Philosophy from the Bottom Up: Eknāth’s Vernacular Advaita
The sixteenth-century Marathi poet-saint Eknāth is better known for his devotional songs (abhaṅg) and allegorical drama-poems (bhārūḍ) than his “philosophical” writings. These writings include commentaries on and distillations of Sanskrit texts that feature a highly localized form of Advaita, or non-dualist Vedānta. Rather than consider them vernacular translations of the classical traditions of Advaita, I propose to read Eknāth’s philosophical works as embedded in a local context of non-dualist thought that filtered into the elite world of Sanskrit knowledge-systems. I provide examples from his Marathi commentary on the Sanskrit Hastāmalaka Stotra, a brief versified teaching on Advaita Vedānta. I also look at the para-textual material bracketing the content and some of the accompanying manuscript record, in order to understand the context for circulation and transmission of this material among Eknāth’s various readers over generations. My general attempt is to understand how ideas and practices belonging to local, vernacular networks filter into elite Sanskrit systems of knowledge—that is, not just into flexible genres like purāṇa but into disciplines, like Vedānta, that are generally viewed as impervious to the world around them. From my perspective, all knowledge is local, even that articulated in such cosmopolitan languages as Sanskrit. In Eknāth’s vernacular Advaita, we find evidence for a much wider scope for the movement of ideas, one that moves not from top-down but bottom-up.
KeywordsAdvaita Vedānta Eknāth Stotra Vernacular Vedānta Marathi
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I would like to thank Jon Keune and Hemant Rajopadhye for patiently reading Ekn?th with me. Many of the insights here came through discussion with them. Any and all errors are my own.
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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
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