Friday, December 13, 2019

Refuting Arundhati observation of Nilesh Oak by Pramāna-based analysis.

Written with excerpts from my book Myth of 'The Epoch of Arundhati' of Nilesh Nilkanth Oak:

The Background

Nilesh Oak developed his version of dating the Mahabharata by looking at the astronomy references in Mahabharata. For this he picked up a huge canvass of time based on a reference to Arundhati in the words of sage Vyasa at the beginning of Mahabharata war.   

As the two warring sides assembled in the battle field, Vyasa talked in private to Dhritarashtra. In the course of this narration Vyasa says (in Nilesh Oak’s translation)

My dear King, Arundhati (saintly wife of Vasishtha) who is revered by the righteous all over the three worlds, has left her husband Vasishtha behind.” (P 53)

Oak was fascinated by this when he read this for the first time in the Rutherford library of University of Alberta. He treated this as an astronomy event and as “Shabda Pramāna”. Using the astronomy software he found that Arundhati was seen moving in front of Vasishtha at the meridian (perhaps at Hastinapur) for more than 6000 years, from 11091 BCE to 4508 BCE. He called this period as “The Arundhati Epoch”. By this he deduced that Mahabharata must have happened only within this period and not later than 4508 BCE.

Earlier I proved through the following video why he is wrong on treating the Vyasa’s verse as an astronomy observation based on the fact that the star couple were in circumpolar movement in his date of Mahabharata war.

In my 2nd video, I proved why the A-V observation fails to be a ‘falsifier’ by refuting his claim from Popper’s theory.

Since he used to quote (just quote not apply them in his research; he only mutilated the original quote of sage Patanjali and Gautama to suit his version, but that was done later in his blogs and social media, not in his book) Astika Darshanas, I am giving here my arguments based on the concepts of the Darshanas to establish that Arundhati did not walk in front of Vasishtha and that the observation by Vyasa was only about a temporary aberration in the position of the two stars with reference to each other.

Before proceeding further, let me briefly state why Arundhati could not have walked in front of Vasishtha anytime in the past. Arundhati symbolised Pativratātva, by following her husband always. In the celestial sphere the star Alcor follows Mizar and therefore was identified with Arundhati and Vasistha respectively.  If at all she has deviated from her path, the Vedic sages could have spotted some other star as Arundhati – like they picked out Krittika stars – for stability and unwavering position as a star signifying a rishi-patni. The fact that it did not happen goes to show that Arundhati was never found to have gone ahead of Vasishtha. Till date she is continued to be invoked in Vedic marriage mantras for taking the vow of pativratātva.

Vyasa’s nuanced reference to Arundhati

However for the first time we come across a reference to a revolting position of Arundhati by putting Vasishtha at her back in the words of sage Vyasa while describing the bad omens to King Dhritarashtra just before the Mahabharata War commenced.
Vyasa says (Mbh 6-9-9)
yā caiṣā viśrutā rājaṃs trailokye sādhu saṃmatā
     arundhatī tayāpy eṣa vasiṣṭhaḥ pṛṣṭhataḥ kṛtaḥ
This means,

She, O king, who is celebrated over the three worlds and is applauded by the righteous, even that (constellation) Arundhati  keepeth (her lord) Vasistha on her back.”(Ganguli’s translation)
This verse is the only source or the only reference that Nilesh Oak has taken as pivotal to ascertaining the date of Mahabharata war. This appearance of Arundhati has been mentioned by Vyasa as one among several nimittas (omens) seen all around at three levels, namely terrestrial, atmospheric and celestial.

One can find a definite plan in this particular verse on Arundhati. Vyasa has employed a clever trick (yukti) to help decipher what he is coming to say in this verse. This kind of trick is totally absent in his description of other omens.

In the first line of this verse he makes a statement that describes a universal truth about Arundhati accepted by one and all across all ages. It says that she is being praised in all the three worlds, obviously for not obstructing the path of Vasishtha by keeping him at her back.
But the second line says that she had kept Vasishtha at her back – which is not what the very name Arundhati stands for.

Of these two statements, if we take the first one as true then the second statement is absolutely false. That means the sighting of keeping Vasishtha at her back was a temporary phenomenon.
If we accept the second statement as true, then the first statement must be false for, the one who had kept Vasishtha at her back could not have been praised as Arundhati in all the three worlds by righteous people.

By keeping the inherent incompatibility and contradiction between the two statements within the same verse and by relating one with the other, Vyasa had delivered the judgement at that time itself – on which of the two statements is eternally true.

But unfortunately the second statement was picked up by Nilesh Oak as “Shabda Pramāna” (p 70) with utter disregard to what constitutes a Shabda Pramāna and how it cannot be a Shabda Pramāna. Treating the Arundhati observation as Shabda Pramāna, he seeks to falsify another Shabda Pramāna in the same verse on the symbolism of Arundhati!

Is A-V observation a valid Shabda Pramāna?

This question arises after reading the views of Nilesh Oak on Shabda Pramāna in different platforms between 2011 and 2019. In his book he treats A-V observation as a Shabda pramāna. Writing on A-V observation in the chapter on “The Epoch of Arundhati” he says,

This is an illustration of the validity of ‘Shabda Pramāna – Verbal Testimony’ corroborated by ‘Pratyaksha Pramāna – Empirical Proof.” (p 70)

Here he treats the sighting of Arundhati – Vasishtha by Vyasa as Shabda pramāna, and his own verification of the same in the simulator as Pratyaksha Pramāna!

Shabda pramana is accepted only if it is about A-V observation. Otherwise he scorns Shabda and Agama and has even dropped them from Patanjali’s Pramanas for he thinks that “anytime ‘Agama’ was misunderstood and was interpreted as ‘knowledge beyond doubt, scepticism or criticism’, humanity has landed in big trouble.” (His blog Tri-Murti of Scientific Method”

He accords prime importance to Pratyaksha (he continues to do this till date) and claims his viewing of the A-V in his simulator as Pratyaksha pramana. The whole lot of fun that follows this kind of claim is analysed in my book.

Here let me reproduce from my book the relevant parts of establishing the true import of A-V observation based on Pramāna literature.

Did Arundhati walk ahead of Vasishtha? - Mimamsa explanation

The A-V observation verse by Vyasa is a two-liner incorporating two ideas of conflicting nature. The first line praises Arundhati as one ‘who is celebrated over the three worlds and is applauded by the righteous’ (Ganguli translation). The cause for this reverence, though unstated in the verse is obviously for her status as one who never obstructed the path of her husband. Only when this is taken as the cause for this statement, the reference in the second line of keeping her husband in her prishṭha makes sense. 

Thus we have two contradictory statements given by no less a person than Vyasa in the context of an important observation of the surroundings around him. The entire verse can be taken as Shabda pramāna or Apta vacana, as the deliverer of the verse is a person of high stature. Of these two statements, Nilesh Oak has concentrated only on the second one and failed to consider the relevance of the Shabda nature of the first statement.

Among the different Darshanas, the Purva Mimamsa is known for advanced thought processes in solving paradoxical and contradictory passages. When two Pramānas with contradictory connotations are observed for the same frame of inference, the logical way to solve it is to apply Mimamsa axiom of Gunapradhana wherein Guna means subordinate and Pradhana means principal. This axiom has been used by the Indian judiciary in interpreting contentious clauses.

Gunapradhana axiom states that “if a word or sentence purporting to express a subordinate idea clashes with the principal idea, the former must be adjusted to the latter, or must be disregarded altogether.[1]

In the verse by Vyasa, Arundhati praised in all the three worlds by the righteous people is the Pradhana statement. The applause was for not obstructing the path of her husband by crossing his way or moving in front of him. The same Arundhati perceived as having put her husband at her back is Guna statement as that was reported only at that time or seen only at that time. Never before or never after anywhere in the text or by Vyasa himself, the second feature of Arundhati had ever been reported or recorded.

So the second statement being Guna in nature has to be read as not disrupting the former (Pradhana)– meaning to say that Arundhati was not seen putting her husband at her prishṭha by others, but only by Vyasa – which is possible if it happened for a short period of time – not long enough to get to be noticed by others.

Secondly, when Guna does not match with Pradhana, such an observation (Guna) is fit to be discarded as an aberration. It can be said, that as per the logic of Purva Mimamsa, the reference to Arundhati keeping her husband at her Prishṭha is not factual.

Did Arundhati walk ahead of Vasishtha? – Pramāna based interpretation.

The fundamental pramānas are three – Pratyaksha, Anumana and Shabda. Nilesh Oak’s contention that Shabda Pramāna has been internalised and Pratyaksha Pramāna is forgotten, is not correct because the state of inquiry is such that it is a three-some process starting from Pratyaksha, and passing through Anumana, finally getting ascertained by Shabda. To give an example,

I see smoke at a faraway place. This is Pratyaksha.

I guess that there is a fire there. This is Anumana. But I cannot know anything more than the fact that there is fire - whether it is accidental or deliberately made for disposing junk. Only Shabda will let me know what kind of fire it is.

I read the news next day that an accidental fire had happened. This news report is the Shabda.
So, Pratyaksha may be dubious (the smoke may be from a kiln or a homa); Anumana can be many; but only Shabda is factual.

Only by referring to Shabda can we know the right status of knowledge even though the Pratyaksha may have been done by us.

Therefore his criticism that the academics do not go beyond the Shabda Pramāna is ill-founded, for, no one can go against the Shabda Pramāna, not because someone said so but because the basis of Shabda is unassailable.

In the case of Arundhati, all the features of the symbolism of Arundhati given in the 1st chapter (of my book and in the 1st video) form the solid base for Shabda Pramāna for her stature. When a reference is made that Vyasa had sighted a deviation in her position, no academic in the know of ancient wisdom would take it as a permanent or a prolonged (certainly not for 6000 + years as Nilesh Oak claims) appearance, for, in such case the deviation would have been recorded in some text and a prolonged deviation would have dislocated the symbolism of Arundhati and dislodged her by now from the marriage ritual. When none of them have happened, the claim that the deviation was tested or corroborated by ‘Pratyaksha Pramāna’ by a present day researcher is ridiculous, for, the deviation was the Pratyaksha – or direct perception of Vyasa, not the present day researcher, in this case, Nilesh Nilkanth Oak.

A perception is a psychological interpretation of the rupa (form) and jati (structure or generic character) that could be determinate (nirvikalpa) or indeterminate (vikalpa). The three-some inquiry then demands the inquirer to go through the process after having perceived a form. Vyasa had done that and given his final understanding in that verse itself.

In his verse, Pratyaksha and Anumana are merged together – that is, on seeing some deviation (indeterminate perception) in the position of Arundhati, Vyasa inferred (Anumana) that Arundhati had kept her husband at her prishṭha. That is in the second line.

This is followed by Upamana – comparing what he saw with her generic position which blends with Shabda that she is a praiseworthy person for never deviating from her path. The Upamana blended with Shabda was remembered by him in the first line followed by what he saw and inferred (Pratyaksha and Anumana). The sequence of the ideas in the verse – of Shabda coming ahead of his Pratyaksha -Anumana statement conveys that a quick analysis was done in his mind by thinking of Shabda vacana or else he would not have brought first, her unwavering position for which she is praised, before expressing what he inferred from seeing.

This can happen, i.e. cross checking with the Shabda vacana and invoking the same to clear his mind of what he perceived - if what he saw lasted for a short duration.

On the contrary if it is true that Arundhati had been going ahead of Vasishtha for thousands of years before Vyasa’s times as claimed by Nilesh Oak, there is no in logic in recalling her generic position which Vyasa had never seen in his life time. A configuration that had been in existence for more than 5000 years before Vyasa’s times would have come to be accepted as a regular position and there is no place for comparative (first) statement in that verse. Vyasa should have just said that Arundhati in front position is bad.

NILESH OAK's take on ‘What if Arundhati is not an astronomy observation’

Since there is no response or refutation from him for any of my rebuttals of A-V as a falsifier – given in my book and in my videos, I am constrained to post here his words on what he would do if A-V observation is found not to be an astronomy event.

He declared at the beginning of the 6th chapter on ‘The Epoch of Arundhati’ (p53),

If ‘Arundhati’ does not qualify as the most unambiguous astronomical evidence in determining the date of Mahabharata War, let’s stop talking about astronomical evidence in Mahabharata.”

Arundhati does not qualify as astronomy evidence. And no response means accepting my rebuttal. Shall I ask,

Would Nilesh Oak stop talking about all the astronomy evidences  in Mahabharata and close shop?  

[1] “The Mimasa Principles of Interpretation” by Justice Markandey Katju