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Friday, March 1, 2013

Kiyokazu Okita, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism and textual reuse by Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa

 In a recent volume of Religions of South Asia (6.2. 2011, appeared in December 2012), K. Okita focuses on a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava author, Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa (c. 1700-1793), who —first in his school— wrote a commentary on the Brahmasūtras. Since the Gauḍīya school was the last one to write a commentary thereon, Baladeva had before him some major predecessors. Okita takes into account the commentaries by Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja and Madhva.
As could be expected, Baladeva often re-uses Madhva's commentary. This is logical, because the Gaudīya Vaiṣṇavism developed out of a branch of Madhva's school and because Baladeva himself used to be a Madhvaite.
Nonetheless, Okita shows how Baladeva also re-uses Rāmānuja's commentary, due to the fact that their schools tend often to converge, notwithstanding their distinct origin.
Furthermore, elements of Śaṅkara's commentary are also reused by Baladeva, especially as prima facie views.
This leads Okita to the development of a threefold scheme for Baladeva's "quotations" (I would prefer "textual reuse"), including:

  1. 1. "when he cites from the śrutis and smṛtis,
  2. 2. when he quotes a previous Vedāntin in a way which is different from the original author's application;
  3. 3. when he copies a previous Vedāntin following the original author's use" (p. 209).

One notices that this scheme embeds two points of view:
  1. A. the type of source (śruti-smṛti vs. a follow Vedāntin) 
  2. B. the kind of reuse (as an objection or in the same spirit as in the original text)
What do you think of this scheme? Could it help highlighting aspects you did not think of before?

On a different taxonomy of quotations, see this post. On the topic of textual reuse, see this post (among many others). On another article in the same issue of Religions of South Asia, see this post.


Dubois David said...

I think Utpaladeva's description of pramânavâda's views in Pratyabhijnâkârikâ, 1, chap. 2-3, is one of the most accurate description of an opponent's thesis and arguments I'm aware of. On the top of that, Utpaladeva aknowledges his debt.

Another example might be Abhinavagupta's description and discussion of Mandana Mishra'thesis on anirvacanîyâ avidyâ in Pratyabhijnâkârikâ, 2, 4, 20. Here the case is arguably less clear, as Abhinavagupta throws objections ("If all vikalpas are false, then your teachning of non-duality is false") that Mandana seem to answer ("the teachnig about non-duality is itself cancelled when it has achieved its purpose of cancellation of duality").

One instance of misrepresentation I know of is Kshemarâja about madhyamaka in Spandanirnaya, 1, 12. But then, is there a reliable account of madhyamaka in any non-mâdhyamika text ?

Cases of misrepresentation are much more common than accurate presentations.

That said, I think the more a text verges on the religious (= the more it assumes beliefs on the part of the audience), the less the account will be reliable.

Another factor is whether the thesis described is intuitive or counter-intuitive. That is why accounts of Nyâya positions are usually reliable, whereas those about madhyamaka are not.

Thanks for the article and for your work !

David Dubois

elisa freschi said...

Thank you, David, very interesting points. May I ask you to repost this comment as a comment to this post ( I think other readers may benefit from your examples. And you will find that my point 3 also addresses a similar problem (religiously vs. philosophically interested audiences).

Dubois David said...

Oups... Sorry !

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