Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gnu-Freefont fonts and XeLaTeX

The problem

There's been a long-standing issue about using the Gnu-Freefont fonts with XeLaTeX.  The fonts are "Free Serif", "Free Sans" "Free Mono", and each has normal, italic, bold and bold-italic versions.  
These fonts are maintained by Stevan White, who has done a lot of support and maintenance work on them.  
These fonts are of special interest to people who type Indian languages because they include nice, and rather complete Devanāgarī character sets in addition to glyphs for
  • Bengali
  • Gujarati
  • Gurmukhi
  • Oriya
  • Sinhala
  • Tamil
  • Malayalam
The Gnu Freefonts are excellent for an exceptionally wide range of scripts and languages, as well as symbols.  See the coverage chart.

At the time of writing this blog, December 2014, the release version of the fonts is 4-beta, dated May 2012.  This is the release that's distributed with TeXLive 2014, and is generally available with other programs that include or require the FreeFonts.

But the 2012 release of the FreeFonts causes problems with the current versions of XeTeX.  Basically, the Devanagari conjunct consonants in the 2012 fonts are incompatible with the current XeTeX compositing engine. (For the technical: Up to TL 2012 XeTeX used ICU; since TL 2013 it's used HarfBuzz.)

In the last couple of years, Stevan has done a great deal of work on the Devanagari parts of the FreeFonts, and he has solved these problems.  But his improvements and developments are only available in the Subversion repository.   For technically-able users, it's not hard to download and compile this pre-release version of the fonts.  But then to make sure that XeTeX calls the right version of the FreeFonts, it's also necessary to weed out the 2012 version of the fonts that's distributed with TeX Live 2014.  And that's a bit hard.  In short, things get fiddly.

Now, Norbert Preining has created a special TeX Live repository for the Subversion version of the FreeFonts.  TeX Live 2014 users can now just invoke that repo and sit back and enjoy the correct Devanagari typesetting.

Be warned that the version distributed here is a development version, not meant for production. Expect severe breakage. You need to know what you are doing!

Here follow Norbert's instructions (as of Dec 2014).  Remember to use sudo if you have TeX Live installed system-wide.

The solution. A new TeX Live repository for the pre-release Gnu FreeFonts

Norbert says (Dec 2014):

Here we go: Please do:
tlmgr repository add http://www.tug.org/~preining/tlptexlive/ tlptexlive
tlmgr pinning add tlptexlive gnu-freefont
tlmgr install --reinstall gnu-freefont
You should see something like:  
[~] tlmgr install --reinstall gnu-freefont
[1/1, ??:??/??:??] reinstall: gnu-freefont @tlptexlive [12311k]
Note the
After that you can do  
tlmgr info gnu-freefont
and should see: 
Package installed:   Yes
revision:    3007
sizes:       src: 27157k, doc: 961k, run: 19769k
relocatable: No
collection:  collection-fontsextra
Note the
revision: 3007
which corresponds to the freefont subversion revision!!!

From now on, after the pinning action, updates for gnu-freefont will
always be pulled from tlptexlive (see man page of tlmgr).

Reverting the change:

In case you ever want to return to the versions as distributed in TeX Live, please do
tlmgr pinning remove tlptexlive gnu-freefont
tlmgr install --reinstall gun-freefont

Thank you, Norbert!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The complicated history of some editions of Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga

[This is a lightly-revised version of some posts to the INDOLOGY forum sent in November 2014] 

The Visuddhimagga was edited and then published twice in Roman script in the first half of the 20th century.  By Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids for the PTS, published 1920 & 1921, and by Henry Clarke Warren for HOS, posthumously published in 1950.  Neither edition refers to the other.  
Some discussion of these editions is offered by Steve Collins in, "Remarks on the Visuddhimagga, and on its treatment of the Memory of Former Dwelling(s) (pubbenivāsānussatiñāṇa)," Journal of Indian Philosophy (2009), 37:499–532.
Warren met Caroline's husband Thomas in Oxford in 1884, as Lanman's Memorial notes, and was greatly influenced by him.  Warren's work was done long  before that of Caroline Rhys Davids, since Warren died in 1899.  But why wouldn't Dharmananda Kosambi have mentioned Caroline RD's edition in his 1927 preface to Warren's?  It's understandable that Warren's brother Edward wouldn't have known about Caroline RD's edition, when he wrote his pathetic Foreword in 1927, since he was not an indologist.  Why did Warren's edition take 23 years to be printed, even after Kosambi had finished his editing of the MS?  1950 looks like five years after the war, which is understandable.  But that doesn't explain the twelve years of inaction before the war (and after the editing).  Since Warren had paid for the HOS to exist, one would have thought some priority might have been given to publishing his work.

And why didn't Caroline RD mention Warren's work?  Warren had used one of her husband's manuscripts of the VM, so she would surely have had some awareness of Warren's work.  And Thomas Rhys Davids was alive until the end of 1922, and was aware of his wife's work on the VM, since she gave him some pages for checking, some time before the end of 1920 (mentioned in her foreword).  Caroline RD also knew that Warren had published a subject analysis of the VM in the JPTS in 1892, although she appears not to know his article "Buddhaghosa's VM" of the same year, or his "Report of Progress" on his work on the VM, published in 1894.   She mentions Warren in her afterword on p. 767, but only as the author of Buddh. in Tr. (1896), which incidentally contains a 50 passages translated from the VM. 

I would have expected the translator Ñanamoli to say something about all this in his translation, but he doesn't.  He just says he's using both editions.  Perhaps there are book reviews from the later 1920s or 1950s that explain matters, I haven't looked yet.

Has anyone systematically compared the two editions for variants?  Caroline RD's edition is a reproduction of four earlier printed editions, two from Rangoon, two from Ceylon; Warren worked from MSS, two Burmese and two from Ceylon.  All of Warren's MSS came from sources in the UK, so it must have been known in England, and certainly to Thomas RD, that Warren was working on this text.

As mentioned, Dharmanand Damodar Kosambi (not to be confused with his son Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi) worked on Warren's edition of the Visuddhimagga.  Dharmanand's work was finished in 1911, but the book took until 1950 to appear.

Meanwhile, Dharmanand went back to India, and in 1940 he published in Bombay an edition of the Visuddhimagga in his own name, work that he had begun in 1909. It was based on the same manuscripts as Warren's work, plus reference to two printed editions from SE Asia, perhaps the same as those used by Caroline Rhys Davids.  Dharmanand said, in his Preface,

The sources used for the present edition are primarily the same as those employed for the Harvard edition, consisting of four excellent manuscripts: two Burmese, two Singhalese.  In addition, I have used one printed edition in Burmese and one in Siamese Characters ; while generally not so good as the first of the Burmese manuscripts, these contain an occasional superior reading. To reduce the bulk of this volume, I have omitted all variants ; the best alternative readings, however, will be given with my own commentary-in the volume to follow.
Dharmanand's Visuddhimagga edition has been transcribed and published as a web document.

So there are three editions of the Visuddhimagga published between 1920 and 1950, with entangled editorial histories:
  1. Caroline Rhys Davids, 1920, based on 4 printed editions
  2. Dharmanand Kosambi, 1940, based on 4 MSS and 2 editions
  3. Henry Clark Warren, 1950, based on 4 MSS
    Warren died in 1899, leaving his edition almost complete.  Kosambi was invited by Lanman to bring it to a publishable state, which he and Lanman did together, completing that between 1910 and 1911. Nothing then happened for fifteen years.  Then Lanman and Kosambi settled some dispute, and Kosambi saw the work through the press in 1926-1927.  But the work remained unpublished until 1950 [Preface].
Warren's actual editorial work on the text preceded that of both the others.  But it was only published after their editions.

For his 1940 edition, begun in 1909, Kosambi used the same MSS as Warren had used 40 years earlier.  Two of these MSS were personally procured by Warren from England, by correspondence with Thomas Rhys Davids and with Dr Richard Morris [as Lanman says], and a third was personally lent by Henry Rigg.  Did Kosambi really, separately, gain access to the very same privately-owned MSS?  Or were they still in Cambridge MA when he worked  there after Warren's death?  Or did Kosambi use Warren's unpublished text in constituting his own edition.  It is hard to imagine that he would not do so, since the work was done and lay there before him.

I should mention that for all these editors it was a matter of importance that their editions were produced in this or that script.  Caroline Rhys Davids' edition was mainly undertaken in order to produce a Roman-alphabet version of the pre-existing Burmese- and Ceylonese-script editions.  She showed little engagement with actual text-critical tasks.  Warren was engaged with both text-criticism and with the idea of transliteration.  Warren's edition prints MS readings.  Kosambi also cared about script, producing his edition in Devanagari, thus intending specifically to reach a readership in India.  Kosambi also engaged in text-critical tasks to the extent that he applied Paninian grammatical thinking to the construal of the text, especially in matters of sandhi.  But Kosambi omitted to print any variants from the manuscripts, which means that his edition cannot be used as a critical edition, since he denies the reader the opportunity to think critically about his editorial choices and their alternatives.  

The secondary literature contains references to an edition of the Visuddhimagga by Dharmanand Kosambi (and not Warren) published by OUP in London in 1950.  I think this is probably just an error.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Linux Mint 17, Cinnamon, Firefox 31 = freeze

I've been very happy with Linux Mint 17, and the Cinnamon GUI.
Except for the occasional system freezes.  This happened usually when I was swapping between windows (alt+tab), and required a re-login.

I've spent some time looking around the web and trying to diagnose the problem.  I've found one change that seems to have cleared up the problem, and I am not aware that anyone else has mentioned it yet.  I've uninstalled Firefox (31), and replaced it with Google Chrome.  I haven't had a freeze since doing that.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Kuṭipraveśam rasāyanam

In the Compendium of Suśruta (Suśrutasaṃhitā), there is a passage describing rejuvenation through the use of Soma, which is taken over a period of four months while living in a special hut (4.29.10).  The description is very dramatic, and I translated it in my book The Roots of Ayurveda.(2003: 125-131).

Two accounts of a parallel therapy occur in Caraka's Compendium (Carakasaṃhitā).  In one version, the patient akes Soma and spends six months naked in a greased barrel (6.1.4-7).  In another, he enters a hut, as in Suśruta's account, but Soma is not involved.  (See Roots, 2003: 76--8.)

In my discussion in Roots, I drew a parallel with the Aitareyabrāhmaṇa 1.3 in which a Soma ritual involving rebirth is described (the passage was kindly pointed out to me by David Pingree).

Now I have identified another passage that seems to be about the same ritual.

Pātañjalayogaśāstra (sūtras and bhāṣya)

In the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (i.e., the Yoga Sutras and the Bhāṣya commentary, all by Patañjali), there is a sutra that lists the means by which super powers may be attained.  Sutra 4.1 says:
super powers (siddhi) come from birth, drugs, mantras, asceticism, and meditative integration (samādhi)(janmauṣadhimantratapaḥsamādhijāḥ siddhayaḥ).  
Explaining this, Patañjali (not Vyāsa) says, in his Bhāṣya,
by using drugs means using rejuvenations (rasāyana) in the houses of the Asuras, and so on.
(oṣadhibhir asurabhavaneṣu rasāyanenety evamādiḥ).
No further explanation is given, and we are left to wonder what the "houses of the Asuras" might be.


The commentator Śaṅkara, in his Vivaraṇa, expands on this passage in a significant way. He says (1952 edition, pp. 317-18):
oṣadhibhir asurabhavaneṣu rasāyanena  somāmalakādibhakṣaṇena pūrvadehān apanayenaiva/

by means of drugs in the houses of the Asuras
by elixir, by consuming Soma, emblic, and so on, by the complete removal of the previous bodies.

The use of the word "soma" suggests that this commentator is putting together the idea of rasāyana entioned in the Bhāṣya with the specific rasāyana treatment described by Suśruta (and, more briefly, Caraka).


The only place that Asurabhavana "home of the Asuras" is mentioned with any regularity is in the Pāli literature of the Buddhist Canon.  For example, in the Mahā Suññata Sutta (Majjhimanikāya 122/3, tr. by Piya Tan; tr. by Thanissaro Bhikkhu), the Buddha is described worrying about the fact that worldly people live in too-crowded conditions for proper meditation.  Asura bhavana is described as being ten-thousand yojanas wide, and is included in a listing of the various parts of the universe where living creatures live (and are crowded).  Asurabhavana is therefore a geographical location in the Buddhist universe.


Explaining Patañjali, the commentator Vācaspati (as so often) is guessing at the meaning on the basis of his general knowledge (e-edition at SARIT): 
oṣadhisiddhim āha --- asurabhavaneṣv iti/ manuṣyo hi kutaś cin nimittād asurabhavanam upasaṃprāptaḥ kamanīyābhir asurakanyābhir upanītaṃ rasāyanam upayujyājarāmaraṇatvam anyāś ca siddhīr āsādayati/ ihaiva vā rasāyanopayogena yathā māṇḍavyo munī rasopayogād vindhyavāsīti/He states the super power of drugs: "in the houses of the Asuras." Because a human, for a certain reason, who has reached the house of an Asura, is served an elixir by the attractive Asura girls.  After taking it, he achieves the state of never aging or dying, and other super powers.  Alternatively, by taking elixirs in this actual world, like the sage Māṇḍavya took up residence in the Vindhya mountains through the use of elixirs.

Sanskrit Vidh - On alchemical transubstantiation versus piercing

[This reproduces a post by me to the INDOLOGY list, earlier today]
I am trying to firm up the idea that vedh- means convert, transmute, or (for the philosophers among us, perhaps) transubstantiate.
The Rasaratnasamuccaya is a kind of late-ish nibandha text that brings together, organizes and medicalizes the earlier, more tantric alchemical literature.  Meulenbeld argues that it is datable to the sixteenth century (HIML IIA 670).  Earliest dated MS: 1699 CE.  This text is not bad as a representative of the developed ("classical"?) rasaśāstra tradition; one would expect less standardization of vocab. in earlier texts.
At Rasaratnasamuccaya 8.94-95 there is a definition of śabdavedha

from blowing of iron, with mercury in the mouth, there is the creation of goldenness and silverness. That is known as Word-vedha.
and the commentator makes it even more explicity that this is transmutation, using pari-ṇamRasaratnasamuccayabodhinī on 8.95:

... tat lauhakhaṇḍaṃ svarṇādirūpeṇa pariṇatam//
that bit of iron is converted into the form of gold etc.
... yatra vedhe svarṇādirūpeṇa pariṇamet sa śabdavedha ityarthaḥ//
Word-vedha is where it converts with the form of gold etc. ...
The operation being described here is not unclear.  The alchemist puts a piece of mercury in his mouth and blows on a piece of iron.  It becomes golden or silvery.  This "becoming" is "vedha."

The Bodhinī authors were Āśubodha and Nityabodha (hence the witty title), the sons of Jīvānanda Vidyāsāgara Bhaṭṭacārya, and the Bodhinī was published in Calcutta in 1927.  So it's arguable that their interpretation was influenced by 19th-20th century thought.  However, their commentary is very śāstric and elaborate (note the Pāṇinian grammatical parsing, "dhama dhāvane ityasmāt lyuḥ" (>P.1.3.134 and pacādi ākṛtigaṇa).  And as Meulenbeld points out, they cite an exceptionally wide range of earlier rasaśāstra texts (HIML IIA 671-2).  Their interpretations are based on a close reading of classical rasaśāstra literature.  At the very least, one can say that their view represents the understanding of learned panditas in turn of the century Calcutta, that vedha meant pariṇāma, or transmutation.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Origins of a Famous Yogic/Tantric Image (part 2)

In a post in February this year I talked about the origin and spread of the famous "lines of energy" image.  I asserted that this image was created by or for Yogini Sunita.

I had a memory of having seen the image reproduced in Mircea Eliade's book, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, or in one of Daniélou's books.  I looked at the issues of Eliade's books available to me, and at Daniélou's
Yoga: Mastering the Secrets of Matter and the Universe, that is on my bookshelf, but the image wasn't there.

Now, I can report that I've solved both these puzzles in a stroke.  In the Vienna Indology library last week, I came across an Eliade book that I'd forgotten, Patanjali et le Yoga (Paris, 1962).  And look at the cover!

Eliade reproduces the image inside the book:

Eliade captions the image "La matière, la vie, l'esprit."  As an aside, I have argued and taught in the past that anyone who says "body, mind and spirit" is reproducing a meme from Western New Age thought, and not anything specifically Indian.  The threefold division of Man in the original Sanskrit sources is normally "body, mind and speech."

In the acknowledgements at the back of the book, Eliade attributes this image to Alain Daniélou's "Yoga: Méthode de réintégration (Éditions de l'Arche), pp. 171, 179 et couverture."  Eliade doesn't give a date for the Daniélou edition he copied from, but the edition will turn up sooner or later.  It was first published in 1951.

From http://www.pranayama-yoga.co.uk/
So, this image was used by Daniélou, perhaps as early as 1951, and following him, by Eliade in 1962.

The earliest edition of Yogini Sunita's book that I can find is 1965, and she only arrived in England in 1960, and started her first yoga classes that year, as reported in this newspaper clip.

So perhaps the whole story of this image has a prehistory before Yogini Sunita.  Perhaps she reproduced the image from Daniélou, or even Eliade.

Good writing: transparency is the new objectivity

I care deeply about good writing, which I believe to be indistinguishable from good thinking.  As an undergraduate, I was lucky enough to get and read two texts that turned into life-long influences:
  • C. S. Lewis, "At the Fringe of Language", in Studies in Words
  • George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," in Collected Essays.
As a student, I internalized Orwell's six rules:
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do (see Short words).
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out (see Unnecessary words).
  4. Never use the Passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a Jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (see Iconoclasm).
My professor, Richard Gombrich, also cares about good writing, and impressed that belief upon us students.  Some of his remarks on this topic appear in his lecture "On Being Sanskritic" (p.27).  For example, his ringing indictment,
The so-called `literal translation' -- an intellectual fallacy and an aesthetic monstrosity -- is still widespread;
As a result of my interest in the forms and sins of self-expression, I have developed a kind of radar, pinging for materials that support this interest and take it further.  The Economist Style Guide is one such resource that showed up on the screen long ago.

Today, I was reading the WikiPedia article about Timothy Leary, and I saw that an unsubstantiated claim ("Others have said") was tagged as a "weasel word".  I didn't know this expression.

Weasel words are described under "unsupported attributions" and are amongst several strategies that I see regrettably often in academic prose.  As WikiPedia says:
Weasel words.svg
Weasel words are words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said, when in fact only a vague or ambiguous claim has been communicated. A common form of weasel wording is through vague attribution, where a statement is dressed with authority, yet has no substantial basis. Phrases such as those above present the appearance of support for statements but can deny the reader the opportunity to assess the source of the viewpoint.
Another major technique for avoiding attribution is to use the passive grammatical voice.  To the WikiPedia "weasel words" examples, I could add (and probably will) a category of what might be called "cooercives," words and phrases designed to prevent the reader from thinking too much, by suggesting that thinking isn't going to be worthwhile in this particular case.  Thus, "clearly," "of course," "naturally," "it goes without saying." (Several of these are referenced in WikiPedia's "Editorializing" section, see below.) 

Following the WP link, I stumbled into a wonderful collection of notes about how to write better and avoid writing (and thinking) badly.  "Words to Watch" has the following headings (mid-2014):
 WikiPedia's Manual of Style is excellent, as a whole.  But this section "Words to Watch" is a treasure chest.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Open letter to MLBD about their publishing Mein Kampf

Update, 21 May 2014
Motilal Banarsidass responded graciously, rapidly and positively to this letter and the petition, and agreed to stop distributing the book.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Notes on the Ukrainian crisis

The Nuland-Pyatt recording

[The following is an extract, authored by me, from the WikiPedia page on this topic.  My text has been deleted four or five times by someone with a Russian-sounding name, NazariyKaminski, or by a now-deleted user called RedPenOfDeath and other sock-puppets.  So I am placing the text here, for the record.]