Kashmir, Tamilnadu, Panini, Abhinavagupta, etc.

Christopher Fernandez chris_fernand90 at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 18 13:53:10 UTC 1999

I thought D.V.N. Sarma had earlier proved his penchant for illogical
statements. Now, in his recent posts
on the location of Potalaka, he has outdone himself by revealing his
prejudice also.

Regarding Potalaka, Sarma first said,  "All the writers say that it is
abode of Tara and Avalokitesvara and not of Siva or Dakshinamurty. Any
place which is not primarily a buddhist center is UNFIT to be
considered as a candidate of Potala."  Later, he also said, "I do not
think the Buddhist authors concealed
any Saivaite connections because most of the quotations that are being
mentioned in support of the  equivalence of Siva and Avalokitesvara are
from them." I do not think he is capable of realizing that he is
contradicting himself.

Sarma further says, "A place which the most sacred to the Buddhists and
which is the abode of the
Mahayanic dieties Tara and Avalokitesvara must be primarily and
originally a Buddhist center." He further
expands on why Potiyil cannot be Potalaka by saying, "First of all it
has to be a Buddhist center. Or else
generations of Buddhists cannot be expected to consider it to be place
of pilgrimage."  But in his response
to G. Samuel’s post, "Re: Potalaka", on 11/28/97, he is not averse to
saying that Tirupati in southern
Andhra Pradesh, which generations of vaiSNavites have considered to be a
place of pilgrimage was a
zaivite place originally. It looks as if it is too much to expect
consistency in Sarma’s arguments. All over
the world there are many sacred sites which have been taken over by
religions different from the ones
controlling it originally.  The same site can also be held by different
religions to be a holy site at the same time.

The zaiva-Buddhist connection regarding Potalaka is validated by
Hsuan-tsang’s description regarding the
Deva -palace on Potalaka frequented by avalokitezvara and how he appears
as mahezvara also. It is also
well-known that Hsuan-tsang did not go south of Kanchi. But it is really
immaterial that Hsuan-tsang did
not go south of Kanchi. What is significant, however, is that he had
written down what the prevailing views
were regarding Potalaka in the seventh century (around A.D. 629
according to M. M. Deshpande’s paper in
JAOS, 1997). Even if one concedes the possibility of that section being
a later interpolation as Petr Mares
suggests, the location of Potalaka suggested  in Hsuan-tsang’s
travelogue was already accepted by Chih-sheng of the late 7th or early
8th century as Prof. Yu has indicated. (Unless proved otherwise, one has
to go
along with statements of Chih Sheng as accepted by Profs. Yu and Goto.)
So the interpolation, if any, must
have occurred not a long time after Hsuan-tsang. This difference in time
is inconsequential for the present discussion.

The significance of avalokitezvara/mahezvara connection is even
discussed by M. M. Deshpande in his
paper. Sarma does not want to consider this zaivite-Buddhist connection.
But this same Sarma was not
averse to highlighting the zaivite connection in case of Tirupati.  As a
scholar, G. Samuel raised an
important issue in his post when he said,  "I have no idea whether the
iconography of the image is  consonant with its having been
Avalokitesvara beforehand?" The striking iconographic similarity between
dakSiNAmUrti and avalokitezvara is a valid concern with respect to
Potalaka and that has been already  discussed by N. Ganesan and S.

But, now Sarma discounts the significance of the zaivite-Buddhist
connections for locating Potalaka. A
scholar has a right to change his views as new information comes along.
There is nothing wrong with that.
But, he should be honest enough to admit it and give reasons for it. To
deny that he ever held a different
view is an act of foolishness. After all Indology  archives are there
for anybody to see. Sarma’s illogical
basis for argumentation seems to be that if it is a site in the Tamil
region, any amount of suporting evidence
is not enough to identify it as Potalaka. If it falls outside the Tamil
region, one can use  the flimsiest and
non-existent associations to identify it as Potalaka. For instance, if a
person is described as going from
origin A (Dhanyakataka)  to destination B (Potala), and if no other
geographical places (like towns)
between the two are mentioned, then according to Sarma, A and B must be
close to each other. This is utter
nonsense.  Another instance of his illogical position is that if
Potalaka is Nagarjunakonda, one does not
have to worry much about explaining the submerging of the path under the
sea. If it is in Potiyil, this same
Sarma turns around and demands that unless Potiyil can satisfactorily
explain the submerged path, he
cannot accept the location. This double standard is prejudice at its
worst and is not the mark of a true scholar.

Sarma also has an amazing defense. When confronted with a fact he cannot
refute, he resorts to "What I
have said is clear". Clear as mud, it is indeed. Instead of beating
around the bush, he can simply say, "I
simply hate Tamil and if Potalaka is said to have been in the Tamil
region, I will not accept it whatever and
however much supporting evidence is presented."  To an impartial
outsider, however, I think Ganesan has
presented enough evidence to convincingly locate Potalaka in the Potiyil
mountain. If  Sarma wants to have
his head in the sand, that is his problem.

Sincerely Yours,

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