Monday, July 31, 2006

“let us read” - on commentary

Very often as we read, my teacher, Prabhakara Shastry (aka Shastry Garu) will take the opportunity to expand on a point he considers important. This discussion may take just a moment, or may equally well take up much of our reading session. But once Shastry Garu has said what he wants to say, he usually pauses for a moment thinking, and then says, “Let us read.” Then we resume our reading of the text. For this reason, from time to time I will be posting bits of those comments under the heading, “let us read.”

We are each reading a different edition of the same text (the Sanskrit Vinayavastu), and today we come across a passage where the editor of one edition has placed a dan.d.a (a kind of period used to punctuate Sanskrit texts) in a certain spot, while the other has not. Shastry Garu observes, “This dan.d.a is a commentary. Putting a dan.d.a is making a commentary. Whoever has edited the book has commented on it. If you copy all the words of a book by hand, thinking you have not changed a thing, that is also a commentary. Any book that comes to you in any way, you are commenting on. Even just carrying a book from place to place is a commentary. Some books you may wrap carefully in cloth and carry like that. Others you just grab and go. When you carry it carefully, you are commenting that this is a very important text, the other is not. You cannot touch a book without commenting on it… Let us read.”

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