What are the conditions for reusing texts? And what are the reasons for making reuse explicit? UPDATED

What determines the likelihood of textual reuse to occur? The genre, the time, the personality of the author? And what are the reasons for not naming one’s source?

The following elements had been discussed at the round table after the panel on reuse (about which see this announcement and these comments right at the end of it) at the IABS conference:

  • genre: it seems that philosophy is a special case, in which literality of quotations is especially evaluated, whereas commentaries on religious texts are mid-way (as shown by Jowita Kramer) and religious and ritual texts reuse more freely (as shown by Cathy Cantwell). Petra Kieffer-Pülz observed that genre plays no role in Pāli literature (whereas time does, see immediately below). Paul Hackett noticed that within tantric literature of all religious trends, reuse is so extensive, that even chapters’ numbers which make no sense in the new environment may be copied.
  • authorship: unexpectedly, even a strong concept of authorship, as the one common in kāvya does not prevent a free reuse, since the readership still regards authored texts as it regards other kind of texts (as shown by Camillo Formigatti using the example of the avadāna-collections)
  • time: surprisingly enough, Petra Kieffer-Pülz’ findings concerning Pāli harmonise with my own ones on Sanskrit and confirm that after a certain century, authors tend to be much more specific as for their sources, explicitly mentioning author’s and work’s names. When does this change take place? Petra suggested “after the 14th c.” in Pāli literature. I would say even before that in Sanskrit literature, that is, around the 11th c. (see however below, fn *, for the proposal that the turn can be traced back already to Dignāga). Further views on this topic: Philipp Maas noted that Vācaspati, in his commentary on the Yogaśāstra clearly feels the need to name his sources, sometimes by inventing names if he does not know them. Referring to an even earlier date, Charles DiSimone noted that Śāntideva quotes up to five authorities on the same topic (thus showing that “name dropping” was important, I would say).

This leads to some further important points, namely:

  • reasons for not naming one’s sources: Petra Kieffer-Pülz preliminarly observed that the lack of naming one’s sources cannot be interpreted as due to the reliance on oral instructions, since in the Pāli milieu books were indeed used and there are even records of libraries. Cristina Pecchia noted that Dharmakīrti is consistently referred to as ācārya among his commentators and that the main authors would have been immediately present to their relevant audience. Another person (unknown to me, unfortunately, but if you recognise yourself, please add a comment below) highlighted the fact that we must imagine that there was a shared repertoire, especially in the case of texts to be performed (once the performative stage was ended, one needed to fill the names, etc.). Cathy Cantwell, last, observed that no naming of the source is needed if the text has the status of a revelation, nor if it is reused almost unconsciously, since it has become a part of oneself, after having memorised it at a very early age. This last comment fits with my own findings regarding the fact that one does not name authors in one’s own school (see my Introduction in the special issue of the JIPh I edited).
  • “Forge” of textual material: This topic has been dealt with in connection with Madhva (see Mesquita’s books on this topic) and with the extraordinary fact that some authors felt the need to forge new quotes instead of using the well-accepted device of over-interpreting extant ones. It is interesting to note that, as observed by Petra Kieffer-Pülz, already in the Aṭṭhakathā literature there are accusations to people who would have “forged” sentences. A further interesting indication of the awareness that forgery was not admitted is the justification of new Buddhist rules or part of rules by attributing them to the Buddha and (implicitly?) saying that ‘Had the Buddha been alive, he would have said that’. UPDATE: This point is discussed in Kieffer-Pülz’ book Verlorene Gaṇṭhipadas, Vol. I, p. 252 and pp. 490–492 (thanks to Petra for pointing it out!).

Can you think of further elements you would take into account? Further applications of the elements we highlighted? For instance, we did not have time to discuss about geographic differences, nor about the impact of multilinguism (which had been dealt with by Charles DiSimone in his talk) on the accuracy of textual reuse.

*Kiyotaka Yoshimizu has kindly reminded me of an article by Larry McCrea in this volume) on how Dignāga’s way of referring literally to his opponents has changed at once the Indian way of doing philosophy and of engaging with one’s opponents. Could Dignāga be the source of such later developments?

For my first post on the same round table, see here. For the complete series of posts on the IABS, see here. Please remember that these are only my first impressions and that all mistakes are mine and not the speakers’ ones.

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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