16th World Sanskrit Conference: A panel on the development of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta

Last week took place one of the main (or the main?) conferences for Sanskrit scholars, namely the 16th edition of the World Sanskrit Conference, of which you can read a short summary by McComas Taylor on Indology (look for it here). Marcus Schmücker and I organised a panel called One God—One Śāstra, Philosophical developments towards and within Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta between Nāthamuni and Veṅkaṭanātha. You can read the initial call for papers here.

But things take their own course (which is a blessing, since otherwise no new knowledge could ever be acquired), so that at the opening presentation I rather focused on two possibly central ideas:

  • The aikaśāstrya tendency, that is the tendency towards the creation of a single śāstra (dealt with in the papers by Halina Marlewicz, Elisa Freschi, Lawrence McCrea)
  • The idea of a shared religious background (holding together the different groups and hinted at by Marcus Schmücker)

As for the remaining open questions, we invited a discussion especially on the following ones:

  1. Is there a ”beginning” of the so-called Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta school?
  2. Why the Pāñcarātra focus? (a topic shortly dealt with in Robert Leach’s talk)
  3. Why and how the Vedāntisation of the school?
  4. What was the impact of the other philosophical schools?

The full program featured:

  • Elisa Freschi, Introduction (you can find the pdf of my presentation here)
  • Robert Leach, The Nārāyaṇīya and the Five Knowledges in Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta
  • Halina Marlewicz, aikaśāstrya reconsidered
  • Elisa Freschi, The role of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā in Vedānta Deśika’s systematizing efforts (you can find the pdf of my presentation here)
  • Lawrence McCrea, Does God have Free Will: Hermeneutics and Theology in the Work of Vedāntadeśika
  • Marcus Schmücker, The Relation of God and Veda according to Vedānta Deśika’s Paramatabhaṅga

It was great to be together with interesting scholars, discussing a stimulating topic and I am in this sense very grateful to all participants (and to my co-organiser, especially for the catchy title!). I am particularly proud of the fact that the panel ended up being consistent and well-focused, with several papers developping on each other. And I am even happier of the final round table, since round-tables are something completely unsual in WSCs (our own one was probably the only one, correct me if I am wrong), since it was really open-ended (no fixed order of speakers, but a common search for the answers to the questions mentioned above –and new questions being asked, something I am particularly grateful for), since the audience participated a lot and since scholars from different backgrounds participated alike (whereas unfortunately one often ends up speaking only with people sharing a similar background).
I will have to find a way to make more women confident enough to speak out their mind, though.

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

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