“How do we know scriptures are divine revelations” they say.
His Divine Grace A. C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, explains us in his work called ‘Rāja-Vidyā’, that there are two processes for attaining knowledge – one is inductive and the other is deductive. The deductive method is considered to be more perfect. We may take a premise such as “All men are mortal,” and no one need discuss how man is mortal. It is generally accepted that this is the case. The deductive conclusion is “Mr. Johnson is a man; therefore, Mr. Johnson is mortal.” But how is the premise that all men are mortal arrived at? Followers of the inductive method wish to arrive at this premise through experiment and observations. We may thus study that this man died and that man died, etc., and after seeing that so many men have died we may conclude or generalize that all men are mortal, but there is a major defect in this inductive method, and that is that our experience is limited. We may never have seen a man who is not mortal, but we are judging this on our personal experience, which is finite. Our senses have limited power, and there are so many defects in our conditioned state. The inductive process, consequently, is not always perfect, whereas the deductive process from a source of perfect knowledge is perfect. The Vedic process is such a process.
According to the Vedic system, knowledge achieved from the greatest authority is to be considered perfect. According to the Vedas, there are three kinds of proof: pratyakṣa, anumāna, and śabda. One is by direct visual perception. If a person is sitting in front of me, I can see him sitting there, and my knowledge of his sitting there is received through my eyes. The second method, anumāna, is by inference: we may hear children playing outside, and by hearing we can conjecture that they are there. And the third method is the method of taking truths from a higher authority. Such a saying as “Man is mortal” is accepted from higher authorities. Everyone accepts this, but no one has experienced that all men are mortal. By tradition, we have to accept this. If someone asks, “Who found this truth first? Did you discover it?” it is very difficult to say. All we can say is that the knowledge is coming down and we accept it. Out of the three methods of acquiring knowledge, the Vedas say that the third method, that of receiving knowledge from higher authorities, is the most perfect. Direct perception is always imperfect, especially in the conditioned stage of life. By direct perception we can see that the sun is just like a disc no larger than the plate we eat on. From scientists, however, we come to understand that the sun is many thousands of times larger than the earth. So what are we to accept? Are we to accept the scientific proclamation, the proclamation of authorities, or our own experience? Although we cannot ourselves prove how large the sun is, we accept the verdict of astronomers. In this way we are accepting the statements of authorities in every field of our activities. From newspapers and radio we also understand that such and such events are taking place in China and India and other places all around the earth. We’re not experiencing these events directly, and we don’t know that such events are actually taking place, but we accept the authority of the newspapers and radio. We have no choice but to believe authorities in order to get knowledge. And when the authority is perfect, our knowledge is perfect.
In order to attest the authenticity of anything, we need to go through verification process. What’s the process? inorder to verify the authenticity of scriptures, the process of verification is divided into two, namely— subjective verification & objective verification.
The third method to verify scriptures is to verify the existence of God & Soul through the use of logic, such as argument from Intelligent Design, but this is not to be explained in this article for some reason.
Subjective verification is similar to the saying, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’. meaning, something can only be judged to be authentic or inauthentic after it has been tried or used or experienced by ourselves. One cannot prove the taste of water to someone who has never tasted water, the ‘someone’ has to taste it by himself, it is called subjective evidence.
Scriptures claim the following which can be verified subjectively—
- Experience of supreme peace, satisfaction & Joy.
As one gradually develops into Krishna consciousness, the state of happiness keeps increasing, as if there’s no end. The very proof for the existence of Krishna or God and the authenticity of Scriptures, is that Bhakti gives the highest satisfaction & Joy, which cannot be compared to any other so-called pleasures of life.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur says in respect to this—
“I have become supremely joyful
by surrendering myself at Your (Krishna’s) holy feet. Unhappiness has gone away, and there are no more anxieties. I see joy in all directions. Your two lotus feet are reservoirs of immortal nectar where one may live free from sorrow and fear. I have found peace there now and have given up the fear of worldly existence”
- Experience of ecstasy.
Devotees who have reached higher stages under the proper guidance of scriptures, feel ecstatic in their Bhajan and Sadhana, which is an experience beyond words, it is even more stronger evidence of God than seeing Krishna or God directly. Each and everyone of us can attain that state.
- Experience of miracles.
- Experience of paranormal activities & black magic.
ISKCON members such as Amogh Leela Prabhu have personally encountered paranormal activities, which can be checked here—
Thus, hearing from a trusted source, we can understand the scriptural ideas to be true. Many of our family members may have encountered such incidents, whom we can trust.
Scriptures claim the following which can be verified objectively—
A) Scientific accuracies in the scriptures, B) Future predictions.
Won’t divert the article into a lenghty post, hence will provide only an example for each.
- Prediction of ISKCON.
Scriptures such as Padma, Brahma Vaivarta, Bhavisya, Skanda Purana, ancient Sri Vaishnav sampradyik texts such as the alwars, biographies of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, is the best to cite as a example.
Skeptics may claim the prediction of ISKCON in the scriptures to be later day additions into the texts, i.e. interpolation. But argument from interpolations can’t arise here, for example, Padma Purana of Anandashram sanskrit edition, which was published in 1890s itself, includes all those verses which has ISKCON’s prediction, in Uttara Khanda, chapter 190.
Or one may pick any Purana’s manuscripts and editions which is older than 50 years, which is sure to be found in abundance, for ISKCON is very recent, only a 50 year old organization, i.e. way after India got independence. Srila Prabhupada first arrived on USA in the year 1965.
We had easily developed printing technology and started to print many scriptures in 1880s itself. Interpolations used to happen when there was no such technology. Inorder to give someone a copy of a scripture, one had to manually pen down the entire scripture again, prepare ink, pen, pages. Due to which very limited number of people used to possess scriptures. Thus were prone to Interpolations. A person while penning the scripture for another copy is very much prone for mistakes, resulting into accidental changes, or can even do it intentionally, resulting into interpolations.
One can only argue that these interpolations were made way before ISKCON, but would be absurd to argue that such interpolations could be made before ISKCON even existed.
But let’s not even count the scriptures, how will ISKCONites interpolate the ancient Sri Vaishnav sampradyik texts? Sri Vaishnavas don’t agree that their texts predict ISKCON, and of course, why would they? will a christian accept the prediction of Muhammed in their holy Bible? or will a buddhist accept the prediction of Lord Buddha as Vishnu in the Puranas?
Infact, Srila Prabhupada himself, who is most trusted, says how Mahaprabhu’s predictions which he had read in Chaitanya Bhagavat and Chaitanya Caritamrta and the like regarding ISKCON is coming true. Even if all other references are put aside, and only the biographies of Mahaprabhu is taken into consideration, we still find it a miracle, having trust on Srila prabhupada, who is known for his honesty.
However, what can be asserted without evidence can be rejected without evidence. If the claim of they being interpolations are without evidence, why not reject them without evidence as well? There’s no need to give any explanation whatsoever. The nurden of proof lies on our opponents.
- The prediction of Sun’s fate as being a red giant star in the future.
Modern science predicts that the sun will begin the helium-burning process, turning into a red giant star. When it expands, its outer layers will consume Mercury and Venus, and reach Earth.
This is what Puranas state unanimously.
Vāyu Purāṇa 2.38.135 & 139-40 states—
aharante prakurute sargasya pralayaṃ punaḥ / suṣupsurbhagavān brahmā prajāḥ saṃharate tadā //
“Again, at the end of Brahmā’s Day, there is disintegration. At that time, Brahmā feels the desire to sleep, and he destroys all living entities.”
asahyaraśmirbhagavānpibatyaṃbho ganastibhiḥ / haritā raśmayastasya dīpyamānāstu saptabhiḥ //
“The unbearable rays of the Sun evaporate whatever water remains on the surface of the Earth. Out of the seven bright rays, those of yellow-green color are the most prominent.”
bhūya eva vivarttante vyāpnuvanto ‘mbaraṃ śanaiḥ /
bhaumaṃ kāṣṭhe dhanaṃ tejo bhṛśamadbhistu dīpyate //
“The intensity of the Sun’s rays, which are spread all over the sky, gradually increase. Fire, which is the essence of wood, consumes the Earth, making it glow.”
The Viṣṇu, Brahmāṇḍa, Kūrma and other Purāṇas contain essentially the same description. Although there’s lot many to mention, this article only gives a overview idea of the verification process.
All Glories To Srila Prabhupada!