Old, Older, and Oldest Dharmaśāstra The Manuscript Tradition of the Manu Śāstra, the Original Text of the Manu Śāstra, and the First Dharmasūtras

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James L. Fitzgerald

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Patrick Olivelle’s two volumes presenting first the four oldest dharmasūtras, in updated and refurbished editions and new translations, and next his critical edition and translation of the Mānavadharmaśāstra are both meticulous works of fundamental scholarship that will stand as the normative forms of these five texts for decades to come. Olivelle’s contributions as an editor in each volume are very different, and these contributions are examined and discussed in some detail, particularly in the case of the critical edition of the Manu, which presents a number of important issues of lower and higher textual criticism. In the case of the sūtra volume, the discussion turns to a general comparison of Olivelle’s translations of the sūtras to Bühler’s and then to a closer examination of Olivelle’s translational policies for the word dharma and two words in particular used by the sūtras to describe the good of doing dharma, kṣema and niḥśreyasa. In the discussion of the edition of Manu, particular attention is given to his assembly, analysis, and presentation of the fifty-three witnesses used for the new edition of the Manu. Following that, there is a discussion of the nature of the tradition that gave rise to the text and used it, a discussion that calls into question some of Olivelle’s basic conclusions about the formation and development of the text of the Manu śāstra.




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