Sanskrit Manuscripts : Aitareyopaniṣadbhāṣya


Sanskrit Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'> This 16th-century North Indian manuscript, probably from a Jaina scriptorium, contains Śaṅkara’s partly unpublished <i>Aitareyopaniṣadbhāṣya</i>. The version of the text transmitted in the manuscript, in nine books (<i>adhyāya</i>), differs substantially from the much shorter one, in three books, found in printed editions of Śaṅkara’s commentary since its first publication by Edward Röer in 1850. The <i>Aitareyopaniṣad</i>, belonging to the <i>Ṛgveda</i>, is generally held to correspond to books 4-6 of the second of the five sections (called <i>āraṇyaka</i>) of the <i>Aitareyāraṇyaka</i> (see for instance Müller 1879: xcvii; Limaye and Vadekar 1958), and it is also often believed that Śaṅkara’s commentary covers only these three books (see for instance Potter 1981: 270-77, reprinted without change in 1998). The evidence provided by the manuscript suggests, however, that Śaṅkara commented on the whole of <i>āraṇyaka</i>s 2 and 3 (the latter also known under the title <i>Saṃhitopaniṣad</i>, found here in a final rubric). Two or three more manuscripts of Śaṅkara's commentary on both <i>āraṇyaka</i>s are known since the beginning of the last century (see Keith 1909: 11 and Belvalkar 1930: 241-46), and a few more have been discovered in India since then (see NCC 3.86). In spite of this, no edition of the full text has come out as yet. In accordance with an observation by Belvalkar (1930: 244-45), the published portion of the text begins “abruptly”, while the beginning of the commentary as found in the manuscript is very similar to the intial part of other upaniṣadic commentaries by the great Vedāntin. The authenticity of the text is, again, suggested by Sāyaṇa’s commentary on the second section of the <i>Aitareyāraṇyaka</i>, where the learned 14th-century commentator on the Veda claims he follows “the path [laid out by] Master Śaṅkara” (<i>śaṅkarācāryavartman</i> – p. 137 of the Bibliotheca Indica edition [Calcutta, 1876]). The present manuscript thus probably testifies for an original, “longer” version of the <i>Bhāṣya</i>, subsequently abridged - possibly for doctrinal purposes -, in order to constitute the "vulgate" which is generally studied nowadays. </p>

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