- The Teachings of the Odd-Eyed One: A Study and Translation of the Vīrūpakṣapañcāśikā with the Commentary of Vidyācakravartin
The Teachings of the Odd-Eyed One: A Study and Translation of the Vīrūpakṣapañcāśikā with the Commentary of Vidyācakravartin, by David Peter Lawrence, provides a critical translation and a philosophical and historical introduction to a work of the nondualistic Śaiva tradition of Kashmir, the Virūpakṣapañcasikha (VAP) with a commentary (Vivṛti) by Vidyācakravartin. The text was composed sometime during the twelfth century, probably in Kashmir judging from the Śārada manuscripts that remain, the terminus a quo being suggested by the use the text makes of Abhinavagupta (ca. 950-1020 C.E.) and the terminus ad quem being the twelfth-century Mahārtha-mañjarīparimala by Maheśvarānanda, who quotes it. The text proclaims itself to present the teachings of a form of Śiva called Virūpakṣa ("the odd-eyed one"). The commentator Vidyācakravartin, or possibly Śrīvidyācakravartin, probably lived in the fourteenth century and was patronized by one of the kings of the Hoysala dynasty. David Lawrence presents us with a clear discussion of these textual and authorial matters (pp. 3-5) and places the text and its commentary in the history of Śaivism (pp. 5-10), describing how the philosophical articulation of the Trika tradition, the Pratyabhijñā, appropriated and domesticated—"toned down and internalised" (p. 7)—the more extreme Kāpālikā transgressive practices of the cremation grounds in their search for supernatural power that involved sexual rituals and the ingestion of polluting substances. This "overcoding," to use Alexis Sanderson's term, produced a rich symbolism "remarkable for the baroque complexity and convolutedness of this hierarchization" (p. 7), as the author notes.
The introductory material, which comprises about a third of the book, is followed by the translation of the text and commentary along with explicatory notes. There is a glossary of terms, a bibliography, and an index. My only real criticism is that the Sanskrit text could not be included, which makes it difficult for those without access to the original text to see what is being translated. The printed text that we have by T. Ganapati Śāstri in the Trivandrum Sanskrit Series1 (largely followed by Gopintath Kaviraj's edition) is reliable, although Lawrence suggests that he might produce a new edition based on the manuscripts he has collected (p. 57). [End Page 726]
Lawrence's interest is less text-historical and more philosophical, developing from his excellent Rediscovering God with Transcendental Argument,2 and much of the introductory material to the translation presents the underlying doctrinal assumption of the system. But the VAP is not so much a philosophical as a 'contemplative' text articulated through a mythical idiom of Virūpakṣa presenting the teachings to proud Indra, who is humbled by Virūpakṣa's power. Lawrence provides an interesting chapter on the history of the taming of Indra and the overcoding of the Indra cult by later traditions, tracing the history of the narrative from the Chāndogya Upaniṣad to the Bhāgavata and Brahmavaivarta Purāṇas. We do not find in the VAP or its commentary the sophisticated argument and technical terminology of Abhinavagupta and other Pratyabhijñā philosophers, although it is nevertheless interesting in its presentation of a "religious and philosophical psychology" (p. ix) concerned with the "transformation of egoity" and the divinization of the self or realization of the identity of the true self with a nondual absolute reality. This reality is supreme consciousness expressed as 'I-am-ness' (asmitā) and, particularly through ritual and meditation, as the identification of the body with the cosmos (pp. 11-18).
Indeed, one of the main concerns of the text is the transformation of embodiment and the realization that the self is coextensive with absolute consciousness, which...