This was posted by me as a comment in the ‘Atheist or Intellectual’ post. Thought it might actually be good to have this as a blog post.
Vedic methodology acknowledges that we are limited in our knowledge gaining capabilities, through direct sense perception, logical inference or historical records. These processes have their uses, but cannot guarantee correct knowledge at all times, especially so when the object they are trying to understand is infinitely complex and our position and capabilities are infinitesimal.
This understanding is the first prerequisite for what the vedic methodology recognizes as the process of descending knowledge, called ‘Shabda’ or revealed sound, in which perfect knowledge descends from the absolute being, AKA God, who is conscious of all time and space simultaneously.
This knowledge is passed down through an unbroken line of qualified, unalloyed loving devotees who are bonafide spiritual masters. That line of teachers is commonly known as ’sampradaya’ or disciplic succession.
Now comes the question – How can we differentiate what is true Shabda?
Absolute or perfect knowledge is one that is never subject to change. Contrary to modern scientific methodology where theories are almost always being ‘improved’ upon, there absolutely no place for speculation in the process of shabda. Given that this knowledge comes from, and is basically part of, the absolute being, it is perfect and if someone attempts to change any of that information through speculation, it would inject inherent imperfections in to that knowledge too. So, any speculative changes made in transit would render the knowledge, as well as the person passing it on, as non-authoritative.
In summary, the objective of the vedic methodology is to know the absolute being. Understanding that the knowledge descends from the absolute being through the line of masters is the only way to progress in this methodology.
Of course, if a person considers the vedic literature to be imaginative creations of mortals with their inherent defects, then they hold no authoritative value for that person.