Shabda Pramana is a concept which included testimony of a trustworthy person as the ultimate source of knowledge. Shabda Pramana or verbal testimony is making an important contribution as one of the sources of knowledge in the traditional Indian context of philosophy. As a result, many thinkers and philosophers have started pushing the masses into a belief system of eternality, reality, truth and vastness of ‘Shabda’ or words. They started propagating the theory of shabda pramana as an important source of knowledge. According to them, there are no other sources which could be compared to shabda pramana. And it is considered as a genuine and superior knowledge in Indian epistemology.
It is well understood that shabda pramana has its major role in cultivating knowledge deeply, but this could not be considered as the superior of all the known sources. The reasons are many. To justify this point and to understand why shabda pramana could not be taken as the direct and actual cause of real knowledge, a practical explanation concerning the problems of the real world is a must. Let’s say that shabda pramana is most important, then one simple theory arises; if shabda pramana is so much important then it must be the most valued and foundational source of all the intellectual and materialistic things of this universe. In contrast, Shabda Pramana itself has a materialistic origin rather spiritual. In ancient times, people use to communicate using symbols, this symbolisation then converted into words/sentences/phrases. If the origin is materialistic, then how could one say that the materialistic origin could lead to a spiritualistic theory of supremacy of words? Humans have created shabda or words for the sake of communicating with other living beings. They started preserving their traditions and customs through the medium of shabda or words. Many generations followed the testimony of their reliable sources, this has made the shabda pramana- a valuable source of knowledge. But, does this make any sense that shabda pramana is the most genuine as said by a most trustworthy person?
As our ancestors have trusted the shabda pramana or testimony so we have to do the same. And the process will go on forever excluding the facts that alteration have been brought up in the actual said or written words.
In the next paragraph, some examples have been used to make it clear- “why ‘shabda pramana’ couldn’t be considered greater than our own instinct or conscience?”
*A-new born baby cries on its birth. How the babies learned the behaviour called crying when nobody said it to do so? It is called as innate knowledge which generally all humans do, but it would not be sensible to call it the knowledge through the means of shabda pramana.
*Person who is grown and brought up in a criminal family when becomes a saint and similarly, a child born in the good, decent family turns into a serial killer cannot be said to acquire knowledge through means of shabda pramana. As per the above-mentioned situation and circumstances, it is not really possible. But, how this theory is explained? Is it the karma of one’s past life which gives a person character and an undirected passion in this world based on its good and bad deeds of the past. It does make some sense instead of marking this built character as resulting from the knowledge of shabda pramana.
*A small flower pot kept in a dark room tends to bend and grows in a direction of sunlight. Like the same way, a hungry imprisoned man who has never seen the outside world before will not care for the hygiene of food and manners of eating which we generally learn from shabda pramana, he would just eradicate his hunger in whatever he is served with or whatever he finds near it. This behaviour is instinct and the person would only make use of his senses and drives. We are making our lives out of necessity (needs), it doesn’t matter if we are getting the knowledge of the world through some means or not.
A primitive man used to crawl on the floor and ate the food using its mouth, he started using his hands for the easy intake of food, these are the only history, the best story on how the man really transformed into intelligent creature has no mentioning of shabda pramana. It was all based on needs and survival instinct.
Theoretically, shabda pramana is very useful but when the real test occurs in-person life, only practical knowledge and reality of senses works. Whenever it is a success or failure, it is then shared to others through the means of shabda pramana. Whatever has men experienced is brought in our memory through the means of shabda pramana. Otherwise, it may not have been possible for the development and evolution of humanity in accordance with time. This doesn’t mean that primary sources of acquiring knowledge will be totally ignored and secondary sources are led importance and are concentrated upon. In today’s generation too, if people would not blindly follow the said and written words and would make use of their common senses to deal with the various problems of their lives then blind faith or superstition, caste system, worshipping deity out of fear rather in-built faith, religion intolerance, future predictions, or other negativity could be kept in check to a large extent.
One cannot say how much the sabda pramana is true or false, the history is also not accurate to hundred per cent. Some political conspiracy, self-greed, money, power skim the actual details and takes us far away from reality. Shabda Pramana is not so much transparent. Shabda pramana could also be doubted on the fact that despite its credibility, people still have different opinions on the same subject. If shabda pramana is true then the trustworthy person should not have made different opinions on global concepts of the universe, space, time or other social issues of marriage and sacrifices.
It’s all based on beliefs that the similar view people counted as friends and contradictory views become enemy.
If shabda pramana is such an important source of knowledge and its importance could be felt everywhere, then why there is still poverty, disease, criminality and abuses. The solution of every type of problem has been written somewhere or may be said by someone, but still, people do keep faith in some supernatural power as the solutions to their problems.
Shabda pramana has many positive sides but its drawbacks could not be ignored. Due to most visible drawbacks, shabda pramana or verbal testimony could not be considered as the most important sources of knowledge compared to all other sources. Conclusively, it doesn’t make sense to believe in our words completely. A proper scrutinization is important before accepting it completely in one’s practical life.