The Limits of Interpretation in Vedāntic Commentary

Maryādām Ullaṅghya: The Boundaries of Interpretation in Early Modern India

Christopher Minkowski

In the early modern period the principal arena for intellectual dispute for Brahminical thinkers writing in Sanskrit was the proper interpretation of the canonical literature of the Vedānta. It was agreed by the many contesting positions that these texts were the sole source of correct knowledge, and that the Sanskritic trivium of learned practices: grammar, sentential analysis, and logical proof, were the proper means for interpreting them. Yet despite the notional agreement on the maryāda, a term that means both limit and customary practice, many authors distinguished themselves by the extent to which they were willing to depart from this agreed norm, and to take interpretation to astonishing extremes. In the framework of the Working Group "The Learned Practices of Canonical Texts," this paper constituted a history of the emergence of new techniques, and the way that the agreed limits of interpretation were argued for, based on the examples of three authors: Appayya Dīkṣita, Lakṣmaṇa Paṇḍita, and Nīlakaṇṭha Caturdhara.