Sunday, February 13, 2022

JAYANTA BHATTA ( 820-900 AD ) OF KASHMIR

                                                                           



 

JAYANTA BHATTA ( 820-900 AD ) OF KASHMIR

( Photo ..Dazu Rock carvings in China depict the six heretical teachers or philosophers from ancient India)

Prof. Meem Hai Zaffar spoke to me about 'Nyayaranjani’ that he has been reading currently. He shared some details about 'Nyayaranjani'of Jayanta Bhatta , the author who happened to be a Kashmiri of profound learning and scholarship.

Jayanta Bhatta was a poet , logician, philosopher, playwright and critic from Kashmir who lived during the rule of King Shankeravarman ( 883-902 AD ) of the Utpala dynasty. Jayanta was also a scholar who had mastered Shastra and Agma . His great grandfather, Shaktiswamin Bhatta was a minister of King Lalitaditya Muktapida. Jayanta was a prolific writer whose maximum work has been lost . Jayanta rose to prominence in his advanced age in .Some manuscripts that stand , located indicate the level of his scholarship . Many western scholars consider Jayanta as a master-scholar of Indian logic. The well known scholar , R D Hegde writes this :-

“ Jayanta Bhatta’s contribution to Indian philosophy is no less . He composed two Nyaya works ; Nyayakalika and Nyayamanjari . He also composed an allegorical drama Agamadambara apart from a commentary on Paninian Grammar . Except the Panini’s grammar , all other works have been located, edited and translated into English. “

                                           
( Jayanta Bhatta portrait by artist Ravi Dhar)

Although not much is known about his prolific work , yet some manuscripts of Jayanta Bhatta are preserved in Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Pune. The drama Agamadambara written by Jayanta has been translated into English as ‘Much Ado About Religion’ and published jointly by New York University Press and the JJC Foundation.. Exclusive in Sanskrit literature, this four act play, is a blend of fiction and history, of scathing satire and intriguing philosophical argumentation. The play satirizes various religions in Kashmir and their place in the politics of King Shánkeravarman (883-902 CE). The leading character, Sankárshana, is a young and dynamic orthodox graduate of Vedic studies, whose career starts as a glorious campaign against the heretic, Buddhists, Jains and other sects. The hero of this quasi-philosophical drama wants to defeat all opponents of Vedas through reasoning. 
 

This is what Dr David Slakter  from University of Liverpool writes about Āgamaḍambara( Much Ado About Religion):-

“In the Āgamaḍambara (‘Much Ado About Religion’), Bhaṭṭa Jayanta presents an argument for an inclusivist approach to the problem of religious diversity, building upon some of the arguments given in his Nyāyamañjarī. Although his arguments are restricted to consideration of a form of Hinduism particular in time and place, I argue that Jayanta’s solution to the problem of religious diversity has wide-ranging relevance and some applicability to contemporary debates in the philosophy of religion. I consider possible pluralist objections to inclusivism, such as those given by John Hick in An Interpretation of Religion and elsewhere. In response to these objections, I argue that an inclusivism like Jayanta’s addresses all the reasons someone might have for adopting a pluralist position and in fact does so better than the pluralists by remaining within a live religious tradition.”

 
It is pertinent to mention that Kashmir had various sects and religious groups during the rule of Karkota and Utpala Kings . The six Heretic teachers or philosophers of India namely Purana Kassapa ,Makkhali Gossala , Ajita Kesakambala, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta and Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta had their followers in Kashmir as well. The presence of Ajivika sect of Makkhali Gossala is evidenced by the images of Harwan terracotta tiles . The Ajivikas believed in Niyativada or fatalism. They held a belief that human beings are powerless and their suffering is pre-destined. Similarly the followers of Purana Kassapa believed in Amoralism.They believed that there is no reward or punishment for either good or bad deeds. The followers of Kesakambala believed in Lokayata or materialism . This group believed in living a happy life as everything finished with the death. They didn’t believe in anything beyond death. The followers of Pakudha Kaccāyana believed in Sassatavada or eternalism while followers of Nataputta and Belaṭṭhaputta believed in Jainism ( restraint ) and Ajnana (Agnosticism ) respectively.

Jayanta Bhatta was imprisoned in a cave by King Shankeravarman of Kashmir. He utilised his dreary days and completed Nyaya-manjari in imprisonment . During the period of confinement the King Sarmkaravarman most probably put a ban on the Nilambara sect and their customs. This sect of people would wear blue clothes and indulge in irreligious and immoral Tantric acts . Jayanta defends the action of the king although he faced imprisonment .
 
English translation of Nyayamanjari by Janaki Vallabh Battacharya has been published by an Indian publishing house . In his preface to Nyayamanjari , Jayanta writes this :-

“ I have culled this essential herb from the wild garden of herbs of logic and have churned this lump of butter from the milk of logic of Aksapada .Let the discerning wise people take their bath in this great flowing river of Sarsawati which ardently flows into the ocean of Aksapada ‘s logic . We claim no originality of thinking to discover new truth but have fascinating style to express the old ones in an attractive form. Let the critics examine it for themselves . ”
 
Nyayamanjari is an information bank of logic, metaphysics, moral principles and religious studies and represents the history of Indian Philosophy of a particular period. Even the existence of god has been brought to a logical scrutiny by Jayanta in Nyayamanjari. This is a work full of arguments and counter-arguments that has no parallel in Indian history. Both in the selection of the subject matter and the method of its treatment, the author has displayed his wide learning and scholarship.

Nyakalika is another text that has been located , edited and translated . It deals with the sixteen topics of logic mentioned in Gautama's Nyayasutras. The manuscript of this text is also held at Raghunath Temple Sanskrit Manuscript Library , Jammu . Credit for preservation of these vital manuscripts should go to Maharaja Ranbir Singh , George Buhler, Marc Aurel Stein, George Grierson. Prof. Nityananda Sastri, Pt. Govind Kaul, Pt. Damodar, Pt. Sahib Ram, Pt. Mukund Ram Sastri, Pt. Ananda Kaul, Pt. Ishwar Kaul, Pt. Sahaz Bhat and Prof. Jagdhar Zadoo .

Reading Nyayamanjari from the free download available on the internet. Shall be ordering a hard copy for a complete reading.

( Avtar Mota )

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