Bhaṭṭanāyaka and the Vedānta Influence on Sanskrit Literary Theory

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James D. Reich



In the history of Sanskrit literary theory Bhaṭṭanāyaka occupies an influential yet mysterious position. Abhinavagupta clearly owes a great debt to him, but since Bhaṭṭanāyaka’s works themselves have been lost, it has proven difficult to understand exactly what that debt is. The common understanding is that Bhaṭṭanāyaka was a Mīmāṃsaka and that he applied the principles of Vedic hermeneutics to literature. But this actually doesn’t fit well with much of what Abhinavagupta tells us about Bhaṭṭanāyaka, and upon closer inspection it becomes clear that in fact Abhinavagupta presents him as someone who was thoroughly interested in ideas drawn from non-dual Vedānta. This article reexamines the depictions of Bhaṭṭanāyaka in Abhinavagupta’s works and shows that while the evidence for a Mīmāṃsā connection is quite thin, the evidence for a similar connection to Vedānta is quite strong. Taking this connection seriously helps us develop a much clearer picture of Bhaṭṭanāyaka’s ideas, and it also helps us understand various details of Abhinavagupta’s response to Bhaṭṭanāyaka that would otherwise remain obscure.

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