W.D.O'Flaherty's Jaiminiya Brahmana

Tue Nov 7 06:02:27 UTC 1995

Since I had been put on the spot, etc.: here is NO. 2:

2. Jaiminiya Brahmana

(W.D. O'Flaherty, Tales of Sex and Violence. Folklore, Sacrifice, and 
Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana. U. of Chicago Press 1985)

There are many points I would take issue with in this book (starting from 
the title and the time limit she gives to JB, 900 BC, without any 
justification, etc. etc., -- for the moment, see H. Bodewitz, in his 
introd. to vol. II of his JB translation). 

And of course, the translation, again is a *re*-translation, for all of 
O.'s selections had been translated by Hans Oertel  and Willem Caland 
into English/German long before; see her own bibliography. O. merely 
added a fashionable(?) Freudian coating.

I select for commentary: "The rejuvenation of Cyavana"  (JB 3.120-29), O. 
p. 64 sqq.; 

The trouble again is that O. did  not follow up the secondary literature 
well, not even with the help of the students she mentions.

* if, -- she would have noticed that the  19th century "western scorn for 
the brahmanas" has long been overcome, see K. Hoffmann, Aufsaetze zur 
Indo-Iranistik,vol. III, ed. S Glauch et al., Wiesbaden 1992, p. 709,  -- 
a 1959 piece, following up Oldenberg and St. Schayer -- and Hoffmann's 
school at Erlangen, among which my lamented friend, A.Benke, MA thesis 
Erlangen 1976, and M. Witzel:  On Magical Thought in the Veda. Leiden: 
Universitaire Pers, 1979 (where the literature is given; incidentally, all 
provided by the editor to B.K. Smith for his article in Indo-Iranian 
Journal: "The unity of ritual: The place of the domestic sacrifice in 
Vedic ritualism", IIJ 29,(1986) 79-96, and only partially used in 
his book "Reflections on resemblance, ritual, and religion." New 
York-Oxford 1989.-- which again lambasts our predecessors without making 
clear that their attitudes had long been overcome.) 

* And,  -- if the sec. lit. had been used  -- the translation would have 
turned out much better.

In JB 3.120 sqq. (p. 64 sqq.) there are several cases where this would 
have helped:  p. 64 (JB 3.120): O's "the thrice returning departure" 
versus W. Rau, MSS 39, p. 159, 161 n. 1 tells us that this is part of the 
trekking procedure of the Vedic Indo-Aryans: Two days travel, one day 
rest (yoga-kSema). Thus: 3 times a period of double marching days 
(trih punahprayaaNam). -- NB. see already his book: Staat und 
Gesellschaft im alten Indien nach den Brahmana-Texten dargestellt, 
Wiesbaden  1957, again largely unread west of the Atlantic...).

Further, the graama, which treks with wild west style wagons,  is not a 
"clan" as O. translates repeatedly but a group of people under a 
graamanii "trek leader": including brahmins, ksatriyas, vaisyas and others 
-- for example the dumb carpenter of O. p.107, JB 2.272). 

The old Cyavana (3.120, p. 65) is not "on his last legs" but a niSThaava, 
a "spitter" due to loss of front teeth, see again W. Rau, MSS 39, 160-161

I also leave aside her predilection for street language colloquialisms 
"balls of cowshit, balls of shit" (or: the balls of Indra) or: hanta 
"hell!" (p. 65, 3.121), normal meaning: "let's do (something)" --  all 
all cases where Vedic slang is not seen in the Sanskrit but the standard 
expressions, and I also leave aside the many gaps in the translations 
where words or whole sentences have been forgotten  (e.g.: p. 64 As he was 
left behind :vaastau;  p. 64 His sons have left him: nuunam; etc . etc. -- 
the last section, JB 3.125, only receives a short paraphrase, not a 
translation -- but O. does not tell us). 

I rather move to more serious grammatical business: O. does not know the 
function of the "future" imperative in -taad (Delbrueck, Altindische 
Syntax, 1888 (!) p. 263 sqq.  Thus in par. 123-124, where a serious of 
commands is given, they should be tranlated by: do this, AND THEN do 
that -- the normal meaning of -taad in the Veda.

O. always calls the members of Zaaryaata's wagon train (graama) 
"Zaryaati", misunderstanding the 'first-year Sanskrit' Vrddhi formation  in 
the text which has zaaryaatya- .

Difficult sentences, such as: saa yadiitiiyaayayaditi (p. 65, 3.121 end) 
are simply left out without telling us so.

And p. 66  (JB 3.124) abibhede (MSS: abhibede/Talavakara Brahmana 
parallel: abhipede!!) is not (with Caland) "she could tell them apart" 
(from bhid???) but a typical JB mistake for *abhipede "she touched him by 
the arm, baahau)", see K. Hoffmann, MSS 23 (1968!), p., 41-43 = Aufsaetze 
p. 504-5.

Simple question: if *that* much is wrong in just one story (and this is a 
small selection only!) -- what about the rest of this book and her other 

Facit: It might have been better to have used the old translations and to 
have added her Freudian interpretation to them...

In sum: The "translation" simply is UNREALIABLE.


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