The Celestial Teapot

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

That’s Bertrand Russell holding forth on the idiocy of revealed religions. I am quoting him here because I feel it is time I paid more attention to what is going on with the mad monotheists (I know, redundant) are doing to wreck the world.

14 thoughts on “The Celestial Teapot

  1. Its a good idea to keep a check on raving loonies who are out to wreck the world.

    Being a polytheist or an atheist does not bring down a person’s wrecking potential.

    Hoping to see something smarter than Richard Dawkins


  2. What are you talking about? Address the issues if you have a problem with what’s been said. You reveal yourself as an isiot if you dismiss without reasons. I see no reasoning here at all. Comeback and explain and justify your comment.


  3. Atanu:

    While I totally agree to Russell’s remarks, I do not know what makes you think that his remarks are directed to “revealed” religions only.

    Open your eyes and you might see as many -if not more- teapots in non-revealed polytheistic religions as well.

    Take the case of Vedanta – the summum bonum of Hindu philosophy. Its grand edifice is constructed on the teapot premise of apaurusheyatva i.e. Vedas are “unauthored”. This premise of “unauthoredness” is critical to Vedanta since flawlessness of Vedas follows from its “unauthoredness”. Vedantins have taken great pains to explain that it is not that Veda’s authors are unknown. RatherVedas are known to be “unauthored”.

    Quite expectedly, Buddhists failed to demolish vedantic teapot and Vedantins are preening to this date on the supposed invincibility of their position.


  4. Great one Atanu,

    Mr. Abhilash Shastry,

    I donot see a vedantic tea pot.

    Do you know why mathematicians say they discovered a mathematical proof (or an algorithm) and not invent it? That is the same spirit why Vedas are called apaurusheya.

    PS: It is interesting that you just hung on to apaurusheya and not use the other attributes of Veda (and Vedanta) like anadi (meaning beginning less), anantha (meaning infinite) etc.


  5. Hi Abhilash,

    Iam no expert on Hindu philosophy, but i wonder how you form the opinion that the grand edifice of Vedanta is constructed upon the premise of unauthoredness of the Vedas. Certainly, author-hood of Vedas may be a subject of academic debate, but from my understanding Vedanta rests on a much sounder base — and that is experience of truth. Anubhava. Infact, from what i’ve read, Vedanta expressly asks one to go beyond mere belief’s and bookish knowledge, and try to experience the truth for oneself. (I like a particular interpretation of the word “Vedanta”. Veda + Anta. End of knowledge. You learn from books, but you go beyond them. )

    I’ll quote a couple of paragraphs from Swami Ranganathananda’s book on Bhagavad Gita (vol1 pg 173):

    “.. Sri Krishna is telling us as assessment of the Vedas which you find only in our Sanatana Dharma tradition. Every tradition speaks of its own scripture in the highest language. In this Sanatana Dharma, however, even though we revere the Vedas, our most sacred books, we do not give it the higest status. It is always secondary. They do not contain Truth. They only contain information regarding Truth. That is how Sri Ramakrishna also has put it in our time: He says, in the Hindu Pancangam or almanac, it is forecast that so many inches of rain will fall this year. But, if you take the almanac and squeeze it, you won’t get a drop of water. Similarly, in the Vedas so many beautiful things are said, including realizing God, the Atman etc. But squeeze the Vedas, you won’t get any such thing. Only by squeezing your own experience, will you get Truth, will you experience Truth. So, study what the Vedas say, then leave it aside, and practice and realize Truth for yourself. ”

    That said, i don’t really have a comment on mono vs poly debate, not i understand Atanu’s comment about mono’s wrecking the world.


  6. Hi Chaitanya,

    Good points. The emphasis on experiential truth in Vedanta is much higher than truth that is learnt in a rational or scriptural fashion.

    Also, the Vedas (the scriptural knowledge) are defined to be a means of knowledge only when the object of knowledge is beyond the common means of obtaining knowledge (perception/inference/comparision etc.).

    Add these statements with the idea the Vedas (including the Vedanta) are infinite, we have infinite possibilites to search for truth in our daily lives. This is much better than having a single way isn’t it:)

    PS: Atanu, the text box that I am typing comments is too small. Please enlarge:)


  7. Chaitanya/ Amar:

    Vedanta accepts anubhava but makes it subservient to shruti pramana. No amount of anubhava and reasoning will lead you to vedantic “truth”. There is no vedanta unless you establish “flawlessness” of shruti, which is done by proposing “unauthoredness” of vedas.

    You have quoted Swami Rangnathananda without realizing that out of three at least two streams of vedanta will repudiate his conclusions as bogus. Ever wondered why even after centuries of debate advaitins, dvaitins and vishishtadvaitins have been unable to come to an agreement over the real purport of vedanta? Their conclusions about vedantic truth are not just different but diametrically opposite. If anubhava had been the touchstone of vedantic truth, things would have been easy to determine. Wouldn’t they?

    Ask any vedantin, what happens to vedanta if vedas were authored by human beings and you will get your answer.


  8. I forgot to add that if you read vedantins’ debates with nagarjuna and vasubandhu, you will realize how ridiculously vedantins defended their “teacup”. One common argument used even today is “if you say vedas were authored, all you have to do is to name the author and establish it”.

    Not that buddhists do not have their own “teapots”. Buddha’s Pratityasamutpad rests on the foundations of rebirth – which again can neither be proved nor disproved.


  9. Abhihash,

    well, iam happy to report that i personally don’t belong to teacup-defender school 🙂 If there is such a school of thought, good luck to them. But I, with a scientific bent of mind, would assess correctness of a proposition based on its provability irrespective of its authorship. E-equals-mc-squared must be right whether its discovered by Einstein or fell to earth from Heaven. It doesn’t make a difference to me, as long as i can mathematically arrive at it. That’s why even for Vedantic teaching that one can experience truth, i would say my intuition and instinct say its possible, but as long as i don’t know it first hand, it remains just that — a theory.

    By that way, for what its worth, just to extend on Swami Ranganathananda’s view on this, he also quote from Brhadaranyaka upanishad: “In the upanishad — it is actually said that for one who knows Brahman, the ultimate reality, the veda has no meaning: Vedo avedo bhavati, ‘veda becomes a no-Veda’.” He interpreted this to mean that one can go beyond the Veda.

    anyway, thanks for your thoughts on this.

    PS: Atanu, i second Amar that the comment box needs to be widened.


  10. Chaitanya:

    I am glad to know that provability of propositions is important to you. When I say vedantic teapot, I am not hung on its premise only, which obviously is a teapot, but also on the conclusions. “Atman is same as Brahman” is a perfect teapot that can neither be proved nor disproved. BTW, starting from the same texts dvaita vedantins have concluded that “Atman is not the same as Brahman”, which is another teapot. Had “provability” been anyones concern, we would not be having so many teapots floating around.

    I took the example of vedanta and buddhism because they are taken as the highest intellectual traditions of India. If instead you take popular hinduism, you will get tired of counting teapots. On the other hand there are many monotheistic religions such as sikhism that have far fewer teapots than hinduism.

    The point is that there is hardly any correlation between number of teapots and number of gods in a religion. Neither did Russell anywhere suggest this. However, in his religious chauvinism, Atanu has tried to force twisted conclusions on Russell that suit his right wing agenda.

    Let me also point out that this is not an isolated incident on this blog. Read Atanu’s previous posts on Rage Boy, Hare Krishna Video and Richard Dawkins to see how he keeps twisting facts to draw misleading conclusions. He used the same trick with Richard Dawkins to conclude as if Dawkins is against monotheism only, which is downright dishonest.

    In Russell’s words, “All debates among religions can be summarized in one sentence i.e. My brand of non-sense is better than yours”. Atanu’s understanding and polemic about different regions are no better than this.


  11. Abhilash,

    Thanks for your response on this. I would interpret the coexistence of contradictory schools of thought deriving from the same shruti as something unique to Vedanta. Vedanta itself being non-monolithic with different sub-schools of thought emerging out at different times, places and different people as fathers of their respective fathers of the schools (even today!) makes it IMHO a living philosophy. Examples are the recently emerged neo-vedantic schools like Ramakrishna Math, which are more radical in the interpretation and have gained (a well-deserved) popularity and respect, though they themselves severely condemn parts of the shruti as irrelevant. Even beyond this, if you deny the santity of Vedas as naastika schools of India have done, you still are respected. Certainly not punished.

    I would interpret all of this as the non-existance of the (already non-existent!) tea pot in the Indian darshanas, which sets them apart from the monotheistic religions whose premise is opposite. I see all this as the beauty of darshanas from India.

    Chaitanya: Thanks for the quote from B.Up. The same ideas are in Rig Veda too.


  12. Abhilash,

    [Looks like I missed your post#11]

    Can you please explain what do you mean by provability in the experiential context? I understand it in the rational context (atleast I think so:), but how do we prove the sameness of experiences?

    Isn’t the allowance of other people’s nonsense better in non-montheistic philosophies? That is the point Atanu is making (I think).


  13. Dear Amar
    Its not clear what shastry expereinced so forget in the expreinetial context.
    The labeling of other people as kuffars and zahils is ok but not ow.
    Jai ShastriJi


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