UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Tantra-śuddha of Bhaṭṭāraka-Śrī-Vedottama : a translation and commentary Fern, David John


This thesis is a translation of and commentary on the Tantra-iuddha (Purity of the System), a 14th century (circa) Sanskrit philosophical monograph defending the religious validity of the Pancaratra school. The work is attributed to a Sri Bhattaraka-sri-vedottama. Set in the framework of a debate between two Mimamsaka disputants the text follows the "objection-response" (purva-paksa - uttara-paksa) format so characteristic of the genre. I have divided the work into three more or less cohesive sections. In the first the author is faced with the problem of justifying the validity of his school and its smrti in the absence of confirmation by a sruti. He does so by hypothesizing a supporting sruti which existed in the past but has since been lost. In Section 2 the opponent plays the devil's advocate and suggests that the author: 1. Claim universal validity for all smrtis, (independent of sruti support), 2. reject the traditional requirement that smrtis be free from any taint of an ulterior motive, and 3. claim the status for the smrti of being an equally valid alternative to sruti in instances where the two appear to conflict. Fully cognizant that to accept any of these would be to undermine his position the author rejects all three proposals. In the third section the author clarifies the distinctions between his own school and four Saivite ones. He then responds to a number of objections and citations that declare the Pancaratra system to be non-Vedic, both in its beliefs and in its ritual practices. This he does by reinterpreting the intentions of alleged opponents such as Sankara and Rumania or by simply declaring deprecatory passages as inaccurate. The text draws heavily upon an earlier work by Yamuna, the Agama-pramanya, which also sought to defend the Pancaratrikas. Arguments and conclusions correlate highly throughout, with one significant difference. Whereas Yamuna speaks from the perspective of Vislstadvaita Vedanta, Bhattaraka Vedottama infuses the Pancaratra school with a much more monist tinge. This is perhaps the sole reason for studying the text; it reminds us that religious schools are rarely stagnant. Considerable variation occurred within movements bearing the same name and we would be foolish to cling to our generalizations too seriously.

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