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Friday, April 30, 2010

The union of Sacred Texts

In one of the last chapters of his Tantrāloka, Abhinavagupta discusses the coming together (melana) of Sacred Texts. He founds them on the all-pervading prasiddhi, a sort of "common belief" or "accepted notion", which alone enables us to orient ourselves in the world.

Here is the translation of the beginning of the text, together with Jayaratha's commentary thereon. The verse quoted at the end is a verse of Dharmakīrti, Sambandhaparīkṣā, kā 13, referring to arthakriyā and refuting the necessity of prasiddhi –Positive and negative concomitance (anvaya and vyatireka) are enough. Frauwallner's translation is in WZKM 41/Kleine Schriften. The verse is quoted also in ĪPViV, in Syādvādaratnākara, Tarkarahasya, Vādarahasya, etc.

Indeed this Infinitely-extended (vibhu), omniscient, saviour of the world who has made to descend (avatṛ-) through this or that distinction the whole Sacred Text (śāstra), whose essence are the letters (mātṛkā), this one1 wins ||

Now, through saying that all Sacred Texts (āgama) are a single sentence, with the second half [of the verse2] he (Abhinavagupta) announces that he will convey the knowledge of the validity of all Sacred Texts:

Now, here the coming together (melana3) of all Sacred Texts is said |

In this regard, he said, to begin with, the characteristic in general of the Sacred Text:

Here, to begin with, this whole ancient worldly usage [occurs] || 1|| after consideration of the prasiddhi (accepted notion), and this (latter) is called “Sacred Text” (āgama) |

Here, to begin with, after consideration of the accepted notions, which have been produced a long time ago as those which have not been eradicated by other accepted notions, this whole worldly usage [occurs], that is, all indeed act in this world accordingly. This is the meaning [of the verse]. And this very accepted notion is called “Sacred Text”, this means that [the accepted notion] is liable to be used in the world through that word (āgama). As has been said:

The accepted notion is in common experience the Sacred Text | (half śloka)


Seeing one, there being the vision of the unseeable and non seeing [it] there not being the vision of it, a person meets the effect (kārya) even without people who tell it ||



1Possibly ko 'pi instead of kopaḥ. Alternatively: “[the Lord], receptacle of the omniscient ones” (sarvavitkoṣaḥ), alluding to the ṛṣis etc., who can legitimately pronounce the Veda because they derive their authority from God.

2The first half closes the preceding chapter.

3 mixing with each other.

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