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Dharma Patanjala, a Saiva Scripture from Ancient Java, Studied in the Light of Related Old Javanese and Sanskrit Texts.

Dharma Patanjala, a Saiva Scripture from Ancient Java. Studied in the Light of Related Old Javanese and Sanskrit Texts. Gonda Indological Studies, vol. 16. By ANDREA ACRI. Pp. xviii + 706. Groningen: EGBERT FORSTEN, 2012. [euro]170.

Since the time of his tesi de laurea (2005) and first published article on "the textual basis of Saivism in ancient Indonesia" (2006), Andrea Acri has worked to build the basis of a solid understanding of the relationship between the Tutur and Tattva literature of Java and Bali and the texts of the Siddhantatantra, Saivagama, Pasupata, Yoga, and Sankhya traditions of South Asia. With the publication of his text, translation, and commentary of the Dharma Patanjala (DhPat), which he describes as "a Saiva Scripture from ancient Java," we have before us a comparative study that more than lives up to the promise of his earlier work. For anyone with an interest in either the history of Saivism in India or its efflorescence in the ancient Malay-Indonesian archipelago, this publication provides an invaluable resource that provides much insight into the ontology, epistemology, and cosmology of Saiva doctrine in comparative perspective.

Acri's work is focused on a work from the little-known Saiva tradition of Sunda (west Java) that exists in a single manuscript. This work provides us with access to a new and very welcome body of textual evidence for the doctrines and practices of the Saiva stream in ancient Indonesian religion. We have but to glance at the fifteen pages of Acri's "Index of Text Passages" (pp. 689-706) to get a sense of the usefulness of this volume for the study of the extensive network of connections with Indian doctrinal sources that enabled the Javano-Balinese school of Saivism and provided a touchstone for their every textual endeavor.

While I will note below some quibbles with Acri's translation of the DhPat (pp. 101-342), this should not be taken to outweigh my positive assessment of the merits of this publication. Acri begins his work with an excellent introduction to the Tutur and Tattva textual steams and how the DhPat is positioned among them. In his very informative introduction he shows us how the DhPat "interprets heterogeneous Sanskrit materials belonging to different ... religious and philosophical traditions and blends them to form a coherent Saiva theological system" (p. 11). This section is followed by a complete facsimile of the original manuscript, along with both a diplomatic and a critical edition of the text, which is further elaborated in the footnotes to the critical edition and translation. This section of Acri's volume will be invaluable both for palaeographers interested in the mechanics of the text, and for a broader range of scholars concerned mainly with the content of the original.

The critical edition and translation of the DhPat are followed by a thoroughgoing exposition of the Saiva doctrines that are propounded in the text (pp. 343-616). In this section he has grouped "the Lord, the Soul, the Cosmos, Man, Karma, Yoga, Right Knowledge and Wrong Knowledge" under the general heading "Doctrines" and elucidated each of these elements of doctrine with reference to specific points in the text where these elements of doctrine are discussed. This, again, is a valuable resource, since it will allow readers who lack the time or expertise to study the original text to gain an overview of the doctrinal pattern of Saivism in the ancient archipelago. Acri's work in his exposition of the doctrines of the DhPat bespeaks a firm grounding in the relevant textual traditions of India combined with a keen sensitivity to the nuances of the Old Javanese terminology of the text that strongly supports his comparative work on Saiva doctrine. Acri has also provided the reader with several appendices, including one that gives us "parallel synopses of Three Tattvas" and another that provides "parallel synopses of the Yogapada of the DhPat and the YS [Yogasutra] These appendices add further utility to Acri's publication and attest to his careful attention to the comparative method, and to maintaining the highest standards in philology.

My concerns with Acri's translation have largely to do with emendations that seem to me at times to be based on an incorrect analysis of the syntax of the original, or translations of some clauses that appear to me not to correctly capture the meaning of the original, again because of some minor errors in syntactic analysis. To put this in context, it seems to this writer at least that we must still speak of Old Javanese as a language that has to date been only partially theorized, either by way of indigenous systems of knowledge or by Western linguistic scholarship. To be sure there have been contributions from, inter alia, Becker and Oka (1974), Oglobin (2005a; 2005b), Uhlenbeck (1986), and Zoetmulder (1950). However, none of these has given us a fully systematic treatment of the language that takes advantage of recent advances in typological studies and the study of the comparative syntax of the Austronesian languages. We have yet to see a grammar that fully expounds the Old Javanese "symmetrical voice system" in both its realis and irrealis modes, or one that treats systematically the deictic articles, voice-marking pronouns, and discourse particles whose interacting usage links temporal, spatial, and referential aspects of Old Javanese discourses.

With this in mind it seems to me that the small percentage of points where Acri's translation goes astray were occasioned by the current lack in the field both of a systematic treatment of Old Javanese syntax and semantics and of a primer aimed at a larger field of non-specialists who wish to gain access to the significant textual corpus in Old Javanese. A typical case where Acri's translation can be faulted comes up in two clauses in 16.4-5 (verso), which run as follows: nahan laksana nikan pavor guna ikan pancamahabhuta, ya ta ginave bhuvana. Acri translates, "[t]hus are the characteristic of the five gross elements in combining with the qualities. These are caused to create the World by the Lord." In a footnote to this passage Acri calls attention to what he considers the "odd" position of the word bhuvana. Reasoning that bhuvana "cannot be adjectival" he supposes that "the clause contain[s] a causative construction, having as subject the pronoun ya ... as object bhuvana and as agent the Lord (bhatara)" (p. 223 n. 50).

One can argue the status of ya as an independent pronoun, but in any case the difficulty that Acri has encountered is the little-recognized fact that the combination of ya with the particle ta that marks discourse prominence is quite often, perhaps overwhelmingly, involved in cleft constructions of the type "the one who arrived was my brother." If we take that into account the two sentences of DhPat 16.4-5v can be read as "thus are the characteristic of the five gross elements in combining with the qualities" [following Acri], and "those (previous) are what is made by the Lord (into) the World" [reading ya ta as introducing a cleft construction].

Acri's "causative" solution for this passage has two problems: first, if an Old Javanese causative is to be made from the "passive" construction ginave it will require the addition of the transitivizing suffix -akan; and second, a true causative (universally) requires the presence of an agent who completes the action set in motion by the Control-verb of the matrix clause. In the present context this secondary agent, who carries out the action set in motion by the Lord, can only be the "qualities mixed with the five gross elements." But since these qualities and gross elements are by doctrinal definition inert substances they are lacking in the factor of volitionality that is required of causative agents. I conclude that the placement of bhuvana at the end of DhP16.5 is not "odd" at all but simply the result of the "right displacement" of the object of the "passive" verb ginave under the conditions of a cleft construction. We thus have the Lord making the world with the five elements, rather than the epistemologically incorrect case of their being caused to create the world.

It is fortunate for the reader that Acri's occasional lapses in analysis affect only a very small percentage of his translation and have had no visible effect on the impressive and highly valuable exegetical portions of his study. Acri's work stands among many outstanding contributions to our understanding of the textual corpus in Old Javanese, and in particular our understanding of the development and efflorescence of Saiva doctrine in the religious sanctuaries of Java, Sunda, and Bali. By any standard of comparison this is a landmark study. Acri's work deserves the attention of scholars from diverse fields, including (but not limited to) students of comparative religion, literary history, and anthropology. Based on a thorough knowledge of both the textual corpus of theological works in Old Javanese and a solid foundation in the relevant textual sources in Sanskrit, Acri's work will long stand as a testament to the continuing vitality and utility of the field of comparative philology.


Akri, Andrea. 2005. Saivism in Ancient Indonesia: The Sanskrit-Old Javanese 'Tutur' Literature from Bali. Tesi de laurea, Facolta di Studi Orientali, Universita degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza."

--. 2006. The Sanskrit-Old Javanese Tutur Literature from Bali: The Textual Basis of aivism in Ancient Indonesia. Rivista di Studi Sudasiatici 1: 113-43

Becker, A. L., and I Gusti Ngurah Oka. Person in Kawi: Exploration of an Elementary Semantic Dimension. Oceanic Linguistics 13: 229-55

Oglobin, Alexander K. 2005a. Irrealis in Old Javanese. Paper presented at the "International Seminar Commemorating the Work of the Late Prof. Dr. P. J. Zoetmulder," convened by the Faculty of Letters of Universitas Indonesia at Depok. July 8-9,2005.

--. 2005b. Notes on Old Javanese and Structural Changes in the History of Old Javanese. "In The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar, ed. Alexander Adelaar and Nicolaus P. Himmelmann. Pp. 615-21. London: Routledge.

Uhlenbeck, E. M. 1986. Clitic, Suffix and Particle: Some Indispensable Distinctions in Old Javanese Grammar. In A Man of Indonesian Letters: Essays in Honour of Professor A. Teeuw, ed. C. M. S. Hellwig and S. O. Robson. Pp. 334-41. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, vol. 121. Dordrecht: Foris Publications.

Zoetmulder, P. J. 1950. De tall ven het Adiparwa, een grammaticale stuide van het Oudjavaans. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Bataviaasch Genootschap voor Kunsten en Wetenschappen, vol. 79. Bandung: Nix & Co.


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Author:Hunter, Tom
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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