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The Meaning of ‘MEANING’ – Part Eight

Continued from Part Seven

 

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SPHOTA

Two Aspects of the Word

As mentioned earlier in the series, the first two khandas of the Vakyapadiya cover subjects such as grammar as also the philosophy of grammar and linguistics, focusing on the word (Sabda) and meaning (Artha).

The first Khanda (Brahma-khanda) of Vakyapadiya introduces the concept of Sadba-sphota and gives the outline of its general philosophy; and, its distinction from sound (Dhvani, Nada). By Sabda Sphota, Bhartrhari refers to that inner unity of Sabda (word or sentence) which conveys the meaning (Artha).

The text explains a complete sentence as the intent of the speaker, which is unerringly grasped, directly and immediately, by the listener (Sphota). And, that it is not the same as Nada (non-linguistic sound or that which expresses) or Dhvani (intonation) which act as a carrier to convey the intended meaning.  Here, in Grammar (in contrast to Tantra and to the classical theories of Indian music), Nada signifies the gross sound which results from a collection of subtle Dhvani-s.

***

After establishing , in the opening Karika-s (Shastra-aramba), that Sabda–tattva (Word-principle) is verily the Brahman, the ultimate truth which is beyond space or time; and declaring that Sabda Brahman (Supreme word principle) is One (ekam eva), is imperishable (Akshara)  and is identical with the highest Reality –Para Brahman, Bhartrhari takes up the question of language and  meaning.

(Anadi-nidhanam Brahma sabda-tattvam yad-aksharam / vivartate artha-bhavena prakriya jagato yatah – VP. 1.1)

Bhartrhari begins his discussion on words and meaning (VP: 1.44-49) by stating that in the words which are expressive, Grammarians see two aspects :  one, the cause of all words, and another, the kind of words used to convey a meaning.  These two , though appearing to be separate, are ,in fact, not distant from each other; they, in truth, are one. The Supreme Word principle and the spoken word are in a similar relationship – as that between the fire which is inherent in the firewood, and that which is made manifest through rubbing fire-sticks together.

dvāv upādānaśabdeṣu śabdau śabdavido viduḥ /
eko nimittaṃ śabdānām aparo ‘rthe prayujyate -VP:1.44
avibhakto vibhaktebhyo jāyate ‘rthasya vācakaḥ /
śabdas tatrārtharūpātmā saṃbandham upagacchati – VP: 1.45
ātmabhedaṃ tayoḥ ke cid astīty āhuḥ purāṇagāḥ /
buddhibhedād abhinnasya bhedam eke pracakṣate –  VP:1.46
araṇisthaṃ yathā jyotiḥ prakāśāntarakāraṇam /
tadvac chabdo ‘pi buddhisthaḥ śrutīnāṃ kāraṇaṃ pṛthak – VP: 1.47
vitarkitaḥ purā buddhyā kva cid arthe niveśitaḥ /
karaṇebhyo vivṛttena dhvaninā so ‘nugṛhyate – VP: 1.48
nādasya kramajātatvān na pūrvo na paraś ca saḥ /
akramaḥ kramarūpeṇa bhedavān iva jāyate – VP:1.49

[Translation of Shri K Raghavan Pillai

Words are of two kinds — one, the cause of all words, and another, the kind of words used to convey a meaning.  Some consider that there is an intrinsic difference between them, according to others, the second type is only a manifested form of the first the Supreme Word principle and the spoken word are in a relationship similar to that between the fire which is inherent in the firewood, and that which is made manifest through rubbing fire-sticks together. The potential fire in the kindling wood, once inflamed, illuminates itself as well as other objects. Like the light concealed in the piece of kindling wood is the cause of the manifestation (prakāśa) of another [light].  It is the same way in which the mental word is the cause of every audible word.

The nada or the uttered sound is only the Sphota or the Word-principle in manifest form. But the manifested word has characteristics of its own which are not – of the Sphota (44-49)

In the next kārikās it is claimed that although the distinction between the mental and the audible words may be useful for the description of a verbal communication, from the ontological point of view it is invalid. It is the indivisible word that acquires succession in the phonemes (Varna) as if being differentiated. Modifications, which the mental word is subject to in the course of audible manifestation, have the same character as the changes which the reflection of an object undergoes because of the movement of water.

pratibimbaṃ yathānyatra sthitaṃ toyakriyāvaśāt /
tatpravṛttim ivānveti sa dharmaḥ sphoṭanādayoḥ // VP:1.50 //]

**

Here, Bhartrhari, just as Patanjali, begins with the observation that the words or sentences (Sabda) can be viewed in two ways or as having two aspects (upādāna-śabdesu): One; as sound patterns (Dhvani); and, the other as its cause and essence (Artha).

[Patanjali had said:  Sphota is both internal and external. The internal form of Sphota is the innate essence of the word-meaning. The external aspect of Sphota is the uttered sound which is perceived by the sense organs. It merely serves to manifest the inner Sphota with its inherent word-meaning. But, for Patanjali, Sphota could be a letter (Varna) or a fixed pattern of letters (Pada).]

 (i) The gross sound pattern, Dhvani or Nada, is a sequence of sounds. Those sounds are employed to convey or to give an audible form to the intent of the speaker.  Those audible sounds through their divisions and time sequence, produced one after another by the speech organs, act as means (upaya) or as vehicles to transport the intent of the speaker. Such quanta of sound-sequences (words) might create an impression as though they are independent; and, the meaning intended to be conveyed by them (Sphota) comprises several parts. But, in truth, the individual words have no separate existence; and, both the sentence and its meaning (Sphota) are part-less.

.[ pade na varna vidyante varnesva avayaya na cha / vakyat padanam atyantam pravibhago na kascha na // VP 174]

According to Bhartrhari, the letter-sounds have a limited range. Each sound helps in gaining a better understanding of its next. The first one could be vague ; and , the next one little more clear and so on, until the last one, aided by the accumulated  impression created by all the preceding perceptions, finally reveals the complete meaning (Sphota)  with precision and distinctness.

(ii) The second; the essence or the meaning-bearing aspect of the language is called the Sphota. It is through that Sphota the meaning (Artha) of the sentence, as a whole, flashes forth.

Bhartrhari envisages Sphota “as that internal aspect, which is a timeless and part-less (avibhakta) linguistic symbol, to which meaning is attached”. Here, Sphota represents the true intent, purpose of the sentence (Sabda), while Dhvani the articulated sound-pattern, in its physical aspect, acts as a carrier to manifest the Sphota.

(ii) These two – Dhvani and Sphota – though appearing to be separate are, in fact, intimately related through a natural process (Yogyata). The former (Dhvani), acts as the outer garment or as an instrument in order to convey the inner essence of the word (Sphota).

Thus, a word has a dual power; one to indicate itself and the other to indicate the thing symbolized by it. It is like the power of fire:  to   reveal itself and at the same time to reveal other things.It is both the revealer and the revealed  (prakasha and prakasyatvam).

[Earlier, Panini had also mentioned that it is through conveying the own form first, the word conveys its meaning –  svam rūpam  śabdasya  aśabdasamjñā (Pā.1.1.68) ]

**

Though the Sphota is revealed in stages by each succeeding sound; it is, by itself, ‘one and indivisible’. The sounds uttered (words) are merely parts of a sentence that aid to reveal this Sphota. Bhartrhari asserts that it is the cognition of the Sphota in its entirety that is important in understanding the complete and true meaning of a sentence.

While the audible noise may vary depending on the speaker’s mode of utterance, Sphota as the meaning-unit of speech is not subject to such variations.

[ For instance; the sound of the word Ghata (gh, a, t and a) can be produced in any number of ways, either naturally (prakrta) or in a modified manner (vikruta). That word can be uttered slowly (vilambita), a little more quickly (madhyama) or even very quickly (druta).The variations in speed or in the mode of utterance are called vritti. The vritti might vary the form in which the word is uttered (Dhvani); but , it does not alter the content and the sense (Sphota) of the word.

Again; a pot in bright light can be seen clearly. The pot could be seen for a longer time if clear light continues to fall on it. The visibility of the pot depends on the quality of light that falls on it. The variation in the quality of light does not alter the very nature or the status of the pot.

Similarly, the change in speed or accent or mode of uttering a word (vritti) does not alter its Sphota. The physical aspect of the word that is the quality of its sound (Dhvani) might vary ; but , its Sphota remains unchanged.]

Obviously, Sphota is viewed here as a changeless element of speech, the inner unity which holds together the meaning. But, Bhartrhari does not define the term precisely.

[The commentators surmise that the ancient concept of Pranava (Om-kara) might have provided the inspiration to come up with the Sphota concept. In fact, Sphota is often identified with Pranava; and is taken as the imperishable Vak, the speech-principle (Vak-tattva).]

**

Bhartrhari explains the relation between the Sphota and Nada through an analogy of reflection of the moon on the surface of water. The relation between the object (moon) and its image (reflection) is because of the reflective surface (water). And the movement of the reflection might not necessarily be because of the movement of the object (moon). He says; just as the reflection on the water might give an impression as though the moon  (object) is rippling and moving, similarly the Sphota takes on the properties of uttered speech ( sequence, loudness or softness and so on) in which it is manifested. According to this view, the reflection acquires the qualities of the object.

According to Bhartrhari, the perfect perception is that in which there is identity between the essence or the thought (Sphota) and the form of its manifestation (Nada or Dhvani  – the letters or sounds). They are the two halves of one entity; and, are not distinct and separable (ekasaivatmano bhedau sabda-artha-vapathak sthitau – VP.2.31) The  realization of this special kind of relation arises  due to the function of mind, rather than of the external senses.

[Some scholars have pointed out that Bhartrhari’s position is closer to the notion of reflection (Abhasa) formulated by the Trika philosophers of Kashmir. In this viewpoint, the Shaktis and their material forms as words are identical with the Absolute. The relationship between the two is described as that between the mirror and its reflection. That is; the latter can have no independent existence without the former. And, yet the latter also has a reality which is somehow identical with the former.]

[Bhartrhari at another place clarifies (VP.1.59): ‘Two aspects of a word (upādānaśabda), distinguished artificially and perceived as separate, indicate different activities, without contradiction’.  It means that all the elements extracted from the word in the course of linguistic analysis are ultimately unreal. But they are valid in their own context. The elements that are relevant in the context of one activity may not be valid in the context of another. That is to say; each kind of activity, i.e. each kind of communicative situation, has its own reality which in some way might differ from the realities of other situations.

bhedenāvagṛhītau dvau śabdadharmāv apoddhṛtau/ bhedakāryeṣu hetutvam avirodhena gacchataḥ  (VP.1.59)  ]

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Sphota:

The technical term Sphota does not easily translate into English. Sometimes, the term ‘symbol’ is used for Sphota in the sense of its function as a linguistic sign. Some scholars have tried to equate Sphota with the Greek concept of Logos, which stands for an Idea as well as for word. But such explanations too seem rather inadequate.

The term Sphota is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Sphut’ which means ‘to burst forth’; 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. Say, as when the idea or the meaning bursts or flashes on the mind after one hears /grasps the sounds that are uttered.

[Harsha V. Dehejia remarks : translated wrongly as ‘explosion’; Sphota could ideally be understood as ‘blossoming’]

In Grammar and in Indian linguistic theory, the term Sphota is of prime importance. Nageshabhatta in his Sphota-vada describes Sphota as an entity which is manifested by spoken letters or sounds (sphutati prakashate artho asmad iti sphotah). In a similar manner, Sri Madhava in his Sarva-darshana-samgraha, defines Sphota as that which is manifested or revealed by the Varna (phonemes): sphutyate vyajyate varnairiti sphotah’.  Sri Madhava 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.

To put it in another way; Sphota, in its linguistic sense, refers to that element which expresses a meaning (word). In its second sense, it is something that is made explicit by letters or sounds (meaning). Thus, the Sphota may be thought of as a kind of two-sided coin. On the one side, it is manifested by the word sound; and on the other side, it simultaneously reveals the word meaning. It is both the word and its meaning.

Bhartrhari also deals with Sphota at two levels: one on the metaphysical plane and the other on the empirical plane. The Sphota here is more than a theory of language.  The principle that is involved here is: the 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. This metaphysical Sphota-vada is a monistic philosophy based in Sanskrit grammar.

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 on language.

Bhartrhari also says that Sphota is both external (bahya) and internal (abhayantara). And again, in understanding Sphota as an external entity we have to understand it in the form of universal (Jati) and individual or specific (Vyakti).

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Communication of thought

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 sentence as a whole. And the question that comes up is – how does one grasp  a sentence and its meaning in full?

Bhartrhari explains, at first, the sentence exists in the mind of the speaker as a unity or Sphota. In the process of giving a form to a thought, he produces a series of different sounds in a sequence where one sound follows its previous one. It might look as though those word-sounds are separated in time and space. But, they are indeed part and parcel of one and the same single entity – the sentence. The communication of a sentence and its meaning is not complete until the last word is uttered. Thus, though the word-sounds reach the listener in a sequence, eventually they all merge into one ; and, are grasped by the listener as a single unit. The same Sphota which originated in speaker’s mind re-manifests in listener’s mind, conveying the intended meaning.

The listener grasps the intent of the speaker as a whole; and the understanding is like an instantaneous flash of insight (prathibha). Just as the sentence (the symbol – Sphota) is an integral unit, the meaning signified by it is also unitary. That is; the sentence is an integral unit; and, its meaning which is grasped through intuition (pratibha) is also a single unit (Vakya-sphota)). According to Bhartrhari, Sphota is an auditory image of the sentence.  It is indivisible and without inner-sequence.

This, rather crudely put, is the concept called Sphota – the sentence just as its meaning being taken as an integral symbol; and its meaning bursting forth in a flash of understanding.

Bhartrhari held the view that the sentence is not a mere collection (Sabda-samghatah) or an ordered series of words. The sentence with its words is to be taken as single part-less linguistic unit (eko’navayavah s’abdah); and, not as a jumble of fragments. A sentence is a sequence-less, part-less unity that gets expressed or manifested in a sequential and temporal utterance. He maintained that the primary function of the words is to combine into a sentence, in its complete utterance, to give forth a meaning – (Arthah sahabhuteshu vartate – VP.2.115). Ultimately, the meaning of the words depend upon the overall meaning of the sentence (rupam sarva-pada-artham vakyartha nibamdhanam-VP.2.324)

[At another place, Bhartrhari observes: All differences presuppose a unity (abheda-purvaka hi bhedah); and, where there are differences and parts, there is an underlying unity. Otherwise the one would not be related to the other; and, each would constitute a world by itself.

Abheda-pūrvakā bhedāḥ kalpitā vākya-vādibhiḥ / bheda-pūrvān abhedāṃs tu manyante pada-darśinaḥ // VP. 2.57// ]

Just as a root or a suffix by itself has no meaning, so also the meanings of individual words have no independent existence. Bhartrhari asserts that a word consisting letters and syllables cannot, on its own, directly convey the meaning/ intent of the speaker. The words are somewhat like intermediate steps to arrive at the meaning of the sentences.

[That does not mean that Bhartrhari denies the validity of individual words or their meaning; but, what is in question is their significance. They are secondary in relation to the Sphota, which is the real object of cognition.

Bhartrhari accepts the fact that a word is vital in a sentence; and, can have multiple meanings. The role and the particular desired meaning of the word depend on the intent of the speaker and the context in which it is employed. He explains this through an analogy: the human eye which has the natural power of seeing many things at a time, but it can see a particular object, clearly,  only when the individual decides and focuses his attention to see that object.]

Bhartrhari argues; in a linguistic analysis, artificial extraction of parts from an integral unit (apoddhāra) – splitting up of a sentence into word and then on into roots, suffixes and syllables, syntaxes etc – might be a useful exercise for study of a language and its grammar; but, such fragmented approach serves hardly any purpose; and, surely it is not suitable in the real world where men and women live, transact (vyāpāra) and communicate verbally (Vyavahara). He says that in a   speech situation, where the speaker communicates her/his ideas and the listener grasps the uttered speech, the communication is always through complete statement. The speaker thinks; communicates; and, the listener grasps and understands those series of word- sounds as a single unit.

Bhartrhari says, those who know the language well, do listen to the sentence. And those who do not know the language may hear words only as sound bites.  Sphota, in essence, is the real experience of listening to a sentence as a whole and grasping its meaning through perception.  It is said; meaning is not something that can be inferred; but, it is actually being perceived.

Bhartrhari compares the communication through language (by use of sentences) to creation of a painting. Bhartrhari describes the painter as going through three stages when he paints a picture : “ when an artist wishes to paint a figure of a man , he first visualizes the object and its spirit as a composite unit  ; then , as of a figure having parts; and, thereafter, gradually, in a sequence , he paints it on the surface of a cloth or whatever”.

Mandana Misra in his Sphota-siddhi (a Vritti, commentary, on Bhatrhari’s Vakyapadiya) offers the example of the viewing-experience of a painting, in order to illustrate the relation that exists between a sentence and its words. He points out that when we view a picture, it is conceived as a whole, over and above its various parts. Similarly, he says, the composite image presented by a piece of cloth is a whole; and, it is quite distinct from the particular threads and colours that have gone into making of it.

That is to say; a painter conceives a picture in his mind; and, thereafter gives its parts a substance on the canvass by using variety of strokes, different colours, varying shades etc. Which means; an artist paints the picture in parts though he visualizes it as a single image. The viewer of the painting, rightly, also takes in, absorbs the picture and its spirit as a whole, as an integral unit; and , he  does not look for individual strokes, shades etc or the permutation of such details that went into making the picture.  

Similar is the case with the sentence and individual words employed to compose it.

*

For Bhartrhari, Sphota is the real substratum, proper linguistic unit, which is identical with its meaning. Language is not merely the vehicle of meaning or of thought. Thought anchors language; and, the language anchors thought. According to Bhartrhari, the speech and thought are two aspects of the same principle (Vak). In this way, he says, there are no essential differences between a linguistic unit and its meaning or the thought it conveys. That is to say; the perfect communication is when there is complete identity between sentence (or word) and its meaning.

Sphota refers to that ‘non-differentiated language principle’; and, that later gave rise to the theory of Sabda-advaita (word monism).

[Bhartrhari in his Vakyapadiya recognized and gave credence only to the sentence-Sphota (Vakya-Sphota). But, the latter Grammarians split up the concept into various divisions; and, came up with various sorts of Sphota-s. For instance; Nagesabhatta in his Parama-laghu-manjusha enumerates as many as eight varieties of Sphota, such as: Varna-sphota; Pada-sphota; Vakya-sphota; Varna-jati-sphota; Pada-jati-sphota; Vakya-jati-sphota; Akhanda-pada-sphota; and Akhanda-vakya-sphota.

Of those eightfold varieties of Sphota-s, it is only the last mentioned, the Akhanda-vakya-sphota (sentence as the undivided linguistic unit, the conveyer of meaning), that corresponds to the essential nature of Sphota doctrine as envisioned by Bhartrhari. The rest are mere classroom-exercises. It is said; though the other seven divisions have no real merit of their own, they still serve some practical purpose. They enable the beginner to learn and to know the true nature of Akhanda-vakya-sphota.]

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Process of cognition and theories of error

In the traditional Schools of Indian philosophy (say; as in Samkhya, Advaita or even in Buddhism) there is a sharp distinction between the states of ignorance (A-vidya) and enlightenment (kaivalya, Moksha or Nirvana). A person is either bound or is liberated; but, there is no intermediate stage. Similarly, in the Schools of Logic (Nyaya) also, the valid means of knowledge (Pramana) either reveal the object completely or do not reveal at all.

The approach adopted by Bhartrhari in explaining the process of true cognition is significantly different from that of the other Schools. Bhartrhari argues that perception need not always be an ‘all–or-nothing process’. It could very well be a graded one. There could be vagueness initially; but, the perception could improve as one tries to gain clarity of the object. That is to say; the process of revelation could start from the indeterminate stage and progress, in steps, to the determinate stage. At each successive step, it gains increasing clarity. It begins from complete ignorance, passes through partial knowledge and ends up in a complete knowledge.

Thus, the position of Bhartrhari is that the overcoming of error is a perceptual process by progressing through degrees of positive approximations. Even invalid cognitions can sometimes lead to valid knowledge ( say , as in trial-and-error). Initial errors or vagueness could gradually and positively be overcome by an increasingly clearer cognition of the word form or Sphota. That is to say; the true cognition, established by direct perception, could take place , initially, through a series of possible errors; but, finally leading to the truth.

And, that also takes care of the objections raised by the Mimamasa School which accused the Sphota of being a mere guesswork.

[In Advaita, the true–final cognition is achieved through a process of reasoning and inference; and, not by perception. The Grammarians, in contrast, hold the view that the final cognition of Sphota is by perfect perception Prathibha; and, not through inference. Mandana explaining the Sphota point of view says: the revelation of an object clearly or vaguely is by direct perception. In the case of the other means of knowledge there is either apprehension of the object or not at all.]

Mandana in his Sphotasiddhi agrees with Bhartrhari’s stand   that the final and the clear perception of the Sphota could possibly be achieved after rectifying  a series of probable errors.

Bhartrhari’s position is in stark contrast to that of Sri Sankara wherein the overcoming of the error (A-vidya) is a process of inference in which there are no approximations or degrees of errors. In Advaita Vedanta, there can only be a ‘True’ or ‘False’ cognition, with no gradation in between. Here, error is overcome by a single negation. According to Sri Sankara, the error, if it is to be overcome, must be completely and effectively replaced at once by true knowledge.

Thus, Bhartrhari’s stand marks a significant departure from the Vedanta School where the validity of a means of cognition (Pramana) is judged by its ability or otherwise either to provide for a clear apprehension of the object or not at all. And, there is no room for vagueness or for improving upon an error in stages.

That is to say; Advaita usually describes the error in terms of negation (such as when it is said it is not a snake). The Grammarians, on the other hand, explain the error (vagueness of perception), positively, as a step that , if overcome by increasingly clear cognition, could finally lead to true and complete understanding (Sphota).

The nature and process of comprehension of Sphota   is illustrated by Bhartrhari and other grammarians by means of various analogies.

: – A jeweler, examining a jewel or precious stone, has to look it steadily for some time, to enable him to gain a familiarity with its genuineness, its details  and as also its probable value. With his first reading he acquires a knowledge of the general features of the gem. Each subsequent examination thereafter helps him to ascertain the true nature and quality of the gem.  And the final assessment, aided by the results gained through the previous ones, will enable him to evaluate and to determine, with certainty, the true quality and the exact value of the gem, completely and clearly.

: – Bhartrhari   gives the example of a student attempting to learn by-heart a verse or an anuvaka (a passage of a text) by repeated reading/recitation. Each such attempt helps him to retain the text or a part of it in his memory, to an extent.  It is the last reading aided by the impressions left behind by the previous attempts that helps him to commit to his memory the verse or the passage correctly and fully.

: – Bhartrhari offers another example of a tree which when viewed from a distance might appear like an elephant. But, that apparent mistake would be eliminated if one keeps gazing at the object intensely. And, one would eventually recognize it as a tree, which is its true form. In this instance also, the valid cognition is achieved by erasing a series of errors.

Mandana Misra, in his commentary, remarks that such correction – moving from error to the true – might not necessarily be explained away by factors such as change in distance. That is because, he says, even by standing at the same spot and looking at the object intensely one would be able to gain the right perspective of the object. He explains   : ‘it is the previous cognitions (in this case an elephant) leaving progressively clearer residual impressions, which become the cause of clear perception of the tree’.

Similarly, in Bhartrhari’s theory of language, the object of cognition (sentence), at first, is heard in the form of a word. But finally, through further cognitions ; with the subsequent words providing increased clarity; and , with the utterance of the last word, the total import of the sentence is grasped clearly (Sphota).

It is said; the Sphota theory was developed by Bhartrhari as a foil to the Mimamsa. In contrast to Mimamsa, Bhartrhari asserts that ‘primary linguistic unit is the undivided sentence (Vakya-Sphota). The individual words are merely hints or stepping stones to the complete meaning of sentence (Vakya).

: – And there is the much battered case of a coil of rope being mistaken for a snake. The perception of a rope as a snake is an error. But, the true perception results by negating that error through a series of increasingly clearer perceptions (Sphota) – (as in the case of elephant-tree analogy) . 

:- And, Sesa Krsna, a philosopher and commentator belonging to the early part of the sixteenth century, in his Sphota-tattva-nirupana, a treatise on the Sphota doctrine, offers another illustration.

He says that when a person utters a sound ka with the intention of saying Kamalam (a lotus), we know that he is trying to say a word beginning with Ka. And, when he utters the next syllable Ma, we have another clue; and, we can guess the word a little more clearly. Now, that eliminates the possibility of all the words not beginning with Kama.  Still, the word is not quite clear. We do not know whether he is going to say Kamanam or Kamalam. It is only when the last sound lam is uttered that we come to know the word fully and clearly. It is by the perception of the last letter; we reach at a valid cognition. Thus, the function of the letters is to build up the higher unit (in this case, the word).

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Pratibha

Bhartrhari in the Karikas (2.143-152) of his Vakyapadiya discusses his concept of Prathibha – intuition or flash of understanding.

The basic principle of Bhartrhari’s theory of language is that the complete utterance of the sentence, as a whole, is a unit of speech; and, it should be considered as a single unity. The words, though meaningful, are fractional parts of a sentence. The complete sentence-meaning might be produced by the combination of such parts; but, the whole is simply not the sum of the parts. The sentence and its meaning is essentially an indivisible unit.

We understand the full meaning of a sentence immediately, only, after the speaker finishes the sentence. Thereafter, the complete meaning of the sentence is grasped, as a unity, instantly (pratyaksha), in a flash of insight (Prathibha).

Viccheda grahane arthanam prathibhanyaiva jayate I vakyartha iti tam aahuh padarthair upapadita II – VP.2.143

That Prathibha or flash is not a mere piece of knowledge. It is the wisdom or flash of understanding which guides a person to right understanding (prajnya) and right conduct (iti-kartavyata). Such instinctive awareness is in everyone’s experience. Even the birds and animals have that basic instinct, acquired directly or through recollection of it (samskara or Vasana).  All beings act upon and depend on that inborn intuition (Prathibha).  Even the language-competence and performance is also an inborn virtue (Pratibha) in Man. It is through the power (Shakthi) of that Pratibha the total meaning of the part-less (avibhakta) sentence (AkhandaVakya-sphota) flashes forth.

And yet, that innate instinctive awareness (Prathibha) possessed by all beings cannot be precisely defined in words (anakhyena); pinpointing ‘this is that’- (idam tad iti sanyesam anakyena katham cha na).

[ Mammatacharya ( Kāvyaprakāśa, 11th century) while dealing with poetics , observes  :  the mere knowledge of the word alone is not enough to understand and enjoy the poetic import or the essence of the Kavya;  it needs intuition or Prathibha.  He calls Prathibha as – nava-navaonvesha-shalini prajna – the ever inventive and resourceful intellect. Prathibha is also called, at times, as Vasana.  Only those endowed with Prathibha can truly enjoy the essence and beauty of Kavya. ]

That intuitive wisdom which reveals the dynamic inter-relatedness of all things comes to a person through maturity, experience (anubhava), reasoning (yukthi) and learning ( from Shastras and Grammar). At another place, Bhartrhari remarks: “insight attains clarity through  diverse traditional views (prajna vivekam labhate bhinnair Agama-darshanin -VP: 2.484). Such wisdom, it is said, is derived from six sources (sadvidhā): nature (Svabhava); action (acharana); practice (abhyasa); meditation or contemplation (yoga); invisible causes (adrsta); and, instructions handed down by the wise (upapāditām)

Svabhāva-acharaṇā-abhyāsa- yogā-adṛṣṭa-upapāditām / viśiṣṭopahitāṃ ceti pratibhāṃ ṣaḍvidhāṃ viduḥ (VP : 2.152 )

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For and against the Sphota-vada

Over the centuries, the Sphota concept was hotly debated among  various Schools of thought. There were those who supported the Sphota-vada; and, there were many others who criticized and opposed it bitterly.

Among the former (Sphotavadins), the more prominent were: Yaska; Patanjali; Mandana Misra; Nagesabhatta; scholars of the Kashmir-Shaiva School; some Yoga-commentators; and, of course Bhartrhari who was the champion of the Sphota-vada. But, somehow, those who opposed the Sphota-vada not only outnumbered its supporters but also were more influential. The anti-Sphotavadins included such eminent philosophers as: Upavarsha; scholars of Samkhya, Nyaya and Vaiseshika Schools; scholars of Shaiva siddantha; Mimamsakas – Sabaraswamin, Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhakara; Sri Ramanuja; Sri Madhva; Sri Jiva Goswami; Vachaspathi Misra; and, most notably Sri Sankara.

The early Mimamsa School which strongly defended Varna-vada argued that the individual word or the letter (Varna) is the prime substance of Vak (speech). The School of the Grammarians, on the other hand, advocated Sphota-vada to explain the mysterious manner by which the sentence-meaning is conveyed. They put forward Sphota as a process of cognition which culminates in the intuitive perception (Prathibha) of the Absolute as Sabda –Brahman.

In the later periods, these two points of view became the major platforms for debates and discussion among the various Schools of Indian philosophy as also among the Schools of Grammar and language.

 *

In the earlier part of this series we have seen the objections raised against the Sphota concept  by the Samkhya and the Mimamsa scholars prior to the time of Bhartrhari. Let’s now see few major observations made by both the pro and anti Sphotavadins after the time of Bhartrhari (Ca.450 CE).

 : – Kaumarila Bhatta, a noted Mimamsa Scholar (7th -8th century) 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 it a part of sentence, is nothing more than a collection of articulated-sounds or spoken words. And, it is with this collection of sounds alone that the meaning is associated. The listener grasps the sounds of the words and their meaning. There is nothing else here, he said, one need not, without reason, assume a mystical process of Sphota etc.

: – Mandana Misra, a contemporary of Kaumarila Bhatta, however, refuted the stand of his senior Mimamsaka; and, said that Kaumarila’s stand was rather frivolous. Mandana, in support of the Sphota doctrine, wrote a brilliant commentary (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 that it is not the individual words but the complete thought of the sentence that ultimately matters.

As mentioned earlier, Mandana also offered the example of a painting conceived as a whole, over and above its various parts. And, also of the appreciation of a piece of cloth, as whole; and, not as mere collection of threads and colours that are woven into it. He says: This aspect is brought out clearly by Bhartrhari.

:- The Jain philosopher Prabhachandra in his Prameya-kamala-marthanda attempted  to reconcile the two opposing views; and, came up with his own doctrine of ‘Interminacy’ (syavada, anekantavada), which, essentially, was a principle that encouraged acceptance of multiple or plural views on a given issue as being multiple dimensions of one and the same object.

:- As regards the Buddhists , while Dharmakirti attacked Bhartrhari, another Buddhist scholar Dignaga seemed to be highly influenced by Bhartrhari ; and quoted verses from Vakyapadiya in support of his own arguments concerning grammatical distinctions between two words having different nominal endings and those with identical endings. Finally, Dignaga agreed with Bhartrhari that meaning of a sentence (vakyartha) is grasped through intuition (prathibha

: – Sri Sankara in his commentary on Brahma Sutra (1.3.28) argued against the stand of the Sphotavadins. He adopted the view taken by the highly revered ancient philosopher Upavarsha (Ca.500 BCE) who had earlier rejected the Sphota-vada. While brushing aside the Sphota concept, Upavarsha had remarked: ‘that all this talk of unity of meaning etc. is largely an illusion, for it is the words, it’s articulated elements (Varna) alone that make the unity’.  Upavarsha had in turn come up with his theory of   Varna-vada; according to which, the smallest phonetic units that can carry the meaning (phoneme = Varna) alone are real constituents of a word. He said sounds are only Varnas; and, there is no need for assuming a Sphota.

Sri Sankara adopted the statement of Upavarsha “words are none other than various letter-sounds (Varnas)”. He agreed with Upavarsha; and supported Varna- vada while rejecting the Sphota-vada (Sankara Bhashya on Brahma Sutra: 1.3.28).

Sri Sankara 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.  Here, he remarks: Bhagavad Upavarsha says ‘but, the words are none other than various letter-sounds (Varna)- varna eva tu sabddh id bhagavan Upavarsah (BS: 1.3.28). And, therefore, he said , there is no need 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.

And then, Sri Sankara went on to build his own arguments to oppose the Sphota vada, based on what he called ‘the tradition of the Masters’- (Acharya –sampradayokti-purvakam siddantam aaha varna iti).

According to him, 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 degrees of cognition. According to Sri Sankara, the inference Pramana is an 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.

:-  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.

In the recent times, the Sphota doctrine has received much attention from the scholars of linguistics – both in the West and in the East. It has been duly recognized as one of the significant contributions of India to the philosophy of Grammar. As the noted scholar Bimal K. Matilal observes: “Even today this theory is widely recognized among modern linguists as the most complete investigation into the profundities of language, making a considerable contribution to the Philosophy of Language, the Psychology of Speech, and especially Semiotics”.

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Bhartrhari, while discussing about Sphota, put forth his theory to explain the process and the stages through which the thought in the speaker’s mind gets transformed into audible speech.

In the next part let’s look at those levels of Language

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Continued in

Next Part

References and Sources

  1. The Philosophy of the Grammarians, Volume 5 – edited by Harold G. Coward, Karl H. Potter, K. Kunjunni Raja
  2. Of Many Heroes: An Indian Essay in Literary Historiographyby G. N. Devy
  3. Time in Hinduismby Harold Coward
  4. Bhartṛhari, the Grammarianby Mulakaluri Srimannarayana Murti
  5. The Study of Vakyapadiya– Dr. K Raghavan Piliai Volume I (Motilal Banarsidas; 1971)
  6. Being and Meaning: Reality and Language in Bhartṛhari and Heideggerby Sebastian Alackapally
  7. Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Soundby Guy L. Beck
  8. Bhartrhari (ca. 450-510)by Madhav Deshpande
  9. Bhartrihariby Stephanie Theodorou
  10. The Sphota Theory of Language: A Philosophical Analysisby Harold G. Coward
  11. Speech versus Writing” In Derrida and Bhartahariby Harold G. Coward
  12. Sequence from Patanjali to Post _modernityby  V. Ashok.
  13. The Vedic Conception of Sound in Four Features
  14. Sphota theory of Bhartrhari
  15. Word and Sentence, Two Perspectives: Bhartrhari and Wittgensteinedited by Sibajiban Bhattacharyya
  16. Hermeneutical Essays on Vedāntic Topicsby John Geeverghese Arapura
  17. Culture and Consciousness: Literature Regainedby William S. Haney
  18. The Advaita Vedānta of Brahma-siddhiby Allen Wright Thrasher
  19. Bhartr̥hari, Philosopher and Grammarian: Proceedings of the First… Edited by Saroja Bhate, Johannes Bronkhorst
  20. Bhartṛhari – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  21. Sri Venkateswara Univrsity Oriental Journal Volumes XXX-XXXi 1987 – 1988
  22. Studies in the Kāśikāvṛtti: The Section on Pratyāhāras: Critical Edition …edited by Pascale Haag, Vincenzo Vergiani
  23. Proceedings of the Lecture Series on Våkyapadiya and Indian Philosophy of Languages- (31.1.08 to 2.2.08)
  24. Encyclopaedia for the world psychologists 1. A – D ; Edited by H. L. Kalia
  25. Linguistic philosophy of Yaska- Sodhganga
  26. https://archive.org/stream/Vakyapadiya/vakyapadiya#page/n105/mode/1up
  27. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/31822/8/08_chapter%202.pdf
  28. ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET
 
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The Meaning of ‘MEANING’ – Part Seven

Continued from Part Six

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The Word and the Sentence

Grammar and the philosophy of language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Khanda-paksha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A-khanda-paksha

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

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

Bhartrhari’s contribution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sphota

Development of the concept

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rose-sg

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

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

**

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

lotus-flower-buddha

Continued in

Next Part

References and Sources

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

Continued from Part Two

The Outlook of Bodhayana

1.1. In the earlier part, we talked about the fragments of Bodhayana Vrtti as quoted in Sri Ramanuja’s Sribhashya – his commentary on the Brahma Sutras. And as said, even though Bodhayana the Vrttikara is quoted only about seven times in Sribhashya, each of those fragments expresses an aspect of Bodhayana’s thought.

Based on those fragments, let’s try to reconstruct Bodhayana’s thoughts.

1.2. Both Sri Sankara and Sri Ramanuja frequently refer to a Vrttikara.  It is, somehow, presumed that both the Acharyas refer to one and the same Vrttikara, that is, Bodhayana.  But, the difference is that whenever Sri Sankara quotes the commentator (vrttikara) he does not mention his name, and he also does not quote him fully. He usually summarizes and adduces them as being the differing theories or the stand of the opponent (Purva-paksha). And, whenever Sri Sankara cites Upavarsha, he mentions the Vrttikara by his name addressing him with great respect as Bhagavan (the revered) and treats him as the elder of his own tradition.

In a similar manner, Sri Ramanuja does not mention   the Vrttikara Upavarsha. But, he treats Bodhayana with great respect addressing him as Bhagavad, the Divine. And, he quotes the views of Bodhayana from the fragments of Bodhayana Vrtti as the authority. He reckons Bodhayana as the foremost among his Purva-charyas the revered Masters of his tradition.

It is, therefore, presumed that Sri Sankara was closer to Upavarsha; and that Sri Ramanuja followed Bodhayana.

[Some critics have however pointed out that the arguments of the Vrttikara rejected by Sri Sankara are not exactly the same as the ones quoted by Sri Ramanuja. And, they wonder whether the Acharyas could be referring to different Vrttikaras..!.?

It is also said that, over a long period, since many scholars went by the name of Baudhayana or Bodhayana, the Vrttikara Bodhayana quoted by Sri Ramanuja could be quite different from the Bodhayana to whom Sri Sankara is presumed to have referred. ]

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2.1. Since Bodhayana is often addressed as Vrttikara, the commentator (sometimes without mentioning his name), it is evident that his authority was accepted by the later generations of Vedanta Schools. Generally, the views of Bodhayana are believed to go along with that of Brahma sutra.. Based on that, it is said that Bodhayana was surely closer to Sri Ramanuja than to Sri Sankara.

 Following  Sri Ramanuja, all his descendents in his line (Parampara) and all the followers of his School regard Bodhayana as an authority, next only to Badarayana the author of Brahma Sutra.  Accordingly, the Sri Vaishnava tradition reveres the commentary of Bodhayana as almost the Scripture.

2.2. Bodhayana, no doubt, was a faithful commentator (Vrttikara) of the Sutras. He tried to stay close to the words of the Brahma Sutra; and, did not seem to come up with original or fresh theories of his own. His comments are cogent and stay close to the point. Bodhayana appears to have been essentially a theist; and, his views, generally, were closer to those of Sri Ramanuja and Sri Bhaskara.

2.3. Obviously, Bodhayana   held the scriptures in great esteem. He emphasized the absolute sacredness of the Vedas. According to him, the scriptures are not open to criticism of human speculation.”We can understand the meaning of what is handed down by the scriptures; but, we cannot question scriptures” (Fragment: 13)

 2.4. He stayed close to the   Mimamsa faith according to which, Sruti that which is heard or is of divine origin cannot be questioned. But, it is only in Smrti, that which is remembered or the works authored by humans, there is a possibility of offering varied interpretations.

2.5. To revere and explain the scriptures was, for him, the highest duty. He thought that each word and each phrase of the scripture merited study with complete attention. Accordingly, his special area was commenting on the scriptures. Since commenting necessarily involves taking a certain intellectual stand and adopting a certain philosophical view, there is a particular world-view running through his commentaries.

2.6, Bodhayana was essentially a theist.  His views, generally, differ from that of Sri Sankara; but, are closer to that of Sri Ramanuja. And, Sri Ramanuja paid greater respect to his views; and, cited them as authorities.

3.1. Bodhayana, as reflected in his explanations quoted by Sri Ramanuja, laid equal importance of Jnana and Karma Kanda-s of the Mimamsa. According to him, the two segments – Purva and Uttara – of the Mimamsa together constituted the doctrinal system (Shastraikatva).  And, because of that, perhaps, he wrote commentaries on both the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa.  

3.2. 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. Sri Ramanuja too was a votary of Samucchaya-vada.   Sri Sankara who did not accord much significance to rituals, naturally, tended to differ from Bodhayana.

Besides, Bodhayana does not discuss or even mention the concept of Maya. He strongly refuted the Vijnanavada theory which reduces the objects of the material world merely to the status of dream experiences.

4.1. As regards his views on the God, Bodhayana appears to have been a theist.  For him, the individual soul (Jiva) and God were not exactly identical. God for him is the infinity Bhuman for which the individual soul aspires.    And, the importance of Bhakthi as service and as absolute surrender to God was stressed by him.

4.2. According to Sri Ramanuja’s account, Bodhayana took Para Brahman, the Supreme Brahman, as the absolute principle. And, in Bodhayana’s view Brahman is identical with Lord (Isha), the Supreme Lord (Parameshwara).It is the source, the womb of all matter (bhuta yoni). Thus, Brahman, besides being the personified God, is also the cause (sarva-vikara-karana) from which everything evolves (parinama paksha). It is also the Atman of all things; the God that dwells within everything (sarva-bhutha-antaratman), controlling and directing them. Sri Ramanuja extended it further; and said that Brahman has all the spiritual and physical existence as his body.

Bodhayana, however, does not seem to attribute Brahman with a body (vigrahavat). But, somehow, he appeared to believe in the Upanishad description of Brahman with four feet (chatush paada).It is not clear in which sense he understood it.

5.1. As regards the individual self (Jiva) , Bodhayana thought that it has two aspects. One is the gross body (sthulam sariram) which we experience ordinarily, and which perishes at its death.  And the other is the subtle body (sukshmam sariram) composed of extremely fine elements, and which is not visible to naked eye. At the death of the physical body, the subtle body that was hitherto enwrapped in it moves and eventually sets up the next gross body. That is to say, sukshmam sariram is the seed of the body that manifests. Thus, subtle body is un-manifest (a-vyakta), while the gross body is manifest (vyakta).

5.2.According to Bodhayana, in state of deep sleep the individual self is united with Brahman as existence, Sat; and, on waking it gets separated. This seems nearer to the explanation offered by Uddalaka Aruni (Chandogya Upanishad: 6.8.1), and to the Brahma Sutra.

6.1. Bodhayana believed that the state of ‘bondage and final release (bandha –moksha) ’is more aptly related to the subtle body, and to its activities. And, therefore, the subtle body is superior (para) to the embodied self (sarira) which is ‘feeble in power’ (tanumahiman). This, in a way, is closer to the Samkhya view of Purusha; but, it markedly differed from the view taken by Brahma sutra.

6.2. As for the final release, Bodhayana believed that the individual self eventually unites with Brahman.  But, the release comes in stages. And, even after full release (Moksha), the individual self retains its identity but without the false sense of ego; and, does not entirely merge with Brahman. And, even after attaining Moksha, it does not acquire the power to create, to preserve and to withdraw the manifest world. Therefore, even in the state of final release, the individual self and the Supreme self are not entirely identical.

Following that, Sri Ramanuja explained Moksha as a state of blessedness in the company of the Highest Being (Paramatman). Sri Ramanuja emphasized the importance of Bhakthi, absolute devotion, and Parapatti complete surrender to the will of the Supreme, making oneself worthy of His grace, as the best means to attain salvation.

7.1. Sri Sankara and Sri Ramanuja apart from their doctrinal differences on the question of Duality and Non-duality also seemed to differ in their approach to Brahma Sutra and in treatment of the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa of the Vedanta School.

7.2. At the outset, it seems   Sri Ramanuja treated the Brahma Sutra as the basic text and interpreted it in the light of the comments and explanations offered in the Vritti of Bodhayana, other Vrttikaras, Vakyakaras and the revered Masters of his tradition (Purva-charyas).  He also seemed to support the view that the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa together formed one text. And that he believed in the coordinated union of Jana and Karma. Sri Ramanuja is said to be   much closer to the Brahma Sutras in its literal interpretation.

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The approach of Sri Sankara

Sri Sankara

The approach of Sri Sankara to the Upanishads in general and to the Brahma Sutra in particular presents a very interesting and a striking contrast.

8.1. Upanishads

(a) Sri Sankara regards himself as the votary of Upanishads (Aupanishada).He even calls his way of thinking or the doctrine as Aupanishadam Darshanam, the Upanishad System. He defines the Upanishads as the texts that lead the aspirants close to the highest reality. He said, the primary meaning of the word Upanishad was knowledge, while the secondary meaning was the text itself.

He insists Upanishads constitute the final purpose and the import of the Vedic lore; and that is the reason he chose to write commentaries on the Upanishads and on the other two texts that depend almost entirely on the Upanishads – Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. While doing so, he isolates Upanishad portion of the Vedic lore from the rest and narrows down the scriptural authority to ten or twelve ancient Upanishads.

(b) According to him, the goal held out by the Upanishad tradition is liberation (Moksha) from worldly involvements. Sri Sankara described himself as Moksha-vadin (Sarvesham Mokshavadi – nama-abhyupagam- VSB: 2.1.11; and, Sarve Mokshavadi abhirbhyupa gamyate: VSB: 1.1.4)

(c) Sri Sankara strongly advocated study of Upanishads; and at the same time cautioned that study of Upanishad alone would not lead to Moksha. He also recognized that the study of Upanishads is not absolutely necessary or is it a pre-condition for attainment of Moksha. The function of knowledge as expounded in the Upanishads, he said, is the removal of obstacles; but, it has its own limitations.

As regards the limitations of textual knowledge, he explained: Moksha is not the fruit or the effect of knowledge (jnana). Liberation being identical with Brahman is ever present, eternal and is beyond the subject-object relations. So long as such distinctions  of subject –object, the knower and the known  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).

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). He also says that Vedic authority is not binding after one attains the goal

(d)  He pointed out; even those who were outside the Upanishad fold were as eligible to Moksha as those within the fold were. He declared that all beings are Brahman, and therefore the question of discrimination did not arise. All that one was required to do was to get rid of Avidya (duality).

8.2. Mimamsa

(a) As regards the Mimamsa, 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. He does not use the terms Purva Mimamsa or Uttara -Mimamsa.  He preferred to present his commentary as Vedanta-mimamsa.

 Sri Sankara did not seem to regard Brahma Sutra as a latter part of the same text. He regards Brahma Sutra as a separate shastra (prathak-shastra), distinct  from Purva Mimamsa.  He maintained that the two systems are addressed to different class of persons.

Purva Mimamsa which deals with Karma-kanda consists injunctions to act in order to achieve certain results. But, he argues, liberation is not a product or a thing to be achieved.

And, Jnana-kanda, in contrast, 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.

(c) He said The two texts are distinguishable in four ways: Vishaya (subject); Adhikara (qualifications for the aspirant); Phala (end result or the objective) ; and, Sambhanda ( related-ness) .

: – Vishaya: the subject matter of  Karma-kanda is Dharma which is understood by it as ritual-action. Mimasakas hold the view that the real purport of the scriptures was to provide injunctions (vidhi) and prohibitions (nishedha) . The scriptural injunctions regarding rituals  are treated as mandatory;  while  the texts that relate to wisdom as  spill – over (sesha).

Sri Sankara said, the subject of Jnana-kanda is Brahman. And, knowing Brahman, he asserted , is the real purpose of all  scriptures.  Sri Sankara averred the true intent of the scriptures was to describe the Reality as it is. Sri Sankara rejected the Mimamsa view and argued that scripture were not mandatory in character, at least where it concerned pursuit of wisdom. Upanishads, he remarked, dealt with Brahman and that Brahman could not be a subject matter (Vishaya) of injunction and prohibitions.

 : – Adhikara: Aspirant in the Karma-kanda has limited ambitions; and, is yet to understand the limitations of the results achieved by Karman.  The aspirant of the Jnana-kanda, however, is well aware of the limits of the results achieved by Karman; and, there about fore , seeks the limitless Brahman.

Sri Sankara mentions fourfold Adhikara or qualifications of  an ardent student of Vedanta : Nitya-anitya-vastu- viveka (capacity to discriminate the real from the transitory); Vairagya (Dispassion); Samadi Shatka Sampatti (Six virtues of the mind : Sama-equanimity; Dama-control over senses including mind; Uparama -observing one’s Svadharma; Titiksha – patience, forbearance; Samadhanam– profound absorption or contemplation;  and , Shraddha – absolute  faith or devotion).

: – Phala: Karma-kanda aspires for worldly prosperity and heavenly pleasures. The aim of Jnana-kanda, he said, is liberation (Moksha). Further, he pointed out that Brahma Sutra says (3.5.36-37) even those who do not perform rituals are qualified to gain knowledge.

In Sri Sankara’s view the passages in the Karma –kanda informs us of the approved means for attaining desirable and yet unaccomplished ends. The Upanishads (jnana-kanda), on the other hand, reveal to us knowledge of the ever present entity – Brahman.

He pointed out that rituals could in no way bring about wisdom, much less Moksha.. He asserted, while the rewards (phala) of the rituals were not matter of direct experience, wisdom which is the fruit of Vedanta is based on immediate and personal experience; one need not have to wait for the reward nor one be in doubt whether the reward would or would not come.

This was in sharp contrast to the position taken by Mimamsakas who believed that rituals alone would lead one to higher levels of attainment. Further, the deities would reward only those entitled to perform the rituals alone. The entitlement involved the caste, creed and other parameters.

: – Sambandha: Karma-kanda informs of the ends not yet in existence; but is yet to be achieved. The realization of such ends depends upon following the appropriate action as prescribed. 

The subject of Jnana-kanda is that which is eternal without a beginning or end. The knowledge of Brahman is end itself, where there is an identity of the revealed object (Sadhya) and the means of revelation (Sadhana) . Jnana-kanda is fulfillment; Karma –kanda is impetus to act more and more.

8.3. the Brahma Sutras,

Sri Sankara held the Brahma Sutra in very high regard; and yet, he does not take them as the original or independent texts equal in authority to the Upanishads. He takes the Brahma Sutras as expository or highly abridged indicators to the crucial passages from Upanishads. He claims that Badarayana’s text is in fact a summary of the philosophy of Upanishads. The philosophy of Brahma Sutra is indeed the philosophy of the Upanishads.

Sri Sankara undertakes to interpret Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra not as in end by itself, but in order to expound through it what he understood as the philosophy of Upanishads. He asserts they are not his own; but, are the true and proper import of the Vedic texts as   held and nurtured by the tradition to which he belongs. It is only that he is re-stating them and putting forth a little more clearly.

The Sutras of Badarayana according to Sri Sankara have one purpose; that is to string together the flowers (cardinal themes) of Vedanta Akyas (sentences) – Vedanta –akya-kusumagratanat vat sutranam (BB .1.1.2)

It was the words and the ideas of the Upanishad texts that, primarily, guided Sri Sankara and not the Sutras per se. This did not mean an encroachment upon the authority of Badarayana whom he revered as Bhagavan; but, it was only to bring out his intentions more clearly. 

For Sri Sankara, the Brahma Sutras derive their authority from the original Upanishads; and, therefore the meaning of the Sutras will have to be understood and interpreted in the light of the Upanishad texts. And at places , Sankara’s interpretations seem to be far-fetched This is in contrast to Sri Ramanuja’s approach that followed the Vrttis of Bodhayana and other Acharyas, the Masters of his tradition. Sri Ramanuja was much closer to Brahma Sutras in its literal interpretation.

***

9.1. The overview seems to be that the Brahma Sutras are open to multiple interpretations; and, each interpretation is valid in its own context.

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Sources and References

  1. A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, Part 2 by Prof. Hajime Nakamura
  2. Sri Sankara and Adhyasa-Bhashya by Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao (2002)
  3. Brahma Sutras According to Sri Sankara by Swami Vireswarananda

 http://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras/d/doc62756.html

  1. Spiritual Freedom in the Brahma Sutras by Carol Pitts, Les Morgan
  2. The Vedanta Philosophy of Sankaracharya: Crest-Jewel of Wisdom, Atma BodhaBy Charles Johnston
  3. The Vedanta-sutras with the Sri-bhashya of Ramanujacharya;translated into English by M. Rangacharya, andM. B. Varadaraja Aiyangar; Volume I; published by the Brahmavidin Press.; 1899

http://www.yousigma.com/biographies/vedasutraswithsribhashya.pdf

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2015 in Bodhayana-Upavarsha

 

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Bodhayana the Vrttikara – Part One

Baudhayana- Bodhayana

1.1. Baudhayana 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 Baudhayana. It is also said that Bodhayana is the Southern form of Baudhayana. Further, the name Baudhayana itself stands for ‘descendent of Budha or Bodha’.

1.2. To start with, there is a single reference to one Jara-Bodha in the Rig Veda: Jara-bodha tad vividdhi vise-vise yagniyaya stoman rudraya   drisikam (RV 1.27.10). He is praised as a hero of high knowledge and wide fame; and, one who awakens others.  The term Bodha is also used in the sense of illumination, awakening. Thus, it is deduced that the name Jara Bodha (Bodha the elder)   might refer to a sage who was alert in his ripe old age. And as an adjective, Jara Bodha gives the meaning ‘attending to the invocation’.

1.3. Bodha is also the name of a Risi in the Mantra Patha (2. 16, 14). And, Budhi-putri is the name of a female descendent of Bodha. She is mentioned in the last Vamsa (list of teachers) of Madhyamdina recession of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (6. 4, 31) as the pupil of the Rishi Salankayaniputra.

1.4. There is also mention of Prati-Bodha along with Bodha in two passages of the Atharvaveda (AV: 5.30.10; and 8.1.3). Prati-Bodha, it is said, refers to a Rishi possessed with ‘mystic intelligence’.

Kena Upanishad (Section 2.4 ) states that one attains the realization (matam) the Oneness  of all that permeates and pervades the whole of existence by the inner awakening , a kind of intuition or  reflective perception (pratibodha-viditam matam ).

Pratibodha-viditam matam amrtatvam hi vindate I Atmana vindate viryam vidyaya vindate amrtam /4/

The names Bodha and Prati- Bodha obviously refer to persons having alert, watchful mind and a sort of intuition.

1.5. And, there is also a Prati-Bodha-Putra who is said to be the son of a female descendent of Prati Bodha. She is mentioned as a teacher in the Aitareya Aranyaka (3 1, 5) and Sankyayana Aranyaka (7.13).

Baudhayana-s as Sutrakara-s

2.1. In the later Vedic literature, there are references to Baudhayana as the earliest of the Sutrakaras; his successors being Bharadwaja, Apastamba and Hiranyakeshin.

2.2. In the development of Vedic lore, the Vedanga-s (the limbs of the Vedas) plays a very important role. There are six Angas or explanatory limbs, to the Vedas: the Siksha and Vyakarana of Panini; the Chhandas of Pingalacharya; the Nirukta of Yaskacharya; the Jyotisha of Garga; and, the Kalpas authored by various Rishis.

Regarding the Kalpa, each of the four divisions of the Vedas has its own special Kalpa Sutra.  They are meant to guide the daily life and conduct of those affiliated to its division.

2.3. There are several Schools and traditions of Kalpa Sutras; and are ascribed to various Rishis. Among the Kalpa Sutras, the Asvalayana, Sankhyana and the Sambhavya belong to the Rig-Veda. The Mashaka, Latyayana, Drahyayana, Gobhila and Khadirai belong to the Sama-Veda. The Katyayana and Paraskarai belong to the Sukla Yajur-Veda. The Apastamba, Hiranyakesi, Bodhayana, Bharadvaja, Manava, Vaikhanasa and the Kathaka belong to the Krishna Yajur-Veda. The Vaitana and the Kaushika belong to the Atharva-Veda.

3.1. These Kalpa Sutras are generally divided into three or four divisions: Srauta, Grihya and Dharma; and when it is divided into four divisions, the Sulbha Sutra is included.

Generally, the set of Kalpa Sutra texts include: Grihya-sutra (relating to domestic rituals); Srauta-sutra (relating to formal Yajnas); and, Dharma-sutra (relating to code of conduct, ethics, customs and laws).

3.2. The Sulba-sutra (derived out of the root ‘ Sulb’ meaning ‘ to measure or to mete out’) relates to mathematical calculations involved in construction of Yajna altars (vedi, chiti) , Kamya Agnis (fire places) and platforms); and specification of the implements used in Yajna (yajna-ayudha).

3.3. Thus, Kalpa sutras by their nature are supplementary texts affiliated to the main division of a Veda.

4.1. The Sulba Sutra needs special mention. The Sulbha sutras are the oldest geometrical treaties which represent in coded form. It represents the much older and traditional Indian mathematics. The Sulba Sutras are considered to date from 800 to 200 BCE. There are four, named after their authors: Baudhayana (800 BCE), Manava (750 BCE), Apastamba (600 BCE), and Katyayana (200 BCE).

[Please check:

http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/HistTopics/Indian_sulbasutras.html ]

4.2. The oldest among them is said to be Baudhayana Sulbha sutra.  It is believed to have been compiled by or composed by Baudhayana.  Or, more precisely, it belonged to the School of Bodhayana or was compiled by the descendents or followers of Bodhayana. It belongs to Taittiriya Samhita of Krishna Yajurveda; and is the 19th Prashna or Chapter of the Baudhayana Srauta Sutra, the oldest sutra of Taittiriya recession.

Sutras ascribed to Baudhayana

5.1. Apart from Sulba Sutra, the list of sages associated with Srauta, Grihya and Dharma Sutras, includes Baudhayana . He is regarded the earliest of the Sutrakaras; the first to compose the Kalpa Sutras of the Taittiriya Samhita He was followed by Bharadwaja, Apastamba and Hiranyakeshin.

5.2. Thus, the name Bodhayana or Baudhayana (who originally was said to belong to Kanva Shakha of Shukla Yajurveda)  is associated with each of the Kalpa Sutras classified under the Taittiriya Shakha of Krishna Yajurveda. The Sutras ascribed to Baudhayana are six in number: the Srauta Sutra; the Karmanta Sutra; the Dvividha Sutra; the Grihya Sutra; the Dharma Sutra; and the Sulbha Sutra.

Age of the Sutras associated with Baudhayana

6.1. As regards the age of the Sutras associated with Baudhayana:

(a) Among the Srauta Sutras the Baudhayana Srauta Sutra, the one composed by Baudhayana or his followers,   is considered the oldest. Some say, in all probability, it is older than some of the Brahmanas, such as the Gopatha Brahmana. And, it is regarded as one of the most important texts of the late Vedic period in general.  They are among the earliest texts of the sutra genre, perhaps compiled in the 8th to 7th centuries BCE

(b) And, the Baudhayana Grihya Sutra is oldest Sutra of the Taittiriya ;  and,  it  mentions  Kanva  Baudhayana  as the maker of the Pravachana  , while it names  Apastamba , Vaikhanasa,  and Satyasadhi  Hiranyakeshin  as   Sutra-karas,  the compilers of Sutras  . Among them, Bodhayana the Pravachana-kara is respected as a teacher par excellence, and as the originator of the whole system of instructions among its followers. Bodhayana the Pravachana-kara is placed above the Sutra-karas, the compilers of the Sutras.

(c) Dharma sutras of Gautama, Apastamba, Baudhayana and Vashita are assigned to 600 to 300 BCE.

(d) The Sulbha Sutras of Baudhayana are placed around 800 BCE. It deals with Vedic Geometry and is said to contain the first use of what has come to be known as Pythagorean theorem , quadratic equations ; finding a circle whose area is the same as that of a square (the reverse of squaring the circle); as also the calculation of the square-root of 2 correct to five decimal places; and so on.

[ dīrghasyākaayā rajjuh pārśvamānī, tiryadam mānī, cha yatpthagbhute kurutastadubhayā karoti

A rope stretched along the length of the diagonal produces an area which the vertical and horizontal sides make together.]

[Please also check:

http://glimpse2u.weebly.com/baudhayana.html]

https://mysteriesexplored.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/baudhayana-pythagoras-theorem-world-guru-of-mathematics-part-8/ ]

6.2. Thus, the Sutras ascribed to Bodhayana or Baudhayana are spread over long centuries generally accepted as ranging from 800 BCE to 300 BCE. These texts cannot obviously be the works of a single person, but could be the descendents and followers of Baudhayana School or tradition.

[The noted scholar R L Kashyap in his Date of the Rigveda  argues: The Shulba Sūtrā texts of Baudhāyana, Ashvalāyana etc., can be dated 3100-2000 BCE; 1900 BCE is the drying up of Sarasvati and the end of Vedic age. The Vedic civilisation ended, as indicated by the Harappa ruins, due to ecological causes, draughts and desertification. There was no invasion by anyone.]

The other Baudhayana –s

7.1. Away from Baudhayana the Sutrakara, down the line, there were numerous others who went by the name of Baudhayana or Bodhayana. For instance:

(a) A certain Bodhayana makes his appearance in the Mahabharata.  In an interesting episode , Bodhayana a Rishi happens to  meet Krishna in the dead of the night  on the battle field ; and requests Krishna to name after him (Bodhayana)  the Amavasya (no moon night) that occurs one day prior to the normal Amavasya .  On the Bodhayana Amavasya, generally, those who follow Bodhayana Sutras offer oblation (tarpana)  to their  departed ancestors (Pitris) .

(b) Further away from all these, there is a Bodhayana in the 6th -7th century AD. He is said to be the author of a farce or a satirical comedy titled Bhagavadajjukam (The saint-courtesan) which hilariously pictures the confusions and absurd situations that follow when the souls of a hermit and a courtesan get interchanged. The monk and his transformation as a courtesan by the exchange of souls give enough scope for amusement as also to ridicule the hypocrisy  and to  puncture the vanity that shrouds the ‘high society’. The work also exposes the practices of sham mendicants and lampoons the degeneration of the contemporary society.

Bhagavadajjukam of this Bodhayana is one of the earliest farces and it is often clubbed with the Mattavilasa-prahasana of the Pallava King Mahendravarman since both the works are mentioned in the Mamndur inscription of the Pallava ruler.

Bodhayana the Vrttikara

8.1. But, the present article is not about any of the Baudhayana-s or Bodhayana-s mentioned above. The Bodhayana about whom we are about to discuss is the Bodhayana the Vrttikara. He is the celebrated author of the Vrtti (a short gloss explaining the Sutras  in a little more, extended manner, but not as extensively as a Bhashya, a full blown commentary) on the Brahma-sutras, the guidebook to understanding Vedanta. His Vrtti is of cardinal importance to the history of Sri Vaishnava philosophy.

8.2. Not much is known for certain about Bodhayana, other than his authorship of the Vritti.  However, a tradition holds that Bodhayana was a direct disciple of Vyasa. We do not know that for certain. But, whatever be the case, Bodhayana the Vrttikara was certainly a great teacher of Vedanta; and is always referred to with great respect.

8.3.  And, in any case, he was not one among the many Bodhayana-s who were associated with Srauta, Grihya, Dharma and Sulba Sutras which are surmised to range between 800 BCE and 600 BCE. Bodhayana’s Vrtti is a commentary on Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra; and the Brahma Sutra, in turn, is dated around 200 BCE. Some scholars opine that Bodhayana the Vrttikara may have lived in or around the fifth century AD.

Bodhayana- Upavarsha

9.1. There is much debate concerning the relation between Bodhayana and Upavarsha another Vrttikara.   There are even suggestions which make out that Bodhayana and Upavarsha were the names of one and the same person.

[ For more on Upavarsha the Vrttikara , please check:

https://sreenivasaraos.com/2015/09/17/about-upavarsha-part-two/]

(a). A  Vedanta text of a much later period Prapancha-hrdaya 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 , all 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. Since the commentary covers both karma and jnana kanda-s, Bodhayana was respected as an adept in both aspects of Mimamsa.

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.

Tad grantha bahulya –bhayad upekshya kimchid samsksiptam Upavarshena krtam (Prapanchahrdaya .45)

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

All these works of Bodhayana are dispersed and lost; and none is available now. Since Sri Ramanuja quoted from Bodhayana’s commentary on Brahma sutra it could be taken that the rare fragments of those texts were extant until his time (11th century). But, his commentaries on Mimamsa sutra were lost much earlier; and had passed out of existence by the time of Kumarila Bhatta (Ca. 700 A D).

According to this version Upavarsha was a successor to Bodhayana.

[That doesn’t look quite plausible since Upavarsha is generally dated around 400 BCE and Bodhayana the Vrttikara is placed around 5th century A D]

(b) . There are versions that identify Bodhayana with Upavarsha.

There are also traditions which recognize 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]

(c) Apart from that, some scholars believed 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 that 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, who reckons Bodhayana as being the foremost among his Purava-acharya-s (Past Masters of his tradition Viz. Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Baruchi) 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.

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 UttaraSri 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.

(e) .Thus, 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.

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

In the next part, let’s talk about the thoughts of Bodhayana as reflected in the fragments quoted in Sri Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya.

Lotus

Continued

 In the

 Next Part

Sources and References

  1. 1. Vedic index of names and subjects II (i912) by Arthur Anthony MacDonnell
  2. 2. A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy, Part 2by Prof. Hajime Nakamura
  3. The Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume 3: Advaita Vedanta Up to … edited by Karl H. Potter
 
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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Bodhayana-Upavarsha

 

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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.  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 refers to a Vrttikara prior to his (Sabara’s) time, without, of course, mentioning his name. At the same time, in his Bhashya on the same sutra (1.1.5), Sabarasvamin refers to Upavarsha by name addressing him with the epithet ‘Bhagavan’. 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.  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 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.

Tad grantha bahulya –bhayad upekshya kimchid samsksiptam 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]

(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 3.3.53 which discusses the existence of Atman (We have talked about this aspect in the earlier part of this article).

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 usally 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.  Bharthrhari 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, Bharthrhari 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 Vakya-padiya. 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 sabddh id 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).

rangoli

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.

 

****

Out of Takshashila

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

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

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

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

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

On to Pataliputra

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

That also marked the birth of a new tradition.

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Group of Seven

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can enjoy the delightful story of Vararuchi at :

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

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

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

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

 

Galaxy of Scholars

 

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

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

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

 Panini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pingala

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vyadi Dakshayana

 

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

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

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

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

 

Vararuchi Katyayana

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Patanjali

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The time of Upavarsha

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birth of a new tradition

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

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

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

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

 

Sutra

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vritti

 

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

 Vrittika

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

 Bhashya

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

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

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

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

lotus

 

Continued in

Part Two

 

 

 

Sources and References:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Bodhayana-Upavarsha

 

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