Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Introduction to the CBC on the re-use of texts in Sanskrit philosophy

The following is a draft of my introduction as I will pronounce it on Friday morning at this conference.

"Thank you to all of you for coming today and most of all for taking part to this project since its beginning. No part of it would have been possible without your participation.
Apart from welcoming and thanking you, I would like to make only two small points:

  • —Especially for all among you who have never been to a Coffee Break Conference before: this whole meeting is supposed to occur in a pleasant and informal atmosphere. Our purpose is not to show how much we know, but to question what we have accepted without being aware of it. Thus, the speakers are invited to emphasise problems and not to be afraid of open questions. Participants are invited to ask, object and discuss, just like during a Coffee Break, in a constructive and participative atmosphere.
  • —As for the specific topic of this meeting, some among us have been working on a joint project about the re-use of texts in Sanskrit Śāstra already since several years. This meeting is thus a way to focus on some of the questions which emerged during this work, such as:
  1. 1. Can we, finally, agree on the criteria which matter in the study of quotations (i.e., acknowledgement vs. non-acknowledgement; literality vs. non-literality; form vs. content; positive or negative evaluation, naming the source vs. not naming it…), and on a shared terminology?
  2. 2. Is it still possible to adopt the terminology proposed by Ernst Steinkellner (Ce, Cee, Re, Pv, etc.)? Should it be ampliated? Or does it only work within the framework of pramāṇavāda texts?
  3. 3. Are there major differences between the type of re-use in philosophical and in non-philosophical (here we will discuss in particular Vedic, religious and juridic) texts?
  4. 4. Are there school-specificities in the field of re-use? And what are their causes? For instance, can we say that Mīmāṃsā author emphasise the content over the form, whereas Buddhist Pramāṇavādins put more emphasis on exact quotations, perhaps because of the opposition between the doctrine of apauruṣeyatva and the charismatic figure of the Buddha as an author of the Canon? Or because of sociological reasons, such as the habit of learning by heart since a very early age?

Last, a practical piece of information: everyone will have between 50 and 55 minutes at disposal. You can use as much as you want of it for your speech, but the last 25 minutes MUST be reserved for discussion. I will be merciless in cutting your speech once you have reached this limit. But this does not mean that you have to speak for 25--30 minutes. 5 minutes are enough, or even less, if you prefer.

Most important: once again, have fun!"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Should we emend Sanskrit metri causa?

Patrick Olivelle, in his 1998 article on the Journal of Indian Philosophy (Unfaithful transmitters), suggests that, in general, one should be more than cautious in emending the received text. This applies, he maintains, also to emendations metri causa (because of faulty metre). Why?

1. As explained by Max Müller (1879: lxxii, quoted in Olivelle, p. 179): "The metrical emendations that suggest themselves are generally so easy and so obvious that, for that very reason, we should hesitate before correcting what native scholars would have corrected long ago, if they had thought there was any real necessity for correction". And, Olivelle could add, if generations of paṇḍits, much more learned than we are, did not emend, they must have had a good reason for not doing it.

2. Several metrical faults can be explained away. Olivelle refers to Alsdorf's (1950, mentioned at pp. 179--180) attempt to explain faults in metre through non application of sandhi or through prakrit pronounciations of bhavati, iti, iva, etc.

As for 1., please read Michael's comment on the distinction between dead and living traditions here (would Olivelle/Max Müller say the same about a codex unicus reporting an odd spell?).

As for 2., as much as it can sound convincing in the case of Epics and of other genres, I cannot really imagine Jayanta or any other philosophical poet pronouncing a word in prakrit amid a verse in his Nyāyamañjarī. And I recollect having imagined emendations in the text of Vāmanadatta's Saṃvitprakāśa, whenever the metre was faulty.

What do you think? What did you do in your actual praxis?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Can help Indian Philosophy?

I have been recently asked about the role of the site for my general purpose of integrating Indian philosophy in "Philosophy" in general. The following one is my answer:

"As you already know, I work in the field of Indian philosophy and I see the integration of Indian philosophy within "philosophy" tout court as one of my main aims. People working in Indian philosophy (just like in the case of Chinese literature, Japanese history of science, etc.) often end up working in areal studies institutes, together with other people working on South Asia (and so on), but far away from people working on the same topics in different areas. In this sense, is precious, because it enables one to meet/discuss with these colleagues and cross the rigid academic boundaries separating us".

What do you think? Do you use For what purposes?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Call for Papers for an Indological Seminar

I have participated once to an Indological seminar (on absence) in Cagliari and greatly enjoyed the beautiful location, the great guest (Tiziana Pontillo) and the interesting discussions. Thus, I could not avoid publishing what follows:

 The University of Cagliari, Sardinia, will host an Indological Seminar in Cagliari, March 26 and 27, 2013. It will be the first official meeting of the Vrātya Project (focusing on alternative to the Brahmanical reform, in Jain, Buddhist and other texts; see here) and it is hoped that it will be a good opportunity for discussing the specific targets, the methodological framework and the selection of primary sources supposed useful for the planned research.

The sessions will start on Tuesday, March 26 at 9.00 and finish by 19.00 on Wednesday, March 27.
As far as the publication of the Proceedings is concerned, Participants are asked to kindly deliver their papers by June 15, 2013.

If you plan to participate, send an abstract (max 3000 characters) of your contribution by Tuesday, January 8, 2013, so that the pertinence of the proposed contribution can be evaluated in advance.

Everyone will be kept informed about the progress of her application, and about further necessary actions in time.

Kindly send your confirmation and the requested abstract to Tiziana Pontillo.

On the Vrātya project, see this post (containing also an appraisal of Dr. Pontillo), this post and this post.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Olivelle vs. Böhtlingk: Should we add words to a Sanskrit text if it is not understandable?

Is one allowed to add a word if the sentence just lacks sense, although no manuscript supports the proposed reading? My provisional answer, whenever I am tempted to change the text is: NO. It is much more likely that I am not understanding the text, rather than that the text is flawed.
However, we all know how unreliable manuscript traditions might be, and how extremely unreliable editions might be, especially if they are based on just a (few) manuscript(s).
An interesting example is the polemics about the first Indologists and their excessive audacy in emending texts, to which Patrick Olivelle dedicated vehement attacks in his Introduction to his edition of the Upaniṣads and in a 1998 article on the Journal of Indian Philosophy ("Unfaithful Transmitters", see here). Olivelle focusses especially on a passage of Chāndogya Upaniṣad (8.15.1), where Böhtlingk and, following him, Senart dared to add several words, because they could not make sense of the text. The text is in fact odd:

ācāryakulād vedam adhītya yathāvidhānaṃ guroḥ karmātiśeṣeṇa abhisamāvṛtya kuṭumbe śucau deśe svādhyāyam adhīyāno dhārmikān vidadhat |

The text apart from guroḥ karmātiśeṣeṇa means, at first sight:

After having studied the Veda according to the prescriptions, having returned from the teacher's home, reciting his own portion of the Veda in [one's] family, in a pure place, he should have virtuous sons.

But what could guroḥ karmātiśeṣeṇa mean? Böhtlingk in his Dictionary and in his edition of several Upaniṣads (1889a, 1889b, 1890a) postulated guroḥ karma kṛtvāviśeṣeṇa "after having performed an action for the teacher, in the undifferentiated [time]" (my translation, based on B's text). Senart followed him and even added sthitvā after kuṭumbe. Olivelle is quite against this "hubris" (his wording) in going against tradition. As partial apology of Böhtlingk, however, one might note that his first addition of kṛtvā is based on Śaṅkara's commentary (and hence, not only on his hubris):

guroḥ karma yatkartavyaṃ tatkṛtvā karmaśūnyo yo 'tiśiṣṭaḥ kālastena kālena vedamadhītyetyarthaḥ […] kuṭumbe sthitvā […]

Furthermore, I could finally understand the ChUp's wording through a later article of Böhtlingk (1897a Bemerkungen zu einigen Upanishaden BKSGW, available on, see here), where he goes back to the traditional reading and refers to Gautama Dharmasūtra 3.6: guroḥ karmaśeṣena japet. This Dharmasūtra does not add any further word and, therefore, it makes clear that guroḥ karmaśeṣa (and possibly karmātiśeṣa) had a fixed conventional meaning, possibly "the [time] remaing out of having performed one's duties towards one's teacher". It is also noteworthy that karmaśeṣa is a sāpekṣasamāsa, which needs to be connected with guroḥ.

What is your policy? When did you end up emending a text?

On my general policy, favouring the text over me as a reader, see No. 6 in this post.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Next Sanskrit-Philosophical projects

Do you have just goals you can achieve by yourself? If not, here are my current projects, to which you are welcome to contribute. I will regularly update this post and add your names, if you desire to join and to be mentioned. Please consider that only the first six have been already undertaken:

  • 1. Quotations and re-use of texts in Sanskrit śāstra. I have been working on this topic for several years and am about to chair a Coffee Break Conference about it (see here). The contributions will appear, if approved by the reviewers, in a special issue of the Journal of Indian Philosophy. I am now considering broadening the field to quotations and re-use of texts in Indian literature, including Veda, Belles Lettres and manuscript usages.
  • 2. Coffee Break Conferences, i.e., conferences which are only meant for discussing and without read papers. We organize CBC once or twice a year, on several topics. You can read about the next projects on this website.
  • 3. A panel on Testimony: I and the other two organisers welcome contributions on śabdapramāṇa in several fields, i.e., seen from the legal and philosophical point of view, in India and outside India. Further details can be read here.
  • 4. Editions and translations: Jayanta's Nyāyamañjarī, book 5; Veṅkaṭanātha's Seśvaramīmāṃsā, Prabhākara's Bṛhatī, Rāmānujācārya's Tantrarahasya.
  • 5. Finishing my study on vidhi, apūrva, niyama, in Grammar, Dharmaśāstra and Mīmāṃsā.
  • 6. A reader on śabdapramāṇa in Indian and Western philosophy. NB: I have already written a book about it in Italian and it would be great if one could add translations of key texts in favour or against Linguistic Communication as an Instrument of Knowledge.
  • 7. A textbook about how to translate śāstric Sanskrit (along the lines of Tubb and Boose's Scholastic Sanskrit), which should ideally include chapters on Reading śāstric Sanskrit (with textual examples and tutorials) and on the specific issues related to translation. For a blurb, see this post.
  • 8. A collective volume on Mīmāṃsā as a sāmānyaśāstra (i.e., on Mīmāṃsā rules and ideas as found outside Mīmāṃsā).
  • 9. A collective volume on Scholastic texts, i.e., on post-classical śāstric texts, e.g., on the struggle of doing philosophy after Kumārila, Dharmakīrti, Śaṅkara, etc., trying to balance innovation and strategies for preserving what is already there.
What are your projects? Do you have collective projects in mind?

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:

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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