Is it justified to apply reflexive criticism to sastra?

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by wynn, Jul 23, 2010.

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Is it justified to apply reflexive criticism to sastra?

    If yes, in what way and why?
    If not, why not?

    For example, a person may think:
    I accept sastra.
    Sastra says that humans tend to make mistakes.
    I am human.
    Therefore, it could be that my acceptance of sastra is a mistake (and I might therefore have to consider rejecting sastra).

    Is this reasoning valid?

    Thank you for your input.
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    What the hell are you talking about?
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    I think it would be valid if there was more to the scripture in question. IOW if it said something like humans tend to make mistakes. Humans should therefore not take up new beliefs

    This would make being a convert problematic -and perhaps there might even be reasons for not wanting or thinking converting was a good idea.

    Alone, however, I don't think the assertion people tend to make mistakes means one should reject sastra. One still gets to makes choices, unless the system is nihilistic. And even then the issue is at worst moot. I would assume that one needs more to go on. Suggestions about how one can sort out poor choices from good ones, or how one can increase the chances of good choices, etc.
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    By the way, I was taking sastra to be a general sanskrit term for scripture. But the word seems to have a bunch of meanings. Was there a different or more specific meaning you had in mind?
  8. Jan Ardena OM!!! Valued Senior Member

    Based on your example, no.
    "humans tend to make mistakes" does not mean every decision is a mistake.

  9. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    "Scripture" is what I meant.
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    An example: The way the Bible is sometimes used to support all kinds of things - depending on the combination of verses quoted.

    You can pick a few verses that make God look like the most deserving Person; and you can pick out a few verses that make Him look like a monster; or you can pick a few verses that make you completely confused about who God is.

    There seems to be no universal rule as to how to pick and combine verses to make a point.
    There are verses that suggest in what spirit or attitude one should read and apply scripture - but then other verses can be found to question those.

    If all verses are to be taken to be on the same level, then scripture is a mess.
    So the question is whether there is a hierarchy between the verses; sometimes, this is conceptualized as the difference between a principle and a detail.

    But left to oneself and a book of scripture, how can a person figure this out?
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    How do you know when to apply "humans have a tendency to make mistakes", and when not?

    Do you apply it when you decide to chant (thereby thinking that your chanting could be a mistake)?
    And if not, why not?

    If scripture says "do this", is it always right to do it?
  12. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Edit: after giving my own thoughts below I realized...

    I think it would be useful for people who directly refer to scriptures themselves to explain how they do it.

    For example,
    Jan Ardena,

    How do you decide which portions of scripture are most important and you refer to them more than others? How do you deal with what at least seem like contradictions? How do you decide how to apply scripture? Is it really simply via deduction? (for example)

    I just want to emphasize here how unique and useful I think your mind and approach are. First the above is in situ. Second you could say it is approaching worship/religion at a meta-level. Both those in the religion and those critiquing the religion will tend to think the rule is 'see what the bible says and believe it'. The latter group seeing this as poor epistemology and practice.

    But here you are in very neutral terms approaching a problem and one not isolated to religion. How does one approach authority given the at least apparant contraditions and ill fits of pretty much every authority?

    Which is why Christianity is a vast set of sects with differing foci, practices, politics and beliefs.

    As a tangent, but a related one, I was struck reading the Bible by how radically different the foci were of different preachers, churches. That whole areas were ignored and other points that seemed rather small to me because whole areas of doctrine for a church. I also thought it was strange that Paul, for example, could become so central. I mean, he's kind of a meta figure. A commentator.

    Left to oneself, intuitively. But one is not left to oneself. There are thousands, likely millions ready to leap in and tell you what to focus on and how to do it. But then, how to choose which one of these people to listen to. Again, isn't one thrown back on oneself to make at least that first step intuitively?
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2010
  13. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    How come we are so alone in this thread?
  14. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Eastern philosophy narrows things down. The term sastra, even further.

    I'll PM LG. He must have an opinion.
  15. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    As far as sastra is concerned, it is like an ocean, since there are injunctions for all sorts of persons and goals (IOW it accommodates people at various levels of conditioning and their associated goals). First one starts off with an idea of perfection and then one looks at the various schools that accommodate it. Hence jnanis tend to favour the upanisads, fruitive workers the sections of karma kanda, and bhaktas the puranas. Generally you find that in order to encapsulate the other schools, there is some sort of attempt to render an image of god at the fore. For instance the karama kandas (arguably the most philosophical weak) entertain a notion of a god dictated by karma (which is a hair breadth away from a godless universe), the jnanis dictate a formless god (impersonal brahman) and the bhaktas a god with form.
    The contradictions between the schools (like say scriptural references to god with form and without form) are not resolved by suggesting some scriptures are not bonafide (although there are sometimes complications when a scripture is thought to be corrupted - for instance there are suggestions that the Mahabharata exists in a corrupted form due to scholars ... what to speak of the upanisads which rely heavily not only an advanced understanding of sanskrit but also the goal of the vedas ... but even then one can find references on which scriptures are pertinent to the age of kali) but on finding references that are capable of encapsulating both ideas presented. This is the location of a lot of debate between the schools (or at least it was previous to the unification of india under the (political?) banner of hinduism).
    stacks of references how to understand

    BG 4.34: Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.

    So generally one applies one's self through not just one spiritual master but a whole disciplic succession of spiritual masters. Within that chain, some are recognized as acharyas.
  16. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    So, when one is on one's own time, without specific instructions to read this or that portion, does one one follow one's heart or intuition when chooseing passages to focus on, to make temporarily central to one's study?

    What if it seems like within a school scriptures contradict each other? How does one approach reconciliation?

    So the process of application is learned solely via dialogue with masters?
  17. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    depends what their goals are .. although some works do tend to be more seminal than others
    usually through a guru

  18. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Yes, it is valid.

    Validity of an argument is strictly a function of the formal structure of the argument, having nothing whatsoever to do with the content.

    As has been gone over before elsewhere.... I sense a motif???
  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    But to have a guru, a person already needs to somehow become convinced that this particular guru is the one to follow.

    Often, it is said that one needs to study scriptures in order to learn what a proper guru it.
    At the same time, without having the proper guru, one cannot properly understand scriptures.

    This is a double bind!

    How do you propose to resolve it - in a productive, non-self-defeating manner?
  20. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    If you use system of statements S in order to dismiss system of statements S,
    then you have not actually dismissed system of statements S.
    Your dismissal of S is based on acknowledging S as the authoritative criterion.
    In short, you cannot dismiss it unless you accept it as undismissable.
    Which is absurd ...

    One could argue that you used a statement from S with a motive that is not part of S.
    In this case the reasoning earlier would not apply.
    But if you do use a statement from S with a motive that is not part of S, then you already imply that that non-S is for you superior to S, in which case your botheration with S is redundant.

    Bottomline, for all practical intents and purposes, the wider issue for this thread is about knowing how to apply instructions from a system of statements.

    If one went simply by logical form, this often enough results in double binds.
    If one went by content, then one could not rightfully apply any instruction before knowing all of them first - which is again a practical impossibility.

    My motif is to figure out how to practice a religion in the absence of relationships of trust with its members.
  21. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    Regardless, what I've said is correct.
    You asked about validity, not truth.

    I appreciate the concern, but don't see the relevance to the OP.
    What does validity of reasoning have to do with the trust of the members of a religion?
  22. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    If you take guru, sadhu and sastra, it is sastra that offers the strongest bind of the three. If however one wants to go on for detailed issues of application (perhaps there is an argument for vidhi bhakti without a guru, but not for vaidhi bhakti) then there is definitely a requirement for a guru.

    Kind of like two people can engage in a discussion about physics with a little bit of fundamental training but if one wants to get into aspects that revolve around application, formal training is required.
  23. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    The question was not "Is a guru necessary?"
    I do not at all doubt that a guru is necessary.

    The question was about how to choose a particular guru - whether to go for Swami X or Swami Y or Swami Z (or Roshi A, Roshi B, or Father D or Reverend G?), and how to justify that choice.

    Even within one tradition, the situation is everything but homogenous. Different teachers have at least slightly different teachings, different moods, different reputations, and different kinds of pressure exist in relation to each teacher.

    I might personally not like a particular guru - but perhaps he has the most accurate knowledge of the Dharma, it's just that I do not know that, given that I don't particularly like him and don't spend much time reading/listening to him.

    I have already experienced that talking about the same problem with different instructors can result in getting very different instructions.

    Especially since the general point being made is that to a materially conditioned person (like myself), the mode of goodness is like sugar to a jaundiced person - unappealing. Does this mean that whatever I find unappealing, this is what I should take up? The more miserable I feel at doing something, the more I should do it?

    How did you know which guru to choose?
    Was it somehow never an issue for you?
    Did you "just know" which guru is the right one for you, so there was no question choosing among them?
    Or did you have such trust in all the initiating gurus that you were convinced that any one of them would be good enough, so you simply took initiation as soon as you fulfilled the formal requirements for it, with whomever was giving initation at the time?
    (Or did you get initiated at the time when the "zonal acharya system" was in place, so you had no real choice in whom to take initiation from?)

    And if it was a non-issue for you, could you tell some more about it - what were the qualities that you had, what were your circumstances, what certainties you had that in your estimation most significantly contributed to your choice of guru not being an issue for you?

    Moreover, how were you sure, apparently from early on, that your understanding of the spiritual literature is correct, or at least satisfactory - so that you were confident to proceed on the path as you understood it to be - ?

Share This Page