Early Tantric Vaisnavism: Three Newly Discovered Works of the Pancaratra.

Author:Flood, Gavin
Position:Book review
 
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Early Tantric Vaisnavism: Three Newly Discovered Works of the Pancaratra, the S vay ambhu vapancaratra, Devamrtapancaratra and Astadasavidhana, Critically Edited from Their 11th and 12th Century Nepalese Palm Leaf Manuscripts. Edited with an introduction and notes by DlWAKAR ACHARYA. Collection Indologie, vol. 129, Early Tantra Series, vol. 2. Pondichery and Hamburg; INSTITUT FRANCAIS DE PONDICHERY, ECOLE FRANCAISE D'EXTREME-ORIENT, ASIEN-AFRIKA-INSTITUT, UNIVERSITAT HAMBURG, 2015. Pp. 1xxxvi + 229. Rs. 700, [euro]30.

This is a volume in the Early Tantra Series published jointly by the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Ecole fran9ais d'Extreme Orient, and the University of Hamburg. The series aims at publishing the fruits of research funded from a Franco-German project from 2008 to 2011 whose purpose was to study the interrelationship between the early tantric traditions. This important series seeks to publish critical editions, studies, and translations of texts preserved in the vast archive of Nepalese manuscripts that have been microfilmed by the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project and catalogued in Kathmandu and Hamburg. In researching into this archive, while cataloguing manuscripts. Professor Acharya came across three early works of the Pancaratra or tantric Vaisnavism that he has edited for this edition. These texts are important because they provide evidence to show how Vaisnavism remodelled itself on tantric Saivism in the early medieval period but also show evidence of Vedic and Smarta influence. Thus the Pancaratra while modelling itself on Saivism nevertheless aligns itself with Vedic orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

One of the important things established by this publication concerns dating. One of the "three gems" of the Pancaratra is the Jayakhya-samhita, regarded as a foundational scripture that Alexis Sanderson has shown to be modelled on the Saiva ritual system. This text was dated by its editor to around 700 A.D. But Professor Acharya has shown the Jayakhya to be of much later date as it contains classifications such as the fourfold typology of the initiate not found in the earliest Saiva sources such as Nihsvasa. The texts of the present edition represent an earlier stage of the tradition's development, earlier than the Jayakhya and its source text the Jayottaratantra, that Professor Acharya has found. The earliest of these texts, the Svayambhupancaratra contains elements that have affinities with two of the latest...

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