Pramanam - Truths
An Introduction to Pramanam by Suhotra Swami (Doubt & Certainty in Krishna Consciousness)


Pratical examples of pramanam in action:
Pratyaksha pramanam

Anuman pramanam

Shabda - Shruti pramanam

Ignorant Blind Man & the Cow - "I know best, pramanam"

Proud Dung Beetle - Know it all, pramanam

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Pramanam – Understanding Evidential Truths.
namaù pramäëa-müläya
kavaye çästra-yonaye
pravåttäya nivåttäya
nigamäya namo namaù
namaù—obeisances; pramäëa—of authoritative evidence; müläya—to the basis; kavaye—to the author; çästra—of the revealed scripture; yonaye—to the source; pravåttäya—which encourages sense gratification; nivåttäya—which encourages renunciation; nigamäya—to Him who is the origin of both kinds of scripture; namaù namaù—repeated obeisances.
We offer our obeisances again and again to You, who are the basis of all authoritative evidence, who are the author and ultimate source of the revealed scriptures, and who have manifested Yourself in those Vedic literatures encouraging sense gratification as well as in those encouraging renunciation of the material world. (Srimad Bhagavatam 10:16:44.)
“If we did not have the powers of perception and cognition, evidence could not be transmitted, and if we had no tendency to believe in particular modes of evidence, persuasion could not take place. All of these processes—perception, cognition, persuasion and transmission—take place through the various potencies of the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord Kåñëa is Himself the greatest scholar and intellectual being. He manifests the transcendental scriptures within the hearts of great devotees like Brahmä and Närada, and in addition He incarnates as Vedavyäsa, the compiler of all Vedic knowledge. In multifarious ways the Lord generates a variety of religious scriptures, which gradually bring the conditioned souls through the various phases of re-entry into the kingdom of God.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad Bhagavatam 10:16:44. Purport.)

“As described in the Pataïjali yoga system, pramäëa-viparyaya-vikalpa-nidra-småtyaù. By intelligence only one can understand things as they are.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad Bhagavatam 3:26:30. Purport.)

“No one should attempt to create or manufacture answers. One must refer to the çästras and give answers according to Vedic understanding. The words yathä-çrutam refer to Vedic knowledge. The Vedas are known as çruti because this knowledge is received from authorities. The statements of the Vedas are known as çruti-pramäëa. One should quote evidence from the çruti—the Vedas or Vedic literature—and then one’s statements will be correct. Otherwise one’s words will proceed from mental concoction.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad Bhagavatam 7:13:23. Purport.)

“Vedic knowledge is called çabda-pramäëa. Another name is çruti. Çruti means that this knowledge has to be received simply by aural reception. The Vedas instruct that in order to understand transcendental knowledge, we have to hear from the authority.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sri Ishopanishad Introduction.)

“…the word vaiñëava-çästra refers to çruti, or the Vedas, which are called çabda-pramäëa, the evidence of transcendental sound. One who strictly follows the Vedic literature and chants the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead will actually be situated in the transcendental disciplic succession. Those who want to attain life’s ultimate goal must follow this principle. In Çrémad-Bhägavatam (11:19:17), it is said:

çrutiù pratyakñam aitihyam
anumänaà catuñöayam
pramäëeñv anavasthänäd
vikalpät sa virajyate
‘Vedic literature, direct perception, history and hypothesis are the four kinds of evidential proofs. Everyone should stick to these principles for the realization of the Absolute Truth.’ “ (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya-lila 9:362. Purport.)
pramäëäntarasyänapekñatvät svayaà pramäëatvät
pramäëa—means of valid knowing; antarasya—another; an-apekñatvät—because of not being dependent on; svayam—in its own right; pramäëatvät—because of being a valid authority.
The reason devotional service is the easiest of all spiritual processes is that it does not depend on any other authority for its validity, being itself the standard of authority. (NBS 59.)
“Pramäëa means proof. Vaiñëava philosophers condense all the different types of pramäëas into three: pratyakña, anumäna, and çabda. Pratyakña means direct evidence by the senses. But since the senses are imperfect, pratyakña often has to be corrected by higher knowledge. Anumäna refers to deductive and inductive logic, which depends on the validity of its premises and reasons, and so cannot prove anything with final certainty. Çabda means receiving knowledge from authoritative sources. Vedic knowledge is çabda-pramäëa. This is particularly applicable to transcendental subject matter, which cannot be understood by the empirical and theorizing methods. Even in ordinary affairs, there are many things we have to accept on authority. We can learn the identity of our father from our mother, the only foolproof authority. Aside from the mother there is no way to know for sure who our father is. When the source of information is perfect, as in Vedic knowledge, then çabda-pramäëa, or çabda-brahma, becomes the ultimate proof.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Narad Bhakti Sutras. 59. Commnetary by Satswarup dasa Goswami.)

“If you can substantiate your statements by quotations from the Vedas, then they are accepted. You are not required to substantiate them in other ways. There are different kinds of pramäëas, or evidences. Proof by Vedic quotation is called çruti-pramäëa. As in the legal court if you can give statements from the law book your statement is accepted, so all statements you give, if supported by çruti-pramäëas, are accepted by scholars. I think you know the Vedas are known as çrutis.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The Science of Self Realization. Discussion with Prof. Kotovsky. SSR 6.)

“There are three kinds of proofs. According to Vedic system, they accept three kinds. For establishing truth, they, they take three kinds of proofs: pratyakña, anumäna, aitihya. In logic also, these three kinds of proofs are accepted. What is that? Now, direct perception. You are seeing. I am sitting here. That is direct knowledge. I am seeing that you are sitting here. That is direct knowledge, pratyakña.
  Anumäna. Anumäna means just like the children are playing there. We are hearing their sound. So we can conjecture that there are some children. We don’t see the children. But we can conjecture, we can think, we can imagine that there are some children who are playing there. This is called anumäna.
  Pratyakña, anumäna and aitihya, or çabda-pramäëa. Çabda-pramäëa means to take the truth from the highest authority. That is called çabda-pramäëa. Just like “Man is mortal.” Now, this “Man is mortal,” nobody knows wherefrom this sound has come first. Who has experienced that man is mortal? But we are accepting this. We are accepting this. By tradition, we know man is mortal. Now if we, if somebody says, “Who found this truth first? Who discovered that man is mortal?” That is very difficult to say. But it is coming down. The knowledge is coming down, “Man is mortal,” and we accept everything. There are so many examples. So out of these three, the Vedic knowledge, they say that this aitihya, or the knowledge received from the authority, is the most perfect.
Neither, I mean to say, imagination or hypothesis nor direct. Direct perception is always imperfect, especially in the conditioned stage of life. Just like direct perception—with our eyes we see the sun just like a disc, not more than your plate on which you take your meals. But from authority, aitihya, we understand the sun is so many millions times greater than this earth. So which of them is right? By seeing your direct perception, sun just like a disc—is it right? Or you take it from authority that sun is such and such times bigger than the earth? Which one of them you’ll accept? But you are not going to prove it that the sun is so great. You do not know. You accept from some scientist, from some astronomer, from some authority, that sun is so great. But you have no capacity to see yourself whether the sun is so great or not. Therefore the knowledge received from authority actually we are accustomed and we are accepting this type of knowledge in every field of our activities.
Now, what is this newspaper? Oh, you, from newspaper you understand that “In China such and such things have taken place. And in India such and such things have taken place.” Or from radio message you understand that “Such and such things have taken place.” But you are not experiencing them directly, whether such and such things have actually taken place. But you accept the authority of the newspaper. You accept the authority of newspaper and you believe it, that in China such and such things have taken place and in India such and such things have taken place, which is far beyond the range of your direct perception. Similarly, there are many instances. We have to believe the authority to take knowledge. And the more the authority is perfect, your knowledge is perfect. The more the authority is perfect, your knowledge is perfect. Direct perception in all cases, it is not possible to receive direct perception of everything.
… Hm. So there is one very good example. Now, if somebody wants to know, “Who is my father? Who is my father?” And how he can know? There is no possibility of direct perception to know the father. It is not possible. Then who is the authority? The mother is the authority. When the mother says, “My dear son, here is your father,” we have to accept it. If you say, “No, I don’t believe you, mother,” then you have no other source of knowledge who is your father. You have no other alternative; excepting the authority of your mother, you cannot know who is your father. Because he was your father before your birth, so how you can have direct perception? It is not possible. So many things there are that direct perception is not possible. Therefore in the Vedic process of knowledge the authority has been accepted as the perfect source of knowledge.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 18th July 1966. Bhagavad Gita class. 4:3-6. New York, USA.)

“A speculator cannot give you truth. That is not possible. By speculation you cannot say, “Two plus two equal to five.” That is not science. “Two plus two equal to four,” that is everywhere. And if you speculate, “No, two plus two equal to five,” or “two plus two equal to three,” that is not science. So scientific basis means it should be fact, not speculation, mano-dharma. Mano-dharma means speculation.
Therefore çästra says, haräv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guëä mano-rathenäsati dhävato bahiù. Haräv abhaktasya, one who is not a divine nature or devotee of the Lord, he has no qualification. “Oh, he’s MA, PhD.” No, he has no qualification. “Why?” Now, mano-rathena, he is simply speculating. He has no truth. How by speculation...? Every one of us, we are imperfect. We are very much proud of our eyes: “Can you show me?” What qualification your eyes have got that you can see? He does not think that, that “I have no qualification; still, I want to see.” These eyes, oh, they are dependent on so many condition. Now there is electricity, you can see. As soon as there is electricity off, you cannot see. Then what is the value of your eyes? You cannot see what is going on beyond this wall.
So don’t believe your so-called senses as the source of knowledge. No. The source of knowledge should be by hearing. That is called çruti. Therefore Vedas’ name is çruti. Çruti-pramäëa, çruti-pramäëa. Just like a child or a boy wants to know who is his father. So what is the evidence? That evidence is çruti, hearing from the mother. Mother says, “He is your father.” So he hears; he does not see how he became his father. Because before his body was constructed the father was there, how could he see? So by seeing, you cannot ascertain who is your father. You have to hear from the authority. The mother is the authority. Therefore çruti-pramäëa: the evidence is hearing, not by seeing. Seeing... Our imperfect eyes... There are so many obstacles. So similarly, by direct perception, you cannot have the truth.
Direct perception is speculation. Dr. Frog. Dr. Frog is speculating what is Atlantic Ocean. He is in the well, three feet well, and some friend inform him, “Oh, I have seen vast water.” “What is that vast water?” “Atlantic Ocean.” “How big it is?” “Very, very big.” So the Dr. Frog is thinking, “Maybe four feet. This well is three feet. It may be four feet. All right, five feet. Come on, ten feet.” So in this way, speculating, how the frog, Dr. Frog, will understand Atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean? Can you estimate the length and breadth of the Atlantic, Pacific Ocean, by speculation? So by speculation, you cannot have. They are speculating so many years about this universe, how many stars are there, what is the length and breadth, where is the... Nobody knows anything even of the material world, and what to speak of the spiritual world? That is beyond, far beyond.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 3rd February 1975. Bhagavad Gita Class 16:7. Hawaii, USA.)

“That is the proof. Çruti. This is hearing, disciplic succession hearing from the Supreme. This is one proof. One proof is by logic, nyäya-pramäëa. You can get your knowledge by logic, argument, philosophical research. This is all right also. But another, çruti, by hearing from the authorities. That is also knowledge. And småti. Småti means statement derived from çruti. Just like Bhagavad-gétä is called småti, the Puräëas are called småti. But Upaniñad is called çruti, and Vedänta is called nyäya. So three ways, nyäya-pramäëa, çruti-pramäëa and småti-pramäëa. So of all these, the çruti-pramäëa, or the evidence by the çruti, is very important. Pratyakña, anumäna and çruti. Pratyakña: direct perception. Direct perception has no value because our senses are all imperfect. So what is the value of direct perception?” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 2nd May 1973. Srimad Bhagavatam lecture 1:8:40. Los Angeles. USA.)

“A scholar will not speak anything as he is thinking. No. He will give authoritative quotation to support. That is Vedic system. When you support your proposition with the Vedic version, then it is accepted. Otherwise not. Veda pramäëa.
    So Våndävana Däsa Öhäkura said bhägavata kahe. He doesn’t say, “In my opinion.” Nowadays it has become a very good fashion, “I think.” “In my opinion.” Without knowing his own value, he gives his opinion. He does not know that he’s imperfect. He’s imperfect in his senses, he’s liable to commit mistake, he’s illusioned, and he’s a cheater. Everyone knows that “How I am cheating the other party.” Especially amongst businessmen, when there is conference, so each one is trying, “Now how much I have cheated him.” So this cheating, vipralipsä, is one of the qualification of the conditioned soul. Bhrama pramäda vipralipsä karaëäpäöava. So a person, authorized person in the line of disciplic succession, he does not speak by his own authority. Immediately he’ll quote from the Vedic literature to support his proposition. So Våndävana Däsa Öhäkura says bhägavata kahe. He doesn’t say that, “I say” or “In my opinion.” No. Bhägavata kahe taha pari purëa chole.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 9th October 1976. Srimad Bhagavatam 1:2:5. Aligarh, India.)

“We follow real philosophy. What is that real philosophy? Çruti-pramäëam, evidence from the Vedas, history, aitihya-pramäëa, history. And anumäna-pramäëa. There are many, pratyakña, anumäna, aitihya... So out of that, there are so many evidential processes, but according to followers of the Vedic principle, their process is çruti-pramäëam. Çruti-pramäëam means if it is mentioned in the Vedas, Upaniñad, then it is pramäëam. Çruti-pramäëam. So Vedas, there are four Vedas and 108 Upaniñads, and then eighteen Puräëas, then this Mahäbhärata. So all these are Vedic literatures. Çrémad Madhväcärya describes them, these are Vedic literatures. Not only the four Vedas—Säma, Yajur, Åg, Atharva—but expansion of Vedas. Puräëas, they are also Vedas. So in the Puräëa, in the history, in the Vedas, by the authorities.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 16th August 1974. Srimad Bhagavatam class 1:5:35. Vrindavana, India.)


täre kahe——kene kara kutarkänumäna
çästra-viruddhärtha kabhu nä haya pramäëa
täre—to him; kahe—one says; kene—why; kara—you make; ku-tarka—of a fallacious argument; anumäna—conjecture; çästra-viruddha—contrary to scripture; artha—a meaning; kabhu—at any time; nä—not; haya—is; pramäëa—evidence.
To such a misguided interpreter we may reply, “Why should you suggest such fallacious logic? An interpretation is never accepted as evidence if it opposes the principles of scripture. (Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-lila 2:73.)
ihära pramäëa çuna——çästrera vyäkhyäna
mahad-anubhava yäte sudåòha pramäëa
ihära—of this; pramäëa—evidence; çuna—please hear; çästrera vyäkhyäna—the description in the revealed scriptures; mahat-anubhava—the conception of great souls; yäte—by which; su-dåòha—strong; pramäëa—evidence.
For evidence, please listen to the examples described in the revealed scriptures, which are also corroborated by the realization of great souls. (Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-lila 6:54.)

“…there are three prasthänas on the path of advancement in spiritual knowledge—namely, nyäya-prasthäna (Vedänta philosophy), çruti-prasthäna (the Upaniñads and Vedic mantras) and småti-prasthäna (the Bhagavad-gétä, Mahäbhärata, Puräëas, etc.). Unfortunately, Mäyävädé philosophers do not accept the småti-prasthäna. Småti refers to the conclusions drawn from the Vedic evidence. Sometimes Mäyävädé philosophers do not accept the authority of the Bhagavad-gétä and the Puräëas, and this is called ardha-kukkuöé-nyäya, “the logic of half a hen.” (A foolish farmer once thought he would save money by cutting off his hen’s head, which he had to feed, and leaving its tail, which produced the eggs.) If one believes in the Vedic literature, one must accept all the Vedic scriptures recognized by the great äcäryas, but these Mäyävädé philosophers accept only the nyäya-prasthäna and çruti-prasthäna, rejecting the småti-prasthäna. Here, however, Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu cites evidence from the Gétä, Viñëu Puräëa, etc., which are småti-prasthäna. No one can avoid the Personality of Godhead in the statements of the Bhagavad-gétä and other Vedic scripttures such as the Mahäbhärata and the Puräëas. Lord Caitanya therefore quotes a passage from the Bhagavad-gétä (7.5).” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita. Adi–lila 7:117.purport.)

“Foolish people try to concoct knowledge by manufacturing something in their brains. That is not the real way of knowledge. Knowledge is çabda-pramäëa, evidence from Vedic literature. Çréla Vyäsadeva is called Mahämuni. He is also known as Vedavyäsa because he has compiled so many çästras. He has divided the Vedas into four divisions—Säma, Åg, Yajur and Atharva. He has expanded the Vedas into eighteen Puräëas and has summarized Vedic knowledge in the Vedänta-sütra. He also compiled the Mahäbhärata, which is accepted as the fifth Veda. Bhagavad-gétä is contained within the Mahäbhärata. Therefore Bhagavad-gétä is also Vedic literature (småti). Some of the Vedic literatures are called çrutis, and some are called småtis. Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé recommends in the Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu (1.2.101):

païcarätra-vidhià vinä
aikäntiké harer bhaktir
utpätäyaiva kalpate
Unless one refers to çästra (çruti, småti and puräëädi), one’s spiritual activity simply disturbs society. There is no king or government to check people, and therefore society has fallen into a chaotic condition as far as spiritual understanding is concerned. Taking advantage of this chaotic condition, many rascals have appeared and proclaimed themselves incarnations of God. As a result, the entire population is indulging in sinful activities such as illicit sex, intoxication, gambling and meat-eating. Out of many sinful people, many incarnations of God are emerging. This is a very regrettable situation, especially in India.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya-lila 20:353. Purport.)
yasya deve parä bhaktir
yathä deve tathä gurau
tasyaite kathitä hy arthäù
prakäçante mahätmanaù
“Our process is descending process. We are not trying to understand by the ascending process. Inductive or deductive. We accept the statements of the Vedas. Therefore we haven’t got to make much effort to understand a thing. Veda-vacana, çruti, çruti-pramäëa. There are three kinds of evidences: direct perception, and evidence from the Vedas, and evidence from history. Aitihya. Pratyakña, aitihya, çruti. Three kinds of evidences. So pratyakña and aitihya is neglected. According to our Vedic system, çruti-pramäëa, if it is statement, the statement is there in the çruti, in the Vedas, then we accept. We have got a society in India. They call veda-pramäëa. “We cannot accept without it is not mentioned in the Vedas.” That’s a, that’s nice. But there is another class who are described in the Bhagavad-gétä by Kåñëa Himself: veda-väda-ratäù. They are simply unnecessarily fight on the basis of so-called Vedic knowledge. Vedic knowledge must be understood from the guru. That is injunction. They defy that. They... The Vedic injunction is... Kaöhopaniçad.
     Tad-vijïänärthaà sa gurum eva abhigacchet. You... To understand the Vedas, you must approach a guru. Otherwise, you cannot understand. Just like it is forbidden that without becoming a brähmaëa, nobody should read Vedas. Because he cannot understand. Unless one is qualified brähmaëa, unless one has approached another qualified brähmaëa who knows, there is no question of understanding Vedas. Just like Max Muller translated Veda. What does he know about Veda? Such kinds of translation, understanding, is useless. Tad-vijïänärthaà sa gurum eva abhigacchet. Abhigacchet means “He must!” There is not that “I may go or I may not.” No, you must. If you really serious. In our vaiñëava-paramparä also... vaiñëava-paramparä is actually Vedic paramparä. That ädau gurväçrayam... Ädau gurväçrayam: “To enter into the spiritual life, first thing is first of all to accept a guru.”” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 30th November 1972. Bhagavad Gita Lecture 2:26. Hyderabad, India.)

“So these things should be taken very seriously instruction. Therefore çrémad-bhägavatam amalaà puräëam. This is pramäëa. Pramäëi-grantha. Pramäëi-grantha means çabda-pramäëa. Çabda-pramäëa, anumäna pramäëa, and anumäna... Just like a sound is going on. One who knows, that’s all right. But we can... Hypothesis. We can think that some machine is running on. We may not know what is that machine. So this is anumäna. I’m not seeing the machine, what kind of machine is running, but I can think of, imagine that it may be some machine is running on. That is also another pramäëa. Hypothesis, inductive, deductive. They are also... Analogy. There are so many processes. So here, Kåñëa and guru, they should be accepted on the same level.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 5th October 1976. Srimad Bhagavatam lecture 1:7:45-46. Vrindavan, India.)

“So we have to accept like that. So Veda-väëé. Veda-väëé means you cannot deny it. You cannot argue on it. You have to accept as it is. Therefore learned scholar, when he speaks something, he gives evidence from the Vedas, çruti, çruti-pramäëa. That is the best evidence. Go on.
Pradyumna: “There are certain prescribed methods for employing our senses and mind in such a way that our dormant consciousness for loving Kåñëa will be invoked, as much as the child, with a little practice, can begin to walk.”
Prabhupäda: The Gosvämés, or in the Païcarätra system, in the çästras, the regulative principles are so made that, if we practice it, gradually our dormant Kåñëa consciousness will be awakened. Therefore these prescribed rules and regulations, as it is given in the çästras and confirmed by the äcäryas... Narottama däsa Öhäkura says, täìdera caraëa-sevi. We have to follow the footprints of the äcäryas. Äcärya means paramparä. One äcärya is following the previous äcärya. An äcärya does not manufacture anything, something novel. He follows the previous äcärya. And therefore he, he’s äcärya. And one who follows... Äcäryavän puruño veda. Äcärya upäsanam. In the Bhagavad-gétä it is said. So we have to accept the principles laid down by the äcäryas. Täìdera caraëa-sevi-bhakta-sane väsa.

rüpa-raghunätha-pade haibe äkuti
kabe häma bujhaba çré-yugala-périti
Narottama däsa Öhäkura. These are, Narottama däsa Öhäkura’s versions are accepted as Vedic versions, çruti-pramäëa. Viçvanätha Cakravarté Öhäkura says that the statements of Narottama däsa Öhäkura are as good as Vedic evidences. Therefore we quote from Narottama däsa Öhäkura often. Not, not only Narottama däsa Öhäkura—Kåñëadäsa Kaviräja Gosvämé and the six Gosvämés, they are authorities. So we have no difficulty. Täìdera caraëa-sevi-bhakta-sane väsa. That’s all. Let us follow the footprints of the äcäryas, Gosvämés, and live together as sincere, serious devotees. Then our life is successful. It is not very difficult. Bhakta-sane väsa. Täìdera caraëe. We should live together as devotee and follow the footprints of the äcäryas. Don’t manufacture concoction. Then it will be spoiled. Simply try to follow. They’ll protect. They’ll give protection. Because Kåñëa says, ahaà tväà sarva-päpebhyo mokñayiñyämi. So if we take shelter of the äcäryas, that means we take shelter of Kåñëa. Yasya prasädäd bhagavat-prasädaù. If the äcärya, guru, is satisfied, then we must know certainly that Kåñëa is satisfied. Yasya prasädäd bhagavat-prasädaù. Äcäryaà mäà vijänéyät. So this is the principle, and the äcäryas give us direction. It is not very difficult. Simply we have to be, become very serious and sincere. Then everything is all right.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 13th November 1972. Nectar of Devotion classes. Vrindavana, India.)

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