memorization and cosmic order

J. Randall Groves YD56 at MUSIC.FERRIS.EDU
Thu Jun 12 17:42:29 UTC 1997

Dear Indologists: The recent thread over memorization and oral
transmission neglects an importnat aspect of the practice. In Barbara
Holdrege's _Veda and Torah: Transcending the textuality of scripture_,
she argues that "Accurate reproduction of these primal sounds through
periodic recitation and sacrificial preformances is considered essential
for the periodic regeneration and maintenance of the cosminc order....
Conversely, any inaccuracies in either recitation or the sacrificial
ritual are believed to have calamitous effects on the cosmic order."
The upshot is that there was a punishment for inaccurate transmission
of the Vedas. This, of course, doesn't mean that mistakes did not occur,
but it does indicate that people would work hard to get it exactly right
. Randy Groves, Associate Professor of Humanities, Ferris State Univ.

>Another well-known and rather obvious point may throw some light on Vedic
>"realism" when it comes to the fallibility of memory: Vedic recitation was
>always a collective affair. A teacher would sit down with a number of
>students and they would work their way through a recitation, correcting
>each other when necessary. Occasionally a teacher might even stumble or
>hesitate, and a student would step in to bridge the gap in the teacher's
>So recitation as a collective effort would seem to function, among other
>things, as a kind of self-correction device, just like the vikRtis, which
>shuffle the sequence of a recitation in order to ring the changes on the
>sandhi and apparently to prevent the accidental loss of of a pada
>That's an interesting story about Capote.
>Best wishes,
>George Thompson

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