Sutra, aka: Sūtra; 20 Definition(s)


Sutra means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, the history of ancient India, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

Sūtra (सूत्र)—One of the Heavenly ornaments according to the Vāyu Purāṇa. The neck of Śiva, after he had swallowed the poison, shone as if it was adorned with a golden thread.

Source: Google Books: Cultural History from the Vāyu Purāna

Sūtra (सूत्र).—(VEDASŪTRA). See under Veda.

Source: Puranic Encyclopaedia

Sūtra (सूत्र).—(ety)—definition of: few letters, free from doubt, terse, and universal.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 59. 142; 104. 108.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Natyashastra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Sūtra (सूत्र, “thread”) refers to a “golden neck-chain” and is classified as an ornament (ābharaṇa) for the neck (kaṇṭha) to be worn by males, according to Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 23. Such ornaments for males should be used in cases of gods and kings.

Sūtra (सूत्र) also refers to a “golden thread” ornament (ābharaṇa) for the waist (kaṭi) to be worn by males. It is to be worn below the talaka.

Sūtra (सूत्र) also refers to a “neck-chain” ornament (ābharaṇa) for the neck (kaṇṭha) to be worn by females. Such ornaments for females should be used in cases of human females and celestial beings (gods and goddesses).

Ābharaṇa (‘ornaments’, eg., sūtra) is a category of alaṃkāra, or “decorations”, which in turn is a category of nepathya, or “costumes and make-up”, the perfection of which forms the main concern of the Āhāryābhinaya, or “extraneous representation”, a critical component for a successful dramatic play.

Source: Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra
Natyashastra book cover
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Natyashastra (नाट्यशास्त्र, nāṭyaśāstra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition (śāstra) of performing arts, (nāṭya, e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nataka) and poetic works (kavya).

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Mīmāṃsā (school of philosophy)

Sūtra (सूत्र) refers to one of the three principle styles found in Sanskrit literature.—Sūtra is a very terse form of writing in which there is no embellishment. The sentence consists of few words and no narrative, explanation or dilation. They were meant for easy memorization by students and depended upon the commentary given by learned scholars.

The sūtras require extensive commentaries and because of their ambivalence can be interpreted in a number of different ways. To this category belong all the texts of the various schools of philosophy, Mīmāṃsa-sūtras, Yoga-sūtras, Vaiśeṣika-sutras, Dharma-sūtras, Gṛhya-sūtras etc.

Source: Srimatham: Mīmāṃsa: The Study of Hindu Exegesis
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Mimamsa (मीमांसा, mīmāṃsā) refers to one of the six orthodox Hindu schools of philosophy, emphasizing the nature of dharma and the philosophy of language. The literature in this school is also known for its in-depth study of ritual actions and social duties.

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Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

Sūtra (सूत्र).—Aphorism; a very short and concise enunciation laying down something in a scientific treatise.

Source: Shodhganga: Vaiyākaraṇabhūṣaṇasāra: a critical study

Sūtra (सूत्र).—A short pithy assertion laying down something in a scientific treatise; aphorism; the word is sometimes used in a collective sense in the singular, referring to the whole collection of Sutras or rules; cf. व्याकरणस्य सूत्रम् (vyākaraṇasya sūtram) M. Bh. on Ahnika 1. The term is defined as अल्पाक्षरमसंदिग्धं सारवद्विश्वतोमुखम् । अस्तो-भमनवद्यं च सूत्रं सूत्रविदो विदुः (alpākṣaramasaṃdigdhaṃ sāravadviśvatomukham | asto-bhamanavadyaṃ ca sūtraṃ sūtravido viduḥ). There are given generally six kinds of Sutras viz. संज्ञासूत्र, परिभाषासूत्र,विधिसूत्र, नियमसूत्र, प्रतिषेधसूत्र (saṃjñāsūtra, paribhāṣāsūtra, vidhisūtra, niyamasūtra, pratiṣedhasūtra) and अधिकारसूत्र (adhikārasūtra); cf. also संज्ञा च परिभाषा च विधिर्नियम एव च प्रतिषेधोधि-कारश्च षड्विधम् सूत्रलक्षणम् ॥ (saṃjñā ca paribhāṣā ca vidhirniyama eva ca pratiṣedhodhi-kāraśca ṣaḍvidham sūtralakṣaṇam ||) Com. on Kat. I. 1.2.

Source: Wikisource: A dictionary of Sanskrit grammar
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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

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Jyotisha (astronomy and astrology)

Sūtra (सूत्र).—A rule or algorithm; (lit., thread). Note: Sūtra is a Sanskrit technical term used in ancient Indian sciences such as Astronomy, Mathematics and Geometry.

Source: Wikibooks (hi): Sanskrit Technical Terms
Jyotisha book cover
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Jyotiṣa (ज्योतिष, jyotisha or jyotish) basically refers to ‘astronomy’ or “Vedic astrology” and represents one of the six additional sciences to be studied along with the Vedas. Jyotiṣa concerns itself with the study and prediction of the movements of celestial bodies, in order to calculate the auspicious time for rituals and ceremonies.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Sūtra (सूत्र) has the sense of ‘thread’ in the Atharvaveda and later. In the sense of a ‘ book of rules ’ for the guidance of sacrifices and so forth, the word occurs in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad (ii. 4. 10).

Source: Vedic index of Names and Subjects

Sūtra: A text in Hinduism or Buddhism. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew, as does the medical term "suture." The word "sutra" was very likely meant to apply quite literally to these texts, as they were written down in books of palm leaves sewn together with thread. This distinguishes them from the older sacred Vedas, which until recently were only memorised, never committed to paper.

In ancient Indian literature, sutra denotes a distinct type of literary composition, based on short aphoristic statements, generally using various technical terms.

In Jainism, sūtra refers to canonical sermons of the Mahavira contained in the Jain Agamas, and to some later (post-canonical) normative texts.

In Buddhism, the sūtra refers mostly to canonical scriptures, many of which are regarded as records of the oral teachings of Gautama Buddha.

etymology: Sūtra (Sanskrit: सूत्र, Pāli: sutta, Ardhamagadhi: sūya).

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Sūtra (सूत्र) refers to one of the twelve members of Buddhist texts (dvādaśāṅga), according to a note attached to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter 51.—Among these texts, those that correctly (sūcanatas) express the meaning are called sūtra. These are:

  1. the four Āgamas,
  2. the Mahāyānasūtras,
  3. the 250 rules (śikṣāpada).

And, apart from the Tripiṭaka, there are also texts that are called sūtras.

Sūtra is the name of the sacred texts found in the four Āgamas (āgamacatuṣṭaya) and the name of the sacred texts found in the Mahāyāna. The sūtras are of two groups: the sūtras contained in the four Āgamas and the Mahāyānsūtras called Great Sūtras. To penetrate into these two groups is to penetrate into the Greater and Lesser Vehicles also. The 250 precepts (śikṣāpada) and similar texts are called ‘sūtra’.

Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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General definition (in Buddhism)

Sūtra (सूत्र, “discourses”) refers to one of the “nine (types of) teachings” (sūtra) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 62). The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (eg., sūtra). The work is attributed to Nagarjuna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

Sūtra Skt., lit., “thread”; (Pali, sutta; Jap., kyō); discourses of the Buddha. The sūtras are collected in the second part of the Buddhist canon, the Sūtra-pitaka, or “Basket of the Teachings.” According to tradition they derive directly from the Buddha. The sūtras are prose texts, each introduced by the words “Thus have I heard.” These words are ascribed to Ānanda, a student of the Buddha.

The Hīnayāna sūtras are divided into “collec­tions,” which in the Pali canon are called Nikāyas and in the Sanskrit version, Agamas. The Nikāyas are the Dīgha-nikāya, Majjhima-nikāya, Samyutta-nikāya, Anguttara-nikāya, and Khuddaka-nikāya. Along with these Hīnayāna sūtras, a great number of Mahāyāna sūtras have also been pre­served. They were originally composed in San­skrit but are for the most part extant only in Chi­nese or Tibetan translations. They are thought to have been composed between the 1st century BCE and the 6th century CE.

Source: Shambala Publications: General

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Sūtra (सूत्र) refers to one of the five parts of Dṛṣṭivāda: one of the twelve limbs of the internal-corpus (aṅga-praviṣṭa). The Aṅgapraviṣṭa refers to one of the two types of scriptural knowledge (śruta), which refers to one of the five types of knowledge (jñāna). according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 1.20, “scriptural knowledge (śruta) preceded by sensory knowledge (mati) is of two, or of twelve (eg., dṛṣṭivāda) or of many kinds”.

How may sub divisions are there of Sūtra and Prathāmanuyoga? There is only one type /part of both Sūtra and Prathāmanuyoga.

Source: Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 1
General definition book cover
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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India history and geogprahy

Sūtra.—(IA 20), a manual of religious rituals, etc. (HRS), royal receipts collected by the superintendent of weaving, as suggested by the Arthaśāstra. (IE 3-1), same as śarayantraka; the string holding the leaves of a manuscript together (Vāsavadatta, Hall's ed., p. 250). Note: sūtra is defined in the “Indian epigraphical glossary” as it can be found on ancient inscriptions commonly written in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Dravidian languages.

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Sūtra.—(PJS), abbreviation of Sūtradhāra, a mason. Note: sūtra is defined in the “Indian epigraphical glossary” as it can be found on ancient inscriptions commonly written in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Dravidian languages.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Indian Epigraphical Glossary
India history book cover
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The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

sutrā (सुत्रा).—& sutrī a Better sūtrā.

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sūtra (सूत्र).—n (S) A thread in general, any string, line, fibre, or filament. 2 The string or wire of a puppet, doll &c.; and, hence, the art, trick, mystery, knack, key, spring, turning pin (of an ingenious piece of mechanism, or a complicate and intricate business); the scheme or plan of its construction; the manner of its operation; the moving or managing principle &c.: also, for manasūtra, the inclining or working of the mind; the mental tendencies or the will. 3 The rule, law, canon; the system of instructions and directions; the process or line of procedure; as prescribed or as necessary to be observed for the accomplishment or conduct of a business or work. 4 A rule or precept (in morals or science); a short, obscure, and technical sentence, enjoining some observance in law or religion, or expressing some rule in grammar, logic, or other science. In both cases, the sutra is the fundamental and primitive part of Hindu learning, and is the form in which the works of the early writers appear. 5 An opinion or a decree in law. 6 A string; a collection of threads (as that worn over the shoulder by the three first classes).

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sūtrā (सूत्रा) [or सूत्री, sūtrī].—a The same with sūtraka q. v. supra; but sūtrā being more definitely Prakrit, and determined somewhat by the Hindustani has the further sense of Clever, expert, adroit, skilful, sharp, smart, apt &c.

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

sūtra (सूत्र).—n A thread. The key. A rule. A string.

Source: DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

Sūtra (सूत्र).—[sūtr-ac]

1) A thread, string, line, cord; पुष्पमालानुषङ्गेण सूत्रं शिरसि धार्यते (puṣpamālānuṣaṅgeṇa sūtraṃ śirasi dhāryate) Subhās.; मणौ वज्रसमुत्कीर्णे सूत्रस्येवास्ति मे गतिः (maṇau vajrasamutkīrṇe sūtrasyevāsti me gatiḥ) R.1.4.

2) A fibre; सुराङ्गना कर्षति खण्डिताग्रात् सूत्रं मृणालादिव राजहंसी (surāṅganā karṣati khaṇḍitāgrāt sūtraṃ mṛṇālādiva rājahaṃsī) V.1.18; Ku.1.4.

3) A wire.

4) A collection of threads.

5) The sacred thread or sacrificial cord worn by members of the first three classes; शिखासूत्रवान् ब्राह्मणः (śikhāsūtravān brāhmaṇaḥ) Tarka K.; विप्रत्वे सूत्रमेव हि (vipratve sūtrameva hi) Bhāg.12.2.3.

6) The string or wire of a puppet.

7) A short rule or precept, an aphorism.

8) A short or concise technical sentence used as a memorial rule; it is thus defined:-स्वल्पाक्षरमसंदिग्धं सारवद् विश्वतोमुखम् । अस्तोभमनवद्यं च सूत्रं सूत्रविदो विदुः (svalpākṣaramasaṃdigdhaṃ sāravad viśvatomukham | astobhamanavadyaṃ ca sūtraṃ sūtravido viduḥ).

9) Any work or manual containing such aphoristic rules; e. g. मानवकल्पसूत्र, आपस्तम्बसूत्र, गृह्यसूत्र (mānavakalpasūtra, āpastambasūtra, gṛhyasūtra) &c.

1) A rule, canon, decree (in law).

11) A girdle; वासः ससूत्रं लघुमारुतोऽहरद् भवस्य देवस्य किलानुपश्यतः (vāsaḥ sasūtraṃ laghumāruto'harad bhavasya devasya kilānupaśyataḥ) Bhāg.8.12.23.

12) A line, stroke.

13) A sketch, plan; त्वमेव धर्मार्थदुघाभिपत्तये दक्षेण सूत्रेण ससर्जिथा- ध्वरम् (tvameva dharmārthadughābhipattaye dakṣeṇa sūtreṇa sasarjithā- dhvaram) Bhāg.4.6.44.

14) Indication, prelude; विशङ्क्य सूत्रं पुरुषायितस्य तद् भविष्यतोऽस्मायि तदा तदालिभिः (viśaṅkya sūtraṃ puruṣāyitasya tad bhaviṣyato'smāyi tadā tadālibhiḥ) N.16.15.

Derivable forms: sūtram (सूत्रम्).

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Relevant definitions

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