Śālikanātha’s contribution

Śālikanātha is the main philosopher of the Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā school after Prabhākara himself.

In some sense, one could even say that he is more important than Prabhākara himself, since he is way more systematic than Prabhākara, and explores through his various thematic essays almost all topics commonly dealt with in Sanskrit philosophy. Moreover, he is certainly more influential than Prabhākara, since his works are regularly read and cited instead of the terse words of Prabhākara’s only extant work, the Bṛhatī.

Like in the case of the relation between Kumārila and Prabhākara, Śālikanātha’s position in the history of Sanskrit philosophy needs further investigation. His systematisation of Prābhākara philosophy, answering (or trying to answer) all challenges coming from the Bhāṭṭa field is so thorough that no philosopher after him went back to Prabhākara alone without taking into account his explanations. For instance, no one went back to Prabhākara’s account of arthāpatti, independently of Śālikanātha’s reinterpretaion. All of Kumārila’s interpreters and commentators have been influenced by Śālikanātha and at times mutuated their siddhānta from Śālikanātha’s objections.
However, there is one author referring to Prābhākara ideas and not taking into account Śālikanātha’s points. This is Jayanta, who is also among the few authors whose dates are relatively settled (870–950 ca.). Thus, Śālikanātha either lived after Jayanta, or was not yet known at the time of Jayanta in Kaśmīr.

As hinted at above, Śālikanātha tried to systematise Prabhākara by making an all-encompassing Prābhākara philosophy. In other words, he tried to stretch Prabhākara’s views way beyond what was more important to Prabhākara (such as deontic and hermeneutic issues) and to cover also ontology etc. He also tried to raise to the challenge produced by Kumārila by reinterpreting Prabhākara’s theory in a way apt to answer to Kumārila’s objection (for instance, by reconsidering the role of apūrva, by admitting smārita padārtha within the process of signification and by discussing the cognitive aspect of abhāva).

These are just some of the reasons that make it relevant and necessary to read and study Śālikanātha. Other reasons include his being a) philosophically intriguing (as certified even by his opponents, see above concerning Kumārila’s commentators reusing them); b) an enjoyable and elegant author.

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5 Replies to “Śālikanātha’s contribution”

  1. Hi Elisa,

    This is good to know. I am looking forward to learning more about Śālikanātha!

    Just have a quick question on the Mimamsaka view of ethics. Do all Mimamsaka-s accept something like the divine command theory of ethics? In the Mimamsaka context, it may be more apt to call it the scriptural injunction/prohibition theory. In short, something is dharma because it is enjoined in the shruti texts, and adharma because it is prohibited in the shruti texts.

    What leads me to ask this question is the following. According to Tarka-bhaashaa (section 36), there is no vyaapti between slaughter and sin, i.e., there is no natural relation between them, because there is an inferential undercutter (upaadhi), i.e., prohibition:

    हिंसात्वस्य धर्मसाधनत्वेन सम्बन्धे निषिद्धत्वम्… उपाधिः।

    Now, in adopting this view, Tarka-bhaashaa seems to be influenced by Kumarila Bhatta’s Slokavarttika. After all, the former quotes the latter (slokas 121-123 in the inference section) in section 43. In the Slokavarttika, Kumarila Bhatta writes (again in the inference section, slokas 17-18):

    निषिद्धत्वेन हिंसानाम् अधर्मत्वं प्रयुज्यते॥
    तदभावे न तत्सिद्धिहिंसात्वादप्रयोजकात्।

    “Animal-slaughter is sinful, simply because it is prohibited. In the absence of such prohibition, the mere fact of its being ‘animal-slaughter’ could not prove it to be sinful.” (Ganganath Jha’s translation)

    This suggests that these two works seize one horn of the Euthyphro dilemma. Is something adharma because it is prohibited, or is it prohibited because it is adharma? It seems as though the Bhatta Mimamsakas and some of the Naiyayikas choose the first horn of the dilemma. But do we find an alternative account in the Brahmanical tradition that chooses the second horn?

    • Correcting typographical error in the Tarkabhaashaa text to:
      हिंसात्वस्य अधर्मसाधनत्वेन सम्बन्धे निषिद्धत्वम्… उपाधिः।

  2. Thanks for joining the discussion, Boram.
    You are right, in a Mīmāṃsā context we cannot speak of a “divine command theory of ethics”, because there are no divine commands and because there are no ethics independently of the Veda. In fact, one of the reasons why I find Mīmāṃsā so interesting is that it does not recur to something external, such as “Well, we’ll not do it because, you know, it just does not feel right”.
    So, take the locus classicus for these discussions, which is the śyena sacrifice. All Mīmāṃsā authors agree that it should not be performed, although it is prescribed, because it is violent. Sāṅkhya authors take the second stand on the dilemma and say that violence is inherently bad, whereas Mīmāṃsā authors just say that violence is prohibited and therefore to be avoided. Then, they need to explain why the prohibition to perform violence should be stronger than the prescription to perform the śyena, and they solve the issue in many different ways…

    • As usual, thanks for your helpful response. (I’ve looked up “syena sacrifice”, and that leads me to your blog posts on the topic, which suggests that you are the right person to consult about it!)

      I am more concerned about the animal-killing in sacrifices, and reading your post on Jayanta suggests an idea I also had, that animal-killing in sacrifices could be justified as apavaada for the more general rule against killing. (Skimming through Kumarila’s Slokavarttika, there does not seem to be such justification there. Instead, animal-killing seems to be condoned as the unintended side-effect of the main intended goal of this or that sacrifice. But I could be wrong about this.)

      Of course, then perhaps syena sacrifice too can be justified using apavaada reasoning, so I can see why it is esp. problematic.

      The position that the syena sacrifice can be used against those who are prepared to kill (perhaps to protect the innocent or in self-defense) seems to me more plausible than the position that it ought never to be used at all. If it ought never to be used, then it seems pointless (counterproductive even!) to have mentioned it in the first place. And I thought the most basic interpretive principle in Vyakarana and Mimamsa is to interpret passages and parts thereof in such a way that they are not rendered otiose.

      In my state of ignorance, it seems to me epistemically possible that the Mimamsakas could accept “being dharma/adharma” and “being enjoined/prohibited in the scriptures” as coextensive, while also accepting that the explanatory arrow also goes the other way. Namely, something is enjoined or prohibited in the scriptures iff, and because, it is dharma or adharma.

      In effect, it looks like this is what Jayanta is doing. Performing the syena sacrifice is adharma. Therefore, it cannot be enjoined in the scriptures as the object of a चोदना. (Of course, it is very likely that I am mistaken in my idea about what Jayanta is doing.)

      • Dear Boram,

        thank you for your very stimulating quesitons and sorry for the late reply.
        —Yes, sacrificial violence could be seen as the exception to a general prohibition and therefore overruling it, but not all authors see it that way. Others (like Kumārila) say that the prohibition to violence regards only violence as result and not instrumental violence.
        —Yes, using the apavāda device to justify violence is really dangerous because then śyena cannot be blocked.
        —YES, you are right, there cannot be superfluous parts of the Veda. But the one you mention is not the only solution for the Śyena. It could be the best way to kill, if you have to (Veṅkaṭanātha’s “gentle murderer” solution) or it could be the thing you ought to if you fall from the ideal condition of not desiring to perform violence and become its adhikārin (seems to be Prabhākara’s solution).
        —I think that you are right and vidheya=dharma, but post Jayanta Nyāya authors want to ground it in an external moral authority, like God, whereas the system is closed and does not need morality for Mīmāṃsā authors.

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