Gentoo studies

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Mon May 24 01:19:18 UTC 1999

The answer to the question below is the expected one. However, since a
computer crash ate my detailed reply, just a few lines now, topic-wise:

At 5:28 -0500 5/22/99, Shrisha Rao wrote:
>> >> elaborate rules of philology, linguistics, etc., in regard to the
>>Vedas ...  conveniently
>> >> ignored by people propounding "Western scholarship"....

>> Which  "elaborate rules .... are you referring to ??

>All the elaborate output of the nirukta-s, the pUrva-mImAMsA sUtra-s,
>etc., which is conveniently ignored by "Western" scholarship.

No, Vedic study started with it: the founder of modern Vedic  scholarship,
Rudolf Roth, published his edition/transl./study of the Nirukta in 1848 :
"Die Religion des Weda". However, much of the popular etymologizing of
Yaaska is interesting  as such (and a valuable document of *his* time), not
as a help to decipher a Rgvedic stanza.

Mimamsa represents a more involved question. It is not ignored, but studied
as a philosophical system (FYI: I did so, in Skt. only, with the Rajaguru
at Kathmandu).
Why? First, it is post-Vedic, second it deals mostly with prose sentences
in the Brahmanas, third it is interested in ritual procedures.
Close as it may come to indigenous philology (this discipline, like
historiography, is missing in traditional S.Asia), it does not help much to
'decipher' the Rgveda.
Later Mim., of course, has contributed important items, such as a
discussion of the meaning of "the word". But, again, this discussion does
not help to find out what 'Rta' or even 'graama'
 mean in the RV.

> Why do you think the classical period of study of the Vedas is 12 years?
Not to study Mim., but to learn one's Veda by heart and to study ritual.

> Also ...`itihAsapurANAbhyAM veda samupabR^iMhayet', etc.
A post-Vedic statement and already biased by its very timeframe.

> The argument that the itihAsa, etc., came later is not convincing because
>there are references
>to them in the Vedas themselves (in the Yajur Veda).
Nobody knows what a Vedic itihaasa was and how it  has changd over time.
Someone's  Mahabharata is not someone else's. --  Once I found (and lost)
the beginning of  the Ved. itihaasa: "Manur vai raajasiid" ...
Well? The primordial Manu as king of himself, his sons and their families?

>The grammar of Panini, etc., is an aspect of the classical study of the
>Vedas, not a
>later canonization of grammar for post-Vedic works
It has *incomplete* Vedic rules, yes. It does not explain, e.g., the RV
grammatical category of the Injunctive ("chandasi bahulam" is neither
explanation nor rule), -- without which one cannot understand very many
sentences in the RV. Described (and understood) only in 1967 by K.
Hoffmann, Der Injunktiv im Veda .

>there are fruitless discussions on what some particular "epithet" in the
>Rg Veda means,
Without proper meaning of epithets and other difficult words, no
understanding of the RV.
Language always changes, even Vedic, -- from Rgvedic to Upanisadic
language, not to speak of Epic & Classical or modern Sanskrit.

> I have yet to come across any "Western" scholar who understands the
>notion of
> apaurushheyatva ...
Really? -- Unfortunately, the Rgvedic AUTHORS of the RV hymns clearly say
that *they* composed them, with a lot of effort (even while often
using/plagiarizing their relatives' or colleagues' work), and they are
proud of their poems +  denigrate/disregard those of others.  To
immortalize themselves, they put their names into their hyms, often in
parokSa way.
All of this sounds all too pauruSeya to me.

> ...several classical scholars have pointed out that it originates
>in the RV itself.
By whom and where? (after Sayana) -- And  I hope not in the puruSa hymn! --

ity alam vivaadena.


Michael Witzel                          Elect. Journ. of Vedic Studies
Harvard University        
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990
home page:

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