Why focussing on the textual basis of the Seśvaramīmāṃsā by Vedānta Deśika: An easy introduction for lay readers

In the first post of this series, I discussed the importance of studying Mīmāṃsā within Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta and especially within the work of Veṅkaṭanātha. This post focusses on the importance of a specific work by Veṅkaṭanātha, namely his Seśvaramīmāṃsā (henceforth SM).

Until now, the SM has neither been critically edited, nor translated or studied. Even more interestingly, the SM presents itself as a commentary on the Pūrvamīmāṃsāsūtra, the foundational text of the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā school which consists of eight books, each including four or eight chapters, but the published portion of the SM covers only on the first two chapters of the first book.
The SM has been published four times, in 1902, 1940, 1971 and 1981. The most recent of these editions is only a reproduction of a previous time and can thus be altogether ignored. As for the others, none of them includes a foreword, an introduction nor a critical apparatus, so that a reader has no idea at all about the manuscript basis they rely upon. It is not even clear whether the occasional divergences between the three editions are due to additional manuscripts consulted by the latter two or, more probably, only to emendations ope ingenii by the editors of the 1940 and the 1971 editions.

Within my current research project (FWF V 400), I planned to focus on a study of Veṅkaṭanātha’s synthesis as reflected in his SM, but for this sake I needed to verify the reliability of the published text. I thus identified several manuscripts of the SM and started collating them. In doing it, I have two main goals:

  1. the elaboration of the first critical edition of the SM
  2. the answer to the conundrum of the real extant covered by the SM

As for the first goal, possibly each text deserves a critical edition and this is even more true in the case of intrinsically relevant texts, of badly edited and of (partially or completely) unpublished texts. The SM fits all these criteria, since for the published portion we have no indication proving its reliability (it could have been prepared on the basis of a single unreliable manuscript and have been corrected by the various editors according to their own expectations of what the text should say). Moreover, the editors themselves acknowledged to be at times helpless by adding alternative possible readings in round or square brackets or by signalling a crux with question marks. The frequence of such crux increases in the second chapter of the SM, where there may be even more than one question mark per line, so that the text becomes at times not understandable. All these reasons make a new and critical edition of the SM a desideratum of primary importance for the study of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta.

(this post is meant to be a general introduction to the topic, accessible to non-initiated readers. Should you find something in it not understandable, please let me know with a comment below.)

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

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