Both Śabara’s and Veṅkaṭanātha’s commentary on the Mīmāṃsā Sūtra insist that mantras are not important only insofar as they are pronounced, but rather that they convey a meaning (technically: they are vivakṣitārtha `they have intended meanings’).
One of the evidences for the meaningfulness of mantras is the fact that mantras are modified (ūh-) in the ectype rituals. If, for instance, the archetype ritual is for Agni and the ectype ritual is offered to Indra, the mantra will be accordingly changed (e.g., from Agnaye juṣṭam to Indrāya juṣṭam). If the mantras had no meaning, there would be no scope for modifying them. If the pronunciation were enough to achieve some unseen potency (apūrva), one would just repeat the mantras in the same form.
Commentaries can be manifold in ancient India. They have different purposes and form, but they all share some characters:
- they have a given text as their main interlocutor/they are mainly about a given text
- like with Origene’s commentaries, they are a genre in its own right, not a minor specialisation for authors at their beginnings (Sakai 2015, section 4, suggests that authors in fact needed to have already become acknowledged authorities before being entrusted with the honour of composing a commentary on an influential text.)
- they are characterised by a varied but strong degree of textual reuse
- they allow for significant degrees of innovation (This is evident in the case of the Navya Nyāya commentaries on the NS. Outside the precinct of philosophy, juridical commentaries often reflect the recent juridical developments much more than the original text they are commenting upon.)
What makes a text a “commentary”? The question is naif enough to allow for a complicated answer. First of all, let me note the obvious: There is not a single word for “commentary” in Sanskrit, where one needs to distinguish between bhāṣyas, vārttikas, ṭippanīs, etc., often bearing poetical names, evoking Moons, mirrors and the like.
A recent post by Elisabeth Barnes raised a discussion in several blogs about philosophy’s “casual cruelty”. Philosophers, it is said, argue about basic human rights in an abstract way, with thought experiments daring to ask whether it would be ethical to let die disabled children/abort disabled foetuses/prohibit disabled people to have children/… . Philosophers do not even stop speculating about the suppression of disabled people, Barnes continues, when they have a real disabled person in front of them.
When, where and how did bhakti become acceptable within the Indian intellectual élites?
Readers might have noticed that I am working on the availability of Buddhist texts after the disappearance of Buddhist communities in South India. Did the vanished Buddhist communities leave beyond libraries of Buddhist texts? —I have no evidence of that. Did Jains collect Buddhist texts also in South India?
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?
I am inclined to think that classical (non-Buddhist) Indian philosophers did not name or identify their sources if:
- They were part of their own tradition
- One agreed with them
Veṅkaṭanātha (also known as Vedānta Deśika) quotes relatively often from Buddhist texts, especially from Pramāṇavāda ones (as was possibly customary within Indian philosophical circles. Does it mean that he could still directly access Pramāṇavāda texts? Or does he depend on second-hand quotations?
What experiences the practitioner when he is in an architectural setting of high symbolic value?