Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quotations and intention

In the present post, I play with an idea, namely, that –against what one would expect– the use of quotations often tells us more than an 'original' text about the intention of its author.
If someone has something to say, s/he will probably just say it. Why does s/he, instead or in top of that, use a quotation of someone else?
1. In order to add authority to his/her statement (since X said it, it must be true).
2. Because X has already said something very significant on that subject and one cannot ignore it.
3. Because X has already said something very significant on that subject and one wants to improve on it.
The third case might be very promising. If an author quotes a passage and then interprets it in a forced way, this might mean that s/he had to quote it (for instance, because it was the standard text on that particular theme), and hence wanted to force its interpretation into his/her own one.

An instance:
I am working on the principles of tantra and prasaṅga in Mīmāṃsā. They seem to have been re-interpreted by Śabara. Śabara, however, opens his discussion with a verse which –he says– is used as an illustration (udāhṛ-). The verse is immediately followed by Śabara's own reading of it (which, I believe, does not correspond to its original meaning). Hence, I think that Śabara had to mention the verse, but then domesticates it into his own view. In this way, he conveys the idea that his innovation was already common sense among Mīmāṃsakas.
The verse says:
sādhāraṇaṃ bhavet tantraṃ parārthe tv aprayojakaḥ |
evam eva prasaṅgaḥ syād vidyamāne svake vidhau ||
And Śabara writes:
sādhāraṇaṃ bhavet tantram […] parārthe tv aprayojaka iti. yaḥ parārtham utpannas tadartham eva cānuṣṭhīyamānaḥ parasyopakaroti, sa parastasyāprayojakaḥ.
It seems to me (and before me to Bronkhorst, see Bronkhorst 1986) that the interpretation of aprayojakaḥ as a noun referring to tantra instead of an adjective referring to prasaṅga is far-fetched and, therefore quite telling. Śabara probably had before his eyes/ears a verse distinguishing tantra and prasaṅga in a certain way, wanted however to distinguish them in another.


AC said...

May I give a "technical" advice? Your post will be easier to read if you format the sanskrit paragraphs, let's say in italic.

elisa freschi said...

Thanks Adrian. I hope this helps. I used to format Skt passages as quotations, but this made them bigger and odd. Any further suggestion most welcome!

VS said...

Look what you did. You referred to Bronkhorst to substantiate you interpretation. :o) Yet we are not sure what the true intentions of the author were.

elisa freschi said...

Yes, you are right. But I do think I am part of an intellectual community (including you, for one) and can only think insofar as I am part of it.
By the way, in case you want to have a look at Bronkhorst's argument:
"Tantra and Prasaṅga are two principles of Mīmāṃsā. Śabara on PMS [=Pūrva Mīmāṃsā Sūtra] 11.1.1 quotes a verse which defines them both: [next, the verse is quoted]. Gaṅgānātha Jhā (p. 2080) translates this as follows:
"That which is common is Tantra; it is not prompted by the needs of other things; so also is Prasaṅga (an extended Tantra), which has its own injunction present."
This translation is open to criticism. It connects the first two pādas of the verse and separates them off from the last two, whereas the masculine gender of aprayojakaḥ connects pāda b rather with c and d about Prasaṅga; only pāda a appears to be about Tantra. Yet this translation follows the intentions of Śabara who quotes the verse. […]"
(Aligarh Journal of Oriental Studies III, 2, p.77)

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