South Indian Srivaishnavism – the worship of the god Vishnu in his temples – identifies Compassion as a goddess who is the true or deeper identity of the male deity, in effect his authentic self. In the early fourteenth century, the polymath Vedanta Desika composed a century of Sanskrit verses addressed to this divine Compassion – the Daya-sataka. In these verses we encounter Compassion in her various guises, as a liquid force connecting what is divided or separate, as endlessly hungry and incapable of satisfaction, as a trap set for traumatized and recalcitrant human beings, and as the solid mountain of Tirupati where Vishnu becomes present through her activity. A Tamil metaphysics of compassion can be abstracted inductively from this radical, somewhat subversive text.
David Shulman studied Islamic History at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, before devoting himself to Tamil and Sanskrit at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. He received his Ph.D. 1976 from the University of London for his dissertation entitled The Mythology of the Tamil Saiva Talapuranam. He has been affiliated with Hebrew University, Jerusalem since 1978, becoming a Full Professor for Indian Studies and Comparative Relegion in 1985 (until present). In 1988 he was elected member of the Israeli Academy of the Sciences and Humanities. From 1992 – 1998 Professor Shulman served as the Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Jerusalem. He has been awarded numerous international grants and prizes including a MacArthur fellowship from 1987 – 1992.
Selected publications: Hamiqdash vehamayim (poems), Tel-Aviv 1974; The King and the Clown in South Indian Myth and Poetry, Princeton 1985; Textures of Time: Writing History In South India, 1600-1800, Delhi 2002 (with Velcheru Narayana Rao and Sanjay Subrahmanyam); Dream Cultures: Explorations in the Comparative History of Dreaming, New York 1999 (with G. Stroumsa); Siva In the Forest of Pines: An Essay on Sorcery and Self-Knowledge, Delhi 2004 (with Don Handelman).