It is as necessary for the reader's understanding of the following study to explain the path that produced the research as it is to present the results. This dissertation has become a case study in the theory that the examination of what is most obvious is fraught with the greatest variety of obstacles. The centuries of philosophical discourse about the relationship of the individual with the Vedic cosmos reflect perhaps one of the signature marks of South Asian religion. The topic of the self in Vedic India has been repeatedly addressed in the indigenous schools and by scholars worldwide for centuries. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I wanted to examine the relatively untrodden ground from which the vocabulary for the self arose, the earliest Vedic literature of the Rg Veda, Atharva Veda, and Black Yajur Veda. The obstacles lay in the fact that the background of understanding from which I addressed the terminology for the self was as much in need of explanation as were the references in the texts under study.
I identified the notion of self in the early Vedas as my dissertation topic as early as my third year of graduate school. I had accordingly paid close attention to any relevant references in my coursework, comprehensive examination readings, and related academic preparation from a fairly early period. Now, as I am finally writing an introduction to this study that finds itself largely complete some seven years later, I am only beginning to address the problems that, time again, left me paralyzed when trying to write about the topic at any level: from the abstract, to the proposal, to the all-important first chapter.
I am studying terminology for which the most likely translation in English--self, presence, body, etc.--is as much open for debate as to its religious and philosophical implications within the Western tradition as are the corresponding terms in the Vedas.
As I wrote my drafts of the dissertation I found that translating the terms which had not been closely examined in previous studies--e.g., tanuú and tmán--was no more effective if I simply read them as "self" than if I left them in Sanskrit. For instance, tanuú had been rendered sometimes as "Leib," other times as "Körper" or as "selbst" by Geldner (1951), as "body" or reflexively as himself/itself by Maurer (1986) and Elizarenkova (1995), and so on. It was apparent that tanuú was not only--if at all--"self" in the English sense. So, how was I to refer to it, as well as to other words like bráhman which--in the Rg Veda--were not as closely associated with the notion of self as in later texts? I adopted the convention in my drafts of collectively referring to the group of words as "terms related to individual existence." This became my functional category under which I gathered all the fifteen or so words I examined. As I completed the study, it became possible to refer to the group of words as "terms related to the notion of the self" after the research in the following chapters was completed. More importantly, it was not until I reconsidered each word according to how its English or German equivalent has been used in Western thought that I was sure that the category could be renamed as "terms related to the self." This introduction summarizes this last step of reconsideration.
Consider the following example. In the case of tanuú I have translated it most frequently as "presence." Similar to the German "Anwesenheit" (from wesen/"to be present"), but also inclusive of the various senses of "Gestalt," presence reflects the predominant uses of tanuú. As it happens, tanuú derives from the root -tan which means to extend or spread. Both extension and spreading take place in space and time. "Presence" was the most direct way to include both characteristics without additionally complicating the significations of tanuú in each passage. For instance, tanuú does not imply a dualism of soul and body--in fact, it implies both material and nonmaterial presence in its variety of uses. However, what I assume to be the meaning of "extension in space and time" is not necessarily what another reader might assume. It also does not necessarily fit the Vedic context. Such questions vexed the translation of each term I examined.
Accordingly, I began the study with functional definitions for each term (presented in Chapter 2). I used these functional definitions as I looked at the terminology related to each key word in each passage as I conducted the research and reported the results. In effect, I tested these functional definitions against the accepted definitions presented in the major lexicons for these words from the Vedic literature (cf. Baird, 1971: 8-10). Only with the final draft of the dissertation--for which this Introduc-
The primary reason for this degree of caution as I read the Vedic materials was to limit, as much as possible, any predilection to prejudge each passage with a later philosophical idea--South Asian or Western. If at all possible, from the geographic and temporal distance between myself and the Vedic literature at which I conducted my research, I wanted to allow the use of each word on each occasion to speak for itself as unencumbered as possible by later Vedic or Western speculation. As outlined in the survey of previous studies in Chapter 1, presuppositions as to the meaning of aatmán or púruSa were the fundamental myopia compromising what little work has been done on the notion of the self in the early Vedic period. It remains to the reader to determine if my remedy has succeeded.
In the following pages I will attempt to succinctly consider the philosophical implications of the English terminology by which I have rendered the subtlest of the terms under study: aatmán, tanuú, tmán, púruSa, and bráhman. Following this discussion, I will reintroduce the notion of "self" as a legitimate category of inquiry for the History of Religions and briefly present the approach and arrangement of the following chapters.
Vedic and Western Thought: More than oceans--but less than worlds--apart
In the following pages the movement from one thinker to another, while generally historical in terms of sequence, is designed to consider the specific gaps or aporia (Gr. "perplexities") between Vedic and Western thought with regard to the language and concepts used in reference to the self. Unless otherwise stated, I am not suggesting connections of cause or influence between the various Western philosophers identified. To do so would warrant yet another study. Instead, I am using a loose chronology as a means of rhetorical organization for a survey of the various issues implicit with my application of "self," "presence," "identity," "body," "existence," and so forth. In addition, I am not presuming to present a comprehensive view of Western philosophy nor an intuitive insight into "the Vedic mind," whatever either might be. I am simply comparing what has been said in the last few hundred years in the West with those ways of thinking which I have identified by close inspection of the early Vedic materials.
I have grouped each major theme that bears upon the discussion of the Vedic notion of the self according to the "aporia" which marks the dif-
I am guided in this undertaking by the suggestion of Wilhem Halbfass--perhaps the only Indologist to systematically address the dialogue between Western and South Asian thought--taken from his study of ontology in classical VaisheSika thought, On Being and What There Is (1992: 12-13): We have to be able to translate the texts into our own languages; we have to listen to them as carefully and patiently as possible; we have to be aware of their traditional cultural context and background. But we also have to be aware of our own background; we have to comprehend the Indian texts in accordance with our own modes of thought and discourse. . . . We are not just dealing with words. We have to think about what we mean by our own words, as well as about the meaning of the original terms we are trying to translate and comprehend.
The First Aporia: Duality of Material and Non-material Existence
When we consider the discussion of the self in the West we must first consider that the early reflections on the individual's existence referred more often to "soul" (Gr. psuchE, anima, or pneuma- spirit) as opposed to the body (Gr. sOmaor chrOs as in surface or frame). For instance, in Plato's Georgias, the duality of the two is assumed--e.g., justice attends to the soul while medicine applies to the body. There is also the meticulously argued immortal and reborn soul presented in the Meno. The Phaedo outlines the separation of soul and body at death. This dialogue also associates the self and the soul together as a whole of which the body is not a part. That the soul is comprised of several components is further outlined in the Republic where we encounter a soul of multiple components when it is embodied. Sometimes "soul" and "self" are interchangeable in the translations (a problem shared with English renderings of Vedic) and this further complicates the examination of the Western notions of both words. In either case, however, the self or soul is juxtaposed in contradistinction to the mundane or corporeal realm along with the individual, in a dualistic conception of the individual.
The discussion of this duality continues with Aristotle in De Anima where the soul is considered a tripartite set of moments with matter, form
While the idea of motion and form do have cognates in the Vedic discussions of the self, the fundamental dualism--mundane or extra-mundane or material and nonmaterial--in Classical Greek thought is not transferable to the Vedic context. As mentioned earlier, the word which refers to an individual most frequently in the Rg Veda (aatmán is comparatively infrequent) is tanuú, and it is used of both the gods and the humans in such a way as to suggest both nonmaterial and material existence at the same time. Thus the duality implied by "soul" and "body" is not easily applied to this early text. When we consider the Vedic evidence, especially in the Rg Veda, the use of tanuú--almost to the exclusion of aatmán and púruSa--signifies both a physical and an abstract element. In fact, we can also infer a notion of self--by reverse implication--from Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica wherein he distinguishes what is specifically not human about God. Further, he investigates the "union of the soul and the body." This also implies a dualism of materiality/nonmateriality similar to that of Plato and Aristotle. So any adoption of terminology like self or, especially, soul is problematized if the assumption of dualism from these two Greek thinkers is present in the mind of the reader. In the case of tanuú, then, "presence" works effectively to convey both the abstract and the progressively more physical developments which take place over the course of the developing Vedic literature.
This is not to say there are not references to a separation of some kind of physical and non-physical part of an individual which occurs at death such as in the Funeral Hymn, or an implication that the mind is abstract and capable of roaming about on its own (cf. RV 10.58), and so forth. There are also handful of similar passages considered in detail in Chapter 5. These are later hymns, however, and the apparent duality suggested in them is not so clear on closer examination. In addition, the earlier portions of the Rg Veda do not have these kinds of discussions. Following the Rg Veda, the use of tanuú changes so that, in the literature relating to sacrifice which follows the Rg Veda (and which includes some of the later parts of the Rg Veda), there appears to be a much clearer idea of duality where the bodies of the sacrificer and the victim are discussed in relation to--or in contradistinction to--their nonmaterial or noncorporeal identities. The ritual construction of the self as a composition of components represented by tanuú, aatmán, and a variety of other related words indicates not only
Thus the duality of soul and body, on which much of Western philosophy is either based or from which it takes its point of departure, is not immediately applicable to the discussion of the self in early Vedic literature. There is an obvious problem here, however: Plato and Aristotle are talking about souls and this dissertation is about the self. In point of fact, much of the Western tradition addresses the individual's non-material existence as a soul (though Plato's Phaedo does associate the two together). In addition, it is unclear yet exactly to what I am referring when I use the word self in the first place.
Second Aporia: "self" or "soul" Exactly what is this Dissertation About?
It is very tempting to save myself and the reader a very abstract discussion and cut this introduction short right here: the West talks about soul and spirit, but this dissertation is about the self, thus the ideas of the former are irrelevant, so let us move on to Chapter 1. In fact, at this point the whole project of this dissertation is at its most infuriating and illustrates the problems inherent in the writing of almost every sentence. I can hardly say what a word like self or soul to refers to without already raising the question of what is an individual and what is existence, etc. Perhaps in discussions of these most complex abstractions of religious and philosophical discourse the "willing suspension of disbelief" is essential on both the part of the reader and the writer.
Without such a suspension, I am left with a similar outcome to my project as arrived at by Hume in his Treatise on Human Nature. In effect he concludes that in moments of thought he can never quite "catch" his actual self in a simple and constant impression over time (Selby-Bigge, ed., 1973: 252). In my case, however, it is not a perception "of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure" which gets in the way as it did for Hume, but the very term of reference--"self"--for what it is I am talking about in the first place.
This dissertation is about the terminology for the self. I am using "self" as my referent for the thematic content of these words. I have not translated any single term as always meaning "self," yet I repeatedly assert that the fifteen or so words under examination relate to the self. Before this dissertation can go farther, the fundamental question is: what do I mean when I say "the self," such that all these fifteen words are somehow to be
If the notion of self is to be a legitimate category of inquiry for the History of Religions, it is essential to posit a functional definition for it. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the most original and primary designation of "self" as the demonstrative pronoun--later emphatic as with "himself," "herself"--which, aside from anything else, secures the reference of a given phrase "to the person or thing mentioned and not, or not merely, to some other" (Simpson and Weiner, ed., 1989, XIV: 905). At first glance this does not seem to help very much: what, then, is the "person," and what is "other?" I will return to the matter of "self" and "other" with regard to the reflexive pronoun later.
Not unlike Hume, the OED continues under the nominalization "the self" to suggest "a permanent subject of successive and varying states of consciousness." This is somewhat more workable though there are some troublesome assumptions here, too, such as "permanent" or what is meant by "successive" as opposed to "varying." What is consistent here, and also with a variety of Western expositions considering the self, is a persistent reference to an identifiable point in space and time. Space and time make up the fundamental ontological preconditions for the reflections of Plato and Aristotle as mentioned above; as well as for Augustine, Locke, Hume. In addition, Kant begins his Critique of Pure Reason with these topics. The importance of space and time continues as in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, Heidegger's Being and Time with "Dasein" and so on.
Thus a functional definition of self for this study, which remains consistent with the various inquiries in the Western religious and philosophical tradition, refers to an identifiable assemblage of characteristics (cf. OED, 1989: 907) occupying a given point in space and time. While this definition also includes a rock or a chair, both of which are somewhat removed from having a "self" according to Western sensibilities, this is precisely the point of this introductory discussion. Inclusion of a "consciousness" component as with the OED would be quite compatible with the later Vedic speculations--such as in the UpaniSads--but would exclude much of the early material from the Rg Veda. As noted below, words for mental processes like consciousness--already debatable as to the equivalency between the Sanskrit (e.g., -cit or -man) and English terminology--are used rather infrequently in connection with the other primary terms for the self.
Therefore, what might be said to be missing from this definition--some acknowledgement that the point in space and time is an intersection
In the KaaThaka SaMhitaa 7.15 a piece of wood has the tanuú of Agni as part of its composition. The fire is then brought forth by ignition and by the addition of clarified butter. At first glance, Agni appears to be something extramundane included inside the wood. As the research below shows, however, it becomes clear that Agni is not only part of wood, but also of water which feeds the growth of the wood in the form of rain (cf. Rg Veda 10.51 in Chapter 5). It is his presence or tanuú which is part of the wood--and part of water, rain, and so forth. If we use a definition of self which suggests that there is something yet again outside of, extramundane to, or intersecting with Agni this would misrepresent the Vedic understanding of Agni's forms.
The identity of each component of the early Vedic cosmos is interconnected in this way such that categorical lines representing distinctions like mundane and extramundane, material and nonmaterial, do not work as part of a functional definition for the self. In order to effectively illuminate these previously overlooked developments, the breadth of the functional definition for self must allow for a rock, chair--or piece of wood--to be referred to just as would be a god or human. The Western categories of inquiry into the self which I have chosen--identity, space, and time--are compatible with the conceptual continuum between divine and human realms which characterizes early Vedic. At the same time, the Vedic notion of an interconnected or interwoven-tan means to "to spread or weave"cosmos is not excluded or prefigured with material and nonmaterial distinctions which are not implied, for instance, with the early uses of tanuú.
I am not suggesting that this definition of the self replaces or even summarizes the conclusions of the various Western thinkers. It is only necessary that it be compatible with them such that it does not exclude any of their fundamental categories, while at the same time including each term that I have chosen to examine in the Vedic literature. Thus aatmán, tanuú, tmán, and púruSa all refer to assemblages of characteristics occupying a given point in space and time. Similarly, the words related to men
The self as an identifiable assemblage of characteristics in space and time corresponds as well to the reflections of Locke as to Hume. It enables the next important consideration with regard to the self: that of memory and the mind. In many ways, this issue was prefigured by Descartes with the veritable genesis of modern Western thought, "je pense donc je suis." And the "je suis" was anticipated, again, by Augustine in his monumental admission of helplessness in the Confessions when confronted with the question of time: "For what is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not" (Pusey, trans., 1966: 262). And so the elusiveness of time and self presents itself for the current study.
When John Locke considered the question of the self, he arrived upon a predominantly material existence marked by a presence in space and time. According to his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke felt that this material existence, as a sequence of otherwise unrelated instances, can be related over time by consciousness with the use of memory (John Perry, ed., 1975: 48). Similarly, as mentioned above, Hume can never ultimately "catch" conceptual hold of himself. Here also the notion of memory is pivotal for the recognition and examination of the self. He could not identify the self over time in any way other than as a recollection of sensations.
Comparing this to the Vedic literature, the importance of memory becomes central in the later Vedic tradition not only as a category of text--smRti, that which is remembered--but also as one of the most definitive acts of the mind/mánas. Thus an aporia arises between the early Vedic literature and one of the fundamental mechanisms by which the self is recognized in the West: memory. In the following study, the terminology related to the actions of the consciousness and mind--collectively designated in this study as "mental processes"--does not play a defining role in the articulation of or the references to the early Vedic notion of self.
The primary term related to the mind that we find is mánas, which is not used in relation to the other terminology for the self very frequently in the Rg Veda, though it is more frequent later. Mánas as "mind" is the place of articulation for the mantras (which, incidentally, derive from the same verbal root -man which refers to thinking, or positing thought). The root -smR, from which smRti is derived, is quite uncommon in the early Vedas. It is informative to mention it in this context with regard to the mental processes which take place in the human mind, but it is not considered further below as smRti is found less than ten times in all the SaMhitaas considered in this study combined. With the exception of these few of occasions, it might be inferred--due to the nature of time in the Rg Veda, where the past is continually anticipating the future in the ongoing cycle of narration/creation--that memory is not considered in the Rg Veda as frequently as are the mental processes by which these prototypical cosmic events are posited in mantra's and ritual reenactment.
Of course the mental processes are referred to frequently. The work of the mental organ of an individual is represented primarily by four verbs in the early Vedas which can be roughly split into two groups. Along with forms of -man, we also see -dhii which has a similar sense of generative mental activity in that it refers to reflection and perceptive insight. The forms of -man and -dhii as "generative mental processes" are complemented by -budh and -cit which are more "reactive" modes of thought. From -budh (waking, being alert) we get the well-known past passive participle buddha. Also quite common is -cit, which refers to noticing, perceiving, and responsive thinking.
What is significant, however, is that in light of the conception of Vedic time as presented in the early text of the Rg Veda, the mental activity of memory is referred to only about ten times. None of the occasions of -smR are in the Rg Veda and most are in the form smará/remembering in the Atharva Veda, with only one in the Black Yajur Veda texts under examination. The discussion of memory entails a reference to temporality in which one "looks back" with recollection. There is a great deal that can be said about Vedic time as presented in the verbs of being--roots -as and -bhuu--as suggested, for instance, by Halbfass who notes that both imply a process or action, and -bhuu--the more common in the early Vedic literature--has "dynamic implications" (1992: 22). More specific to the kind of time in which the Vedic individual existed, however, is the observation by Tatyana Elizarenkova in Language and Style of the Vedic RSis, that--as in the
Also, in grammatical terms, the present tense and the injunctive are interchangable: calling Indra to mount horses to slay enemies is spoken first in the present tense and immediately after referred to in the injunctive in Rg Veda 6.20.9. Thus the problem of continuity and memory--at least for the establishment of identity--is obviated in these early texts by a temporal stance wherein the past is an anticipation of the future and everything continually regenerates itself.
What we will see as we move from the Rg Veda to the later ritual literature is that the process of recreating/reenacting these cosmic cycles becomes more and more complex. At the same time, the terminology with respect to the self becomes much more intricate. A range of terms referring to a sequence of components or layers which constitute the individual both in the ritual and, by implication, in life as well is repeatedly affirmed in the ritual reconstruction of the cosmos (cf. Plato's multiple components and Aristotle's layers above). However, for the earlier text of the Rg Veda, where the predominant word--almost the only word--referring to an individual is tanuú, the simpler cycle of time requires a much less complex means of reference for an individual.
Perhaps the most simplified designation of the self among the words I am studying, tanuú refers to a specific presence of given characteristics--human or divine--in space and time. Thus Agni cannot be touched when his tanuú blazes with fury (Rg Veda 2.10.5d: naábhimR'Se tanvaá járbhuraaNaH), or the Maruts are called to present their ornamented tanuú's (Rg Veda 6.20.6c: yátraa náro dédishate tanuúSv aá). Each passage designates a specific occupation in space and time. Little else is said within the Rg Veda, or even the subsequent Vedic texts, concerning any other significations of tanuú. Within the limits of Vedic time as it was conceived and represented in these hymns, it was only necessary to mark the location of the individual. This was accomplished efficiently with the uses of tanuú.
The way of referring to the myths frequently implied that they were being newly told, reformulated, or created at the very moment of perform
Within this cycle the self was located as "this human or deity being this way here" and little more was necessary. Like the numbers on a clock which can be continually reshaped by various artistic renderings of style and fashion or even be removed, it is the location which was important to represent, not the independent existence of it apart from that time. Thus when Augustine cannot ascertain the nature of time, it is not because he cannot define the "one" of one o'clock, but because he cannot posit the meaning of "o'clock."
Tanuú marks a place of reference just as a "one" on a clock face. The clock in Vedic time was cyclical and "moved" by the reenactment and retelling of key events. The individual players in those events--denoted most frequently by tanuú in the Rg Veda--were the numbers on the clock (e.g., at such and such a point, Indra's tanuú grew to such strength through the invocations empowered by bráhman that he struck down the enemies, etc.). The identity and characteristics of tanuú become more specific as additional words related to the self are included in its semantic field such as aatmán and púruSa. Accordingly, time becomes a topic of speculation in the subsequent texts where both words are prominent.
The designation by tanuú of a locus in space and time--a presence or, as in the German word "Anwesenheit" (roughly translatable as "being present" or "presence") and "Gestalt" (including form, figure, character, and shape)--lends itself not only to the relatively simple ontology of the Rg Veda, but also to the more complex ideas of the cosmos which come later in the ritual literature. As we will see, under these circumstances tanuú comes to take its place in a progressive or composite notion of self which is ritually "constructed"--literally and symbolically--in the Vedic sacrifice. Before these significations arise, however, it is important to understand that tanuú refers to a notion of self in the Rg Veda which is not dependent upon the actions of the mind or reflection for its existence. It is a place marker rather than an object of of abstract speculation.
Returning to the Western implications of tanuú with respect to "presence," it was Heidegger who raised the idea of Anwesenheit to a point of
The speculations of the Vedic texts are not as concerned with the ontology of the self as they are with its fundamental unity with the cosmos in which it is located. As Halbfass notes, the Veda's do not have a science of being--Aristotelian or otherwise. It is a topic of reflection and debate in the later schools, but does not have specific treatises solely devoted to the explication of being (1992: 21). In addition, Dasein is temporal in its orientation of Sorge or Care (1962: 225f.). Care is very much related to the "Being-with-others" of Dasein which, for the Vedic self, is not a topic of speculations.
Thus the terminology related to Dasein, while at times quite relevant to the Vedic notion of the self--as with Anwesenheit moreso than Gestalt which is, at times, too explicitly corporeal to fit early Vedic uses of tanuú--is nonetheless grounded in fundamental questions of a different nature than those of the Vedas. Still, the discussion of "presence" with regard to past, present, and future time reflects quite well the mode of Vedic temporality discussed here and, accordingly, supports the rendering of tanuú as presence. The Being of the Dasein is primarily directed toward the future, and the resolution to action which is prompted by the temporality engendered by Care interprets a past from this future which, in turn, enables this Being to present a setting for that action (1962: pp. 471ff.). As suggested by Werner Brock in Existence and Being, "The 'past' originates from the 'future' so as to engender the 'present'" (1968: 79). In a similar way, as
Finally I should note that, even though I am not fully appropriating Heidegger's use of the word Anwesenheit, it has not been without its critics. In his book Of Grammatology, Derrida has critiqued the logocentrism (text and word centrism) of the determination of being as presence and adds to this his foreboding of the assumptions of linear historical sequence with which presence then becomes laden (1976: 12-13). This gives rise to the epoch in which belongs the separation of sign and signifier (for Heidegger, the present in which presence occurs is primarily the realm of otherness connoted in what is Vorhandensein or "ready-to-hand"). The whole problem of the sign and signifier, in which the issue of presence is bound for Derrida, is centralized on the exteriority of writing (i.e., writing is exterior to, or secondary to the thought it ostensibly is employed to represent) in general and its determinative role in history in specific (1976: 14).
In short, the basic problem of dualism between self and soul mentioned earlier extends to the very nature of language and its references to existence for the Western thinkers mentioned here. Language becomes a duality of sign and signifier, these issues later become a topic of speculation in Vedaanta and also in the Madhyaamika of Nagarjuna, as well as BartRhari's consideration of the kernel of language found in the sphota (initial grain or burst of expressive sound). They do not bear directly upon the Early and Middle Vedic scene, however. Thus when I refer to existence, language, and speech in the following pages it should be clear to the reader that these issues are eventually part of the horizon of post-Vedic thought, but they do not bear upon these words as they are used in Early and Middle Vedic.
Before we can resolve this new aporia of written language and oral tradition, it is important to note how it arose. By way of the question of memory and the self, we considered the place of time as it is conceived in the Vedic period we are studying. In so doing, I introduced the notion of "presence" which represents the role of the self as indicated by tanuú in the cyclical narratives of the Veda. The examination of "presence" in Western thought gave rise to the critique by Derrida. And so we are presented with the next important issue of Western thought which bears upon this dissertation. How is the space and time of the Vedic self, which we encounter in the form of the written history presented in the texts and the oral
It is fortunate that I cannot pretend to summarize in a few short pages the three volumes of Time and Narrative by Paul Ricoeur which mark the "state of the art" for this topic in Western thought. Accordingly, there is no great loss when I note--as already implied above--that the nature of time in the early Vedas is not constructed in the terms of linear trajectory with which Ricoeur deals at length in his volumes. In addition, and I do not want to appear overly simplistic in this observation, it has to be remembered that the narratives with which I am working in this study evolved in a tradition of oral performance, not a heritage of written expression. Thus from the very outset there is an uneasy juxtaposition between the oral Vedic tradition--which I study in its textual rendering--and the Western critique of narrative and time presented by Ricoeur which deals primarily with a tradition which has always been in written form.
Nonetheless, there are some important observations in his work which accentuate this aporia between the tradition upon which he comments and the literature of the Vedas. It is hard to be certain that, as I read the written form of the Vedas, I am not already finding myself within the framework of understanding which characterizes the hermeneutics of a text. I am certain as I read that I am dealing with material that was first articulated and then preserved as performance. Indeed, this performance was viewed as empowered with the potency to affect action in the world, as noted throughout the volume Understanding Mantras, edited by Harvey Alper (1989). In addition, the Vedic materials--especially the Rg Veda--are concerned to a great extent with the narrative of events in a distant past even if only to recreate these in the present.
The relationship between time, narrative, and the self as suggested by Ricoeur is that "time becomes human to the extent that it is articulated through a narrative mode, and narrative attains its full meaning when it becomes a condition of temporal existence" (McLaughlin and Pellauer, trans., 1984, I: 52). There is no question that the Vedic literature addresses the actions of both humans and deities in time as narrated in the hymns. In addition, though infrequent, the manner in which time is referred to in the Vedas is informative. Often there is a pronominal derivative such as kíyaati aá/since what time?; as in Rg Veda 1.113.10a: kíyaati aá yát
Obviously, if we have verses like Rg Veda 1.113.10, this does not mean that they had no conception of time. It does suggest, however, that time had yet to become a topic or conception of abstraction and reflection. Thus, while we must be aware of the presence in time and space denoted by the tanuú in the Vedic narratives, a major portion of the Western philosophical considerations of time do not have correlating vocabulary in the materials I am examining. We can, instead, infer time from the recapitulation of past deeds in the hymns. We cannot know, however, what "time" meant, per se, to Vedic thought as it is preserved for us.
Therefore, when Ricoeur builds his discussion upon the speculations of time formulated by Augustine, we do not have an applicable correlate in Vedic thought. When he suggests of narrative that (1984: 64): To imitate or represent action is first to preunderstand what human acting is, in its semantics, its symbolic system, its temporality. Upon this preunderstanding, common to both poets and their readers, emplotment is constructed and, with it, textual and literary mimetics. I am left both in agreement and in the realization that the period of Vedic literature with which I am dealing does not figure time as a characteristic of the self but only, perhaps, as a place of its appearance. Both the medium of oral tradition and, more important, the lack of emphasis upon time as a topic or object of conceptual reflection leaves this category of understanding for the self inapplicable.
It is frustrating, however, to accept such an aporia, as the other gaps identified thus far have yielded valuable terminological clarification for the notion of the self. In this case, it is more the case of Occam's razor as the absence of speculation about time in the Veda is the message with which we are left concerning the narrative of the self in time. However, Ricoeur further underscores the inseparability of reflection upon ontology and upon the self in Oneself as Another: "There is no world without a self who
What is ironic at this point in my introduction of the philosophical issues bearing upon the analysis of the self in the Vedic period is that, where the current aporia of time and narrative was occasioned by Derrida, it is unresolved by the hermeneutical arc of understanding as presented by Ricoeur. Even more ironic, as I turn again to Derrida, it is he who furnishes some closure to this issue insofar as the purposes of this introduction are concerned.
In his own response to the problem of logocentrism, Derrida begins to address natural writing as opposed to the common writing of history which is "the dead letter, the carrier of death. It exhausts life." (1976: 17). "Writing is that forgetting of the self, that exteriorization" (1976: 24). In opposition to this dead letter is metaphoric writing which is "natural, divine, and living writing, it is venerated; it is equal in dignity to the origin of value, to the voice of conscience as divine law, to the heart, to sentiment, and so forthˇNatural writing is immediately united to the voice and the breath" (1976: 17).
We could hardly be more aptly returned to the topic at hand--in Vedic terms--than by this reference to the voice and breath. It is upon these two elements that the progression from the sacrificial to the meditative traditions of the later Vedic material takes place in the form of Vaac and praaNá. The power of formulated speech represented in the early Vedas as bráhman is linked, in turn, with Vaac and subsequently with praaNá, the breath which plays such a pivotal role in its formation. Prior to the later abstractions, this link with the breath becomes the vital component by which the self is ritually constructed--via a series of breaths representing bodily processes and, symbolically, cosmic and social processes--in the Vedic sacrifice. This relationship of voice, bráhman in Chapter 4, and breath is part of Chapter 6.
It is important to resolve the question of narrated time with this particular critical turn, as any other rhetorical measures would blur what is of fundamental importance in the Vedic tradition as an oral transmission.
It is fortuitous that the aporia of time and narrative has unintentionally taken this introduction to the less abstract, more tangible realm of breath, sound and voice. The Vedic world was certainly very "physical"--full of battles, births, and the symbols which would later mark the meticulous physical implements and actions of the sacrifice. In addition, however, this juncture raises the final aporia--one which is not an aporia as much as a recapitulation--the body and flesh.
At the very beginning of this discussion I underscored that the presuppositions of "body and soul" or "body and self" dualism would not work as a starting assumption for the notion of self variously represented by the terms under examination in this study. Nonetheless, the role of the body and of flesh--there is a distinction between both in the Vedic ritual--is an essential element for understanding the composition of the multi-part self constructed in Vedic ritual. As we will see in Chapter 6, the various terms related to the self--aatmán, tanuú and púruSa especially--form a sequential progression from subtlety to physical and social presence in the symbolism of the ritual. Significantly, such a progression has been considered in similar terms in Western thought, most recently summarized by Ricoeur in Oneself as Another. I will first consider the issue of the reflexive meaning in the word "self" and how it applies to the Vedic terminology, followed by a review of the words body and flesh and how they shape perception of self and other.
The choice of "self" as opposed to "soul" or "spirit" in the framing of this study was based not only upon the religious and philosophical presuppositions of the latter two words. In addition, the grammatical origins of the word "self" come from its use in reference to the very object of this study. As identified in the OED, self "emphatically" refers to the person or thing mentioned and not to some other (cf. above). It is informative to remark that this use of "self" substantially predates the nominalization "the self" by several centuries.
According to the OED, the reflexive use is attested as early as the late 9th century while the nominalized form appears in the middle of the 14th century (1989, XIV: 905-906). This reflexivity implies a sameness inasmuch as it suggests "this [same] one, not that [other] one." "Himself" is the same as him, only it underscores--makes emphatic--the reference. The philosophical importance of this has been addressed by Paul Ricoeur and bears mention not only as it qualifies the word "self", but also because it introduces an important way in which I have translated several words in the later portions of the Rg Veda and the ritual literature, as suggesting "itself," "himself," and so forth.
The use of a word such as "identity" to indicate "self"as noted by Ricoeur in his analysis of the self entitled Oneself as Another (Soi-màme comme un autre)must be carefully considered (1992: 1-3). At the outset of his study, he outlines three philosophical intentions which influenced his preparations: (1) the fundamental origin of the word self (soi in French) as a reflexive designation; (2) the distinction in the word "identity" between the Latin sense of idem (implying sameness) and ipse (implying selfhood) which he feels stand in contrast to one another; and (3) by extension, that ipse-identity, or selfhood, implies a dialectic which is parallel to the dialectic of idem-identity and ipse-identity: that of "self" and "other than self."
Ricoeur cautions against forgetting the fundamental relationship of the nominalization "the self" with the reflexive designation "self" as this obscures the fundamental representations of sameness and selfhood which are inherent with the word. Thus "désignation de soi" (self-designation) can obscure its derivation from "se désigner soi-màme" (to designate oneself). "Self-designation" can be mistaken as the discourse about designating "the self" while "to designate oneself" can not. In this example, "oneself" is the emphatic emphasis of selfhood. It is also easy to see, however, that emphasizing selfhood in this way also implies sameness: the des
This emphatic designation implies a possessive as well as a reflexive component. To suggest selfhood and sameness implies an ownership: it is of that self-same one (ipse-identity), of that one itself (idem-identity) that the designation in "to designate oneself" refers. It is not commonly attested in English. In fact, the use of "self" in a possessive sense requires a helper--another noun or pronoun also in the possessive, such as "herself"--and does not have quite the same independent stature as a genitive marker as is the case with the Sanskrit word svá which most frequently conveys the sense of "own." We find svá declined as an adjective with the noun that it modifies. If we are speaking of something going to Agni's own home, svá will be declined in the accusative singular with the noun it serves to emphasize, home/dámam: Rg Veda 1.75.5 (ágne yákSi sváM dámam) or it designates the Marut's "own" intentions/matyaá in Rg Veda 5.58.5d (sváyaa matyaá marútaH sám mimikSuH). Thus with svá there is an emphatic marking of ownership as with the English "own" by which it is most easily translated.
However, there is another pair of uses of svá which bear more directly upon selfhood and sameness than does the possessive use. The notion of reflexivity in the form of svá appears when it is placed as a prefix to a noun, such as with the English equivalent "self-born" (svájanmanaa said of Agni in RV 7.1.12c). In addition, there is the independent form sváyam which is fully representative of both ipse/sameness and idem/selfhood identities. This form of svá is of great interest as it is attested from the very earliest parts of the Rg Veda through the remainder of the literature. That sváyam occurs throughout the Vedic period indicates that already from an early time there was a subtle complexity in the notion of self. In sváyam there is the full sense of both ipse- and idem-identities.
While the uses of sváyam are presented in more detail in Chapter 2, it is important to note what the use of this word, throughout the Vedic period, tells us about the other words--especially aatmán, tanuú, tmán and púruSa--under study. There are occasions, such as in the KaaThaka SaMhitaa 14.6 where aatmán seems to have a purely emphatic meaning of "itself" referring to the very brightness of brightness ". . . eva tejasaa teja aatman dhatte'nnasya . . . (this complex passage is presented in more detail in Chapter 6). It is not uncommon to find aatmán used in this
Thus the conception of the self, as represented through a variety of terms in the early Vedic literature, is quite intricate. It includes the subtle implications of sameness in the significations of sváyam, aatmán, and tmán especially. For instance, tmán is used to identify a given trait--such as wisdom with the Father of Prayer, BrahmaNaspati in Rg Veda 2.25.2--as inherently part of a deity's identity. Thus it implies both the sameness and selfhood suggested by Ricoeur. The more common word for referring to the self, aatmán, carries both these senses as well as the implication of essence which identifies the way an individual exists in space and time. The final component of that existence in space and time, the most physical aspect, concerns the relationship of the body and flesh.
Final Aporia: Development Over Time, and the Progression of the Self in Time
This consideration of the word "self" as regards identity also affords a way in which to understand another group of words within this broader heading: those related to body and flesh (sháriira, kraví, ruupá, gaátra, by contrast--as it will become clear--with tanuú). In Oneself as Another, Paul Ricoeur has considered the significance of both body and flesh and their relation to the conception of self in not only space and time, but also in society. This does not necessarily imply a dualism of self and body, but rather a progressive development of the conceptual understanding of both in relation to one's own ipse- and idem-identity as it is physically experienced. In this discourse, Riceour takes us beyond the scope of Heidegger, who never considered the issue of Leib and Körper, feeling it would reduce the Dasein to Vorhandensein and inauthentic being (1992: 327-328).
Ricoeur's closing discussion in Oneself as Another is quite intricate. He considers three basic points: reflexivity, sameness and selfhood, and the
This is where the whole import of the notion of identity and its signification of sameness, which implies also otherness, opens the door for one of the most important functions of the Vedic ritual: substitution. In the process summarized above, the movement to intersubjectivity--awareness of other bodies and selves--reflects in turn upon an individual's own relationship to his/herself: the first recognition of otherness in the flesh parallels the recognition of otherness in other bodies. This reflects back to--or enables the substitution of--the observed relationship with the other and the "first point" of awareness of otherness between self and flesh.
This subtle level of substitution is at work in the way the terminology is used in the ritual as well. There is a progressive sequence of the identity, aatmán, as signified, for instance in KS 7.15 where the aatmán is identified according to its "size" as designated by a span of wood which is an arm's length, in turn Agni is the presence/tanuú in the wood which is brought forth with the pouring on of ghee (which causes the fire to flame up). The sequence from the identityof the sacrificer with the woodto the presence of Agni in space and time within the wood is quite clear. Earlier the sequence in KS 7.8, through the metaphor of two-footed beings, moves from the tanuú to the púruSa. The púruSa most commonly reflects the social composite of which aatmán and tanuú are the carefully constructed parts.
From the immediacy of the identity signified by aatmán the progression moves to the presence in space and time signified by tanuú, and similarly from tanuú the progression moves to the púruSa, the two-legged beings who inhabit houses. By substitution, the identity and the presence of it in space and time are linked, in turn with the intersubjectivity of other
Thus in the consideration of the body we have been able to further account for the development of use with both tanuú and aatmán in the sacrificial tradition, as well as introduce the social "self" of the púruSa. It is important to note also that there are specific words in the Vedic tradition which mean purely flesh--flesh, e.g., kraví, which can be smeared (RV 10.87.16)--which is much less commonly referred to in the ritual. However, there is also the composite whole of the flesh, the sháriira and the déha which become more prominent in the texts which post-date these earliest ritual explications such as the KS. The development then, is toward greater and greater complexity for the Vedic self in terms which, with some small adaptations, are compatible with the Western philosophical vocabulary.
The History of Religions and the Notion of the Self
It remains then to reconsider the discussion of the self with respect to the study of the history of religions. The notion of the self has been shown above to be a viable topic of inquiry in terms of both Western and Vedic discussions with its functional definition as an identifiable assemblage of characteristics occupying space and time. Even though the Western tradition of speculation has some fundamental differences--e.g., dualism, text-based narrative, and the emphasis upon "being"--the basic frames of reference between Western and Vedic thought are compatible and even serve to inform one another.
The following dissertation, apart from its research on the development of the terminology for the self in Vedic India, is an experiment in which I explore the viability of the self as a category of inquiry for the history of religions. The working definition for religion in this case represents a conception of self which is variously inclusive of a dialectic of sameness and otherness, an ethical structure in which actions have given meanings,
As Ricoeur has noted in Time and Narrative, "We have no idea of what a society would be like without a notion of self" (1987, II: 28). In my working definition of religion as a conception of self, both history and definition form the points of departure for the scholar. The history of religions becomes the narrative of ongoing oscillation of the question "who am I?" and its answer. It is worth noting that this dialogue can take many forms. The "no self" of Buddhism is still a category available to examination under this definition as regards, for instance, the 5 skandha's of appearance which furnish the illusion of a self. Turning to the Veda's, the question "Who am I" becomes the answer to itself (selfsame answer, or ipse-identity of the answer). As in JB 1.18 (cf. also KauSitaki UpaniSad 1.6), after death the aatmán is asked by the sun as to its identity and the correct answer is "who am I/ko'ham asmi." This "answer" reflects upon the self in Vedic ritual as a representation of the full cycle of a year which is represented by Prajaapati, whose name is also "who/Ka."
In the dissertation which follows, I have divided the inquiry about the self into two broad categories. The first three chapters outline the structure and criteria by which the analysis will be carried out. Chapter 1 is concerned with an overview of previous studies and the methodology whereby each key word related to the self is examined according to how it is used with other groups of words which surround it. These groups, called "semantic fields," are compared in turn with other passages in order to identify patterns of associated characteristics with each word under study. Thus there is the synchronic analysis of each word in each passage, followed by a diachronic comparison of these results from one text to another. Chapter 2 presents the terminology to be examined in detail with working definitions for each word. In addition, the kinds of synchronous analyses to be performed are outlined such as linguistic anomalies, phonetic word play, etc. Chapter 3 presents the diachronic framework of comparison in the form of a summary of the relative chronology of Vedic literature.
The balance of the study concerns the detailed presentation of the