oral transmission: motivation and memorization

S Krishna mahadevasiva at hotmail.com
Sat Jun 14 21:50:14 UTC 1997

>From: Lars Martin Fosse <l.m.fosse at internet.no>
>To: Members of the list <indology at liverpool.ac.uk>
>Subject: Re: oral transmission: motivation and memorization
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Lars Martin Fosee asks:
>Any other memory lore out there?

Sure, I think I can add three more examples:
1. In the earlier part of this century, the great mathematician
Srinivasa Ramanujan is supposed to have remembered very complicated
formulae for the summision of a given series in the form of complicated  
fractions as dictated by Naamagiri, the consort of Narasimha, the 
presiding diety of the temple in the town of Namakkal. The story is that 
Naamagiri appeared to Ramanujan in his dreams and wrote down formulae on 
a blackboard which Ramanujan would remember and transfer onto his 
notebook the next day. Some of these formulae are exceptionally complex, 
so complex that even the Wranglers and Senior
Wranglers working for G.H.Hardy had a hard time figuring out the 
mechanics of some of the series summisions ( as a group and with the
benefit of paper and pencil). ( This has nothing to do with the Vedas,  
:-)but is a remarkable feat of memory in my opinion).

2. The great Vaishnavite saint Sankaradeva of Assam( the father of
Vaishnavism in Assam) is supposed to have mastered the Geeta Govindam
by listening to it being recited just once in Puri. All copies
of the Geeta Govindam in Assam trace their ancestry back to the master
copy made by Sankaradeva.

3. This concerns Ramanuja, the father of Visishtaadvaitam. When he 
wanted to write a commentary on Baadarayanas Vedanta Sutras, he could 
not find any copy in Tamilnadu. Upon being informed that there was an
authentic copy of the Baadarayana vrtti in the Saradapeetha in 
Kashmir,Ramanuja set out with his disciple Kuresha to obtain a copy of 
the"Vedanta Sutra". Upon reaching there, the local scholars( who didn't 
want to part with the text) told him that as the book had been 
worm-eaten, they could not help him in any way. Ramanuja was initially 
dejected, but sort divine intervention in this matter( Another version
manitains that he sort the help of the Maharaja of Kashmir in this 
matter). Goddess Sarada is supposed to have appeared before Ramanuja and 
is supposed to have given him the Baadarayana Vrtti while advising
him to leave the place the next morning. Ramanuja did as he was advised, 
but the local Pundits discovered the loss of the book and ran after 
Ramanuja and wrested the book from him. Ramanuja was ready to give up 
his writing a commentary on the Vedanta Sutra, but his disciple Kuresha 
assured him that he memorised the whole text because he had read the 
text the previous night. He then wrote out the whole text from memory, 
which Ramanuja studied in order to write his commentary. This 
commentary, called the Sribhaashya owes its existence
to the memory of Kuresa, Ramanujas disciple.


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