Why is postcolonial Indian philosophy understudied?

Some questions to ponder

As some readers will know already, a workshop on postcolonial Indian philosophy will take place in Vienna at the end of September. It will be closed by a round table and I started thinking about the questions I would like to discuss. Suggestions by the readers are welcome.:

  1. Is Raghuramaraju right in saying that Indian philosophers focus too much on their ancestors (classical period) and too little on their predecessors (18th–20th c.)?
  2. What could be concretely done to let more people engage in postcolonial Indian philosophy?
  3. Is this goal part of the general enterprise of creating more centres for the study of global philosophy or are there specific peculiarities conencted to postcolonial Indian philosophy only?
  4. What are the concrete advantages of engaging with modern and contemporary Indian philosophy for philosophers? And for Sanskritists?

Jaimini and Bādarāyaṇa

PMS 1.1.5 strangely inserts the word bādarāyaṇasya ‘according to Bādarāyaṇa’ in its wording. Does it mean that this key sūtra of the school is only the opinion of Bādarāyaṇa? The context makes it clear that it is not a prima facie view and in the commentary on PMS 1.1.5, Veṅkaṭanātha uses the mention of Bādarāyaṇa to substantiate his idea of a unitary system of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta. He explains that Jaimini mentions Bādarāyaṇa in order to show that this view is traditional (sāmpradāyikatā) and accepted by his own teacher.
That Bādarāyaṇa was the teacher of Jaimini is proven by means of some Mahābhārata quotes, which should prove their connection, and also the identity of Bādarāyaṇa and Vyāsa.

Student’s query on PhD programs

A student contacted me with the following query:

I recently finished an MA in philosophy at the University of New mexico, USA. […] I’m writing you because it has been difficult to find a place where I can pursue the project I’m most interested in. I would like to develop scientific and philosophical methods for evaluating the experiential claims made in the meditative traditions of India, and apply whatever data emerges to philosophy of mind/consciousness studies. Do you have any suggestions about where such a project might be done?

When I asked for further details, he added:

I studied Vedānta, Mīmāṃsā, and the Indian debates about consciousness and self, with John Taber, and I studied Nāgārjuna with Richard Hayes. My MA research was on representationalist theories of consciousness and how they do not seem to be able to account for purportedly contentless experiences such asamprajñāta samādhi. I have already started on several facets of the project I suggested in my first message. For instance, I have a paper briefly sketching the project coming out in the Fall APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian American Philosophy, a co-authored paper in the revise and resubmit phase with the Journal of Consciousness Studies, using phenomenological reports of specific meditative experiences to illuminate a poorly understood aspect of Kurt Gödel’s proof of his Incompleteness Theorem(s), a co-authored paper in development on third-person scientific approaches to meditation research for The Oxford Handbook on Meditation, and a co-edited book on objectless experience under contract with the publisher Imprint Academic.

Financial support would be a must, although moving to some areas would be easier than others.

Do readers have useful suggestions? As I see it, the student would need both financial and research support (it would not make much sense to work on his own on such a challenging project).

Against the extrinsicity of validity of cognitions UPDATED

Mīmāṃsā authors think that cognitions are by themselves, i.e., intrinsically valid. In other words, they are not valid because of some additional reason, but just because of the sheer fact of being unfalsified.

In order to establish this claim, Veṅkaṭanātha defeats three possible candidates as extrinsic reasons for the cognitions’ validity, namely agreement (saṃvāda, with other people’s cognitions or with one’s other cognitions), quality of the cognition’s cause and causal efficacy (arthakriyā). The latter candidate is rejected because it would lead to an infinite regress (one would need to establish the causal efficacy of the cognition of causal efficacy and so on) and because some cognitions just don’t have any causal result. The passage is as follows:

arthakriyā ca na vyāptā, aśakyārthakriyeṣv anādarapadeṣu ca pratīteṣu puruṣapravṛttyabhāvena tanmūlārthakriyābhāvāt.

Nor is the causal efficiency (arthakriyā) included (vyāp-) [in the ascertainment of a cognition’s validity], because there is no causal efficiency as the root of certain [cognitions], given that there is no human activity (pravṛtti) in the case of apprehended [cognitions] in regard to which causal efficiency (arthakriyā) is impossible and whose contents (pada) have not been taken into account (anādara). (SM ad PMS 1.1.5)

UPDATE: The translation has been updated according to the suggestion (see comments below) by Lalitālālitaḥ (for which I am extremely grateful). I am sure he is right about the general meaning, but I would have still preferred anādarapadārtheṣu or anādaraviṣayeṣu.

Are Bādarāyaṇa and Vyāsa the same person?

As part of his aikaśāstrya agenda, Vedānta Deśika wanted to prove that Jaimini (the author of the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā Sūtra) was a pupil of Bādarāyaṇa (the author of the Uttara Mīmāṃsā, aka Vedānta, Sūtra). In order to prove that, he can use a verse from the Mahābhārata referring to Vyāsa:

The Lord, the best, the benefactor, taught the Vedas, of which the Mahābhārata is the fifth, to Sumantu, Jaimini, Bailva and Śuka, his own son and to Vaiśampāyana.
They (the students) recited separately [parts] of the Mahābhārata, which had been put together [by Vyāsa] (vedān adhyāpayām āsa mahābhāratapañcamān | sumantuṁ jaiminiṁ pailaṁ śukaṁ caiva svam ātmajam || prabhur variṣṭho varado vaiśaṁpāyanam eva ca | saṁhitās taiḥ pr̥thaktvena bhāratasya prakāśitāḥ || MBh 10.57.74–5)

What remains to be done, at this point, is to establish the identity of Vyāsa and Bādarāyaṇa. This is also a wide-spread idea, but Vedānta Deśika wants to establish through a motivation of this double name:

In the island mixed with (i.e., endowed with) Badarika (jujube) tress, out of Parāśara, Satyavatī (the mother of Vyāsa) begot a child, a destroyer of foes (parantapa), Bādarāyana, the imperishable.

dvīpe badarikāmiśre bādarāyaṇam acyutam |
parāśarāt satyavatī putraṃ lebhe parantapam ||

Unfortunately, however, I could not locate the source of the latter verse. Do you know it?

I am surprised to notice that I never discussed aikaśāstrya on this blog. You can, however, read about it in my forthcoming article on the volume I will edit with Philipp Maas, a preliminary version of which can be read here.

Can one establish the existence of an omniscient?

…or can one just say that his existence cannot be denied?

During his commentary on Maṇḍana Miśra’s Vidhiviveka (henceforth VV), 1.14–15, Vācaspati Miśra focuses on the possibility of the existence of omniscients. Why so? Because the VV is a Mīmāṃsaka text and the whole Mīmāṃsā enterprise depends on the idea that the Vedas are the only way to know about dharma. Thus, the existence of omniscient being, who would have direct access to dharma, would automatically invalidate the Mīmāṃsā epistemology. Consequently, the VV and its commentary need to stage from the beginning a debate between a Buddhist Pramāṇavādin (favouring omniscients) and a Mīmāṃsaka (denying them). During his commentary on VV 1.14, the last word is left to the Pramāṇavādin and Vācaspati seems to display some familiarity with Pramāṇavāda material, since he quotes from Dharmakīrti and discusses the existence of concrete omniscient beings (such as the Buddha), rather than the abstract possibility of yogipratyakṣa*. Part of the discussion is agreeable and well-structured:

  1. The omniscient one exists
  2. Because there are no means to deny his existence and because there are means to positively establish it
  3. Discussion of the former, featuring sense perception and then inference
  4. Discussion of the latter, featuring sense perception

The discussion of 3. is rich and interesting, with the Mīmāṃsaka arguing for the necessity of desire for communication (this is Kumārila’s position) and the Pramāṇavādin replying that the compassion which moves the Buddha to help others is not a desire (rāga). A more technical discussion about the impossibility to formalise a syllogism denying the omniscient is also present.

The odd point about the discussion, however, comes after it, at point 4, since Vācaspati does not seem indeed to give any positive motivation for the existence of an omniscient one (although he promises that he will discuss it again later —I do not yet know whether he keeps his promise). Accordingly, the discussion of 4. is also negative in nature:

Nor is it the case that there are no positive evidences. To elaborate, such an [absence] should be either absence of perceptual [evidence] or of [evidence] from all (other?) instruments of knowledge. In turn, the absence of perceptual [evidence] regards either itself or all [the rest]. Even if it regards itself, then it can be either characterised by the fact that [the absence of perception regards] something perceptible, or [the absence of perception] is not characterised (by either perceptibility or anything else). To begin with, the absence of perceptual evidence of itself as regarding something perceptible does not prove the absence of an omniscient. Because the [omniscience] has a remote (i.e., parokṣa) nature and, thus, cannot have its [perceptual] reality arise, as it is well known. And the absence of the whole sense-perception is not established, because the [absence of perceptual evidence] which is not [further] characterised is wrong. For, it is not the case that the entire perception of a normal (i.e, not omniscient) human being (arvāgdṛś-) is absent, for this is not established.

(nāpi sādhakapramāṇābhāvaḥ. tathā hi sa pratyakṣābhavo vā sakalapramāṇābhavo vā syāt. pratyakṣābhāvo’pi cātmanaḥ sarveṣām vā yadātmanaḥ tadāpi dṛśyatāviśeṣaṇaḥ nirviśeṣaṇa vā. na tāvad ātmapratyakṣanivṛttir drśyatāviśeṣaṇā sarvajñābhāvasādhanī, tasya svabhāvaviprakarṣinas tattvānupapatteḥ prasiddhatvāt. nirviśeṣanāyāś ca vyabhicārāt samastapratyakṣanivṛtteś cāsiddhatvam. na khalv arvāgdṛśaḥ sakalapratyakṣanivṛtti asiddhatvāt, Stern p. 457.)

nirviśeṣaṇa possibly refers to sorts of perception which do not need a perceptible object, such as intellectual intuition (yogipratyakṣa).

Do you have any experience with a nirviśeṣaṇa ātmapratyakṣābhāva? And more in general, are there positive arguments for the existence of an omniscient?

*I am currently reading this text with Marco Ferrante and Cristina Pecchia. I owe this last comment to her, whereas I probably owe to Marco almost all the rest. I never write it in my articles, but just in case: All errors remain mine.

(cross-posted on the Indian Philosophy Blog)

Is there really a single author of the Yogasūtra and Yogabhāṣya?

The idea that the Yogasūtra (henceforth YS) and the Yogabhāṣya (henceforth YBh) are not two distinct texts has been discussed for the first way in a systematic way by Johannes Bronkhorst in 1985 (“Patañjali and the Yoga Sūtras”, Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik). Philipp Maas in his published PhD thesis (Maas 2006) examined it again and Philipp Maas in his contribution to Eli Franco’s Periodization and Historiography of Indian Philosophy (2013) dealt with it again in greater detail.

Where are the Yoga philosophers?

Today I read in Philipp Maas’s contribution to Periodization and Historiography of Indian Philosophy (edited by Eli Franco) an intriguing critique of Colebrook and of all the Indologists who, seemingly following him, thought that there was nothing philosophical in Yoga apart from its Sāṅkhya component and that what was typical of Yoga alone was not philosophical.