What were the ṛṣis up to while composing the Vedas?

While commenting on PMS 1.1.4, Veṅkaṭanātha makes a long digression aimed at refuting every kind of intellectual intuition, especially as a source for knowing dharma. Dharma, he explains, can only be known through the Veda.
People who claim to have directly perceived dharma are, by contrast, liars. This seems consistent in most cases, but may be problematic when it comes to the Veda, who are believed (by some) to have been composed by some ancient sages of the past, the ṛṣis. Veṅkaṭanātha explains that it is not the case that out of their austerities they gained the ability to directly perceive dharma, also because this would lead to a vicious circle, insofar as efficacious austerities would need to be based on the Veda. Thus, ṛṣis are not an exception to the rule.
This means that the ṛṣis did not compose the Vedas. How comes that they could teach them? Their teaching was based on the Vedas themselves (a Mīmāṃsaka would add: because time is beginningless). Veṅkaṭanātha expresses this point in the following:

However, the teaching (upadeśa) of them (these ṛṣis) is of human origin, although it is considered a sacred text (āgamāyamāna). Therefore, once one has eliminated that [the ṛṣis’ teaching] is based on their perception, originated out of the dharma’s energy, since the listeners (śrotṛ, the ṛṣis) depend on a reflection as the root [of their teaching], one needs to look for another instrument of knowledge for this dharma. And this [other instrument of knowledge] is nothing but the sacred text (śāstra).

tadupadeśasya tu āgamāyamānasyāpi pauruṣeyatayā śrotṝṇāṃ mūlaparāmarśasāpekṣatvena dharmavīryaprasūtapratyakṣamūlatvapariśeṣe tasmin dharme pramāṇāntaram anveṣaṇīyam. tac ca nānyat śāstrāt.

Now, a question to you: Do you now other cases of the use of śrotṛ to define the ṛṣis? Or would you interpret śrotṝṇāṃ in a different way?

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog: elisafreschi.com, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

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