Vakyapadiya of Bhartrihari

by K. A. Subramania Iyer | 1965 | 391,768 words

The English translation of the Vakyapadiya by Bhartrihari including commentary extracts and notes. The Vakyapadiya is an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with the philosophy of language. Bhartrhari authored this book in three parts and propounds his theory of Sphotavada (sphota-vada) which understands language as consisting of bursts of sounds conveyi...

This book contains Sanskrit text which you should never take for granted as transcription mistakes are always possible. Always confer with the final source and/or manuscript.

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation of verse 3.4.1-2:

संसर्गरूपात् सम्भूताः संविद्रूपादपोद्धृताः ।
शास्त्रे विभक्ता वाक्यार्थात् प्रकृतिप्रत्ययार्थवत् ॥ १ ॥
निमित्तभूताः साधुत्वे शास्त्रादनुमितात्मकाः ।
केचित् पदार्था वक्ष्यन्ते संक्षेपेण यथागमम् ॥ २ ॥

saṃsargarūpāt sambhūtāḥ saṃvidrūpādapoddhṛtāḥ |
śāstre vibhaktā vākyārthāt prakṛtipratyayārthavat || 1 ||
nimittabhūtāḥ sādhutve śāstrādanumitātmakāḥ |
kecit padārthā vakṣyante saṃkṣepeṇa yathāgamam || 2 ||

1-2. Some meanings of words which exist in the sentence looked upon as interconnection (saṃsargarūpāt saṃbhūtāḥ) which are isolated by a process of abstraction (saṃvidrūpād apoddhṛtāḥ) which are separated from the meaning of a sentence like the meanings of the stem and the suffix (from that of a word), which are the basis of the correctness of words and which are inferred from indications in the Science of Grammar, will now be explained according to Tradition.


[The previous section ended with the remark that, in the Science of Grammar, meanings of words, agreeing with worldly usage, are isolated for the purpose of explaining the formation of words. The sentence is indivisible and so is its meaning. For the purpose of conveniently explaining the forms of the language both are artificially divided. These divisions become the means of the derivation of the forms of the language. For the purpose of this division, the meaning of the sentence is looked upon as connection (saṃsarga). In that way, the meanings of the individual words whose connection the sentence-meaning is, can be separated. They exist only if the sentence-meaning is looked upon as a combination. If they do not exist at all or if they are like bits of iron, they cannot combine and there cannot be any question of analysis. Of course, the sentence and its meaning are indivisible. So there are no word-meanings. There cannot be any question of their previous separate existence. The hearer does not understand the meaning of the whole sentence all at once. He understands it little by little, part by part and then joins the parts together. The taste of ‘sharbat’ (pānaka) is really an indivisible whole, but those who drink it can, if they make an effort, taste each ingradient separately and assess the part played by it in making up the taste of the whole. As the indivisible sentence—meaning cannot be understood in a flash all at once, the unreal word-meanings are abstracted in the middle as mere means to an end. Once the sentence-meaning is understood, they disappear. This artificial division is done with a purpose. It is to facilitate the teaching of forms, so that each form may be made in its own meaning. These meanings are not taught in the śāstra, they are not ‘vidheya’. They are natural and they are made use of to teach forms. This is the meaning of the M. Bhā. statement: svābhāvikam ity āha. Kuta etat. arthānādeśanāt = “It is declared that it is natural. Why so? Because meaning has not been taught.” (M.Bhā. I, p. 363, 1.8). The mention of meaning in a grammatical sūtra is only by the way. It is only a means to an end. The artificial division of a sentence is like the division of a word like a noun or a verb into parts and assigning a meaning to each, though a word is really indivisible. These artificial meanings are indications of the correctness of the word. That is why they are analysed. They are of two kinds: (1) those which are known in the world, (2) those which are known in particular śāstras. These latter are defined by grammarians in their own way. These definitions are inferred from Pāṇini’s practice. For example, from the sūtra which teaches ‘ekaśeṣa’ (P. 1.2.64) we gather that the individual or the particular (dravya) can be the meaning of a word and that it means something which is to be differentiated (bhedya). From the vārttika—“yasya guṇasya hi bhāvād dravye śabdaniveśaḥ etc.” (Vā. 5 on P. 5.1.119), we understand that gūṇa is something which rests on something else. Even the universal (jāti) can be said to be guṇa when it is expressed by an abstract suffix (bhāvapratyaya). Words like śukla in ‘śuklaḥ pataḥ’ denote an object having white as its quality. That what is called time is essentially action is known from the fact that Pānini has used such words as ‘bhūta’, ‘vartamāne’, ‘bhaviṣyati’ as expressive of the limiting factor of the meaning of the root which is action. That number is something which enables us to count difference is made clear in the sūtra—“jātyākhyām ekasmin” etc. (P. 1.2.57). The Vaiśeṣika conception of number is that it is a quality which inheres in a substance. We gather that saṃstyāna, prasava and sthiti constitute the nature of the genders from the expressionsstriyām’, ‘puṃsi’, and ‘napuṃsakhe’ which are found in connection with the explanation of the forms of words. Gender cannot mean sex because such things as a ‘khaṭvā’ cannot have sex in the ordinary sense of the term. That it is power or capacity (śakti) which is the real accessory (sādhana) and not substance can be gathered from these indications: (1) from the fact that an accessory can sometimes be śeṣa (2) from the fact that the object can sometimes become agent—changes which substance, being uniform, cannot undergo—(3) from the fact that an ‘avyayībhāva’ compound has been taught in the sense of a case-ending. The concepts of ‘puruṣa’ and ‘upagraha’ have been taken from previous grammarians. Space and action are well-known in the world. Action has been defined as a process the parts of which are arranged in a temporal sequence. One and the same word can convey many of the things mentioned above, but one of them as the main thing and the others as subordinate to it. Thus, the verb denotes action, time, accessory, number, person and aspect. The noun denotes substance, gender, number, accessories, action and time. All these things have been explained according to the tradition of the grammarians.]

As quality etc. depend upon substance, the latter is first defined.

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