Sankara and the Authorship Issue

ashok.aklujkar ashok.aklujkar at GMAIL.COM
Sun Feb 24 02:05:39 UTC 2008

As I recall, the following has some valid criticism of Paul Hacker's method:
Pande, Govind Chandra  1994. Life and Thought of Sankaracarya. Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass.

In the notes of my unpublished lectures on pre-;Saµkara Advaita/monism, I
have written the following, which is another criticism of the way proposed
by Hacker for solving authorship problems (please imagine the appropriate
diacritics in the case of Skt words):

There has been much useful discussion regarding authorship based on
similarity of ideas and views, but almost none of it is backed by the
objective evidence that ms colophons and carefully prepared word indices can
provide. Even a method like Paul Hackeræs really amounts to nothing more
than finessing of a subjective way of approaching questions of authorship.

[Fn at this point: That, for us, Í should be the author of the
Íår^raka-m^måµså-bhå‡ya or Brahma-s¨tra bhå‡ya is a part of Hackeræs method
that I can accept. It is indeed a good idea not to take Í of legends,
traditional authorship lists or colophons (parama-haµsa parivråjakåcårya,
Govinda-ßi‡ya etc.) as our starting point. But it is not proper to leave out
that Í entirely either. Secondly, Hackeræs method rests on the assumption
that the sense of terms like avidyå does not change over a philosopheræs
life time and that we can determine the senses of those terms with certainty
and confidence in each instance -- that there is no contextual variation.
The latter assumption amounts to declaring that there is no subjective
element in interpretation ­­ an arbitrary claim that is particularly
difficult to swallow in the case of works removed in time and intellectual
culture from ours (all one has to do here is to recall (a) the disputes
interpreters have over the interpretation of a particular philosopheræs
thought and specific lines and (b) the bending and molding of language that
philosophy as a subject concerned with highly abstract thought requires at
almost every step. As for the former, when lexical meanings of words are
convenient abstractions (not necessarily abstractions that capture all
content in its entirety) and when word meanings clearly get adjusted in the
context of sentences, it is difficult to concede even that the meanings of
certain terms remain constant over an entire work, let alone the entire life
time of a philosopher.]

The evidence consisting of colophons, quotations made by an author,
similarity of non-technical diction, syntactic peculiarities and so on is in
fact far more reliable and logically more defensible, but it cannot be had
unless ms colophons are comprehensively collected, that is, mss from
different parts and script traditions of India are studied, and word indices
that enable researchers to study diction and syntax in all their aspects are

[Fn at this point: The word index to the Brahma-s¨tra-bhå‡ya compiled under
Prof. Mahadevanæs direction xx is one welcome step in this regard.
Unfortunately, it leaves out verb forms etc. which would have facilitated a
researcheræs study of syntactic peculiarities and of those places where an
authoræs unconscious or natural usage comes out or, if he is an imitator,
his slip shows, as it were.]

Just to give an example that can be briefly given: for me, the fact that Í,
the colophon-attested author of the Brahma-s¨tra-bhå‡ya, Í, the
colophon-attested author of the B®had-åra†yakopani‡ad-bhå‡ya and Í, the
colophon-attested author of the Mu†akopani‡ad-bhå‡ya ­­ all ­­ employ the
words jala and s¨rya, when there are many other synonyms for water and the
sun in Sanskrit, and use the word pratibimba in the masculine, when its more
commonly seen gender is neuter, while giving expression to the
reflection-like relation between åtman and the individual j^vas (P冏eya
1986:36-37), is a weightier evidence to the effect that the authors of all
three works are the same than any similarity seen in their philosophical
position. The evidence of diction found employed when the authors are caught
unawares is far more revealing of the true state of affairs than the
evidence seen in their expression of similar philosophical views.

[Fn: In my reference to "P冏eya 1986:36-37," the publication year could be
1983. As I recall, I was referring to the book Pre-Íaµkara Advaita by Sundar
Lal Pandey for the specification of passages in which Í employs jala and
suurya; Pandey does not make the point I make.]

End of quotation from the notes.

ashok aklujkar

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