disciplic succession are like persons who try to taste honey by licking on the jar. Their labor is futile and their resultant analysis and conclusions they draw are useless.

By contrast, the great vaisnava acaryas all became Vedic authorities on account of their scrupulously following the injunction to surrender to a guru coming in disciplic succession. On the matter of sincerity and credibility, therefore, the verdict weighs heavily in favor of the saintly acaryas. Ultimately, any interested person may take to the process and verify the Vedic conclusions for himself. This requires some effort. Naturally, it is easier to give a glib opinion against the Vedas than to discipline oneself to follow its instructions, but such detractors cannot prove their negative claims.

Furthermore, even if someone says that just as modern science is evolving the Vedas evolved over a period of time, then the question arises why in the annals of recorded history did people stop making further refinements in the Vedas? If the Vedas indeed have a human source, they should have been revised and improved over time and new, improved versions should be available; but this is not the case. Rather, North or South, East or West, the same standard readings of the Vedas are found, and no older or newer versions are seen anywhere. Rather, the Vedic saints have developed a meticulous system to protect the word order of the Vedic texts. Even changing a single syllable is considered criminal. Thus the Vedas are rightly called sruti, or that which is heard from the guru, with proper tone and accent of the syllables.

The Vedas are unique. Can one imagine that in a particular field of science or art we will reach the apex in knowledge, produce one standard book accepted by all, making all other books in that field obsolete? Is it conceivable that no one will make any further changes or additions to such a book, and that book will become worshipable to the people interested in that field? The reasonable, unbiased answer is “no”, and yet this is precisely the case with the Vedas for they are free of defects having emanated from the perfect source, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But if someone says “yes”, then there is no reason for debate over the authority of the Vedas.

In addition to the spiritual knowledge it contains, the Vedic literature has references to most current scientific achievements. The Vedas have sections on astronomy, medicine, yoga, music, drama, dance, algebra, civil engineering, and so on. The list is long indeed. These are all practical sciences that have been used in India centuries before the dawn of modern astronomy and medical science and other arts and sciences. His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, writes in his introduction to Srimad-Bhagavatam, “The authority of the Vedas is unchallengeable and stands without any question of doubt. The conchshell and cowdung are the bone and stool of two living beings. But because they have been recommended by the Vedas as pure, people accept them as such because of the authority of the Vedas”. Now it has been proven by scientific experimentation that cowdung is antiseptic and has medicinal value. It would be simplistic, therefore, to brush aside the Vedas as manmade. Had that being the case, renowned thinkers and powerful logicians such as Srila Jiva Gosvami and Srila Madhvacarya would have taken no stock in them.

Still, one may question the eternal nature of the Vedas for any scriptural references in support of them will necessarily come from the Vedas themselves. In logic, evidence that relies on itself for proof, or circular reasoning, is unacceptable. This makes the Vedas appear tainted with the defect of svasrya-dosa, or begging the question, relying on themselves to establish their nature and authority.

Circular reasoning would be a serious defect, but a closer look shows that the Vedas are an exception to this fallacy. That the Vedas rely on themselves to establish their authority is not a defect; rather it is logical, sensible. It affirms their absolute or transcendental nature, for if some other source were to confirm the authority of the Vedas, then the authority of that new source would surpass the Vedas. In which case an inquisitive person would be obliged to discard the Vedas and start all over again to analyze the authenticity of the new source. Before long this new source would need confirmation from yet another source. This could go on ad infinitum, but the absence of such a superior source with reference to the Vedas goes to show that the authority of the Vedas as apauruseya sabda pramana is final.

Logically, therefore, no other pramana can subtantiate the Vedas. Traditionally, therefore, the Vedas are accepted as mother. When a person wants to know who is his father, he cannot know the answer by direct perception, nor by inference or by deduction. To know the answer he has to accept her testimony. Similarly, we have to accept the revealed knowledge of the Vedas to learn about the reality beyond our sensual and intellectual power. The theory advanced by some scholars that the Vedas are of mundane origin is unreliable and untenable because they have not studied the Vedas in a bonafide disciplic succession. Because of the four defects and their being captivated by ulterior motives like name, fame, research funding, or even a university degree, by divine arrangement they are barred from getting any real insight about the Vedic knowledge. They have no inhibition in admitting that for the proper comprehension of any complex material subject one ought to take the help of experts in that field. In the case of the Vedic literature it is an absolute need. Its function is similar to a password protection against insincere persons who either want to exploit the Vedas or refute them. In Bhagavad-gita (7.25) the Supreme Lord affirms this:

naham prakasah sarvasya
mudho 'yam nabhijanati
loko mam ajam avyayam

“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible.”

This applies whether He comes in His personal form or whether He reveals Himself in scripture. The Lord gives the method whereby the conditioned souls can approach Him. That method is by disciplic succession. Those unwilling to qualify themselves in that way can have no access to Him, even if they study the Vedas on their own for many lifetimes.

In conclusion, owing to the absence of any conclusive proof regarding the authorship of the Vedas by a mortal being, and by the logic known as the law of the remainder (parisesa-nyaya), as well as on the authority of the great acaryas and saints coming in the bonafide disciplic successions, and ultimately by accepting the testimony of the Vedas themselves, it is reasonably concluded that the Vedas exist eternally and are infallible means of knowledge.

Next, Srila Jiva Gosvami shows that inference cannot be an independent means in understanding the Absolute Truth.


TRANSLATION: This conclusion is confirmed by the following statements from the scriptures:

1. Reasoning has no sure basis (it cannot refute the conclusion of the Veda). (Brahma Sutra 2.1.11)
2. One should not apply reasoning to understand what is inconceivable. (Mahabharata, Bhisma Parva 5.22)
3. Scriptures are the source of knowledge of the Absolute Truth. (Brahma Sutra 1.1.3)
4. This is confirmed by the Vedas, because they are the source of knowledge of the Absolute Truth. (Brahma Sutra 2.1.27)
5. O Supreme Lord, Your Veda is the supreme eye for the forefathers, demigods, and human beings. By it they can understand Your form and qualities, along with the highest goal of life and the means to attain it, none of which can be ascertained otherwise. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.20.4)


Here, using scriptural evidence, Srila Jiva Gosvami confirms his conclusion about logic reached in the previous section. Having argued that reason is not the most reliable means of acquiring knowledge, and having used reason to establish this, he now presents appropriate Vedic references as the final proof. Again, this practice of using the Vedas to confirm an assertion from the Vedas should not be taken as circular reasoning. The Vedas are self-luminious like the sun. The sun illuminates itself with its own light, not with the help of any other source. Similarly, only the Vedas can establish themselves as infallible pramana. As explained in the previous section, this is not a defect in the method of sabda pramana, or revelation, because if the Vedas indeed carry knowledge of the Absolute Truth, no other pramana can verify them. And those who have approached Vedic knowledge in the prescribed way have confirmed by direct realization that the Vedas do carry knowledge of the Absolute Truth.

Another consideration is that knowledge of the inconceivable reality is the objective, and upon analysis no source gives us that opportunity except the Vedas. For example, if all the best logicians, nuclear physicists, astro-physicists, and others in leading departments of science and philosophy from the past, present, and future were to assemble they would be unable to shed any light on the nature of transcendence. Any proposed conclusion will be a subjective speculation, subject to endless refutation and counter refutation. Understanding this, Srila Jiva Gosvami goes directly to the heart of the matter by quoting Vedic authority.

Srila Vyasadeva gave the conclusion of all the Vedas in the Vedanta Sutras, also called Brahma Sutras, in short aphorisms. Sutra 2.1.11 says that logic has no absolute stance because logical conclusions are prone to change. Logical conclusions are based upon human perception and intelligence and these faculties are unreliable due to the four defects. Furthermore, since intellect varies in capacity and type from person to person, so do their conclusions. Logic has its limitations, therefore, it is inconclusive unless supported by the scriptures. In Bhaktirasamrta Sindhu (1.1.46) Srila Rupa Gosvami quotes a verse from the Vakya-padiya (1.34) to this effect: yatnenapadito’pyarthah kusalairanumatrbhih abhiyuktatarairanyairanyathaivopapadyate — “Even the conclusions established with great endeavor by expert logicians are contradicted by stronger logicians and new conclusions are established.”

We have experience of this in the fields of modern science and philosophy with their endlessly theorizing about the origin of the universe and the meaning of life. Logic, therefore, is not a reliable independent method in the quest for knowledge of the Absolute. But this does not mean that all logic is useless. Indeed the conclusion to reject logic as not fully reliable is itself based on logic supported by scriptural references. Logic is certainly to be used to understand the Vedic statements. In this connection, the Brhadaranyakopanisad states, atma va are drastavyah srotayo mantavyo nididhyasitavyo maitreyi (2.4.5.) “The Self, my dear Maitreyi should be realized, should be heard of, reflected on, and meditated upon”. Here the word mantavya refers to logical understanding. One should apply logic to properly understand the Vedic injunctions, but logic that runs contrary to their conclusions is to be rejected. It can never be superior to the statements of the Vedas, which are free from human misgivings. While discussing this topic in Sarvasamvadini, Srila Jiva Gosvami quotes the Kurma Purana: purvaparavirodhena ko’nvartho’bhimato bhavet ityadyamuhanam tarkah suskatarkanca varjayet — “Understanding the meaning of a scriptural statement by deliberating over the preceding and following statements is called logic, but one should abandon dry logic”.

The best of example of dry logic is seen among speculative philosophers. Generally, they reason their way to a prior conclusion, to which they are already attached, and in their determination to establish it they lose all objectivity. They therefore will disregard scriptural injunctions that do not support their conclusions. Ultimately they have no success, because the inconceivable transcendental plane is not understood by any amount of speculation. Such persons interest in philosophy amounts to a futile mental exercise with no tangible result. And, before long, no matter how profound and mesmerizing their vision, some other powerful logician subdues them. The Vedas enjoin, therefore, that those who seek the Absolute Truth should abandon dry logic, but not all logic. Using logic with an aim to understand the Absolute Truth as presented in scripture is accepted by Lord Krsna as one of His opulences (B.G. 10.32), vadah pravadatam aham, “Among logicians I am the conclusive truth.” Thus Srila Jiva Gosvami has rightly accepted anumana as one of the pramanas.

Srila Jiva Gosvami also quotes Mahabharata, which explains that logic has it’s limitations and should not be applied to inconceivable realities. For example, one will certainly fail to understand Lord Krsna’s childhood pastimes such as “Damabandhana Lila”, or His getting tied with ropes, if one resorts to logic. When Mother Yasoda tried to tie Krsna, to her amazement all her ropes joined together fell short, but the black thread around Krsna’s waist did not break nor did His waist become inflated. Such inconceivable behavior of the Absolute Person is entirely beyond all logical faculties and can only be understood on the authority of Vedic testimony or sabda pramana.

Jiva Gosvami then quotes two more Brahma Sutras (1.1.3 and 2.1.27) which state emphatically that the Absolute Truth can be understood only from the revealed scriptures. Finally, he quotes from Srimad-Bhagavatam to show that not only human beings but even superhumans like the demigods need the help of the Vedas. Thus he emphasizes the need of the Vedas as the flawless means to understand the Absolute Truth for everyone humans, subhumans or superhumans.

In the next section, Srila Jiva Gosvami begins establishing the importance of the Puranas over the Vedas.


TRANSLATION: But at present (the complete text of the Vedas is unavailable and owing to a decrease in human memory) it is difficult to study the whole body of the Vedas. Further, because of their abstruse nature the available portions are difficult to understand. In addition great thinkers, commentators on the Vedas, give contradictory conclusions to the Vedic statements. Analyzing the Itihasas and Puranas is worthwhile, therefore, as they have the same nature as the Vedas and are decisive in giving the meaning of the Vedas.

Besides, the meaning of the unavailable (or difficult) portions of the Vedas can be inferred with the help of the Itihasas and Puranas. Thus at present only the Itihasas and Puranas are capable of yielding valid knowledge. Therefore the Mahabharata and Manu Smrti state, “One should explain the meaning of the Vedas with the help of the Itihasas and Puranas”. (M.B. Adi Parva 1.267) Elsewhere it is stated, “The Puranas are called by that name because they complete (Purana)”. One cannot explain the meaning of the Vedas with something that is not Vedic in nature, just as one cannot add lead to an incomplete golden necklace to make it complete.”

But the doubt arises that if the word Veda includes the Itihasas and Puranas then we must search for separate books called Itihasas and Puranas, otherwise they will have no oneness with the Vedas. The answer is that the verses in the Vedas, and the Itihasas and Puranas are apauruseya in nature and contain knowledge about the Lord and His energies, as such there is no difference between them. Still, there is a difference, because of accent and word order, which is strictly followed in the Vedas.

Oneness of the Itihasas and Puranas with the rg and other Vedas, with respect to their apauruseya nature, is indicated in the Madhyandina Sruti, “My dear Maitreyi, the Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Veda, Itihasas and Puranas...are manifest from the breath of the Supreme Lord” (Brhadaranyaka 2.4.10).

SRI JIVA TOSANI COMMENTARY: In the previous anucchedas Srila Jiva Gosvami established the Vedas as the valid means of acquiring knowledge about the Supreme. Specifically, he established the validity of the Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas as apauruseya sabda. Now he points out the practical difficulties in studying them. The first difficulty is the unavailability of the complete text of the Vedas. Originally the Veda was one, then at the advent of Kali-yuga Srila Vyasadeva divided it into four, vyadadhad yajnasantatyai vedamekam caturvidham (S.B. 1.4.19). Then, as explained in the Kurma Purana (52.19, 20), the four Vedas were further divided into 1130 branches: ekavimsatibhedena rgvedam krtavan pura sakhanantu satenaiva yajurvedamathakarot samavedam sahasrena sakhanam pravibheda sah atharvanamatho vedam vibheda navakena tu. “The Rgveda was divided into 21 branches and the Yajurveda into 100 branches, the Samaveda into 1,000 branches and the Atharvaveda into 9 branches.”

Further, every branch has four subdivisions called Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka, and Upanisad. So all in all, the vedas consist of 1130 Samhitas, 1130 Brahmanas, 1130 Aranyakas, and 1130 Upanisads, a total of 4520 titles. By the influence of time, however, many texts have been lost. At present only about 11 Samhitas, 18 Brahmanas, 7 Aranyakas, and 220 Upanisads are available. This is less than 6 of the original Vedas.

The second difficulty is language. The Vedas are written in Sanskrit, which is of two types--vaidika and laukika. Only vaidika Sanskrit is used in the Vedas and to understand it one has to learn extra rules of grammar, which require years of study. Even so the Vedic verses are cryptic and it is impossible to decipher them without hearing from a bonafide guru, coming in disciplic succession.

And again, even before studying the Vedas one must study their six limbs called vedanga. These six limbs are: 1. Siksa, the science of pronunciation; 2. Kalpa, the process of performing sacrifice; 3. Vyakarana, the rules of grammar; 4. Niruktam, the meanings of difficult words used in the Vedas and their derivations; 5. Jyotisa, astronomy and astrology; 6. Chandas, Vedic meters. Each of these limbs is extensive and requires years of study.

To further complicate matters, the coming of Kali-yuga has brought a decrease in human memory. In former times there were no printing facilities. A student had to memorize all he learnt from his spiritual master simply by hearing, but this is no longer possible. In this age food, water, and air are polluted. All these factors have taken their toll on human memory making it difficult to study even the available 6 of the Vedic texts, what to speak of the entire four Vedas and their branches. The conclusion of Srila Jiva Gosvami is that although the four Vedas are sabda pramana, in the present age it is not practical to go through them for enquiring after the Absolute Truth.

As an alternative, someone may suggest that even if all the Vedas are not available and they are difficult to understand, why not just study the Vedanta Sutras, the summary of the Vedic conclusions? To this Jiva Gosvami replies that various thinkers differ over the meaning of Vedanta Sutra, so this will only lead to confusion. Besides, there are thinkers like Gautama, Kapila, Jaimini, and others, who have other philosophies, why accept Vedanta rather than one of their explanations? For all these reasons it will be impossible to understand sambandha, abhideya, and prayojana even with the help of the Vedas. To resolve this dilemma Srila Jiva Gosvami proposes an alternative, study the Itihasas and Puranas.

The Itihasas and Puranas are easier to understand than the Vedas, because they are written in laukika, or spoken Sanskrit, in contrast to the Vedas which are written in Vedic Sanskrit, which is not spoken. Further, the esoteric meanings of the Vedas are more accessible, because the Itihasas and Puranas are told in story form. And whereas only the dvijas, or the twice born people, are allowed to study the Vedas that restriction does not apply to the Itihasas and Puranas. Anyone may study them. Even their prime speaker, Suta Gosvami, is not a dvija. They carry the same conclusions as the Vedas and having come from the same source, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are free from the four human defects and are also sabda pramana. Thus the Itihasas and Puranas are as reliable as the four Vedas.

The Itihasas and Puranas are identical with the Vedas, but that does not mean that they are one with the Vedas in every sense. Otherwise the words Itihasa and Purana would simply be a different name for the Vedas. The Vedas are written in Vedic Sanskrit, which contains accent--Udatta (high), Svarita (medium) and Anudatta (low). Hence the meaning of a word can change according to the change of accent. An example of this is in the history of the demon Vrtrasura, who was created by means of a mantra during a sacrifice. This demon was supposed to kill Indra, but during the sacrifice the priests pronounced the mantra--indra satro vivardhasva--with the wrong accent. The result was just the opposite: Indra killed Vrtrasura.

Another significant difference between the four Vedas and the Itihasas and Puranas is the word order, which is fixed in the case of the Vedas. Nobody has the authority to change even a syllable of the Vedic texts and it has been maintained in this order since the beginning of creation. Techniques have been devised, such as Pada-patha, Krama-patha, Ghana-patha, Jata-patha, and so on for keeping the word order intact. No interpolation or juggling is possible; the Itihasas and Puranas are not so rigid and therefore the readings may be different in different yuga cycles. This does not occur with the four Vedas. Because no special techniques are used to keep the order of the words of the Puranas and Itihasas intact we find differences in readings between different editions.

The Mahabharata, an Itihasa, was compiled by Srila Vyasa for people of this age specifically because they are not qualified to understand the Vedas. This is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.4.25:

strisudradvijabandhunam trayi na srutigocara
karmasreyasi mudhanam sreya evam bhavadiha
iti bharatamakhyanam krpaya munina krtam

“Out of compassion, the sage thought it wise that this would enable men to achieve the ultimate goal of life. Thus he compiled the great historical narration called the Mahabharata for women, laborers, and friends of the twice born, who are not qualified to study the Vedas.”

Srila Jiva Gosvami says that the Puranas are called so because they make the Vedas complete. Does he mean the Vedas are incomplete? No, but the Puranas are a form of explanatory, supplementary literature that help us to understand the terse, cryptic message of the Vedas. Like the Vedas, they convey knowledge of the Absolute Truth. To perform this function they must be of the same transcendental quality as the Vedas. The Skanda Purana (4.95.12) therefore states:

vede ramayane caiva purane bharate tatha
adavante ca madhye ca harih sarvatra giyate

“In the Vedas, Ramayana, Puranas, and in Mahabharata Lord Hari is glorified everywhere--in the beginning, middle, and end.”

The Itihasas and Puranas, therefore, having emanated from the same source as the Vedas and having the same conclusion as the Vedas, they have equal authority to the four Vedas.

Next, Srila Jiva Gosvami explains further about the Itihasas and Puranas not being inferior to the Vedas. This verse is not in the current edition of the Bhavisya Purana.


TRANSLATION: The Prabhasa Khanda of the Skanda Purana states therefore: Previously, Lord Brahma, the grandfather of the demigods, performed severe penances and thereafter the Vedas appeared along with their Pada and Krama texts and their six limbs. Then the unchanging complete Purana, the embodiment of all scriptures, composed of eternal sound, sacred in nature, and consisting of one billion verses emanated from the mouth of Lord Brahma. Know that of the various divisions of that Purana the Brahma Purana is the first... (Sk.P. 2.3-5)

The figure “one billion verses” is mentioned here because that is the number of verses existing on Brahmaloka. The Srimad-Bhagavatam, Third Canto, states, “Maitreya said, ‘Beginning from the front face of Brahma, in order the four Vedas--Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva--became manifest”. (SB. 3.12.37)

And later on, “Then he created the fifth Veda--the Itihasas and Puranas--from his mouths, since he could see the past, present and future”. (SB. 3.12.39) Moreover, the word “Veda” has been used here for the Itihasas and Puranas.

Elsewhere it is said: “The Puranas are the fifth Veda”; “The Itihasas and Puranas are called the fifth Veda”. (SB. 1.4.20) “He taught the Vedas along with the fifth Veda, the Mahabharata”, (M.Bh. Moksadharma 340.21).

If the Itihasas and Puranas were not Vedic then to group them as the fifth Veda in the preceeding verses would be highly improper, since only objects of the same kind are grouped together. Also, the Bhavisya Purana states, “The Mahabharata is called the fifth Veda of Sri Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa”.*

A reference is found in the Chandogya Upanisad of the Kauthumiya branch of the Samaveda (7.1.2), “O venerable Sir, I studied the rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Veda as well as the Itihasas and Puranas, which are the fifth Veda”. Therefore, the well-known objection, that the Itihasas and Puranas listed in the Brhadaranyakopanisad 2.4.10 are included in the four Vedas and have no separate existence, is refuted. The Skanda Purana states, “The Brahma Purana is the first...”(as quoted previously).


Here Srila Jiva Gosvami substantiates the statement from the Brhadaranyakopanisad (2.4.10) which establish the vedic nature of the Itihasas and Puranas by giving more evidence from the Puranas, Itihasas, and Upanisads. From these references the following is clear: 1. The Puranas and Itihasas have the same source as the four Vedas. 2. They are apauruseya in nature. 3. They are in the same category as the Vedas and are in fact the fifth Veda.

Srila Jiva Gosvami here refers to a famous objection that the Itihasas and Puranas are part of the four Vedas. While explaining verse 2.4.10 of the Brhadaranyakopanisad some followers of the mimamsaka school hold that the words Itihasa and Purana refer to the historical passages found in some of the Vedas and not to separate works. For example, these sruti statements, yato va imani bhutani jayante, “From him these beings take birth etc.,”; sah brahmana srjati rudrena vilapayati hariradiranadih, “He creates through Brahma, destroys through Rudra, but Lord Hari is the source of all and is beginningless Himself etc.” are all referred to as “Purana” since they pertain to creation and destruction, which is part of the subject matter of the Puranas.

They further argue that over an immense period of time many of these portions of the Vedas were lost and the available parts were difficult to understand. Therefore, as stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.4.25, out of mercy Srila Vyasa wrote the Itihasas and Puranas for the benefit of less-intelligent people in Kali-yuga. Hence the Itihasa and Puranas under discussion are part of the Vedas and not independent books hence it is incorrect to conclude that they are the fifth Veda.

Srila Jiva Gosvami refutes this with references from the Vedas, as well as from the Itihasas and Puranas themselves, to establish their rightful position as the fifth Veda, having emanated independently from the mouth of Lord Brahma. If they were only parts within the Vedas then there was no need to call them the fifth Veda in the references cited. In addition, the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanisads, Kalpasutras, Dharmasutras, Grhya Sutras, Puranas, Itihasas, and other smrti texts have many references about the Itihasas and Puranas being apauruseya and Vedic in nature. Except for the last three the rest are all different portions of the original four Vedas. Some of these references are:

rcah samani chandamsi puranam yajusa saha
ucchistajjajnire sarve divi deva divisritah

(Atharvaveda 11.7.24) “The Rg, Sama, Yajur, and Atharvaveda, along with the Puranas, and all the demigods residing in the heavenly planets appeared from the Supreme Lord.”

sa brhatim disamanuvyacalat
tamitihasasca puranam ca gathasca
itihasasya ca sa vai puranasya ca gathanam ca
narasamsinam ca priyamdhama bhavati ya evam veda

“He moved favorably towards Brhati and thus the Itihasas, Puranas, Gathas, and Narasamsi became favorable to him. One who knows this verily becomes the dear abode of the Itihasas and Puranas, Gathas and Narasamsi”. (Atharva 15.6.10,12)

evamime sarve veda nirmitah sakalpah
sarahsyah sabrahmanah sopanisatkah
setihasah sanvakhyatah sapuranah

“In this way all the Vedas became manifest along with the Kalpas, Rahasyas, Brahmanas, Upanisads, Itihasas, Anvakhyatas and Puranas”. (Gopath Brahmana Purva 2.10)

nama va rgvedo yajurvedah samaveda atharva-
nascaturtha itihas puranah pancamo vedanam vedah....

“Indeed Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva are the names of the four Vedas. The Itihasas and Puranas are the fifth Veda.” (Ch. U. 7.1.4)

mimamsate ca yo vedan sadbhirangaih savistaraih
itihasa-puranani sa bhaved veda paragah

“One who studies thoroughly the Vedas along with it’s six limbs and the Itihasas and Puranas becomes a true knower of the Veda. (Vyasasmrti 4.45) In the next anuccheda Srila Jiva Gosvami explains why the Itihasas and Puranas are counted as the fifth Veda.