Examining a rich archive of textual and inscriptional sources produced by the Advaita Vedānta monastery at Śṛṅgeri in the fourteenth century, this dissertation argues that this monumental feat of scholastic production articulated a clear theory of monastic governmentality. Monastic governmentality refers to the logic according to which vectors of monastic power were institutionalized and mobilized. As opposed to the territorial governmentality evinced by medieval kings in southern India, monastic governmentality operated through institutionalized practices of subject-formation. In simple terms, monastic power depended upon controlling the means of producing subjects out of human beings. In the first half of the dissertation, I analyze monastic governmentality into its two constituent elements: pastoral care and disciplinary power. Pastoral care stems from the monastery’s unique prerogative in constructing its power in being ultimately concerned with the spiritual and moral welfare of its subjects. An imperative not shared by kingship, the operation of monastic power is thus concerned with supporting and enabling those forms of human subjectivity that conform to the ultimate ethical and religious ends privileged by the monastery. In concrete terms, I examine the maṭha’s involvement in supporting certain forms of human conduct and providing the material infrastructure for certain types of human subjects to flourish. Examining inscriptional evidence of gift-giving, I demonstrate that the maṭha supported a range of economies–ranging from the construction of irrigation systems, endowing villages to Brahmin ritualists and teachers, to controlling trade routes and extracting taxes–that were intended to privilege the types of human pursuits privileged by the maṭha. Disciplinary power refers to the practices and regimes of conduct that the maṭha adopted to form its subjects to pursue the religious ends that were proper to their station. I argue that the maṭha deployed the disciplinary power of the Vedic injunction (vidhi) to shape its charges into ethically suitable subjects. In this regard, I examine two ideal types: the ritualist householder and the monastic ascetic or saṃnyāsin. I demonstrate that these two forms of life were governed, from the moment of institutional initiation, by the Vedic injunction, according to which each of these two types of subjects were constrained in the formative and productive aspects of their life. Thus, education, marriage (or the abstention from it), the performance of ritual – each of these dimensions were constrained and governed by the Vedic injunction, and, by extension, the maṭha. Thus, pastoral care and disciplinary power constituted the mechanisms by which monastic governmentality was realized. In the final section of the dissertation, I examine a set of later texts that constitute the first stratum of reception history for this theory of monastic governmentality. I demonstrate that these later texts in the tradition interpreted and applied the aspects of monastic governmentality to new contexts and a changed political landscape. Through this examination, I show not merely that the theory of monastic governmentality possessed a stability and durability owing to its institutional locus, but, more importantly, that there is a history of monastic governmentality that awaits our scholarly scrutiny.




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