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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

कन्तमहोदयस्य प्रथमविचारस्यानुवादे प्रस्तावना --२

(यथा पूर्वमेव, तथेहापि मुख्यतयाङ्ग्लभाषानुवादतः सुदीप्तमुन्सीत्यनेन सुरगिराऽनूदितः।

मतिमान्द्येन यद्यत्र मे भ्रमो भासते कोऽपि ।
संशोध्यतां विपश्चिद्भिरनन्तगुणसम्पन्नैः ॥

इत्यस्ति प्रार्थनाऽनुवादकस्य ।

मया तु कन्तमहोदयलिखितं जर्मानभाषात्मकं मूलग्रन्थमवलम्ब्य संशोधितम् ।
पूर्वव्यवहृतस्याङ्ग्लभाषानुवादस्य दोषबाहुल्यादिदानीं तत्परित्यज्य Paul Guyer-महोदयानूदितसंस्करणस्यानुसरणामत्र क्रियते ।)

व्यर्थं ह्युदासीनतापोषणमेवं जिज्ञासाः प्रति, यासां विषये पुरुषाः स्वत एवोदासीना भवितुं नार्हन्ति । अपि च स्वदार्शनिकवाग्व्यवहारं लोकप्रियशैल्या परिवर्त्य  एते स्वघोषिता उदासीनतावादिन, यावदेव मन्यन्ते ते, तावदेव तदवज्ञाताधितात्त्विकोद्घोषेषु पुनरेवानिवार्यरूपेण निपतन्ति ।   तथापि येषां वैज्ञानिकश्रेष्ठानां ज्ञानफलानि (तत्प्राप्तिसम्भवे सति) वयमवज्ञातुं न शक्नुमस्तेषां मध्ये एवोभूतेयमुदासीनता । तेन सास्माकं सम्यङ्मननयोग्या । न खल्वेषाऽस्मत्कालीयमननशैथिल्यादुद्भूता किन्त्वाभासज्ञानेनानिवारणयोग्यैतत्कालीयप्रौढविचारणशक्तिजा । एतदुदासीनताद्वारेण विचारणशक्तिः स्वीयकार्याणां श्रमसाध्यं स्वज्ञानरूपं कार्यं पुनरेव साधयितुं  तथा स्वीयनित्यन्यायानुसारेण, न तु बलतः, सकलनिर्मूलकाभ्युपगमभाननिराकरणाय स्वीयन्याय्यप्रार्थनासंरक्षणाय व्यवहारासनं स्थापयितुञ्च विनियुक्ता भवति ।

(प्रथमसंस्करणस्य मुखबन्धे,  Paul Guyer-महोदयस्यानुवादे १०० पृष्टे एतदांग्लानुवादात्मकमूलं वर्तते)

एतद्ग्रन्थानुवादीयपूर्वभाग इह विद्यते ।

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Translation of Sanskrit philosophical texts: What is at stake?

What are the requisites of a translation in/from Sanskrit of a philosophical text?

  1. 1. Knowing the text and its context. This is the paramount requisite. No one will be able to translate a text she does not fully grasp.
    2. Knowing the context in the target language. One cannot expect to be able to translate the English "rule" as nyāya without taking into account its inner-Sanskrit hues of meaning. Vice versa, one cannot translate Sanskrit philosophical terms without taking into account the complex meaning of the terms they choose to translate them in English (or French or German) philosophy.

This being said, many methodological questions are yet to be faced, e.g.,

  • A. Suppose your source text is obscure. Should you reproduce its obscurity?
  • B. Suppose your source text, though philosophical, uses also a lively metaphorical language. Should you reproduce its style?

These problems are much less urgent in the case of translations within the same cultural area, i.e., from French into English or vice versa. Thanks to many centuries of mutual influences, English and French writers share a common reservoir of metaphors and poetical devices, understandable to both readers. Furthermore, readers share a common background of references and will easily understand short hints, so that it is rarely the case that a text will be really obscure and that this marginal obscurity can be reproduced without emparing the global understanding.

By contrast, in the case of very different cultural areas, i.e., while translating Sanskrit into English or German into Sanskrit (my last endeavours), the residual obscurity might be massive. And this obscurity might have not meant to be such by the author, who relied on the background he shared with his readers. Thus, the translator needs to solve the problem and to convey the text the author wanted to convey. A common example: Suppose the author refers to a well-known verse of the Gītā by just quoting its beginning. His target reader would have automatically supplemented the rest. But this is not the case for contemporary readers, who need the additional help of the whole verse being reproduced in the translation (either in the main text or in a footnote).

The problem is even more complicated in the case of style. I am personally convinced that dead metaphors (e.g., when we speak of a computer's mouse, we are not thinking of the animal the word originally denotes) should not be translated. As for live metaphors, I would try to translate them only if they are relevant (e.g., when they convey a shade of meaning which might have been meant by the author). An English author speaking about loving surrender to God, e.g., might choose to use the metaphor of falling in love on purpose. And a translator might consider reproducing it (kāmabhāvaṃ nipatati?).

What do you think? How do you translate?

You can read a text of mine about the importance of point no. 2 on my Academia page, here
Samira Nekooeeyan recently dedicated an interesting talk to the translation of metaphors in poetical texts. Her practical example was the translation of Shakespear into Persian, but she dealt in general with the problem of what to do with metaphors (one of the viable options being "ignore them"). You can read the abstract of the talk if you download the program of the conference, here.
I decided to write this post after an intriguing discussion (on "flos"/puṣpa) with Sudipta Munsi while we were translating Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. You can read the first step of this enterprise here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

5-months Fellowships on Sanskrit and Pāli (for PhDs and MAs)

Are you working or willing to work on ascetics and kings in Vedic, Pāli Buddhism and Jaina sources? Or on anthropological and/or artistic sources on the same topic?

Then, consider advertising for the following fellowships.

Some practical information:
—Your constant presence is not required.
—The fellowship will enable you to work in a great environment (I have already praised Tiziana Pontillo, the project's coordinator, here and the other post doc are interesting and charming people).
—You are not expected to know Italian. The working language will be English and you are expected to are fluent in it. (If you need assistence with the Italian application, scroll down for Dr. Tiziana Pontillo's email address).
—You need: A) Degree in Humanities with a Thesis on some Indological Subject; B) at least 1 paper on Sanskrit (or Pāli or related) Literature.

For further detail on the project, see this post.


Lastly the planned two five-month Research Fellowships on the so-called "Vrātya project" have just been officially announced on the Website of the University of Cagliari.

The deadline for submitting candidatures is December, the 10th, 2012.

For the relevant pieces of information, please refer to

1) http://www.unica.it/UserFiles/File/Utenti/scocumel/fonti-buddhiste-bando.pdf
TRACES OF A HETERODOX CONCEPTION OF KINGSHIP IN ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL AND MODERN INDIA: VEDIC SOURCES: EPIC AND PURANIC SOURCES
S.S.D. L-OR/18 INDOLOGIA E TIBETOLOGIA - SETTORE CONCORSUALE: 10/N3 - CULTURE DELL?ASIA CENTRALE E ORIENTALE

2) http://www.unica.it/UserFiles/File/Utenti/scocumel/india-bando.pdf
TRACES OF A HETERODOX CONCEPTION OF KINGSHIP IN ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL AND MODERN INDIA: ICONOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTS: BUDDHIST SOURCES
S.S.D. L-OR/18 INDOLOGIA E TIBETOLOGIA - SETTORE CONCORSUALE: 10/N3 - CULTURE DELL?ASIA CENTRALE E ORIENTALE


Since unfortunately no English Version is included in the quoted Documents, here you find at least the respective research targets:

This project mainly aims at singling out the possible traces of a "total social fact of an agonistic type" (Mauss 1923-24) both in literary and iconographic sources and in social patterns and ritual practices of the contemporary India, which are assumed to date back to the age preceding the well-known classic hierarchic system.

1) The grantee should aim at extending a preliminary collection of Epic and Purāṇic occurrences which is available into the context of this same project, testifying the existence of this system. Special attention should be paid to the conversion ceremonies at which Vaiṣṇava sources seem to hint at, by assuming that they can descend from ritual practices which preceded the so-called "Brahmanic reform" as a more recent rearrangement.

2) The grantee should aim at extending a preliminary collection of Pāli occurrences which is available into the context of this same project, testifying the existence of this system. Special attention should be paid to such formulas as "to become Brahman", "to become god among gods" and "to have brought the Brahmacārya path to an end" which are included into the pāli Canon.

Tiziana Pontillo, who is the principal investigator in this project will help candidates who are not at easy with Italian in filling the relevant Italian forms with pleasure.

For further notes on the Vrātya project, check this post and this post.

Friday, November 23, 2012

कन्तमहोदयस्य प्रथमविचारस्यानुवादे प्रस्तावना

(एष मुख्यतयाङ्ग्लभाषानुवादतः सुदीप्तमुन्सीत्यनेन सुरगिराऽनूदितः।

मतिमान्द्येन यद्यत्र मे भ्रमो भासते कोऽपि ।
संशोध्यतां विपश्चिद्भिरनन्तगुणसम्पन्नैः ॥

इत्यस्ति प्रार्थनाऽनुवादकस्य ।

मया तु कन्तमहोदयलिखितं जर्मानभाषात्मकं मूलग्रन्थमवलम्ब्य संशोधितम् ।)


स्वीयप्रत्ययव्यापारीयांशैकस्मिन् स्थितायां मानवविचारणशक्तौ स्वभावप्रयुक्तप्रश्नानामनिवार्यरूपेणोत्तरप्रदानाय नियुक्तायामपि सत्यामेतेषां खलु प्रश्नानामुत्तरप्रदानविषये साऽसमर्था भवति तेषां सकलविचारणशक्त्यतिक्रमणत्वात् ।  
स्वीयदोषाभावेऽपि सा एवं विपदि निपतिता। अनुभवविषयेऽनिवार्यैस्तथा चानुभवेन निश्चयीकृतैः न्यायैः सहोपक्रान्तेयं भवति । स्वभावप्रयुक्तनियमानवलम्ब्यैतैः न्यायैः सह सा क्रमेणोच्चैः गहनाञ्चावस्थाधिगच्छति ।  किन्तु शीघ्रमेव साऽऽविष्करोति यदेवं प्रकारेण तस्याः परिश्रमः कदापि समाप्तिं न प्राप्स्यति नवानां प्रश्नानामानन्त्यात् । एवञ्च साधारणमानवविचारणशक्त्या स्वीकृतानां न्यायानां, अनुभवकोट्यतिक्रम्यमानानामपि, शरणं ग्रहणाय सा प्रणोदिता भवति । अतो विभ्रान्तिविरोधयोः निपतन्ती सा ततः प्रसुप्तान् तथा चादृश्यान् दोषानूहते, किन्तु तान् स्वप्रयुक्तन्यायैरनुभवेन परीक्षणायोग्यैः नाविष्कर्तुं क्षमा । एवमशेषद्वन्द्वास्पदमिदमधितत्त्वनामधेयम्* । 

(*अधितत्त्वमित्यत्यन्तपरोक्षज्ञानम्)
उपर्युक्ताङ्ग्लभाषानुवादोऽत्र विद्यते। जर्मानभाषात्मकं मूलन्त्वत्रैव

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Kant's first critique in Sanskrit 3: नियमसापेक्षता

कन्तमहोदयो नवदर्शनं सथापयितुम नेच्‍छति स्म । गणितस्य फलानि सिद्धानीति कन्तमहोदयस्य सुस्थम् । अतः तस्य कृते प्रधानप्रश्नः न किमेतानि फलानि सिद्धानि, किन्तु केन प्रकारेण एतानि फलानि सिद्धानीति ।
परन्तु पुरुषज्ञानानां फलानि पुनः पुन असिद्धानीति दृश्यते । यथा −अात्मास्तीति केचित्, अात्मा नास्तीत्यन्ये । अथवा ईश्वरो जगच्चाभिन्न इति केचित् । तौ भिन्नावित्यन्ये ।
अत एव बुद्धिप्रयोगस्य नियम अापेक्षते । बुद्धिप्रयोग एतस्मिन् विषये युक्तः तस्मिंश्च नेति तेन नियमेन स्पष्टीभविष्यतीति कन्तः ।
तदनुसरेण केवलं गणितादिविषये विचारानि कार्यानि, तदन्यविषयेषु तु न, इत्यनेके "अनलीटिक् फिलसफेर्स्:" । परन्त्वेतन्न कन्तस्य प्रयोजनम् । पुरुषाः पुनः पुनः किमीश्वरो ऽस्तीत्यदयः प्रश्नाः पृच्छन्ति, प्रक्ष्यन्ति च । स्वरूपत एव तेषां जिज्ञासा एतेषु विषयेषु नित्या ।

केवलम् निमितमर्यादान्तरे बुद्धिप्रयोगेन प्रमितिरुत्थापतीति संग्रहः ।

कन्तमहोदयस्य प्रथमविचारविषये कृपया एतद् एतच्च पठतु

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to translate śāstric Sanskrit in 8 steps UPDATED

How do you start translating a Sanskrit passage? What do you do if you cannot make sense of it? The following are my usual steps:

  1. 1. Identify the structure of the sentence (verb--»agent--»cause, usually in the form "A is B because of C"). A 10-lines long sentence might be scary and its translation will be time-consuming if you just start translating the first word and then the second and so on. By contrast, holding immediately grasp of the whole structure makes it handable. 
  2. 1a. In this regard Sudipta Munsi (see comments below) highlight the importance of remembering that Sanskrit is a SOV language (subject-object-verb, unlike English, whose structure is SVO). This means that the verb comes at the end and the object, most likely, immediately after it. Thus: start from the end!
  3. 2. Check words you might not know. I recommend using Āpte's dictionary or —if you know enough German— the Petersburger Wörterbuch (PW). Monier Williams' one (MW) can be used, but while being aware of the fact that it is often a translation of the PW. Āpte has the advantage of being more aware of indigeneous lexicographies. As for on-line dictionaries: beware the ones which only give you a summary of the MW, without any information about sources, because you might end up trying to adapt a Vedic meaning into a much later śāstra. 
  4. (2a. I am assuming you know Sanskrit grammar, but there might be some difficult forms you would have forgotten. Thus, check a good grammar for them.)
  5. 3. Know the context. If you cannot make sense of the passage, chances are there that you would understand it, if only you knew the context better. In most cases, my equation about originality applies: one only learns a little bit of fresh information (say 5%) in every cognitive act. Thus: you only understand a passage if you already know most of what it means. In other words: don't start diving into Madhusūdana Sarasvatī's Advaitasiddhi unless you know already something about Advaita Vedānta (and Nāvya Nyāya).
  6. 4. Read more similar passages, by the same author, within the same school or in coeval schools. It is very likely, that similar passages will throw light on yours. If you collect Sanskrit works, you will more probably be able to search through them efficiently. (I do not do it in such a broad way, but just because I have not enough searchable texts.) 
  7. 4a. Read more Sanskrit. Vidya (see comments below) suggests that checking similar structures in another text might be helpful. This is not the same as my no. 4, because formally similar passages can be found also in texts whose content has nothing to do with the one you are reading.
  8. 5. Connected with the above: read further. If you do not understand the passage, but feel you know enough about the school or the context, just keep on reading. Chances are there that once you have read 10 pages more, that initial trouble you encountered will be solved.
  9. 6. Read with someone. Discussing problems is in itself a suitable way to solve most of them. In this sense, it is worth reading also with junior colleagues or students. Which, by the way, is also a way to help them, thus a perfect case of win-win.
  10. 7. Ask for help. You surely have senior colleagues or teachers who can help you. Or, you can use mailing lists such as Indology.info, or ask a question on Academia.edu. Or ask scholars you have never met per email. Or ask me (if I do not know the answer, I will tell you whom you might ask to).
  11. 8. In case you have not done it after no. 2 and/or after nos. 5--7: Look at the manuscript(s). As aptly suggested by Jason (see comments below) it is more than possible that what does not make sense to you is the result of a misprint or of a misinterpretation by the editor. It is not sure that the same does not apply to the manuscripts you will read, though.

Am I missing some further important point? What works for you? And: do these steps apply to other languages?

For some basic Sanskrit syntax see this post.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What is originality?

Now I will play my tune, one which I did not hear as a child. Or maybe I heard it and forgot.
(John Abercrombie, jazz musician)

Western scholars run the risk to be misled by the rhetorics of originality when they judge about Indian philosophy and the contribution of each thinker.

We like what is new and "original", but only insofar as we can relate to it because it is also familiar (I guess: 95 percent familiar and 5 percent new). An "invention" is first of all a "discovery" (in-venio) and what is "original" is "originary". Indian thinkers just had a different narrative about it.

On originality see also this post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kant's first critique in Sanskrit—प्रमितिप्रकारानुक्रमणिका

गणितमिति प्रमाणमूलम्, यच्च गणितेन प्रमितम्, तत् सुस्थमेव । सुस्थत्वं तु न प्रमितवस्त्वपेक्षं किन्तु प्रमात्रपेक्षमिति प्रागुक्तम् ।
अत एव यद्यत् वस्तुविषये प्रमितम् (यथा द्रव्यत्वम्, संख्या, करणत्वमित्यादि), तत्सर्वम् प्रमातर्येवाध्यवस्यते ।
तस्मात् प्रमातर्येव करणत्वेत्यादिप्रमितिप्रकाराः सन्ति । यथाहि −अग्निर्धूमस्य करणमितिप्रमितेर् मूलम् नाग्निधूमौ, किन्तु प्रमातुः करणत्वप्रमितिप्रकाराः ("categories") ।
काः प्रमितिप्रकाराः ? भूतकाले यवनदेशे, प्रसिद्धदर्शनिकारिस्तोतेलेस्-महोदयेन निर्णयानामनुक्रमणिका लिखिता । एष तस्यानुक्रमणिका−
(Aristotle's categories, वीकिपेद्य)


कन्तमहोदयस्य प्रमितिप्रकाराणामनुक्रमणिका तत्सादृशी, परन्तु कन्तमहोदयस्यानुक्रमाणिका प्रमातुः प्रमितिप्रकाराणामस्ति, वस्त्वनपेक्षा च ।

Kant's categories
न्यायवैशेषिकानां पदार्थानुक्रमणिकारिस्तोतेलेस-महोदयस्य निर्णयानुक्रमणिका सादृशी । उभे वस्तुनः वर्णनम्, प्रमात्रनपेक्षं च ।

Monday, November 12, 2012

General rules on comments on an Indological blog (like mine)

I do not believe in censuring thoughts and in general I will publish whatever is sent to the blog.

However, I expect from the reader that he or she is making a point.
If they want to insult me, they can use my personal email (just click on my name in the left column).
If they want to warn other people because of some mistake I made, this is more than fine (see, e.g., Dominik Wujastyk's comment here) and it has several advantages, because it makes other people aware of my mistakes. However, in order to fruitfully contribute to the discussion, they should point out what the mistake is. Just writing "it is all wrong" does not help the reader. If you think it is important to tell me that I am wrong and you don't want to explain why, you should send your comment to me alone.

UPDATE: The same holds also for replies to other comments. I probably feel some hidden pleasure in reading criticisms (of the sort "I can learn from it"), but I know that this does not apply to everyone else. Thus, I will strive to create an atmosphere suitable for fruitful discussions and might even delete comments if they seem to aim just at offending others, without making any contribution.

What do you think? Which comments help you?

Friday, November 9, 2012

South-Asian, philosophical and theological reviews on Amazon

I am listing here the reviews I have posted on Amazon until today. The purpose is to present a short summary of the main good and weak points of a book, so that one can figure out whether to read it or not. Furthermore, I will discuss both "Indological" books and books on philosophy (without geographic boundaries). Who knows, maybe there are other readers out there whose interests are not confined to the arbitrarily chosen geographic boundaries of "India" or "Germany" etc.

Review of Comparative Theology, by Francis Xavier Clooney (an interesting summary on a key topic; but it does not add much to F.X. Clooney's previous great works on this topic ---thus, read it as an introduction, but avoid it if you have already read other comparative works by him).

Review of The Logic of Commands, by Nicholas Rescher (if you have followed my posts on prescriptions you will know why I picked it up. Rescher's attempt is in many ways comparable to Maṇḍana's way of reducing prescriptions to assertions).

Review of Reflexion und Ritual in der Pūrvamīmāṃsā, by Lars Göhler (a great book, one that is worth reading even if your German is rosty, if only you are interested in Mīmāṃsā and/or the Veda and/or Indian philosophy).

Review of Penser l'Autorité des Écritures, by Vincent Eltschinger (a wonderful attempt of explaining philosophy through history without becoming a reductionist or a Marxist).

Review of The Vākyārthamātṛkā of Śālikanātha Miśra, by Rajendra Nath Sharma (the first English translation of a fundamental text –unfortunately not flawless).

Review of Kumārila on Truth, Omniscience and Killing, by Kei Kataoka (just a great book by a great Mīmāṃsaka, reliable and insightful).

Review of Re-use. The Art and Politics of Integration and Anxiety, by Julia Hegewald and Subrata K. Mitra (eds.) (a very interesting example of bridging disciplines on a thought-provoking topic).

Did you read any of these books? I would be glad to read your comments (here or at the reviews).

For my posts on commands, check the tags "prescription" and "Maṇḍana". For my more detailed comments on Eltschinger's book, see this post and the ones directly following it. For further considerations on reviews in Amazon (etc.), see this post. For further comments on Julia Hegewald and Subrata Mitra's Re-use, see this post.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kant's first Kritik in Sanskrit? प्रवेशनम्

किम् कन्त्-महोदयस्य [Immanuel Kant] दर्शनं संस्कृतभाषायां व्याख्येयम् ? अवश्यम् ।

गणितादिनामर्थाः युक्ता इति केन प्रकारेण साध्यम् ? एतत्साधनं कन्त्-महोदयस्य प्रथमं, प्रधानं च प्रयोजनम् ।
 तथाभूतं साधनं ज्ञेयापेक्षं ज्ञात्रपेक्षं वा भवितुमर्हति । अा कन्त-महोदयात्,  साधनं सर्वदा ज्ञेयापेक्षमभूत् । यथा −अारिस्तोतेलेस्-महोदयः " द्रव्य-गुण-कर्मेत्यादयः पिण्डानामेव सन्ति । लोके पुरुषा न भवेयुश्चेत् तथापि द्रव्यादयः अवतिष्ठेयुः" इति मतः । परन्तु, संभवति यत् सर्वं विकल्पं भवति; केवलं ज्ञाता सिद्धो ऽस्तीति देस्कर्तेस्-महोदयेन [Réné Descartes] दर्शितम् । अत एव कन्त्-महोदयेन कोपेर्निकुस् [Nicolaus Copernicus] इव परिणामः कृतः । "यथैव न सूर्यः पृिथवीम्परिवर्तते, किन्तु पृथिवीः सूर्यमिति कोपेर्निकुस्-महोदयेन दर्शितम्, तथैव गणितादीनां सिद्धता न ज्ञेयापेक्षं किन्तु ज्ञात्रपेक्षमित्यहं दर्शयितुमिच्छामीति" कन्त्-महोदयः मतः ।

संस्कृतदर्शनेष्वपि "ज्ञाननैरपेक्ष्यं न किंचिदेवास्ति" इति विज्ञानवादिनः । तेषां कृते तु गणितादिनां सिद्धता न महात्वपूर्णा । तेषां मते गणितादय केवलं विकल्पाः स्यूः इति संभवति । परन्तु प्रमानेन विकल्पस्य भेदो ऽस्त्येवेति ते ऽपि मन्यन्ते । कुतो भेदः कुत्र प्रमाणानां सिद्धता ? अग्रे वक्ष्यामि ।

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Comparing Hinduism and Christianity: F.X. Clooney

Review of Comparative Theology. Deep Learning Across Religious Borders (F.X. Clooney, S.J.) Wiley-Blackwell 2010

This is a relatively short (171 pp, references excluded) introduction to the field of comparative theology. It is a book Clooney ---in his own admission--- has long refused to write, thinking that comparative theology is a practice rather than a theory. Consequently, it is a book that generalises the methodology and ideas about comparative theology which he developed in his other comparative works, such as Beyond Compare. Thus, a reader who has read Clooney's work and is expecting some extraordinary new statements might be disappointed. The book is rather a concise summary, establishing (in decreasing order of importance, judging from the space dedicated to them by Clooney):

  1. a) that comparative theology is not a comparative study of religions, since it is grounded in faith. It is a faith seeking understanding through the boundaries of different religions, but which remains faithful to its first commitment. (This is by far the most frequently repeated point throughout the book, which in many senses could be described as an apology of comparative theology).
  2. b) that one has to make one's presuppositions explicit. Clooney is extremely honest in explaining his background and his first encounter with Hinduism. Nonetheless, the point seemed to the present reader even clearer when, in the Preface of Beyond Compare, Clooney wrote that his personal connection to the topic of the book was a legitimate part of the Introduction, and not of the preface, since it was part of his scientific enterprise and not accessory to it. (This point is quite stressed at the beginning, but then fades).
  3. c) that comparative theology is not incompatible with (Catholic) faith (p. 115: "God can speak to us in and through a tradition other than our own"). Clooney at times even hints at the fact that it is part of God's providential design in this age of religious diversity (p. 149, p. 165). And, in any way, one should not be afraid of learning comparatively, since "[i]n Christ there need not be any fear of what we might learn; there is only the Truth that sets us free'' (p. 165).

This last point might lead one to a further consequence: in our contemporary age of religious diversity, is comparative theology only legitimate or is it also unavoidable? Clooney explicitly argues in favour of the former claim and his stress on the extraordinary requirements of a comparative theologians might make one think that only a small élite can take the path of comparative theology (see pp. 154--158). On the other hand, in his conclusion Clooney goes (back?) to the idea that "Theology is an academic discipline, but fruitful theological reflection can be carried forward by anyone who seeks, in faith, to understand'' (p. 163).


Since the first chapters are dedicated to the claim that it is possible and legitimate to study comparatively, less space is dedicated to the difficulties of such study. However, when these difficulties are hinted at, the book becomes more intriguing. One learns, for instance, that notwithstanding Clooney's emphasis on the need to return to one's own community and enrich it with what one has learnt by doing comparative theology, "the return home may be more difficult than we might wish''. For, ''[a]s we learn honestly, extrinsic or simplistic reasons for staying in our own religion may evaporate" (p. 156). Or, more concretely, that "it was difficult to read [Vedānta Deśika's] Essence (Śrīmadrahasyatrayasāra) and [Francis de Sales'] Treatise [on the love of God] together, precisely because each is a formidable classic, expressive of a complete religious world that may be taken as exclusive" (p. 126).

Furthermore, readers interested in Hinduism will find here some insightful pages summarising Clooney's works on Śrī Vaiṣṇavism. Pages 130--148 are especially dedicated to the claim, found in the Bhagavadgītā and then frequent in Vaiṣṇava literature, that God comes to His worshippers according to the form in which they love Him or Her. Such passages have never been used by Vaiṣṇava authors ---so Clooney--- in order to justify a comparative enterprise along the lines of the passage at p. 115 quoted in point c). However, they could be understood as a Vaiṣṇava legitimation of comparative practices. Clooney's examples of practical comparative theology are stimulating and one can understands why he frequently repeats throughout the book that comparative theology is done more than it is theorised.

I frequently discuss with people who tell me that they are not interested in comparatism. Do you share this view? If so, why? Is it really possible to work and live in separate worlds, without comparing them?

On my personal campaign against implicit methodologies, which makes me see with much favour Clooney's openness, see this post. For my praise of another book by Clooney, namely Thinking Ritually, see this post.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Price of (my) book

How much should a book cost? And, are we still ready to spend some money in books, now that almost everything is available on line or in a digital form?

In a post of some days ago, I announced that a new book of mine has been published. Further information can be found here.
Now, admitting you have glanced the page, you will have probably also noticed the horrible news of its price. Personally, I am quite convinced of the importance of sharing information, but I also understand that a publisher does add value to a book. In my case, the published copy has far less typos and a big mistake less; is more consistent as for editorial conventions, bibliographical information, etc.; and it looks much better, thus being more readable.

Having in view the fact that Indologists are by and large never rich enough to afford all the books they would like to read, I agreed with the publisher that they would have given forth more copies than usual for the purpose of review, even to individual scholars (i.e., not necessarily via a journal, but also to scholars willing to write a review and to propose it to a journal). Further, part of the book is available on googlebooks, a draft copy of the book is on my page on Academia (here) since several months. It is not the final copy (and there is still a mistake in the translation I only discovered later on). Thus, please read it if you like, but do not quote it. If, by contrast, you decided to buy it, let me know and I will thank you with a copy of something else I have written.


Last, I also thought of two experiments: I have a few (six) complementary copies. What about a barter-experiment? Your book for mine, in case we are both interested? And (this idea has been suggested to me by Aleix Ruiz Falqués): if you just want to read the book but you do not need to own it, you can email me and I will send you a copy, provided that you are ready to send the copy to someone else who is interested and so on.



What other strategies do you use to have your works accessible, without violating copyright?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My book on Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā has been just released!


The book is called Duty, language and exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā: Including an edition and translation of Rāmānujācārya's Tantrarahasya, Śāstraprameyapariccheda, it is included in the Jerusalem Studies on the History of Religion Series and it is published by Brill, Leiden.

The book is an introduction to key concepts of Indian Philosophy, seen from the perspective of one of its most influential schools, the Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā, which flourished from the 7th until the 20th c. AD. The book includes the edition and translation of Rāmānujācārya's Śāstraprameyapariccheda, which is part of his Tantrarahasya (written in South India, after the 14th c.). The edition is based on the extant editions, an additional manuscript and most of all on a huge amount of the texts which have been Rāmānujācārya's sources. The Tantrarahasya has never been translated before and it is one of the clearest elaboration of the Prābhākara thought. Within it, the Śāstraprameyapariccheda focuses on the core content of the Veda in general (is it an exhortation? a duty? the fact that each sacrifice will bring you happiness, etc.?) and in particular (which hermeneutical rules should one implement while interpreting a Vedic passage?).

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