Transmission and Tradition:
The Meaning and the Role of "Fragments" in Indian Philosophy

A Symposium on Quotations and Paraphrases from and Allusions to Ancient Texts on Indian Philosophy

Shinshu University, Matsumoto, Japan
August 20 - 24, 2012

Introduction / General Topic

The various philosophical traditions of India have transmitted a number of commentaries on their foundational texts. However, this body of early source material is quite scanty. It is most likely that there was a considerable corpus of other works written during the first millennium that has not survived. Indeed, many important ideas in the various systems seem to derive from lost works. This assumption is substantiated by the fact that such works are often referred to in texts by authors from opposing schools and systems. Additionally, in the extant commentaries themselves, the developmental steps of the various systems' ideas are often referred to only indirectly.

This symposium aims to bring together a group of international scholars who will discuss the problem of the transmission of Indian philosophy. It is hoped that with their individual experience and the scope of their research material, the range of known "fragments" of the various Indian traditions can be widened substantially.

In addition to this primary focus, the convention of quoting or referring to earlier works or views as a compositional element will also be examined. This will be done not only with regard to philosophical texts, but also to other types of scholarly literature (śāstra).

Another specific aim will be to differentiate between the various ways that lost works are attested to. In some cases, a thought from a lost work is merely alluded to, in other cases, the diction of a lost work paraphrased, or is preserved as a quote.

The identification of external textual material in a certain work requires a high degree of familiarity not only with the compositional style of its author, but also, especially, with how the same author clarifies particular topics in other works, and how these same topics are discussed within his tradition and by its opponents. In the process of evaluating the collected fragmentary sources, it is helpful to systematically classify the different types of embedded textual material according to quantitative or qualitative criteria. The long-term goal is to comprehensively collect and analyze the quotations and paraphrases from and allusions to the texts of the Buddhist and Brahmanical traditions, and to make these available in an internet accessible database. This symposium will enable some decisive steps to be made in the search for these pieces of a lost philosophical heritage.