The word uttara in the titles of texts, particularly "saiva tantras

Dominic Goodall dominic.goodall at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 23 09:13:11 UTC 2007

I think that there are a number of ideas that can be intended with - 
uttara in such titles.  The idea that first suggests itself is  
surely, as Matthew Kapstein has pointed out, that the work in  
question builds on or supplements an earlier one.

The Uttarasuutra of the Ni"svaasatattvasa.mhitaa, for instance,  
appears to be a supplement to the Muulasuutra of the same text (an  
edition of the text is underway in Pondicherry). No claim to  
superiority seems to be intended. So too the Rauravottara claims to  
follow on from an earlier Raurava, giving further teachings of "Siva  
to Ruru, and the unpublished Mohacuu.dottara (aka Moha"suurottara), a  
conversation between "Siva and Indra, claims to follow on from  
(without being superior to) an earlier tantra. For a non-tantric  
(perhaps lay Paa"supata) instance of this sort of name, one could  
point to the unpublished "Sivadharmottara.

In some "Saiva cases the tantra in question claims also to transcend  
the tantra that it follows.  Thus the Sarvaj~naanottaratantra (a  
complete edition of which is underway in Pondicherry) announces that  
it follows on from the Vaathula, giving further questions that  
Kaarttikeya addressed to "Siva, along with "Siva's replies.  (Cf. the  
Vi"svasaarottara, which I do not think survives, but whose title is  
evidently a similar claim to universal superiority.)

Of the Vaathula itself (also known as the Vaatula, Aagneya,  
Kaalapaada, Kaalaj~naana, etc.) there are many recensions with  
various titles and the "original" recension may not survive, but the  
colophons of the surviving texts tend to use the titles Kaalaj~naana  
and Kaalottara interchangeably.  Now it is possible that the -uttara  
in Kaalottara expresses that the text bearing the title follows upon  
and transcends a tantra called Kaala, but it is also possible that in  
this case another idea is expressed, namely that the text treats of  
transcending Time/Death.  (The title Kaalaj~naana refers to the  
knowledge that a yogin may attains of the time of his death, this  
kaalaj~naana being a topic which forms an important part of the  
surviving short recensions.)  Comparable, perhaps, is the  
Diik.sottara, "Beyond Initiation".

In some cases the -uttara may either be otiose or express no more  
than that the tantra is superior among other unspecified tantras.
Thus the M.rgendratantra is in the colophons to some MSS referred to  
as the M.rgendrottara (e.g. the manuscript that also transmits the  
Paraakhya), even though there is no earlier M.rgendratantra which  
claims to supplement or excel (the tantra claims instead to be a  
recension (upabheda) of the Kaamikatantra).  And are there not also  
MSS that transmit the Paa~ncaraatra Jayaakhyasa.mhitaa whose  
colophons call the text the Jayottara ?  In this last case another  
interpretation could be arrived at by bahuvriihi-analysis : "that  
which has Victory as its result". (Cf. also Vallabhadeva, commenting  
on uttara in Raghuva.m"sa 6.50: uttara"sabda aadhikyam  
sammi"sratvam aaha.)

In short, I think that there are a number of possibilities to be  
considered, among which the 3 that Michael Slouber suggested do not  
seem to me, at first blush, to be the most probable.

Dr. Dominic Goodall
Pondicherry Centre,
Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient ("French School of Asian Studies"),
P.O. Box 151,
16 & 19, Dumas Street,
Pondicherry 605001,
+91 413 2334539  /
+91 413 2225689 /
+91 413 2332504
Fax +91 413 2330886
(dominicgoodall at

On 23 Aug 2007, at 02:54, mkapstei at UCHICAGO.EDU wrote:

> Uttara is used rather frequently in the titles of
> Buddhist tantras, with the meanings of, roughly,
> "higher, superior, subsequent, further," often
> denoting a tantra that is regarded as building upon,
> developing, filling out, or supplementing, some
> more basic tantra. E.g., we find a Zrii-Vajraca.n.dacittaguhya-
> tantra, a ....guhya -tantrottara, and a ... guhya
> -tantrottarottara (Tohoku 458-460). But the
> real relations holding among such groups of texts
> have not, to my knowledge, been systematically studied
> as yet, and until this is done, the exact sense
> of "uttara" and "uttarottara" in these cases will remain
> somewhat uncertain.
> Whether or not the Buddhist usage corresponds with the
> Zaiva is of course another question.
> Matthew T. Kapstein
> Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies
> The University of Chicago Divinity School
> Directeur d'études
> Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris

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