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 3.5.1:

संसर्गि भेदकं यद् यत् सव्यापारं प्रतीयते ।
गुणत्वं परतन्त्रत्वात्तस्य शास्त्र उदाहृतम् ॥ १ ॥

saṃsargi bhedakaṃ yad yat savyāpāraṃ pratīyate |
guṇatvaṃ paratantratvāttasya śāstra udāhṛtam || 1 ||

1. Whatever rests on something else (saṃsargi) differentiates it (bhedaka) and is understood in that function (savyāpāra), is, being dependent, called ‘quality’ in the śāstra.


[Quality is said to rest on its substratum, because the forms of the two are mixed up, as it were. That is why it distinguishes its substratum from other substrata. The force of the repetition of the relative pronoun (yad yad) is that anything, even a universal, can become a quality, if it is understood as something which distinguishes the substratum. This is the implication of the M.Bhā. on 21 on P. 2.1.1. This definition of guṇa follows worldly notions. Vā 5 on P. 5.1.119 also stands for the worldly notion of guṇa. That vārttika says something about the meaning of the suffixes ‘tva’ and ‘tal’ when added to stems. If the stem stands for something to be distinguished (viśeṣya), these suffixes express the distinguishing quality (viśeṣana). When a stem like ‘go’ stands for the individual characterised by class or universal, the suffix added to it stands for the class or universal. When the stem stands for the class only, then the suffix stands for the form of the word itself. That the form of the word also is the expressed sense of the word has already been explained. It can also be looked upon as a quality which qualifies the meaning of the stem. It is superimposed on it, it is identified with it. When a stem like ‘śukla.’ stands for the individual qualified by the quality ‘white’ the suffix ‘tva’ added to it stands for the quality. If the stem stands for the quality the suffix denotes the universal inhering in it. If it stands for the universal, the suffix stands for the form of the word as before. Even when the suffix ‘tva’ is applied to a proper name like ‘Ḍittha’, it denotes the universal, that element which persists in the individual named, through all the changes which he undergoes.

In words like rājapuruṣatva, pācakatva, aupagavatva, the suffix denotes relation. The word ‘rājapuruṣa’ denotes a person qualified by a relation with the king and the suffix denotes that relation. In ‘hastitva’ and ‘kumbhakāratva’ the suffix denotes classes, relation being the basis of the formation of the stem itself. From all this, it is clear that in P. 5.1.119, the word ‘bhāva,’ stands for something which qualifies something else, due to which a thing appears as what it is (bhavaty asmāt tenākāreṇa dravyam iti). This conception of quality (guṇa) has been adopted by the Science of Grammar. Sometimes, however, rules have been framed on the basis of other notions of quality. For example, P. 4.1.44. Here the word ‘guṇavacana’ means a word expressive of substance to which an attribute is subordinate and the feminine suffix comes after such a word. The word ‘guṇa’ in this sūtra cannot mean what is defined in the present verse because then the feminine suffix would have to be added even to a word expressive of the universal. It stands for the Vaiśeṣika notion of guṇa, mentioned in the verse “sattva niviśate” etc. given in the M.Bhā. under P. 4.1.44. This definition would not include the universal. The other verse given in M.Bhā. under P. 4.1.44, namely, ‘upaity anyaj jahāty anyad’ etc. also gives the Vaiśeṣika definition of guṇa. According to some, these two verses are not meant to define ‘guṇa’ but to say what kind of word ‘guṇavacana’ is. M.Bhā. on P. 1.4.1. denies the name ‘guṇavacana’ to a compound word, a word ending in a primary or secondary suffix, a pronoun, an indeclinable, a proper name and a word expressive of universal. It is a word which denotes a thing qualified by an attribute. After such a word, the suffix ‘ṣyañ’ can come according to P. 5.1.124. Thus, this sūtra is also based on the Vaiśeṣika conception of guṇa, though not in a consistent manner.

In P. 5.2.94 and P. 8.1.12, a word which denotes a thing to which a quality is subordinate, is guṇavacana. For example, the word ‘śukla’ which means not ‘white’ but ‘that which is white’. Or the word ‘paṭu’ which does not mean cleverness, but one who is clever. A word which denotes quality only is not ‘guṇavacana’. For example, ‘kārṣṇyam’. In P. 5.2.47 the word guṇa stands for an equal part. The meaning of the word ‘guṇa’ in P. 2.2.11 has to be clarified. The vārttikas: ‘tatsthaiś ca guṇaiḥ’ and ‘na tu tadviśeṣaṇaiḥ’, given under P. 2.2.8 must be taken together with P. 2.2.11. In the last sūtra, the compounding of a word ending in the genitive case affix with a word expressive of guṇa is prohibited. There the word guṇa is used in the Vaiśeṣika sense. So we cannot have a compound word for kākasya kārṣṇyam’. This prohibition is set aside in some cases. Words express guṇa in two ways. Sometimes they present it as quite separate from the thing in which it exists as in candanasya gandhaḥ’. We cannot say ‘candanam gandhaḥ’ because the word ‘gandhaḥ’ denotes smell itself and not smell as existing in sandal wood. When we say ‘śuklaḥ paṭaḥ’ the word ‘śukla’ denotes ‘white’ as an attribute of cloth. It means something that is white and not whiteness itself. ‘Gandhaḥ’ is what is called ‘tatstha guṇa’ that is, guṇa which is presented as something separate from its substratum. A word ending in the sixth case affix can be compounded with such a word. That is why we can say: candanagandhaḥ [candanagandha]. A word which presents a quality sometimes as separate and sometimes as one with its substratum cannot be compounded. We can say ‘paṭasya śuklaḥ’ and ‘suklaḥ paṭaḥ’. In the former expression ‘white’ is presented as something separate; in the latter, it is presented as existing in the cloth. Therefore, we cannot have the compound word paṭaśukla. So the word guṇa in P. 2.2.11 means, not a word which means a thing to which a quality is subordinate, but a word which presents a quality as something separate and independent, though elsewhere it might be dependent. In Vā. 1. on P. 2.2.7 and in P. 5.3.58, the word guṇa has the Vaiśeṣika sense. In P. 6.2.155, it has the meaning given to it in the present verse. From all this it follows that the meaning of the word guṇa varies in the śāstra and that the meaning given to it in the present verse is the special grammarian’s meaning.]

Here certain doubts arise. Why is it that only quality admits of degree and not the thing itself? How is it that when degree is expressed in regard to quality, degree in regard to the thing is also understood? How can one say that everywhere some quality is present which brings about difference of degree in the thing, considering that qualities cannot have qualities, universals cannot have universals and actions can have no qualities? How can excellence in one thing bring about excellence in something else? An attempt is made in the following verses to remove some of these doubts.

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