Pramāņa : the source of valid knowledge.
Pramāņa (or Pramaanam) are the means or the source of obtaining the correct knowledge. The sources or means of correct knowledge are acknowledged as authoritative. In the context of Dharma and knowledge of supreme being, Dharma-Shastras such as Shruti, Smriti, Itihasa, Puranas and Apta-Vakyas (testimony of realised-souls such as Rishi-s) which are completely in line of Vedas, are the Pramāņa-s (the source of correct knowledge).
In Vishishtadvaita-Vaishnavism i.e. Sri-Sampradaya, these are accepted as source of knowledge (Pramana):
Pratyakşa — direct sense perception or immediate cognition
Anumāna — logical inference
Śabda — Verbal testimony

Sabda Pramana are of two types:
1) Svatah-Pramana (self-sufficent authority): Revealed words or Sabda i.e. 4 Vedas [Shrutis] are the self-sufficient authority.
2) Paratah-Pramana (Dependent authority) : All other scriptures and Aapta-Vakyas (verbal testimony of qualified people e.g. Brahm-jnani sages) which expounds Vedas, and are completely in line of Shruti.

There are many contexts e.g. Dharma and Adharma, Brahman, etc. in which Anumana (logical inferences) and Pratyaksha (direct sense perception or immediate cognition) are not cent percent free from defects, and may not be perfect and pure truth. As the unseen reality Brahman is not the subject of senses, hence in the context of the transcedental supreme absolute, Brahman, Shruti (Śabda Pramana) alone which is the authorless (Apaurusheya) and revealed knowledge is the supreme and final authority.

It is also confirmed from Brahma-Sutras:
शास्त्रयोनित्वात् । ( ब्रह्म सूत्र १.१.३ । )
śāstrayōnitvāt । ( brahma sūtra 1.1.3 । )
भावार्थ:- ब्रह्म का ज्ञान शास्त्र से होता है॥
Purport: Brahmam cognisable through the scriptures alone. Therefore, the scripture being the source of right knowledge.

तत् तु समन्वयात् । ( ब्रह्म सूत्र १.१.४ । )
tat tu samanvayāt । ( brahma sūtra 1.1.4 । )
भावार्थ:- वह ब्रह्मज्ञान शास्त्र के समन्वय से होता है॥
Purport: But that Brahman is to be known only from the Scriptures after harmonization, and not independently, because it is the main purpose of all Vedantic texts.

Vedas : वेदानां स्वतः प्रामाण्यम्‌।

why is Shruti the most most authoritative or supreme authority ( for right knowledge in the context of Brahman) among all Shastra-s?

Prime reason is Vedas are Apaurusheya (authorless) as Maharshi Kapil has said in his sānkhya-sutras :
न पौरुषेयत्वं तत्कर्तुः पुरुषस्याभावात् । sānkhya-sutra 5.46 ।
No one authored Vedas, Vedas are authorless (Apaurusheya).
and directly revealed by Brahman himself :
निजशक्त्यभिव्यक्तेः स्वतः प्रामाण्यं । sānkhya-sutra 5.51 ।
Purport: Vedas are self-sufficient authority in itself as it is revealed ( and illuminated) by lord himself.
In Brahm-Sutra, Maharshi Badarayan says:
शब्द इति चेन् नातः प्रभवात् प्रत्यक्षानुमानाभ्याम् । (brahm sutra 1.3.28)
Purport: The Vedic words have been proved to be permanent, i.e. without beginning or end, whole existence mere follows those Vedic-words (Vedas), as is known from direct perception (Sruti) and inference (Smriti).
अत एव च नित्यत्वम् । ( brahm sutra 1.3.29। )
Purport: From this very reason also there follows the eternity of the Vedas.
Thus Vedas are always in existence and eternal. The Seers (Rishis) were not the authors of the Vedas. They only discovered the eternal Mantra-s of Vedas, through revelation by Brahman. It is also approved in Rig-Veda.

य॒ज्ञेन॑ वा॒चः प॑द॒वीय॑माय॒न्तामन्व॑विन्द॒न्नृषि॑षु॒ प्रवि॑ष्टाम्।
तामा॒भृत्या॒ व्य॑दधुः पुरु॒त्रा तां स॒प्त रे॒भा अ॒भि सं न॑वन्ते॥
[Rig Ved 10.71.3]
Purport: By means of Yajna (sacrifice) they followed the trace of speech (Vak); they found it dwelling in the Rishis. (It shows that the speech found by the Rishis was permanent.)
Veda was percieved by Brahman himself, and Brahman revealed it to Seers.
Q . Why should a modern science oriented person believe on Vedas as the self-sufficient authority and Pramana (the source of valid knowledge)?
Answer : It is known to all - 'Veda is the most ancient scripture of human-kind'. Still there is no contradiction found in whole Vedas with any law of nature or physical science or cosmology etc. which are discovered by modern science recently. In reality, whatever is said long ago in Vedas, modern science is mere reinforcing and approving those facts with their own scientific discoveries. Everything in Vedas is perfect and true, while this is not the same case with Avaidika-scriptures (which are not in line with Vedas). So Vedas by the virtue of its perfectness in everyway could be the only scripture which are perceived by the supreme absolute (Brahman) himself. As Jiva-s are endowed with limited knowledge, so a Jiva can't be author of the divine marvel Vedas, only the supreme almighty, the omniscient Brahman should be the one who revealed it to Seers for transmitting the valid knowledge generation after the generation.
One can see here how modern science is approving the concept of Vedic-cosmology: Modern Science via-a-vis Vedic Concept in Cosmology
Thus it is beyond doubt that all perfect Veda is divine revelation by the Brahman, the soul of universe.
After considering all these, whole Sanatan Dharma accepts Vedas as the Swatah-Pramana (self-sufficient means of valid knowledge) and the supreme authority because of their most divine nature. In Sri-Vaishnava Ramanandi Sampradaya too, Vedas are supreme authority.

Valmiki Ramayana : वेदावतार वाल्मीकि रामायण ।

In Sanatan Dharma, Valmiki Ramayana is treated as Itihasa (history), the biography of supreme personality and the Pramana (the means of valid knowledge) which expounds the Vedas. One of the most important facts about Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is 'It is the first scripture after Vedas, composed by a Brahm-jnani sage Valmiki in order to expound and reinforce the meanings of Vedas.' As Brahman or Purusa is the main purport of Vedas, similarly Sri Ram is the main purport of Valmiki Ramayana as it is completely based upon Sri Ram's life; in the begining (with the quest about the Purusa being perfect in 16 qualities, on the Pattern of the quest about Brahman in Brahm-Sutra), the middle and the end (reconfirmation from BrahmA and Shiva) of Valmiki Ramayana, Sri Ram is identified as the Purusa (the supreme personality) or Aadi-Purusa (the primeval lord), and the imperishable Brahman.

Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is the most authoritative scripture after Bhagavati-Shruti, Purva-Bhaag of Veda i.e. the Dharma (righteous duties) is decided by Sri Ram's sublime conduct and Uttar-Bhag of Vedas i.e. Brahman himself is Sri Ram! Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is the incarnation of Vedas itself.
वेदवेद्ये परेपुंसि जाते दशरथात्मजे।
वेदः प्राचेतसादासीत् साक्षाद् रामायणात्मना॥
तस्माद्रामायणं देवि! वेद एव न संशयः॥
[Mangalacharan, Valmiki Ramayana, and Agastya Samhita]
Purport: Supreme being is known through Vedas. When that Supreme being of Vedas born as son of Dasratha (Śrī Rām) in Ayodhya, that time all Vedas manifested themselves through the mouth of sage Valmiki, the son of sage Prachetus, directly as the Ramayana. Therefore, O' Devi, there is no doubt that Sri Ramayana is Vedas itself.
In Sri-Vaishnava Ramanuji and Ramanandi sect, both, Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is held as the most authoritative scripture after Vedas. Here are some Sutras from Sri-Vachana-Bhushanam by Srivaishnava Acharya Pillai Lokacharya which is treated as Maha-Shastra by Sri Ramanuji-Vaishnavas :-

Q. How to know the real imports of Vedas?

Ans.
वेदार्थो निश्चेतव्य: स्मृतीतिहासपुराणै: ॥१॥
स्मृति, इतिहास और पुराण से हीं वेदों का सही अर्थ लगाया जाता है।
know the actual imports of Vedas through Smritis Itihasa and Puranas.
Q. What is/are decided from Smriti and Itihasa?

Ans.
स्मृत्याि पूर्वभागार्थो निर्णीयते अन्याभ्यांद्वाभ्यामुत्तर भागार्थो निर्णीयते ॥२॥
स्मृतियों से वेदों के पूर्व-भाग अर्थात कर्म का निरूपण किया जाता है, और इतिहास [रामायण, महाभारत और पुराणों] से ब्रह्म का निरूपण किया जाता है।
The Karmas are decided/explained/enunciated from Smritis, and The Brahman/Purusa is explained and described through Itihasa (Ramayana) and Purana.
. Q. Which has more authority among these?

अनयोरूभयोर्मध्ये इतिहासः प्रबलः॥३॥
इतिहास और पुराण के मध्य में इतिहास प्रबल है!
Among these, however, Itihasa is superior authority.
तेन स पूर्वं भवति ॥४॥
इतिहास पुराण से प्रबल होने से हरेक जगह पहले आता है।
(वेद और उपनिषदों में 'इतिहासपुराणाभ्यां' जैसे समास में इतिहास पूर्व में [पहले] कहा गया है। इस तरह किसी भी पुराण से इतिहास श्रेष्ठ है।)
Itihas is more superior authority than Puranas, hence it comes before Purana in determining anything. (Itihasa is told before in 'Samasa' like 'Itihasapuranabhyam' in Veda and Upanishads. Hence Itihasa is superior than any of 18 Puranas).
Q. There are two main Itihasa, Ramayana and Mahabharata! Which has superior authority?

इतिहासश्रेष्ठेन रामायणेन कारागृह वास कर्त्र्या वैभव उच्यते ॥५॥
(इतिहासों में श्रेष्ठ श्रीमद रामायण हैं जिससे की रावण के कारागार में निवास करने वाली भगवती सीता का वैभव कहा जाताहै।)
Among Itihasa, Srimad Ramayana has superior authority, through Sri Ramayana the glory of Sita who made herself in captive of Ravana to reveal the glory of Sri Ram, is told.
Thus Sri Ramayana is the supreme authority equal to Vedas in Sri-Vaishnavism (in Vishishtadvaita-Vaishnavism of both Jagadguru Ramanuja and Jagadguru Ramananda) and regarded more authoritative than Mahabharat.

It is also told in various scriptures such as:
नास्ति रामायणात्परम्॥ [स्कन्द पुराण उ० ख० रा० मा० अ० 5/21]
भावार्थ:- श्रीमद रामायण से परे कोई ग्रन्थ नहीं है!
Purport: No other scripture exists beyond Srimad Ramayana.
रामायणमहाकाव्यमादौ वाल्मीकिना कृतं ।
तन्मूलं सर्वकाव्यानमितिहासपुराणयोः॥
[ बृहद्धर्म]
Sage Valmiki composed the first Kavya of the world, Srimad Ramayana, which is the eternal seed of all other scriptures, Kavya-s, Itihasa (Mahabharata) and Purana. [Brihad-dharma Purana]
SriRamcharit is the eternal seed of all the scriptures. That scripture is not a scripture where SriRama is not glorified (as Bhagavati Saraswati lives where there is Sri Ramcharitam).

After studying Sri Ramayana, Bhagavan Vedvyasa who is partial incarnation of Sri Hari, got the grace of Bhagavati Saraswati to compose Mahabharata and Puranas.

पठ रामायणं व्यास काव्यबीजं सनातनम्‌।
यत्र रामचरितं स्यात्‌ तदहं तत्र शक्तिमान॥
[Brihad-dharma Purana]
Purport: Bhagavati Saraswati ordered Sage Ved-Vyasa: Oh' Vyasa! Study the eternal seed of scriptures (Kavyas), Srimad Ramayana! Where there is SriRama-Charitam (the divine exploits of Sri Rama), there will be I (Saraswati)!
रामायणं पाठितं मे प्रसन्नोऽस्मि कृतस्त्वया ।
करिष्यामि पुराणानि महाभारतमेव च ।।
[Brihad-dharma Purana]
After studying the eternal seed of all scriptures, Sage Ved-Vyasa composed Mahabharata and all Puranas.


Before Sri Ram, most of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu such as Trivikrama, Varaha, Narsimha etc were already happened, but no scripture was composed in order to account their glorious exploits. The Aadi-Kavya (Ramayana) was composed to expound 'Ved-Purusa is Sri Ram'. The divine sage Narada, and sage Valmiki, both accepted Ramayana is completely in accordance of Vedas, and Valmiki composed it to reinforce the meaning of Vedas. Hence, a direct inference can be deduced from it - 'Sri Ram is the main purport of Vedas, Vedas sings the glory of Sri Ram alone, he is the purusa of Purusa-Sukta and the husband of Bhagavati 'Sri' in the Purusa-Sukta (Purusa-Sukta is reconfirmed for Sri Ram in Valmiki Ramayana) , he is the all pervading eternal-Vishnu, he is the Aadi-Dev (Primeval lord), He is Narayana (the abode of all beings). Thus Brahman of Bhagavati Shruti is explained and expounded by Valmiki Ramayana and Sri Ramcharitmanas where Sri Ram is the most superior personality.

SriRamacharitmanas : श्रीरामचरितमानस ।

As like Valmiki composed the Ramayana in order to expound the Vedas, similarly Valmikiya-Avatar Goswami Tulsidas who was a Rishi appeared in this Kaliyuga composed SriRamcharitmanas upon the order of Lord Shiva to propagate the devotion into the lotus feet of the most superior Purusa of Vedas, Sri Rama, and Dharma through Sri Ram's life-story. Goswami Ji says in the begining SriRamcharitmanas is completely in accordance of Vedas, Itihasa and Puranas. At various places in Sri Ramcharitmanas, Goswami Ji has opined his opinion (Nirnay) over many things such as Saguna and Nirguna, Jnana and Bhakti, etc, hence SriRamcharitmanas is not only a Pramana (the means of valid knowledge), but also a determining authority (Nirnay-Granth) on the purport of Vedas. As like Valmiki Ramayana, SriRamcharitmanas also keeps Sri Rama as the most superior Purusa, and the Saguna-Nirguna Brahman of Vedas (राम ब्रह्म ब्यापक जग जाना। परमानंद परेस पुराना॥ पुरुष प्रसिद्ध प्रकाश निधि प्रगट परावर नाथ। रघुकुलमनि मम स्वामि सोइ कहि सिवँ नायउ माथ॥).

Q . How is Sri Ramcharitmanas a Pramanaik Grantha (the source of valid knowledge)?
Answer : 1. Shri Ramcharitmanas is the source of Valid knowledge, because it was first conceived in heart (Mānasa) by the greatest of the poets Bhagavan Shankar himself, and then he revealed it to Goswami Tulasidas Ji. Following couplets of Manas can be quoted for this:-

यत्पूर्वं प्रभुणाकृतं सुकविना श्रीशंभुना दुर्गमं | श्रीमद्रामपदाब्जभक्तिमनिशं प्राप्त्यै तु रामायणं ||
मत्वा तद्रघुनाथनाम निरतं स्वान्तस्तमः शान्तये | भाषाबद्धमिदं चकार तुलसीदासस्तथा मानसं ||
[श्री रामचरितमानस, उत्तरखंड]
भावार्थ:-श्रेष्ठ कवि भगवान्‌ श्री शंकरजी ने पहले जिस दुर्गम मानस-रामायण की, श्री रामजी के चरणकमलों में नित्य-निरंतर (अनन्य) भक्ति प्राप्त होने के लिए रचना की थी, उस मानस-रामायण को श्री रघुनाथजी के नाम में निरत मानकर अपने अंतःकरण के अंधकार को मिटाने के लिए तुलसीदास ने इस मानस के रूप में भाषाबद्ध किया॥1॥
Translation: The same mysterious “Mānasa-Rāmāyaṇa” (the story of Sri Rama figuratively spoken of as a “Mānasa lake”) which was composed of yore by the blessed Lord Shambhu, the best of all poets, with the object of developing unceasing devotion to the lotus-feet of the all-beautiful Sri Rama, has been likewise rendered into the vulgar tongue (in vernacular language) by Tulasidasa for dispersing the gloom of his heart, cognizing the fact that it is devoted to the Name of Shri Rama (the Lord of the Raghus). [Shri Ramcharitmanas, Uttar-Kanda, last shloka-1]
संभु कीन्ह यह चरित सुहावा | बहुरि कृपा करि उमहि सुनावा || [RCM 1.29.2]
Translation: This ravishing tale was conceived by Shambhu (Lord Shiva), who graciously communicated with his consort UmA (Devi PArvati) SriRamcharitmanas by the virtue of a divine composition in Sanskrit by Shiva and further revelation of the same to Goswami Ji, and to expound the principles of Vedas Manas-Ramayana of Shiva

2. Goswami Tulsidas was a divine saint, a sage-like (equal to Rishi), appeared in this Kaliyuga in 1497 CE. As like Rishis in Vedas have said many things which are now being approved by modern science too, in the same way Goswami Ji mentioned so many things which are also being found completely true by modern science recently, only a god realised soul can reveal such things. One can see here: Śrī Hanumān Chalisa and Distance between SUN and EARTH

3. As per Pramana definition, Apta-Vakyas are Pramana as long as they don't contradict with Shruti. And SriRamcharitmanas no where contradicts with Shruti. In fact Goswami Ji has always held Vedas as topmost..

अतुलित महिमा बेद की तुलसी कियो बिचार ।
जेहि निंदत निन्दित भयो बिदित बुद्ध अवतार ।।
[दोहावली]
Translation: “After a deep pondering, this Tulasidas has come to conclusion that the great glory of Vedas is uncomparable. (So much so) that even the Buddha incarnation of the Lord was denounced (by followers of Sanatana Vedic Dharma) due to His criticism of the Vedas” [Dohawali]

4. Goswami Tulsidas was the incarnation of Brahmarshi Valmiki, appeared in Sri-sampradaya of Bhagavati Sita to propagate Shri Rama-Bhakti. It is also approved by Bhavaishya-Puran. Besides everything else, His enlightement, writings and matchless compositions being full of devotion of Shri Rama makes him the Valmiki of Kaliyuga. Many devotees appeared, however none could match the glory of Goswami Tulasidas in this Kaliyuga. He is shining like the sun in the Bhakta-Nakshatra-Aakash (among the devotees in form of stars in the sky).

By virtue of being conceived by Bhagavan Shankara himself, completely in line of Vedas, expounding the Bhakti, spirituality, religious duties, and the secret imports of Vedas, being composed by a sage of Kaliyuga and the incarnation of Brahmarshi Valmiki, Shri Ramacharitmanas holds great reverence among Hindus and a source of valid knowledge. Innumerable souls became pure, got Bhakti of Shri Rama through recitation and study of Shri Ramcharitmanas.

Some Vaishnavas try to compare Valmiki's story with the story of Sri Ramcharitmanas, thinking (as if) Goswami Ji translated Valmiki Ramayana. First of all it is not right to compare Valmiki Ramayana with Sri Ramcharitmanas, because Sri Ramcharitmanas is not the translation of Valmiki Ramayana, It is Goswamiji's own first hand divine experience and revelation by Lord Shiva to him.

So Parampara of SriRamcharitmanas is started from Bhagavan Shiva, while Valmiki Ramayana was imparted to Valmiki by Narada after instructed by Lord BrahmA.

Valmiki Ramayana has story of one Kalpa, while Sri Ramcharitmanas has story and pastimes of many Kalpas. Sri Ramcharitmanas is abstract of Shatkoti-Ramayana (the life story of Shri Rama spread across billions of verses). So there are differences between story of Valmiki Ramayana and that of Shri Ramcharitmanas. People can find many Kalpas story of Shri Ram in Padma-Puran. One can find differences between story of Shrimad Valmiki Ramayana and that of Sri Ram's stories found in Mahabharata, Bhagavatam and other Puranas. So one shouldn't be surprised if one sees differences between Valmiki Ramayana's story and that of Sri Ramcharitmanas.

Goswami Ji says:

नाना भाँति राम अवतारा। रामायन सत कोटि अपारा॥
कलपभेद हरिचरित सुहाए। भाँति अनेक मुनीसन्ह गाए॥
करिअ न संसय अस उर आनी। सुनिअ कथा सादर रति मानी॥
Let no one who should happen not to have heard this ravishing tale of Ramcharitmanas before be surprised to hear it. Wise men who hear this uncommon, legend marvel not; for they know there is no limit to the stories of Shri Rama in this world. They are convinced in their heart that Shri Rama has appeared in diverse ways and that the Ramayana, though consisting of a thousand million verses, is yet infinite. Great sages have diversely sung the charming stories of Shri Hari, relating as they do to different Kalpas or cycles. Bearing this in mind the reader should not entertain any doubt and should hear this narrative reverently and with devotion. [Sri Ramcharitmanas 1.33.2-4]

Therefore, Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is the incarnation of Vedas, while Sri Ramcharitmanas is the abstract of all Vedic-scriptures.

Once a devotee asked Abhinav Aadya-Shankaracharya Dharm-Samraat Karpatri Ji - is there any single scripture which alone would be enough for the comprehensive understanding of whole Sanatan-Dharma (all Vedas, Itihasa, Puranas etc) and Bharatiya-Sanskriti (Vedic culture)?

Then Karpatri Ji said If one wants to study a single scripture only, then He should take refuge of Shri Ramcharitmanas alone for the comprehensive understanding of whole Sanatan-Dharma (all Vedas, Itihasa, and Puranas etc) and Vedic culture!

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॥ श्रीसीतारामचंद्रार्पणमस्तु ॥

The content on website is written purely for the spiritual purpose of spreading love and devotion in the lotus feet of Bhagavan Sri Sri SitaRam by Ravi Shankar .