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The Vedānta of Vīraśaivas

By Rohini Bakshi

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Dr Jonathan Duquette

Dr. Jonathan’s Duquette’s SOAS Sanskrit Reading Room session had a very intriguing title. It was the first time that I had ever heard Vedānta and Vīraśaivism spoken of in the same breath. While most of us have some idea of Vedānta and have at least a glancing familiarity with its key proponents – Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja and Madhva, Dr. Duquette’s almost rhetorical question – ‘Had any of you heard of Vīraśaivas prior to receiving this handout?’ landed on its mark.

He went on to explain that Vīraśaivas were a small, highly localised but visible sub-sect of South Indian Śaivism, situated in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Dr. Duquette’s focus was less on such identification and more on the highly technical and practically unknown Sanskrit texts that this community produced in the late medieval and early modern period. A Marie Curie Fellow at Oxford, his research of late has centred on Śivādvaita Vedānta, particularly on the works of 16th-century polymath Appaya Dīkṣita, whom he considers a central figure in the promulgation of this school of thought. As he talked us through the larger canvas of Vedānta, a picture began to emerge.

Flourishing after Śaṅkara (circa 8th century CE) Vedānta was dominated in the early centuries by Vaiṣṇava schools. Dr. Duquette marvelled at Vedānta’s unbroken tradition of creating new schools, all the way from the 8th century to the present day. However, not all of them received the same attention as Madhva’s or Rāmānuja’s. He pointed out that there were new schools, such as the 19th-century Anubhavādvaita, which have not received any attention at all. The Vedānta of Vīraśaivas seems to have suffered similar neglect.

necklace with linga
A Vīraśaiva necklace containing a liṅga

Vīraśaivism, Dr. Duquette told us, began approximately in the 12th century CE as an anti-brāhminical movement which rejected caste hierarchy, the sacrificial system, complex rituals, temple worship and the mediation of priests between devotee and deva. Their main devotional corpus were ‘Vacanas’ composed by poets, saints and mystics, including female mystics. Vīraśaivas suggested that anyone, irrespective of caste or gender could achieve liberation through bhakti (devotion) to Śiva alone.

The militancy of this movement, however, gradually gave way to the validation of Brāhminical social norms and caste identities. And this is where we were introduced to the core matter of Dr. Duquette’s talk. On the intellectual level, this shift was reflected in the composition of an increasing number of Sanskrit works that acknowledged the authority of the Vedas. They gradually integrated Vedānta terminology and concepts until such time as the scholars were able to articulate and defend a distinctive Vīraśaiva Vedānta.

While scholar-saints of the Vaiṣṇava tradition had been writing commentaries on the Brahmasūtras for a few centuries, the first such Śaiva text was possibly written in the 14th -15th century by Śrīkaṇṭha. Entitled Brahmamimāṃsābhāṣya it was the first commentary on the Brahmasūtras in which brahman was identified with Śiva. This text remained largely unnoticed for the next century or so, till Appaya Dīkṣita leveraged it for defending a definitive Śivādvaita position against Rāmānuja’s school.

One of the first Vīraśaiva texts to show a Vedānta imprint was the 15th-century Anubhavasūtra of Māyideva, which expounded the Vīraśaiva doctrine of a-sthala, the six stages or stations a devotee has to go through before achieving union with Śiva – called śivaikya or śivajīvaikya. While the Anubhavasūtra traces its origin not to the Vedānta tradition but to the Śaivāgamas, it displays a clear Vedānta influence, presenting Śiva as a non-dual absolute echoing the non-dual brahman of Vedānta. At the same time, it presupposes a  Śaiva metaphysics – the thirty-six tattvas recognised in practically every Śaiva school, the inseparability of Śiva and Śakti and so on. The text tells us that bhakti is important if you want union with Śiva, but jñāna, knowledge or gnosis, was essential too.

Before turning to the 18th-century Vīraśaivānandacandrikā of Maritoṇṭadārya, Dr. Duquette took us through excerpts from other Vīraśaiva texts written between the 15th and 18th centuries. This gave us a flavour of how the miśraṇa (blending) of Vedānta concepts and Śaiva bhakti was presented by Vīraśaiva scholars. The first was the aforementioned Anubhavasūtra of Māyideva (1.3):

avācyātmasvarūpāya śivabhāvapradāyine |

namaḥ sadgurunāthāya ṣaṭsthalabrahmamūrtaye ||

Obeisance (nama) to (that one) who is the embodied form of the six-station-brahman, lord of good teachers, whose nature is beyond speech [and] who grants devotees with the state of Śiva.

Here we see brahman, but not just any brahman – a a-sthala brahman, the concept of a-sthala (six stations or stages) being quintessentially Vīraśaiva. Elsewhere in the same text Māyideva praises Vedānta vākyas, i.e., the Upaniṣads. This short text influenced another important Vīraśaiva text: the Siddhāntaśikhāmaṇi of Śivayogi Śivācārya (15th-16th century), which expands the sthalas to 101 stations (ekottaraśatasthala) – each one related to Vīraśaiva doctrine or ritual. But at the same time, it goes further than the Anubhavasūtra in its acceptance of Vedic-Upaniṣadic texts and holds that Śiva is identical to the Upaniṣadic brahman; that Śaiva teachings are in perfect conformity with Vedic texts and have the same object as the Veda. Siddhāntaśikhāmaṇi (5.12-13ab) states that Śivāgamas (Śaiva scriptures) are vedasammata, i.e., in conformity with Vedas. They are veda-dharma-abhidhāyin (teach Vedic dharma) and veda-bāhya-virodhin (oppose that which is outside the Veda). It stresses the aikyam (unity) and ekārtha (singular goal) of Veda and Siddhānta.

Using a textual lens, we got to see how over a period of some four centuries Advaita Vedānta concepts were articulately melded with Śaiva concepts by Vīraśaiva scholars. This is the legacy that Maritoṇṭadārya upholds in his 18th-century text, the Vīraśaivānandacandrikā. Commissioned by the then ruler of Kelāḍi Karnataka, only one kāṇḍa of this massive text has been published (vāda-kāṇḍa) while the other two (kriyā- and kathā-kāṇḍas) are still in manuscript form. Dr. Duquette marvelled at the quality of the prose in this text. Whereas just four or five hundred years previously Vīraśaivas had been antagonistic to brahmin-hegemony, we now have this beautifully complex prose in the language of the brahmins par excellence – Sanskrit.

Vāda, Dr. Duquette explained, is a technical term typically used to denote a discourse where the intent of someone is merely to understand the “truth” of the matter, not destroy rival viewpoints. Structured in the form of a doxography, Maritoṇṭadārya’s vādakāṇḍa, which has twenty-five sections, is anything but what the term signifies! After laying out his general position in section one, the author goes on to discuss various aspects of Vīraśaiva ritual (Sections 2-9). Systematically rejecting other schools (Sections 10-24), including Vedānta (17-18), he explains in section 19 that Śiva is supreme. The author acknowledges the authority of the Śaivāgamas (20) but rejects Śaiva purāṇas as ‘tamasic’ (21). While acknowledging the need for Advaita, he rejects Śrīkaṇṭha’s Vedānta (22). In section 23 he rejects aikaśāstrya (the idea that pūrva and uttara mimāṃsā form a unified whole, a position held by Rāmānuja as well as Śrīkaṇṭha). Finally, in section 24, he agrees that Advaita Vedānta is desirable, but not in its current form – because what is really needed is the ‘Vīraśaivamata’ (25).

Once they are published and translated, it would be interesting to see how the other two kāṇḍas inform us about Vīraśaivism. Dr. Duquette stressed the need to read Sanskrit texts, so that we could find new ways of looking at things. His passion for Sanskrit was very apparent when he took us through some readings from the Vīraśaivānandacandrikā. Here is a sample from section one – the general position of Maritoṇṭadārya. By helping us to identify the verb, the subject, the object and some instrumentals, Dr. Duquette helped us make sense of what initially looked like an impenetrable maze, the length of the compounds being reminiscent of Bāṇa:

extract

The denominative verb ‘vyākulayanti’ indicates that plural kartṛ-s are confusing or confounding the most excellent of Vīraśaiva scholars (budhavarān). To find out how, we look for the instrumental that ends with parihāreṇa. Under Dr. Duquette’s able guidance, we saw that two sets of scholars, avaidika and vaidika, were the ones who were perplexing Vīraśaiva scholars. Let us see who they are and how they confound. The avaidikas are cārvāka, four types of Buddhists (caturvidha) – sautrāntika, vaibhāṣika, yogācāra and mādhyamika – as well as the Jainas (arhata). The vaidikas were of four types – jaiminīya, sāṃkhya-yoga, tārkika, and tāntrikas, the last being further subdivided into pāśupatas and pañcarātras.

How did they confound? By getting rid of (parihāreṇa) [internal] contradictions (virodha), doubts (saṃdeha), contrary cognition (viparyāsa), which were born from (janita) reflections (paryālocana) on the way (paddhati) that is the [Advaita Vedānta] doctrine (siddhānta) of vivarta-vāda – which held that the world is an apparent transformation of brahman – and this is in direct contradiction with what Śaivādvaita holds – which is that Śiva is dynamically the world, that there is a real transformation of Śiva into the world.

And how are the most excellent of Vīraśaiva scholars (budhavarān) described? They are the ones by whom the real meaning of the doctrine [revealed by] Śiva is worshipped (upāsita-śivasiddhānta-sārān) and those who have faith (śraddhā) linked to (anubaddha) the truth (tattva) of the six-stations (ṣaṭ-sthala). Further they follow (anukūla) the deep intent (tātparya) of Bādarāyaṇa muni who is the author (praṇetṛ) of the Brahmasūtras, a text which bestows wealth (sampatti-sampādaka), [the wealth that lies in] the correct interpretation (eka-vākyatā) of the means of knowlege (pramāṇa), which here is to be understood as the Upaniṣads. As we can see, Maritoṇṭadārya marries Vīraśaiva thought unequivocally and seamlessly to Vedānta to create a distinctive Vīraśaiva stance on this tradition.

Two hours were not long enough for us to get around to larger questions. How significant were Sanskrit texts in the Vīraśaiva community? How were they received? Were they revered by the lay community as well as the monastic order – in a manner so familiar in the larger Hindu milieu? How did the Sanskrit texts stand in relation to the Vacanas which continue to be the central devotional corpus of the Vīraśaivas, a community also known as the Lingāyatas? Although these questions were outside the purview of Dr. Duquette’s talk, he has placed us in a very good position to further explore various aspects of this little known Śaiva community.

Further reading:

Duquette, J. 2015. ‘Is Śivādvaita Vedānta a Saiddhāntika School? Pariṇāmavāda in the Brahmamīmāṃsābhāṣya’. In Journal of Hindu Studies, 1-28. Available on http://www.academia.edu

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Carakasaṃhitā: The value of multiple editions

By Sanyukta Shrestha

Now in its second year, Sanskrit Reading Room is an academic forum for Sanskrit researchers at SOAS, London, and beyond. This February 21st was special as it brought back Professor Dominik Wujastyk to SOAS, where he once taught, from the University of Alberta in Canada. His discussion was titled ‘Caraka on the special knowledge relating to flavours (rasa): applying hermeneutic techniques and digital humanities to the reading of ancient Āyurveda texts’.

Professor Wujastyk’s application of technology-assisted research in Āyurveda, and his decades of experience in scrutinising Sanskrit terminologies with reference to the history of Āyurvedic science is a treasury of knowledge for his audience. In reading Caraka’s seminal work, Caraksahitā, Professor Wujastyk could have focused on any one of his multiple interests from Indology to the history of medicine to the digital humanities. He chose to share some details of his research process while at the University of Vienna, where he spent around six years contributing to the study of the philosophy of medicine in precolonial India.

Professor Wujastyk described computer-generated stemmatic modelling of manuscript genealogy, similar to DNA modelling such as Philip Maas’s 2009 work. He also presented some of the innovative strategies for indicating variant readings, and technologies like the TeX system.

Carakasahitā consists of 128 adhyāyas grouped into larger units, the eighth and last of which, Vimānasthāna, is as big as all the rest put together. This section is prominent in the history of the birth of logic, which may have resulted from the work of Nyāya and Buddhist logicians, and it contains a great deal of philosophical and eristic material. Having researched the critical edition extensively, Professor Wujastyk translates the 1941 vulgate translation by the great yet much overlooked scholar Vaidya Yādavaji Trikāmji Āchārya. While the great Āchārya had consulted eleven manuscripts for the Bombay publication, the Vienna Project was able to consult 250 manuscripts. With recourse to both the critical edition and the vulgate, Professor Wujastyk is able to make, cumulatively, a very nuanced reading. It is here that with new technologies – algorithm and display systems – it may in the future be possible for readers to consult the archive directly for variant readings.

We read chapter one of the Vimānasthāna about tastes and their impact on our health. Analysing the relationship between the six canonical tastes (sweet, tangy, salty, bitter, spicy, acerbic) and the three canonical humours (wind, bile, phlegm), the text offers important explanations of how those equations help us define what is good for you and appropriate diet. Examples include whether one should laugh whilst eating (the answer depends on the variant readings) and why one should offer madhura – sweet flavour – to babies to knit together the fabric of their bodies.

Professor Wujastyk also discussed the challenges of translating Sanskrit texts. For example, he suggested that instead of ‘nature’ one might choose ‘affinity’ or ‘acquired nature’ as a better translation of the term sātmya. One of the many reasons for avoiding a translation of ‘nature’ is its complex nexus of meanings in English: ‘Boldly speaking, I believe that there is no concept of ‘nature’ in Sanskrit literature’. In what sounded like a continuous dilemma for Sanskritists (such as Francis Zimmermann translating the term rasa as ‘savour’ as opposed to Professor Wujastyk’s now-favoured ‘flavour’) the term vimāna in Vimānasthāna itself is problematic. Professor Wujastyk argued that, in this instance, the near to accurate translation of vimāna is ‘special knowledge’. Referencing mā-dhātu usages (‘to know’ rather than ‘to measure’) he considers vimāna a companion word to anumāna (inference) and pramāṇa (means to knowledge).

Professor Wujastyk argues that in a sense translation is technically impossible. He outlined the translation theory of Venuti and ‘the translator’s invisibility’; his aim is to understand completely in Sanskrit and to reproduce that understanding in English.

On this occasion we are fortunate to have a video recording of the full lecture. This recording is available on our Facebook page ‘Sanskrit Reading Room’ and an audio version will be on this website shortly. Please also look out for Professor Wujastyk’s forthcoming translation of the Vimānasthāna Chapter One.

Further readings

Dominik Wujastyk, 2003. The Roots of Ayurveda: Selections from Sanskrit Medical Writings. Penguin Books.

Vaidya Yādavaji Trikāmji Āchārya, ed. 1941. Caraksahitā. Nirnaya Sagar Press, Mumbai, India.

Jīvānanda Vidyāsāgara Bhattācārya, ed. 1877. Caraksahitā. Sarasvati Press, Kolkata, India.

The Rise of the Caitanya Moon

By Suhas Mahesh

The Sanskrit Reading Room welcomed Dr. Rembert Lutjeharms, Librarian at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, on Wednesday 14 February 2018. The focus of the session was Caitanya-Candrodaya, an allegorical play by the 16th-century Vaiṣṇava poet Kavikarṇapūra. Dr. Lutjeharms is an expert on Kavikarṇapūra, and we were treated to some very enjoyable and illuminating commentary as we took turns reading a selection from the play.

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The Life of Caitanya. Colour lithograph. Kolkata, circa 1895. British Museum.

The Caitanya-Candrodaya is an allegorical play. In simple terms, what this means is that various abstract virtues and vices of the mind are cast on stage as dramatis personae. The resultant factions, frictions, hypocrisy, humor and pedantry are used to paint a lively picture of the roilings of the human mind. The author usually guides the plot to underscore the philosophical message of his own school. The exemplar of this genre is the Advaitin Kṛṣṇamiśra’s Prabodhacandrodaya (The Rise of the Wisdom Moon), a delightful comedy, which does an extraordinary job of marrying dogma and drama. The full delights of the original are preserved in Matthew Kapstein’s Clay Sanskrit Library translation, which Dr. Lutjeharms recommended to us. Like the Gītagovinda, the Prabodhacandrodaya has been imitated by poets of different affiliations over a dozen times, but never surpassed. Our play of interest, the Caitanya-Candrodaya, is a prominent member of this genre launched by Kṛṣṇamiśra. As an aside, this appellation ‘allegorical’ has no counterpart in the Indian tradition. Strangely enough, Sanskrit poeticians, usually self-indulgent in categorisation, do not recognise the allegorical play at all.

The Caitanya-Candrodaya is a play (nāṭaka) in ten acts that describes the life of Caitanya. The nature of the play demands firm grounding in both literature and theology for a full appreciation. Keeping this in mind, Dr. Lutjeharms started the session with a brief introduction to Kavikarṇapūra and Caitanya, who were roughly contemporaneous. As with most Sanskrit poets, there is relative poverty of information on Kavikarṇapūra’s life. We glean some information from the Caitanya-Caritāmṛta, which narrates a few incidents from Caitanya’s final years in which the young Kavikarṇapūra was involved. A certain young Paramanandadas is said to have spontaneously composed a beautiful āryā in the presence of Caitanya, earning from him the title Ear Ornament of Poets—Kavikarṇapūra.                 

śravasoḥ kuvalayam akṣnor

añjanam uraso mahendra-maṇi-dāma

vṛndāvana-ramaṇīnāṃ

maṇḍanam akhilaṃ harir jayati

The blue lotus on their ears,

the kohl on their eyes,

the sapphire necklace on their chest—

all glories to Hari,

the entire ornament of the women of Vṛndāvana.

(Translation by Rembert Lutjeharms)

Dr. Lutjeharms explained that this connection to Caitanya makes the tradition treat Kavikarṇapūra as an extraordinary poet whose poetic talents flow from the grace of Caitanya. He certainly was extraordinary in many ways— he wrote his Caitanya-caritāmṛta-mahā-kāvya at the age of eighteen! Kavikarṇapūra has written at least five other works that are confidently his: the Caitanya-caritāmṛta-mahā-kāvya, the Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā, the Ānanda-vṛndāvana, the Kṛṣṇāhnika-kaumudī and the Alaṃkāra-kaustubha.

Dr. Lutjeharms also pointed out that Kavikarṇapūra is one of the few poets who also had a foot in alaṃkāraśāstra. His technical skill is undeniable. His Ānanda-vṛndāvana-campū is especially ornate, with nearly every page being dotted with yamakas (a poetic device of repeating sounds or words that have different meanings). This proclivity for ornateness and śabdālaṃkāra also shows up in the Caitanya-Candrodaya from time to time. The Caitanya-Candrodaya even begins with an ornately compounded passage that calls into doubt the stage worthiness of the play. Kavikarṇapūra even performs śabdālaṃkāras in Prakrit, which is unusual for a poet of his era. However, such sections are few; the Caitanya-Candrodaya is not a difficult read for those familiar with the kāvya register.

Dr. Lutjeharms briefly summarised the first act for us, which features Kali, the personification of the Kali age. Kali is seen with his henchman Unrighteousness (Adharma), lamenting the loss of his power with the appearance of Caitanya. He laments that all his henchmen, all various vices, are no longer in his control. However, as we see in the next act, Kali’s power has not completely waned.

The second act was the selection for the day. The act begins with the appearance of a depressed Dispassion (virāga), who is looking for shelter without success. He laments the loss of his friends – purity, truth and others – who seem to have vanished without a trace in the Kali age. He then goes on to lament the degenerate state of affairs with an attitude highly reminiscent of the cantankerous Kṛśānu from Viśvaguṇādarśacampū. He berates the Brahmins of the Kali age for their single-minded devotion towards gifts, and says that only they remain brahmacārins whom no one is willing to marry. This section elicited much laughter from the room.

Dispassion then successively meets a logician, an Advaitin and a yogin, who all fail to impress him. Dispassion proceeds to berate each one. Kavikarṇapūra handles these situations with a certain tasteful lightheartedness. Dr. Lutjeharms had explained to us that Kavikarṇapūra has the tendency to throw yamakas into charged situations, and sure enough, they were there:

atra hi bhūrayo rayojjvalapratibhāpratibhānti vidvāṃsaḥ । tadamī avagāhyāḥ vāhyā avāhyā vā ।

In the end, all three are summarily swept aside as being unsuitable for Dispassion. Kavikarṇapūra privileges Bhakti over all other, and this attitude shows up many times in Caitanya-candrodaya. According to Kavikarṇapūra, others, especially the Advaitins and the Naiyayikas, are guilty of empty debate that leads to delusion. Their lack of devotion in Kṛṣṇa is their failing.

While this was all good fun, Dr. Lutjeharms explained that Dispassion’s helplessness has a deeper significance: it foreshadows Caitanya’s renunciation in a later act, when Dispassion finally finds shelter in him. This renunciation is also mirrored in the language of the play— after the fifth act, the language too takes on a sober and ascetic character. The play was written in the later years of the poet, and is the work of a mature mind that weaves many strands of narrative together at once.

As Dispassion struggles to find a suitable refuge, he meets Goddess Devotion (Bhaktidevī), who informs him about Caitanya. With the appearance of the Goddess, the clock struck five and the session had to come to an end. I’m sure most of us went back home and read through to see if Dispassion finds Caitanya— I certainly did!


Dr Lutjeharms is preparing a translation of the Caitanya-Candrodaya. To read more of his work, see:

Lutjeharms, R., 2018. A Vaisnava Poet in Early Modern Bengal: Kavikarnapura’s Splendour of Speech. Oxford University Press: Oxford

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/a-vaisnava-poet-in-early-modern-bengal-9780198827108?view=Standard&lang=en&cc=il

Image credit: British Museum, 2003,1022,0.16. Printed in Kolkata. Album of popular prints mounted on cloth pages. Colour lithograph, lettered, inscribed and numbered 16. The print is subdivided into ten smaller images, each depicting Caitanya. He is portrayed several times with devotees, meditating, and performing darśan.

 

Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya: grammar and metaphysics

By Ruth Westoby

vakyapadiya sadhanasamudesha
Vākyapadīya. Cambridge University Library. MS Add.876

At the end of January 2018 Dr Vincenzo Vergiani travelled from Cambridge to London to share his expertise with a Sanskrit Reading Room packed with vyākaraṇa – Sanskrit grammar – enthusiasts. Dr Vergiani has been studying Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya for many years. He is shortly to publish a translation and study of the Sādhanasamuddeśa from the third book of the Vākyapadīya with the commentary of Helārāja. In this session we read some of the introductory verses of the Sādhanasamuddeśa after Dr Vergiani introduced the way in which Bhartṛhari deftly moves from the technical matters of grammar to the highest metaphysical concepts.

Despite being a philosopher with a complex metaphysical vision Bhartṛhari is associated with the Grammarians rather than a philosophical school. Bhartṛhari is the fourth in the Pāṇinian lineage following the trimuni and is dated to c. 5th century CE. Regardless of this association with Pāṇini the Brahmanical tradition was slow to incorporate his ideas, which first attracted the attention of the Buddhists led by Dignāga. Helārāja commented on the third book of the Vākyapadīya and it is Dr Vergiani’s contention that Helārāja sustains the popularity of Bhartṛhari, contributing to his influence on Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta’s Pratyabijñā or Recognition School in the 10th century.

Book one of the Vākyapadīya, the Brahmakāṇḍa, sets the scene which is developed in books two and three. Book two, the Vākyakāṇḍa, describes Bhartṛhari’s theory of language. Bhartṛhari’s most important contribution is his contention that the real unit of verbal communication is not the word but the sentence. This has various metaphysical implications and reflects a key aspect of the early grammatical tradition – the close observation of actual lived experience of human beings: we have an idea, we say words, and we understand them as a whole concept. Despite the basic unit of communication being for Bhartṛhari a sentence, he had to reconcile this with the Pāṇinian tradition which deals mostly with words. He argued we cannot describe language through sentences because they are innumerable and unique, so we should work with words on an analytical level. Thus Bhartṛhari links these two levels, words and sentences, with the presuppositions of Pāṇinian grammar.

Bhartṛhari’s central idea is that language and intellect are two sides of the same coin. The famous Vākyapadīya 1.131-2 states that there is no knowledge that does not conform to language. All knowledge is transfixed by language. Despite the disagreement of all other schools Bhartṛhari argues that even at the stage of reception of sensory data the mind organises it by linguistic categories. Even our sense of self is defined by linguistic categories: I and not-I.

Thus language and cognition cannot really be separated. And language is brahman, brahman is śabda. This nondualist view holds that language is the real, ultimate nature of brahman. Language is the organising principle of reality and the whole universe is the evolute of language. Language and cognition are never false or inferior. Recent Indian tradition and Indology have claimed that Bhartṛhari is a proto-Advaita Vedāntin. Dr Vergiani argued that though Bhartṛhari is a Vedāntin he in no way presented language as detached from ultimate truth. For Bhartṛhari the human mind is unable to grasp reality in its entirety: we can only operate by carving out whatever is immediate to our needs. Yet despite these limitations our language is still a reflection of the universal consciousness. Ordinary experience is of no less value than, say, yogic experience, it is simply fragmentary. There is no knowledge without language – it is not possible to have even the most basic instant of awareness without having language as an organising principle which gives it shape.

The mind is unable to grasp that everything is one with brahman and operates through distinctions: the subject and object. Even regarding the objects of the world (as a silent polemic against the Buddhists) we never get to know the thing itself. Because language steps in to give shape to the sensory data. We understand through received notions and expectations.

In the reading at hand Bhartṛhari develops the distinction the mind makes in cognising reality between things and actions. This is deeply rooted in all languages, expressed in grammatical terms as nouns and verbs. This fundamental distinction underlying things and processes is raised to a metaphysical principle which for Bhartṛhari is crucial: when brahman unfolds into the phenomenal reality (which is a beginningless process), the first powers to manifest are time (kālaśakti) and space (dikśakti).

Both Pāṇini and Bhartṛhari are cautious around the definitions of nouns and verbs. Pāṇini, Aṣṭadhyāyī 1.2.45, defines dravya (substance) as anything that can be indicated by a pronoun. Bhartṛhari, Vākyapadīya 3.4.3, defines dravya as anything that is referred to by a pronoun. Often what we are referring to is a whole series of events that can in no way be a substance. In relation to action, for Bhartṛhari, whether complete or incomplete in itself, it can be expressed as sādhya, ‘to be completed’. Patāñjali has a very interesting idea of action, accepted by Bhartṛhari, that real actions (‘he is making a pot’) are beyond perception because they are mentally constructed. Since action has temporal development (beginning, middle, end), perception only grasps the object in the various stages that it goes through but is never put together as a whole. The whole is put together by the mind. To take for example the sentence, as Patāñjali does in his Mahābhāṣya, ‘devadatta edhaiḥ sthālyām odanaṁ pacati’ (‘Devadatta cooks rice in a pan with firewood’). Whilst apparently a very ordinary sentence the event that is described is composed of several intermediate stages – the carrying of firewood, the drawing of water from the well, etc. This leads Bhartṛhari to the idea of the semantics of verbs. There is a core meaning which is the process that cannot be missed if you are using that term: e.g. √pac – something that was hard and inedible becomes soft and edible. In a sentence such as odanaḥ pacyate “rice is cooking”, that meaning is present even though there is no reference to human agency.

Dr Vergiani’s explanation of the opening verses of our reading, Vākyapadīya 3.7.1-2, was that Bhartṛhari emphasises what was found in the Mahābhāṣya: at any given moment we nominally focus on whatever is of immediate concern or benefit to our senses. The world goes on when we are not paying attention, and when we pay attention we carve something out and enumerate it.

Vākyapadīya 3.7.3 elaborates this to explain that the verbal expression of factors of action is based on states of mind. The mind perceives distinctions whether real or unreal in things. Dr Vergiani explained that the way we conceptualise and express any event in the world is a mental construct. The distinctions are the basic ones intrinsic in language. The example in 3.7.4 is where the speaker separates the Pāñcālas, which he had previously conceived as being with the Kurus, and now perceives them as moving away. In the Mahābhāṣya the ablative is used as a comparison of discussion – ‘the Pāñcālas are more refined than the Kurus,’ kurubhyaḥ pañcalāḥ abhirūpatarāḥ. Having put them together, then mentally separated them on the basis of certain characteristics, one group has a greater measure than the other.

Questioned about the pramāṇas of this text Dr Vergiani suggested that whilst you could distinguish pramāṇas for discursive purpose you could not really separate them because pramāṇas are infused with linguistic categories. When you see (pratyakṣa) a tree you only see the front – it is actually informal inference (anumāna) to assume it’s a whole tree. Dr Vergiani shared that what he liked about Bhartṛhari was that many of his comments appeal to common sense.

On the nature of action, sādhanatva, 3.7.38 states that whether agency is identical with or different from its substratum it is expressed as different; the world or common people consider language a reliable source of knowledge, and this śāstra follows that common sense. Common sense is the Grammarians’ – and Bhartṛhari’s – vantage point. Even if you are a yogin, and have gone beyond the concept of self, when you speak with someone you will have to call yourself ‘I’, and them as ‘you’. When grammarians look at language, cognition and epistemology, the direct reflections are always very close to the actual experience of people. The insight that understanding occurs to us in a flash, pratibha, rather than words strung together individually, is not an abstract idea but appeals to experience.

Whilst awaiting the publication of the translation and study of the Vākyapadīya if you would like to review the work of Dr Vincenzo Vergiani please see:

Vergiani, V., 2017. ‘Bhartṛhari on Language, Perception and Consciousness’, in Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy. Eds. J. Ganeri. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 231-252.

Vergiani, V., 2016. ‘Helārāja on omniscience, āgama and the origin of language’, in Around Abhinavagupta: Aspects of the Intellectual History of Kashmir from the Ninth to the Eleventh Century. Eds. Eli Franco and Isabelle Ratié. Berlin: LIT Verlag, pp. 531-608.

Vergiani, V. and Cox, W., eds., 2013. Bilingualism and cross-cultural fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in medieval India. Pondicherry: Institut français de Pondichéry: École française d’Extrême-Orient.

This includes Dr Vergiani’s ‘The adoption of Bhartṛhari’s classification of the grammatical object in Cēṉāvaraiyar’s commentary on the Tolkāppiyam’, pp. 161-197.

 

 

 

 

 

Balarāma Drags the River Yamunā

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By Dr. Peter Singer

The Sanskrit Reading Room welcomed Dr Simon Brodbeck from Cardiff University on 17 January 2018. It was the second time we had hosted a scholar from that institution and, as on the previous occasion (with Dr James Hegarty), we were treated to a fascinating and illuminating presentation based on a work-in-progress translation of a classical Sanskrit text – this time the Harivaśa of Vyāsa.

In strikingly lucid and thoughtful style, Dr Brodbeck, after first outlining the nature and structure of the Harivaśa (and drawing our attention to the basic issues in the text’s manuscript tradition), presented us with a detailed analysis of one particular episode, from section 83 of the work – the dragging of the river Yamunā by Balarāma – which he also contextualized within the broader narrative structure in order to highlight its salient themes. Three major strands in recent interpretation of the text were identified, and Dr Brodbeck’s own analysis – focussing especially on sexual violence as well as on psychological or psychosocial themes in the text – placed in relation to those.

The Harivaśa is a tailpiece to the Mahābhārata; it can be characterized in a way as a supplement containing the episodes of the legend not found elsewhere in the great epic (those which had nothing to do with the war between the Kauravas and the Pāņḍavas), and offering a range of other stories concerning Kṛṣṇa.

Our session had one particular episode from the Harivaśa at its centre, namely that in which Kṛṣṇa’s brother Balarāma drags or ‘ploughs’ the river Yamunā. At one level, the story is clearly an aetiological myth explaining the present course of the river and the fact that it fertilizes the plains of Mathurā and Vṛndāvana. But the narrative is replete with sexual imagery – Yamunā becomes a woman whom Balarāma violently assaults – as well as raising questions of the role and function of Balarāma in the narrative, especially in relation to his brother Kṛṣṇa; and it is these aspects especially that were explored.

Here, we considered Balarāma as an elder brother whose deeds and status are problematically ‘overstepped’ by the younger brother, Kṛṣṇa (with reference to parallel cases of such overstepping, e.g. that of Yudhiṣṭhira by Arjuna, which is central to the Mahābhārata). There is a psychological dimension here – how does Balarāma react to his younger brother’s exploits? – and it is relevant to observe how differently their exploits and experiences are presented in the narrative.

The Yamunā episode is immediately preceded by fight scenes against Jarāsandha, in which Balarāma’s plough plays an important role, and by Balarāma’s return to Vṛndāvana, which is presented as a sort of coming-of-age.

We may, however, contrast the depiction of Balarāma ‘enjoying himself’ in the forest with that of Kṛṣṇa. In an extraordinarily sensual scene, the latter is shown revelling in pleasures, including sexual ones, in a way that Balarāma is not. There is significance, too, in the way that the consensual nature of the activity is highlighted in this scene of Kṛṣṇa’s sexual abandon – he is presented, in quite explicit terms, as the object of sexual attention of a large number of cowgirls – and that this is thrown into relief by a scene immediately following (with bulls and heifers) highlighting the possibility and nature of non-consensual sexual activity.

When we come to the episode involving Balarāma and Yamunā itself, the sexual as well as the non-consensual nature of the encounter is clear. The plough itself seems clearly to be represented at some level as a phallic image. On some levels it is an incongruous choice of weapon, but one constantly associated with Balarāma in literature and iconography; indeed the name Halāyudha, one of several used for him in the narrative, derives from this. It is also conceived (from as early as the Ṛgveda) as distinctively the weapon against the wilderness, that which tames – again with specifically sexual connotations.

In this context it was interesting to consider the myth of Sītā emerging from a furrow ploughed by the king, her father Janaka, and the various interpretations that can be placed upon it. Should such a mythical account be taken ‘at face value’ – or perhaps as somehow co-existing with a natural birth account? Or should it be taken as purely metaphorical? In discussion some pointed to the prevalence of such non-sexual accounts in divine births throughout Indian mythology, and it was also suggested that there are kings who plough and sow in other Indian myths; Dr Brodbeck pointed to the sexual imagery in play in this use of ‘ploughing’, as well as to the standard linguistic usage associating ‘field’ with ‘wife’, and suggested that we should take the myth of Sītā’s birth as metaphorically representing natural, sexual reproduction.

To return to the episode itself: Balarāma’s importunate address to Yamunā, her intriguing response to it – where, in her reluctance to comply, she is described as ‘confused by her nature as a woman’ (strīsvabhāvena mohitā) – and the further verbal exchange between them at the end of the episode all rewarded further exploration.

Dr Brodbeck drew attention especially to the interpretive approaches of Couture, Vemsani and Sanford. Couture emphasizes the nature of Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa as aspects of Viṣṇu, and, in a deep theological interpretation, suggests that the destabilized behaviour of Balarāma in our scene – his tendency to invert the natural cosmic order – is due to his temporary separation from his brother. Vemsani meanwhile stresses Balarāma’s association with fertility cults, suggesting (what is not explicit in the text) that his main purpose was to reroute the river through Braj. Dr Brodbeck’s own interpretation was closer to that of Sanford, who pays attention to the psychosocial aspect of the episode, pointing out its violent dissonance with the ‘Braj pastoral’, and highlighting the themes of rape and of the plough as phallic image.

What, though, are we to make of that puzzling phrase strīsvabhāvena mohitā, with its implication that things could have been different if Yamunā’s response had been different – or, indeed, of her impassioned plea to be returned to her previous course after the assault (something dissonant with the sexual metaphor, since sexual acts in their nature cannot be undone)? Problematic, too, is Balarāma’s response to this, which seems to suggest that she should be happy, or at least at peace, because his fame will endure through her.

The first of these problems is particularly challenging. It seems to be implied that some response was possible whereby Yamunā was neither taken by force nor complied voluntarily – but what response? And is it that she does not see this possibility because she is a woman, or that she does see it, but because she is a woman, decides not to pursue it? The text is mysterious. Whatever the precise interpretation, it seems unavoidable to conclude that some deficiency is being attributed to the female Yamunā – a ‘deficiency’ which can, for the contemporary reader, serve at best as the mote which throws into violent relief the beam of Balarāma’s transgression.

Those present were grateful to Dr Brodbeck for a highly engaging textual analysis which at the same time provoked thought in relation to a number of areas – brother-brother relations, sexual imagery and sexual violence, metaphorical or literal interpretations of birth narratives, patrilinearity, the religious and psychosocial function of mythic characters – far beyond the confines of this particular text.

Dr Peter Singer is Research Fellow in Classics at Birkbeck, University of London.

 

For further work by Dr Brodbeck please see:

Brodbeck, Simon Pearse. The Mahabharata Patriline: Gender, Culture, and the Royal Hereditary. Routledge, 2017.

Brodbeck, Simon, and Black, Brian, eds. Gender and Narrative in the Mahabharata. Routledge, 2007.

 

Refutation of the Existence of a Demiurge God

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This Sanskrit Reading Room focused on a text by Ratnakīrti, the 11th-century Buddhist philosopher. He wrote the Īśvarasādhanadūṣaṇa as a refutation of a proof of the existence of a creator god propounded by the Hindu tradition. Dr Gorisse, a specialist in Jaina logic, set up the reading by firstly presenting some basics of the debating hall in Indian philosophy in order to prepare us for the vocabulary and discourse of the text. Then she presented the proof under discussion. Finally, she lead us through a line by line reading of one attack on this proof, in which we were able to get into the nitty-gritty of the form and semantics of the argumentative discourse.

Logical conventions

Firstly, Dr Gorisse explained that the basics of pan-Indian epistemology were very much influenced by the Nyāya school. It is the Nyāya Sūtra (c. 2nd-century CE) that is the reference manual for the definition of the pramāṇas, the types of cognition, amongst which inference (anumāna), the means to acquire new knowledge by reasoning, also constitutes the core of any philosophical argument. The Nyāya Sūtra teaches the only good way to state an inference:

pratijñā-hetu-udāharaṇa-upanaya-nigamanāny avayavāḥ (NS 1.1.32)

[Statement of] the thesis, the evidence, the account, the application and
the conclusion are the members [of reasoning]

This reasoned process is illustrated by the canonical five-step proof, sometimes called the “Indian syllogism”.

  • There is fire on the hill (pratijñā or thesis)
  • Because there is smoke on the hill (hetu or reason, evidence)
  • Wherever there is smoke, there is fire e.g. in a kitchen (udāharaṇa or justification, which consists in the statement of the vyāpti, the relation of necessary concomitance, between the two inferential properties ‘being endowed with fire’ and ‘being endowed with smoke’, along with an example)
  • So too in the case of the hill there is smoke (upanaya or application)
  • Therefore there is fire on the hill (nigamana or conclusion)

A basic familiarity with Naiyāyika theory is necessary to read the Īśvarasādhanadūṣaṇa, because Ratnakīrti engages with the terminology of Nyāya logic. However, Buddhist epistemology was fundamentally different to Naiyāyika in that the number of pramāṇas differed, as did the interpretation of those pramāṇas. And so Ratnakīrti’s complex argument, although built on the foundations of Nyāya logic, critiques those very foundations.

Furthermore, to read an Indian logic text, one needs to be alert to the features of literary style unique to this genre. Ablatives are used everywhere to indicate causal relationship in the sense of a logical cause. Copycat syntactic structures are employed to construct effective refutations. And philosophical texts have their own stock phrases, such as ‘nanu iti cet’, which introduces an objection.

The basis of the overall argument

Ratnakīrti’s text is a dūṣaṇa, a refutation. It addresses the Nyāya proof that there is a buddhimat, or conscious being, who has made the world and Ratnakīrti rejects the said proof as defective. The vivādādhyāsita, the subject under debate, in this proof consists of natural effects such as mountains, grass, or trees. The sādhya, or property to be inferred, is “buddhimaddhetuka”, namely the fact that there is a conscious cause even of these natural effects. Following the model of the above fivefold proof, the Nyāya proof goes more precisely as follows:

Thesis: Mountains etc. are produced by a conscious creator (vivādādhyāsitaṃ buddhimaddhetukam)

Evidence: Because these are effects (kāryatvāt)

Explanation: Whatever is an effect is produced by a conscious one, like a pot (yat kāryaṃ tadbuddhimaddhetukam, yathā ghaṭaḥ)

Application: And this [subject under discussion] is an effect (kāryaṃ cedam)

Conclusion: Therefore it is produced by a conscious one (tasmād buddhimaddhetukam)

Dr Gorisse pointed out that as Ratnakīrti’s subsequent reasoning unfolds, we can see the accretion of layers of argument like a geologist dates rocks – from Nyāya (2nd century) to Dignāga (5th-6th century) to Dharmakīrti (7th century) to Ratnakīrti himself (11th century).

Defective arguments

(A) First, the Naiyāyikas have at heart to show that their proof suffers from none of the five defects presented in the Nyāyasūtra, namely inconclusive (savyabhicāra), contradictory (viruddha), unestablished (sādhyasama), neutralized (prakaraṇasama) and inopportune (ātītakāla). During the session, we translated the section devoted to showing that the proof is not inconclusive, that it has no counter-example. Concretely, it is not possible that something which is an effect is not produced by a conscious being. There, Ratnakīrti asserts that there is such a counterexample, namely the fact that the grass – which is an effect, since it is constituted of parts arranged together – is growing, while no activity of a conscious maker is to be observed.

(B) At this point, Buddhists and Naiyāyikas engage in a discussion over the necessary conditions to legitimate an inference. The Naiyāyikas argue that it is not necessary to observe the co-presence of the effect ‘grass’ with its conscious maker since, in the standard example, the presence of a pot is sufficient for us to know that there has been a potter even if we have not seen this potter. In response to this, the Buddhists point that there is an important difference between the two cases, since we have never seen grass growing with the activity of a maker. And the Naiyāyikas hold their position, arguing that also in cases of specific types of pots that we have never seen produced by a potter, we would still agree that there was a potter at some point in their process of production. In the end, both participants agree on the fact that no certainty can be reached by mere observation in similar cases (sapakṣa) and non-observation in dissimilar cases (vipakṣa), which is a reference to Dignāga’s theory of the triple nature of the hetu. Instead, only from a reflexion from the very concept of pot, respectively of grass, can we learn about their origin.

(C) From this point onwards, it is from Dharmakīrti’s framework that Ratnakīrti challenges the Nyāya proof. According to Dharmakīrti, it is by virtue of being the natural property (svabhāva) or the natural effect (kārya) of the property to be inferred, that an evidence is probative. Concretely, only if “being an effect” is proved to be the natural property or the natural effect of “having a conscious producer”, can it be considered efficient in this proof. But here too, the disagreements persist, since Ratnakīrti rejects the fact that the evidence (being an effect) is a natural effect of the property being inferred (having a conscious creator) – on the basis that there are different class distinctions to ‘being an effect’ (a mountain, a pot, a temple, grass) and so a property such as ‘having a conscious creator’ cannot be extended to them all equally and that only a specific type of effect proves the presence of “having a conscious maker”. In contrast with this, Naiyāyikas defend the view that “effects in general” are the probative mark.

This illuminating Sanskrit Reading Room underlined the technically dense nature of theories of inferential reasoning and the necessity of training in specific reading strategies to decode a text of Indian logic.

For more work by Dr Gorisse, see:

Gorisse, M. 2016. ‘Logic in the tradition of Prabhācandra’ in the Oxford Handbook of Indian philosophy, Ganeri, J. (ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press

Pimps and Beggars: Poets through the lens of Sanskrit satirical verse

By Rohini Bakshi

IMG_4126SOAS Sanskrit Reading Room session by Dr. Lidia Wojtczak, Senior Lector in Sanskrit

In this provocatively titled session, building on an image from the Subhāṣitaratnakośa of the poet as a pitiful cātaka bird and the king as cloud, Dr. Wojtczak prompted us to re-examine our understanding of the poet-patron relationship in pre-modern India. The image posits the king as a generous patron who rains down rewards and the poet as part of an obsequious retinue dependent on the wealth that is showered. Dr. Wojtczak explained that the image gains traction with the establishment of kāvya, effectively overturning a previous relationship of ‘bard legitimising king’ which held sway in Vedic times. Through dhīḥ and manīṣā, Vedic poets are believed to have created the most exquisite compositions (brahman) extolling the devas (gods) who then bestowed sought-after gifts like victory in battle, wealth and progeny. Narāśaṃsa (the praise of men) was a marginal activity.

The gradual decline in Vedic ways of worship and the rise of kings and courts in epic times changed this balance. The praise of men, especially kings became important, but was left to sūta-māgadhas (charioteers and bards), vandins (praisers) and vāgmins (eloquent of speech).1 While these composers were essential to the courtly process, they most certainly did not share the status of Vedic kavis. Where did this leave royal poets in subsequent centuries? We see some continuity with epic times in Kālidāsa’s Raghuvaṃśa (17.15) which describes King Atithi at his coronation: “The moment he was praised by panegyrists (bandhibhiḥ)*, he looked as if [he had] grown in power, like a rain-cloud when it is saluted by cātakas.

Dr. Wojtczak quoted 6th-century alaṅkāra śāstras (systematic treatments of poetics) which register a balance of power between king and kavi favouring the poet as both a legitimising power and an immortalising one. In short, kings come and go but are only remembered through the works of an eloquent poet. Daṇḍin’s Kāvyadarśa (1.5) says “See here! Once it has obtained a mirror made of words, the reflection of the fame of the first kings does not perish, even when they themselves are gone” (trs. Wojtczak). Rudraṭa’s Kāvyālaṃkāra (1.4,5) adds, “When creating kāvya endowed with rasa, a great poet who is eloquent with blazing clarity will surely spread the fame of others the world over and till the end of the world.  Indeed, [the fame of all] that which has been made beginning with the abodes of gods, is destroyed over time. And so, not even the names of kings would survive, if there were no good poets” (trs. Wojtczak). Dr. Wojtczak is quick to clarify that these are normative texts about what poetry and poets should be like, and do not necessarily reflect reality.

At the other end of the spectrum are satirical works like those of Kṣemendra and Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita which present the poet in a far more derogatory manner; as a grovelling pathetic sycophant; a fraud who praises what should not be praised, shamefully prostituting himself and trading in the sacred word. The ‘poet as cātaka, patron as cloud’ image has two ramifications. One of the poet as noble and proud – after all, the bird will not drink just any water, but only water from the rain-cloud directly from the sky. The other, of the poet’s tragic fate. He is totally dependent on that source because if it does not rain, the bird will die. Dr. Wojtczak cites images from Vidyākara’s Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa illustrating this:

Oh cloud! The cātaka, for long has fainted, 
stretching toward you his upturned beak 
in the unsupporting sky. 
And yet, so far from finding rain, 
he has not even heard a kindly word of thunder.2

The cātaka flies at the cloud; he hears it roar,
endures its hail, endures its waves of lightning. 
He shakes his wings and cries out, piteous; 
all for how small a drop of water.3

Harsh as these images of poet as a pathetic beggar are, they are less damning than his portrayal as a pimp who prostitutes the sacred word. Really contemptuous images are to be found for example in Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita’s Kaliviḍambana. The work is a satire in 102 anuṣṭubh verses portraying the degeneration of various social groups in kaliyuga, including, of course, poets. According to Nīlakaṇṭha, kavis do not comprehend the essence of poetry; they do not understand guṇa (quality) and they abuse Vāṇī, the personification of speech. The following extract demonstrates:

Cowardice, vulgarity, parsimony, rudeness, want of acumen – 
poets, who are slaves for a handful of grain, can erase all of these [faults]. 
Poets who are eager to praise don’t need an impulse. 
Their tongues quiver if they are not eulogising something. 
Poets praise what has already been praised, 
by nature not understanding poetic quality. 
There is a certain insect called ‘bee’ – what is the use of additional description? 
Just one poem grants men a village, a horse, an elephant 
or, ultimately, food, clothes or betel. 
Some sell and others use frivolously the secondary form of Brahma known as ‘Speech’
which is embellished by being woven into a composition. 
Those men who use the Goddess of Speech 
to extol frauds once they have obtained her, 
are likely to yoke the wish-giving cow to a plough upon receiving her. 
Praising pretenders, distorting one thing into another, 
how can poets who claim the excellence of kāma even live? 4

Some of the most critical views on poets are to be found in the works of Kṣemendra, Dr. Wojtczak tells us. Quoting from his Kalāvilāsa, she says the criticism of men of letters is acute, their trade leading to dire consequences. Here one sees condemnation of poets who alter creation (sṛṣṭi) itself, much like Kṣemendra’s condemnation of poets who manipulate one of the primordial and most powerful forces of the cosmic order, Vāc, just for material riches.

By inspiring faith in others through eulogising excellence where there are defects, 
these boors, thieves of morality, masters of speech create a new world-order.5

One of Kṣemendra’s less known satires, Darpadalana goes one step further, describing the kavi as a pimp who prostitutes the goddess of speech for material gain.

Speech becomes a whore – decked with glorious ornaments and made into the instrument of others by poets motivated by profit who are in the service of kings.6

The session successfully pushed us to review our understanding of the poet-patron relationship in pre-modern India. The relationship as depicted in normative treatises on poetics was problematised. Far from the poet having the upper hand, or even a relationship of parity with his patron, it became clear that there were other dynamics in play. The financial dependence of the poet towards his patron could and did easily tip the equilibrium of the relationship. Dr. Wojtczak calls the satirical works a ‘rare case of textual counterbalance to normative treatises.’ She concludes ‘These satires were necessarily topical, crude, colloquial and possessed biting humour which may inspire wry smiles but had a tendency to leave a bitter aftertaste. The effect was exposing hypocrisies and punishing evils with the help of ridicule.’

(This blog is based on Dr. Wojtczak’s Sanskrit Reading Room session and an unpublished forthcoming paper.)
_____________________________________________________________
1 See Rāmāyaṇa 2.26.12 (Vulgate)
* bandin also written vandin
2 Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa 1080, trs. Ingalls 1965: 313, 314
3 Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa 1083 trs. Ingalls 1965: 314
4 Kaliviḍambana 33-39, trs. Wojtczak
5 Kalāvilāsa 9.34, trs. Wojtczak
6 Darpadalana 3.10, trs. Wojtczak