Vedic Epistemology Properly Understood

By Ajit Krishna Dasa
Krishna consciousness is self-authenticating (svatah-pramana). It cannot be independently proven by any outside evidence. It is itself the only ultimate foundation of all evidences and proofs. So without presupposing the truth of God as He is presented in the Vedic scriptures we cannot understand anything.
To presuppose Krishna consciousness and Vedic knowledge is not unnatural. It is not blind faith. We already have it in us: 
“There is inclination in everyone, but by artificial means, they have been checked. Otherwise, normally, this inclination is there in everyone’s heart. Nitya-siddha kṛṣṇa-bhakti sādhya kabhu naya. It is not an artificial imposition.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.12 — Vrndavana, October 23, 1972)

And since we already have it in us it is impossible for us to not presuppose it without engaging in self-deception.

But when devotees preach philosophically (to convince themselves and others) they often resort to a topsy-turvy epistemology, presenting evidence based only on sense perception and logic:

1) Sense perception and logic are wrongly presupposed as independent and neutral sources of valid knowledge that both theist and atheist have equal access to.

2) Sense data processed by the use of logic is used to argue in favor of the probability of God’s existence (or some other Vedic truth).

Intelligent Design is an example of this approach.

Challenges with this approach:
A) Sense perception and logic are not sources of knowledge if they are used independent of sabda-pramana. Theists and atheists do, therefore, not have equal access to these tools (if God does not exist how can the atheist argue that his senses and reasoning can be used as epistemic tools?)
B) Even though God is the cause of all causes, and even though His existence if self-evident He is reduced to a mere probability. The atheists are elevated to the position of judges, and God is in the dock. Almost kind of offensive.
C) Using this method we, and others, come to believe in a probable God only, and we are convinced only by material evidence. Since sense perception and logic are not absolute our position and faith will be weakened when we are presented with counter-evidence. And we will be from time to time.
Now, the above approach might be helpful to a certain degree. But it should not be used without understanding the proper Vedic revelational epistemology with which we can present a MUCH stronger case:
1) The existence of God and Vedic statements are presupposed as eternal axiomatic truths. They are revealed by God and His pure devotees, and we (can) know them beyond doubt. Self-realized souls are consciously aware of these truths. But they are lying dormant in every conditioned soul who has consciously suppressed and forgotten them (atheists are therefore not really atheists. They are “atheists.”) Aspiring devotees are supposed to have access to these eternal axiomatic revealed truths. At least to a certain degree.
2) EVERYTHING else (even the validity of sense perception and logic) is proven, and can only be proven, in the light of 1.
3) Deeper and deeper levels of realization of God and the Vedic truths can be attained by practicing sadhana-bhakti.
As devotees we must ask ourselves: Why should we give sense perception and logic to the atheists when atheism cannot account for their validity in the first place?
Someone might pose these questions:

– How can I presuppose God’s existence if my realization of God is very limited, or only theoretical in nature?

– And how can I ask of non-believers to accept that I presuppose the existence of God in my preaching, before I have proven the existence of God by using arguments based on the independent and neutral tools of sense perception and logic?

The answer is presented in our previous article: The God Does Not Exist Self-contradiction

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