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About Upavarsha … Part Three

Continued from Part Two

 

 Upavarsha – Bodhayana

1.1. Sri Sankara, in his commentary on Brahma sutras, adopts a particular way of presentation. On each subject (vishaya), he first gives one interpretation and then follows it up by the other interpretation. It is explained; the first one represents the opposing views (purva-paksha) of ‘others’ (apare); and, it is meant to be rejected.  But, Sri Sankara does not quote the opposing views nor does he mention the name of the opponent. He merely sums up, raises them as the views of ‘others’, and finally dismisses them. Sri Sankara’s own views are presented in the later set of interpretation.

1.2. In contrast, Sri Sankara whenever he refers to the views of Upavarsha not only he mentions the Vrttikara by name but also treats him with great respect, as Bhagavan. Sri Sankara in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya (3.3.53) quotes the views of Upavarsha as being authoritative – ata eva ca bhagavato upavarṣeṇa.  Following his lead, the latter Sub-commentators of Advaita School, Anandajnana and Govindananda, recognize Upavarsha as the most eminent Vrttikara.

1.3. Similarly, in the Mimamsa School also, Sabarasvamin a noted Mimamsaka, in his Bhashya (Sabara bhashya) on the fifth sutra of Mimamsa sutra of Jaimini  –  autpattikas tu śabdasyārthena saṃbandhas tasya jñānam – refers to a Vrttikara prior to his (Sabara’s) time, without, of course, mentioning his name (vṛttikāras tv anyathemaṃ granthaṃ varṇayāṃcakāra tasya nimitta parīṣṭir ity evamādim). At the same time, in his Bhashya on the same sutra (1.1.5), Sabarasvamin , while explaining the term ‘Gaur’ (atha “gaur” ity atra kaḥ śabdaḥ) refers to Upavarsha by name addressing him with the epithet ‘Bhagavan’ (gakāraukāravisarjanīyā iti bhagavān upavarṭaḥ). It, therefore, seems reasonable to conclude that the Vrttikara referred to by Sabara was not Upavarsha.  And yet; it is not clear who that Vrttikara was.

[An unfortunate feature of the traditional texts is that they do not mention the names of the old teachers-commentators whose opinions are being quoted. Such practice might have been an idiom of a well-understood literary etiquette. But, it has led to needless debates and speculations.  Very often, it is left to a commentator who comes perhaps a century or more later to tell us that (let’s say) Sri Sankara actually meant such-and–such commentator when he said ‘someone ‘or ‘others’. Similar is the position with regard to those commentators that are referred to as ‘Vrttikara ‘or ‘Vakyakara’ without mentioning their names or the titles of their texts.  There is therefore always an element of skepticism associated with such sub-commentaries. ]

1.4. The Advaita scholar, Govindananda in his Ratna-prabha explains that the ‘others’ (apare) referred by Sri Sankara in his Bhashya does actually, stands for the Vrttikara Bodhayana – draṣṭāro baudhāyanādibhiḥ smṛtā ityāha-pratīti.  Another Advaita scholar Anandagiri agrees with this identification.

1.5. The Advaita School, thus, believes that Upavarsha and Bodhayana are two different persons.  And, the other dimension of the debate is that many wonder whether the terms ‘others ‘or ‘some’ truly refer to Bodhayana. That debate is still not concluded.

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Bodhayana

2.1. The mention of Bodhayana in this and similar other contexts give rise to number of questions such as: Who was this Bodhayana? What were his views? Why Bodhayana and Upavarsha are often mentioned in the same breath? Do the names Bodhayana and Upavarsha refer to one and the same person; or they two different persons? And so on.

2.2. Bodhayana is a very celebrated name in the long line of scholars of very ancient India. There have been many eminent persons in various fields of study going by the name of Bodhayana. It is also said that Bodhayana is the southern form of Baudhayana. Further, the name Baudhayana itself stands for ‘descendent of Budha or Bodha’. The linage of Bodhayana stretches at least from about 800 BCE to 200 BCE.

But for the limited purpose of our discussion here, let us confine to Bodhayana the Vrttikara.  His commentary on the Brahma sutra was recognized as an authority by many teachers of the later period, particularly by Sri Ramanuja.

2.3. And again, not much is known for certain about Bodhayana, other than his authorship of the Vritti (commentary) on the Brahma-sutras, the guidebook to understanding Vedanta. This Vritti is of cardinal importance to the history of Sri Vaishnava philosophy, because Sri Ramanuja mentioned that he followed the interpretations of Bodhayana while commenting on the Brahma Sutras of Badarayana.

In the opening verse of Sri Bhashya, Sri Ramanuja mentions: ‘The previous masters have abridged the detailed commentary on Brahma sutra which had been composed by Bhagavad Bodhayana. The words of the sutra will be explained in accordance with their views.

(Bhagavad Bhodayana kritam vistirnam Brahma-sutra – vrttim purvacharyah samskipuh I tan-mata-anusarena sutraksarani vyakhyasyante II)

2.4. In the Sri Bhashya of Sri Ramanuja, Bodhayana is generally addressed as Vrttikara, the commentator. He quotes the views of the Vrttikara Bodhayana seven times.

The interpretations of Bodhayana are traditionally respected by the followers of Sri Ramanuja. And, their tradition regards Bodhayana second only to the author of Brahma sutra (Badarayana). Yet; the commentary of Bodhayana is not extant today, apart from its fragments quoted by Sri Ramanuja. Sri Ramanuja quoted the above seven comments of the Vrttikara Bodhayana. And, these are his only words that have survived.

Even though they are few in number, each of them expresses a special point of Bodhayana’s thought.

2.5. As regards time of Bodhayana, the scholars surmise that the Vrttikara may have lived in the fifth century (?) A D.

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Bodhayana-Upavarsha

3.1.   As mentioned earlier, the Advaita School believes that Bodhayana is different from Upavarsha.  That is also quite possible because of the vast time difference between the two. While Upavarsha may belong to about the fourth century BCE, Bodhayana the Vrttikara may have lived in the fifth or the sixth century AD.

3.2. However, there are very interesting references and comments linking Bodhayana with Upavarsha.

(a) A  Vedanta text of a much later period Prapancha-hrdaya, under the chapter  Upanga Prakaranam, mentions that Bodhayana wrote a very detailed commentary titled Krtakoti on  all the twenty parts of Mimamsa, covering both the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa (Mimamsa sutra 12 parts and Samkarshana-kanda 4 parts – ascribed to Jaimini; together with  the Brahma sutra 4 parts ascribed to Badarayana). It was also said that the commentary on Brahma sutra (Brahma–sutra Vrtti), in particular, was quite detailed.

It was said that these three works were unified under a title called Krtakoti. Fearing that the great length of the commentary would cause it be cast into oblivion, Upavarsha somewhat abridged it.

Tasya vimsaty-adhyaya nibaddhasya Mimamsa Sastrasya Krtakoti nama-
dheyam bhashyam Bddhayanena krtam. Tad grantha bahulya bhayadii-
pekshya kinchid samkshiptam Upavarshena krtam  (Prapanchahrdaya .45)

And later, it is said, Devasvamin further abridged Upavarsha’s abridged version.

But, all those works ascribed Bodhayana are dispersed and lost; and none is available now. Since Sri Ramanuja quoted from the condensed version of Bodhayana’s commentary on Brahma sutra, it could be said the rare fragments of those texts were extant until his time (11th century). But, Bodhayana commentaries on Mimamsa sutra, if any, were lost much earlier; and had passed out of existence by the time of Kaumarila Bhatta (8th century).

(b) There is also a tradition which recognizes Krtakoti as the name of an author. According to Avanti-sundari-katha of Dandin, Krtakoti was the name of Upavarsha who was also known as Bodhayana.   And, also according to Manimekhalai, Krtakoti was a scholar of Mimamsa and was reckoned along with Vyasa and Jaimini. And, in the Sanskrit lexicon Vaijayanti, Krtakoti-kavi is said to be another name of Upavarsha – Halabhutistu’ pavarshah Krtakoti Kavischa sah; and, Upavarsho Halabhutih Krtakotir Ayachitah ]

(c) There is another complication. Some scholars believe that Bodhayana and Upavarsha were the two names of one and the same person; and Bodhayana might have been the Gotra name of Upavarsha. The great scholar Sri Vedanta Desika (14th century) in his Tattvatika, a commentary on Sri Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya, identified Bodhayana with Upavarsha – Vrttikarasya Bodhayanasyiva hi Upavarsha iti syan nama.

It is surmised that Sri Vedanta Desika might have come to conclusion because ‘Bodhayana’ might have been the Gotra of Upavarsha. The other reason could be that the Vedanta scholars frequently referred to a Vrttikara, without, however, mentioning his name. In the process, both Upavarsha and Bodhayana were each addressed as Vrttikara. There might have been a mix-up. In any case, Sri Vedanta Desika does not cite any authority or a tradition in support of statement.

(d) Sri Ramanuja reckons Bodhayana as being the foremost among his Purava-acharya-s (Past Masters of his tradition) Viz. Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Baruchi. But, he does not, anywhere, equate Bodhayana with Upavarsha.

(e) Another reason for not identifying Bodhayana with Upavarsha is the stand taken by their followers on the question of the unity or otherwise of the Mimamsa as a whole.

It is said; Bodhayana laid equal importance of Jnana and Karma Kandas; as   the two together constituted the doctrinal system (Shastraikatva).   He held the view that directly after completing the rituals one should take up the investigation into Brahman, which is the study of Vedanta. His position was coined by the later Vedanta Schools as jnana-karma-samucchaya-vada, the doctrine that synthesizes jnana and karma.  This was also the position taken by Sri Ramanuja in his Sri Bhashya.

Sri Sankara, on the other hand, did not accord much significance to rituals, naturally, tended to differ from Bodhayana.

(f) Bodhayana’s position also meant that Purva and Uttara Mimamsa are two sections of the same text.

But, Sri Sankara’s basic position was that the Mimamsa Sutra which commences with the statement Atato Dhrama jijnasa is quite separate from the Brahma Sutra commencing with Atato Brahmajijnasa.  Sri Sankara’s Shatra-aramba refers to the beginning of the Brahma sutra; and not to Mimamsa that covered both Purva and Uttara. Sri Sankara presents his commentary as a sort of Mimamsa by calling it as Vedanta-mimamsa. He does not use the terms Purva Mimamsa or Uttara -Mimamsa. He did not seem to regard Brahma Sutra as a latter part of the same text.

Sri Sankara maintained that the two systems are addressed to different class of persons. Karma-kanda consist injunctions to act in order to achieve certain results. But, liberation is not a product or a thing to be achieved. Jnana-kanda is about Brahman that already exists; it pertains to the ultimate purpose which is true knowledge of Self, and it is addressed to one who is intent on liberation.   Each section of Veda is valid in its own sphere; but, the two sections cannot logically be bound together.

Sri Sankara generally followed the explanations provided by Upavarsha. And, these were not the same as the views attributed to Bodhayana.  Naturally, these led to doctrinal differences between Sri Ramanuja and Sri Sankara.

(g) It, therefore, seems safe to assume that Upavarsha, Krtakoti and Bodhayana as being three different persons.

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Sphota – Varna

4.1. Sri Sankara, in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya, mentions Upavarsha on two occasions. First, in the commentary on the Sutra at 3.3.53eka ātmanaḥ śarīre bhāvāt – which discusses the existence of Atman (We have talked about this aspect in the earlier part of this article) – ata eva ca bhagavato upavarṣeṇa prathame tantra ātmā astitvābhidhānaprasaktau śārīrake vakṣyamāḥ ityuddhāraḥ kṛtaḥ /.

And, the second, in a passage   comments on the Sutra which deals with the doctrine of words (Varna Vada). At the end of the discussion, he states: Bhagavan Upavarsha says the words (Pada) are none other than the various letter-sounds (Varna). He agrees with Upavarsha. Before that, he goes through the opposing view (Purva-paksha) put forward by a Sphotavadin a votary of the Sphota theory.

4.2. Sri Sankara, of course, does not usually name the Purvapakshin the one who hold the opposing view point. Accordingly, in the commentary on the Sutra in question also he does not name or specify the Sphotavadin who in the present case is the Purvapakshin. But his commentators identify the Sphotavadin with the Grammarian (Vyakarana-kara) Bhartrhari who generally is referred by the epithet

5.1. Bhartrhari (c. 450-510 CE?) was a Grammarian and also a philosopher. He was well versed in the study of Mimamsa and Vedanta. In the citation to the  later editions of the text 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 ).

5.2. In his celebrated work the Vakyapadiya (a treatise on sentences and words) Bhartrhari expounded the Sphota-vada (doctrine of Sphota) which had its origins in the germ-ideas mentioned in ancient texts.

6.1. The term ‘Sphota’ does not easily translate into English, as it usually happens.  The Sphota is derived from the root ‘sphut‘ which means ‘to burst’, but it also describes what ’is revealed’ or ’is made explicit’. Sphota can also refer to the abstract or conceptual form of an audible word. Sphota is somewhat similar to the Ancient Greek concept of logos or Word.

[ The Sphota theory is one of the significant contributions of India to the philosophy of Grammar. The Sphota concept was developed over long periods; but, it was fully put forward by Bharthrhari .

The earliest historical figure who dealt with linguistic study seems to be Sakalya, the author of the Pada-paatha of Rig-Veda, and who is mentioned by Panini. Sakalya is credited with breaking down the Samhita (the original text of the verses) into words, identifying the separate elements of compound words. Later, Brihad-devata attributed to Saunaka said that a sentence is made up of words; and the words, in turn, are made of phonemes (Varna).

Nagesha Bhatta (author of Manjusha and Shpota-vada) identifies Sage Sphotayana, mentioned by Panini in one of his rule, as the originator of the Sphota concept.  Bhartrihari quotes Yaska as mentioning that another ancient authority, the sage Audumbarayana together with Varttaksa held views similar to the Sphota theory. Yaska had mentioned (Nirukta: 1-2) about a theory suggested by Audumbarayana that a sentence or an utterance is primary and is a whole,  an indivisible unit of language. Audumbarayana, it appears, had also mentioned that the four-fold classification of words into : noun, verb, upasarga and nipata does not hold good(2). And therefore, Bhartrhari claimed that the views of these ancients support his own theory –Sphota-vada.

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 [But, Yaska himself had not agreed with Audumbarayana; and, had went  to talk about Bhava – the being and becoming of  verbs from their roots’ and about their transformations (Vikara) .]

In any case, the original idea of Sphota seems to go back to the Vedic age when Vak or speech was considered to be a manifestation of the all – pervading Brahman , and Pranava (Aum) was regarded as the primordial speech sound from which all forms of Vak were supposed to have evolved.  Perhaps, this claim provided the model upon which the Vyakarana philosophers based their concept of Sphota. Indeed Sphota is often identified with Pranava.

 Bharthrhari maintained that the primary function of the words was to combine into a sentence, in its complete utterance, to give forth a meaning.  The sentence with its words is to be taken as an integral unit; and, not as a clutter of fragments. Bharthrhari argued that for the purpose of linguistic analysis it might be fine to split the sentence into words, then into the roots and suffixes of the words, syntaxes etc. Such analytical splitting might be useful for study of language and its grammar.

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. The listener grasps it as a whole; and the understanding is like an instantaneous flash of insight (prathibha). Just as the meaning derived from the sentence is unitary, the symbol (the sentence) which signifies it is also an integral unit.  Its meaning is experienced, known through perception. This, rather roughly put, is the concept called Sphota – the sentence being taken as an integral symbol.

Let’s say, when a painter conceives a picture in his mind and gives it a substance on the canvass he does use variety of strokes, different colors, varying shades etc. But, that does not mean one has to look for individual strokes shades etc. or as a permutation of those that went in to make the picture. The viewer, rightly, takes in, absorbs the picture and its spirit as a whole, as an integral unit.

 Bharthrhari says those who know the language well, listen to the sentence. And those who do not know the language may hear words only as sound bits.  Sphota in essence is the real experience of listening to a sentence as a whole and grasping its meaning through perception.]

6.2. In his Sarva-darshana-samgraha, Sri Madhava (generally accepted as the pre-ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya who was the Jagadguru of Sri Sringeri Mutt from 1380 to 1386) describes Sphota in two ways. The first as: that from which the meaning bursts forth or shines forth. And, the second as: an entity that is manifested by the spoken letters and sounds. Sphota may, thus, be conceived as a two sided coin. On the one side it is manifested by the word-sound; and, on the other it simultaneously reveals word meaning.

6.3. In philosophical terms, Sphota may be described as the transcendent ground on which the spoken syllables (Varna) and conveyed meanings (Artha) find their unity as word or Sabda. To put it in another way, that which expresses a meaning; or the process of expressing a meaning through a word could be called Sphota.

7.1. Bhartrhari deals with Sphota at two levels: one on the metaphysical plane and the other on the empirical plane. . Sphota refers to the ‘non-differentiated language principle’. This gave rise to the theory of “word monism – Sabda-advaita. The theory is that Brahman first manifested itself as Sound and then as form. The Sphota, Sabda-Brahman, manifested as Logos or Word, is the power through which the Lord manifests in the universe. Liberation is achieved when one attains unity with that ‘supreme word principle’. Within this theory, consciousness and thought are intertwined; and Grammar becomes a path to liberation. Sphota-vada is a monistic (Advaita) philosophy based on Sanskrit grammar (as per Swami Vivekananda’s   explanation).

7.2. At the empirical level, Bhartrhari is concerned with the process of communicating meaning. He deals with the word and the sound distinctions; the word meaning; the unitary nature of the whole sentence; the word object connection; and the levels of speech, etc. His focus is on cognition and language.

8.1. Bhartrhari explains : If the letters  float away and disappear the instant we utter them and if each sound is replaced by another in quick succession, then one can hardly perceive the word  or a sentence as a whole. And the question that comes up is- then, how does one grasp the meaning of a word or of a sentence?

Bhartrhari goes on to say that a sentence is not a mere collection of words or an ordered series of words. A sentence-Sphota is the primary unit of meaning. A sentence is a sequence-less, part-less whole that gets expressed or manifested in a sequential and temporal utterance. A word or sentence is grasped as a unity by intuition (pratibha). According to Bhartrhari, Sphota is an auditory image of word. It is indivisible and without inner-sequence.

8.2. Bhartrhari explains that initially the word exists in the mind of the speaker as a unity, but is manifested as a sequence of different sounds, giving raise to the appearance of differentiation. Bhartrhari states: “All difference presupposes a unity”; and where there is a duality there is an identity pervading it. Otherwise one cannot be related to the other or each would constitute a world by itself.

8.3. For Bhartrhari, Sphota is the real substratum, proper linguistic unit, which is identical with its meaning. Language is  the vehicle of meaning or of thought. Thought anchors language and the language anchors thought. In this way, there are no essential differences between a linguistic unit and its meaning or the thought it conveys.

[Bhartrhari argues that the words do not designate the objects in the external world directly (sakshat), but indirectly through the intervention (upadana) of universals which are mental, and which reside in words. Universals which are thus intimately connected with the language and mind, on the one hand, and with the whole of existence, on the other, constitute the basis of our knowledge of the external world.]

9.1. However, Upavarsha rejected the Sphota-vada; and, argued 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.  By rejecting the Sphota -theory ,  Upavarsha , in effect , dismissed its notion that  every act of creation and every sound that issues forth in the universe is the duplication of the initial Big Bang. When we utter a sound or word the Big Bang is duplicating itself in our mind.

(For that reason, some Western scholars call Upavarsha the Fred Hoyle of ancient India.)

9.2. Upavarsha, in turn, came 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.

9.3. The position so taken by  Upavarsha opposes the Sphota doctrine (Sphota Vada) which is based in the philosophical principle which  in effect says that ‘gauh’ is the essence of the word; and, its individual letter-sounds are artificially distinct from that word.

[10 .1. The Sphota theory developed by Bhartrhari had its supporters as also its opponents.

The main opposition seems to have come from Mimamsa School. Sabarasvamin presents Upavarsha’s views in his Mimamsa-sutrabhasya. But, pointed attack came in the later periods, particularly in the works of Kaumarila Bhatta, a noted Mimamsa Scholar (7th -8th century). He attacked the manner in which the Sphota phenomenon was supposed to reveal the meaning of word-sounds (Sabda). Kaumarila argued that the word (Sabda), whether be it individual or be a part of sentence, is nothing more than a collection of word-sounds or spoken words . And, it is with this collection of sounds alone that the meaning is associated. The listener grasps the sound of the words and their meaning. There is nothing else here, he said, one need not assume a mystical process of Sphota etc. Kaumarila the Mimamsaka was, thus, in agreement with Upavarsha on the issue of Sphota.

10.2. 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 presumption of the whole being prior to the parts as also the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. He agreed with Bhartrhari, it is not the individual words but the complete thought of the sentence that ultimately matters.

Mandana offers the example of a picture. He points out that in our perception of a picture; it is conceived as a whole, over and above its various parts. Similarly when we perceive a piece of cloth our cognition is of the cloth as whole; and it is quite distinct from the particular threads and colors involved.

He says: This aspect is brought out clearly by Bhartrhari who describes the painter as going through three stages when he paints a picture:  “when a painter wishes to paint a figure having parts like that of a man, he first sees it gradually in a sequence , then as the object of a single cognition ; and then he paints it on the surface of a cloth or whatever”.

10.3. The Jain philosopher Prabhachandra in his Prameya-kamala-marthanda attempts to reconcile the two opposing views; and, comes up with his own doctrine of ‘Interminacy’ (syavada, anekantavada),which, essentially, is a principle that encourages acceptance of multiple or plural views on a given subject]

[ Devadatta Kali (David Nelson) in the introduction to his very well written work Svetasvataropanisad: The Knowledge That Liberates, writes:

Although the Indian thinkers are not immune to disputation , by and large , their culture has valued the principle of accommodation and acceptance and acceptance…Throughout the centuries of Indian philosophical traditions , the differing views have often been seen as just that – as differing views of a single reality that lies beyond human power of articulation. The tendency has often been to harmonize opposing views as distinct parts of a larger whole whose fullness lies well beyond the reach of mere perception or reason. It needs to be stressed that the primary purpose of sacred literature is to impart spiritual knowledge, not to fuel intellectual or sectarian debate – or to create confusion.]

11.1. Sri Sankara refers to Upavarsha as the originator of Varna-vada, which contrasted with Sphota-vada of Bhartrhari. Sri Sankara agrees with Upavarsha and supports Varna- vada as against Sphota-vada (Sankara Bhashya on Brahma Sutra: 1.3.28). He does not approve the concept of Sphota-vada; and, says the meaning of a word can be known from its constituent letters, sounds and the context.  Here, he remarks: Bhagavad Upavarsha says ‘but, the words are none other than various letter-sounds (Varna)- varna eva tu na sabddh iti bhagavan upavarsah (BS: 1.3.28).

11.2. He then follows up with a debate on whether the words are letter-sounds of this kind or whether they are Sphota. And then built up his own arguments to oppose the Sphota vada, based on what he calls ‘the tradition of the Masters’- (Acharya –sampradayokti-purvakam siddantam aaha varna iti).

11.3. While he agrees that the word is nothing other than letter-sounds (Varna) Sri Sankara does not seem to be emphatic. On the question why a letter-sound (say, ’a’) should be heard differently according to its utterances, Sri Sankara explains that such differences are duo the conditions (Upadi) imposed externally or from elsewhere. Otherwise (Athava – meaning or) the differences could be due to intonation; and not necessarily due to the letter-sounds. And, therefore, he says, there is no weakness in our contention.  And, there is no need, he says, to bring in the concept of Sphota to decide upon the meaning of the word when it can be derived directly from the Varna-s that form the word.

The scholars believe, here, Sri Sankara, was not putting forth an original argument, but was merely condensing the previous refutations of the Sphota theory.

11.4. In his argument in favor of Varna Vada, Sri Sankara says: only the individual letters are perceived; and, they are combined through inference of the mind into word aggregate. Because the psychological process is one of inference and not of perception, there can be no degree of cognition. According to Sri Sankara, the inference Pramana is all –or-nothing process*. The error, if it is to be overcome, must be completely replaced all at once by a new inferential construction of mind or by a super-conscious intuition of Brahman.

[* According to almost all the Schools of Indian philosophy, the valid means of knowledge (Pramana) other than perception either reveal the object completely or do not reveal at all. However, Bhartrhari argues that perception need not always be an ‘all–or-nothing processes’. There could be vagueness initially; but, the perception could improve as one tries to gain clarity of an object (say as a distant tree or committing a stanza after repeated attempts).

According to Bhartrhari , each sound helps in understanding meaning bit by bit, at first vaguely, the next one little more clearly, and so on, until the last sound, aided by the preceding impressions, finally revea1.s the meaning with clarity and distinctness. The Sphota is revealed in stages by each succeeding sound, but by itself it is indivisible. It is comprehended in a process which begins with complete ignorance, passes through partial understanding, and ends in complete knowledge (dyana)

Bhartrhari asserts that it is the cognition of the Sphota in its entirety that is important in understanding meaning. That is not to say that we do not cognize the individual letters or sounds, but that they are secondary in relation to the Sphota, which is the real object of cognition.

This point is very important to Sphota theory in its contention that error due to vagueness of perception of initial letters can gradually and positively be overcome. It is also crucial for the Sphota theory in its contention that the existence of Sphota is not guesswork, as Mimamsaka-s maintain, but is a proved by direct and clear perception.]

11.5. The other Acharyas and commentators also toed the line of Bhagavan Upavarsha and Sri Sankara; and, supported Varna- vada as against Sphota-vada. Vacaspati Misra, who commented on Sri Sankara’s Vedanta Sutra Bhashya, also rejected the Sphota theory. He came up with his own theory of Abhihitanvaya-vada; and, said the understanding of the meaning of a whole sentence is reached by inferring to it, in a separate act of lakshana or implication, from the individual meanings of the constituent words.

12.1. Thus, the Vedic Vak as Sabda-Brahman became the object of philosophical debate during the later periods. The early Mimamsa School which championed Varna-vada argued that the individual word or the letter (Varna) as the prime substance of Vak. The School of the Grammarians, on the other hand, put forth Sphota-vada which developed the notion of Sphota to explain the mysterious manner by which meaning is conveyed in sentence. They explained Sphota as a process of cognition which culminates in the intuitive perception of the Absolute as Sabda –Brahman. These two are the main platforms for the discussion of the Indian philosophy of language.

12.2. Two principle Schools, Mimamsa and the School of Grammarians (Vaiyyakarani) have made huge contributions to the study of language and the philosophy of Grammar and of language. And, both were particularly interested in Sabda. Both believed that Sabda is eternal and manifests itself; and, is not created. They, however, differ on the view in regard to Sabda and the meaning (artha).

13.1. Bhagavan Upavarsha, whoever he might have been, was indeed an intellectual giant of his times. He was a worthy successor to the remarkable sage-scholars such as Badarayana and Jaimini. His contribution to the development of Indian thought is enormous.

13.2. Many however feel that Upavarsha   could have given little more thought to the Sphota theory instead of dismissing it off-hand. That perhaps could have leant a greater impetus to the growth of rational thinking within the Indian philosophical traditions.

[For more on Bhartrhari and the Sphota theory, please visit

http://www.iep.utm.edu/b/bhartrihari.htm ]

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Sources and References

  1. A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy, Part 2 by Prof. Hajime Nakamura
  2. The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume 3: Advaita Vedanta Up to … edited by Karl H. Potter
 
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Posted by on September 20, 2015 in Bodhayana-Upavarsha

 

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About Upavarsha … Part Two

Continued from Part One

 

Upavarsha the Vrttikara

1.1. In the earlier part, we surmised that Upavarsha – a revered scholar, commentator and teacher might have originated from the Takshashila region in the North West; and later, perhaps, might have migrated to Pataliputra in the East sometime before the Fourth century BCE. And that according to some sources , Upavarsha was the brother of Varsha a teacher of great repute; and that Panini the Grammarian and his younger brother Pingala both  studied under Varsha. Further , that Vyadi (also called Dakshayana), another student of Varsha, was either the maternal uncle (mother’s brother) of Panini or was the great-grandson of Panini’s maternal uncle.

[It seems Upavarsha might not have been his real name. It merely means that he was the ‘younger brother of Varsha’.]

Thus all those learned scholars and great teachers were related to each other in one way or the other; they all hailed from Takshashila region; and they all sought patronage in the Court of the Kings at Pataliputra. Among them, Upavarsha an authoritative commentator (Vrttikara) on   Mimamsa (a system of investigation, inquiry into or discussion on the proper interpretation of the Vedic texts) was looked upon and honored as the most venerable, Abhijarhita.

1.2. Upavarsha was regarded as an authority by all branches of the orthodox Schools;, including the Mimamsa School. Both Sabaraswamin and Bhaskara, the Mimamsaka-s, 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’.

In the Vedanta School, Sri Sankara, 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, as Teachers (Acharya). Sri Sankara’s disciples and followers continued to make frequent references to the works of Vrittikara on the   Brahma Sutra often referred to Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti of Sage Upavarsha.

1.3. In the later centuries, Bhagavan Upavarsha came to be celebrated as the most venerable (Abhijarhita) Shastrakara and Vrittikara, the commentator par excellence.

In this segment of the article, we shall talk of Upavarsha the Vrittikara.

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Before that, a short explanation about Vritti and related terms:

At a stage in the development of Vedic texts and certain other subjects, there came into vogue a practice of collating each School’s salient arguments, the essential aspects and important references bearing on the subject into very short or briefest possible pellets of terms.  Such highly condensed text-references came to be known as Sutra-s.

 The term Sutra literally means a thread; say, such as the one over which gems are strewn (sutre mani gana 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 committed to memory. The object of the Sutras appeared to be to aid the student to learn it by heart; and, use it as a sort of synoptic notes on a subject mentioned in a text.  And, by tapping that Sutra, the student would recall the relevant expanded form of the referred portions of the text. . A Sutra was therefore not merely an aphorism but was also a key to an entire discourse on a subject. Traditionally, each Sutra is considered as a discourse rather than as a statement.

But, the problem appeared to be that the concept of Sutra was carried too far and to ridiculous extremes. Brevity became its most essential character. For instance; sve cha is a Sutra; and, it has to be linked to a text and to the relevant statement in that text.  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.

The problem was worse compounded when a Sutra was repeated number of times. For instance in the Mimamsa Sutras, lingadarsanac ca is repeated thirty times and tatha canyarthadarshanam is repeated twenty-four times. It becomes very difficult to unfathom the intentions of the Sutrakara.

Vritti (Sadvrittih sannibandhana) is the next generation text which attempts to lessen the ambiguity and bring some clarity into Sutra-patha    . 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 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 is 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).

For instance;  Panini’s Astadhyayi is the principal text in Sutra format; Vararuchi-Katyayana wrote a Vartika , a brief explanations on selected Sutras of Astadhyayi; and,  Patanjali wrote his Maha-bhashya, a detailed commentary on Panini’s Astadhyayi, making use of Katyayana’s Vritti as also  several other texts and references on the subject. Patanjali presented the basic theoretical issues of Panini’s grammar; expanded on the previous authors; and, supported their views and even criticized them in the light of his own explanations.  

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Before we get into a discussion on the Upavarsha the Vrittikara, we need to learn a little bit about Mimamsa, one of the six Darshanas or systems of the Indian philosophy (Nyaya, Vaseshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Uttara Mimamsa and Purva Mimamsa).

The term Mimamsa derived from the root ‘man’ suggests the meaning of ‘to think’ or to analyze. And, it particularly refers to ‘probing and acquiring proper knowledge’ (pujita-vichara) or ‘critical review and rational investigation of the Vedas’ (Vedartha-vichara).

Presently, Mimamsa Sutra is said to be in two segments: the Purva (earlier or the first) Mimamsa compiled by Jaimini; and the Uttara (latter) Mimamsa ascribed to Badarayana.

There is a line of argument which asserts that Mimamsa Sutra was a single text and was having twenty chapters (vimshathy adhyayah) comprising twelve Chapters (Adhyayas) of Mimamsa dealing with the ritual aspects of the Vedas; four chapters of Devata Kanda or Sankarshana kanda addressing various deities  ; followed by four chapters of Mimamsa dealing with Upanishad doctrines.

The portion of twelve chapters dealing with rituals together with four chapters of Devata Kanda is known as Purva Mimamsa (Karma Kanda). And the remaining last four chapters dealing with Upanishads is known as Uttara Mimamsa (Jnana Kanda).

There is a counter argument which states that  the  Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa were initially two independent treaties authored by Jaimini and Badarayana respectively; and, were later put together with suitable emendations by someone described as Vyasa – ‘the arranger’. 

[Sureshvara, an early commentator and said to be a disciple of Sri Sankara, in his Nishkarmyasiddhi, a commentary on Mimamsa sutra (1.2.1), seems to suggest that Jaimini was also the author of the Brahma Sutra. This supports the view that Uttara and Purva Mimamsa were a part of a single text. But this interpretation is generally rejected.]

In any case, Purva-Mimamsa (prior investigation) collated by Jaimini dwells on the early portion of Vedas, particularly the Brahmans; and, is mainly concerned with Vedic rituals. Therefore, it is also called Karma-Mimamsa or simply Mimamsa.

Jaimini the champion of Purva Mimamsa strongly holds the view that performance of rituals as prescribed by the Vedas is the fundamental duty of a householder. Thus, raising of the offspring and faithfully performing the prescribed rituals is the duty.  Jaimini declared that  the purpose of human life (Purusharta) is to attain heaven (Svarga) through performance of rituals which is the most essential duty of a person. A person leading life on the right path (Dharma) has to perform the prescribed rituals throughout his life, even in case he has gained knowledge of Brahman. 

The Purva Mimamsa system attaches a lot of importance to the Verbal testimony which is essentially the Vedic text. Jaimini accepts the ‘Word’, the ‘Sabda’ as the only means of knowledge. ; and,  that ‘Sabda’ is necessarily the Vedic word.

According to Jaimini, knowledge has twofold meaning: Vidya and Upasana. He said, since the rituals are prescribed by the Vedas, the knowledge (vidya) of the Vedas is essential in order to perform the rituals properly. The term Vidya also means remembrance (jnapaka) which is used in the sense of worship (upasana). In the case of a person who performs rituals (karma) diligently with knowledge (vidya) and contemplates (upasana) on the deity, the fruits of his actions (Karman) will follow him even after his death.

[His Holiness Sri Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam while in conversation with Professor Hajime Nakamura, Professor of Indian philosophy, University of Tokyo (during January 1960) explained the difference between Jnana and Upasana. The Paramacharya said that the two are entirely different. While Upaasana is mental action, Jnana, which also belongs to the realms of the mind, is not action. Action is something done in obedience to an injunction. When the knowledge of Reality is comprehended, the mind continues to dwell on that Reality ; and, it  does not respond to any injunction, whether that injunction comes from any external agency or is the result of the prompting of the senses… You concentrate on God, imagining He is like this or that, until real Jnana dawns on you and you understand God as He really is. Thereafter you do not react to any direction to worship this or that form.]

Jaimini hardly involves God (Isvara) into his scheme of things. He clings to the prescriptive and liturgical aspects of Vedas, setting aside their esoteric message. He generally ignores the Upanishads. His follower Sabaraswamin described the non-human origin of the Vedas in terms of the anonymity or inability to remember the authors of the Vedas.

In the view of Purva Mimamsa, Upanishads are mere appendages; and, do not have an independent status.

In sharp contrast, the Uttara-Mimamsa (posterior investigation) of Badarayana is centred primarily on the Upanishads. It regards Upanishads as highest authority and the most meaningful, valid means of knowing the Absolute Truth.  Badarayana recognized Upanishads as Shruthis, the Revelations, the super sensory intuitional perceptions of the ancient Rishis; and as the crowning glory of Vedic thought.

The Uttara-Mimamsa centred on Upanishads is mainly concerned with Vedic metaphysics (jana Kanda), primarily an inquiry into Ultimate Reality or Truth, the Brahman. Therefore, it is also called Brahman-Mimamsa or simply Vedanta.

It has also been called by many other titles, such as : Brahma–vichara–Shastra, the treatise for investigating Brahman; Vedanta-mimamsa-Shastra or Vedanta shastra; Vedanta Sutra; Sariraka sutra or Sariraka shastra or Sarirakam shastram.  It is also the Chatur-lakshani (having four chapters) as compared to Dwadasha-lakshani (the Purva Mimamsa of twelve chapters).

Brahma Sutra is regarded the logical foundation (Nyaya prasthana) of Vedanta. Its forte is Para Vidya, the Supreme knowledge which liberates.  Badarayana does not value the rituals, much; but aims at the ultimate release or liberation, Moksha,

Brahma Sutra appears to have been compiled mainly for two reasons: to uphold the authority of Upanishads; and, to criticize the views of the rival schools (say, Samkhya, Vaisheshika and Buddhist) that did not honor Upanishads. But, its ultimate goal is guide the ardent seeker along the path culminating in realization of  the true   nature of the Absolute Reality  (Brahman) , which indeed is the final liberation , the Moksha.  

 Thus, the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa project two opposite views of life; and yet are closely allied.

Sri Sankara regards Brahma Sutra as distinct and separate shastra (prathak-shastra) from Purva Mimamsa

Sri Sankara was the most ardent supporter of the Brahma Sutra or Uttara Mimamsa. He argued vigorously to uphold the Supremacy of Upanishads as the crown of the Sruti (Sruti Siras). He emphasized that Upanishads are the means towards attaining Brahman. 

He declared Self (Atman) is Brahman. This knowledge (vidya) of this One Reality is not only the foundation of all knowledge (vidyas) but is also the absolute ‘truth of the fact’- Brahmavidya sarva vidya pratistha (Mundaka Up.1.1.1)

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2.1. Upavarsha, respected as  the foremost among the Vrttikara-s,   is said to have written Vritti-s (commentaries) on both the segments of the Mimamsa Sutra. And, his Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti is believed to be   the earliest commentary on Badarayana’s Brahma Sutras.

In this context, it should be mentioned that there is a belief that it was Upavarsha who first divided the Vedic texts into Karma-kanda (ritualistic section) and Jnana-kanda (knowledge section) leading to better understanding of the themes and problems in Vedanta.

2.2. Sri Sankara often refers to Vritti-s. He speaks more specifically of Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti, a commentary on Brahma Sutra, the author of which is identified as Upavarsha.

Sri Sankara refers to a discussion held by Upavarsha on the nature of Self in Brahma Sutra (3.3.53) – eka atmanah sarire bhavat – , which according to Sri Sankara establishes the existence of Self.  He says the existence of a self that is different from the body and capable of enjoying the fruits of shastra is (already) stated at the beginning of the shastra (Shastra-aramba), in the first Paada – Shastrah-pramukha eva prathame pade. The scholars wonder whether this expression refers to the first Tantra (Prathama Tantra) which is commonly understood as Purva Mimamsa.

And, the same discussion appears in the commentary on Mimamsa-Sutra (1.1.5).

2.3. Further, Sri Sankara mentions:  ‘ Bhagavan Upavarsha has written a Vrtti on Purva Mimamsa. And, in that, he is referring to his another Vrtti on Saririka Mimamsa.

Ata Eva Bhagavata Upavarshena Prathame Tantre I Atma-stitv-abhidhana-prasaktau Sarirake Vakshyamaha ityuddharaha Krutaha II (3.3.53)

All these statements seem to support the view that that Upavarsha may have commented on both Purva and Uttara Mimamsa. This, in a way, is confirmed by Sabaraswamin the author of a major commentary on Mimamsa Sutra, who in his work summarizes the views of Upavarsha.

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3.1. It is said; during the time of Sabarasvamin (Ca.  300-200 BCE) a noted Mimasaka, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa formed one philosophical system. But, by the time of Kumarila Bhatta and Sri Sankara they were regarded as two separate, mutually exclusive philosophies.

Giving up the ideal of liberation by the Mimamsakas, and the rejection of the rituals by the Vedantins must have come about at a later stage. But, again by the time of Kumarila Bhatta the Mimamsa came closer to the idea of liberation.

3.2. In any case, both the Schools of Mimamsa hold Upavarsha in very high esteem. Sabarasvamin in his Bhashya (Sabara bhashya– 1.1.5), the oldest surviving commentary on the Purva-mimamsa-sutra, refers to Upavarsha with great reverence, addressing him as Bhagavan, the venerable. Sabarasvamin is said to have drawn on Upavarsha for his commentary on Mimamsa-Sutra.

[Sabara bhashya is remarkable for various reasons. Sabarasvamin in many places differs from the views of his contemporaries. The most noticeable is the absence of reference to re-birth and liberation. Sabara is therefore believed to belong to a conservative school that did not subscribe to these notions, but staunchly adhered to performance of Yajnas.

According to some scholars, this obliquely points to the speculation that the belief in re-birth could have originally belonged to other traditions, but found its way into Upanishads.

Incidentally, Sabarasvamin’s commentary seems to mark the point of departure for other commentators of the Mimamsa. Its varied interpretations gave rise to two main schools Mimamsa philosophy: that of Kaumarila Bhatta (AD 620-700) and Prabhakara Misra (AD 650-720).]

3.3. Another ancient writer Sundarapandya (Ca. Prior to sixth century) who is said to have written Vrttika-s on  Mimamsa Sutra and on Brahma Sutra  had  also commented in his Varttika on Upavarsha’s Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti. The followers of the Advaita School and the Mimamsaka Kumarila Bhatta quote Sundarapandya.  Vachaspathi Misra in his Bhamathi says: atraiva brahmavidam gatham udaharanti.

3.4. Another Mimamsaka, Bhaskara (who was later than Sri Sankara but before Vachaspathi Misra) also addresses Upavarsha as Bhagavan. 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 describes Upavarsha as ‘shastra-sampradaya- pravarttaka’

3.5.  In a similar manner, Sri Sankara whenever he refers to Upavarsha treats him with great respect and quotes his views in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya (3.3.53) as being authoritative.

4.1. Sri Sankara indicates that Upavarsha’s commentary on Brahma Sutra was called Sariraka –mimamsa – vritti (but that work is now lost). Sri Sankara perhaps adopted the term Sariraka from Upavarsha; and, titled his own Bhasya on Brahma Sutra as Sariraka –mimamsa – Bhashya.

Sri Sankara regards Upavarsha as an elder teacher of his own tradition (sampradaya). He displays enormous reverence towards Upavarsha and addresses him as Bhagavan and Sampradaya vit, the upholder of the right tradition; just in the manner he addresses the Great Badarayana. Sri Sankara generally followed the views of Upavarsha; and often quoted him.

Bhagavan Upavarsha matena Uttaram dattam

Tatra Upavarshasya etad darsanam napunarasyeti bhranti nirakaranartham aha Pratyaksha iti !

4.2. Following his lead, the latter commentators of Advaita School (such as Padmapada, Govindananda, Anandagiri, as also Jayanta Bhatta an exponent of the Nyaya School) respect Upavarsha as the  great Vrttikara ; and,  have cited certain views which they attribute to Upavarsha.

4.3. Thus, Upavarsha was held in great esteem by Mimamsakas as well as by Vedantins.

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5.1. Sabarasvamin, the great Mimamsaka, is said to have drawn on Upavarsha for his commentary on Mimamsa-Sutra. Some of Sabarasvamin’s arguments resemble those put forward in Sri Sankara’s Sariraka Bhashya. Thus, indirectly, both their arguments were derived from Upavarsha.

For instance; there is a discussion in Sabara–bhashya (MS: 1.1.1) on the question as to whether Dharma is well known or unknown.  And , it is  very similar to  Sri Sankara’s  discussion ,  in his Sariraka –bhashya,   in regard to the nature of Brahman ,  as to whether Brahman is known or unknown.  The commentators remark that the objections raised therein and their solutions can be traced back to Upavarsha. Thus, both Sabaraswamin and Sri Sankara base some of their arguments on the explanations provided by. Upavarsha

5.2. In a similar manner, Sundarapandya in his Varttika on Mimamsa Sastra drew upon Upavarsha. And, Sri Sankara in turn sourced both from Upavarsha and Sundarapandya.

Many ideas of Upavarsha put forward by Sundarapandya echo in the works of Sri Sankara. For instance:

(a) :- Sri Sankara in his commentary on the fourth Sutra of the first Pada of the first Adhyaya of Brahma Sutra cites three karikas which were later identified as those belonging to Sundarapandya. The Prabodha-parisuddhi, a commentary on Padmapada’s Pancapadika refers directly to the three verses of Sundarapandya, saying: slokatrayam sundarapandya-pranitam pramanayati iti aha.

Sundarapandya in his Varttika on Upavarsha’s Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti, had mentioned the six means of knowledge (cognition) advocated by Upavarsha. These are, briefly: Pratyaksha (direct or immediate); Anumana (inference); Sabda  (verbal or textual testimony); Upamana (analogy);  Artha-patti  (presumption);   and, Abhava  (non- apprehension).

Sundarapandya remarks that the Vrttika-kara   (Upavarsha) believes that these six modes of acquiring knowledge are valid only until the Self is ascertained.  But, once the subject-object differentiation is erased they no longer matter. He therefore makes a distinction between relative knowledge (sesha-jnana) and absolute knowledge (a-sesha-jnana). Upavarsha, he says, believes that absolute knowledge is attainable through Adyaropa or Apavada (adyaropa-apavada-ubhayam nishprapancham prapanchate).

In a similar manner, Sri Sankara recognizes Vedanta Shastra as the most potent means to pierce through the veil of Avidya, ignorance. Anything that shows false as false, the distortion as distortion is helpful; as it guides us to   move towards the ‘fact itself’, Atmaikatva. The texts contribute to causing the discovery of truth; enabling the truth to assert itself (svapramanya).

However, Sri Sankara pointed out that the texts; the scriptural authorities including Vedas are wound around the instructor and the instructed – sisrita and shishya – relations.  As long as distinctions such as the knower -the known – and the means of knowing (Pramata, Prameya and Prama) are maintained there can be no experience of non-distinction or oneness of Reality. Because, the Absolute is beyond the subject-object relations. And, its experience does not dependent on external factors or on proof   to reveal it (paradhina-prakasha).

(b) : – Sundarapandya explains:  the attribute-less Brahman can at best be described by the method of superimposition followed by its withdrawal. The Absolute knowledge, however, is neither the process of superimposition nor is it the negation.  Incidentally, Sundarapandya is also believed to have contemplated on the concept of Maya and on the pristine nature of Brahman without Maya.

[The Adhyaropa-Apavada method of logic is said to have been  pioneered by Upavarsha; and, it consists in initially assuming a position and later withdrawing that assumption, after a discussion.

This method can effectively illustrate the distinction between appearance and reality. An excellent application of this method can be found in the treatment of the three states of life, viz. waking, dreaming and sleeping. Gaudapaada’s karika on the Mandukya-Upanishad takes this up as the main theme; and, shows how the method could be employed to arrive at the fourth state, the Turiya, by sublimating the other three. By the residual reasoning, Gaudapaada states that Turiya alone is proved real while the others are mere assumptions or constructions (Vikalpa) ]

In order to educate the mind to interpret the reality as it is, Sri Sankara and others in the Vedanta School employed Adhyaropa-Apavada of deliberate provisional ascription and its later withdrawal. For the convenience of teaching, you accept a thing or an attribute that is actually not there ; and,  later negate that once the student is mature enough to realize the actual position. For example, we teach the child about sun.-rise, sun-set and about East-West and other directions. But , as the child advances in age and in  learning, the earlier teaching is negated and the child realizes that the sun neither  rises nor sets ; and the what we call directions are , after all , notional.

Similarly, Adhyaropa-Apavada logic was employed to prove the theory of transformation (Vivarta) in the phenomenal world, by taking the specific illustration of a pot made of clay. Here clay is the cause (adhyaropa);  and  its transformation (apavada) is the pot .

(c) :- His verses quoted by Amalanda and Kumarila Bhatta indicate that Sundarapandya believed  that Karma and Jnana  Kanda-s are separate; and, that he  rejected  the idea of their  combination ,  jnana-karma samuccaya.

Sri Sankara  also regarded Brahma Sutra as distinct and separate shastra (prathak-shastra) from Purva Mimamsa.

Sri Sankara also said that the study of the Mimamsa was intended for a particular class of people; but not necessarily for those who would inquire into the nature of Brahman.  He pointed out that the Purva-Mimamsa and the Uttara-Mimamsa were intended for different purposes; and were written by different authors. These should not therefore be regarded as integrally related as two parts of a unified work.

5.3. Thus, while the ancient commentator Sabaraswamin drew upon Upavarsha for his commentary on Mimamsa-Sutra, another ancient writer Sundarapandya wrote a Varttika on Upavarsha’s Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti. Sri Sankara, in turn, followed the sub-commentary of Sundarapandya.  It is said; the doctrine   elaborated by Sri Sankara in his Adhyasa Bashya stemmed out of the germ ideas put forth by Upavarsha and Sundarapandya (among others). It is not surprising that Sri Sankara held both the teachers in such high regard.

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6.1. Apart from delineating the six means of knowledge that were adopted by the later Advaita Schools, Upavarsha is believed to have initiated a discussion on self-validation (svathah pramanya) that became a part of the Vedanta terminology. Svatah pramana: true knowledge is valid by itself; not made valid or invalid by external conditions (sva-karya-karane svatah pramanyam jnanasya).

[As a general rule, knowledge (except memory) is taken to be valid on its own strength, unless invalidated by contrary knowledge. (Memory is not considered valid knowledge as it is dependent on previous cognition or impressions which might get faded or distorted; and, so is the dream.)]

6.2. According to Sri Sankara, Upavarsha was the first to draw attention to the paradoxical essence of Atman, beyond the pale of its ordinary sense.

7.1.. It is said; Upavarsha developed a theory on Atman (Atma-vada).  He emphasized that the postulation of ‘Self’ as distinct from body and the mental process was rather inevitable. He argued that   the Self cannot in any manner be revealed to another person; but, it cannot be denied by oneself either. It is affirmed by introspection, but that process cannot itself be regarded as self.

As for the proof of the existence of Atman, Upavarsha holds the view that Atman is known by perception as it is the object of ‘I’.

7.2. A verse quoted in Nyayamanjari of Jayanta of the Nyaya School (dated around ninth century) cites the Atman-theory of ‘the followers of Upavarsha’ (Aupavarsha): ‘they understand the Atman to be directly perceptible (pratyaksha) ;  For Atman can be known by ‘I’ consciousness.

[Tatra pratyaksham atmanam Aupavarsha prapedire I aham-pratyaya-gamyatvat svayuthya api kechana II]

The argument seems to be that the existence of Atman need not be proved by reasoning or verbal arguments. It is in each one’s own experience. Self is the consciousness of being. This was also the faith of the later Mimamsa school of Kumarila Bhatta.

Sri Sankara too adopted the proposition of Upavarsha; and, explained: “For all men are conscious that the Atman (self) exists. No one ever thinks ‘I do not exist’.

At another place (BS: 1.1.1), he says that the inner-self (pratyagatma) is the object of “I consciousness’ (asmat-pratyaya-vishaya); and, that it is directly perceptible (aparoksha).

7.3. Sri Sankara expanded further on the Atman-theory of Upavarsha, and extended it to the Supreme Self, transcending the individual.

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8.1. Then there is also the concept of Atmaikatva which in some way was derived from Upavarsha.

8.2. Atmaikatva, absolute oneness of Self, is the main theme of Sri Sankara’s Sariraka Mimamsa Bhashya.  It is about the unity of the Atman as pure consciousness ,  which is the goal of all Upanishads – as  expressed by Sri Sankara in his Brahma Sutra commentary on Sutra 4 : : Atmaikatava-vidyapratipattayesarva Vedanta arabhyante .

This one Self is Brahman. This knowledge (vidya) of this One Reality is not only the foundation of all knowledge (vidyas) but also is the absolute ‘truth of the fact’- Brahmavidya sarva vidya pratistha (Mundaka Up.1.1.1)

8.3. But, this vidya which Upanishads teach is rather shrouded (guhahitagahvaresta); and, is attainable only through Adyatma –yoga (contemplation on Self).  Vedanta texts can only prepare you for that and point the way towards its experience.

8.4. The truth is self-revealing (svaprakasha), and not dependent on an external factor to reveal it (paradhina-prakasha). The Self needs no proof, needs no Pramanas in their conventional meaning. Because they all involve the distinctions of the knower, the known and the means of knowing:  Pramata, Prameya and Prama.

But the Absolute is beyond the subject-object relations. So long as such distinctions are maintained there can be no experience of non-distinction or oneness of Reality.

The texts can only contribute to causing the discovery of truth; leaving the truth to assert itself (svapramanya).

8.5. Sri Sankara declares the supremacy of direct experience , the final proof (antya-pramanam) which he calls – anubhava, avagati or Brahmavagati

Regarded in its true essence and as it is, Atmaikatva, Brahmatvatva, or Sarvatmata is a self-conscious, self-radiant experience which cannot be taken as object (vishaya).

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9.1. Upavarsha is believed to have held the view that Brahman is the source, the ground and the goal of all universes. Sri Sankara and Padmapada (Sri Sankara’s disciple) expanded on this view. Upavarsha is quoted as explaining the term ‘Brahma-jignasa’ as Brhmane jignasa,meaning the enquiry for Brahman. Sri Sankara and others remark that when Vrttikara (Upavarsha) says that the enquiry is for Brahman, he is right, for, knowledge of Brahman is indeed the fruit of this enquiry.

9.2. Padmapada says that Upavarsha explained the word ‘atha’   appearing at the opening of the Brahma Sutra as referring to that ‘after the enquiry into the antecedent condition’, the enquiry into Brahman follows ( Ref :Panchapadika )

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Continued

In the

Next Part

 

 

 Sources and References:

  1. A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy, Part 2 by Prof. Hajime Nakamura
  2. Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies: Advaita Vedānta up to Śakara…By Karl H. Potter
  3. The Philosophy of Sankar’s Advaita Vedanta by Shyama Kumar Chattopadhyaya
  4. H.H. JAGADGURU’S Madras Discourses (1957-1960) Part II- Japanese Professor’s Interview

http://www.kamakoti.org/kamakoti/stotra/acharyascall/bookview.php?chapnum=64

 
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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.

 

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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 Vritti Sutraa-  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 Ashtadhyayi 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 Ashtadhyayi. 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

Click here for Part Two

 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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Who was Upavarsa ..?

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.

Upavarsha is recognized as one of the earliest and most authoritative thinkers of the Vedanta and Mimamsa Schools of thought. He is placed next only to the author of the Brahma sutra.  Among the many commentaries on Brahma sutra the one by Upavarsha was most highly regarded.  It is believed that the words of Sri Sankara explain the correct account of Upavarsha’s doctrines. He is quoted twice by Sri Sankara in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya (3.3.53).  

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 ancientVrttikara as an authority; and, quote his opinions as derived from ‘the tradition of Upavarsha ‘ (Upavarsha-agama).  Bhaskara calls Upavarsha as ‘shastra-sampradaya- pravarttaka’

[ A Vritti is a short gloss explaining the aphorisms in a more elaborate way, but not as extensively as a Bhashya. A Vrttikara is thus a commentator on traditional texts. The most well known of the Vrttikara-s are Upavarsha and Bodhayana.]

Upavarsha’s time is surmised to be  around 200 BCE. We come to know Upavarsha through references to his views by Sri Sankara and others. He was an intellectual giant of his times. He is credited with being the first to divide the Vedic lore into Karma-kanda (ritualistic section) and Jnana-kanda (knowledge section).

As said ;the earliest Acharya to have commented upon Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra is believed to be Upavarsha.  His sub-commentary (Vritti) on Brahma Sutra is titled asSariraka-mimamsa-vritti. Sri Sankara and his disciples make frequent references to the works of Vrittikara-s, commentators on the   Brahma Sutra; and, in particular to Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti of sage Upavarsha.

It is said; the ancient commentator Sabaraswamy drew upon Upavarsha for his commentary on Mimamsa-Sutra. Another ancient writer Sundarapandya is also said to have commented in his Varttika on Upavarsha’s Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti. Sri Sankara too relied upon Upavarsha‘s Vritti for his commentary on Brahma Sutra. In addition, Sri Sankara followed the sub-commentary of Sundarapandya.  It is said; the doctrine   elaborated by Sri Sankara in his Adhyasa Bashya stemmed out of the germ ideas put forth by Upavarsha and Sundarapandya ( among others ) . It is not surprising that Sri Sankara held both the teachers in such high regard.

Sri Sankara regards Upavarsha a forerunner of his own tradition (sampradaya). He displaysenormous reverence towards Upavarsha and addresses him as Bhagavan and Sampradaya vit , the upholder of the right tradition, just in the manner he addresses the Great Badarayana.  Sri Sankara addressed Jaimini, Sabara and other Mimasakas only as teachers (Acharya). 

Sundarapandya in his Varttika on Upavarsha’s Sariraka-mimamsa-vritti, mentions the six means of knowledge (cognition) advocated by Upavarsha. These are, briefly: Pratyaksha(immediate); Anumana (inference) ; Sabda (verbal or textual testimony ); Upamana(analogy);  Artha-patti (presumption) ; and , Abhava  (non- apprehension).  He remarks that the Vrittika-kara   (Upavarsha) believes that these six modes of acquiring knowledge are valid only until the Self is ascertained. 

But, once the subject-object differentiation is erased they no longer matter. He therefore makes a distinction between relative knowledge (sesha-jnana) and absolute knowledge (a-sesha-jnana). Upavarsha, he says, believes that absolute knowledge is attainable through Adyaropa or Apavada (adyaropa-apavada-ubhayam nishprapancham prapanchate). Sundarapandya explains; the attribute-less Brahman can be described by the method of superimposition followed by its withdrawal. The Absolute knowledge, however, is neither the process of superimposition nor is it the negation.  Incidentally, Sundarapandya is also believed to have contemplated on the concept of Maya and on the pristine nature of Brahman without Maya.

[The Adhyaropa-Apavada method of logic pioneered by Upavarsha consists in initially assuming a position and later withdrawing that assumption, after a discussion. ]

Apart from delineating the six means of knowledge that were adopted by the later Advaita Schools, Upavarsha is believed to have initiated a discussion on self-validation (svathah pramanya) that became a part of the Vedanta terminology. Svatah pramana: true knowledge is valid by itself; not made valid or invalid by external conditions (sva-karya-karane svatah pramanyam jnanasya).

 [As a general rule ,  knowledge (except memory) is taken to be valid on its own strength , unless invalidated by contrary knowledge. (memory is not considered valid knowledge as it is dependent on previous cognition or impressions which might get faded or distorted ; and , so is the dream.)]

There is a view that Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa were initially two independent treaties authored by Jaimini and Badarayana respectively; and, were later put together with suitable emendations by someone described as Vyasa – “the arranger”.  And, Upavarsha the Vrttikara commented upon the text in that combined form.  

Sri Sankara refers to a discussion held by Upavarsha on the nature of Self in Brahma Sutra (3.3.53). And, the same discussion appears in the commentary on Mimamsa-Sutra(1.1.5). Further Sri Sankara mentions:  ‘ Bhagavan Upavarsha has written a Vrtti on Purva Mimamsa. And, in that, he is referring to his another Vrtti on Saririka Mimamsa  (Brahma Sutra) ’.

 Ata Eva Bhagavata Upavarshena Prathame Tantre I Atma-stitv-abhidhana-prasaktau Sarirake Vakshyamaha ityuddharaha Krutaha II (3.3.53)

This suggests that Upavarsha may have commented  on both Purva and Uttara Mimamsa.

Sri Sankara whenever he refers to Upavarsha treats him with great respect and quotes his views in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya (3.3.53) as being authoritative. And the latter Sub-commentators of Advaita School, Anandajnana and Govindananda, recognize  Upavarsha as the Vrttikara.

Sri Sankara, in his commentary on Brahma sutra, adopted a particular way of presentation. On each subject (vishaya), he first gives one interpretation and then follows it up by the other interpretation. It is explained; the first one is given as the opposing views (purva-paksha) of ‘others’ (apare); and, it is meant to be rejected.  But, Sri Sankara does not quote the opposing views; he merely sums up, raises them as the views of ‘others’, and finally dismisses them. Sri Sankara’s own views are presented in the later set of interpretation.

The later scholars, Anandajnana and Govindananda, explain that the ‘others’ referred by Sri Sankara, actually, stands for the Vrttikara Bodhayana. The Advaita School, thus, believes that Upavarsha and Bodhayana are two different persons.  And, the other dimesion of the  debate is  whether the terms  ‘others ‘ or ‘some’ truly refer to Bodhayana . That debate  is still not concluded.

Similarly , Savarasvamin a noted Mimasaka in his bhashya (Savara bhashya) on the fifth sutra of Mimamsa sutra of Jaimini refers to a Vrttikara prior to his (Savara’s) time, without, of course, mentioning his name. In the bhashya on the same sutra (1.1.5), Savarasvamin also refers to Upavarsha by name and with the epithet ‘bhagavan’. It is not clear who that Vrittikara was. But, he, in any case , was not Upavarsha. 

[An unfortunate feature of the traditional texts is that they do not mention the names of the old teachers-commentators whose opinions are being quoted. Such practice might have been an idiom of a well-understood literary etiquette. But, it has led to needless debates and speculations.  Very often, it is left to a commentator who comes perhaps a century or more later to tell us that (let’s say) Sri Sankara actually meant such-and–such commentator when he said ‘some one ‘or ‘others’. Similar is the position with regard to those commentators that are referred to as ‘Vrttikara ‘ or ‘Vakyakara’ without mentioning their names .  There is therefore always an element of scepticism associated with such sub-commentaries. ]

Bodhayana, it is said, laid equal importance of Jnana and Karma Kandas; as   the two together constituted the doctrinal system (Shastraikatva).   He held the view that directly after completing the rituals one should take up the investigation into Brahman, which is the study of Vedanta. His position was coined by the later Vedanta Schools as jnana-karma-samucchaya-vada, the doctrine that synthesises jnana and karma. Sri Sankara who did not accord much significance to rituals, naturally, tended to differ from Bodhayana. 

Sri Sankara’s basic position was that the two sections are addressed to different class of persons. Karma-kanda consists injunctions to act in order to achieve certain results. But, liberation is not a product or a thing to be achieved. Jnana-kanda is about Brahman that already exists; it pertains to the ultimate purpose which is true knowledge of Self, and it is addressed to one who is intent on liberation.   Each section of Veda is valid in its own sphere; but, the two sections cannot logically be bound together.

There is  an alternate view that Upavarsha was a successor to Bodhayana. It is said that   Bodhayana wrote a Bhashya titled ‘Krtakoti’ on the Brahma Sutra. Fearing that the great length of the commentary would cause it be cast into oblivion, Upavarsha somewhat abridged it. And later, it is believed, Devasvamin further abridged Upavarsha’s abridged version.

But, there is also a belief that the names Upavarsha and Bodhayana refer to one and the same person ; and , Bodhayana might have been the linage, Gotra name, of Upavarsha. Sri Vedanta Deshika supported the view in his Tattvatika

  (Vrttikarasya  bhodhayanasiva  hi Upavarsa iti syan nama  ) .

This School beleives that  Bodhayana’s theory of assigning equal importance to Karma andJnana Kandas was adopted by Yadavaprakasha, Sri Ramanuja’s teacher. Bodhayana, it is said, had recognized  that Jnana and Karma Kandas  together constitute the doctrinal system (Shastraikatva). 

Sri Ramanuja in his Sri Bhashya quotes the views of the Vrttikara Bodhayana seven times. In the opening verse of Sri Bhashya, Sri Ramanuja says: ‘The previous masters have abridged the detailed commentary on Brahma sutra which had been composed by Bhagavad Bodhayana. The words of the sutra will be explained in accordance with their views. “(Bhagavad Bhodayana kritam vistirnam Brahma-sutra – vrttim purvacharyah samskipuh I tan-mata-anusarena sutraksarani vyakhyasyante II)  

Sadly, Bodhayana’s vrtti is no longer extant.

***

Sri Sankara indicates that Upavarsha’s commentary on Brahma Sutra was called Sariraka –mimamsa – vritti (but that work is now lost). Sri Sankara perhaps adopted the term Sarirakafrom Upavarsha; and, titled his own Bhasya on Brahma Sutra as Sariraka –mimamsa – Bhashya.

Upavarsha is believed to have held the view that Brahman is the source, the ground and the goal of all universes. Sri Sankara and Padmapada expanded on this view. Upavarsha is quoted as explaining the term ‘Brahma-jignasa’ as Brhmane jignasa, meaning the enquiry for Brahman. Sri Sankara and others remark that when Vrittikara (Upavarsha) says that the enquiry is for Brahman, he is right…, for, knowledge of Brahman is indeed the fruit of this enquiry.

Padmapada says that Upavarsha explained the word ‘atha’  as referring to that ‘ after the enquiry into the antecedent condition’, the enquiry into Brahman  follows ( Ref :panchapadika ). 

It is said; Upavarsha developed a theory on Atman (Atma-vada).  He emphasized that the postulation of “self” as distinct from body and the mental process was rather inevitable. He argued that   the self cannot in any manner be revealed to another person; but, it cannot be denied by oneself either. It is affirmed by introspection, but that process cannot itself be regarded as self.

As for the proof of the existence of Atman, Upavarsha holds the view that Atman is known by perception as it is the object of ‘I’.

A verse quoted in Nyayamanjari of Jayanta of the Nyaya School (dated around ninth century) cites the Atman-theory of ‘the followers of Upavarsha’ (Aupavarsha): ‘they understand the Atman to be directly perceptible (pratyaksha) ;  For Atman can be known by ‘I’ consciousness.

 [Tatra pratyaksham atmanam Aupavarsha prapedire I aham-pratyaya-gamyatvat svayuthya api kechana II]

The argument seems to be that the existence of Atman need not be proved by reasoning or verbal arguments. It is in each one’s own experience. Self is the consciousness of being. This was also the faith of the later Mimamsa school of Kumarila Bhatta.

Sri Sankara too adopted the proposition of Upavarsha. Sri Sankara explained: “For all men are conscious that the Atman (self) exists. No one ever thinks ‘I do not exist’ “. At another place (BS : 1.1.1), he says that the inner-self (pratyagatma) is the object of “I consciousness’ (asmat-pratyaya-vishaya); and, that it is directly perceptible (aparoksha).

Sri Sankara expanded further on the Atman-theory of Upavarsha, and extended it to the Supreme Self, transcending the individual.

***

Some people   call Upavarsha the Fred Hoyle of ancient India  , in the sense that both rejected the Big Bang theory. Upavarsha rejected the Sphota-vada , which in essence said that every act of creation and every sound that issues forth in the universe is the duplication of the initial Big Bang. When we utter a sound or word the Big Bang is duplicating itself in our mind.

Bhartrihari (c. 450-510 CE?) expanding on an ancient idea is said to have propounded Sphota-vada In his famous work the Vakyapadiya.

The term ‘sphota’ does not easily translate into English, as it usually happens.  The Sphota is derived from the root ‘sphut’ which means ‘to burst’, but it also describes what ’is revealed’ or  ‘is made explicit’. Sphota can also refer to the abstract or conceptual form of an audible word. Sphota is somewhat similar to the Ancient Greek concept of logos or Word.

Sphota is also interpreted to mean that from which the meaning bursts forth, shines forth etc. To put it in another way, that which expresses a meaning; or the process of expressing a meaning through a word is called sphota.

Bhartrihari deals with Sphota at two levels : one on the metaphysical plane and the other on the empirical plane. The theory is that Brahman first manifested itself as Sound and then as form . The Sphota, Sabda-brahman , the manifester as Logos or Word, is the power through which the Lord manifests in  the universe. Liberation is achieved when one attains unity with that ‘supreme word principle’. Within this theory, consciousness and thought are intertwined; and Grammar becomes a path to liberation. Sphota-vada is a monistic philosophy based on Sanskrit grammar. (Swami Vivekananda’s explanation).

At the empirical level, Bhartrihari is concerned with the process of communicating meaning. He deals with the word and the sound distinctions; the word meaning; the unitary nature of the whole sentence; the word object connection; and the levels of speech, etc. His focus is on cognition and language.

If the letters  float away and disappear the instant we utter them and if each sound is replaced by another in quick succession, then one can hardly perceive the word  or a sentence as a whole. And the question that comes up is- then , how does one grasp the meaning of a word or of a sentence?

Bhartrihari held the view that the sentence is not a collection of words or an ordered series of words . A sentence-sphota is the primary unit of meaning. A sentence is a sequence_ less, part_ less whole that gets expressed or manifested in a sequential and temporal utterance. A word or sentence is grasped as a unity by  intuition (pratibha). According to Bhartrhari, sphota is an auditory image of word. It is indivisible and without inner-sequence.

 Bhartrihari explains that initially the word exists in the mind of the speaker as a unity but is manifested as a sequence of different sounds, giving raise to the appearance of differentiation. Bhartrhari states: “All difference presupposes a unity”;  and where there is a duality there is an identity pervading it. Otherwise one cannot be related to the other or each would constitute a world by itself.

For Bhartrhari, Sphota is the real substratum, proper linguistic unit, which is identical with its meaning. Language is not the vehicle of meaning or of thought. Thought anchors language and  the language anchors thought. In this way , there are no essential differences between a linguistic unit and its meaning or the thought it conveys. Sphota refers to the” non-differentiated language principle”. This gave raise to  the theory of “word monism“.

However, Upavarsha rejected the Sphota-Vada. He in turn came up with his theory of  Varna-vada; according to which the smallest phonetic units that can carry the meaning (phonemes -varnas) alone are real constituents of a word. He said sounds are only Varnas and there is no need for a sphota.

Sri Sankara refers to Upavarsha as the originator of Varna-vada, which contrasted with Spotavada of Bhartrhari. According to Varna- vada, the Varna-s, phoneme (speech sounds) , alone are real constituents of the word; and there is nothing else in the word apart from Varna-s.

Sri Sankara remarks (BS: 1.3.28): Bhagavad Upavarsha says ‘But, the words are none other than various letter-sounds (Varna). He then follows up with a debate on whether the words are letter-sounds of this kind or whether they are Sphota. 

Sri Sankara supported Varna vada as against Spotavada (Sankara Bashya on Brahma Sutra: 1.3.28) ; and followed Upavarsha . He did not approve the concept of Sphota-vada; and, said the meaning of a word can be known from its constituent letters, sounds  and the context. But, Sri Sankara, the scholars believe, was not putting forth an original argument, but was  merely condensing the previous refutations of the Sphota theory.

The other Acharyas and commentators too toed a similar line and did not approve the Sphota theory.Vacaspati Mishra who commented on Sri Sankara’s Vedanta Sutra Bhashya, too rejected the Sphota  theory . He came up with  his own theory of Abhihitanvaya-vadaand said the understanding of the meaning of a whole sentence is reached by inferring to it, in a separate act of lakshana or implication, from the individual meanings of the constituent words.

***

Upavarsha, whoever he might have been, was indeed an intellectual giant of his times. He was a worthy successor to the remarkable sage-scholars such as Badarayana and Jaimini. His contribution to the development of Indian thought is enormous.

Many however feel that by dismissing off-hand the Sphota theory he derailed the growth of rational thinking within the Indian philosophy.

 

[For more on Bhartrhari  and the Sphota  theory , please visit

http://www.iep.utm.edu/b/bhartrihari.htm ]

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Indian Philosophy

 

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