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Authority in Indian Philosophy

Author(s): S. K. Saksena
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Philosophy East and West, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Oct., 1951), pp. 38-49
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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S. K. SAKSENA

Authority*in

Indian

Philosophy

One of the distinguishingfeaturesof Indian


philosophyis that almostall the orthodoxschools,in additionto othercommonly acceptedinstrumentsof knowledgelike perceptionand inference,
believein testimony,i.e., verbalor writtenauthority(fabda) as one of the
valid meansof knowledge(pramanas). It is sometimessaid that it is here
that Indianphilosophydiffersmost prominentlyfrom Westernphilosophy.
Indian philosophynot only recognizestestimonyamongst its sourcesof
knowledge,but sometimeseven accordsit a higher place of importance,
inasmuchas by authorityalone are certainfacts supposedto be known
which are not capableof being revealedby other sourcesof knowledge.
Sometimes,again,perception,inference,etc., are in the last analysismade
dependenton agreementwith authority.ModernWesternphilosophy,on
the contrary,is foundedupon a revolt againstauthority.Frequently,the
historyof Westernphilosophyimpressesuponthe readerthe fact that,while
the medievalperiodis characterized
by belief in the authoritativecharacter
of revelation,the historyof ancientand modernphilosophyconstituteseras
of reasonand free thought. Modernphilosophyis supposedto have banished the appeal to testimony (divine or secular) from rationalinquiry.
Authoritymayfindrecognitionin religion,but has no placein philosophical
and logicalinvestigation,whichrecognizesonly two sourcesof valid knowledge, i.e., the immediatesourceof senseperceptionand the mediatesource
of inferentialreasoning.
In Westernphilosophy,therefore,thereis supposedto be a kind of antithesis betweenauthorityand reason. One may chooseto put one's faith in
authorityor elect to be rational,for belief in authorityis not conceivedto
be rational. In Indian philosophy,however,there is no such antithesis.
* The terms "testimony"and "authority"have both been used in this paper to stand for the
originalSanskritterm "sabda,"which means "the word of a reliableperson." Actually,in Indian
philosophy,there is no differencein the meaningof the two words,but in view of the difference
in modernusage,carehas been takento use here one or the other accordingto what has appeared
more appropriatein the given context.
38

AUTHORITY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY

39

Belief in reasonand belief in authorityare both regardedas rationaland


valid,andhence,not only is thereno antithesisbetweenreasonandauthority,
but thereis also supposedto be none betweenphilosophyand religion.The
subjectmatterof both is investigatedand inquiredinto by the samemental
processesof perceptualknowledge,inferentialknowledge,and knowledge
derivedfrom the statementsof the experts.
Oftena greatdistinctionbetweenIndianandWesternphilosophyis made
on the basisof their respectivedifferingemphaseson intuitionand reason.
This distinctionis in realitynot so well foundedas it is often assumedto
be. In the Western philosophicaltradition,there are too enduringantiintellectualtrends,and even systemsof thought,and in Indianphilosophy,
there is too much analytical,dialectical,and non-intuitionaldisputationto
justifysuch a sweepinggeneralization.But the recognitionin the Indian
philosophicaltraditionin generalof authorityas a valid meansof knowledge and the neglect of the same in modernWesternthoughtis too clear
and genuine to be ignoredby studentsof comparativephilosophy.While
the variousschools of Indian philosophydiffer with regardto the exact
numberof the valid sourcesof knowledge (numberingfrom one to six
in all, i.e., perception,inference,authority,analogy,presumption[or postulation], and non-existence),the recognitionof testimony as a valid
meansof knowledgeis one of the greatestcommonfactorsin almostall the
orthodox schools of Indian philosophy. And thus, while to an outside
observerIndianphilosophyappearsauthority-ridden,
so muchso that reason
is made to play a subservientrole, Westernphilosophyis regardedby an
Indianas having depriveditself of an importantand legitimatechannelo?
knowledge,throughwhich alone are revealedsome of our deepesttruths.
The purposeof this paperis, therefore,twofold: first,to determinethe
exact place of testimonyin Indianlogic and epistemology,and, second,to
discuss in general the question as to whether testimony should or should

not be recognizedas a valid meansof knowledge.

But first of all, as a preliminaryto our inquiry, we should do well to note


here one or two special features of Indian philosophical thought and literature. The first, for want of a more suitable term, may be called its historical peculiarity,by which I mean that this literatureas we know it today
has its roots in centuries of oral tradition. All the philosophers historically
known to us were preceded by a vast nameless and authorless compendium
of knowledge, closely knit and guarded in cryptic lines safe and suitable for
oral transmission from generation to generation. The first task, therefore,
of early Indian thinkers was to interpret, explain, and co-ordinatethis vast
body of knowledge inherited and preserved by tradition rather than to

40

S, K. SAKSENA

function in a vacuum. This often gives to an outside observer the impression that rational thinking in India is authority-riddenor is nothing
more than an interpretationof what is believed to have been already accepted as true, and that there is no original and free rational thinking
beyond the sphere of the already given. This is not true, however, for, as
will be shown later, while Indian philosophy is by historical circumstances
interpretative also, in philosophical contribution, it is no less original or
daring than any other. It is not wrong, however, for intellect and reasoning to function in relation to a traditional heritage, the beginnings of
which, at least in the case of India, are absolutely unknown.
Second, there is a philosophical fact of infinitely greater importance
which follows from the above. Psychologically, knowing itself is defined
and understood in India as necessarilyinvolving the three steps of sravazna
(hearing), manana (examination of what is heard), and nididhyssana
(realization or assimilation of what is thus reflected upon). That the first
step in knowing is called hearing and not perceiving shows the verbal character of early knowledge. If an individual or an age has such a thing as
tradition preceding it, one learns first by hearing. If, however, one is devoid
of all tradition and has nothing to precede one's own thinking, one must
look and see for oneself. But as most knowledge is first acquired by hearing from those who know more, verbal testimony is the inevitable relationship between what is learned and the source of learning. But uncritical
acceptance of what is given on testimony is never expected, and that is
why manana or a critical examination by one's own reason of what is thus
learned is invariably recommended as a necessary and a prior step to the
final realization of truth on the part of a seeker of true knowledge. It is,
therefore, this Indian emphasis on testimony (due to the existence of traditional wisdom) as the inevitable first step of all knowledge that is also
sometimes misunderstoodin the West as being synonymouswith truth itself
in Indian philosophy, because the second and the third steps of critical
reflection and final assimilation are largely lost sight of.
To begin with, therefore, we should clear up a misunderstandingwhich
exists widely in the West with regard to the logical status of testimony in
Indian philosophy. Because orthodox philosophical literature of India accepts the word of the Vedas as true, and because it accepts testimony, i.e.,
the word of a reliable person, as an independent source of knowledge different from perception and inference, it is popularly believed that Indian
philosophy accepts authority as such as true and dispenses with proof. This,
however, is not the case, and we often talk at cross purposes because we
do not mean the same thing by authority.

AUTHORITYIN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY

41

Let us see first what is not the place of authority in Indian philosophy.
First, testimony is only a source of knowledge and is not, as such, to be
believed or regarded as true. If it were, there would be no such thing as
belief in a particular testimony (say, of the Vedas) and not in authority
in general. Those who quote the words of the Vedas as authority do not
accept the words of their opponents as authority.Testimony, therefore, like
other valid sources of knowledge, is only the psychological cause of knowledge and not the logical ground of its truth, which is to be determined on
other grounds.
Second, testimony does not annul or replace other sources of knowledge,
like perception and inference. No one engaged in philosophical activity
maintains that it is not necessaryto perceive or reason for oneself in view
of the fact that some authority is there already to give us all knowledge.
This would negate the rational activity itself. Anyone acquainted with
philosophical and speculative activity in India would at once see that just
the reverse is the case. Actually, the entire literatureof the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy, comprising the Nyaya theory of objects of knowledge and fallacies, the Vaisesika theory of atoms and numbers, the Siiamkhya
theory of the twenty-four principles, the Yoga psychology of the control
of the fluctuationsof mind, the Mimnamsatheory of the self-illuminacy and
self-validity of knowledge, and the different varieties of Vedanta, is all
spun out of the speculations of the minds of the different thinkers, and
hardly anything more than a few suggestions, concepts, and phrases of
these later developments can be made to derive from the Srutis(the accepted
authority of the Vedas).
What, therefore, is the role of testimony in these speculations?And what
constitutes the logical ground of its truth? Testimony is one of the traditionally admittedsourcesof knowledge. It is recognizedthat verbal or written
statementsof reliable persons reveal as much of the knowledge of facts to another person as his own perceptions and reasoning do. It is through testimony that a child gets his knowledge from parents or teachers, and adults
know of the minds of other men and acquire knowledge of the geography
and the history of the world they live in. Does Western philosophy deny
that the words of another can and do furnish the dark chamber of the mind
with knowledge, in addition to the two windows of sensation and reflection
with which Locke furnished the mind of man? This would be contrary to
our daily experience. How could Western philosophy discuss the views of
other philosophers as true or false, if it did not believe them to be the views
of those philosophers? Through what source, if not testimony or authority,
do we believe in the recordsof the historiansof Buddha and Christ, or even

42

S. K. SAKSENA

of our own contemporaries when their words come to us through other


reliable persons? While we do not accept what Aristotle said as true, do
we not accept what he said as what he said? This is itself knowledge by
testimony even when we have the words of the philosophers themselves as
our guide. This means that both in India and in the West we believe in
testimony as a valid means of knowledge. It is impossible to deny that one
believes in signs like "danger ahead," "men at work," or "sharp curve,"
when one is driving on the road.
When Western philosophy denies testimony, it can mean either of two
things: first, that testimony as such (no matter whose) is not the same
thing as truth, because it can be false, or, second, that testimony is not an
independent source of knowledge but is included in perception or inference.
The first is a common ground between authority and any other source of
knowledge, such as perception or reasoning, for perception or reasoning
also (no matter whose) cannot be regarded as necessarily true. Western
philosophy does not claim to believe in all perception and inference as true.
If we are to disclaim authority on this score, we might as well not believe
in perception and reasoning also for the same reason. Just as all cases of
perception and reasoning cannot be true, although some will be true, similarly, while all authoritymay not be true, some will be. But how to determine which testimony is true and which false? The answer is that the truth
of testimony is proved or disproved in the same way in which the truth
of any other source of knowledge is proved. Perception or inference is
proved true or false by correspondence or coherence or pragmatic tests.
The same is the case with the words of authority, whether of a doctor or
of a religious teacher. Why not, therefore, believe in authority also along
with perception and inference as a valid means of knowledge when the
validity of knowledge in any case depends upon other conditions? Indian
philosophy does no more than recognize that some authority is true exactly
as some cases of reasoning and perception are true.
The question may still be asked, "How can we know that a particular
authorityis right?" We must know it to be right before we can believe in it.
Of course, you must know it to be right before you believe it. This is exactly
what is meant by the reliability of "word." That one relies upon authority
does not mean that one is called upon to believe in unverified or unverifiable authority. No one maintains that testimony or authority is above
verifiability, which is again a common ground between authority and all
other sources of knowledge. Authority is rejectedwhen it no longer proves
to be true. As Vasistha, one of the most revered and acknowledged authorities in Indian philosophy, says: "A reasonable statement, even of a

AUTHORITY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY

43

child, shouldbe accepted,while the unreasonableones are to be discarded


like straw,even though they are made by the CreatorHimself. A devotee
of Reasonshouldvalue the wordseven of ordinarypersons,providedthey
advanceknowledgeand are logical,and shouldthrowawaythose of sages,
if they are not such."1Testimonyin philosophyis believedto be already
testedand verifiedexactlyas in the case of roadsigns. No one gets out of
his car in orderto see whetherthe bridgeis reallynarrowafterreadingthe
sign "narrowbridgeahead."You firstbelievein yourroadsigns (or in the
wordsof the doctor) and that providesan opportunityfor the test or verificationof the truthor the falsityof the testimony.Verifiabilityitself would
not be possibleif one did not admitthese signs and wordsas valid sources
of knowledgeto begin with. While verifiabilitytests the truth or falsity
of knowledge,it does not produceit. What is contendedhereis that knowledge shouldfirstbe admittedfor the time being as trueon testimonybefore
you can verifyand acceptor rejectit as true or false. The validityof belief
in authoritylies solely and exclusivelyin its reliability.And it is this reliabilityof the word of anotherthat is recognizedas an independentvalid
sourceof knowledgein Indianphilosophy.This reliabilityis basedentirely
upon verifiability.No orthodoxIndiansystemof philosophysays that the
wordsof the Vedasmay be false and yet you shouldbelievein them. The
orthodoxsystemsonly say that they have been establishedas true and are
hencereliable.If you can provethat they are false,they will not be reliable
and hence will not constituteauthority.But this will be a disbeliefonly
in the Vedas, i.e., the authoritativeness
of a particulartestimony,but not
disbeliefin authorityitself as a valid meansof knowledge.
Now, what is such a valid meansof knowledgethat finds such an importantplacein philosophicaldiscussionsin orthodoxschoolsof Indianphilosophy? Questionsrelatingto the origin and the validityof knowledge
are the core of philosophicaldiscussion,and, ever since the time of Locke,
epistemologyhas been a prolegomenato any seriousmetaphysicsin the
West. Indianphilosophybestowedseriousattentionupon the questionof
the origin and validityof knowledgemuch earlierthan did philosophyin
the West. Both in India and in the West, a distinctionhas alwaysbeen
drawn between opinion and knowledge,between rumor,hearsay,or the
personalwhims of an individualand what is regardedas psychologically
valid sourcesof knowledge. Obviouslyevery sourceof knowledgecannot
be recognizedas acceptable.The questionthereforeis askedas to what and
how many are those independentsourcesthroughwhich alone we rightly
Yoga Vasiftha,II. 18. 2, 3. Quoted by B. L Atreya,The Philosophyof the Yoga-Vasistha
(Adyar, Madras:The TheosophicalPublishingHouse, 1936), p. 581.

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S. K. SAKSENA

acquireour knowledge of fact. This question of the valid sources of knowledge is not to be confused with the related question of the truth of the
knowledge thus acquired. The question "How do we know what we know?"
and the question "How do we know that what we know is true?" are two
entirely different questions, and must be constantly kept apart if the issue
of authority as a valid means of knowledge is to be clearly apprehended.
In Western philosophy, sense perception and inference have been regarded as the commonly accepted instruments of knowledge since the beginning of the Renaissance, and Western philosophers have almost unanimously accepted the exhaustiveness of these two sources and have seldom
questioned their adequacy. Indian philosophers, on the other hand, recognize that our entire body of knowledge at no period of time could be completely accounted for or explained by sense perception and inference alone.
We always know much more than can be accountedfor by our own perception or inference. In fact, it is incontestable that at any given time verbal
testimony accounts for nine-tenths of our stock of knowledge. The question, therefore, is, "Should authority be recognized as an independent and
valid means of knowledge?" To answer this question, we must know, first
of all, what authorityis and what exactly is meant by testimony? Gautama,
as one of the greatest expounders of authority, defines authority or "word"
in his Nyaya-s&tra-the classical text of the traditional "Logical school" of
Indian philosophy-as "the assertion of a reliable person,"2and this definition stands generally accepted and adopted by all other Indian systems.
A reliable person is further defined in the Nydya-bhasyaon the same s;ztra
as one "who possesses the direct and right knowledge of things, who is
moved by a desire to make known [to others] the thing as he knows it, and
who is fully capable of speaking of it."3 It is interesting to note here that
the Nyaya system does not mean by authority divine revelation or scriptural testimony only, but, contrary to the belief of other schools, adds that
such a reliable person may be a sage, any ordinaryperson, or, in fact, anyone.
It is further held that it is not at all necessarythat such a person should be
completely free from moral defects. What is needed is that he should have
no motive to give incorrect information-a fact which accords completely
with our modern attitude toward authority or the testimony of experts.
Testimony is further subdivided into two kinds: viz., testimony based upon
things perceived, and testimony based upon things heard and inferred
though not seen. A man may, for instance, speak of what he has himself
2 Ganganatha
Jha, Gautama'sNyayasitras (Poona: OrientalBook Agency, 1939), p. 29; I. i. 7.
3Ibid., p. 30; Nyaya-bhaJya,I. i. 7.

AUTHORITY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY

45

seen,or he mayspeakof whathe has heardor inferred.Eitherof thesecould


be an equallyvalid sourceof knowledgeto others.
Now, with regardto authorityas a valid sourceof knowledge,two questions can be raisedimmediately.First, "Shouldauthoritybe acceptedat
all as a valid sourceof knowledge?"and,second,"If accepted,what should
be its place in relationto other meansof knowledge?"Is it just like any
other source of informationgiving valid knowledge,or does it enjoy a
and a place of privilegeover perception,inference,
greaterauthoritativeness
and the rest? As to the latter,it is maintainedthat thereis no suchthing as
a higher and lower validityof knowledge,for the idea of quantityis not
admissiblein the conceptof validityas such. What distinguishesthe different means of valid knowledgelike perception,inference,and authority
from one anotheris not their higheror lower validitybut the natureand
kind of facts and objectswhich they reveal. Perceptualknowledge,e.g.,
revealsthe externallyand sensuouslyperceptibleworld; inferenceemploys
a non-sensuousprocessand appliesto the abstractand the remote,and authorityhelps us to cognizewhat cannot be known by either of the other
sourcesof knowledge. Any one of these could be equallyvalid or invalid
in its own sphere,and there is no point in sayingthat one is more valid
than the other. That testimonyis supposedto reveal knowledgeof facts
like dharma,moksa,etc., which are in themselvesconsideredto be of more
importanceto man than knowledgeof facts about the sensibleworld, or
that the scripturesare supposedto containknowledgewhich is considered
to have been acquiredby minds higher than our own, is, however,quite
anothermatter.Here,one mayask,is it not a fact that in Indianphilosophy
a man'sreasoningand conclusionsare ipso facto invalidatedif they are not
in agreementwith the authorityof the Veda and the Upanisads-called
iruti? Does this not underminethe independentvalidityof other sources
of knowledgelike inference,etc., and lead to their subordinationto aucannotbe acknowledged
thority? No. As Safikarahimselfsays,"Scriptures
to refutethatwhichis settledby othermeansof rightknowledge."4Besides,
the agreementsoughthere is not betweeninferenceand authority,i.e., betweenone meansof knowledgeand another,but betweenthe reasoningof a
higherand a lowermind. Even at the level of perceptionor reasoning,we
alwaysmeasureand seekagreementbetweenour reasoningandthatof those
4 F. Max Muller, tr., Vedanta-satraswith Sankara'sCommentary,Part I ("The SacredBooks
of the East,"Vol. XXXIV; Oxford: ClarendonPress, 1890), p. 318; II. i. 13. Or, "'ruti, if in
conflict with other means of right knowledge, has to be bent so as to accordwith the latter"
(Ibid., p. 229); or again, "Moreover,the scripturalpassage,'He is to be heard,to be thought,'
enjoins thought in addition to hearing,and therebyshows that Reasoningalso is to be resorted
to with regardto Brahman"(Ibid., p. 300).

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S. K. SAKSENA

bettertrainedand skilled than ourselves.We alwayscomparelower reabetweenour


soningwith higherreasoning.We do not seek correspondence
inferencesand those of children,imbeciles,and idiots.Amongstreasonable
people also, what is reasonableto one man is not so to another,and we
seek to tally our rationalconclusionwith those recognizedto be the most
of reasonto authorityperfectin the field. Thereis thus no subordination
but only of lower reasonto higherreason,and it is difficultto see how one
can objectto this distinctionand practicein general,even thoughwe may
not agreeas to the particularpersonor personswho possessa morerational
or perfectmind. Those in India,therefore,who deny the authorityof the
Vedas refuse to believe them as the knowledge of minds higher than
their own. In fact, the Carvakascalled the Vedasthe prattlingsof insane
minds. That, however,is not the same as disbeliefin the word of a reliable person.
As to the recognitionof testimonyas a means of valid knowledge,no
questionhas even seemedto have arisenin India. That we actuallyknow
and learnby testimonyis a matterof indubitablefact,andthus it is as valid
as any other source, such as perception. The only objectionraised in
Indiaagainsttestimonyhas been on the scoreof its independence,i.e., that
knowledgeby testimonyis not an independentsourceof knowledge,but
is a varietyof perceptionor inference.Thereis no need, therefore,for the
recognitionof authorityas a separatesourceof knowledge,and this is the
second reason why Western philosophymay also deny authority. This
argumentis discussedat length,5and it is conclusivelyestablishedthat
knowledgeby verbalor writtentestimonycannotbe includedin the category of sensationand ideation,for it does not possessthe differentiaof
perceptionor inference. Perceptionrequiresthat the senses be in contact
with an externalobject,andthis is not so in the caseof testimony,for, when
a wordis apprehended,
it is the innermeaningandnot the outersoundwhich
is the object of knowledge. Similarly,it is contendedthat, for lack of a
middleterm and "universalconcomitance,"
testimonycannotbe classedas
inference.Also, there is no such positivething presentin inferenceas the
wordof a reliablepersonwhichis the chiefdistinguishingmarkof authority.
That is why this pramana is called Jabda, or "word," to indicate clearly
its differentia. Here, knowledge is acquirednot through any universal connection but solely because of the reliability of the word of a certain person.
Prasastapada,one of the Vaisesika objectors to testimony, in his bhasya on
the Vaiiesika-sztra,says, "Words and the rest are also included in inference
Jha, op. cit., pp. 177-184; Nyya-s&tra,II. i. 50-57.

AUTHORITY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY

47

becausethey have the same principle,"i.e., testimonyalso functionsin the


samewayas inference.When the Vaisesikasystemmaintainsthatthe knowledge derivedfrom "word"is inferential,what is meant is that wordsalso
give knowledgeby force of a universalconnectionjust as smokegives rise
to the knowledgeof fire.6 Similarly,the BuddhistlogicianDinnagain his
asks, "What is the significanceof the credibleword?
Pramazna-samuccaya
Does it mean that the personwho spoke the word is credibleor that the
In eithercase,the meansof knowledgeis either
facthe averredis credible?"7
inferenceor perception.We have learnedfrom experiencethat as a general
rule the statementsof reliablepersonsare true,andwe applythis experience
to the case of the particularstatement.To this the Nyiya replyis that the
opponenthas not understoodthe meaningof cognitionby verbalindication,
and that, as explainedabove, he means by pramtanaquite anotherthing.
When we considerthat the Naiyiyikaand the Bauddhaboth hold that the
meansof knowledgedo not carrytheir own validitywith them but that it
must be separatelyestablishedfrom some other source,it is difficultto
understandhow the Bauddhascan refuse to admit "word"as a separate
pramana.This confusionis due to the fact that, while the Nyiya is speaking of "word"as a psychologicalcauseof knowledge,the Bauddhais speaking of knowledgeas trueor false. "Word"(Sabda)is thusto be regardedas
quite an independentsourceof knowledge,which is not coveredunderany
one of the other sourcesof knowledge.
The secondobjectionto authoritypoints out the fact that testimonyis
often false and contradictory.It thereforecannotbe acceptedas valid. This
argumentof the opponentsof authorityis regardedas basedon pureprejudice, for it is obviousthat this defect is no peculiarityof authorityalone,
but is commonto perception,inference,and any othersourceof knowledge
which may be regardedas valid. Our perceptions,inferences,and analogies
can all be wrong and contradictory
and do often turn out to be so when
in
they stand need of correction,but no one refusesto recognizethem on
that accountas validmeansof knowledge.Neitherperception,nor inference,
nor any other sourceof knowledgeis valid as such, for their validityis to
be establishedindependentlyof their origin, unless, of course, like the
we hold that all cognitionsproducedfrom whateversource
Mimdmsakas,
are valid as such. We are here again confusingsourcesof knowledgeand
criteriaof their truthor falsity. What is contendedis not that the wordof
a reliablepersonis true as such,but that we rightlyregardit as such until
6Dr. B. Faddegon, The Vaifesika-system(Amsterdam: Johannes Muller, 1918). See pp.
465-474.
A History of IndianLogic (Calcutta:CalcuttaUniversity,1921), p. 288.
7S. C. Vidyabhusana,

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S. K. SAKSENA

the contraryis establishedquite in the same manneras we do our perceptions. Moreover,this objectionof the opponentis not againstall testimony,but only againsta particulartestimony,a fact to whichall the orthodox Indianphilosopherswould readilyagree. The conclusionis unavoidable, therefore,that testimonyis as much a valid sourceof knowledgeas
perceptionor inference.Thereis thus no reasonfor not includingauthority
amongthe valid sourcesof knowledge.
Grantingtestimonyas an independentsourceof knowledge,the question may now be askedas to whereinthe validityof testimonyactuallylies.
of the speakerand that this
The answeris that it lies in the trustworthiness
that
as
of
is alwaysas verifiable
trustworthiness
any othermeansof knowledge, like the signs on the roador the wordsof a doctor. The Nyaya-sitra
of the Word (of the Veda) is basedupon
continues:"TheTrustworthiness
of
the
reliable (veracious)expositor,just like the trustthe trustworthiness
The Bhasyaagain
worthinessof Incantationsand of MedicalScriptures."8
of the MedicalScripraisesthe question"In what does the trustworthiness
tures consist?"and the answergiven is that it consistsin verification."It
consistsin the fact that, when the MedicalScripturesdeclarethat 'by doing
this and this one obtainswhat he desires,and by avoidingthis and this he
escapesfromwhatis undesirable'-anda personactsaccordingly,-theresult
are
turnsout to be exactlyas asserted;andthis showsthatthe saidScriptures
in
assert"9
What
is
for
what
not
true,
wrong
they
important us, however,
is to note that it is on the basis of verifiabilityalone that the Vedas are
believed to be reliable and hence authoritativeby the orthodoxsystems.
It is quite anothermatter,if an opponentregardsthe same as unreliable
for the groundof belief or disbeliefin both
as a result of unverifiability,
caseswould be the same.
It is necessaryto close the discussionwith a final reiteration.In Indian
philosophicaldiscussion,the termpramanais usedin the senseof a psychological causeof knowledge,but it is a logical conceptalso inasmuchas it
limits the validityof such causesto only a few of the manypossiblecauses
of knowledge;for instance,rumoror hearsayis not regardedas a valid
sourceof knowledge.Translatedinto English,pramanais renderedas "valid
meansof knowledge,"the term valid applyingto the meansand not to the
knowledge.The pramdnasare not the meansof valid knowledge,but only
valid meansof knowledge,the validityof which is alwaysto be determined
by other means. Thus, when the orthodoxIndian systemsbelieve in auJha, op. cit., p. 191; Nyiya-sutra,II. i. 69.
II. i. 69. The italics are mine.
9bid., p. 192; Nykya-bhAsya,

AUTHORITY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY

49

thorityas a valid meansof knowledge,they do not implythat all testimony


is valid, but only that authorityis one of the valid means of knowing.
When a Westerneropposesauthority,he imposesupon authoritya validity
which is not intendedin the Indianrecognitionof authorityas a pramana,
or he is imposingextraconditionsupon authority'sbeing acceptedas valid
from which he freesperceptionand inference.Not to includetestimonyin
the sense of the word of a reliablepersonin one's list of valid sourcesof
knowledgeis to rejectprimafacie a vast bodyof knowledgefrom the field
of philosophicalinquiry,and that is hardlyjustifiable.For suchfactsas are
necessarilyrevealedby authorityalone cannotopenlyand withoutprejudice
be investigatedunlesswe acceptthem as the valid data of our knowledge.
To refuseto admittestimonyas a meansof knowledgebecausenot all testimony is true is to throwawaythe babywith the bath. It is the sheerprejudice of centuriesthat has unreasonablymade Westernphilosophyblindly
ignorethe value of knowledgeby testimonyin philosophy,while retaining
it in all other fields.To end with anotherquotationfrom the Bhdsya:"In
ordinaryworldlymattersalso, a large amountof businessis carriedon on
the basis of the assertionsof veraciouspersons;and here also the trustworthinessof the ordinaryveraciousexpositoris basedupon the samethree
conditions-he has full knowledgeof what he is saying,he has sympathy
for others (who listen to him), and he has the desireto expoundthingsas
they really exist;-and on the basisof these the assertionof the veracious
expositoris regardedas trustworthy."10
II. i. 69.
I?lbid.,p. 193; NyyaybhbJsya,