Clarification to D. Thillaud

Birgit Kellner kellner at
Tue Jun 10 11:48:00 UTC 1997

Dominique.Thillaud wrote:

>	OK, it seems we have two distinct opinions:
>         I say it's possible RELIGIOUS texts to be exactly memorized over
> centuries without any aid of writing because
>         1) I think human memory able to this task in THIS circumstance
> because long training, coherent and numerous group, each day utterance and
> faith.
>         2) I have truth in panditas who say it's true, thinking they have
> no reason to lie.
>         But I can't travel in the past, I have no proof.
>         You say that's dubious because
>         1) Religious texts are from this point of view identical to any
> other ones.
>         2) Human memory is today too weak for such task.
>         3) We can suppose a lost method of writing used three millenars ago
> by Indians and never revealed by the panditas, because it is very esoteric
> perhaps.
>         4) Ong say it.
>         But you can't travel in the past, you have no proof.

I am quite surprised about what you think I have written. I have nowhere
expressed such views. Nor have I even claimed to argue for or against
transmission with or without writing. As I might have expressed myself
with insufficient clarity in earlier postings, I'll try to clarify
things in the easiest English that my tired brain can produce at the

My question started from the fact, which is indubitable, that we have
written texts of considerable length. These texts exist. Some of these
texts are religious, others are not. Somebody wrote them down at some
point. Some people claim that these texts have been transmitted orally
for a long time before they were written down. Scholars have assumed
that a long period of oral transmission leads to a different kind of
written text than a short one, or no one at all. Oral transmission
leaves its marks. Therefore, there must be some characteristics in the
final written text that can tell us something about whether, and about
how long (in relative terms) the text was transmitted orally before it
was written down. Some scholars have come up with a number of such
characteristics. They have done that for a number of texts which have
nothing to do with India. I simply wanted to know whether the written
Indian texts we have here and now (that they have a lot of variants is
always a given) were ever analyzed in a similar way, and whether people
who do research about these texts think that such an analysis is

It's not that we have different views, but that we are taking from
different stages in a process of understanding or research. You appear
to have already formed an opinion. I have not, and therefore neither
agree nor disagree with your views. I am simply trying to obtain
information which may assist me in my process of understanding. It was
for this purpose that I posted my initial query. That's all I have to
say to this. I hope this is clear now. 

Apologies to everyone else for all these misunderstandings,

Birgit Kellner
Department for Indian Philosophy
Hiroshima University

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