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The Language of Legitimacy and Decline: Grammar and the Recovery of Vedānta in Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita’s Tattvakaustubha

Abstract

The scope and audacity of Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita’s (16th c.) contributions to Sanskrit grammar has made him one of early-modern India’s most influential, if not controversial, intellectuals. Yet for as consequential as Bhaṭṭoji’s has been for histories of early-modern scholasticism, his extensive corpus of non-grammatical writings has attracted relatively little scholarly attention. This paper examines Bhaṭṭoji’s work on Vedānta, the Tattvakaustubha, in order to gage how issues of language became an increasingly important site of inter-religious critique among early-modern Vedāntins. In the Tattvakaustubha, Bhaṭṭoji reproaches Madhvācārya (14th c.), the founder of the eponymous Mādhva or Dvaita Vedānta system, for his use of ungrammatical words (apaśabdas). In extending his accusations of grammatical negligence to include Madhva’s early commentator Jayatīrtha (15th c.), Bhaṭṭoji sought to undermine Mādhva claims to authoritative scriptural exegesis. Bhaṭṭoji’s provocation impelled later Mādhva scholars like Rāghavendratīrtha (17th c.) to bring a sharper set of grammatical tools to core commentarial works. Where others have pointed to Vyāsatīrtha (16th c.) as a turning point for Mādhva scholastic discourse in the areas of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā and Navya Nyāya, this paper suggests that it was the post-Bhaṭṭoji scholar Rāghavendratīrtha who brought a hitherto unrivaled grammatical expertise to Mādhva writings. That both Mādhva and Advaita Vedāntins wielded grammatical legitimacy as a cudgel against the other raises important socio-historical questions about the relationship between text-criticism, conceptions of scholastic legitimacy, and inter-religious contestation in early-modern South Asia.

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Acknowledgements

An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the 17th World Sanskrit Conference in Vancouver, Canada (July, 2018), where conversations with Lawrence McCrea, Christopher Minkowski, Radhika Blinderman, and my fellow panelists pushed my thinking on various aspects of this paper. Since then, I have greatly profited from conversations with Ajay Rao, Srilata Raman, and Anusha Sudindra Rao. My deepest gratitude goes to my teacher of Vyākaraṇa, H.V. Nagaraja Rao. Any and all mistakes are mine alone.

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Peterson, J.R. The Language of Legitimacy and Decline: Grammar and the Recovery of Vedānta in Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita’s Tattvakaustubha. J Indian Philos 48, 23–47 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10781-019-09406-0

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Keywords

  • Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita
  • Vyākaraṇa
  • Mādhva Vedānta
  • Rāghavendratīrtha
  • Vedānta Polemic
  • Text Criticism