The Madhva school of Vedanta is an orthodox tradition that is being forced to rise to the challenges of modernity, and in particular, recent technological advances. Are these changes minor ones or do they strike at the very heart of Madhva doctrine? Do they point towards its end or are they a chance to flourish? Dr Sarma's talk addresses these and other related issues that would face any esoteric tradition.
If ultimate reality is beyond language, how can language comprise the only valid method of acquiring knowledge of it? And if no language whatsoever can describe ultimate reality, what guarantee could there be that what Vedic language purports to disclose is anything other than a chimera?
These are problems that lie at the heart of Shankara's Advaita Vedanta, but occur, in different guises, in a wide range of religious traditions. They are problems which raise questions about text and interpretation, about 'revelation' and the ways in which language is held to work.
Recently there has been a general interest in the relation of religion to kingship in the history of Indian religions. In the context of this interest, the seminar examines the relationship between power and ritual through showing how sovereignty is expressed in Vedic liturgies.
In Indian tradition, oral transmission of the Veda unfolds the mystery of perfect linguistic behaviour, i.e., maintaining formal contiguity of syllabic structures or ‘ekavakyata’ and thereby avoiding possibilities of ‘arthabheda’ or misunderstanding. Reasons for such linguistic structure have been well expressed in Taittiriya Aranyaka followed by the vedangas, namely, siksa, pratisakhya, vyakarana and nirukta.
The Mūrtāmūrtabrāhmaṇa (II.3) of the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad introduces the néti néti formula and explains it. From Sanskrit commentaries we can gather that this formula was traditionally interpreted in two ways. The second of them, the one adopted by Śaṅkara, has become the favourite of most of the modern translations; the first interpretation has not attracted the attention of a modern scholar.
On the other hand, a very competent scholar like Geldner (1928) has made an exception and interpreted the formula in an extra-ingenious way, as double negation, which was never considered in the