k a r a s s o w i t s c h . c a

The Importance of the Mānasāra


Elusive Engagement.

The Mānasāra connects architectural practice with the very beginnings of our period via a geneology of the (four) experts in architectural presencing. This was already the period in which technology, which arises out of the attainment of thought, has come to dominate. Viśva-karman, the architect of the universe, is born from God. From his four names or faces come the others (4:5). This implies nearness to the primal origin. These beginnings, and other related works such as, Patañjali's Yogasūtra, the Āgamas and the Purañas (containing text that is identical in the Mānasāra) (2:19-28, 2:131-133)10, have a quality of stating that which is intended for transmition in a prescriptive way, without the reflective qualities that we expect today. The Mānasāra is about what is to be done only. Questions, proposed arguments, proofs, nor the further realm of individual striving, nor the need for change and the creation of individual inner aspiration are present in this text. This reflection for change is common in modern expression such as that of the masters of Sahaj Marg or Krishnamurthi and David Bohm in their lengthy discussion sessions in the mid-1970s:
Krishnamurti: I would like to ask a question which may lead us to something: what will make man change? He has crisis after crisis, he has had a great many shocks, he has been through every kind of misfortune, every kind of war, personal sorrow, and so on. A little affection, a little joy, but all this doesn’t seem to change him. What will make a human being leave the way he is going, and move in a totally different direction? I think this is one of our great problems, don’t you? Why? …

David Bohm: If we could find out what is holding people in their present
direction ...
K: Is it the basic conditioning of man, this tremendous egoistic attitude and action, which won’t yield to anything? It appears to change, it appears to yield, but the centre remains the same … 11

Such questioning toward some change is not present in the Mānasāra. Krishnamurti refers to a needed correction of the illusion of time in the psychology of humanity — psychological time12— as irrational; as a process it maintains a condition or situation, rather than bringing change and its end. A person is what they are until they are something else. It is important to note, therefore, that ‘the ending of time’ as they develop the expression of it in language (which is the purpose of their exercise), is not a process. Any process (of changing) prolongs ‘psychological time’ until an instant of touching that essence trumps learned-knowledge and it is left off.

The condition in which this text exists is one then that has no exterior. It may not include a condition of inward– or psychological–time as is common to everyone today. A person who is internalized  once 'time is ended' is not acceding to process or time, nor questioning the world and is not ‘in process’.13 Thus our work must accommodate awareness of change in its present form, while acknowledging that a form of process-less-ness is vital to the Mānasāra. This is important for us as it can not be known in advance what the architectural results of a contemporary rendering of the Mānasāra will be. Such a project can only be taken on with a sense of betterment, experiment and discovery today. World must change by nature, which is expressed as process in technology and of thought. The Mānasāra mediates something of the unchangeable and of a knowing and evolution beyond narrowly taken process but this appears to contradict change in its  appoach  and feels as the unchangeable. The Mānasāra expressed as a fixed eternal principle in terms of the architecture and the practices for providing it is not true in terms of the built forms and the procedures for verification any longer in the materialism of technicist architectural practice. That cascade of form to express the one thing through time had finally hardened to this standstill we observe — a frozen moment gone forward as far as it could. There is no externality to those forms in terms of technology and so no interaction with a wider world or a the present future of that past world.

We need change, while the Mānasāra does not admit of it; both are needed, both are true. That strict reading is one that is aligned with technology and its limitations while expressing something that is beyond those limits as it was before they came to be. There is no theory. An applicable meta-form for application today is concealed. What is necessary to get at that essence is the maintainance of an intent as fulcrum for engagement to allow enlivenment of that value which is sometimes present only in myriad grains and perhaps even only in homeopathic doses. It points toward a tell-tale truth, require something more to spring to life.

The absences within the present English rendering of the Mānasāra that point to what we need to do thus seems at first to be a dead end. But a purposeful space opens up out of ‘ambiguity’. P.K. Acharya’s work shows the sense of rightness of that primal origin remembered mainly through voids in the results that his methods leave gaping — vacuums which pull us in. The fulcrum is therefore a function each architect’s individual values evolved to presence those ambiguities that are created by P.K. Acharya’s strict reading, when jutaposed with the original, with practice and with our contemporary needs. Abiguity is produced in the problematic holding sway of setting-upon today, and questioning its ramified form of technology, implying an escape from mere repetition and access to what is really remembered.

P.K. Acharya is explicit on the terms in which he looks at the Mānasāra. It is worthwhile to look at
his exact words for it must be expected that he would be precise.
It has consistently been my aim to reproduce the bare meaning of the Mānasāra, and to avoid, as far as can be done, taking liberties with the language in order to bring out meanings other than what the most obvious and ordinary natural interpretation would suggest. … I found myself obliged … to deviate from a strictly literal treatment. The reason … was the very peculiar nature of the Text and its inconsistent construction, following, as it seemingly does, no rules of grammar. … The method I have followed … has been to avoid … speculation and broad constructions, and to attempt a more or less free rendering only as far as it was obviously necessary, or there was at least a high degree of probability to warrant it. (4:xxi-xxii)
What we must take away from this is that if P.K. Acharya could fit any “obvious and ordinary natural interpretation”, he has done it as a priority. One must question on what basis he used the qualification of ‘obvious’. We can refer to another passage in his preface to the body of the translated text, where the author discusses the difficulty
… owing to the technical nature of the subject. There are various words used in a strictly technical sense, differing entirely from their derivative literal renderings. (4:xxii-xxiii)
Such a problem considered in terms of my own beginnings in understanding Sanskrit have lead me to consider that in Sanskrit the very idea of ‘definition’ seems to be other to English. In general, there is simply not the same apportioning of ideas within linguistic signification14 as in English. Thus the Mānasāra’s texts’ meanings can certainly not be differentiated by qualifiying some as obvious according to a First Machine Age15 definition. Even in seemingly banal points, one might find subtlety and wide diversions from contemporary expectations. When P.K. Acharya attempted to dispel ambiguities with reasoned, practical functional purposiveness, and then also expresses that there is no way to propose it even in the most fastidious way (4:xxi-xxiv), he implies incomplete and inconclusive results. And finally, to express the architecture as technological by nature seals the case. Architecture is superordinate programme to technology.

P.K. Acharya gives an elaborate example of what the full title of the Mānasāra Vāstu-śāstramight actually mean (2:2-3) we seem further from knowledge of a final representative expression of what it means by the end of his description. But we are nevertheless more convinced of P.K. Acharya’s scholarly approach, rigor and documentary skills. It remains for us to use the ambiguity that he brings to the fore. Thus P.K. Acharya’s measure for where ambiguity arises, and how it is dealt with, becomes the needed point of departure. Accepting that which does not fit in with P.K. Acharya’s framework creates ambiguity will be that which supports spirituality (as practice) and knowledge of essence as it must be borne in architecture.

page   1   2   3.   4   5   6

10. In this discussion the not-yet-written, or
pre-textual, vāstuvidya must colour the texts' interpretation in that a focus on the text's accuracy loses significance. The lineage of the remembered and oral must be seen as the text's equal whereby a questioning of which comes first is superseded by valuation of what is available.
11. The Ending of Time. p. 77
12. Ibid. pp. 14-15
13. It is important to note that 'being in process' is
wholy different from growth and evolution. 'Being-in-process' is a part of these, but it is the extracted set-upon enframed reduction to the measurable.
14. A discussion of the meaning of the word śāstra
can be found in Jose Jacob's dissertation which outlines the
complexities that may be found, where upon attempting to apply contemporary categorizations, such as 'theory', an eternal uncreated and a made knowledge. See The Architectural Theory of the Mānasāra. <www.researchgate.net/publication/41589504_The_architectural_theory_of_the _Manasara> pp. 31-33.

15. Rayner Banham's, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age
outlines the forces and characteristics of architects' responses over the period P. K. Acharya is completing his life's work.
michael@karassowitsch.ca 2013