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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


Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 2011. Pp. 615. Appendices, Plates, Notes, Bibliography, General Index, Index of Text Passages.

doi: 10.1017/S0022463413000453

Andrea Acri, in this handsomely published sixteenth volume of the Gonda Indological Series, presents his readers with an edition, translation and extensive commentary on the Dharma Patanjala, an Old Javanese Saiva scripture. The edition is based upon a single nipah-palmleaf manuscript, which according to its colophon was copied in 1467 in Antiraga, a place whose exact location is unknown. The manuscript was part of a pre-sixteenth-century collection of manuscripts from West Java which at some time prior to 1758 had found its way to the Merapi-Merbabu region of Central Java, in all likelihood as part of an exchange of manuscripts between religious hermitages (kabuyutan) located in these two regions. The Dutch colonial government purchased the collection in 1851 on behalf of the Royal Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences. It seems that the Sanskritist Rudolf Friederich, who was in the employ of the Royal Society to carry out archaeological and philological research, presented the manuscript of the Dharma Patanjala to his compatriot Karl Schoemann who resided in Bogor and Batavia between 1845 and 1851 when he was tutor to the children of Governor General Rochussen. The manuscript was incorporated in the Staatsbibliothek of Berlin after Schoemann's death in 1877.

Acri provides both a diplomatic and critical edition of the text of the Dharma Patanjala. The diplomatic edition, he explains, is intended to reproduce the text of the work in a form as close as possible to the state in which the fifteenth-century scribe preserved the work. In the present publication we are given a facsimile reproduction of the original nipah-palm manuscript and a parallel diplomatic edition accompanied by paleographic and codicological remarks. Acri justifies the need for a diplomatic edition because our access to the Dharma Patanjala is reliant on a single manuscript which forms part of a manuscript tradition in West Java about which little is known. In this regard he reminds us that the practices that gave shape to the form in which such a work is reproduced reveal valuable information about both the socioeconomic background of the scribe and the aesthetic values of the civilisation he was part of.

The critical edition on the other hand, he argues, is designed with quite another purpose in mind. It is geared to reproduce as nearly as possible the text in the form it had in the mind of the author and so one which can be meaningfully compared with other contemporary works in the Indonesian Archipelago, continental Southeast Asia and the South Asian subcontinent. Accordingly Acri's starting point for his critical edition is the observation--founded upon the evidence of the Dharma Patanjala itself--that the author was 'a learned master' conversant with Saiva doctrine on which he drew creatively when he composed his work. It is on this assumption that Acri argues that the gaps, inconsistencies and mistakes in the single extant manuscript we have of this work are due not to its author but occurred in the process of subsequent reproductions. This, he points out, is as true of similar works preserved in Balinese manuscripts as it is true of the early Sanskrit Siddhantatantras from the South Asian subcontinent. It is on this premise that Acri--contrary to the practice of earlier editors of works based on the witness of a single manuscript who limited their corrections only to those which resulted from 'errors of writing'--has proposed more ambitious emendations which are intended to restore 'the meaningfulness and logical coherence' of the original work. In this he has been guided first by evidence internal to the whole of the text he is editing, then, when possible, on the witness of parallel passages from other closely related Old Javanese tattvas and tuturs, and in the case of listings of doctrinal elements, he has made use of relevant Sanskrit works. He has applied similar principals when emending Sanskrit loanwords and quotations, of which there are many in the work. He is convinced that in the Dharma Patanjala we are dealing not with Archipelago Sanskrit but with the kind of 'incorrect' language generally found in the majority of Sanskrit Saiva and Buddhist Tantric scriptures from the South Asian subcontinent. At all times he carefully records his emendations in the elaborate critical apparatus attached to the text of his critical edition.

The doctrinal content of the work is presented in the form of a conversation between Lord Siva and his son Kumara. This is the author's principal text-building strategy. Acri draws attention to other important text-building characteristics of the work. For example he documents the role that the theoretical doctrinal distinction between jnanapada (Doctrine) and yogapada (Yoga) has played in the way the work's author has arranged the subject matter of his doctrinal exegesis and he draws his reader's attention to other rhetorical figures commonly found in gastric Siddhantatantras such as the argumentative sequence of 'question' (prasna), 'preliminary listing' (uddesa), 'definition' (laksan.aa) or 'investigation from all sides' (pariksa) and finally 'determination' (nirnaya) as well as to commentarial figures, in particular the practice of 'paraphrasing' (padarthokti) which functioned to clarify the meaning of technical terms and grammatical structures and extended to the exegetical answering of objections to ideas expounded in the work.

The Dharma Patanjala has only traces of the dyadic Sanskrit sloka followed by Old Javanese explanation that is characteristic of such works as the Vrhaspatitattva and the Tattvajnana. Despite this fact, Acri judges the Dharma Patanjala to be doctrinally and stylistically close to these two works. He points out that all three share passages which treat the same set of doctrinal themes, display the same close relationship with Sanskrit models and doctrine and contain few signs of cultural localisation. The Dharma Patanjala, he says, draws elements of both its style of exegesis and its doctrine from the early Saiva Siddhantatantras which are dated to the fifth to the tenth centuries on the subcontinent which saw first the Atimarga and then the Mantramarga forms of religiosity come into being. In particular he points to Patafijali's Yogasutra as an important foundation of the work, but notes that it derives a different exegetical tradition than that represented in the Yogasutrabhasya. Despite the close relationship between the Old Javanese work and early works of the Saivasiddhanta, Acri is persuaded that the Dharma Patanjala is not to be dated to this early period. Rather, he argues, it is more likely that the work was composed after the tenth century, a date that explains its preservation of archaic Atimarga theological elements alongside later Mantramarga doctrines.

The intention of the author of the Dharma Patanjala was to provide a doctrinal exegesis. Acri has organised his own commentary of the work's doctrinal content in the form of a discussion of the categories 'The Lord', 'The Soul', 'Cosmos', 'Man', 'Karma', 'Yoga', 'Right Knowledge' and finally 'Wrong Knowledge'. In these sections of the book, Acri discusses the Lord conceptualised as both the absolute and personal god in the light of monist and dualist doctrines; the relationship between the Lord and the soul and the processes of maculation and liberation; the evolution of the principals of the universe and the geography of the cosmic egg; the principal of the intellect (buddhi), which is the point of intersection of macrocosm and microcosm that is the individual and the explanation that the work gives of the development of human physiology, the form of the body and the 'vessels' (nadi) through which the breaths which sustain the body circulate. He goes on to comment on the work's explanation of karma and how it determines incarnation and then discusses the Dharma Patanjala's account of the yoga of eight ancillaries, which occupies almost a third of the work and is unique amongst Old Javanese doctrinal works. He discusses 'right knowledge' both as direct perception, inference and the testimony of scripture, the three valid means to knowledge and as a fundamental ingredient in the process of liberation; and finally 'wrong knowledge' which he identifies with materialist traditions of philosophy from the subcontinent. Here Acri's comparisons with Sanskrit works from the subcontinent with works from Java and Bali offer his reader a wonderfully detailed understanding of the doctrinal relationship between the Dharma Patanjala and such works as the Vrhaspatitattva and the Tattvajnana with which it has a close relationship, and with other Old Javanese tattva and tutur and works of other genres as well.

Acri's book is a substantial work of scholarship. In it he has drawn attention to a unique and important work of Saivasiddhanta tantric doctrine from a Javanese manuscript tradition and school of doctrine and religious practice about which we know very little indeed. He has also addressed important matters of principle concerning the editing of manuscripts from western Java and elsewhere, and most importantly he has provided us with a commentary on the doctrinal contents of the Dharma Patanjala which lays the foundations of a more detailed understanding of the history of Saiva doctrine and practice in Java and Bali in relationship with developments elsewhere in Southeast Asia and on the South Asian subcontinent.


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Author:Worsley, Peter
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2013
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