Much Ado About Religion
Written around 900 CE by Bhatta Jayanta, an advisor to king
Shankaravarman of Kashmir, the Agamadambara or Much Ado About
Religion is a religio-philosophical drama intended for students. It
depicts the adventures of the graduate Sankarshana, an orthodox follower of the
Veda from the Mimamsa
School, as he takes on
proponents of other religions.
In Act One Sankarshana debates and defeats a Buddhist monk, refuting his
ideas about suffering, momentariness and emptiness. In Act Two he lets a Jain
monk escape debate but, shocked by the licentiousness of a sect of
blank-blanket adepts, has them banned by the king. In Act Three he joins forces
with a Shaivist abbot to refute a materialist skeptic. And in the final act he
is an onlooker while the scholar Dhairya-Rashi delivers a monologue explaining
when non-Vedic religions are acceptable.
There''s not much drama in Much Ado About Religion, which has rather
a lot of abstract philosophy and just a little student humor. The philosophy is
in some cases still topical ? some arguments for intelligent design seem
familiar, for example ? but much of it is esoteric. Jayanta has everything
stage-managed for his hero, of course, and gives some weak lines of argument to
both the Buddhist and the skeptic. Surely, for example, there are and were
stronger responses too.
It''s not that I assert that the Veda is authoritative
because it is eternal; rather, I claim that it is authoritative since it
Surely in some cases, even though the verbal expression is
contradicted, it still creates awareness, like when somebody says: There is an
elephant on my finger. Bhatta Jayanta was involved in the events he describes
and the Agamadambara was as much a partisan manifesto as a
philosophical treatise. It is revealing of the politics of the period, and in
particular of the compromises between religious orthodoxy and political
This Clay Sanskrit Library edition is an attractive dual-language volume,
with the Sanskrit transliterated in Roman script facing the English
translation, and includes a useful introduction as well as editorial notes.