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Rule-extension Strategies in Ancient India

Ritual, Exegetical and Linguistic Considerations on the "tantra</I>- and "prasaṅga</I>-Principles

Elisa Freschi and Tiziana Pontillo

This study focuses on the devices implemented in Classical Indian texts on ritual and language in order to develop a structure of rules in an economic and systematic way. These devices presuppose a spatial approach to ritual and language, one which deals for instance with absences as substitutions within a pre-existing grid, and not as temporal disappearances. In this way, the study reveals a key feature of some among the most influential schools of Indian thought.
The sources are Kalpasūtra, Vyākaraṇa and Mīmāṃsā, three textual traditions which developed alongside each other, sharing – as the volume shows – common presuppositions and methodologies. The book will be of interest for Sanskritists, scholars of ritual exegesis and of the history of linguistics.

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Chapter 5 Conclusions

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Function in absentia explained through spatial substitution instead of sequential disappearance The Śrautasūtra, Mīmāṃsā and Vyākaraṇa texts here analysed focus on two different patterns of rule-extension, which account for the actual functioning of an element which appears to be absent. They register the absence of something in a spatial way, as the blank cell in a grid (representing the ritual space), whose blank value can be substituted through something else (see Kahrs 1998). An absence can be filled, i.e., a blank cell can be substituted by something else, in various ways, namely through tantra, prasaṅga, atideśa, pratinidhi, etc. All of them extend an element, which is already present in another part of the grid, to the blank cell. By contrast, Śrautasūtras, Mīmāṃsā and Vyākaraṇa never use a temporal explanation in order to justify the absence of an element. It is never said, e.g., that a fore-sacrifice, or its function, or a phoneme “disappeared”, and there is no trace of a temporal structure, with diachronic sequences instead of simultaneously present grids. Śrautasūtra, Mīmāṃsā and Vyākaraṇa: a common prehistory? Śrau- tasūtras, Mīmāṃsā and Vyākaraṇa often share same technical terms and com- parable devices. It is, however, often impossible to detect a single direction of borrowing/influence. Hence, rather than uni-directional borrowings, a com- mon prehistory should be postulated. Nevertheless, in the complex history of the usage of...

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