Debate and rational Argumentation in South Asian Buddhism

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Śāntarakṣita, Rubin Museum of Art, 19th century
Project Data

The Vādanyāyaṭīkā, written by the important South Asian Buddhist scholar Śāntarakṣita (ca. 725–788 CE), is a commentary on the Vādanyāya (“The Rules of Debate”) by Dharmakīrti (ca. 6th/7th century). In this text, concepts related to scholarly and public debate are defined, in particular the classification of defeat situations.

The goal of the project is to prepare a diplomatic and critical edition of the Vādanyāyaṭīkā. Its first edition, published by Rāhula Sāṅkṛtyāyana in 1935–1936, is based on a single manuscript that the editor discovered in the Kundeling Monastery in Lhasa. New studies of the manuscript conducted under improved scholarly and material conditions have shown that the first edition, as well as a printed edition by Dwarikadas Shastri from 1972, needs to be improved in many regards and that a critical edition which applies the methods of historical-critical philology is a desideratum.

Through a general cooperation agreement between the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing, this project will benefit from access to excellent copies of the above manuscript. The editorial work will apply latest methods being developed by current digital textual scholarship and will follow TEI/XML guidelines. This machine-readable data format, which has an internationally standardized markup system, makes it possible to document a text’s inherent attributes systematically, as well as to easily manipulate data for publication, export data and archive it long term.

Śāntarakṣita’s commentary is significant not only for interpreting the Vādanyāya, but also for our historical understanding of Buddhist polemics during the early medieval period (500–1200 CE), a phase of considerable diversification. Apart from a few individual studies that have examined selected passages, most of Śāntarakṣita’s references to intra-Buddhist and Brahmanical schools, such as the Nyāya, Sāṅkhya, Mīmāṃsā and Vaiyākaraṇa, as well as quotations of textual fragments from lost philosophical works, have not been systematically explored by modern scholars, partly due to the lack of a reliable edition. Among other things, this project will also focus on the textual fragments from lost works found in Śāntarakṣita’s work to gain an idea of his sources and reconstruct some of the early history of these philosophical traditions.

This historical and critical edition should serve as a reliable basis for expanding our understanding of Śāntarakṣita’s philosophy. Applying internationally recognized technologies and standards of digital philology will assure that the results of the project are credible and accessible, thus providing a solid basis for future digital research and collaboration.

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External links

Illustration: Detail of 19th century Tibetan painting of Śāntarakṣita, Rubin Museum of Art, Acc. No. C2007.22.1 | Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Languages: DE EN

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