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Monday, December 3, 2012

Maṅgala for one's teacher

Auspicious (maṅgala) verses at the beginning or at the end of a Sanskrit text are precious for scholars, since they often entail the only historical information one can rely upon for dating the text. Often they contain information about the author and his family, or about his teachers. Given the general tendency in India to refer to teachers and respected authors with epithets and given the additional constraint of verses, one often finds elegant paraphrases for these names. The basic case is that of the usage of synonyms for parts of a name (e.g., paścāt instead of the prefix anu-):

karaṇakalebaramanasāṃ śaithilyaṃ sahajam asakṛd ālocya |
tantrarahasyaṃ kṛtavān rāmāvarajaḥ paropakārārtham ||

Having repeatedly seen the connatural feebleness of mind, body and sense organs
Rāmānuja (Rāmānujācārya) made the Tantrarahasya for the sake of others. (TR, beginning of the fourth book)

These paraphrases can be used also for books' titles:

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rāmānujāryaracite nigamāntabhāṣye jīveśvaraprakṛtibhedapare vinītaḥ |
śrīveṅkaṭādriguruṇā karuṇāvaśena rāmānujo vyadhita tantrarahasyaśikṣām ||

Rāmānuja (Rāmānujācārya), trained in the commentary on the end of the Vedas (vedāntabhāṣya) composed by the noble Rāmānuja (Śrī Rāmānuja) and aiming at [showing] the different nature of God and individual soul (jīva) |
Due to the mercy by [his] teacher Śrī Veṅkaṭādri, composed [this] teaching about the secret of the Sacred Texts |

Veṅkaṭādri could mean Veṅkaṭanātha (also known as Vedānta Deśika).

This leads to an open problem (pointed to me by Sudipta Munsi). At the very beginning of TR IV, Rāmānujācārya writes:

padavākyapramāṇeṣu parāṃ kāṣṭām upāgataḥ |
jātavedogurur yajvā jayati kṣitimaṇḍale ||
Hail all over earth to the teacher Jātavedas, the sacrificer, who reached the supreme level as regards means of knowledge, sentence and words!

At the beginning of TR I, Rāmānujācārya honours the main Mīmāṃsā teachers (from Jaimini to Bhāvanātha), all mentioned by name and with respectful epithets (Jaiminimuni, Śabarasvāmin, Prabhākaraguru…). But is Jātavedas (just) a name or (merely) an epithet? And in both cases, what does it refer to? I understood it as referring to the Vedic Agni, which is said to be jātavedas, in a way which accords with the following yajvan 'sacrificer' and underlines the Mīmāṃsā atmosphere.

What are your experiences with names of teachers and other authors in maṅgalas?

(All excerpts from my book on the TR, about which see this post.)

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