The Svacchandatantram: History and Structure of a Saiva Scripture

Arraj, William James

     This dissertation presents a historical introduction, summary, and select translation of the Svacchandatantram and commentary by Ksemarajah (fl. c.1000-1050 A.D.). The Svacchandatantram is one of the anonymous texts, interchangeably called agamah or tantram, constituting the scriptural corpus of the organized sectarian Saivas prominent during the second half of the first millenium A.D. Using these early texts that give instructions for ritual and meditative performance, the later Saivas elaborated a systematic doctrine and competed for patronage with other sects both orthodox and heterodox. Both the dualistic and the non-dualistic Saivas interpreted the Svacchandatantram and appropriated the worship of Svacchanda-bhairavah as their own.
     This dissertation situates the Svacchandatantram and the commentary of Ksemarajah in their historical context, and analyzes them as reflections of the dynamics of sectarian development, transformation, and conflict.The historical introduction evaluates external and internal evidence concerning the date, provenance, and authorship of Svacchandatantram. It then presents an internal analysis of the text's compositional history in three interrelated phases: first, tradition criticism, to identify the various tradition complexes or strata that either proximately or indirectly have influenced the composition of the text; second, source criticism, to reconstruct the various documentary sources and hence stages in the text's composition; and third, redaction criticism, to identify the various probable redactors and compilers responsible for the text's composition and modification during its transmission. The second part of the introduction discusses Ksemaraja's commentary, which attempts to establish the non-dualistic interpretation of his master, Abhinavaguptah. It concentrates on Ksemaraja's efforts to refute previous dualistic commentators, and explores some of the specific techniques employed.
     The second part of the dissertation clarifies the reconstructed redactional and sectarian history elaborated in the first part through detailed summaries of each book of the Svacchandatantram.
     The third section of the dissertation provides translations of selections of the Svacchandatantram chosen in order to represent the most important strata and sources in its compositional history, and to illustrate the major concerns and interpretative procedures of Ksemarajah.