The Nisvasatattvasamhita: The Earliest Surviving Saiva Tantra, vol. 1: A Critical and Annotated Translation of the Mulasutra, Uttarasutra and Nayasutra.

Author:Flood, Gavin
Position::Book review
 
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The Nisvasatattvasamhita: The Earliest Surviving Saiva Tantra, vol. 1: A Critical and Annotated Translation of the Mulasutra, Uttarasutra and Nayasutra. Edited by DOMINIC GOODALL in collaboration with ALEXIS SANDERSON and HARUNAGA ISAACSON with contributions of NIRAJAN KAFLR, DIWAKAR ACHARYA, and others. Collection Indologie, no. 128, Early Tantra Series, no. 1. Pondichery: INSTITUT FRANCAIS DE PONDICHERY, Paris: ECOLE FRANCAISE D'EXTREME-ORIENT, Hamburg: ASIEN-AFRIKA-INSTITUT, UNIVERSITAT HAMBURG, 2015. Pp. 662. Rs. 1200, [euro]52.

This is a very important publication in the Early Tantra Series from the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Ecole francais d'Extreme Orient, and the University of Hamburg. The overall aim of the series is to publish critical editions, studies, and translations of texts preserved by the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project and from the collection of the Saiva manuscripts of Pondicherry. The publication of the Nisvasatattvasamhita is singularly important because it is the earliest surviving Saiva Tantra and the "corner-stone" of the Early Tantra project, the earliest witness being a ninth-century manuscript found in the Nepalese collection. Although the main editor Dominic Goodall carried out the bulk of the work, reading the editors' acknowledgements we see that this is very much a product of a collaborative effort sustained over a number of years.

A preface establishes the importance of the Nisvasa for the history of Tantrism, showing its relation to earlier traditions. If we restrict the term "tantric Saivism" to the Mantramarga (the Path of Mantras) as distinct from the earlier religions from which it arose, the Atimarga (the Higher or Outer Path) comprising the renunciate orders of the Pasupatas, then the Nisvasa marks a continuity between the two systems. Building on the work of Alexis Sanderson about the Atimarga, the editors show a doctrinal continuity especially in cosmography that is used in the context of initiation. In contrast to the Atimarga, the Mantramarga emphasised the two goals of liberation (mukti) and enjoyment of supernatural powers (bhukti), both attained by the use of spells (mantra, vidya) in complex ritual and both requiring initiation (diksa). Mantras for magical rituals and initiation are not new, being shared by the Atimarga and even by Vedic sacrifice, but what marks out the Mantramarga as distinctive is the way in which these elements are combined and the introduction of...

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