Duty, Language and Exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā: Including an Edition and Translation of Rāmānujācārya’s Tantrarahasya, Śāstraprameyapariccheda by Elisa Freschi (review)
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Duty, Language and Exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā: Including an Edition and Translation of Rāmānujācārya’s Tantrarahasya, Śāstraprameyapariccheda. By Elisa Freschi. Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture 17. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012. €135,00; $180.00, isbn978-9-004-22260-1.

Rāmānujācārya’s Tantrarahasyais a systematic overview of Mīmāṃsā that was produced in South India some time between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, according to Elisa Freschi’s assessment in Duty, Language and Exegesis in Prābhākara [End Page 632] Mīmāṃsā: Including an Edition and Translation of Rāmānujācārya’sTantrarahasya, Śāstraprameyapariccheda (p. 10). The fourth chapter, an edition and facing-page translation of which forms the basis of this book, concerns “what the Vedas allow us to know” (śāstraprameya).

Freschi has chosen a manner of presentation that succeeds in making accessible the debates that Rāmānujācārya participated in. These debates, while often abstruse and technical, address topics that were—and are—nevertheless of foundational importance: the capacity of language to cause us to act, the nature of duty, the procedure of interpretation, and the roles of desire and duty in the discharging of our obligations. The text comes with three apparatuses. The first is dedicated to variant readings. The second presents in totothe passages that Rāmānujācārya has quoted or adapted from earlier authors. The third presents “parallel passages,” and serves as a helpful and impressively broad concordance of what other Mīmāṃsakas have said about the topics under discussion. Freschi notes in parentheses the Sanskrit equivalents of key words, and supplies in square brackets all kinds of information that might help the reader to understand the Sanskrit text: labels for the argumentative positions ( pūrvapakṣa, etc.), the referents of pronouns, and even missing steps in the argumentation. The edition and translation is preceded by a long (149 pages) introduction, organized thematically rather than as a running commentary, that explains the basic concepts and points of debate in the text. The book includes a glossary that focuses on the technical terminology of ritual and an index that focuses on names. There is a detailed table of contents that reflects the highly rational organization of the book.

Rāmānujācārya seems to conform to a pattern among early modern scholars of Mīmāṃsā. His only other work, the Nāyakaratna, is a commentary on Pārthasārathimiśra’s Nyāyaratnamālā, which presents and defends the views of Kumārila Bhaṭṭa in a series of thematic essays. The Tantrarahasyaexplicitly aims to synthesize “the two schools” (tantradvaya), Prabhākara’s and Kumārila’s, from the perspective of the former. In the fourth chapter, the synthesis takes the form of a separate presentation of first the Bhāṭṭa perspective, represented primarily by Pārthasārathimiśra, and then the Prābhākara perspective, represented primarily by Śālikanāthamiśra. For Rāmānujācārya, these seem to be argumentative positions in a fractured intellectual landscape. What was truly a matter of conviction was liberation, and not the matters on which Kumārila and Prabhākara differed. Freschi briefly notes (p. 7) that other “later” Mīmāṃsakas, such as Āpadeva, share a broadly theistic outlook, in contrast to the atheistic tenor of Mīmāṃsā as a system. What Freschi does not elaborate on in this book, but which she has begun working toward in more recent publications, is what it meant to “do Mīmāṃsā” in the intellectual contexts of South India to which Rāmānujācārya almost certainly belonged, and particularly the context of Rāmānuja’s Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta. A related question, raised incessantly by the parallel passages in the apparatus, is how Rāmānujācārya’s project relates to the efflorescence of scholarship on Mīmāṃsā that took place in Benares in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Until the intellectual history of Mīmāṃsā makes further progress, it will not be possible to explain R...