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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 Academia.edu help Indian Philosophy?

I have been recently asked about the role of the site Academia.edu 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, Academia.edu 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 Academia.edu? 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 Archives.org, 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.)

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?).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fellowships on Ancient India


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 on the island 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, please consider asking me or Dr. Tiziana Pontillo).
—You will need either a PhD or at least 2 years of research after the attainment of your MA degree.

For further detail on the project, see this post.

 
The competition for three annual Research Fellowships on the so-called "Vrātya
project" have just been officially announced on the Website of the University of Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy).

The deadline for submitting candidatures is November, the 15th, 2012.


For the relevant pieces of information, please refer to

1) http://unica2.unica.it/concorsi/index.php?page=assegni&bando=320
TRACES OF A HETERODOX CONCEPTION OF KINGSHIP IN ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL AND MODERN INDIA: VEDIC SOURCES
S.S.D. L-OR/18 INDOLOGIA E TIBETOLOGIA
SETTORE CONCORSUALE: 10/N3 - CULTURE DELL’ASIA CENTRALE E ORIENTALE


2) http://unica2.unica.it/concorsi/index.php?page=assegni&bando=318
TRACES OF A HETERODOX CONCEPTION OF KINGSHIP IN ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL AND MODERN INDIA: ICONOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTS
S.S.D. L-OR/16 Archeologia e storia dell'arte dell'India e dell’Asia
centrale
SETTORE CONCORSUALE: 10/N3 - CULTURE DELL’ASIA CENTRALE E ORIENTALE


3) http://unica2.unica.it/concorsi/index.php?page=assegni&bando=319
TRACES OF A HETERODOX CONCEPTION OF KINGSHIP IN ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL AND MODERN INDIA: ETHNOGRAPHIC AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL DOCUMENTS
S.S.D. M-DEA/01 DISCIPLINE DEMOETNOANTROPOLOGICHE
SETTORE CONCORSUALE: 11/A5 – SCIENZE DEMOETNOANTROPOLOGICHE

Further two five-months fellowships will be advertised in a close future.

Friday, October 26, 2012

South Asian-philosophical 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 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 by 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, October 24, 2012

Re-use in art and politics

(UPDATED)
Julia A.B. Hegewald and Subrata K. Mitra have edited a ground-breaking volume on a topic I am also working on since some years, namely the re-use. By this term they indicate all sorts of new usage of previous materials. Re-use can be done by reducing the previous materials to their basic constituents (e.g.: re-use of Indian jewelry by melting the gold and produce new jewels out of it) or by significantly taking their history with them (e.g.: re-use of a Jaina statue in a Vaiṣṇava temple to show that the Jainas have been subdued).
Since Hegewald is an art-historian and Mitra a political scientist, the volume interprets the topic of re-use along the lines of art-history and social sciences. Bridging disciplines is in itself one of the qualities of this book, and it requires courage and openness.

The basic idea of the book is the focus on re-use from history of art (where we all know of columns of ancient temples being reused for later buildings) to politics. Further, the book adds a social-sciences interpretation of re-use as a key to deal with the integration of the past or foreigner and as a litmus test to check the level of anxiety felt by a group of people in regard to the past/foreigner.
Chapter 1 is a summary of the other chapters, and is useful insofar as it interprets them in the light of the general idea. In this way, the chapters (which are sometimes not directly about re-use) can be re-read in a way which is perhaps more interesting to the reader. The editors add little or no critical comments to the summary, but the few they add are enlightening. For instance, in fn. 18 they indirectly criticise Nayak's construction of a "pure" folk art in Orissa, contrasted to today's commercial developments of it (see below).
Hegewald and Mitra's contribution in Chapter 2 is very interesting, since it shows how a social-sciences approach can throw light on the re-use in art history. The first parts (on Jaina temples) are really enlightening, whereas the later part (on Jagannātha) is slightly less focused on the topic of re-use.
A much more important lack of focus affects many other contributions, which, interesting as they are, seem to be only a posteriori related to the topic of re-use. An interesting exception is Nick Barnard's contribution on the re-use of Indian jewels in UK during the Empire. Prasanna K. Nayak's depiction of a golden age of pure folk art in Orissa clashes (in this writer's opinion) strikingly against the volume's stress on re-use as a neutral category and goes back to the stereotype of the "good old times".
In general, the other contributions are interesting and well-documented, but, as already hinted at, less closely related to the topic. The introductory chapter is the best way to connect them to the topic.
In sum: a MUST for everyone interested in this less-studied topic.

For a summary of my own research on the topic of re-use (of texts), see this post.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sequence in the study of Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta in Vedāntadeśika's Seśvaramīmāṃsā

UPDATED!!!
At the beginning of his Seśvaramīmāṃsā, Vedānta Deśika discusses the unity of Pūrva- and Uttara-Mīmāṃsā (also known as Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta). Having established it, he needs to explain why one necessarily comes before the other. It seems that one must start with the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā because one needs to start with what is principal, given that the Vedas themselves start with ritual actions (for the Upaniṣads come at the end of the Vedas). Vedānta Deśika adds an example: "according to the rule of the Sārasvata auxiliary sacrifices".

The passage I am referring to in the Seśvaramīmāṃsā runs as follows:
 
atha ca karmopakramatayā prāyo vedānāṃ taditikartavyatābhāgayor api sārasvatāṅganyāyena mukhyakramānusārāt […] karmavicāraḥ pūrvabhāvī.

Then, the investigation on the ritual action comes first because one follows (anusāra) the sequence of what is principal (mukhya), according to the rule (nyāya) of the auxiliary [sacrifices] (aṅga) to Sarasvatī  and Sarasvat, among the two parts constituting their procedure (i.e., the PM and the UM?) on the basis of the fact that in general the Vedas start (upakrama) with the ritual action. 

The Śatadūṣaṇī is almost identical:

 kramam apekṣamāṇaṃ svādhyāyānāṃ sarveṣāṃ prāyaśaṃ karmopakramatvāt sārasvatāṅgavat  mukhyakramānurodhena.
What are these sacrifices to Sarasvatī and Sarasvat? Andrew (see comments) and Kei Kataoka (via personal email) made me aware of a debate in the ŚBh (ad 5.1.14) and in further Mīmāṃsā authors. Śabara starts by  discussing the case of a prescription in the Taittirīya Saṃhitā concerning two sacrifices, one to Sarasvatī and one to Sarasvat. The upholder of the prima facie view (aka pūrvapakṣin) states that there is no restriction concerning their order and that one can, hence, perform first either the one or the other, as one wishes. The concluding opinion, however, established that the order of this auxiliary sacrifices should be the same as the order of the primary sacrifices, which is prescribed in an earlier passage of the Taittirīya Saṃhitā. Similarly, although Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta have both to be studied, nonetheless one cannot start with whimsically with either the one or the either.

 Reading Vedānta Deśika makes me feel (again) like a neophite, who knows little of the background that the author thinks to be obvious and shared by all his readers. This is even more embarassing when I have to find out that he was referring to a Mīmāṃsā rule…

On Vedānta Deśika on the unity of Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta, see this post. On another instance of my lack of comprehension of Vedānta Deśika's background (and on Vidya's help on it), see this post.

Friday, October 19, 2012

“Traces of an Heterodox Concept of Kingship in Ancient, Medieval and Modern India: Conference Call

At the University of Cagliari, a three-years project on “Traces of an Heterodox Concept of Kingship in Ancient, Medieval and Modern India ” is now starting. The coordinator of the project is Tiziana Pontillo, who is not only an excellent scholar of Indian Grammar, Rhetorics and of the early India history, as mirrored in texts, but also an intelligent and open-minded scholar, always keen to learn, curious and well-disposed towards the others. She has organized two conferences to which I participated and both were a scientific success and also a very pleasant experience.

The University is planning to organize a short Seminar on this topic on March the 26th and 27th, 2013 and welcomes contribution on the main topics of the project (see immediately below an adaptation of T. Pontillo's presentation of it, with emphasis added by me). I can only add that Cagliari is a wonderful town and worth a visit anyway.

PRESENTATION OF THE PROJECT
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 the social
patterns and ritual practices of contemporary India, which are assumed to date back to the age preceding the well-known classic hierarchic system. Moreover, a crucial parallel target is to try to reconstruct the assumed ascetic and gnostic non-brahmanic pattern which might have been merely marginalized in Vedic and late Vedic Literature, by stigmatizing it with the name of vrātya.
The following are the main starting operational targets that this project aims at:

1. VEDIC AND LATE VEDIC SOURCES
We intend to widen the available collection of Vedic and Late Vedic occurrences which testify the existence of a system, whose model has already been adopted by Heesterman from 1962 onward (in particular through the new details and insights added by Falk from 1986 onward), in order to depict the “pre-classic” bloody sacrifices which were supposedly connected with conflictual and reciprocal relations. Special attention should also be paid to the alternative hypothesis according to which the supposed reform was the outcome of a clash between two distinct branches of the immigrant Indo-Āryan population (supposed on the basis of the two-wave theory by Parpola 1983), reconsidered in the light of the late-Vedic fresco recently painted by Bronkhorst 2007 and of the relevant criticisms especially arising from his innovative relative and absolute chronologies (see, e.g., Witzel 2009).
Furthermore we aim at inquiring into the origin of the late Vedic “contestation between brahmins with each other” highlighted, e.g., by Bailey 2011, verifying if it is connected with the opposition between the so-called śrotriyas, who, by the way, refuse any gift (see, e.g., Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa XIII.4.3.14 and Śāṇkāyana-Śrauta-Sūtra XVI. 28-29) and the officiants who were used to accept and even solicit for donations.

2. PĀLI AND JAINA SOURCES
It also seems compulsory to extend an available preliminary collection of Pāli and Jaina occurrences into the context of this same project, testifying the existence of a kind of asceticism which partially matches with that emerging from the Atharvaveda-source on the Vrātya or with some Upaniṣadic passages. For instance, such formulas as “to become Brahman”, “to become god among gods” and “to have brought the Brahmacārya path to an end”, which are included both in Vedic Sources (Yajurveda Saṃhitās, Brāhmaṇas and Upaniṣads) and in the Bhāgavadgītā and in the Pāli Canon, might have hinted at a remote shared religious (and, as a consequence, social) scope of life and of meditation, before than the legitimation of being a brāhmaṇa switched from individual abilities, such as poetical and ritual prowess, to the lineage of birth (Falk 2001, p. 133).

3. EPIC, KĀVYA AND PURĀṆIC SOURCES
Furthermore, we have evaluated till now a small collection of Epic and Purāṇic occurrences, already at our disposal because of some previous inquiries, as possible pieces of evidence for an ephemeral compromise between the gṛhastha-path (as an output of the ancient cyclical sacrificial pattern) and the feared tapas-way, before the rising of the winning and lasting Brahmanical inclusivistic Varṇāśrama-system. In this context, for instance, particularly intriguing seems to be the case-study of the conversion ceremonies which Vaiṣṇava sources seem to hint at, if we assume that they can descend from ritual practices which preceded the so-called “Brahmanic reform” as a more recent
rearrangement. Furthermore we are eager to inquire into the figure of Kṛṣṇa as a very peculiar worshipped god, who, at the same time, plays the role of an important kingly warrior who might have been the leader of a vrāta (i.e., a sort of Männerbund), considered to be the embodiment of a god by his followers. The so-called Brahmanic Reform might have transformed these relevant Cults, so that they result as inherently conforming to the orthodox Brahmanic religion, almost tuning the “low” tradition to the official one. In this context we think that it will be crucial to distinguish the peculiarities of the Early Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava Tamil bhakti 6th-12th c. CE, which is often confronted with Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism in the Tamil tradition itself. In fact, this South-Indian Literature could be assumed as a possible repository for unorthodox speculative and religious features which seem to have been lost in the Indo-Āryan sources, as happened with regard to, e.g., some
Southern traditions of otherwise lost Vedic Schools (cf. Parpola 1984).
Furthermore, we propose to read some specific Kāvya-passages as the consequence of the well-known self-consciousness, so typical of the long and complex Indian tradition, which has interpreted and re-interpreted itself many times. In fact some authors such as Aśvaghoṣa might have tried to remind their listeners that their ancestors’ course of life and religious credo were closer, e.g., to the Buddha’s way, than they were aware of, while it was extremely distant from the contemporary Brāhmaṇa-oriented reform, in order to encourage a fresh relation between Buddhist- and Brāhmaṇic-dharma, based on a supposed shared past.

4. ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ARTISTIC SOURCES
It is self-evident that any archaeological or artistic piece of evidence which can contribute to revealing the unorthodox kingly tradition and the marginalized non-Vedic asceticism is really intriguing for our purpose. Additionally a research program expressly devoted to creating a catalogue of all the features of the ‘feminine principle’ involved in the legitimation of kingly power seems to be likewise promising, especially in order to compare the Vedic data regarding the ritual context with the votive artistic production, such as the case study of Karṇāṭaka temples dating back to the IX-XIII c. CE (chalukya-hoysala style).

5. ETHNOGRAPHIC SOURCES AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL PATTERNS OF
RESEARCH
Since the first appearance of Frazer’s The Golden Bough, in 1890, which brought the case study of the Rex Nemorensis to the fore, this type of ascetic agonistic sovereignty became the leading theme for a cluster of researchers, such as J. Harrison, G. Murray and F. Cornford who made a particular effort to highlight a fierce ritual contest behind the framework of ancient Tragedy and Comedy. Later on, special attention was given, e.g., to the figure of Pelops, moving from Lidia to Greece, as the alleged prototype of the king-warrior, magician and god incarnate, tellingly coming from the “barbarian” Aswia. Consistently the notion of orientalism inaugurated by Said (1978) has recently been advocated, while linking the mystical tyrannical sovereignty model to the latter one (Munn 2006). In this field of research where the vrātya king has already been associated with the Teutonic Wotan-band (Heesterman 1957, 1985), papers on the sacred marriage, on the devadāsī institution, on the recurring marginalization of human beings declaring themselves “divine” in ancient Greece and Rome, and on the classical figures of pharmakeis such as Socrates would be of great help.
Shifting from issues of comparative purport to a strictly speaking Indian social reality, the inquiry into the extant jajmānī relationships will naturally play a crucial part in allowing the exploration of the possibility that they can be accounted for as a relic of a ‘non-reformed’ reality, i.e., a sacrificial system based on the symmetrical type of gift giving. Along with the figure of the funeral priest (mahābrāhman) accepting gifts in contexts of sacrificial violence (Parry 1980, 1994), unorthodox marriage alliances should be specifically focused on, by supposing that they mirror an apprehensive strong cultural autonomy with respect to the hindu asymmetrical gift of the virgin” (kānyādān), whose ideological (brahmanical) hallmark, as is well-known, is the institution of hypergamy, stressing inequality between wife-givers and wife-takers. Moreover, with regard to contemporary India, although the research is thus mainly oriented to investigating power relations which function within a kind of social cooperation imbued with a religious semantic which strongly defies all the
alleged socio-economic transformations that occurred during the colonial period and were strengthened by the green revolution, the seminar is not intended as an intellectual place where contributions attuned with the Marxist-Béteille line of investigation are to be dismissed. In this respect, a useful canvas for a seldom practiced dialogue might be provided by MacDougal’s article of 1980, where precisely the interaction between the dominant-caste and the reach-peasant models is precisely taken into account, by wondering whether they really are inspiring tools for everyday practice or are rather merely for theory-construction and comparative research.


PRACTICAL INFOS
Speakers will be assured local hospitality and, within the limits of the available funds, financial assistance will be provided to support their travel expenses.
The Proceedings  will be published.
For further information and for applying for the Seminar, please send an email to Dr. Tiziana Pontillo.

On Jainism and its connections with the prehistory of ascetics, see this post and this one (be sure to read the interesting comments). On Āgamas and antagonistic strands, see this post.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

kim pūrvamīmāṃsā, uttaramīmāṃsā ca ekam eva śāstram?


किम्पूर्वमीमांसोत्तरमीमांसा चैकमेव शास्त्रमथवा द्वाौ भिन्नौ शास्त्रौ ? इति वेदान्तदेशिकस्य प्रश्नः स्वसेश्वरमीमांसारम्भे ।
वेदान्तदेशिकमते तावेकमेव शास्त्रम्, तत्कर्तृभिन्नत्वे ऽपि । क्रमश्चोपपद्यते, यतः मुख्यं प्रागेव भाव्यमिति । परन्तु, किमर्थम् पूर्वमीमांसा, तद्विषयो वा मुख्यं भवेत् ? वेदानां कर्मोपक्रमत्वादिति । ("सारस्वतांगवद्"इत्यप्युक्तं किन्तु सारस्वतांगार्थः कः इति न ज्ञातं मया)
अपि च, पूर्वमीमांसा कर्मविषया, उत्तरमीमांसा तूपासनविषया । कर्मविचारपूर्वकश्वोपासनविचारः । किमर्थं न केवलं कर्मणि विचारः इति चेत्, न, कर्ममात्रेण फलस्य न सर्वदा लब्धत्वादित्युत्तरम् । अत एव लोकस्य बुद्धौ "किं कर्म स्वफलप्राप्तये उपयुज्यते, अथवा नोपयुज्यते ?" इतिविचारः उदितः । ततः मीमांसाशास्त्राध्ययनेच्छोदिता । तत्पश्चाल्लोकः "कर्मणा एव न फलः प्राप्त" इति निश्चिनोति । तस्मादुत्तरमीमांसाध्ययनारम्भः ।

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Should you publish your article now?

Is the article ready, or does it need further revision? After having been working for weeks/months on it, one is often no longer in the position to say whether it is "ripe" enough to be sent in the world. In the best cases, one has thoughtful readers one can send one's draft to. If it meets their approval, it is ready. But in some cases, the opinions of the test-readers might significantly diverge (from "it is innovative" to "I don't understand anything in it"). Furthermore, how does one know whether it is time to send the article to one's test-readers?

The following ones are my thumb-rules:

  1. 1. Time: If I have only worked on it one week and already think it is ready, I just refrain from reading it for a couple of days and then go back to it with a fresh mind. I know from experience that nothing is ready so soon and that if I think it is, I am mislead. By contrast, if I have been working on it for two years, it has to become a book and not an article. (My ideal timing for an article lies, thus, between four weeks and eigth months –but this is very subjective and depends on how well one knows the topic).
  2. 2a. Know yourself: Are you a perfectionist? Then remember that a slightly faulted contribution is better than no contribution at all. You have something to add to the discipline and the fact of withdrawing it for months or years because it could be even better, does not do any good to the field of South Asian studies.
  3. 2b. Know yourself: Do you tend to be too superficial? Hold on the article for a little bit longer. Read it again after one or two days, once you are no longer too much into it. Consider possible objections and, more importantly, proof read it. In the age of automatic correction and computer, there are not so many good excuses for a poorly written article.
  4. 3. Consider what has been written on the subject. Do you add something valuable? If yes, (proofread and) have your article published. If you have not taken into account what other scholars have written about the topic you are working on, you ought to do it, at least at this stage. It will, by the way, significantly improve your article.
  5. 4. Don't publish an article if it is merely descriptive. No one needs to know about the plot of a novel, or the outlook of a temple, or the number of lines in a manuscript, unless you have a point to make through it (e.g.: the number of lines increases of one after the tenth folio, just like in similar manuscript of the same area, thus hinting at a distinct scriptorium…).

I guess some readers will disagree with the last point. I would be grateful if we could start discussing it.

How do you know whether an article/… is ready? What works for you?

For my praise of reading more, see this post. On descriptive articles, see this post.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hoarding Indological ideas

Do you cover your computer screen if a colleague comes into your room? Or are you ready to see that someone has stolen your ideas? Or somewhere inbetween?

Personally, I like acknowledgement, but I am generally happy to "delegate" ideas, since my projects for South Asian studies, Sanskrit and Philosophy are far too ambitious to be realised by me alone and I would be happy to share their burden with others.

In case you are intrigued by the topic, here is an interesting post about it (reposted from here):

Recently I’ve heard academics say the kind of thing I once heard only from wildly amateurish writers: “I don’t want to reveal too much about my work, because I’m worried about people taking the premise/title/idea/template for themselves.” I’m worried that scholars are being encouraged to be hoarders of ideas.
The academic version of  Hoarding: Buried Alive goes something like this: You had a terrific, groundbreaking idea for a conference paper in 1997. Let’s call it the “Vortex Theory of Sexual Innuendo,” or V.S.I. for short.
That’s how you imagined others would refer to it in their dissertations and footnotes once the theory manifested the intellectually scorching, cross-discipline “wildfire” effect you knew it possessed. The V.S.I. was destined to establish you as one of the leading scholars of your generation.
You still remember the heat with which you wrote the three-page proposal, which was returned by the conference organizers because it had arrived after the deadline. (“So sorry we couldn’t consider your interesting perspective on this important if unusual topic!”) The idea had come to you as you were leaving the library one snowy November morning, after having seen a beautiful undergraduate with almost lashless eyes raise a young face to the dreary sky.
You kept the idea—and the actual pages—in a file crammed into an office cabinet. You also scanned a copy into your computer.
Every couple of months you remember the premise and think, “I should really do something with that.” Then you forget about it until: (1) You read a recently published article or book review touching on a concept with any kind of remote similarity, no matter how broad (for example, the book being reviewed refers to “sex”); or (2) Somebody asks you whatever happened to that theory you had about vacuums and gender, which causes you to launch into a 40-minute explanation of how you arrived at your rationale.
But you’re not going to do anything with it, are you? You’re just dragging it around with you, wiping it off every once in a while but not enjoying it or making actual use of it. It’s not helping you or enriching anyone else’s experience of life. If anything, you feel guilty; it torments you, like the chains Jacob Marley forged in life.
Like the thousand china unicorns the poor souls on Hoarding keep in shoeboxes and the 906 Dunkin’ Donuts travel mugs in the bathtub, inert ideas can clutter the minds of academics until there isn’t room for anything new. That’s when we start tripping over ourselves and falling down on the job.
I believe we need to clear out our ideas on a frequent basis. Anything about which you’ve told yourself more than five times, “I’ll get to that one day, when I have more time” is something to question and, more than likely, relinquish.
Some of those ideas are stale. Many are past their expiration date. You can tell yourself that what now seems out of fashion will one day become stylish, but that happens rarely, and only when what is being rediscovered was fabulous in the first place.
“Classic,” like “vintage,” is not a term used lightly by those in the know. Schiaparelli from 1937 is vintage; Dooney & Bourke from 1990 has just been kicking around for a while.
Certain kinds of cherished but unfinished intellectual projects are much like a 40-pound ball of rubber bands or a box of VHS tapes from 1985. Maybe at some point they had a purpose.
But there comes a time when we should use them, donate them, share them, or toss them. We should stop treating the products of our research, observation, and contemplation as if they were precious objects.
Let them go: Give them to your students, your colleagues, your friends, or anybody who might be able to make something from them.
Imagine what you’ll be able to do when freed from the guilt, the burden, the crowding, the clutter of your old stuff. What might the clarity offer? Say goodbye to your version of V.S.I., and you’ll be thankful you did.
Gina Barreca is a professor of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut.

How do you feel about hoarding vs. delegating? I suspect this has very much to do with whether one focuses on one's career or on the advancement of the discipline, but I might be wrong. What do you think?

On delegating ideas, see this post. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A list of dislikes in (Indological) presentations

I have frequently repeated that reading is just not acceptable in conferences. Now, I would like to address the opposite risk: the speaker who has attended a class on public speaking and believes that he has most of all to be entertaining.

I know, in each book and website about how to reach the next level in your presentations and/or blogposts and/or in your speaking skills, you will read that you have to tell stories, be personal, use images. However, if you are like me, you might instead agree with what follows:

  1. 1. Unless you are a dear friend, I do not care about you as a person. I came to listen to you as an intellectual. Don't waste my time (and yours) with stories about your pet, your spouse, your relatives and friends. Go to the point instead. You *can* be interesting and captivate your audience also with your ideas.

Yes, you are right if you object that some stories are pertinent and can make the point appear even more vividly. I am not referring to these ones, but rather to the ones which one inserts because she has been told that she has to do it, and be personal and entertaining.

  1. 2. Just like I don't care about you, I also don't care about anyone else's personal stories. Avoid meaningless photos, images, short films. Also avoid whatever has nothing to do with your message. Don't force me to try to concentrate notwithstanding the music in the background, the smell of cookies and whatever else.

Once again, images can be essential to the message (for instance, if you are talking about manuscripts, or artistic artifacts). I am not referring to these cases.

I know, you might say that I am a highly intellectual and analytical kind of person, and that this is why I do not appreciate sense-stimulations. This is true. But, my main problem with images, etc., is that they shoudl not be off topic. Furthermore: please consider, before backing your cookies, that many listeners in a scholar presentation, will be analytical people.

  1. 3. I am not like you. Don't try to force me to think that we are alike with expressions such as "Does not this sound familiar?" or "I am sure that every morning, when you wake up, the first thing you do is…". This sort of captatio benevolentiae will only make me suspicious.

As already mentioned, this does not apply to real common points. Sven Wortmann recently delivered a very nice talk about the didactic of Sanskrit and described the 19th c. style of teaching, i.e., explanation of grammatical rules and translation of sample sentences. It was really an experience we all shared and he could easily refer to it. I am only against made-up common traits.
However,
  1. 4. This does not mean that you have to be boring.

What do you think? How do you react to this sort of presentations?

On my ideal of conferences, see this post, this one (both with great comments), this one (on the WSC) and this website. On my tips for presentations, see this post and this one (and their comments).


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