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Drishti-sristivada, Srishtidrishtivada, and the Hermeneutics of Theatre

An interesting example of contradictory interpretations is borrowed by G.P. Deshpande [1] from Indian philosophy to evaluate the ambiguous nature of the play and its production.

"There are two texts by Shankaracharya: one is called Sarirakabhasya while the other bhasya is a commentary on Gaudapadakarika. There is a basic contradiction in both....drishti-srishtivada and sristidrishtivada.... These two terms represent the schools within which the Vedantins are divided. The problem is whether what you see defines reality (drishtisrishtivada) or whether what exists defines your vision (srishtidrishtivada).

"It is a typical theatre problem.... Suppose you take that text to be a srishti. Then the director looks at it in a particular way, and the actor looks at it in a particular way. When happens next is the case of drishtisrishtivada. The vision or the way the text is looked at ultimately decides its character. And that is why you have different productions of the same play, productions apparently using the same text but so different that they appear to be based on different texts."

Deshpande, from the Indian viewpoint, is exploring what Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) had philosophically deeply examined, the issue of pre-understanding and the fusion of horizons. Recent hermeneutics has strongly focused on trying to get at the author's intent and limit the text to just that. However, getting to the author's intent is a horizonal problem. Our understandings only fuse where our pre-understandings intersect. Yet, in a way, the text does have the ability to change one's pre-understanding as well; and so vice-versa.

Deshpande continues:

"But is it really the case of drishtisrishtivada? That, after all, it is the drishti that determines the srishti? Perhaps not quite. The srishti also made that drishti possible. There is always enough room in a given text to make it so..... The interrelationship between the text and play I am talking about can be related to the contradiction in Shankaracharya's to bhasyas, and the contradiction between the two vadas. Vendantins also could not come to terms with them. Drishti or srishti taking prominence remained an unresolved question."

To note is the fact that both the schools of interpretation look to the Vedas and Upanisads as their source of authority and, yet their interpretations are contradictory. Does this mean that the text itself is contradictory in nature? Or does it mean that one or both of the interpretations may be wrong? The aim of hermeneutics should be chiefly that: to guarantee the right interpretation of the text in its syntactical-grammatical-historical originality.

bhasya. Commentary
Drishti. Sight
Srishti. Creation
Vada. Argument. Theory.
Gaudapadakarika. The statement of doctrine in verse form by Gaudapada, the teacher of Sankaracharya.

[1] G.P. Deshpande (b.1939), retired Professor of Chinese Studies at JNU.
Cit. Dialectics of Defeat, Calcutta: Seagull, 2006.


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