bhaTTa jayanta the paippalAdin

I have always felt a close affinity to bhaTTa jayanta, the great scholar from kashmIra. He lived in the 800-900s of CE and was associated with the dictatorial king shankaravarman who kalhaNA describes as a corrupt despot. kalhaNa informs us of his lack of education and culture by stating that this king spoke only apabhramsha, a language fit for drunkards (I told our Hindi teacher these very words, which she has not forgotten since :-), I hear) . Some how I have felt a unity with jayanta, though we are separated by space and time yet resonate. We have some biographical information about him from his son’s notes and his own personal allusions. He was of the clan of the bharadvAjas and his ancestors were from the vanga country in the east. Then, from vanga they migrated to kashmIra during the 600s. His clan followed the paippalAda shAkha of the atharva veda and were ardent shrauta ritualists. The one of his ancestor’s shakti-svAmin, a worshipper of kumAra, was appointed as an officer in the court of the great lalitAditya. Hailing from this long line of brahminical scholars, jayanta was not surprisingly a boy genius. At the age of ten he composed a comentary on pANini, which was so lucid that he acquired the title of nava vR^ittikAra even before he had completed his education. He subsequently went on to master the atharva veda and its rituals, various dharma shAstras, and various tantras. His personal deity was rudra, but he was clearly a smArta rather than sectarian. He soon became a great exponent of nyAya and came up with the concept that every thing that is “knowable” should also be formally definable. As the brahman is ultimately knowable it must be formally definable, unlike the advaita view that is knowable but indefinable. He then went on to build nyAya as the core philosophical system, and believed that the whole system of shAstraic interpretation should rest on nyAya rather than advaita. He developed the concept of the atomic nature of sense perception. However, throughout he voiced his firm support for the importance of vedic ritualism over sectarian streams like shaiva and vaiShNava matas.

He ran a popular school with several students and composed 3 majors works on nyAya, of which the nyAya ma~Njari and nyAya kalikA survive. He also wrote an interesting play for his students termed AgamaDambara, which is a subtle satire on various darShanas and their proponents. He is said to have composed his magnum opus nyAya ma~Njari when he was sent away from his home and school to serve in the khasa country which was conquered by his king the despot shankaravarman.

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