THE KASHMIRI SHAIVISM PRESERVATION PROJECT
The purpose of this document is to give an overview of the large collection of manuscripts obtained from the Oriental Research Library, Śrīnagar (Phase 1 of the project) and to invite your support for further developmental ideas for the preservation of the literary legacy of Kashmir Shaivism (Phase 2).
Thanks to the generous contributions from the Shaiva Yoga and Mattamayūra communities, and from private donors, in the Spring of 2012 “Tantric (Shaiva) Manuscript Acquisition Project” (TMAP) was launched to fund a trip to the Oriental Research Library (ORL) at the University of Jammu and Kashmir in Śrīnagar in order to obtain thousands of digital scans of Shaiva manuscripts,comprising a significant percentage (but still not the majority) of the ORL’s massive collection.
A number of these precious manuscripts have never been examined by modern scholars, and most have never been made publicly accessible.
Our inventory currently includes:
- 12,500+ folios of scanned Śaiva manuscripts (25,000+ pages)
- 500 or so total manuscripts, representing over 90 individual titles in 13 genres of Kashmiri Śaiva literature
- numerous works undocumented in the ORL’s incomplete catalog
- several titles previously thought to have been lost
- a collection of rare stotras (hymns) to local Goddesses of Kashmir
- Over a dozen beautiful manuscript paintings
For comparison, The TMAP collection is already significantly larger than that of Muktabodha, and moreover contains a greater diversity of manuscript versions of original works, holdings necessary for the creation of ‘critical editions’ and thus more accurate translations (for more on the crucial necessity of a ‘critical edition,’ see below). However, we need more funding to retrieve more manuscripts, and to make those manuscripts available to scholars online.
We invite your financial support and your suggestions as to how we can achieve the goal of Phase 2 of the Kashmir Shaivism Preservation Project—acquisition of the necessary funds for the creation of a non-profit foundation with the four specific aims detailed below.
Vision and Mission of the Kashmir Shaivism Preservation Project
The overall aim of the Project is to protect, preserve, and disseminate the teachings and practices of the nondual Shaiva philosophy of Kashmir, one of the great treasures of the world’s wisdom. We will do this by a) creating a comprehensive digital archive of Sanskrit sources, making the same available to Sanskrit scholars; and b) publishing these sources with English translations that make them accessible to a wider audience. These goals are spelled out in more detail below.
Four Goals of Phase 2 of the Kashmir Shaivism Preservation Project
- To create a user-friendly, interactive website that will:
- provide all manuscripts in this collection as digital scans and/or downloadable e-texts easily accessible for scholars.
- contain an interactive WIKI, inviting contributions by all top scholars in the field, which will foster international scholarly collaboration, greatly advancing the field.
- Create Searchable E-Texts.
- Our biggest (but necessary) challenge is to transform our huge collection of photographed manuscripts into searchable e-texts, that is to say typed-in versions of our manuscripts in IAST (International Alphabet for Sanskrit Transliteration), so that they can be searched with computer programs such as GREP (see below).
- This data entry project will have to be undertaken by a paid staff proficient in the Śāradā script of medieval Kashmir, and possessing some knowledge of the Sanskrit language.
- Create a training document and video in the use of GREP software.
- This invaluable software engine allows the scholar to search for key terms and phrases within hundreds or thousands of Sanskrit e-texts at a time, an critical tool for doing research on any given concept within the tradition. For example, a scholar wishing to write on kuṇḍalinī can GREP that term and its variants across hundreds of text, widening or narrowing the search with any number of operants that dictate the context in which the term is found. For example, with GREP you can search exclusively for discussions of kuṇḍalinī in the context of dīkṣā. The value of this search system for scholarly research is unprecedented and inestimable.
- To Create, Translate, and Publish ‘Critical Editions’ of Shaiva Works.
- Lastly, perhaps the highest aim of the foundation is to fund a team of scholars trained in the skill of textual editing to create ‘critical editions’ (see below) and thus reliable translations of Shaiva works from the multiple manuscript versions of original Shaiva works made accessible by the Kashmir Shaivism Preservation Project.
- Publishing. We seek to align with an established, reputable academic publisher interested in furthering scholarship on Kashmir Shaivism.
What is a ‘Critical Edition’ and why is it so important?
Once an author composes a work, for it to survive it must be copied and recopied over the generations by scribes. Each scribe makes some mistakes in copying the work, as well as transmitting the errors made by the scribe(s) before him. When the Muslims finished their conquest of Kashmir in the early 14th century, support for Sanskrit learning rapidly declined, meaning that good scribes were increasingly rare, and errors proliferated in the copying of the scriptures.
The well-known ‘Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies’ (KSTS) from the early 20th century was created using these flawed manuscript sources, fixing a few errors but reproducing most of them. The many errors (called ‘corruptions’ by scholars) in the KSTS publications is a major reason why most of them have not been translated into English; the corrupted texts are often too difficult to translate. Therefore, our first task is to establish a reliable version of the work before it can be translated.
We create a reliable version of the work, known as a ‘critical edition’, by comparing and contrasting many different manuscripts of that work in order to find and eliminate errors. When we do this, we find that no two manuscripts are alike, and some offering valuable readings that other lack. This allows us to restore sense to a passage that reads as nonsense in the published KSTS edition.
An example of the importance of manuscript comparison and critical editing:
Let’s take a brief illustrative example from a well-known text. In the introduction to Kṣemarāja’s Pratyabhijñā-hṛdayam in the KSTS version, we find a passage that reads śaktipātonmiṣita-pārameśvara-samāveśābhilāṣiṇaḥ bhakti-bhājaḥ, which means that he is writing his text for “those devotees who desire to have an experience of the Supreme Lord of the kind revealed through Shaktipāt.”But this doesn’t make sense, because the secret teachings given in the Pratyabhijñā-hṛdayam are only supposed to be given to those who have already received shaktipāt. When we look at one of our manuscripts, we find a different reading: śaktipāt-vaśonmiṣat- . . . –abhilāṣāḥ, which makes far more sense — “those devotees whose longing for immersion into the Supreme Lord is growing, due to the influence of their Shaktipāt.” No-one with knowledge of this tradition can deny that this is a better reading, and the reading in the KSTS must be wrong. Of course, to reach this sound conclusion, the scholar must overcome any prejudice that leads him to believe that a printed text is superior to a manuscript source. We have not found this to be the case for any KSTS edition.
Thus our primary goal is to obtain as many surviving manuscript versions of original Shaiva texts as possible and to make them publicly and freely accessible to scholars. Those scholars in turn will transcribe, collate, compare and contrast all surviving versions of a given text in order to identify and remove the errors of transmission commonly found in any one of them. The desired outcome of this process is a polished, authoritative version of an original work, called a critical edition. Consequently, a translation drawn from a critical edition will be sound and reliable, bringing the voice of its author to life far more accurately then a translation made from a corrupt edition.
For more on the importance of critical editions, please visit the FAQ section.
* See especially Sanderson, ‘History Through Textual Criticism’ (2001), and Tanselle, (1989) A Rationale of Textual Criticism,’ quoted in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textual_criticism.
If you’d like to offer your support for this historic project in any form – financial or administrative – or to give suggestions as to how our goals can be attained, please contact Christopher Tompkins at email@example.com
With sincere gratitude,
Christopher Tompkins Christopher Wallis
M.T.S. Religion (Harvard) M.Phil. Classical Indian Religion (Oxford)
M.A. Sanskrit (U.C. Berkeley) M.A. Sanskrit (U.C. Berkeley)