RV transmigration

jgardner at blue.weeg.uiowa.edu jgardner at blue.weeg.uiowa.edu
Tue May 14 05:44:49 UTC 1996

In response to the transmigration/RV debate, I found something which,
regardless the correct point of view, was of interest viz. the following in
Thompson's last forward:

"I have received several interesting but skeptical responses to my claims
for a RV belief in transmigration.  Perhaps I can begin my defense by
referring to a private note sent earlier to Mani Varadarajan:

"It is a pleasure to respond to your note.  You are quite right. The
tradition does attribute this stanza [i.e., RV 4.26] to VAmadeva, and I do
not challenge the tradition on this.  However, the stanza [along with the
two following] is also called an Atmastuti [in BD it is called
AtmasaMstAva], and it is understood that VAmadeva is speaking as if he were
Indra.  This has puzzled scholars, who uniformly [as far as I know],
attribute the 3 stanzas to Indra, or to VAmadeva adopting the role of
Indra. "

True, whther VAmadeva or Indra, there is a similar dynamic of multiple
identities.  As I plod through making an e-Nirukta, I couldn't help but
note Y's discussion of 4.26.7 in N 11.2 viz. the above.  Y notes that the
significance of shata is because the soma is pressed 1000's of times-- each
time becoming more pure.  In addition,  it is hard to accept that
retributive karma is the only doctrine of karma which counts for
identifying an early presence of reincarnation themes.

A fledgling origin of reincarnation, based upon natural cycles, might not
include retributive karma per se.   Sacrifices, representing the natural
and/or cycles of life, came to be so complex as to require expiations for
error . . . a retributive karma could have found resonance in this idea.

On the other hand, noting this or that source as "wrong" is subject to the
telic concerns of origin as 'x' not 'y'.  There is clearly a "resonant
field" of ideas of repitition and substitution arising in the ritual
literature, drawing upon the imagery of the saMhitaas.  That the rituals
became reduced via substitution to more meditative forms has been suggested
by Bodewitz viz. the praaNaagnihotra and the JaiB.

John Robert Gardner
University of Iowa

John Robert Gardner, M.A.
Asian Languages & Literature
University of Iowa
uushaa vaa ashvasya medhyasya shiraaH
Iowa City, IA 52242
      "It is ludicrous to consider language as anything other than that of
which it is the transformation"

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