Veṅkaṭanātha as a way for reconstructing the history of Sanskrit philosophy in South India: The Bṛhaṭṭīkā

Veṅkaṭanātha is an important milestone for the reconstruction of the history of Indian philosophy. In fact, he is a historical figure and the reconstruction of his thought is also facilitated by the contextual knowledge already available about the times, the cultural and geographical milieu, and the religious tradition related to him.

A review of Vincent Eltschinger’s Buddhist Epistemology as Apologetics

An interesting review of Vincent Eltschinger’s last book, Buddhist Epistemology as Apologetics, by Peter Bisschop which has the advantage of

  1. summarising the main thesis of the book (the Buddhist epistemological school is not only a natural development of the Buddhist tradition of dialectics, but also the reaction to external attacks, e.g., by Kumārila Bhaṭṭa)
  2. highlighting Eltschinger’s innovative methodological choice of reading Buddhist epistemology through its social history
  3. adding a few critical remarks* about the structure of the book (“An overall conclusion rounding off the four individual chapters would have been welcome, in particular because the subject of the first two chapters […] and the last two chapters […] differ quite strongly from each other”, p. 268) and about the possible distinction between Vaiṣṇava and Śaiva attitudes towards Buddhism (“A text like the Skandapurāṇa […] does not contain a single reference to pāsaṇḍins [‘heretics’, EF]. This may not only reflect a difference in time but also in position, that of the conservative, anti-Buddhist Vaiṣṇavas of the Viṣṇupurāṇa on the one hand and the soon-to-be dominant Śaivas of the Skandapurāṇa on the other”, p. 265).

*Long-term readers will now know that I am biased in favour of structured criticism (and against lists of useless typos and baseless praises). Accordingly, they may disagree with me on the importance of this last point if they prefer different types of reviews.

Body and self from the viewpoint of the ritual’s justification

The trigger for a discussion about the distinction of body and self in Mīmāṃsā is not or not primarily the polemic with the Buddhists, but rather the need to justify the validity of ritual prescriptions. In particular, a sentence, the yajñāyudhivākya `sentence about the one who bears the weapons of sacrifice’ identifies the entity being endowed with the weapons which consist in the sacrifice itself with the one which will reach heaven.
The problem is that the entity which carries these weapons is the body — and the body will clearly not reach heaven, since it will be burnt.
Interestingly, bodily resurrection seems not to have ever been taken into account as an option, so that the resulting dualism is much more radical than in a Christian milieu: Mīmāṃsā authors plainly agree that the body will not go to heaven and that the sentence should rather be read as addressing in fact the real agent of the sacrifice, which is not the body, but the self.
This, however, has an important consequence, namely that the self is identified with the real agent beyond the body’s acts. This makes Mīmāṃsā authors start far away from the Upaniṣadic, Sāṅkhya and Vedāntic ideas of an underlying self which is untouched by change and action.
Thus, Sacred Texts like the above sentence suggest that there is a self. Mīmāṃsā authors point also to further evidences, first and foremost our I-cognitions, that is, the cognition we have of an “I” whenever we refer to ourselves. Objectors can easily contend that “I” is used in sentences which in fact refer to the body, such as “I am tall”, thus concluding that this evidence is valueless. Mīmāṃsā authors answer that metaphorical usages of “I” as referring to the body do not rule out that it usually refers to the subject. Again, this claim bases on the idea that the Mīmāṃsā subject is not a changeless and super-individual entity, but that it is a changing and dynamic person, which can be rightly described in I-sentences such as “I am bright” or perhaps even “I am a scholar of Greek philosophy”.

A possible narrative on the history of linguistics in India

In classical Indian philosophy, linguistics and philosophy of language are of central importance and inform further fields, such as epistemology and poetics. Thus, looking at the debates on linguistics and philosophy of language offers one a snapshot on the lively philosophical arena of classical India.

Substances according to the Vātsīputrīyas

Little is known about the Vātsīputrīyas who are an ancient (3rd c.) group of Buddhists mostly known because of their pudgalavāda ‘doctrine about the [existence of] persons’. Since they seem to be referred to only in connection with this teaching, I was surprised to find them mentioned by Veṅkaṭanātha in 14th c. South India.

Junior Professorship in Tibetology at the University of Leipzig

(In the following I am summarising the German Call for applications, which will be reproduced below. Succesful applicants are expected to learn German in their first 2 years.)

An excellent scholar will be selected for a position to be filled departing from the 1.10.2016, for three years (further three years are possible). It is possible that the person will be selected for a TT (W2 Professur).

AOS: Tibetan Buddhism (Philosophy, Religion, Literature, History of Art). The knowledge of the language used in the primary sources is a requirement. A connection with Mongolistic and the capability to take into account the social aspect of the topics involved and to work indisciplarly are a desideratum.

Deadline for applications: 16 October 2015.
Applications should be sent to:
Universität Leipzig, Dekan der Fakultät für Geschichte, Kunst- und Orientwissenschaften, Herrn Prof. Dr. Manfred Rudersdorf, Schillerstr. 6, 04109 Leipzig Email:

To be sent are: a list of academic publications and of classes taught (together with the evaluation received), certified copy of the highest academic degree and of the qualification.

Best luck to all!

Expert knowledge in Sanskrit texts —additional sources

In my previous post on this topic, I had neglected an important source and I am grateful for a reader who pointed this out. The relevant text is a verse of Kumārila’s (one of the main authors of the Mīmāṃsā school, possibly 7th c.) lost Bṛhaṭṭīkā preserved in the Tattvasaṅgraha:

The one who jumps 10 hastas in the sky,
s/he will never be able to jump one yojana, even after one hundred exercises! (TS 3167)

Why did Vedānta Deśika care about Nyāya? (CORRECTED)

Readers may have noted that I am working on the hypothesis that Veṅkaṭanātha/Vedānta Deśika priviledged the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā system, on the basis of which it rebuilt Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta. This would be proved by the preeminence of Mīmāṃsā doctrines in Veṅkaṭanātha’s works, but also by his several works dedicated to Mīmāṃsā. But then, one might argue, what about Veṅkaṭanātha’s engagement with Nyāya? Is Nyāya just a further addition or does Nyāya (also) lie at the center of Veṅkaṭanātha’s project?