Dharmakīrti’s Poetry

Martin Straube’s excellent article (“Dharmakīrti als Dichter,” pp. 471–511 in Pāsādikadānaṃ: Festschrift für Bhikkhu Pāsādika, ed. Mitsuyo Demoto, Martin Straube, Michael Hahn, Jayandra Soni, and Roland Steiner) gathers the available evidence for Dharmakīrti’s literary, as opposed to strictly philosophical, output. It begins with a passage in Ānandavardhana’s Dhvanyālōka which, quite unusually for Sanskrit literary criticism, interprets a particular verse by taking into account the personality of the author to whom it is attributed. The verse is (3.40):

लावण्यद्रविणव्ययो न गणितः क्लेशो महान्स्वीकृतः
     स्वच्छन्दस्य सुखं जनस्य वसतः चिन्तानलो दीपितः ।
एषापि स्वयमेव तुल्यरमणाभावाद्वराकी हता
     कोऽर्थश्चेतसि वेधसा विनिहितस्तन्व्यास्तनुं तन्वता ॥

He didn’t even consider the expenditure
of his store of beauty.
He went to great pains.
He lit the fire of anxiety
in people who had been happy and free of care.
And still: this poor girl is done for,
since she’ll never find a suitable match.
What could the creator have had in mind
when he made this beautiful girl’s body?

Ānandavardhana rejects the interpretation of this verse as containing the ornament of vyājastutiḥ (‘praise in the guise [of a reproach]’), because it would leave several expressions unmotivated, and he proposes to interpret it as an instance of aprastutapraśaṁsā (‘talking about something that is not evident from the context’), wherein the girl is a symbol for a text, and the entire verse is a lament from the author that his efforts in writing that text have not met with suitable readers. In support of this interpretation he adduces the common believe (prasiddhiḥ) that the verse is by Dharmakīrti, and cites the well-known conclusion of the philosopher’s Pramāṇavārttikam:

     प्यदृष्टपरमार्थतत्त्वमधिकाभियोगैरपि ।
मतं मम जगत्यलब्धसदृशप्रतिग्राहकं
     प्रयास्यति पयोनिधेः पय इव स्वदेहे जराम् ॥

Its depths lay unplumbed even by one of considerable intellectual ability.
Its highest truths remain unseen even by those who devote great effort to it.
My thought has not found anyone in this world who is capable of receiving it.
It will proceed to old age in the body it has, just like the ocean’s waters.