We see that dialectics occupy their proper place in the philosophy of Vedanta; but dialectics are one of the powers of our mind and we cannot say that they are the ultimate factor in the determination of Reality. Vedanta is a spiritual philosophy; it is not like the rationalism of Hegel. Dialectics therefore occupy a subsidiary position and are not the final factor in the art of Self-realisation, which is not the object of direct perception. Self, which is the ultimate element in the enquiry of Vedanta, is not subject either to visual or to inferential concepts. It is therefore clear that only Shruti is the only authority on it.
Self-experience which is the object of our spiritual life is a matter of deep and direct experience. It is therefore natural that the Shruti occupies a supreme position of authority in the determination of the nature of the Self. It is an indication of the spiritual experience of the ancient Rishis possessed of the highest characters and greatest intellects. It is clear that realised experience alone is the highest proof in determining the nature of Self. Shri Shankara makes it clear in his commentaries’ that enquiry about Dharma and enquiry about Brahman do not depend on Shruti alone; their main support is experience. Nothing but experience is the final proof of the nature of Brahman, says the most holy Acharya.
Shruti may not be considered as the absolute proof because it awaits verification in direct experience, but it is the best proof of the validity of Brahman. Shri Shankara accepts dialectics as a subsidiary to Shruti. He pays a very high tribute to reasoning. When it is asked whether Shruti is the only means of the cognition of Advaita, the holy Acharya says that reasoning and logic also can lead to a knowledge of Advaita. (Vide commentary on ‘ Mandukya Karikas part III).
The chief purpose of dialectics is to discriminate between reality and unreality. To understand the real meaning of Shruti one must have faith and a knowledge of logic. The holy Acharya says in his commentary on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.5.15.) that the truth proclaimed by the Shruti and established by logic and reasoning is a matter of great faith; there is no room for any further doubt about it.
There are some passages in which the holy Acharya doubts the absolute value of dialectics, and implies that life is greater than intellect and Truth is greater than mere dialectics. To subject Truth to excessive dialectics may lead to doubt. Mere dialectics, as in the case of the Hegelian philosophy, leave the mind in the desert of uncertainty and doubt. Though dialectics may be useful as an intellectual exercise from the point of view of certain metaphysicians, they have no absolute value in the determination of Truth. The holy Acharya does not underrate intellectual reflection, but he is firmly opposed to hair-splitting logic for its own sake. Logic has a certain limit but this does not mean that it is useless.
The holy Acharya says in his commentary on the famous passage in the Katha Upanishad (1.2.9.): “Atman is not established by logic. Brahman-cognition is not attainable by mere logic because logic is merely a function of the intellect”. Bad reasoning which is often called logic has no limit and is not respected. Unless dialectics is confirmed by the experience of the sages extending over thousands of years, it is not trustworthy.
There is a famous Vedanta Sutra (2.1.11.), “Dialectics being unworthy of absolute respect”. Commenting on this Sutra our most holy Acharya says: “The truth which is to be understood by a study of the Upanishad itself cannot be established by dialectics. If the spiritual Truth is not based on direct experience and is based only on logic and reasoning it is not worthy of respect. Mere unbridled imagination is not worthy of unquestioned acceptance. If it is said that logical reasoning can establish Truth, then the reasoning of one man supersedes that of another and there is no final end of it”.
Therefore Truth must be backed by the experience of the sages of the past, confirmed by the sages of the present. Shri Shankara has further said that the Truth proclaimed by Shruti backed by dialectics makes our enquiry easy and interesting. The conclusion is that in the view of the most holy Acharya mere metaphysical reasoning, undertaken as a sort of game, is of little use in the realization of Truth. But if dialectics support our experience, then they are valuable and worthy of respect.
Index for this series of essays