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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Do ritualists listen to anti-ritualists?


Luca Picardi discussed H.W.Bodewitz 1996 study on punarmṛtyu ("repeated death" or "second death"?). His conclusion goes partially against Bodewitz' one, insofar as Picardi believes that it is hardly the case that a ritual innovation has been introduced as an answer to anti-ritualist criticisms. The theme is challenging and regards Mīmāṃsā philosophy as well. How competitive and open was the stage of Indian debate about ritual?
Consistently with the above claim, Picardi maintains that there is a detectable continuity between Brāhmaṇas and Upaniṣad in the path leading to the interiorization of sacrifice [hence, in this case, too, the Upaniṣad should not be read as an answer against external, anti-ritualist criticisms]. If pushed too far, the thesis is hardly plausible, still it raises more general thoughts.

Where is the subject?

Speaking at the 14th meeting of the Italian Association of Sanskrit Studies, Daniele Cuneo discussed some puzzling verses in Manusmṛti XII. [As before, I will try to reproduce the gist of his paper; my comments will be in square brackets.]
The verses are:
yo 'syātmanaḥ kārayitā taṃ kṣetrajñaṃ pracakṣate |
yaḥ karoti tu karmāṇi sa bhūtātmocyate budhaiḥ || 12 ||
jīvasaṃjño 'ntarātmānyaḥ sahajaḥ sarvadehinām |
yena vedyate sarvaṃ sukhaṃ duḥkhaṃ ca janmasu || 13 ||
tāv ubhau bhūtasaṃpṛktau mahān kṣetrajña eva ca |
uccāvaceṣu bhūteṣu sthitaṃ taṃ vyāpya tiṣṭhataḥ || 14 ||
asaṃkhyā mūrtayas tasya niṣpatanti śarīrataḥ |
uccāvacāni bhūtāni satataṃ ceṣṭayanti yāḥ || 15 ||
According to Cuneo (who follows Patrick Olivelle's first view, now partially altered, and Federico Squarcini's one), the Manusmṛti should be collocated in the II c. b.C. and it constitutes a conscious reply to the ascetic issues raised by Jainists and Buddhists. The XII book is dedicated to the theory of action and retribution. Hence, his conclusion will be, these verses aim at indicating an enduring self who can be the carrier of merit and demerit from life to life (a "responsible agent"). Such a metaphysical thesis can ground justice on a human level.
Accordingly, the verses discuss several alternatives, departing from the Sāṅkhya or proto-Sāṅkhya kṣetrajña, but then introduce the more neutral jīva ("individual Self") in order to identify such responsible agent. The kṣetrajña is defined first as ātmanaḥ kārayitā, where ātman is interpreted by all commentators as 'body'. Cuneo further proposed to interpret it as the prakṛti-part of its cognitive apparatus. [I agree that the Sāṅkhya puruṣa or kṣetrajña could never be the responsible agent the author aims at, since he does not act at all. But the use of kārayitā and of pravartayitṛ found in the commentaries thereon hints at a different kind of theory –or a different kind of Sāṁkhya]. [Why is mahān dismissed?] [v. 12 seems to draw the picture of a kṣetrajña which causes the bhūtātman to do. This, in turns, "does acts". If it is so, then, is the bhūtātman the same as the ātman and, hence, the same as the body? Or does it still imply a sort of awareness? If the latter, why did not the author of Manusmṛti choose bhūtātman as the responsible agent he was looking for? And why is instead the jīva identified as a knower rather than a doer? v.13ab designates the jīva as a possibly transmigrating entity and this suits well Cuneo's thesis.]
According to Cuneo, the pivotal role of jīva is highlighted by the pronouns tam and tasya which cannot but refer to it (since tam in v. 14 is masculine and since kṣetrajña and mahān have been mentioned in the above pada as something different).
His translation of the relevant padas is more or less as follows [my rendering from Cuneo's Italian]: "the two kṣetrajña and mahān constantly pervade him (=the jīva). Out of its configuration (śarīra) innumerable kinds of people (mūrti) arise". That is, out of the qualities (guṇa) of the jīva arises the distinction between agitated, calm, sad people. The role of guṇas and the corresponding kinds of people has been explained elsewhere in the Manusmṛti, where the term mūrti is also found referring to such "kinds" of people.
Cuneo also highlighted how the commentators cannot be used to understand this passage (and, possibly, the whole Manusmṛti), since they lived much later than the author of the Manusmṛti (the first commentator dates to the 500-650 A.D.) and have much different agendas. In the case at stake, they are influenced by vedāntic ideas. For instance, they agree in identifying the paramātman (never mentioned in the verses!) as the referent of tam and tasya. Further, they identify differently the other elements (jīva is said to be manas or buddhi, the mahat is said to be the antaḥkaraṇa). Cuneo also pointed out that a universal self could be detected in the Manusmṛti only in a very different context, that is, in the I book, where a prabhū or svayambhū chas a cosmogonic function.
Finally, Cuneo takes for granted that the Manusmṛti is the work of an author. The issue of authoriality is a key term in the recent development of Sanskrit studies. During the same meeting, it has been applied to Vedic studies (to the hymns ascribed to Dīrghatamas).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bhāvanā: Kumārila and Bhartṛhari

Bhartṛhari speaks of bhāvanā in his well-known passage about pratibhā (who taught to the cockoo bird to sing? The pratibhā). Bhāvanā should be a synonym of it. The vṛtti glosses it as śabdabhāvanā, since it is essentially linguistic. Abhinavagupta, who surely knew (and sometimes criticised) Kumārila, uses again śabdabhāvanā in the same sense as Bhartṛhari. Is it possible that two so different meanings of śabdabhāvanā co-existed without anyone feeling the need to specify "my śabdabhāvanā is not the same as Bhartṛhari's/Kumārila's one" or the like? I am not talking about bhāvanā, a common name throughout Sanskrit culture, but śabdabhāvanā does not seem as much broadly used (I do not know of other cases of its usage). Finally, could Kumārila have not been aware of Bhartṛhari when he called the linguistic bhāvanā "śabdabhāvanā"? Or did he have it somehow in mind? What are the implications of that?

2 levels within Mīmāṃsā

As argued in my previous post about pramāṇa, I think that there are two levels in Mīmāṃsā: an older, exegetical level and a newer philosophically engaged one. The older may list different kinds of prescriptions and explain that the prayogavidhi is the one which enjoins an act, the newer explains that one enjoins an act because it is one duty/because it is the mean to attain something desired/… Not necessarily do the two harmonize and it is interesting to see how Mīmāṃsā philosophers managed to reduce contradictions. See, about the above-mentioned enjoinment issue, Vācaspati's commentary on Maṇḍana's Vidhiviveka.

What is a "means of cognition"?

Pramāṇa is found in Mīmāṃsā texts in two different meanings:
1. (see e.g. Jaimini, MS 1.1.2, 1.1.4 and 1.1.5 and Śabara's commentary thereon) as an epistemological terminus technicus referring to our sources of information: perception, inference, communication…
2. (see Śabara on 1.2.31, 1.2.46…) as a Mīmāṃsā terminus technicus referring to a source of information about an exegetical point.
In the latter sense, a pramāṇa may be the direct mention of a term in a certain connection, or its indirect indication through number, gender, etc. For instance, the direct mention of kuśa grass as sacrificial substance allows one to conclude that it has to be applied (viniyoga) to the sacrifice.
The second meaning seems to me the original Mīmāṃsā one. It might have been older than the systematic discussions about pramāṇa in Indian epistemology (which also rarely predate Kumārila and Dharmakīrti). So, exegesis might have been the way through which Mīmāṃsā elaborated a philosophical lexicon. Similarly, V. Eltschinger argued that the Buddhist epistemological school of Dharmakīrti derived its lexicon and interests out of the Bodhisattva-bhūmi literature discussing internal Buddhist problems (antaḥvidyā, knowledge of Buddhist texts).

Is cognition aware of itself? With or without contents?

Alex Watson's book (The Self's Awareness of Itself, Vienna 2006) and his subsequent papers on the theme of self-awareness in the Nyāyamañjarī and in Rāmakaṇṭha's writings made me aware of a problem I had neglected before.
If one believes that cognition is self-aware, one believes that within a cognitive act one does not seize only an object but also the cognition itself. Prābhākaras (see Rāmānujācārya's Tantrarahasya, chapter 1) maintain that one is at the same time aware of an object, of the subject perceiving it and of cognition itself. Buddhists of the Dignāga-Dharmakīrti tradition claim that there is no "subject" beyond cognition and hence maintain that cognition is just aware of itself. Does this mean that it is also aware of its contents?
That is, is svasaṃvedana (self-awareness) of the form "self-awareness of cognition of something" or is it just "self-awareness of cognition"? If the first, is this "something" specified as it would be in the final piece of cognition of an (apparently) external object or not? Does cognition perceive oneself as "cognition of a patch of blue"? or just as "cognition of something" (indeterminate)?
I would be happy with both options and I could even acknowledge the possibility of the third one mentioned above ("self-awareness of cognition"), although it is hard to figure out how the object form (grāhya) can be separated from the cognition.
Rāmakaṇṭha seems to maintain an extreme position: svasaṃvedana is just the nature of consciousness. Hence, it does not entail any object as its content. It is, moreover, present even in deep sleep, coma, and "within thoughts". The latter example refers to a typical Śaiva argument in favour of a permanent self (see Vasugupta's Śivasūtra and commentaries thereon): one needs an underlying self enabling one to shift from one thought to the other. This leads me to the following conclusion: Rāmakaṇṭha held this strange position (self-awareness of cognition qua cognition but without any cognised content) because he just substituted "consciousness" for any occurrence of "self" (ātman) (on this point, see Watson 2006 who nicely explains how Rāmakaṇṭha countered Buddhists by accepting all their arguments in favour of cognition alone and then explaining that cognition IS the self). Then, he assumed that self-awareness is co-essential to consciousness. Hence, his arguments in favour of self-awareness being always present are just to be thought of as arguments in favour of the continuous presence of a self which consists in cognition (of what? obviously of oneself, hence, it consists in self-awareness).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summary about the meaning of verbal roots and verbal endings


  • According to Śabara, in every verb there is the general idea of "causing to be" something and the concept of a specific activity. They can be loosely connected to verbal ending and verbal root respectively.
  • According to Kumārila, both the verbal root and the verbal ending express an activity, and the two are linked as universal and particular: the verbal ending expresses an action in general, the verbal root specifies it.
  • According to Maṇḍana, the verbal root only expresses the action's result. The verbal ending alone expresses the action.
  • According to Someśvara, the verbal root expresses the movement caused by effort, which is expressed by the verbal ending.
  • According to Pārthasārathi, the verbal root and the verbal ending may have different specific meanings. The bhāvanā is however in every case characterised by the fact of leading to the production of something else (possibly, unlike the meaning of the verbal root).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Again on the argumentative structure of Pārthasārathi's Śāstradīpikā

So, points 1 to 3 and point 7 are definitely a pūrvapakṣa. Instead, points 4 to 6 are agreed upon by the siddhāntin as well. Points 8-9 are the transition to the siddhānta, opening at point 10.
Why did Pārthasārathi choose such a complex argumentative structure?
It is typical of him that he lets his own view merge into an uttarapakṣin's one (so, for instance, in the Nyāyaratnamālā, while dealing of śabdabhāvanā). He could thus have meant 1-3 as an objection becoming gradually more plausible. Then, 4-6 are definitely his view. 7 continues one of the elements of the 1-3 objection and 8-9 express it fully. 10 rejects it and the following part of the text expresses Pārthasārathis' view.

Is an action expressed by the verbal root?

Point 1. and 10. (listed in the above post) of Pārthasārathi's argument about bhāvanā –that is the assertion that the bhāvanā is the general form present in all verbal roots' meanings and the concept of its separateness from the meaning of verbal roots– contradict each other.
The siddhāntin's view seems to be the latter, since Pārthasārathi himself asks (as any reader would have done): "But isn't it the case that the bhāvanā is exactly the general form common to verbal roots' meanings?" (nanv evaṃ dhātvarthasāmānyam eva bhāvanā syāt). The answer is no (neti brūmaḥ), "since the bhāvanā is different according to every single verbal root" (vilakṣaṇatvāt pratidhātvartham). In fact, a different bhāvanā is involved in cooking or in walking (anyad dhi pākasyaodanaṃ praty anukūlyam anyac ca calanādeḥ saṃyogādi prati, phalabhedāt).
But the answer does not address the more general point of the link between the bhāvanā and the verbal root's meaning. A bhāvanā specific to every verbal root may still be closely related to it. Luckily enough, Pārthasārathi adds a further argument. This claims that since the same thing (e.g. "decision") can be expressed by a verbal ending (as usually the case) or by a verbal root ("to decide", saṅkalp-), the bhāvanā cannot be the general form present in all verbal roots.
Even in this case, what one understands is that Pārthasārathi disagrees with the idea that a bhāvanā expresses an action in general (so to say, the general form of the action, the sāmānya) and that the verbal root connected to it expresses the specific action at stake in that case (the viśeṣa). So, Frauwallner is wrong in maintaining that Pārthasārathi totally agrees with Kumārila ("schon diese kurze Wiedergabe zeigt deutlich, daß sich Pārthasārathi bei seiner Behandlung der bhāvanā in den Grundzügen aufs stärkste an Kumārila anlehnt" Frauwallner 1938: S.245), since the latter explains the relation of bhāvanā and verbal root as one of universal/particular.
Finally, Pārthasārathi concludes "hence, it is established that the bhāvanā is different from the meaning of the verbal root" (tasmāt siddhaṃ dhātvarthātiriktaṃ bhāvanārūpam). Hence, the meaning of the verbal root is (just) the instrument of this bhāvanā (tatra ca dhātvarthaḥ karaṇam). Out of it is the apūrva also postulated (tato 'pūrvaṃ kalpyate).

Structure of Pārthasārathi's argument on action

I have already noted that Frauwallner's critique of Pārthasārathi may have been a little bit ungenerous insofar as Frauwallner seems to overlook the siddhāntin/pūrvapakṣin distinction in the Śāstradīpikā text about bhāvanā (ad 2.1.1, bhāvārthādhikaraṇa, pp.129-131 of the 1978 edition). Frauwallner may have overlooked it because Pārthasārathi is often (so also in his Nyāyaratnamālā) extremely cautious in marking the end of a pūrvapakṣa, so that it is often quite difficult to distinguish his own opinion.
In the following, the numeration follows Pārthasārathi's first enunciation of the themes. Point 1 clearly enunciates the pūrvapakṣa and point 10 the siddhānta. But where does the siddhānta start?
1. Pārthasārathi starts with a pūrvapakṣa stating that the bhāvanā is not distinct from the meaning of the verbal root (satyaṃ na dhātvārthātirekiṇī bhāvanā).
2. In fact, the meaning of the verbal root has two components: one which is not an action and has an established nature (dhātvārthānām eva tu dve rūpe […] ekam akriyātmakaṃ siddhasvabhāvam) and another one which is an action and has still to be realised (aparaṃ tu […] kriyātmakaṃ sādhyasvabhāvam).
3. The latter can be expressed by 'karoti' (he does), is present in all verbal roots and expressed by the verbal ending (sarvadhātvarthānuyāyi karotipratyayavedyaṃ […] ākhyātābhidheyam) (tac cākhyāteṣv avagamyamānatvāt tadabhāve pākādāv anavagamād ākhyātābhidheyam āśrīyate) (tac ca sarvadhātvarthānām astīti sarvavyāpy eva bhāvanārūpam).
4. Further, it is favourable to the production of something else. This means that it leads to the production of something else beside the action (which is itself to be realised), although it is not tantamount to the production of something else –which would be an external act, not the inner disposition towards it– (anyotpādānukūlātmakam) (tac ca rūpam utpādyavastvantarakarmakam eva sarvadā pratīyate) (ato yadavastho yāgaḥ svargaṃ sampādayati tadavastho yāgo yena vyāpāreṇa sampadyate sa vyāpāraḥ svargakṛtir ity evaṃrūpeṇākhyāyābhidheyo bhavati).
5. It also entails an actor (tad eva ca bhavituḥ prayojakavyāpāro bhāvanety ucyate).
6. It is not tantamount to effort, nor to movement, not to both (ye 'pi prayatnaṃ bhāvanām āhuḥ, ye ca spandaṃ, ye cobhayaṃ, te 'pi na svarūpeṇa teṣāṃ bhāvanātvam āhuḥ, kintv anyotpādānukūlatvarūpam).
7. To that, the meaning of the verbal root is connected either as an object (e.g. "he does cooking") or as an instrument (e.g. "through cooking she does a rice-cake") (tasmiṃś ca kriyārūpe prakṛtyupātto yāgādiḥ kadācit karmatvena saṃbadhyate pākaṃ karoti yāgaṃ karotīti, kadācit karaṇatvena yāgena svargaṃ karoti pākenaudanam iti yathāvivakṣitam).
7.1 The meaning of the verbal ending also varies, depending on how the meaning of the verbal root is connected to it (tad yadā yāgādeḥ karmatvena saṅgatis tadā karmabhūtaḥ prayatnaḥ saṅkalpādir vā dhātvantarārtho 'pi yajetety atra pade yāgakṛtir ity evaṃrūpeṇākhyātābhidheyatāṃ bhajate. saṅkalpādikaṃ tu viśeṣarūpaṃ dhātvantarābhidheyaṃ pramāṇāntaravedyaṃ nākhyātena spṛśyate. yadā tu vidhivaśāt karaṇatvena yāgasya saṅgatiḥ, karmatvaṃ tu svargāder darśapūrḅamāsayāgena svargaṃ kuryād iti, tadā na yāgasya hetubhūtaiva kṛtir ākhyātenocyate, yāgasya karmatvābhāvāt, phalasyaiva karmatvāt tatkarmikā kṛtir ākhyātenocyate, yāgas tu karaṇam).
8. The verbal ending does not express the specific form of the action (tasyāpi vyāpārasya viśeṣarūpaṃ pramāṇāntaravedyaṃ nākhyātena spṛśyate).
9. The bhāvanā conveyed by a Vedic injunction stands in need of a further element, the procedure conveyed by nearby textual passages (vyāpāraviśeṣātmakakathaṃbhāvāpekṣāyām agnyanvādhānaprayājāvaghātādibhir upakārasampādanaṃ śāstrāntarair avagamyate, yāgasvarūpasya ca sampādanam arthapāttyā).
9.1 The procedure is instrumental to the action (which is instrumental to the arousal of the result), just like raising and sinking the axe is instrumental to chopping a wood-log into two (etad eva hi karaṇanām [so in the ed., I would emend into karaṇānāṃ] karaṇatvaṃ yaduta phaloddeśapravṛttakartṛvyāpāreṇa phalasādhanātmanā sampattiḥ, paraśor ivodyamananipatanābhyāṃ dvaidhībhāvasādhanatayā).
10. "the bhāvanā realised through these [procedure] is distinct from the meaning of the verbal root" (tat siddhā dhātvarthātiriktā bhāvanā).

Who brahmanized India?


I am no expert on traditional Indian medicine, but I happened to read an interesting essay (Dagmar Benner's Saṃskāras in Vāgbhaṭa's Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā) discussing the general theme of the brahmanization of an (originally) non-brahmanical cultural lore. I remember Karin Preisendanz making the same point on the insertion of Brahmanic initiation rituals within the Carakasaṃhitā: such rituals –she explained– are not genuine brahmanic ones, rather they are brahmanizes ones. They have been inserted at a later point of the transmission of the text in order to make it more acceptable to a brahmanic audience. In sum, medicine was not originally part of the brahmanic culture and was brahmanized only at a later point. The same holds true for Atharvaveda (which can be seen as a distant antecedent of medical texts in India). But something like that could also be said in regard to the insertion of Vedic themes (such as vedaprāmāṇya in general) in Sāṅkhya and Vaiśeṣika philosophy. It seems that Indian culture was much more varied at an older time. Is this at all possible? And how did Brahmans gain enough power as to make the rest of Indian culture be influenced by them (although –more often than not– they were not the rulers of the various Indian kingdoms)?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pārthasārathi on action

In his acute paper on Bhāvanā (Bhāvanā und Vidhiḥ in Maṇḍanamiśra. I. Bhāvanā, WZKM 1938), Erich Frauwallner seems irritated by Pārthasārathi's inconsistency in dealing with the issue of action (bhāvanā). Still, looking closer at Pārthasārathi's Śāstradīpikā, one sees that it encloses a long objection (pūrvapakṣa) and that the inconsistencies Frauwallner notices are between the objector's view and the one which is allegedly Pārthasārathi's own one. Is this enough to "rescue" Pārthasārathi's view? Or does the idea of the verbal root expressing an activity make it too similar to the meaning of the bhāvanā?
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