Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Pratyabhijna and Philology*

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Pratyabhijna and Philology*

Article excerpt

A somewhat problematic book has recently been devoted to one of the most fascinating (and neglected) works of Kashmirian Saiva Advaita: the Sivadrsti by Somananda. This furnishes the occasion for broader reflection on the role of philology in dealing with the complex texts of the Pratyabhijna tradition (or perhaps in dealing with any philosophical-religious Sanskrit text).

Among the great works of Kasmirian Saiva Advaita, the Sivadrsti (SD) by Somananda is assuredly the one that has received the least attention from scholars. Only a comparatively small part of it has been translated: Ahnika I and II by Raniero Gnoli, into English (Gnoli 1957) and Italian (Gnoli 1959) respectively. A Hindi translation (with Sanskrit commentary) by Radheshyam Chaturvedi appeared in 1986, which however hardly meets scholarly standards. Utpaladeva's important Vrtti on it has never been translated. Secondary literature on the SD is equally scarce. Only one (unconvincing) monograph has been devoted to it--in fact, only to a part of the text, Ahnika V (Mayer-Konig 1996). A description of its content and investigation into specific themes can be found in Torella 2002: xii-xx, and 2009. See recently Nemec 2012.

On these premises, the book by John Nemec is to be welcomed by the growing community of scholars specialising in Kasmirian Saiva Advaita, and more generally by all scholars interested in Indian philosophy.

The SD is to be considered the first philosophical work of Kasmirian Saiva Advaita, its only predecessor being the Spandakrika, in which, however, the experiential and scriptural approach largely prevails over philosophical elaboration. The SD is unanimously recognized as the first work of the Pratyabhijna school, despite the fact that the word pralyabhijcna does not even occur in it. Abhinavagupta at the beginning of his Vimarsini on the Isvarapratyabhijna-karika (IPK) does not hesitate to say that Utpaladeva's masterwork is in fact only a "reflect" (pratibimba) of the SD. This is, of course, not to be taken literally, for, although the SD was a powerful source of inspiration for Utpaladeva, it is only with the IPK that the Pratyabhijna becomes a very original and elaborate philosophical system. In the Somananda-Utpaladeva-(Lakgnapagupta-)Abhinavagupta triad it was the last who largely overshadowed his predecessors. Among the Pratyabhijna texts, Abhinavagupta's IP-Vimarsini became by far the most "popular"--if I may use this adjective for one of the profoundest and most sophisticated worldviews that India has ever produced. The main victim of the success of the Vimrsini was the extraordinarily important Tad or Vivrti by Utpaladeva, of which only a comparatively small fragment has survived (Torella 2007a b c d, 2012). A reasonable number of manuscripts of Utpaladeva's short commentary (Vrtti) have come down to us, but, apart from a Malayalam manuscript, all the other manuscripts are incomplete. A similar fate has overtaken the SD: while a handful of manuscripts of the mula text are extant, no com-plete manuscript of the Vrtti that Utpaladeva devoted to it, humbly named Padasamgati, has survived, none going beyond IV.75. And without the help of Utpaladeva's Vrtti any endeavor to understand the SD proves to be fairly desperate.

Nemec's book is very ambitious, containing the first critical edition of Ahnikas I-III of the SD along with Utpaladeva's Vrtti, an abundantly annotated English translation, the first in any absolute sense of Ahnika III and of the Vrtti on the three Ahnikas. A lengthy introduction, various indices, and a copious bibliography complete the book.

Before starting the evaluative part of this review, I should like to sketch the profile of the ideal Pratyabhijna scholar as seen, of course, from my own viewpoint. The task awaiting the modern Pratyabhijna specialist is not an easy one. It has become increasingly evident that no serious study of Pratyabhijna philosophy can be carried out without taking into account the complex relationship of its tenets with the main lines of Indian philosophy as a whole, particularly Dharmakirti and the epistemological school of Buddhism, Bhartrhari, Mimamsa and the other major darsanas, aesthetic and linguistic speculation. …

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