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The Meaning of ‘MEANING’ – Part Seven

Continued from Part Six

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The Word and the Sentence

Grammar and the philosophy of language

Grammar (Vyakarana) was recognized from the earliest times in India as a distinct science, a field of knowledge with its own parameters, which distinguished it from other branches of learning/persuasions. It was regarded as the means to secure release from the bondage of ignorance : Vag-yoga ; Sabda-yoga; or Sabdapurva-yoga.

The overall aim of Sanskrit Grammar was not to list out the rules and to standardize the language; but, to aptly bring out the intended meaning of the structure of words. As Yaska puts it in his Nirukta (the oldest available Indian treatise on etymology, philology and semantics) the aim was to get the meaning of the uttered word (arthanityah parikseta-Nir: 2.1.1). Thus, Sanskrit Grammar was an attempt to purify (samskruta), to discipline and to explain the behaviour of the spoken language, so that the inner meaning could shine forth unhindered.

During the periods following the three Great Sages (Munitraya) – Panini, Katyayana and Patanjali – the question of perceiving the intended meaning of the spoken word engaged the attention of the Grammarians and the philosophers of the language. The more significant of such Scholar-Grammarians, among others, were: Mandana Misra, Kaumarila Bhatta, Kunda Bhatta, Abhinavagupta and Bhartrhari. In particular, Bharthari’s major work, Vakyapadiya, discusses the ways in which the outer word-form could unite with its inner meaning. 

Each of those giants, in his own manner, addressed the question about ‘’the meaning of ‘meaning’ ‘’; debated vigorously on various theories of meaning as being fundamental to linguistic studies.

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In the Grammar-traditions of ancient India, protracted debates were carried out on the question: ’what is the basic unit of the language that gives forth a meaning (Artha)?  Is it the alphabet (Varna) or the word (Pada) or the sentence (Vakya)?’ Though the discussions took several routes, it ultimately arrived on the fact that the letters constitute a word; and, the words come together to form a sentence. It was pointed out that just as a word has no separate entity without its constituent letters; similarly, a sentence has no separate entity without words that give it a structure. It was also said; though the words are parts of a sentence, the meaning of the sentence does not independently arise out of them. Meaning is the function of the sentence as a whole. Though the distinction between a sentence and its parts (words and letters) was recognised, it was said to be mainly, for day-to-day purposes (loka-vyavahara) and for analytical studies undertaken by the grammarians.

This position was, in a way, formalized when Yaska mentioned that ‘from the Vedic mantras we come to know that ‘language started with sentences and not with individual words’. He described the sentence as the entity that manifests meaning (vak punah prakasayaty-arthan– Nir.9.l9); and, as a fixed combination of words (niyata-vacoyukti) which is unchangeable (niyata-vacoyuktayo niyata-anupurvya bhavanti – Nir.I.l5).The meaning of a sentence remains un-altered even with a shift in the position of the words.

The Next question was whether the words have an independent existence of their own or whether they are merely segments of a sentence which, in truth, is an indivisible entity producing a definite meaning.

There was a line of argument (Pada-vadin) which asserted that a word though being a part or a segment (Khanda) of a sentence is, indeed, an independent unit of thought and meaning; it enjoys its own existence and characteristics; and, it is only the harmonious unity of such meaning-bearing words that lends a purpose to the sentence. The School which supported this line of argument, upholding the independent nature of the word, came to be known as Khanda-paksha.

The other School , which opposed the above standpoint, emphasized that the sentence is the fundamental, indivisible (A-khanda) linguistic unit; words are just the components of a sentence; and, mere words without reference to a sentence are abstractions and unreal; and do not convey a definite meaning. The thrust of this argument  (Vakya-vadin) was that a sentence is an indivisible, integrated unit; and, in the absence of a structured sentence, the individual words, by themselves, do not communicate a sense or the intent of the speaker. It asserted; the meaning of a sentence, as a whole, is an indivisible entity. The School which advocated this argument   was known as the A-khanda-paksha.

Thus, even at the very early stages in the development of Vyakarana (Grammar) we find two fundamental approaches to the study of the problem of meaning: the khanda-paksha and the A-khanda-paksha.

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Khanda-paksha

The Khanda-Paksha is about the primacy of the word (Pada or Sabda). Khanda-paksha treats the word as an autonomous unit of thought and meaning.  Here, the language study is primarily based on words; and the sentence is taken to be an assembly of such words. The Khanda-paksha confined its enquiry to the meaning of the words by treating words as self-contained and self-explaining units. It did not pay much attention to the sentence, its structure and its overall meaning. It simply said that a sentence is nothing more than a group of words; and its meaning is just the sum of the meanings carried by its words.

 In the context of the Vedas, the Pada or Sabda is just not the pronounced or uttered word; it is indeed the Vac the eternal speech itself, existing before creation of the worlds.

Though the riks of the Rig-Veda were expressed in the form of sentences, great importance was paid to its constituent words. It is said; Sakalya (Nir. 6. 28), the earliest known historical figure who dealt with linguistic studies, therefore, took up the task of compiling the Pada-paatha of Rig-Veda, where the sentences of the Samhita Paatha (the original text, as it is) were broken down into words (pada) and arranged in sequential order; and, the process also involved breaking up compound words into their elements.  The intention was to clearly bring forth the meaning (Artha) and the denotive power (Shakthi) of individual words in the sentence. Sakalya’s service to the study of Vedic text is acknowledged by Panini the Great Grammarian. 

Yaska-charya (earlier to 5th century BCE), the great etymologist of the ancient India, believed that every Vedic word has an expressive power to denote a certain sense. And, as a signifier (vacaka), every word is eternal (vyaptimattvat tu sabdasya – Nir.I.2); and, is critical in arriving at an unerring meaning of a statement. Thus, the word, the meaning and their mutual relations are eternal.  In his remarkable work Nirukta (etymology or Nirvacana shastra) – a commentary on Nighantuka, a sort of glossary – Yaska attempts to establish the proper meaning of certain selected Vedic words (including their prepositions and the particles), in the context of ‘how, where, when and why’ it is stated. For the purpose of his study, Yaska chose about 600 stanzas from the Rig-Veda; and created a well organized glossary to understand and to interpret, particularly, the archaic, uncommon words used in the Vedic texts.

His study also included a system of rules for forming words from roots and affixes. According to Yaska, every word is derived from a root; and by analysing the root, its tendency and the suffix, it is possible to establish the relation between word and meaning. In the Nirukta, Yaska has tried to explain those selected Vedic words from the perspective of the various linguistic aspects, parts of speech (padajatani) such as:  noun (naman), verb (akyata), preposition (upasarga), and particle (nipata) – (chatvari padajatani nama-khyate –upasargani-paatascha  …Nir .l.l) ; in additions to taking up  general definitions, special definitions, synonyms, homonyms (words that share the same pronunciation but convey different meanings), common and obscure grammatical forms, words and their meanings, and the etymology of these words. Yaska terms such analytical method as samaskara (treatment) or sastrakrto yogah (grammatical combination)

[ Of the four parts of speech (chatvari padajatani) Yaska gives greater importance to nouns and verbs (naman, akyata), which are employed independently , than to prepositions (upasarga) and particles (nipata) which cannot present a clear meaning when detached from nouns or verbs.

When that logic is extended, it leads to say:  the phonemes and syllables are not independent entities conveying their own meaning; nevertheless they are parts of the word; but, the meaning of the word does not solely arise out of them. Meaning is the function of the word as a whole.

Between the noun and the verb, Yaska treats the verb as the nucleus of a sentence. According to him, Verb (Akhyata) is the vital unit of language through which we express our intentions and actions; and, a sentence without a verb serves no purpose (tad yatrobhe bhavaeradhane bhavatah – Nir. l. l).]

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It is interesting to note that the ancient Grammarians did not devote as much attention to sentence and its structure as they did to the word. Among the ancient writers, neither Panini nor Gautama defined the sentence and its essential characteristics. Jayanta Bhatta (in his Nyayamanjari) remarks that the absence of such discussion might be because that Mimamsa and Nyaya Schools considered the sentence to be merely a combination or a sequence of words ; the word as  nothing more than a combination of phonemes (Varna) ; and , the syllables as independent units. The syllables (having a vowel)   by themselves may not convey meaning; but, they are capable of conveying meaning when they combine.

[Generally, the ancient Indian Grammarians and Logicians took a word as the unit of speech and considered a sentence as a combination of words for the purpose of communicating a meaning.

 According to abhihita-anvaya-vada (of Bhatta Mimasa), each word in a sentence conveys its primary and individual meaning by virtue  of primary denotation (abhidha). And then the meaning of the sentence arises from the combined construed (anvaya) meanings of its words.

Another view anvita-abhidhana-vada (of Prabhakara Mimamsa), instead, says that individual words do not convey meaning except when they are associated (anvita) with or indicate an action (kriya). And, no word can be understood as having independent meaning when it is isolated from a sentence.

 According to the monist view, the meaning of the sentence is grasped by the listener as a whole, in a flash. The individual word-meanings appear as parts of a sentence; but, the whole is simply not the sum of parts.

The question: how could a series of isolated words uttered one after another could together produce a unity that makes meaning – continued to engage various schools of Grammarians and philosophers alike.]

Among the Grammarians, Katyayana was perhaps the first to define a sentence (Akhyatam savyaya-karaka-visesham vakyam). In his Vartika, he called a sentence (Vakya) as an eka-tin-vakyam; meaning: a cluster of words having a single finite verb together with a noun and a qualifier. Panini, however, seems to have accepted the possibility of a sentence having more than one finite verb (tinn atinah – 8.1.28).  Mimamsa tried to explain the difference between the two positions as that of Akanksha, the intention (Artha) of the speaker (Arthaikyad vakyam ekam vakyam sakanksam ched vibhage syat – Jaimini Sutra: 2.1.46).

According to Dr. Kunjunni Rajah (Indian Theories of Meaning) : Mimamsa put forward their theory of understanding the clear meaning of synthetic units of a sentence mainly based on three norms: Akanksa, Yogyata and Samnidhi.

Akanksa or the mutual expectancy of the words consists in a word not being able to convey a complete sense in the absence of another word. Literally, it is the desire on the part of the listeners to know the other words or their meaning to complete the sense. A word is said to have Akanksa for another, if it cannot, without the latter produces knowledge of its inter-connection in an utterancen.

In a sentence, every word necessarily requires another word to complete the sense. To convey the meaning of noun in a sentence, a verb is always needed.

Yogyata is the logical compatibility of consistency of the words in a sentence for mutual association; and, whether it makes sense. When we utter a sentence, if the meaning of a sentence is not contradicted by experience, there is a Yogyata or consistency between the words.

If the words in a sentence should be contiguous in time, it is known as Samnidhi or asatti of a sentence. Words uttered at long intervals cannot produce the knowledge of any interrelation among them even if Akanksa and Yogyata are present there. If a man utters a word a long interval after the first word, then the connection of the meaning cannot be understood

[The Mimamasa said that a group of words serving a single purpose (artha) forms a sentence, if on analysis the separate words are found to have mutual expectancy (akanksha). It says : “ so long as a single purpose is served by a number of words , which on being separated , are found to be wanting and incapable of effecting the said purpose , they form one syntactical unit – one complete Yajus-mantra”.

Prabhakara explains that in this sentence, ‘artha’ stands both for meaning and purpose; and the two are related. Kaumarila Bhatta says that it is possible to take artha as meaning in order to allow a wider scope to the principle.

[The distinction between Katyayana’s definition and Mimamsa’s explanation was discussed by Bhartrhari in his Vakyapadia (2. 3-4).]

Source: The Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume 5: The Philosophy of the Grammarians By Harold G. Coward, K. Kunjunni Raja-page 25]

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The later Grammarians accepted Panini’s view. But, from Katyayana’s point of view, such a sentence may be considered as a complex sentence made up of two or more sentences; but, fundamentally, forming one single sentence.

The  main concern of Panini the Grammarian (Ca.500 BCE) – who might have been a junior contemporary of Yaska or might have lived within a century after Yaska – was not the sentences but words (Sabda), His celebrated work Astadhyayi (the eight chapters)  – also called  Astaka , Sabda-anushasana  and Vrittisutra –  sought to ensure  correct usage of words by  purifying  (Samskrita)  the  language (bhasha)  – literary and spoken ( vaidika –  laukika) –  that  was in use during his days.

Panini’s  goal (lakshya) was  building up of Sanskrit words (pada) from their root forms (dhatu prakara), affixes (pratyaya), verbal roots; pre-verbs (upasarga); primary and secondary suffixes; nominal and verbal terminations ; and , their function (karya) in a sentence. The underlying principle of Panini’s work is that nouns are derived from verbs.

Patanjali, who in the Grammar-tradition (Vyakarana parampara) is regarded as next only to Panini, also focussed on words.  According to him, the basic linguistic unit is a word – provided it generates a meaning. However, Mimamsa opposes this view; and asserts   that any aggregation of letters with or without meaning could be a word.

Patanjali’s Mahabhashya, a commentary on Panini’s Astadhyayi, commences with the statement ‘atho sabda-anu-shasanam’:  here begins the instruction on words (or, let us now discuss the rule governing the words). The three important subjects that Patanjali deals with are also concerned with words: formation of words; determination of meaning; and, the rela­tion between a word (speech sounds – Sabda) and its meaning. He also stresses about the need to learn Grammar and to use correct words; to understand the nature of words  whether or not the words have fixed or floating meanings and so on.

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The Astadhyayi of Panini, as per its working scheme, attempts to produce words and sentences based on their verbal roots (dhatu), nominal themes (prathipadika) and suffixes (pratyaya). These constituent elements are invested with meaning. Derived from these elements, in their various combinations, words and sentences are formed to express collection of meanings as held by these elements.

But, according to Mahabhashya of Patanjali, the basic purpose of a grammar is to account for the words; not by enumerating them; but, by writing a set of general (samanya) rules (lakshana) that govern them and by pointing out to exceptions (visesha).These general rules, according to him, must be derived from the usage, for which the language of the ‘learned’ (shista) is taken as the norm.

[Though both Panini and Patanjali discussed about words and their relevance in Grammar, their approach differed significantly.

For Patanjali, it is the words themselves and not its constituents that produce a meaning.  According to him, the Grammar analyzes the words, thereby arriving at their constituent elements, though such parts may not be the true bearers of the meaning. This perhaps is the reason that many understand Grammar as Vyakarana, in the sense of analysis.

For Panini, on the other hand, Grammar proceeds differently. It is a way of synthesis. His Grammar does not divide the words into stems and suffixes. On the contrary, it combines the constituent elements with a view to form words. So, Grammar here is understood as ‘the word formation’ or as an ‘instrument by which forms are created in various ways’ (vividhena prakarena akrtayah kriyante yena).]

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A-khanda-paksha

The A-khanda-paksha on the other hand, argued that the sentence is one fundamental linguistic unit (samvit). The sentence is indivisible (A-khanda); and, as a whole expresses a certain meaning; and, its meaning is not reducible to its parts. Thus, the meaning is not in the individual words which are mere parts; but, is in the sentence as a whole, in its entirety (A-khanda). That is to say; the sentence employs certain units in order to arrive at a definite meaning. The meaning so arrived at is because of the unity or integral nature of the sentence; but, not because those units are meaningful in themselves.  The meaning of a sentence remains un-altered even if the positions of the words within it are altered.

As mentioned earlier, the thrust of this argument was that a sentence is an indivisible, integrated unit; and, in the absence of a structured sentence, the individual words, by themselves, do not communicate a sense or the intent of the speaker. Mere words without reference to a sentence are abstractions and unreal; and do not convey a definite meaning. It asserted; the sentence and its meaning, as a whole, is an indivisible entity (A-khanda). The sentence, though it is indivisible (A-khanda), it has the power o£ manifestation through various letters and words.

Bhartrhari’s contribution

The champion of the A-khanda Paksha Vada was none other than Bhartrhari. He assigned a greater priority to sentence. Bhartrhari regarded the sentence as a single ‘integral symbol’ (Sphota); an indivisible unit of communication; an integral sentence the meaning of which is grasped by an instantaneous flash of understanding or perception through of intuition (Prathibha). The complete and true meaning of a sentence is achieved only by means of such ‘intuitive perception’ (VakyaSphota). That according to Bhartrhari is the true and complete communication.

“there is no phonemes (Varna)  in the word; and, nor are there any parts of the phonemes.  It is entirely not possible to separate words from the sentence”.

pade na varṇā vidyante varṇeṣv avayavā na ca /
vākyāt padānām atyantaṃ pravibhāgo na kaś cana // VP:1.74 //

That is to say; a sentence alone is the unit of utterance; a single indivisible entity with a single undivided meaning that is grasped as a whole in a flash of insight (Prathibha).

Sphota in the ordinary conversation, according to Bhartrhari refers to a spontaneous process where a latent idea or thought arising out of the consciousness or the mind of the speaker is manifested by the sounds (Dhvani) of the spoken words employed in the sentence; and, it is directly grasped, through intuition (Prathibha), by the mind (Buddhi) of the listener.

Bharthari’s position has come to be known as Sphota-vada, the doctrine of Sphota. The term Sphota derived from the root Shput conveys the meaning of:  ‘to burst forth’ or in the context of Bhartrhari’s text to suggest ‘bursting forth of light or a flash of insight’. For Bhartrhari, the Sphota is an indivisible and changeless unity.

The Sphota concept was developed over long periods; but, it was fully put forward by Bharthrhari. He gave it a substantial credible form; and, provided it a philosophical basis. He maintained that the primary function of the words was to combine into a sentence, in its complete utterance, to give forth a meaning. We understand the meaning of a sentence wholly immediately only after the speaker utters the sentence. And, therefore, the sentence is the primary meaningful unit; and, the words extracted from the sentence analytically are only its component parts. Bhartrhari does not decry the value or the validity of words; but, only points out their status of being a part and never a whole.

Thus, Bharthrhari emphasized that the fundamental linguistic unit is indeed the complete utterance of a sentence. Just as a letter or a syllable has no parts, so also the sentence is to be taken as complete integral unit (Vakya-sphota); and, not as a collection of smaller elements.

 Bharthrhari argued that for the purpose of linguistic analysis, study of language and its grammar it might be fine to split the sentence into abstracted pieces, such as: the words, then into the roots and suffixes of the words, syntaxes etc;  and discuss about their position in the sentence. Such analytical splitting is artificial (Vikalpa); does, not have much significance. He said; “it is only those who do not know the language thoroughly that analyze it into words, in order to get a connected meaning.” But, such fragmented approach is surely not suitable in the real world where men and women live, communicate and transact. In a speech-situation where the speaker communicates ones ideas and the listener grasps his/her speech, it is necessary that the utterance has to be complete.  The speaker communicates and the listener understands his/her utterance as a single unit.

Bhartrhari explained that, initially, the thought exists in the mind of the speaker as a unity – Sabda or Sphota – intending a certain meaning. When uttered, ( in an effort to convey that thought through a sequence of sounds (Dhvani) that follow one after the other) , it produces certain specific sound-patterns (Nada). It might look as though the articulated word-sounds are separated in time and space. However, though the word-sounds reach the listener in a sequence, the listener eventually grasps the completed sentence as a single unit, as its meaning bursts forth (Sphota) in a flash of understanding or insight (prathibha). The same Sphota which originated in speaker’s mind re-manifests in listener’s mind, transmitting the meaning. Understanding of the meaning must be the immediate and intuitive grasp of the sentence as a whole. Thus, while the articulated sounds (Dhvani, Nada), apparently having divisions and sequence, are the external forms; Sphota is the inner unity conveying the meaning.

Various other scholars have offered their own interpretations of the Sphota theory in the light of Bhartrhari’s elucidation. The concept of Sphota is one of the significant contributions of India to the philosophy of Grammar. As the noted scholar Bimal K. Matilal observes:

”It is rather remarkable that Bhartrihari’s recognition of the theoretical indivisibility of the sentence resonates with the contemporary linguistic view of learning sentences as wholes “;

 “In modern terms Sphoa can be understood as having constant distinctive phonetic features, whereas Dhavni is of a phonic nature. Sphoa is that which is to be manifested (vyagya), and the Dhvani is manifesting (vyañjaka). Sphoa is not uttered but it is perceived by the hearer”;

“The word does not generate the meaning; the word itself is transformed (Vivartate) into meaning. The relation between the word and its meaning is not that of ‘generator – generated’; but, that of ‘signifier-signified’. The word and its meaning, in essence, are identical;

“The Sphoa can be seen as a communication-device based on recognition of the truth of existence through a word/text in the hearer speaker, (sattā). It therefore is of a psychological nature, as any human speech is, for the recognition of the meaning of the text is perceived by a consciousness which lies beyond the analytic capacity of the external mind, and carries in itself all meanings; and as such, its proper understanding requires a psychological experience”;

“Even today this theory is widely recognized among modern linguists as the most complete investigation into the profundities of language, making a considerable contribution to the Philosophy of Language, the Psychology of Speech, and especially Semiotics”.

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Development of the concept

It is acknowledged that it was Bharthrhari who fully developed the doctrine of Sphota in all the fields of Grammar, philosophy of Grammar and philosophy. But, it was not his invention – as he himself candidly clarified. The idea had been mentioned in various texts, much before the time of Bhartrhari, though not precisely or technically defined. For instance:

: – Panini mentions one Sphotayana, who spoke about the word and its meaning (Avan sphotanyanasya), as the one who originally came up with Sphota concept.

: – Another sage Sakatayana (a grammarian who perhaps was a contemporary of Panini – ?) is also mentioned by some as the author of the Sphota–theory. And, Sakatayana is also said to have held the view that all words must be derived from verbal roots (Nir. 1 3. 12). Some scholars recognize Sakatayana as the author of Unadisutra (a supplement to Panini’s Grammar, providing additional set of rules to derive nouns from their verbal roots). Though, at the same time, Gargya (descendent of Sage Garga, as mentioned in the Nirukta 1.3.12-13) and others are said to have remarked that all nouns cannot be traced to verbal roots.

[The other ancient Grammarians such as Vyadi (author of the lost text Samgraha Sutra; and a contemporary of Panini) as also  Patanjali, the author of Mahabhashya (Ca. 2nd century BCE,) had all developed certain ideas regarding the concept of Sphota.]

:- Before Panini, Yaska  , the etymologist ( earlier to 500 BCE), had  incidentally mentioned that another ancient authority – Audumbarayana, had put forward a theory which basically said that a sentence or an utterance is a primary and an indivisible unit of language; and,  reaches the faculty of the listener as a whole (Nirukta: 1-2)  . Audumbarayana, it appears, had also not agreed with the four-fold classification of words into: noun (naman), verb (akyata), prepositions (upasarga) and particles (nipata) – (indriyanityam vacanam Audumbarayanah tatra chatustam no papayate -Nir.1.1)

[But, apparently, Yaska himself had not agreed with Audumbarayana’s view of a sentence being  a primary and an indivisible unit; and, had gone on to talk about a totally different concept, Bhava – the being and becoming (Bhu) of verbs from their roots. Yaska, in that context, mentions six modes or forms of transformations (Sad bhava vikarah) of Bhava-s from the indistinct (A-vyakta) to explicit (Vyakta) and then to disappearance (vinasa). These phases are:  coming into existence (jayate); existence (Asti); transformation (viparinamate); growth (vardate); decay or wane (apaksiyate); and, ceasing to exist (vinasyati).

These are the six phases of changes (parinama) do occur in all forms of life or of any entity.

Yaska further explains that a Verb (Akhyata) is mainly concerned with Bhava (action), whereas the Nouns (Naman) have Sattva (substance or existence – Asti) as the chief element in their meaning (Bhava-pradhanam akhyatam; sattva-pradhanani namani – Nir. l.l). Here, Sattva is the static aspect of the meaning (as it exists); and, Bhava, the dynamic aspect, is action (Kriya) as it takes place in temporal sequence – (bhavah karma kriya dhatvartha ityanarthantaram).

Thus, Sattva and Bhava are two aspects of the same existence seen from the static and dynamic points of view. It is said; the six modes of Sattva (static) and Bhava (dynamic) are found in every aspect of creation.

Yaska credits the entire doctrine of Bhava and its classification to a certain Varsayani, another ancient Vedic scholar (Nirukta.1.2). But, nothing much is known to us about this Varsayani [He or She could have been a descendent of Varsa, an adept in Varsa Saman (chant)].

Sad bhava – vikara bhavantiti varsayanih- Jayate-asti-viparinamate- vardhate- apaksiyate- vinasyatiti – Nir.1.2]

: – But, Bhartrhari, in turn, cites Yaska as saying that Audumbarayana outlined the Sphota theory. And, asserts that Audumbarayana and also Varttakas held views similar to his Sphota-vada; and claims that their views support his theory.

: – The later eminent grammarians, such as Nageshabhatta (7th century), the author of Manjusha and Shpota-vada; as also Haradatta the commentator (10th century), however, attribute Sphota-vada to the sage Sphotayana, as mentioned by Panini.

: – Now, going back in time, Patanjali also talked about Sphota-like concept. He said; even though the words uttered follow one after the other and do not co exist in time or space, they do converge in the mind of the listener conveying a meaning. Sphota, he says, is a permanent element in the word; and, in fact is the essence of the word. The permanent unchanging Sphota is manifested by changing sounds (Dhvani). Here, Dhvani is the uttered sound heard by the listener; and, is but an aspect of Sphota. Thus, according to Patanjali, Sphota has an internal and an external aspect. The inner aspect is the innate expression of the word-meaning; while the external aspect is a vehicle to manifest the internal aspect; and is perceived by the sense organs of the listener.

But, for Patanjali, Sphota may be a single letter or structured pattern of letters; not necessarily sentence as a whole (in contrast to the stand taken by Bhartrhari).

:- Much before all these ;  Sage Kapila of the Samkhya School after discussing the concept of Sphota ( described as single, indivisible; as distinct from individual letters, existing in the form of words, and constituting a whole) dismisses it  totally : ‘What necessity is there for this superfluous Sphota? If, on the contrary, it does not appear, and is elusive; then , that unknown Sphota can have no power of disclosing a meaning, and consequently it is useless to suppose that any such thing as Sphota exists’(Sutra .57). All this talk of unity of meaning etc is largely an illusion; for it is the word, its articulated elements (Varna) that make the unity.

Antye tv ajniata-spkotasga nasti artha- pratydyana-saktir iti vyartha sphota-kalpana ity arthah / Pur- vam vedanam nityatvam pratisMddham / idanlffi varna-nityat- vam api pratishedati

: – Similarly, the Mimamsa School had also discussed the Sphota concept; and, had rejected it. Sabaraswamin (Ca. first century BCE) the celebrated Mimamsaka in his comments on Mimamsa sutra (1.1.5) dismisses Sphota-vada, since it is not consistent with the Mimamsa faith in reality of Vedic words. According to Sabara, a word is nothing more than a combination of phonemes (Varna) and the syllables are independent units. The syllables, by themselves, might not convey the meaning; but when they combine they do convey a meaning. He did not see a need for a Sphota.

: – The renowned philosopher Upavarsha (a senor contemporary of Panini – Ca. 500 BCE) had also rejected the Sphota-vada; and, had remarked: all this talk of unity of meaning etc. is largely an illusion, for it is the words, its articulated elements (Varna) that make the unity.

Upavarsha, in turn, had come up with his theory of   Varna-vada; according to which the smallest phonetic units that can carry the meaning (phonemes =Varna-s) alone are real constituents of a word.  He said: what is called as a ‘word’ (Sabda) is its individual letters – (for instance the word ‘gauh’ – cow is made of ‘g’, ’au’ and ‘h’). He decaled sounds are only Varna -s; and, there is no need for a Sphota.

[We shall talk more about Upavarsha and of Sri Sankara who followed Upavarsha, later in the series]

rose-sg

In any case, all this was just to   show that even in the ancient Vedic and in little later times the concept of Shpota was widely debated and various types of its interpretations were offered. Some orthodox Schools which recognized Vak or speech as a manifestation of the all – pervading Brahman, and Pranava (Aum) as the primordial speech sound from which all forms of Vak were deemed to have evolved, acknowledged the need to perceive the sentence as a whole and not merely as a collection of words.

At the same time there were also many others who dismissed the idea of Sphota as being far-fetched, superfluous and useless; and, remarked that such unreal, Sphota can have no power of disclosing a meaning.

**

In the next part let’s discuss about the Sphota doctrine as expounded by Bhartrhari in his Vakyapadiya; as also the views of its critics and supporters.

lotus-flower-buddha

Continued in

Next Part

References and Sources

  1. The Philosophy of the Grammarians, Volume 5 – edited by Harold G. Coward, Karl H. Potter, K. Kunjunni Raja
  2. Of Many Heroes: An Indian Essay in Literary Historiographyby G. N. Devy
  3. Time in Hinduismby Harold Coward
  4. Bhartṛhari, the Grammarianby Mulakaluri Srimannarayana Murti
  5. The Study of Vakyapadiya– Dr. K Raghavan Piliai Volume I (Motilal Banarsidas; 1971)
  6. Being and Meaning: Reality and Language in Bhartṛhari and Heideggerby Sebastian Alackapally
  7. Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Soundby Guy L. Beck
  8. Bhartrhari (ca. 450-510)by Madhav Deshpande
  9. Bhartrihariby Stephanie Theodorou
  10. The Sphota Theory of Language: A Philosophical Analysisby Harold G. Coward
  11. Speech versus Writing” In Derrida and Bhartahariby Harold G. Coward
  12. Sequence from Patanjali to Post _modernityby  V. Ashok.
  13. The Vedic Conception of Sound in Four Features
  14. Sphota theory of Bhartrhari
  15. Word and Sentence, Two Perspectives: Bhartrhari and Wittgensteinedited by Sibajiban Bhattacharyya
  16. Hermeneutical Essays on Vedāntic Topicsby John Geeverghese Arapura
  17. Culture and Consciousness: Literature Regainedby William S. Haney
  18. The Advaita Vedānta of Brahma-siddhiby Allen Wright Thrasher
  19. Bhartr̥hari, Philosopher and Grammarian: Proceedings of the First… Edited by Saroja Bhate, Johannes Bronkhorst
  20. Bhartṛhari – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  21. Sri Venkateswara Univrsity Oriental Journal Volumes XXX-XXXi 1987 – 1988
  22. Studies in the Kāśikāvṛtti: The Section on Pratyāhāras: Critical Edition …edited by Pascale Haag, Vincenzo Vergiani
  23. Proceedings of the Lecture Series on Våkyapadiya and Indian Philosophy of Languages- (31.1.08 to 2.2.08)
  24. Encyclopaedia for the world psychologists 1. A – D ; Edited by H. L. Kalia
  25. Linguistic philosophy of Yaska- Sodhganga
  26. ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET
 
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The Meaning of ‘MEANING’ – Part Four

Continued from Part Three

panini

Bhartrhari

Bhartrhari perhaps the most eminent Grammarian-Philosopher of ancient India is held in very high esteem in the Sanskrit traditions; and , also in the Grammar and Literary Schools of the West which regard him as an expert in linguistic analysis.  Bhartrhari is recognized as the leader of the Grammarian School of linguistic philosophers, which focused on the problem of language and meaning.

Bhartrhari was a scholar-poet, par excellence, who wrote authoritatively on Grammar, Philosophy of Grammar and Philosophy. He is placed next only to Muni-traya – the revered trio (Trimurti) of sages – Panini (Astadhyayi), Katyayana (Vrttika), and Patanjali (Mahabhashya). He was a brilliant original thinker propounding a system of his own; and, yet he was rooted in the tradition of Panini and Vyadi (Samgraha) as also in the Vedanta (monism) of Badarayana. As a Grammarian (Vyakarana-kara), he presented striking arguments, vividly, on the philosophy of language and on the concept of Sphota, the flash of intuition (Prathibha) through which the meaning or the import of a sentence, as an indivisible unit of communication, is grasped.  As a philosopher, Bhartrhari not only developed but also demonstrated the logical implications of his theories of śabda-advaita which identifies language and cognition with the Sabda-tattva, the essence of the Principle of Word (Logos).  He declared, if this eternal identity of knowledge and Word were to disappear, knowledge would cease to be knowledge (Vak.I.115).

[ na so’ sti pratyayo loke yah Sabdanugamådrate / anuviddham iva jnånam sarvam Sabdena bhåsate (Våk.I.115)]

His doctrine  asserted that  Brahman the ultimate Reality ,which is without beginning or end , is of the nature of Sabda  (Sabda-tattva) ; and , from it are manifested all objects and the whole of existence. Here he raises the question: how the Highest Brahman, devoid of all the attributes and differences is evolved in the creative process of world as Word, meaning, etc? He answers that by saying says it is with the aid of Shakhti, inseparable from Brahman, creation becomes possible. Thus, Sabda-tattva is the cause of creation.

Bhartrhari was a traditional scholar firmly grounded in poetic (Kavya) and scholastic principles of Sanskrit language; and was possibly a great poet as well. He was also a philosopher of merit.   He was well versed in the study of Mimamsa and Vedanta. In the citation to the  later editions of the his texts, Bhartrhari  is celebrated as a great Grammarian ( Maha-vaiyyakarana) , Great poet (Maha-kavi), Yogi (Maha Yogi) , a great warrior  (Maharaja) and the ruler of Avanti (Avantisvara)  who composed Vakyapadiya   (iti Sri Bhartrhari virachitam Vakyapadiyam ). His commentators and critics commonly referred to Bhartrhari by the epithet Vyakarana-kara (Grammarian) or the Sphotavadin (the champion of the doctrine of Sphota-vada).A mangala-verse appearing at the end of the commentary on the second Kanda (ascribed to either of his commentators Punyaraja or Helaraja) reverently submitting respect to Bhartrhari,  addressed him as ‘Guru’; ‘exponent of Sabda-Brahma-doctrine’ Sabda-Brahma vide)

Gurave Bhartrharaye Sabda-bramha vide namah / Sarva-siddantha-sandoha-saramrta-mayaya //

His works cover a wide range of subjects such as Poetics, Grammar, logic, semantics, ontology and philosophy.  In his works, Bhartrhari combines the philosophical insights of Samkhya, Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Mimamsa, Advaita-Vedatnta, Yoga, Shaivism, and Madhyamika-Yogachara Buddhism. He presents in one place precious nugget of knowledge that otherwise would have been lost. In his Vakyapadia, Bhartrhari claims to have brought to light the forgotten writings of the ancient Grammarians Vyadi and Patanjali as also of other Grammarians (Anye Vaiyyakaranah) , other Schools of Grammar (Vyakaranatara) and their traditions  ( Smrtyantara) that are lost. In many ways, Bhartrhari is the only credible link to the Vedic tradition of Vac that existed a long time ago; to the earlier forgotten Schools of Grammar; and to the traditions of Panini and Patanjali.

As mentioned, Bhartrhari is credited with reviving the traditions of classical Schools of Grammar that had fallen into disuse for long centuries. It is said; the Astadhyayi of Panini (ca. 400 BCE) for a long time governed the rules of   classical Sanskrit Grammar. It was later slightly revised and supplemented by the annotations and sub-commentaries (Vrittikas) of Katyayana (Ca.300-250BCE); and, thereafter expanded in Mahabhashya, the detailed commentary of Patanjali (ca.200 BCE).  But, in later centuries, the study of language declined. Many scholars of the later day (such as Vajji, Saubhava and Haryaksa) even came to ignore the rules of Panini and Patanjali. It almost extinguished the tradition of Patanjali.

There were several theories of Grammar. Bhartrhari refers to ‘other Grammars (Vyakaranatara) and to other Grammarians (anya vaiyyakaranah).  When he refers to conflicting theories, Bhartrhari says ‘other person’ or ‘theories of others’ (eke varnayanti, anye varnayanti, apare varnayati, anvesham darshanam, apareshu vyakhyanam etc)

For a very long period of time, the study of Sanskrit Grammar had fallen into neglect. By about the 5th century Grammar had lost its premier position. In addition, the study of Prakrt was also gaining attention. As Bhartrhari says, ‘the influence of Prakrt the language of the common people was steadily growing on classical Sanskrit ‘.

Some of the much debated Karika-s that appear towards the end of the Second Kanda of Vakyapadiya rue that before the time of Bhartrhari the tradition of Grammatical studies , based on Patanjali’s Mahabhashya,  had suffered at the hands of incompetent grammarians (bhrasto vyakaranagama).

yaḥ pātañjaliśiṣyebhyo bhraṣṭo vyākaraṇāgamaḥ /
kālena dākṣiṇātyeṣu granthamātro vyavasthitaḥ//2.485//

parvatād āgamaṃ labdhvā bhāṣyabījānusāribhiḥ /
sa nīto bahuśākhatvaṃ cāndrācāryādibhiḥ punaḥ//2.486

[Bhartrhari names (Vakyapadiya.2.486) Chandracharya or Chandragomin (?) – (a Buddhist scholar, grammarian; said to be a contemporary or a teacher of Vasuratha; and author of Chandra-vyakarana, a text of the Chandra school of grammar) – as one of those who contributed to the neglect of Patanjali’s Mahabhashya. Bhartrhari mentions Vaiji, Sauva and Haryaksa, and later Chandracharya, who by their uncritical methods did much to push the Mahabhasya to the background. Quite obviously, Chandracharya, a Buddhist, had scant regard for the rules of Panini’s Grammar; and, is said to have even censured it. His work did not contain any section on Vedic Grammar. That might perhaps be the reason why Chandra-vyakarana disappeared in India (Aryadesha), though it was popular among the Buddhists in Tibet, Nepal and Ceylon. Studies in the Buddhistic Culture of India During the 7th and 8th Centuries A.D. by Lal Mani Joshi]

There were, however, still some scholars who tried to preserve the purity of the traditional Grammar. They attempted to formulate a fresh system that would make study of Grammar easier and rational. The well known among such scholars was Sarvavarman (author of Kaatantra) a Buddhist who lived around theFirst century. In his work, Sarvavarman essayed to explain how Sanskrit Grammar could be made to be understood easily and warmly welcomed by common people. His works exerted a remarkable influence on the study of Sanskrit in Tibet as also on Tibetan Grammar itself.

It is, however, Bhartrhari who is considered principally responsible for reviving interest in study of Grammar. It was only when Bhartrhari breathed a fresh life into the study of Grammar; the classical Sanskrit began to flourish once again. Following his efforts, Sanskrit Grammar gained a fresh lease of life.  The appearance of Bhartrhari was, thus, very significant in the development of the tradition of study of Grammar in India. It led to the School of Panini and Patanjali flourishing into philosophy of Grammar. The transition came about because of the initiative of Bhartrhari. The Grammarians of the later period largely followed the lead of Bhartrhari, and revered him as an authority. Even otherwise, Bhartrhari’s influence in the study of Grammar per se was considerably huge. Bhartrhari came to be revered as next only to the three sages (Muni –traya) of Grammar – Panini, Katyayana and Patanjali

It is said; the inspiration for Bhartrhari to bring about a transformation in the study of classical Sanskrit Grammar was his teacher (Vasuratha). It was because of the initiative he provided that Bhartrhari took up the task of composing a text based on the traditional vales and principles of Classical Grammar. Bhartrhari states that ‘the summary of the science of language (Grammar) was composed by my teacher (Vasuratha) after going through other systems along with our own system’. Bhartrhari mentions that his teacher was trying to revive classical Sanskrit when it had fallen on lean days. He claims that he extended his teacher’s efforts by composing Vakyapadiya. And, he credits some of his theories in Vâkyapadiya to his teacher. Bhartrhari affirms that he was, thus, carrying forward an ancient tradition kept alive by the long line of his teachers.

[In fact, Bhartrhari went much further. Patanjali’s purpose was to systematise the language and not to establish philosophical theories. Bhartrhari’s  Vakyapadiya is at once a grammatical treatise (Vyakarana-shastra) and a philosophical text (darshana) as well.]

The appearance of Bhartrhari was, therefore, very significant in the development of the tradition of study of Grammar and the philosophy of Grammar. Bhartrhari, though not seen as a successor to Patanjali, is respected as a reviver of the ancient traditions. Some scholars opine that ‘Bhartrhari’s singular contribution was to revive the traditions of classical  Grammar and entwine that into the main stream of Indian philosophy – Darshana, a view of the Reality’.

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Supporters and detractors

The Grammarians of the later period largely followed the lead of Bhartrhari, and recognized him as an authority. Even otherwise, Bhartrhari’s influence in the study of Grammar per se was considerably huge. Bhartrhari came to be admired as next only to the three sages (Muni–traya) of Grammar (Vyakarana Shastra) – Panini, Katyayana and Patanjali. Bhartrhari is, thus, at the very heart of the development of philosophy related Grammar. Dr. K Raghavan Piliai in his introduction to the Study of Vakyapadiya – Volume I (Motilal Banarsidas; 1971) while tracing the development of Grammar from Panini to Patanjali, writes: ‘one can say with certainty that it is in the Vakyapadiya that a first full-fledged statement and discussion of a philosophy of Grammar is given’.

Most Schools, therefore, regard Bhartrhari as the representative of traditional Grammar as also the philosophy of Grammar.

Bhartrhari called himself a ‘monist ‘(ekatva-darshin). He had declared his views as that of ‘one who knows the inner secret of the three Vedas’ (satyatvam ahus traya-anta-vedinah: Vakyapadiya: 3.3.70). He had enormous faith in and reverence for Vedas, the Sruti.  He said ‘the words of Sruti, though their authors and origins are unknown, they go on forever without interruption’.  In his writings, he frequently referred to Vedas.

[At the time of Bhartrhari, the term ‘Advaita’ was not yet in currency. Yet, the scholars who came after 11th century labelled his doctrine as Advaita-vada, Advaita-nyaya.]

Bhartrhari is generally recognized as a Vedantin. And his views are accepted and quoted by the later Vedanta Scholars of repute. His work is  treated by some , virtually, as an Agama-text (pratyak caitanye sannivesita vak).

For instance; Vachaspathi Misra in his Bhamathi (BS: 2.1.11), a commentary on Sri Sankara’s Brahma-sutra-bhashya quotes Bhartrhari (Vakyapadiya: 1.34) as an authority, saying ‘what is inferred by a skilful logician with much labor can be refuted only by another who is more capable’. Yamunacharya the Vishistadvaita scholar of 10-11th century   counts Bhartrhari as an authority on Vedanta. Similarly, Madhava (14th century) in his Sarva-darshana-samgraha discusses Bhartrhari in the context of Panini’s rules (Chapter 13); and, again he quotes Bhartrhari (16th Chapter) in support of the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta.  And, Yoga Vasista also quotes phrases from Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadiya.

Many of the later Advaita scholars  regarded Bhartrhari as an eminent Vedanta scholar. For instance; Pratyagrupa (author of Nayanaprasadini a commentary on Citsukha’s Tattva-pradipika, a 12th-13th century text which establishes, analyses and offers interpretation  on the fundamentals of Sri Sankara’s Advaita) recognized Bhartrhari as a Vedantin; and, lauded him as a Bramha-vit-prakanda (highly learned in Brahma-vidya). And, Somananda and Utpaladeva of Kashmir Shaivism considered  Bhartrhari as an Advaitin.  Abhinavagupta, of course, was deeply influenced by Bhartrhari.

*

The flip side of such recognition was that the later scholars of the rival schools whenever they criticized the philosophy of Grammar invariably attacked Bhartrhari and his work Vakyapadiya. That might have been, mainly, because Bhartrhari in his exposition of the philosophy of Grammar fused Vedanta with the study of Grammar. That attracted the ire of followers of the rival philosophies. Just to name a few his critics : the Buddhist philosophers Santarakshita and Kamalasila; the Jain Philosopher Prabhachandra; the Mimamsaka Kumarila Bhatta ; Jayanta of the Nyaya School besides many others.

And again, the Sphota theory developed by Bhartrhari had its supporters as also its opponents. For instance; the Vedanta scholars such as Sri Sankara and others; the Nyaya and Samkhya Schools; as also Kaumarila Bhatta, a noted Mimamsa Scholar (7th -8th century) all attacked Bhartrhari’s theory of Sphota. Among the Grammarians, Bhamaha (6th century) did not accept Sphota, while Anandavardhana (9th century) argued in favor of Sphota and Dhvani. And, Abhinavagupta (11th century) after discussing concepts of Rasa, Saundarya in details accepted Sphota; and, went on to establish its theory, abhivyaktivada.

Interestingly, the support to Bhartrhari also came from another Mimamsa Scholar Mandana Misra, a contemporary of Kaumarila Bhatta. Mandana wrote a brilliant book (Sphota-siddhi) based Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadiya. He supported Bhartrhari’s theory of Sphota.

*

Similarly, among the Buddhists, there were those who supported as also those who opposed the views of Bhartrhari.

Bhartrhari’s date comes very close to a time when the Buddhist schools of the Vijnanavada and Madhyamika were flourishing. He was, perhaps, in close contact with the Buddhist tradition.  Bhartrhari was, therefore, familiar with the Buddhist arguments. In turn, the Buddhist scholar Santarakshita and Jnanasribhadra recognized Bhartrhari as an authoritative teacher on ‘Brahma- darshana’ the doctrine of Brahman. Similarly, the Jain scholar Prabhachandra calls Bhartrhari as Sabda-advaitin; while another Jain scholar Abhayadeva lauds Bhartrhari’s doctrine on Sphota as Sabda-advaita –vada.

Among the Buddhist scholars, while Dharmakirti and kamalasila  attacked Bhartrhari, another Buddhist scholar Dinnaga seemed to have been highly influenced by Bhartrhari; and quoted verses from Vakyapadiya in support of his own arguments concerning grammatical distinctions between two words having different nominal endings and those with identical endings.

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Who was Bhartrhari?

As it usually happens in the Indian studies, the time or even the identity of Bhartrhari is much debated.

The name ‘Bhartrhari’ is identified with many, such as, the Grammarian (author of Vakyapadiya); the Grammarian associated with other philosophers and grammarians Vasurata, Dinnaga and Chandracharya ; the poet (author of Subhashita-tri-sahati, three sets of hundred stanzas each, grouped under the titles Niti-shataka, Sringara-shataka and Vairajya-shataka); the author of Bhaga-vrtti;  Bhatti the author of Ravan-vadha and the brother of King Vikramaditya;  the follower of the Great Siddha Gorakhnatha from whom he he is said to have learnt Yoga and renounced the world  ; and so on .

That rather complicates the matter. The question of the identity of the authors of the two works – Vakyapadiya and Subhashita-tri-sahati – is widely discussed; but is left unresolved.

Time

There, again, is much debate about the date of Bhartrhari.

Generally, the attempts to surmise or to estimate Bhartrhari’s date have been made by tracing the line of his teachers:  Asaga–> Vasubandhu ->Vasuratha–> Bhartrhari.

: – Asanga who belongs to the early phase of the development of Mahayana Buddhism was a renowned exponent of the Yogachara (Vijñānavāda) School. He along with his half-brother and disciple Vasubandhu are regarded as the founders of this school. They were also the major promoters of Abhidharma teachings. It is believed that they lived during the fifth century.

: – Paramartha (499-569 C.E.) – one of the chief exponents of Yogachara doctrine in China – in his biography of Vasubandhu (written in Chinese) mentions that Vasuratha was a disciple of Vasubandhu.

: – And, Vasuratha was the husband of the younger sister (Brother-in-law) of the crown prince Baladitya, the son of King Vikramaditya.

: – The Buddhist scholar, grammarian Candracarya the author of Chandra-vyakarana, a text of the Chandra school of grammar is said to be a contemporary or a teacher of Vasuratha; his time is estimated to be around 450 CE

 :- and; Simhasurigani, a sixth century Jain writer, in his commentary Nyaya-chakra-tika , a commentary of Mallavadin’s  Nyaya-chakra , mentions that the renowned Grammarian Vasuratha was the ‘upadhyaya’, the teacher of Bhartrhari.

Another Buddhist scholar Dinnaga (480-540 CE) (in his Pramana–samucchaya and Trikalyapariksha ) quotes verses from Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadiya- (Yatha visuddam akasham;  and , tathedam amrtam brahma from his Vritti ).  And, therefore Bharhari was either a contemporary or a senior to Dinnaga.

Vakyapadiya

Some say that Sabaraswamin (Ca.400 CE), the Mimamsaka, could also possibly have been a contemporary of Bhartrhari. He could also be earlier to Dinnaga the Buddhist scholar. He perhaps lived during the declining period of the Guptas when India was being invaded by Huns in the North.

Chinese pilgrim-traveller I-tsing (635-713CE), mentions that a grammarian by the name Bhartrhari was a contemporary of Jayaditya (one of the authors of the Kasikavrtti on the Astadhyayi); and, he died in A D 650.

Therefore,   it is generally believed that Vasubandhu lived sometime after 400 CE; Vasurata (430-450 AD) was the teacher (Upadyaya) of Bhartrhari the Grammarian; and that Bhartrhari was a contemporary of Dinnaga (480-510 AD) the Buddhist philosopher.  Bhartrhari is, therefore, generally dated between 450-500 AD. The outer date is about 650 AD   which is mentioned by I-tsing as the year of death of a Grammarian named Bhartrhari.

The noted scholar T.R.V. Murti proposes the following chronology: Vasurata, followed by Bhartrihari (450-510 CE) and Dinnâga (480-540 CE). Most scholars have accepted these dates as plausible.

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Works

Bhartrhari the Grammarian is credited with many works dealing with Grammar and linguistics. Apart from Vakyapadiya, Bhartrhari is said to have authored: 1) Mahabhasya-tika (-dipika?); Vritti (explanations or interpretation) on Chapters (Khandas) I and II of Vakyapadiya; and Shabda-dhâtu-samîksha; and, the Bhattikavya.

: – Mahabhashya-tika, also known as Tripadi, is a commentary on the first three Khandas of Patanjali’s Mahabhashya. In its original form, it must have been a voluminous work. The original work is lost.  Only a fragment of this commentary is to be available in a single manuscript. It covers only the first 53 rules of Panini’s Astadhyayi. Those fragments were quoted by later writers. It is said; Kaiyata (11th century) relied upon this work of Bhartrhari in writing his own commentary – Pradipa– on Patanjali’s Mahabhashya.

Bhartrhari’s commentary (tika) on Mahabhashya was written with reference to earlier commentaries that existed before his time. There, he refers to ‘other Grammars’ (Vyakaranatara) and to other Grammarians (Anye Vaiyyakaranah). He also refers to ‘other traditional works’ (Smrtyantara) and ‘other Grammars’ (Vyakaranantara).

: – Vritti (explanations or interpretation) on Cantos or Sections (Khandas) I and II of Vakyapadiya is at times ascribed to one Harivrshabha. But, the scholarly interpretation is that ‘Harivrshabha’ could be a variation or reverse order (Hari +Brhat) of Bhartrhari, both the forms meaning: ’great or powerful Hari’. The scholars generally tend to agree that Bhartrhari is the author of both the Vakyapadia and the Vrtti. Bhartrhari’s main contribution to philosophy of grammar and philosophy of language is found in the Vakyapadiya and its commentary Vrtti (on its first two Khandas).

: – Sabda-atausmika is known from references to it in works of other authors. The text is no longer available; and nothing much is known about it. This work is traditionally attributed to Bhartrhari by the scholars of the Kashmiri Shaivism, notably Somananda (9th century) and Utpalacharya (10th century). It is said to have discussed in fair detail the concept of Pashyanti – a very highly subtle kind of awareness.

 : – the Bhattikavya (also known as Rāvana-vadha) described as an earliest example of Mahakavya and an instructional poem (śhāstra kāvya) recounts the story of Rama and Sita based on the epic Ramayana. At the same time, it illustrates the principal rules of Sanskrit Grammar and poetics that were codified by the grammarian Panini. It is said; the Bhattikavya was written mainly for the purpose of illustrating the rules of grammar as expounded in Panini’s Astadhyayi. But, it is not clear who actually is the author of this work. The opinions are divided between Bhartrihari and Vatsabhatti.

Of the many texts composed in ancient India, on linguistic philosophy, Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadiya (About sentence and the word), a treatise on sentences and words, is the most respected. Bhartrhari’s fame largely rests upon his celebrated Vakyapadiya, which ranks among the principal authoritative texts in Sanskrit Grammar.

Vakyapadiya is a seminal work on Grammar and philosophy of Grammar; and, it has exerted huge influence, over the centuries, on the development of various Schools of philosophies within Grammar and outside of it.  Its significance among Sanskrit texts is enormous. It is a considerably extensive work, consisting about two thousand verses spread over three Books (or Cantos) called Kandas: Brahma -kanda (or Agama-samucchaya), Vakya-kanda and Pada-kanda. The alternate title of the Book is therefore Tri-Kandi, a book of three Cantos.

Vakyapadiya, which basically is an analytical study of language,  largely deals with various aspects of language (sound, sense, relation between sound and sense, and the purpose); its nature , modes and possibilities of communication (sentence and words); meaning of sentence and meaning of words, and their compatibility; how it is learnt; how languages relate to the world;  whether it can be a valid source of knowledge;  and, analytical aspect of language based on the components (syllable) that go to form a word (stems and suffixes; meanings of the stems and suffixes; causality, and knowledge of the correct meaning of words) and other related subjects..so on

Vakyapadiya covers all these aspects and more. It provides both a philosophy of language and a darshana of the school of Linguistics.

The text  elaborates on the ancient doctrine of Sphota (that which flashes or bursts forth the meaning). Here, Bhartrhari explaining the relations that exist between the word (pada) and the sentence (Vakya) argues that a sentence is an unbreakable whole , the meaning of which flashes forth only after it is completely uttered (Vakya-sphota). The words are but a part of the whole; and have no independent existence; and, are understood only in the context of a completed sentence. Thus, Bhartrhari asserted that the whole is real while parts are not, for they are constructs or abstracted bits. He demonstrates that the natural home of a word is the sentence in which it occurs.

Bhartrhari also brings into discussion certain philosophical aspects of the Word. He projects the Word as – Shabda tattva-the ‘Word principle’, which he identifies with Brahman the Absolute. He puts forward an hypothesis that the ultimate Reality is expressed in language, the Shabda-brahman, or Verbum Eternum or Supreme Word, which corresponds to the original concept of  the Logos. Thus, for him, language is the manifestation of Brahman; and, it constitutes the world. In his work, the study of language and inquiry of Reality are interwoven.

Let’s talk about Vakyapadiya, its structure, its concepts; and, its arguments in the next part.

Continued in

Next Part

tulips

References and Sources

  1. The Philosophy of the Grammarians, Volume 5 – edited by Harold G. Coward, Karl H. Potter, K. Kunjunni Raja
  2. Bharthari, the Grammarian by Mulakaluri Srimannarayana Murti
  3. The Study of Vakyapadiya – Dr. K Raghavan Piliai Volume I (Motilal Banarsidas; 1971)
  4. Being and Meaning: Reality and Language in Bharthari and Heidegger by Sebastian Alackapally
  5. Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound by Guy L. Beck
  6. Bhartrhari (ca. 450-510) by Madhav Deshpande
  7. Bhartrihari by Stephanie Theodorou
  8. The Sphota Theory of Language: A Philosophical Analysis by Harold G. Coward
  9. Speech versus Writing” In Derrida and Bhartahari by Harold G. Coward
  10. Sequence from Patanjali to Post _modernity by  V. Ashok.
  11. The Vedic Conception of Sound in Four Features
  12. Sphota theory of Bhartrhari
  1. Word and Sentence, Two Perspectives: Bhartrhari and Wittgenstein edited by Sibajiban Bhattacharyya
  2. Hermeneutical Essays on Vedāntic Topics by John Geeverghese Arapura
  3. Culture and Consciousness: Literature Regained by William S. Haney
  4. Of Many Heroes”: An Indian Essay in Literary Historiography  by N. Dev
  5. The Advaita Vedānta of Brahma-siddhi by Allen Wright Thrasher
  6. Bhartr̥hari, Philosopher and Grammarian: Proceedings of the First … Edited by Saroja Bhate, Johannes Bronkhorst
  7. Bhartṛhari – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  8. Sri Venkateswara Univrsity Oriental Journal Volumes XXX-XXXi 1987 – 1988
  9. Studies in the Kāśikāvtti: The Section on Pratyāhāras : Critical Edition …edited by Pascale Haag, Vincenzo Vergiani
  10. Proceedings of the Lecture Series on Våkyapadiya and Indian Philosophy of Languages- (31.1.08 to 2.2.08)
 
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About Upavarsha … Part One

Intro

1.1. Upavarsha is one of the remarkable sage-scholars who come through the mists of ancient Indian traditions. And, again, not much is known about him.

We come to know him through references to his views by Sri Shankara and others. Upavarsha was an intellectual giant of his times.   He is recognized as one of the earliest and most authoritative thinkers of the Vedanta and Mimamsa Schools of thought.  He is credited with being the first to divide the Vedic lore Mimamsa  into Karma-kanda (ritualistic section) and Jnana-kanda (knowledge section).He advocated the six means of knowledge (cognition) that were adopted later by the Advaita school. He began the discussion on self-validation (svathah pramanya) that became a part of the Vedanta terminology. He is also, said to have, pioneered the method of logic called Adhyaropa-Apavada which consists in initially assuming a position and later withdrawing the assumption, after a discussion.

1.2. Upavarsha is placed next only to Badarayana the author of the Brahma sutra. The earliest Acharya to have commented upon Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra is believed to be Upavarsha.  Among the many commentaries on Brahma sutra, the sub-commentary (Vritti)  by Upavarsha – titled ” Sariraka Mimamsa Vritti”,  (now lost )  –  was most highly regarded.  

1.3. Upavarsha was looked upon as an authority by all branches of Vedanta Schools; and is respected in the Mimamsa School also. Both Sabaraswamin and Bhaskara treat the ancient Vrttikara as an authority; and, quote his opinions as derived from ‘the tradition of Upavarsha ‘(Upavarsha-agama).  Bhaskara calls Upavarsha as ‘shastra-sampradaya- pravarttaka’. Sri Shankara’s disciples who made frequent references to the works of Vrittikara-s on the   Brahma Sutra often referred to Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti of sage Upavarsha.

2.1.  Sri Shankara, in particular, had great reverence for Upavarsha and addressed  him as Bhagavan, as he does Badarayana; while he addressed Jaimini and Sabara, the other Mimasakas, only as Teachers (Acharya). 

2.2. It is believed that the words of Sri Shankara explain the correct account of Upavarsha’s doctrines. He is quoted twice by Sri Sankara in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya (3.3.53).  

 

Before we get to Upavarsha and his views, let’s talk of few other things that surround him.

 

****

Out of Takshashila

3.1. Maha Mahopadyaya Shri Harprasad Sastri in his ‘Magadhan Literature’ (a series of six lectures he delivered at the Patna University during December 1920 and April 1921) talks about Upavarsha, in passing.

3.2. According to the Maha Mahopadyaya, Takshashila a prominent city of Gandhara, a part of the ancient Indian polity included under the Greater Uttara-patha in the North-west, was for long centuries the centre of Vedic civilization.  It was also at the entrances to the splendour that was India. The city gained fame in the later periods, stretching up to the time of the Buddha,   as the centre of trade, art, literature and politics. Takshashila  was  also a renowned centre for learning to where scholar and students  from various parts of India , even from Varanasi at a distance of  more than 1,500 KM, came  to pursue  higher studies in  medicine , art , literature , grammar , philosophy etc .

3.3. Pandit Harprasad Sastri says: “It was at Takshashila the city named after Taksha the son of Bharatha of Ramayana, and the capital of Taksha Khanda, that the King Janamejaya performed the sarpa-satra.  It was here that Mahabharata was first recited by Vaishampayana.  A beginning was made here of the classical literature as also of the Indian sciences. Jivaka, the famed medical man, the personal physician of the Buddha belonged to Takshashila. The earliest grammarian known belonged to that city. The earliest writer of Mimamsa too, belongs to that city. The earliest writer on Veterinary science on horse belongs to its vicinity.  In fact, all works in classical Sanskrit seem to have their origin in Takshashila.  Further, at Takshashila, Indian learning moved on, very nearly shaking off the narrow groove in which the Vedic schools were trapped”.

4.1. But, the glory of Takshashila came to an abrupt end when Darius (518 BCE) the Persian monarch who destroyed the dynasty founded by Cyrus, overpowered the North-West region of India and annexed it into the Achaemenid Empire. And, thereafter, Alexander the Great (326 BCE) subdued Ambhi the King of Taxila and overran the region. Alexander’s conquest and withdrawal was followed by prolonged quarrels among his Generals for control over North-west India.

4.2. The long periods of lawlessness, anarchy and chaos totally destroyed the cultural and commercial life of Taxila. By about the time of the Buddha, Taxila was losing its high position as a centre of learning.   And, that compelled its eminent scholars like Panini the Great Grammarian, and scholars like Varsha and Upavarsha to leave Taxila to seek their fortune and patronage, elsewhere. They were, perhaps, among the early wave of migrant intellectuals to move out of the Northwest.

On to Pataliputra

5.1. By then, Pataliputra, situated amidst fertile plains on the banks of the river Sona at its confluence with the Ganga, was fast rising into fame as the capital of the most powerful kingdom in the East. The scholars drifting from Taxila all reached Pataliputra; and there they were honoured by the king in his assemblies ‘in a manner befitting their learning and their position’. And, thus began the literature of Magadha.

That also marked the birth of a new tradition.

5.2. Rajasekhara (10th century) a distinguished poet, dramatist, and scholar who wrote extensively on poetics – Alamkara shastra (the literary or philosophical study of the basic principles, forms, and techniques of Sanskrit poetry; treatise on the nature or principles of poetry); and who adorned the court of King Mahipala (913-944 AD) of the Gurjara-Prathihara dynasty, refers to a tradition (sruyate) that was followed by the Kings of Pataliputra (Kavya Mimamsa – chapter 10).

5.3.  According to that tradition, the King , occasionally , used to call for assemblies where men of  learning; poets ; scholars ; founders and exponents of various systems; and ,  Sutrakaras hailing from different parts of the country, participated enthusiastically ; and ,  willingly let themselves be examined. The eminent Sutrakaras too during their examinations (Sastrakara – Pariksha) exhibited the range of their knowledge as also of their creative genius. Thereafter, the King honoured the participants with gifts, rewards and suitable titles.

5.4. In that context, Rajasekhara mentions: in Pataliputra such famous Shastrakāras as Upavarsha;  Varsha; Panini;  Pingala ; Vyadī;  Vararuci; and  Patañjali;  were examined ; and were properly honoured :—Here Upavarsha and Varsha; here Panini and Pingala; here Vyadi and Vararuci;  and Patanjali , having been examined rose to fame. (Kavya Mimamsa – chapter 10).   “

 

“Sruyate cha Pataliputre shastra-kara-parikshasa I atro Upavarsha, Varshao iha Panini Pingalav iha Vyadih I Vararuchi, Patanjali iha parikshita kyathim upajagmuh II “

 

 

Group of Seven

 

6.1. It is highly unlikely that all the seven eminent scholars cited by Rajasekhara arrived at the King’s Court at Pataliputra at the same. The last two particularly (Vararuchi and Patanjali) were separated from the first five scholars by a couple of centuries or more.  And, perhaps only the first five among the seven originated from the Takshashila region; while Katyayana and Patanjali came from the East. Katyayana, according to Katha Sarit Sagara, was born at Kaushambi which was about 30 miles to the west of the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna (According to another version, he was from South India). His time is estimated to be around third century BCE.

As regards Patanjali, it is said, that he was the son of Gonika; and, he belonged to the country of Gonarda in the region of Chedi (said to be a country that lay near the Yamuna; identified with the present-day Bundelkhand).His time is estimated to be about 150 BCE.  It is said; Patanjali participated in a great Yajna performed at Pataliputra by the King Pushyamitra Sunga (185 BCE – 149 BCE). [This Patanjali may not be the same as the one who put together in a Sutra – text the then available knowledge on the system of Yoga.]

6.2. The Maha Mahopadyaya, however, asserts that the seven names cited by Rajasekhara are mentioned in their chronological order, with Upavarsha being the senior most and the foremost of them all.

6.3. Further, all the seven learned men were related to each other, in one way or the other. Upavarsha the scholar was the brother of Varsha a teacher of great repute. Both perhaps resided in Takshashila or near about. Panini the Grammarian was an inhabitant of Salatura – a suburb of Takshashila; and Pingala was his younger brother.  And, both the brothers were students of Varsha. Vyadi also called Dakshayana, the fifth in the list, was the maternal uncle (mother’s brother) of Panini.   It is said; Vyadi, the Dakshayana, was also a student of Varsha. He was called Dakshayana because:  Panini’s mother was Dakshi, the daughter of Daksha. And, Daksha’s son was Dakshaputra or Dakshayana, the descendent of Daksha. [According to another version, Dakshayana might have been the great-grandson of Panini’s maternal uncle].

Then, Vararuchi also called as Katyayana was one of the earliest commentators of Panini. He was some generations away from Panini.   And, the seventh and the last in this group was Patanjali who came about two centuries after Panini; and, he wrote an elaborate commentary on Panini’s work with reference to its earlier commentary by Katyayana.

7.1. Details of Upavarsa’s life or his nature etc are completely unknown. However, an ancient collection of legends – Katha-sarit-sagara (II.54; IV.4) narrates stories concerning Upavarsha, his daughter Upakosa, his brother Varsa and Vararuchi who, according to some, is identified with Vrittikara Katyayana, a famed commentator. They all figure in the story; and, were all contemporaries.

You can enjoy the delightful story of Vararuchi at :

http://www.wollamshram.ca/1001/Ocean/oosChapter002.pdf

7.2. Now, this     Katha-sarit-sagara, a vast collection of stories, fables, folk- tales and legends,   is said to be a re-rendering undertaken by   Somadeva (Ca.11th century)    . It is believed that   Katha-sarit-sagara is based upon an older collection of stories titled Brihad-Katha said to have been written in Paishachi (a dialect that was lost even before the 10th century) by one Gunadya (Ca.200 BCE?). All the names that figure in that legend relate to eminent scholars   that perhaps did exist.

But, since the stories narrated in Katha-sarit-sagara are highly fanciful   the scholars tend to view the details of Upavarsha (as also of other scholars) as historical fiction; and, are chary of accepting them as history.

7.3. But, in any case, all agree that Upavarsha – a revered scholar well established in grammar; an authoritative Master among the Mimamsikas, Vedantins and Yoga teachers – did exist in the centuries prior to Sri Shankara.

 

Galaxy of Scholars

 

8.1. By any standards, the seven sages (saptha munih) formed a most eminent group of extraordinarily brilliant scholars.   Each was an absolute Master in his chosen field of study.

8.2. Among the seven, Upavarsha was regarded the eldest and the most venerable:   Abhijarhita. Upavarsha was a revered teacher; a scholar of great repute well established in grammar; and an authoritative commentator on   Mimamsa (a system of investigation, inquiry into or discussion on the proper interpretation of the Vedic texts). And Upavarsha’s brother was Varsha who also was a renowned teacher. Both perhaps resided in Takshashila or near about.

We shall discuss about Upavarsha, with reference to citations of his views by other scholars, in Part Two of this Post. Let’s, now, talk in brief about the other famous-five.

 Panini

 9.1 In ancient India, Grammar, Vyakarana the foremost among the six   Vedangas (ancillary parts of Vedas) was considered the purest paradigm science (pradanam cha satsva agreshu Vyakaranam). And , it was said :  “ the foremost among the learned are the Grammarians , because Grammar lies at the root of all learning” ( prathame hi vidvamso  vaiyyakarabah , vyakarana mulatvat sarva vidyanam – Anandavardhana ) . Panini, without doubt, is the foremost among all Grammarians.

9.2. Panini who gained fame as a Great Grammarian was the student of Varsha. His fame rests on his work Astadhyayi (the eight chapters)  – also called  Astaka , Shabda-anushasana and Vrittisutra-  which sought to ensure  correct usage of words by  purifying  (Samskrita)  the  language (bhasha)  – literary and spoken ( vaidika –  laukika) –  that  was in use during his days.  The Eight Chapters comprises about four thousand concise rules or Sutras, preceded by a list of sounds divided into fourteen groups. The Sutra Patha, the basic text of Astadhyayi has come down to us in the oral traditions; and has remained remarkably intact except for a few variant readings and plausible interpolations.

[Panini’s Astadhyayi is composed in Sutra form – terse and tightly knit; rather highly abbreviated. The text does need a companion volume to explain it. That utility was provided by Katyayana who wrote a Vartika, a brief explanation of Astadhyayi. Considerable time must have elapsed between Panini and Katyayana, for their language and mode of expressions vary considerably. Similarly, a fairly long period of gap is assumed between Katyayana and Patanjali the author of Mahabhashya, a detailed commentary on Panini’s work; as also his observations of the Vartika of Katyayana. Katyayana is assigned to third century BCE; and Patanjali followed him about a hundred years later (second century BCE), perhaps 150 BCE.]

 9.3. Astadhyayi was not composed for teaching Sanskrit, though it is a foundational text that   can be used for understanding the language, speaking it correctly and using it correctly. Panini’s work is also not a text of Grammar, as it is commonly understood. It is closer to Etymology.

 In way, Panini  is dealing with a system having finite number of rules that can be used to describe a potentially infinite number of arrangements of utterances (sentences, vakya). His was indeed a pioneering task in any language. With his system it became possible to say whether or not a sequence of sounds represented a correct utterance in the bhasha (Sanskrit). 

In fact, Panini’s work is context-sensitive; it addresses only Sanskrit; and, is not a ‘universal Grammar’. But, a most amazing thing happened in the twentieth century with the development of computer languages. The writers of these virtual languages discovered that Panini’s rules can be used for describing perhaps all human languages; and, it can be used for programming the first high level programming language, such as ALGOL60. It is said; by applying Panini’s rules it is possible to check whether or not a given sequence of statement forms a correct expression in a particular programming language.

9.4. Panini did not seem to lay down rigid rules for the correct sequence of words in a sentence. He left it open. But, his system allows for a rule to invoke itself (recursion).  By repeatedly applying the same set of rules, one could make a long sentence or extended it as long as one wanted. 

9.5.  But , Panini’s primary concern or goal (lakshya) was  building up of Sanskrit words (pada) from their root forms (dhatu, prakara), affixes (pratyaya), verbal roots; pre-verbs (upasarga); primary and secondary suffixes; nominal and verbal terminations ; and , their function (karya) in a sentence. The underlying principle of Panini’s work is that nouns are derived from verbs.

9.6. Panini  was also interested in the synthetic problems involved in formation of compound words; and the relationship of the nouns in a sentence with the action (kriya)  indicated by the verb. With this, he sought to systematically analyze the correct sentences (vakya).

 Panini also defined the terms (samjna) employed in the grammar, set the rules for interpretation (paribhasha), and outlined, as guideline, the convention he followed.

[Panini did not neglect meaning; but, he was aware the meanings of the words were bound to change with the passage of time as also in varying contexts. He recognized the fact the people who spoke the language and used it day-to-day lives were better judges in deriving, meaning from the words.]

 Panini’s Astadhyayi has thus served, over the centuries, as the basic means (upaya) to analyze and understand Sanskrit sentences.

 

Pingala

 

10.1. Pingala was the younger brother of Panini.  He  is celebrated as  the author of Chhanda-sastra an authoritative text on the rules  governing  the structure of various Vedic meters adopted by different Vedic shakhas (schools); enumeration of meters (chhandas)  with fixed patterns of long (Guru)  and short (Laghu)  syllables.

10.2. In the Indian context Chhandas Shastra (roughly, the Prosody) is not merely about construction of verses or about rhythm – patterns (praasa).  It is, on the other hand, a complete technology of poetry. It attempts to build a systematic relation ( or patterns of relations ) between meter (Chhandas)  and syllables (akshara) ; syllables and articulated sound (varna) ; the pronunciation of sounds with its vibrations (spanda) ; the vibrations with desired effects (viniyoga) ; and , the usefulness of such effects  in  mans’ life.

10.3. Pingala explains the disciplines and forms of seven basic meters : Gayatri ( 24 syllables ) ; Ushnik ( 28 syllables ) ; Anustup (32 syllables); Brihati (36 syllables); Pankti (40 syllables) ; Tristup ( 44 syllables) ; and, Jagati ( 48 syllables); their characteristics ; and , the variations permissible under each meter. He also provides a recursive algorithm for determining how many of these form have a specified number of short syllables (Laghu).

10.4. Pingala, in this context, is credited with the first known description of the binary numerical system as also with a sequence of numbers called mātrāmeru now recognized as Fibonacci numbers. The Computer theorists of the present-day say: “A remarkable example of the mathematical spirit of Piṅgala’s work is his computation of the powers of 2. He provides an efficient recursive algorithm based on what computer scientists now call the divide-and-conquer strategy”.

[In the field of music, it is said, Piṅgala’s algorithms were generalized by Sārṅgadeva to  rhythms which use four kinds of beats – druta, laghu, guru and pluta of durations 1, 2, 4 and 6 respectively (Saṅgītaratnākara, c. 1225 C.E.).  In Mathematics, Āryabhata (5th Century) further developed on Piṅgala’s use of recursion Algorithms.]

 For more on Pingala’s Chandaḥśāstra and Pingala’s Algorithms, please check the following links:

 https://sites.google.com/site/mathematicsmiscellany/mathematics-in-sanskrit-poetry

http://www.northeastern.edu/shah/papers/Pingala.pdf

 

Vyadi Dakshayana

 

11.1. Vyadi Dakshayana was related to Panini. Some say, Vyadi was the maternal uncle of Panini, while some others say he was the grandson of Panini’s maternal uncle. Vyadi also wrote about Grammar in his Samgraha (meaning, compendium) or Samgraha Sutra.  In his text, Vyadi went further than Panini. Unlike Panini who strictly kept out of his Sutra all matters foreign to Grammar (etymology), Vyadi Dakshayana included in his Samgraha the topics that were not directly related to Grammar that was used as a tool (upaya) for day-to-day transactions.

11.2. Vyadi – Dakshayana’s Samgraha or Samgraha Sutra, basically, is a work of grammar   (Vyakarana shastra). Yet; it dealt on the philosophical aspects of grammar as well.  It speculated, at length, on the question whether the language sounds (including words) is fixed (nitya) or is it of a passing nature (karya). He said; the meaning of a description (word) consists entirely in its being related to an individual object (dravya).  He seems to have said; it would be ideal if a word carries a single meaning that can be uniformly applied in all situations. But now, the meaning of a word is largely context sensitive; and, therefore, a word need not have a fixed or a single meaning.  Vyadi did not neglect meaning; but was aware that the meanings of the words were bound to change with the passage of time, as also in varying contexts. He recognized the fact the people who spoke the language and used it in their day-to-day lives were better judges in deriving, meaning from the words.

11.2. But, he said, in any case,   one must study grammar diligently. Patanjali who came later seemed to love Vyadi’s Samgraha; and, held it in great esteem: “beautiful is Dakshayana’s Grand work, the SamgrahaShobhana khalu astu Dakshayanena   Samgrahasya kruthihi” (Mbh. 1.468.11).

[The Samgraha Sutra is now lost. We know of it through references to its verses in later texts.  Samgraha is said to have been a grand work (sobhana) running into 100,000 verses, discussing about 14,000 subjects. But, by the time of Bhartrhari (seventh century A. D) the work was already lost. Vyadi is also credited with Paribhasha or rules of interpreting Panini; and also with Utpalini a sort of dictionary. These works are also lost. ]

 

Vararuchi Katyayana

12.1. Vararuchi also called Katyayana (also as Punarvasu and Medhajita) is one of the earliest commentators of Panini that are known to us.  It is likely there were other commentators before his time.  Katyayana offered his comments on selected Sutras of Panini, by way of explanatory Notes or annotations titled as Vrittika-s.   Out of about 4,000 Sutras of Panini, Katyayana selected about 1,245 Sutras for comments; and, on these he offered about 4,300 or more sets of explanatory Notes, Vrittika-s.  These Vrittikas (Varttika-patha or text in original form) of Katyayana have not come down to us directly. They all have been picked up from Patanjali’s Mahabhashya, where they are quoted and preserved.

12.2. In his Vrittikas, Katyayana aims to provide a new dimension to Astadhyayi. Katyayana takes up a sutra of Panini and annotates it; supplements it with additional information; modifies, at places, the views of Panini; and, generally offers explanations according to his own understanding. He even rectifies those Sutras where, according to him, something remained unsaid (anukta) or was badly-said (durukta).

 12.3. Some wonder why Katyayana had to offer critical comments on such large number of Sutras. One explanation is that Katyayana came several generations after Panini; and in the meantime the language had changed with new forms of expressions coming into vogue. The other is; the fact that Panini originated from North West while Katyayana came from the East may also have something to do with difference in their perceptions. Considering these factors, Katyayana’s criticisms seem fair.

 Katyayana showed no disregard towards the revered Master Panini. Katyayana, on the other hand, shows great respect for Panini. He closes his Notes on each Chapter of Astadhyayi with the auspicious word Siddham   – This is correct; well proved. At the end of his work, Katyayana offers respectful submission to the venerable sage (Muni) saying: Bhavatah Panineh Siddham, what Bhagavan Panini has said is absolutely correct.

 [Note: there have been other Vararuchi-s and other Katyayana-s in various fields and in different times.]

 

 Patanjali

 

13.1. Patanjali’s Mahabhashya fulfilled a long felt need. Till its appearance, the learners had to depend on Vritti or Varttika to study Astadhyayi. But, just as the Astadhyayi, the Vrittis too were in the inscrutable Sutra format.

 Mahamahopadyaya says that it was only after the advent of Mahabhashya that Panini’s work Astadhayi gained universal acceptance.  Till then, he says, Astadhayi had a rather limited circulation; perhaps confined to closed group of scholars. For instance, though Arthashastra came to written, say, about a hundred years after Panini, its author Kautilya (second or third century BCE) did not seem to be aware of Panini’s rules of grammar. [Incidentally, Kautilya too just as Panini migrated from Takshashila region to Pataliputra.] It is said; there are many expressions in Kautilya’s work that do not meet the approved standards set by Panini. Kautilya still seemed to be using parts of speech and such other grammatical terms that were set by grammarians of much earlier times.

 13.2. Patanjali’s Mahabhashya is composed in a conversational style employing a series of lively dialogues that takes place among three persons: Purvapakshin (who raises doubts); the Siddanthikadeshin (who argues against objections, but only provides partial answers); and Siddhantin (the wise one who concludes providing the right answers)   . Its method is engaging, dotted with questions like “What?” and “How?” posed and resolved; introducing current proverbs and   references to daily social life. In addition, Patanjali builds into his commentary about seven hundred interesting quotations from Vedic texts, Epics, and from the works of earlier authors.

13.3. Mahabhashya is an extensive discussion on Panini’s Astadhyayi spread over 85 Chapters. Yet; Mahabhashya is not a full (sutra to Sutra) commentary on Astadhyayi. Patanjali offers comments on about 1,228 select Sutras out of about 4,000 Sutras of Panini’s text.  It draws upon Katyayana’s Vrittika, Vyadi’s Samgraha as also on the Karikas and Vrittis of other commentators.  It analyzes the rules into components, adding elements necessary to understand the rules, giving supporting examples to illustrate how the rule operates.

14.1. Patanjali, in a way, takes off from Panini who focussed on words.  The Mahabhashya begins with the words ‘atho sabda-anu-shasanam’:  here begins the instruction on words. The three important subjects that Patanjali deals with are also concerned with words: formation of words, determination of meaning, and the rela­tion between a word (speech sounds – Shabda) and its meaning. He also talks about the need to learn Grammar and to use correct words; nature of words; whether or not the words have fixed or floating meanings and so on.

14.2. In general,   Panini manipulates word derivation as a tool to derive sentence.   The basic purpose of a grammar, according to Patanjali, is to account for the words of a grammar; not by enumerating them; but, by writing a set of general (samanya) rules (lakshana) that govern them and by pointing out to exceptions (visesha).These general rules, according to him, must be derived from the usage, for which the language of the ‘learned’ (shista) is taken as the norm.

 14.3. At times, Patanjali finds fault with Katyayana’s criticism; defends Panini against unfounded criticism; but, again criticizes and re-states certain other rules enunciated by Panini. Then he takes up those Sutras that were not discussed by Katyayana. He also revises or supplements    certain rules of Panini in order to ensure they are in tune with the contemporary (Patanjali’s time) usage. But, in his philosophical approach to grammar, Patanjali seems to have been influenced by Samgraha of Vyadi.

 

The time of Upavarsha

 

15.1. The time of Upavarsha is not known exactly. But it is surmised to be before 400 BCE. This estimate is based on certain circumstantial events the dates of which are generally accepted.

15.2. The unrest in the North-West commenced with the conquest of Darius (550–486 BCE) and it later worsened with the annexation of a considerable portion of the North- Western India into the Persian Empire.  It is said; Darius marched into the Taxila Satrapy during the winter of 516-515 BCE; and thereafter set about conquering the Indus Valley in 515 BCE.

15.3. The next significant date in the context of Upavarsha is the founding of the city of Pataliputra to where Upavarsha and others migrated. Pāṭaliputra (पाटलिपुत्र) of ancient India (Patna of modern-day), it is said, was originally built by Ajatashatru (son of King Bimbisara of Magadha – 599 BCE to 491 BCE) in or about 490 BCE.  Later, King Shishuka the founder of the Shishunaga dynasty, who established his Magadha Empire in 413 BCE, shifted his Capital from Rajgriha to a more prosperous and a more secure city: Pataliputra. The Shishunagas in their time were the rulers of one of the largest empires of the Indian subcontinent. The city of Pataliputra thus came into prominence, naturally. And, the eminent scholars from many parts of India gathered at Pataliputra seeking King’s patronage. Thereafter, Pataliputra gained greater fame and prosperity during the time of Mahapadma Nanda who succeeded the Shishunagas and founded the Nanda dynasty.  Mahapadma Nanda (C. 400-329 BCE) who declared himself the most powerful Samrat and Chakravartin ruled from Pataliputra.

15.4. The scholars who have studied Panini (a contemporary of Upavarsha) in greater detail have suggested 4th century BCE or earlier as the time of Panini. Some say; a 5th or even late 6th century BC date cannot be ruled out with certainty. But, generally, scholars accept that Panini’s time was, in any case, not later than C.400 BCE.

15.5. The group of scholars – Upavarsha, Varsha, Panini, and Pingala – seem to have migrated from Takshashila region to Pataliputra during the reign of the Shishunaga kings or the reign of Mahapadma Nanda.  

15.6. Following these events/dates the time of Upavarsha is reckoned to be not later than fourth century BCE.

Birth of a new tradition

 16.1. With the crossover of the core group of scholars from the North West towards the East, the intellectual capital of the then ancient India shifted from Takshashila to Pataliputra. And, that was also significant in another way.  The transition, somehow, marked the end of the Sutra period and the beginning of the period of Shastras , Vrittis, Vrittikas  and such other , comparative , descriptive texts.  The Sutra texts which were in a highly condensed format, by their very nature, were difficult to comprehend. Attempts were made by the scholars at Pataliputra to elaborate upon, comment upon and explain the Sutra texts (Sutra Patha) in a manner that could be read and understood by other seekers and students.

16.2. This phenomenon of giving up the highly condensed inscrutable Sutra format and taking up to writing more expansive Notes (Vrittikas), critiques (Vrittis), elaborate commentaries (Bhashyas) etc was not confined to traditional texts – Darshanas- alone. It even spread to various branches of secular knowledge, such as: economics, polity, medicine, and theatrical arts etc; and, spilled over to exotic and erotic subjects. A fresh wave of writers began composing expansive works in poetic forms that could be enjoyed at readers’ leisure.  Such comprehensive works (Shastras) did   render even tough subjects attractive, easier to commit to memory and, of course, easier to put it to use in day-to-day life. With that, the Sutra period met its end in Magadha.

Perhaps the increasing practice of writing books to impart knowledge instead of depending on oral transmissions also contributed towards this development.

 16.3. Some explanation about the terms mentioned above appears necessary here. Let me digress for a short while.

 

Sutra

17.1. Generally a subject or a body of study dealt in ancient Indian texts was expounded through a series of works and traditions (sampradaya) that were followed and kept alive by its adherents, over a period of time. Since the subject matter was scattered over several texts and diverse oral renderings, attempts were made by some diligent scholars to put in one place , for the benefit of students and learners of coming generations,  the salient arguments and important references bearing on the subject. Such compilation or collation was made in the briefest possible manner, so that it could by learnt by – heart , retained in memory and passed on to the next generation of learners.  Such highly condensed text-references came to be known as Sutra-s.

17.2. Sutra literally means a thread as also the one over which gems are strewn (sutre mani gane eva). But, technically, in the context of ancient Indian works, Sutra meant an aphoristic style of condensing the spectrum of all the essential aspects, thoughts of a doctrine into terse, crisp, pithy pellets of compressed information  ( at times rather disjointed )  that could be easily committed to memory. They are analogous to synoptic notes on a lecture; and by tapping on a note, one hopes to recall the relevant expanded form of the lecture. Perhaps the Sutras were meant to serve a similar purpose. A Sutra is therefore not merely an aphorism but a key to an entire discourse on a subject. Traditionally, each Sutra is regarded as a discourse rather than as a statement.

17.3. Each school of thought had its Sutra collated by a learned Sutrakara, the Compiler of that School. For instance, the Nyaya School had its Sutra by Gautama; Vaisheshika School by Kanada; Yoga School by Patanjali; Mimamsa School by Jaimini ; and , Vedanta School by Badarayana. Besides, there are a number of Sutras on various other subjects. [Of all the Schools, the Samkhya did not seem to have a Sutra of its own. ] 

Badarayana is of course the most celebrated of them all. He is the compiler, Sutrakara, of the Brahma Sutras (an exposition on Brahman) also called Vedanta Sutra, Sariraka Mimamsa Sutra and Uttara Mimamsa Sutra.  The style of presentation adopted by Badarayana set a model for Sutras that followed.

17.4. The method adopted by a Sutrakara was to refer to a specific passage in a text, say an Upanishad, by a key word, or a context (prakarana) or a hint to the topic for discussion. He would also hint his reasoning in a word or two.  The Sutrakara would follow it by Purva-paksha (prima facie view or opponents view), Uttara-paksha (his own explanation/rebuttal) and Siddantha (his conclusion).  The Sutra–text (Sutra patha) was so terse that it would need a commentator to make sense out of the Sutra.  The genius of the commentator on the Sutra ( Vrittikara or  Bashyakara )  was   in his ingenuity to  pinpoint the  Vishesha Vakya  the exact statement in the Vedic text referred to by the Sutra; to   maintain  consistency in the  treatment – in the context (prakarana),  and the  spirit of the original text; and, in  bringing  out the true intent and meaning of the Sutrakara’s reasoning and conclusions.

17.5.  But, to dismay of all, the concept of Sutra was often carried to its extremes. Brevity became its most essential character. It is said a Sutrakara would rather give up a child than expend a word. The Sutras often became so terse as to be inscrutable. And, one could read into it any meaning one wanted to. It was said, each according to his merit finds his rewards.

 

Vritti

 

18.1. Sutra by itself is unintelligible, unless it is read with the aid of a commentary.  The function of bringing some clarity into Sutra-patha    was the task of Vritti. The Vritti , simply put , is  a gloss, which expands on the Sutra; seeks to point out the derivation of forms that figure in the Sutra (prakriya); offers explanations on what is unsaid (anukta)  in the Sutra and also clarifies on what is misunderstood or imperfectly stated  (durukta) in the Sutra. 

 Vrittika

 19.1. Then, Vrittika is a Note or an annotation in between the level of the Sutra and the Vritti. It attempts to focus on what has not been said by a Sutra or is poorly expressed.  And, it is shorter than Vritti.

 Bhashya

 20.1.  The Vritti is followed  by Bhashya ,  a detailed , full blown ,  exposition on the subjects dealt with by  the Sutra ; and it  is primarily based on the Sutra , its Vrittis , Vrittikas ,  as also on several other authoritative texts and traditions. Bhashya  includes in itself  the elements of :   explanations based on discussion (vyakhyana); links to other texts that are missed or left unsaid in the Sutra (vyadhikarana) ;  illustrations using examples (udaharana) and counter-examples (pratyudhaharana) ; rebuttal  or condemnation  of   the opposing views of rival schools (khandana) ; putting forth  its own arguments  (vada) and counter arguments (prati-vada)  ; and , finally establishing   its own theory and  conclusions (siddantha).

 20.2. Let’s, for instance, take the Sutra, Vritti-s and Bhashya-s in the field of grammar (vyakarana). Here, Panini’s Astadhyayi is the principal text in Sutra format, referred to as Astaka (collection of eight) or as Sutra-patha (recitation of the Sutra).  It is the basic and the accepted text. But, its Sutra form is terse and tightly knit; rather highly abbreviated. The text does need a companion volume to explain it. That utility was provided by Vararuchi-Katyayana who wrote a Vartika, Notes or brief explanations on selected Sutras of Astadhyayi.  And, Patanjali who followed Katyayana, much later, wrote Maha-bhashya, a detailed commentary on Panini’s Astadhyayi, making use of Katyayana’s Vritti and several other texts and references on the subject. He presented the basic theoretical issues of Panini’s grammar; he expanded on the previous authors; supported their views and even criticized them in the light of his own explanations.  

 20.3. The trio (Trimurti) of Panini, Katyayana and Patanjali are regarded the three sages (Muni traya) of Vyakarana Shastra. Here, in their reverse order, the later ones enjoy greater authority (yato uttaram muninaam pramaanyam); making Patanjali the best authority on Panini.

 21.1. Upavarsha, regarded the most venerable (Abhijarhita), revered as Bhagavan and as ‘shastra-sampradaya- pravarttaka’ is described both as Shastrakara and Vrittikara.  However, in the later centuries, his name gathered fame as that of a Vrittikara, the commentator par excellence on the Mimamsa. We shall talk of Upavarsha the Vrittikara in the next part of this post.

lotus

 

Continued in

Part Two

 

 

 

Sources and References:

 

1. Magadhan Literature by Mahamahopadyaya Haraprasad Sastri; Patna University (1923) 

2. Astadhayi of Panini  ( Volume One )  by Pundit Rama Natha Sharma

3. A History Of Sanskrit Literature Classical Period Vol I by Prof.SN Dasgupta; Calcutta University (1947) 

4. The Philosophy of the Grammarians, Volume 5; edited by Harold G. Coward, Karl H. Potter, K. Kunjunni Raja; Princeton University Press (1990)

5. Grammatical Literature, Part 2, by Hartmut Scharfe ; Otto Harrassowitz (1977)

6. A New History of the Humanities: The Search for Principles and Patterns…  By Rens Bod; Oxford University press

7. An account of ancient Indian grammatical studies down to Patanjali’s Mahabhasya:  by E. De Guzman 0rara

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Bodhayana-Upavarsha

 

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