Friday, July 31, 2009

Did Mīmāṃsā authors develop a general theory of action?

The Mīmāṃsā theories on bhāvanā are originally exegetical/linguistic devices. But do they also constitute or presuppose a general theory of action? My provisional answer is yes, insofar as 1. they are used not just in an exegetical context (Kumārila mentions examples such as "(s)he cooks", Someśvara speaks of chariots), 2. they are used to address topics such as intentionality, effort, atoms' movements, which have nothing to do with both exegesis and linguistic analysis 3. they are used in debates against opponents of other schools who speak about movement and do not share the Mīmāṃsā theory of bhāvanā.

Role of Philosophy

For a long time in the last two centuries (possibly starting with Kant, via Frege until today), philosophy tried to "lead" sciences and settle the paradigm for science's validity. Nonetheless, mathematicians and even more applied scientists kept on doing sciences irrespective of whether their fields of investigation were deemed to be "non logically justifiable". So, why did philosophers keep on asking themselves questions about the logical possibility of, e.g., mathematics? Why did epistemology develop at all? Because philosophers could not help doing so, since they were inquisitive human beings, keen to understand and not just to act in their world.
I would like to argue that Mīmāṃsā thinkers fulfilled a similar role in Classical India. They inquired about sacrifice, although the actual performers of sacrifices (as proven, among others, by Daya Krishna) did not take their texts into account. They inquired about sacrifice although their thoughts had no practical impact, just because they were intrigued by the issue.

Philosophy and Science

I'm somehow sceptical about the current trend of testing philosophical theories through their accord/disaccord with neuroscience's results. The main point is that I do not think one might establish more than interesting coincidences but no direct causal relationship. It might be that some brain cells are active while one feels happy, but this does not describe what the feeling of happiness is.
But many philosophers seem to be proud because their own theories are now "proven" right by such coincidences.
(Probably, the co-operation with philosophers (even with proud ones) can be a major improvement while working on neuropsychology and it is a pity that most neuroscientists are just no interested in philosophy.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Movement is not just conjunction and disjunction

Maṇḍana Miśra, who lived short after Kumārila, wrote a separate study on bhāvanā called Bhāvanāviveka (“Discernment about bhāvanā”). Apart from its intrinsic philosophical value, this text is also precious because it reproduces many objections raised against Kumārila's theory but not otherwise recorded. The main objector maintains, à la Zeno of Elea, that movement just does not exist. It is nothing but the conjunctions and disjunctions (saṃyoga-vibhāga) inhering in a thing (BhV, p.25). For instance, walking is nothing but conjunctions and disjunctions inhering in feet and ground. In fact, only conjunctions and disjunctions are, indeed, seen (pp. 29-301) and one then infers movement out of them (pp.33-34) at a time when the alleged movement has actually already vanished and one only sees a new disjunction or conjunction (Uṃveka, p.35, BhV, p.35). But, since the latter are enough to explain what one sees, why should one postulate a further entity?2 One could complete the argument by specifying that the illusion of a separate category, movement, is just created by the succession of disjonctions and conjunctions.

This interesting position is criticised by Maṇḍana, who upheld the specificity of activities. Since conjunctions and disjunctions do not cease to be there, argues Maṇḍana, one would keep on inferring an activity even when one pauses after having walked3.

1api ca pratyakṣāpratyakṣavṛttyor api saṃyogavibhāgayoḥ siddhayoḥ pratyakṣatvakalpanā yuktā na tv asiddhasya karmaṇaḥ. tābhyām eva tarhi saṃyogavibhāgābhyāṃ kriyām anumimīmahe (BhV p.30, ll.1-3).

2tasmād guṇaviśeṣa eva dhātūpādānaḥ kriyā na tu tadatiricyamānātmā kriyāpadārthaḥ, yaḥ pratyayasya dhātor vābhidheyaḥ syāt (BhV, p.35). And siddher guṇaviśeṣeṇa pacatīty api saṃvidaḥ | kriyāpadārthasyānyasya nānumānaṃ prakalpyate || 24 || (BhV, p. 36).

3na caiṣa tajjanyābhimatasaṃyogavibhāgālambana eva pratyayaḥ. […] na hi calitvā sthitasya kriyāprabhavapūrvottaradeśasaṃyogavibhāgābhāvaḥ. atas tadālambano vyāpārapratyayo na jātu viramet (BhV, p. 83, ll.6-12).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Action as Effort

I am changing my mind about what Kumārila meant with arthabhāvanā. In fact, he defines it as parispandarūpam ("having the nature of a movement") and never uses the term prayatna (effort). Moreover, Maṇḍana, who followed Kumārila in admitting two different forces, described the bhāvanā as meaning both effort and movement. It is only with Someśvara that the definition of bhāvanā as exclusively effort becomes current. This does not clash with Kumārila, who defined the bhāvanā as "activity of the promoting subject", thus preparing the equation with effort. Still, it is not Kumārila's own elaboration. But to detect an innovation in Someśvara makes his claim that arthabhāvanā means "the force caused by the desiring [subject]" (see previous posts) less plausible. It is easier to figure out that Someśvara (consciously or not) innovated in regard to the equation bhāvanā/effort and, consequently, interpreted arthabhāvanā as synonym of prayatnavantaḥ bhāvanā (the activity of one who makes an effort). On the other hand, the definitions of bhāvanā by Kumārila seem still less precise.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cognition as Action? It is only a grammatical prejudice, says Jayanta

I could finally locate an interesting hint on why a cognition (jñāna), though labelled as "activity" (kriyā) is a quality (guṇa) of the self. Better: I could understand that it had to be a quality, since Nyāya-Vaiśeṣikas understand karman only as physical motion. But I could not make sense of the active component of a quality. Satischandra Chatterjee, in his 1965 The Nyāya Theory of Knowledge. A critical study of some problems of logic and metaphysics writes:

The Bauddha and the Mīmāṃsā systems agree in describing knowledge as an activity, a transitive process. […] Jayanta in his Nyāyamañjarī (p.20) traces the act theory of knowledge to a grammatical prejudice, a confusion between knowledge as manifestation and the verb “to know” denoting an action. When we hear the expressions “I know”, “I cognise”, etc., we are apt to be misled into the belief that knowledge or cognition is an activity or process, But this only shows how in philosophy we may be deceived by the vague expressions of ordinary language.[pp.11-12]

I hope I will be able to locate soon Jayanta's passage (unfortunately, Chatterjee does not specify the edition he is using), which seems to contradict Johannes Bronkhorst's idea of a presupposed correspondence between language and reality as informing the whole Indian Philosophy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cognition as Quality of the Self or as Action?

As mentioned already, Mīmāṃsakas (at least Kumārila and Somśvara) consider cognition as an activity (
karman), and so do Buddhists.
Naiyāyikas and Vaiśeṣikas, on the other hand, regard cognition as a quality of the self. Still, cognition is also defined (e.g., by Bhāṭṭavāgīśvara, NTD 76,9-11 on NS III.1.17) as a kriyā ("action") and it is said to need an instrument, a subject and an object, just like common activities. How can it be? Surely, it helps to remember that cognition (jñāna) is instantaneous (Potter translates it as "judgement") and that qualities in Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika are a heterogeneous list, sharing as only similarities the fact that they inhere in a substance and that they are instantaneous. But kriyā is also often used as a synonym of karman in Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika (see Potter's Encyclopedia, which lists them together). And how can one understand the relation between the cognizing subject (jñātṛ) and his/her judgement as that between a substance and its quality (guṇin/guṇa)?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bodily movements non caused by efforts

Someśvara is aware of the fact that movements are not enough to detect an intentional action (which he links with effort, prayatna). On the one hand, one can meditate and hardly move, on the other, there can be unintentional movements.
In case a bodily movement is not intentional (in case of a illness, for instance), then it cannot be said to be caused by an effort, maintains Someśvara. One can say that "there is a movement" (spando bhavati), not that "(s)he makes a movement" (spandaṃ karoti).
What about the well-known example "the chariot goes"? Someśvara replies by saying that linguistic use does not always reflect reality. In fact, in khaṭvā (couch) there is a feminine suffix (-ā, technically called ṭāp), although no feminine entity is there, "in the same way, in regard to an unconscious [entity] a verbal suffix is employed although there is no effort" (Nyāyasudhā 1909, p. 579).

Someśvara on effort and the meaning of arthabhāvanā

Someśvara aptly connects effort (prayatna) and its result, bodily movement (śarīraparispanda). The former implies even subtler forms of effort, since among the examples mentioned there are not just going or cooking or sacrificing, but also dhyāna (meditation): dhyāne 'ham prayate (Nyāyasudhā 1909, p. 577). Hence, Someśvara can consequently explain artha- in arthabhāvanā as referring to the subject who strives for a certain result (arthayate). He might be historically wrong, insofar as his interpretation of the bhāvanā as mainly located in the person who strives for something is not necessarily the same as Kumārila's one. The latter seems to be still more inclined to a concept of bhāvanā as movement (or activity, vyāpāra). Still, Someśvara's proposal is consistent and interesting.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Effort and other minds

Someśvara explains that every bodily movement (śarīraparispanda) is caused by an effort (prayatna). In Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika texts, this link was used in order to prove the existence of a Self, insofar as prayatna was believed to be a quality of the Self (and, hence, inseparable from it). Hence, by seeing other people moving one could infer the existence of their Selves (in contemporary terms: the existence of other minds).
Someśvara develops an inference to the same purpose in the following way. In fact, one knows through mental awareness (mānasapratyakṣa, the kind of direct perception allowing one to seize one's own inner states) that one's bodily movements while going, sacrificing, cooking, etc., are caused by the self's effort. So:
1. all movements of one's body (svaśarīraparispanda) are caused by the self's effort (ātmaprayatna), as one knows through mental awareness (mānasapratyakṣa),
2. other bodies also move,
3 hence, their movements (paraśarīraspanda) are also caused by a self's efforts, just like in one's own case (Nyāyasudhā 1909, p. 577).
The rationale behind it is that one is aware of something else beyond the movement one performs in sacrificing, etc. (which are expressed, according to Mīmāṃsā authors, by the verbal root).

Is effort a mental action or a quality of the self?

Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika authors maintain that effort (prayatna) is a quality of the self (ātman). This implies that actions are just bodily ones, involving atoms' movements. Since, in fact, the self is composed of just one atom, its changes cannot be explained as atoms' movements.
The theory is plausible, although it reflects a rather static conception of the Self (as if changes were only accidental to it).
On the other hand, Mīmāṃsā authors developed a theory of bhāvanā which seems not to differentiate between bodily and mental actions. In this way, they can make sense of Vedic prescriptions as exhortations to action even in case one does not immediately perform the action enjoined. Someśvara (12 c.?) explicitly says that prayatna is a kriyā. On the other hand, Rāmānujācārya lists it together with the guṇas. But, he also says that bhāvanā is prayatna (!). This might mean that a certain point of the history of Mīmāṃsā confusion reigned in this regard, or that Mīmāṃsā authors just repeated the list of guṇas they found in Nyāya texts, without thoroughly reflecting about its implications.

Does Movement Exist?

Zeno of Elea suggested in his "Arrow's paradox" that movement is in itself an impossible entity. In fact, if we imagine an arrow getting to its aim, we could reconstruct its movement as a sequence of states. At state 1, the arrow is at point a. At state 2, the arrow is at point a+n and so on and so on. No matter how small the interval between a and a+n is, the only important thing is that the arrow is never actually moving. It is just motionless.
Similarly, an opponent in Maṇḍana Miśra's Bhāvanāviveka suggests that movement is nothing but conjunctions and disjunctions inhering in atoms. Hence, it is just a quality of atoms. The idea is less absurd if one gets to mental actions, which are believed by most Indian philosophers to be qualities of the Self. Prayatna (effort) is in fact in the list of qualities in Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika and even in Rāmānujācārya's Tantrarahasya.

Why should one study/teach Sanskrit?

A recent post by Amod Lele ( has the advantage of putting the question of the use of what we (=students and scholars of "unuseful" subjects) are doing in its right terms. One can also see a comment about a similar dilemma in the field of art (
Through a degree and then a PhD in Sanskrit, one does not learn any "professional" skill apart from those required to keep on studying and researching in this field. So, since it is hardly the case that the number of professors/research fellows etc. in Sanskrit need to increase, why should one study Sanskrit (or Latin, or History of Dance, or Theory of Cinema, or Moral Philosophy…)?
One could suggest that confrontation with other cultures, critical thinking, sensibility enhancement (as the one one achieves through reading poetry) all contribute to one's formation as a better person. But what does this mean? In which sense is one "better"? Is one happier? Is one nicer to others? I doubt that the first answer can be answered affirmatively. One does not become happier through enhanced thinking and feeling abilities (often, the opposite is true, as underlined by Wittgenstein). Personally, I am suspicious about all kinds of philosophy as "consolation" (they seem to me to narrow down the potentiality of philosophy).
On the other hand, it is probably true that one who likes to get into philosophical/artistic/theoretic… problems is happier to do it than not. If Aristotle is right, and we all aim at knowing, then it makes sense that studying makes us happier.
But does it make sense to propose Sanskrit (or the rest) just as an interesting subject, or does it have in itself a specific value? This brings me back to the second alternative. Studying Sanskrit may make people better insofar as it increases one's understanding of other people's views. But this is hardly a satisfying reason for making critical editions of obscure texts or producing the translation n.1876 of the Bhagavadgītā. One can translate it for one's own sake (it is such a wonderful text), but it is hardly the case that one's translation will improve other people understanding of the text (see my previous "In praise of reading" post about my skepticism on writing before/without having read –and there are too many translations of the BhG to read them all before starting a new one).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dolphins and ethical theories

In an interesting book (Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues), Alasdair C. McIntyre develops a sort of "ethics" for dolphins. He chooses dolphins insofar as they are intelligent, though non-human, beings. They can, thus, act because of reasons. His whole theory is based on the idea that a reason to act is "something good in itself that it realises or serves or […] something bad that it avoids". This definition is surprisingly similar to Maṇḍana Miśra's idea that what has to be done is only either something pleasant, or the avoidance of something unpleasant or a means thereto. (Interestingly enough, Maṇḍana develops the same thought as the above one, but starting the other way round, possibly because of his Mīmāṃsā background, which inclines him to take into consideration even authorless exhortations and to stress the importance of the final result).
It is possible that one can build a consistent theory of action upon that, but it is hardly the case that a theory of exhortation can work on these presuppositions. Maybe Maṇḍana just did not want to explain that? Maybe his primary focus was action, not exhortation?

Friday, July 17, 2009

In praise of reading

In his answer to an email, Prof. Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad causally mentioned the fact that we keep on writing about things which have already been thoroughly studied and, in turn, finding out that people write about issues we ourselves have already settled.
I wonder whether this does not boil down to the fact that we read less than we should. We only read fresh printed articles and books because an up-to-date bibliography is something every article must have. But we probably soon forget them and we do not anyway read whatever has been written, say, 10 years ago or more and is (still) not a classic. This could amount to say that even in academic studies we risk to follow fashions as perishable as those imposing new cloths or video-games to our kids.
Moreover, we are all used to look for a word we may be interested in through powerful tools such as jstor. Do we then read the whole article? Or the whole Sanskrit passage?
Since reading takes time and is not valued as much as writing, we can only fight against this tendency through self-constraint. For instance, one could start writing a bibliographic survey of not just classics+most recent articles/books whenever considering a new field of investigation. A short summary of it could be included even in a short article.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Action in Indian philosophy

Broadly speaking, the theme “action” is recurrent in Indian philosophy in at least three context: 1. Action as an evidence for the existence of a Self, 2. Action in the context of language use, 3. Moral Action (I will not distinguish between moral and ethics).

1. Action as an evidence for the existence of a Self

Indian darśanas share commonly agreed notions and terms. One of those is the idea of categories as actually existing classes into which the reality can be organized. The most ancient ones are probably substance, quality (guṇa) and movement (karman). The latter is of direct relevance for the present study. The Vaiśeṣika system, which fixed as such at an early stage (so Frauwallner), does not sharply distinguish between movements and intentional actions. Both are described as movements of atoms (which are conceived as the minutest particles of matter, unchangeable and eternal). Their difference lies only in the fact that the first ones are produced by material causes, the latter by effort (prayatna). Their development, though, follows the same causal scheme. Prayatna is again determined by volition and that by desire or aversion. A similar causal scheme is adopted by Nyāya and later Vaiśeṣika as well. As remote causes of desire and aversion either non-knowledge (erroneous knowledge, leading to an erroneous attachment to worldly things) or dharma and adharma (merit and demerit) are mentioned. Nyāya authors make the string longer by adding before the remote cause a “connection with a recollection” (smṛtyanubandha) as a determinant for the arousal of volition and then of efforts.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What is an action?

Śabara introduces the label bhāvanā to define an action as something which "causes to be" a result, such as rain in the case of a sacrifice performed in order to get rain.
Kumārila further distinguishes between: 1. activities inhering in a conscious agent (arthabhāvanā) and producing a result; 2. activities non producing a result (and possibly inhering in a non-conscious agent as well), such as "to dwell"; 3. activities inhering in words (śabdabhāvanā) and causing the first ones to be.
His commentators debated about the understanding of those categories. Maṇḍana abolished the distinction between 1. and 2. and defined bhāvanā in general as "prayatna", effort. Someśvara repeated this definition, whereas Pārthasārathi Miśra kept to the older definition and preferred to describe a bhāvanā as anyotpādakavyāpāra, an activity producing something else. The Bhāṭṭa authors successive to them all sided with Someśvara or Pārthasārathi. The first ones explained that, though a bhāvanā typically inheres in a conscious agent, it can only be metaphorically said to inhere in an unconscious one.
Prābhākara authors reply by describing alleged actions as just successions of conjunctions and disjunctions with various locations in the space.

Why do Mīmāṃsā authors classify prescriptions?

The main focus of the Mīmāṃsā is the exegesis of Sacred Texts, especially of their sacrificial portion, i.e., the Brāhmaṇas. There is already enough literature about how to perform a sacrifice (apart from oral instructions, practical manuals are called paddhatis or prayogas) and Mīmāṃsā authors point instead at systematising the mass of Vedic texts. Their systematisation is highly hierarchical and centripetal and has as its centre the sacrificial prescription. All the rest (narrative passages about myths, mantras, Upaniṣadic teachings, etc.) only makes sense –according to Mīmāṃsakas– insofar as it is connected to a prescription.
The standard Mīmāṃsā example of prescription is svargakāmo yajeta ("the one desirous of heaven should sacrifice"). To it an instrument, a result and a procedure are connected. And all ritual acts are classified in relation to it, so that at the end one can figure out a coherent whole ordered from the top (the prescription) until the minutest details.
The need for classification regards also prescriptions themselves. In fact, structuring the prescriptive component of a text allows one to better understand its hierarchical links. For instance, principal prescriptions (such as the one mentioned above) are to be distinguished from subordinate ones (such as the ones enjoining presacrifices or prescribing the ritual substances).
Since the Veda is authorless, the only possible perspectives on the text are the hearer's one and the text's inner one. Accordingly, at least two classifications of prescriptions are possible. The first one is: utpattividhi/viniyogavidhi/adhikāravidhi/prayogavidhi, the second one: apūrvavidhi/niyamavidhi/parisaṁkhyāvidhi. See previous posts for details.
The first classification expresses the role of each prescription and defines it –in Mīmāṃsā terminology– "according to its own nature" (svarūpābhidhāna). The latter conforms to the role of a prescription within a text from the point of view of the hearer. If it conveys something utterly new for the hearer, then it is an apūrvavidhi. If something partly new, it is a niyamavidhi. If it looks like a positive injunction but is instead to be interpreted as a prohibition, it is a parisaṁkhyāvidhi. The latter case, as already hinted at, is one Mīmāṃsā authors generally try to avoid.
(on the right: simplified map of the sacrificial area. From Jan Houben,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meaning of suffixes 2

I found this nice table on the meaning of verbal suffixes in Vācaspati Upādhyāya's edition of the Arthasaṅgraha. It nicely points out how the meaning of suffixes is not necessarily analized into distinct physical elements.
For those who might not read Sanskrit, the main point is that the verbal suffix of the optative (just like all other exhortative verbal suffixes) conveys two meanings (see image in the next post).

Meaning of suffixes

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dance has a purpose, just like mantras

A friend sent me a passage of Abhinavagupta's commentary (Abhinavabhāratī) on Bharata's Nāṭyaśāstra. It is a further instance of the theory of bhāvanā being used as a commonly agreed upon example.
An objector maintains that dance has no meaning. It is replied that, just like mantras are not used because of their meaning, but are nevertheless not to be dispensed with, so also song (and dance is connected to song):

athocyate recakāṅgahāranibandhātmakaṃ yan nṛttaṃ na tena kaścid artho ’bhinīyate | api tu yathā viśiṣṭair mantraiḥ bhāvanāviśeṣaiś cābhyudayasiddhiḥ tathā viśiṣṭadevatāsūcakair mantrais tathā tad gīte cābhyadhāyi

But, like through various mantras and specifications of the bhāvanā (ritual action), good fortune is realised, and so [also] through mantras which suggest various deities, in the same way this has been explained [to occur] in the case of song.

Bhāvanāviśeṣais could hint at commendatory statements (arthavāda), which, like mantras, are also subsidiary to the main ritual action. Dance, hence, does not convey a meaning, but still has a purpose (artha).
If tathā devatāsūcakair mantraiḥ is not just a gloss, two different classes of mantras are pointed out since according to Mīmāṃsakas most mantras are meant to make one recollect the various ritual items, such as the Deities (viśiṣṭadevatāsucaka), whereas there is a minority of them which serves an invisible purpose (and, hence, directly contribute to the bhāvanā).
The text goes on and this is probably just a prima facie view.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Again on the classification of prescriptions: is there a rationale behind it?

I started working on the classification of prescriptions in order to make sense of a long passage in Ramanujacarya´s Tantrarahasya. As soon as I could understand it I started getting involved in the (Mimamsa) history which lead to it and in its historical significance. In fact, I could not find any other Mimamsa author classifying prescriptions in the same manner as Ramanujacarya. But, indeed, I could hardly find two authors sharing all the same classifications. In fact, there seem to be several different ways of classifying prescriptions (a boring text by Sankara Bhatta, the Mimamsabalaprakasa, dedicates approximately 20 pages to lists of different classifications of prescriptions).
The most common ones are:
The last two members are often inverted (so in Parthasarathi´s Nyayaratnamala, and Mimamsabalaprakasa, Mimamsanyayaprakasa, Arthasangraha).
But other classifications are also quite popular:
Or also samanyavidhi-visesavidhi, arthakarmavidhi-gunakarmavidhi, utpattividhi-gunavidhi-adhikaravidhi, etc.
All authors seem to refer to a shared reservoir of possible prescriptions. Hence, I expected all those terms to be frequent in Brahmana and Srautasutras. But, as far as I could understand, this is not the case. Nor are they used in other texts I am aware of. Mimamsakas may have started systematising oral lores of sacrificers or they could have created themselves all those subclasses due to their own desire to classify and sistematize Vedic texts.

niyamavidhi and parisāmkhyavidhi

Niyamavidhis ("restrictive prescription"; for definitions and examples, see a preceding post and the comments thereon) can be found also in Grammatical literature. Sabara mentions them at least in two places (his commentary on 6.8.31 and 32).
The concept of parisamkhya is also ancient enough. I read about it in Sabara and in Kaiyata´s commentary on Patanjali´s Paspasā. The typical example mentioned is panca pancanakha bhaksya, that is "the five animals having 5 nails (or claws?) can be eaten" which indirectly implies that all other animals cannot be eaten.
Both are described in Kumārila´s Tantravārtika (on and are later to be found in Parthasarathi Misra, Appayadiksita (who dedicates to them his whole Vidhirasāyana), Gāgābhatta´s Bhattacintamani. Sankara Bhatta mentions them in his Mimāmsābālaprakāsa together with tens of other kinds of prescriptions. More interesting, both the Arthasangraha and the Mimāmsānyāyaprakāsa mention them within their discussion about mantras. The Arthasangraha does not explain why, whereas the MNP makes the connection explicit. One could be inclined to think that mantras have more than one purpose, but it is not so because of a niyamavidhi stating that mantras are meant to make one remember the various elements of a ritual performance.
Moreover, the AS states that parisāmkhyavidhi is affected by two flaws, since it implies a meaning partly contradicting what is explicitly found in the Sacred Texts. Hence, parisāmkhyavidhi is a sort of extrema-ratio-vidhi, a last resource in case one need to make sense of an otherwise meaningless prescription. Possibly because of this reason, it is not mentioned in Rāmanujācārya´s Tantrarahasya and it does not seem to have been regularly implemented in Vedic exegesis.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Heretics in India and Tibet

In an interesting lecture (Vienna, June the 29th 2009), Dr. Pascale Hugon mentioned the debate held at sKyid Rong between Sa skya Paṇḍita and 6 "heretics". Only scant informations about its content have been recorded. It seems that the 6 heretics adored Brahmā and that Sa Paṇ convinced them (just) by saying that Brahmā is known to sleep and is hence dull. I'll here leave aside historic questions (such as: was Brahmā at all still adored at that time? the depiction of ascetics adoring him seems to depend heavily on Pāli examples) and consider only the argument. P.Hugon, answering a question, proposed that it could be a shortening of the one found in Tarkajvālā (possibly by Bhāviveka). According to the TJ, "Hindū" Gods are not capable of defending dharma because they are prey of rāga, dveṣa, moha. An example of moha is, in fact, Brahmā's sleep before each creation of the world. I wonder whether this could be a convincing argument for a non-Buddhist audience. In fact, Kumārila rather accuses the Buddha of not being a reliable speaker because he is allegedly free of rāga and has, hence, no desire to communicate at all (the desire to communicate is one of the characteristics of a reliable speaker since NS).
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