Coward, Harold G. 1976. Bhartṛhari. Boston: Twayne Publishers.
Contents: About the Author; Preface; Chronology; 1. Bhartrhari in His Own Day 13; 2. The Vakyapadlya’s Theory of Language 31; 3. The Yoga
Psychology Underlying Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadlya 53; 4. Bhartrhari’s Dhvani as Central to Indian Aesthetics 80; 5. Yoga in the Vairagya-Sataka of Bhartrhari 95;
6. The Contribution of Bhartrhari 105; Notes and Beferences 125; Selected Bibliography 139; Glossary of Sanskrit Terms 141; Index 147-150.
"The Vākyapadīya, Bhartṛhari’s great work on language and metaphysics, is technical Indian Sanskrit philosophy at its best. I have done
my best to make it understandable to the beginning English reader, but have also included in the text the key Sanskrit terms (with translations) since some of
these concepts are not always clearly expressible in English. A glossary of Sanskrit terms is provided. All quotations from and references to the Vākyapadīya
are based upon K. A. Subramania Iyer’s excellent English translation. It should be noted, however, that his numbering of verses is sometimes different from the
usual numbering. Bhartrhari’s philosophy of language, and the Yoga psychology assumed, is complex and may prove to be heavy going for those not philosophically
Readers more interested in Bhartrhari’s poetry or contribution to Indian aesthetics can safely omit the more difficult parts of Chapters 2
and 3 and go on to Chapter 4. In Chapters 4 and 5, brief summaries or reviews of Bhartṛhari’s philosophy and psychology have been included." (from the
———. 1977. "Bhartrhari versus Sankara on the overcoming of error." In Buddhist Thought and Asian Civilization: Essays in Honor
of Herbert V. Guenther on His Sixtieth Birthday, edited by Kawamura, L. S. and Scott, K., 1-15. Emeryville, Cal.: Dharma Publishing.
———. 1980. The Sphota Theory of Language: A Philosophical Analysis. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
"Sanskrit grammar was an attempt to discipline and explain the behaviour of a spoken language, so that the inner meaning could shine
It was this latter aspect, the perceiving of the intended meaning, that commanded the attention of the Indian philosophers of language. Among
the many excellent Indian philosophers of language (e.g. Maṇḍana Miśra, Kumārila, Kauṇḍa Bhaṭṭha, Abhinavagupta, etc.) Bhartṛhari(5) (580 a.d.) consistently
ranks as the most important. In Bhartrhari’s major work, the Vākyapadīya, the ways in which Indian philosophy conceives the
outer word form to be united with its inner meaning are discussed.
Bhartrhari’s own position has come to be known as the Sphoṭa Theory after the Sanskrit term sphuṭ, which means “ to burst forth” or
when applied to language “a bursting forth of illumination or insight.” V. S. Apte in his Sanskrit-English Dictionary defines sphoṭa as the idea that bursts
out or flashes on the mind when a sound is uttered.(*)" (pp. 10-11)
(5) For a beginner’s introduction see Harold G. Coward, Bhartṛhari.
(*) V. S. Aple, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 1013.
———. 1982. "Time (Kala) in Bhartrhari's "Vakyapadiya"." Journal of Indian Philosophy no. 10:277-287.
"Summary and Conclusion.
Behind the discussion of the levels of language in the Vākyapadīya is Bhartṛhari’s notion of the dynamic limiting function of time
(kālaśakti). After setting forth the absolute nature of Brahman as being the one eternal essence of word and consciousness Bhartṛhari then introduces
the notion of time as the power or means by which this one unchanging absolute (sabdatattva-Brahman) manifests itself as the dynamic diversity mankind
creation. Time is the creative power of Brahman, and thus is responsible for the birth, death and continuity of everything in the cosmos.
Time is one, but when broken or limited into sequences appears as moments or actions. These segments of time are mentally categorized as seconds or minutes.
Such limited segments of time are then mentally unified into day, week, month and year. In the same fashion notions of past, present, and future are developed.
When time is thought of as an action not yet completed, the notion of the present is established. An action that has been completed is time as past; and an
action yet to be completed is time as future. All of ordinary life is sequenced by these three powers of time. Yet all the while, declares Bhartṛhari, there is
really no sequence at all. From the ultimate viewpoint all three powers of time are constantly present. Time is One. Although the effects of the three powers
of time (i.e., past, present, and future) are mutually contradictory, they function without causing any disorder in the cosmos. They are like three paths on
which objects move about without any confusion. Similarities and differences with the Advaita Vedānta, Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya-Yoga and Buddhist views of
Kāla were briefly explored.
Bhartṛhari enters into this deep discussion of time in relation to the absolute, not as a fascinating metaphysical aside, but to explain how
the unitary Word (Sabda-brahman) manifests itself in experience as the diversity of words called language. As a grammarian, he is also providing a
metaphysical basis for the experience of the tenses past, present and future in language.
And, it is past and future that have the veiling function of keeping one apart from the absolute eternal present. In religious terms union
with the eternal present is union with the Divine, and, for Bhartṛhari, this is the inherent goal toward which all language, all grammar, is reaching."
———. 1982. "The Meaning and Power of Mantras in Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya." Studies in Religion no.
"Bhartṛhari, the fifth century systematizer of the Grammarian School, presents a philosophy of language which proves helpful in
understanding both the factual and the intuitive levels of language. Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya offers a metaphysical, philosophical, and psychological
analysis of language which spans the Vedic through to the Tantric experience of mantra. All the views of mantra summarized above (including
mantra as ’meaningful’ and mantra as ‘meaningless’) are encompassed by Bhartṛhari within one understanding in which language is seen to
function at various levels." (p. 367)
———. 1990. "Derrida and Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya on the Origin of Language." Philosophy East and West no. 40:3-16.
Reprinted in H. G. Coward, Derrida and Indian Philosophy, Albany: State University of New York Press 1990, pp. 27-48.
"Professor T. R. V. Murti, in his 1963 presidential address(1) to the Indian Philosophical Congress, presented a challenge to Indian
philosophy - a challenge that seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Murti challenged the traditional schools of Indian philosophy to rethink themselves and their
relationships with one another from the perspective of language.
Not only would this breathe fresh air into the stale situation obtaining in Indian philosophy-because the Kantian and Hegelian
reinterpretations of basic Indian metaphysics had about run their course - it would also allow a significant engagement between Indian philosophy and the
contemporary Western concern with the philosophy of language. This chapter takes up that challenge by entering a dialogue between traditional Indian philosophy
as formulated by Bhartṛhari and the modern Western deconstructionist thought of Jacques Derrida. In approaching this dialogue I will follow the insightful
suggestions of Professor Murti as to one point on which this dialogue should be focused, namely, the issue of the origin of language." (pp. 27-28 of the
(1) T. R. V. Murti, "Some Thoughts on the Indian Philosophy of Language. " Presidential Address to the 37th Session of the Indian
Philosophical Congress held in Chandigarh in 1963, and reprinted in Studies in Indian Thought: The Collected Papers of Professor T. R. V. Murti, ed.
Harold Coward. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983, pp. 355-376 .
———. 1991. ""Speech versus Writing" in Derrida and Bhartrhari." Philosophy East and West no. 41 (2):141-162.
Reprinted in H. G. Coward, Derrida and Indian Philosophy, Albany: State University of New York Press 1990, pp. 49-79.
"Both Derrida and Bhartṛhari agree that, since philosophy must be done in language, literary analysis is as important and perhaps more
important than logical analysis. As Derrida puts it, philosophers have been able to impose their various conceptual systems only by ignoring or suppressing the
disruptive effects of language.(20)
Bhartṛhari in Vākyapadīya 1 : 14 describes Grammar as the "purifier of all the sciences." It is through the use of correct forms of
language-as identified by the Grammarians-that philosophic or any other kind of knowledge can be obtained. Both Bhartṛhari and Derrida break down the barrier
between literary criticism and philosophy." (p. 56 of the reprint)
(20) Christopher Norris, Deconstruction: Theory and Practice. London: Methuen, 1982, p. 18.
———. 1994. "Kumārila’s theory of word meaning in relation to the sphoṭa theory of Bhartṛhari." In Studies in Mīmāṃsā, Dr.
Mandan Mishra Felicitation Volume, edited by Dwivedi, R. C., 215-219. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
"Kumārila of the Mīmāṃsā school and Bhartṛhari of the Grammarian school share many points of agreement with reg:ird to word meaning.
Over against schools such as the Cārvāka, Jaina, Nyāya and Buddhists, that see the relationship between word and meaning as human-made or
conventional, Kumārila and Bhartṛhari agree that the relationship between the word (śabda) and its meaning (artha) is inborn, eternal and
therefore not subject to creation by any person including even God.(1)" (p. 215)
"Kumārila, arguing against Bhartṛhari, maintains that the word or śabda, whether it be the sentence or the individual word, is
nothing more than a collection of word-sounds or spoken letters, and it is with this collection alone that the word-meaning is associated. When such a
coIIection is brought to the mind of the hearer by the sounds uttered by the speaker, the hearer understands the meaning from the sounds alone. No mystical
entity, such as sphoṭa, need be postulated at all.(6) According to Bhartṛhari, however, "the essence of the Sphoṭa doctrine is the idea
that the word, mainly in the form of the sentence and secondarily in the form of the individual word and the phoneme (the articulated letter sound), is an
entity over and above the sounds and not a mere collection of them and that it is this entity which is the bearer of the meaning.(7)"
"The debate between Kumārila and Bhartṛhari as to how words reveal their meaning is clearly summarized in the Sphoṭasiddhi of
Maṇḍana Misra.(4)" (p. 216)
"Although Maṇḍana in presenting this debate clearly favours the Grammarian position, a dispassionate reading of the analysis suggests a
draw rather than a victory for one side or the other. Neither Kumārila nor Bhartṛhari solve the question of how words convey meaning on purely logical grounds.
Both take recourse to non-logical argument. For Kumārila it is the postulation of apūrva, based on the revelation of the Veda, that is found to be
necessary for words to convey meaning. For Bhartṛhari it is the postulation of the sphoṭa, based on the intuitive experience of the speaker and
hearer, that is found to be necessary for words to convey meaning. Both Kumārila and Bhartṛhari ground themselves upon the Vedas and argue that their
respective schools provide the true understanding and prescription for life offered by the Vedic revelation." (pp. 218-219, a note omitted)
(1) See the Śabara Bhāṣya in Ganganatha Jha, Purva-Mīmāṃsā in Its Sources (Varanasi: Banaras Hindu University, 2nd Edition,
1964). p. 98.
(6) Ślokavārtika of Kumarilābhatta, trans. by Ganganatha Jha (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1909), sūtra v, section 12, pp.
261-68. Śaṅkarā offers essentially the same argument against the Sphoṭa Theory (see Śaṅkarā 's Bhāṣya on the Brahma Sūtras
(7) K.A. Subramania Iyer, 'Introduction' to Sphoṭasiddhi, of Maṇḍana Miśra, trans. by K.A.S. Iyer (Poona: Deccan College, 1966), p.
Das, Nilanjan. 2022. "Pratibhā, Intuition, and Practical Knowledge." British Journal for the History of
First online 9 June 2022.
Abstract: "In Sanskrit philosophy, the closest analogue of intuition is pratibhā. Here, I will focus on the theory of pratibhā offered
by the Sanskrit grammarian Bhartṛhari (fifth century CE). On this account, states of pratibhā play two distinct psychological roles. First, they serve as
sources of linguistic understanding. They are the states by means of which linguistically competent agents effortlessly understand the meaning of novel
sentences. Second, states of pratibhā serve as sources of practical knowledge. On the basis of such states, both human and non-human agents unreflectively know
which actions they should perform under which circumstances. Given these two roles of pratibhā, modern commentators have often claimed that states of pratibhā,
as understood by Bhartṛhari, are intuitions. In this article, I will reconstruct Bhartṛhari's view and to explore its consequences, I will argue that, if
Bhartṛhari’s theory of pratibhā is right, then a form of human exceptionalism – which makes rationality a unique trait of human beings – becomes difficult to
Dash, Narendra Kumar. 1998. Bhartṛhari's Critism [sic] in Jain Logic: a study. 1-9.
Available on at Jain Quantum.
"The grammarian-philosopher Bhartṛhari opines that Sabda is the substratum of the world of appearance and thus he accepts the
theory of Sabdāvaita. However this key-stone of the Grammarians' system of Metaphysics has elaborately been controverted by the rival schools. Here we
propose to record the dialectics of the Jains Philosophers, one of the rival schools of Metaphysics.
This theory of Bhartṛhari has been subjected to severe criticism by the Naiyayikas, Mimamsajas, Buddhists and Jains. Now, for our practical
purpose we discuss the view of the Jaina logicians like Vidyanandi (9th century A.D.), Abhayadev Suri (11th century A.D.), Prabhacandra (1st half 12th Century
A.D.), Vadideva Suri (later half of 12th Century, A.D.) and Shree Yasovijaya jee (18th Century A.D.)." (p. 1)
Davis, Lawrence Ward. 1978. Studies in Bhartrhari's Vakyapadiya, University of Massachusetts.
Absract: "Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya was the work in which the speculations of the Indian Grammarians found their fullest
expression. In this dissertation three topics treated in the Vākyapadīya are explicated: ākānksā, sphoṭa, and sabda-brahman. A Montague-style
categorial grammar for a fragment of Sanskrit is given to provide an explication of the term ākānksā. The semantics of that fragment is discussed in connection
with the concept sphota and it is argued that Bhartrhari's theory of sphota was not the one currently attributed to him by scholars of his work. The concept of
sabdabrahman is discussed with reference to two questions: Why did Bhartṛhari think that the study of Grammar leads to salvation, and how can a monistic
position be consistently asserted? The formal machinery of the earlier chapters is employed in these discussions. Another concept—that of metalanguage
hierarchies—is discussed but the intent is to demonstrate that such hierarchies need not be employed in a formal treatment of Bhartṛhari's work and a different
system is given within which such hierarchies may be accommodated without recourse to a different language."
Deshpande, Madhav. 1992. "Bhartṛhari (ca. 450—510)." In Sprachphilosophie / Philosophy of Language / La philosophie du langage.
Vol. 1, edited by Dascal, Marcelo, Gerhardus, Dietfried, Lorenz, Kuno and Meggle, Georg, 269-278. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
1. Introduction 269; 2. Summary of the Vākyapadīya 271; 3. Assessment of Bhartṛhari’s contribution to
philosophy of language 277; 4. Selected references 278.
"We know from the tradition that a work called Saṅgraha by Vyāḍi was the first known massive work devoted to general issues
such as the eternal or non-eternal nature of language, and whether a word denoted a universal or a particular. However, this work which existed before
Patañjali’s time was soon lost. Among available texts, Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya is the very first devoted to a systematic investigation of issues
relating to language.
While many such discussions are scattered in the works of Kātyāyana, Patañjali, Jaimini etc., Bhartṛhari deals with them in a systematic
fashion. While he explains hundreds of different theories, there are some theories for which he is particularly well known. Among these, we must include his
notion of Brahman, the ultimate reality, as a language-principle, the evolution of the material world from the Brahman being likened to the
manifestation of meanings by words.
While this notion existed in a rudimentary form before Bhartṛhari, he presents it in a decisive shape. The second significant contribution of
Bhartṛhari is the notion of sphoṭa, ›real word‹, being without parts and sequence, and yet being manifested by sounds which appear in a particular
sequence. A related notion is that of a sentence being indivisible and its meaning also being indivisible. If the sentence-meaning is indivisible, then it is
certainly not understood as a sequence of the constituent word-meanings. Bhartṛhari’s notion is that the sentence-meaning is understood in a flash of
While granting this unitary character of a sentence, its meaning etc., Bhartṛhari also admits that subsequent analysis allows us to isolate
components of sentences and words, as well as those of sentence-meanings and word-meanings. Such an analytical understanding is valued for theoretical
purposes, but one is warned that in the actual linguistic communication in the real world, such analysed entities do not occur." (p. 277)
———. 1998. "Evolution of the Notion of Authority (Prāmāṇya) in the Pāṇinian Tradition." Histoire Épistémologie
Langage no. 20:5-28.
Abstract: "The Paninian tradition assumes a special structure of authority for the three founding grammarians, i.e. Pânini, Kâtyâyana,
and Patanjali. It is assumed that among these founding grammarians, Patanjali has the highest authority. Then comes Kâtyâyana, and then comes Pânini himself.
It is also assumed that these three grammarians are sages (muni) and hold a special status, while the tradition after Patanjali is believed to fall
into decline and does not command the same high authority. This paper traces the historical evolution of these notions. It first points out that Pânini had not
deified (or rather muni-fied) the grammarians who are cited in his grammar. Similarly, Pânini himself was not muni-fied by Kâtyâyana and Patanjali. However,
they ascribe some special respect for him, and treat his grammar as being like the Vedas, the scriptures of the Hindus. It is in Bhartrhari's works (500 A.D.)
that we see the first signs of muni-fication of the early grammarians and a feeling that contemporary scholars do not have a native command of Sanskrit. In
Kaiyata, we have the full statement of authority of the three early grammarians, with indications of Patanjali being considered an incarnation of the snake
divinity Sesa. In the works of Nâgesabhatta, we have the full development of these conceptions, with the inspiration for the grammar of Pânini being attributed
to Shiva and his grammar acquiring the status of Veda."
Desnitskaya, Evgeniya. 2006. "Antinomy of One and Many in Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya." Acta Orientalia Vilnensia no.
Abstract: "Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya (VP) is notorious for the multiplicity of the mutually exclusive doctrines expounded there,
without any final solution. This paper aims to demonstrate that in the case of every controversial question discussed in VP, the variety of views on it can be
reduced to a basic antinomy which serves as a kind of proposition for the problem under consideration. These antinomies are sometimes expressed explicitly but
very often they are hidden in the text of VP. The fundamental dichotomy is the opposition between pluralism and monism, the origin of which in turn can be
traced in the contradiction between the grammatical background and ontological trends of Bhartṛhari’s philosophy.
The way in which Bhartṛhari integrates these extremities into a total system is analyzed in this paper on the basis of some passages, dealing
with a certain semantic problem, from the 1st and the 3rd kāndas of VP. Attention is focused on the concept of activity and its role in Bhartṛhari’s
———. 2016. "Paśyantī, Pratibhā, Sphoţa and Jāti: Ontology and Epistemology in the Vākyapadīya." Journal of Indian
Philosophy no. 44:325-335.
Abstract: "Eli Franco has recently suggested to distinguish the two main periods in the history of Indian philosophy, i.e. the older
ontological and the new epistemological.
In the Vākyapadīya, however, ontology and epistemology are evidently intertwined and interrelated. In this paper ontological and
epistemological features of the concepts of paśyantī, pratibhā, sphoţa and jāti are analyzed in order to demonstrate that all these concepts,
while being ontologically different, are engaged in similar epistemological processes, i.e. the cognition of a verbal utterance. Thus the identification of
sphoţa and jāti as well as of paśyantī and pratibhā met with in some passages of VP and the commentaries implies not the
absolute identity of these concepts, but only their overlapping in the sphere of epistemology. Considering concepts of different origin in one epistemological
perspective enables to escape controversies in interpretation and provides a kind of consistency in a bit but amorphous work of Bhartṛhari."
Franco, E. (2013). On the periodization and historiography of Indian Philosophy. In E. Franco (Ed.). Periodization and historiography of
Indian Philosophy (pp. 1–34). Verein “Sammlung de Nobili, Arbeitsgemeinschaft fŭr Indologie und Religionsforschung”, Institut för Sŭdasien-, Tibet-und
Buddhismuskunde der Universität Wien.
———. 2018. "Bhartrhari's Perspectivism as a Philosophical Strategy: Its Origins and Possible Interpretations." Advances in
Social Science, Education and Humanities Research no. 233:9-11.
Abstract: "The 'Vakyapadiya' of Bhartṛhari, the famous Indian linguistic philosopher (5th CE), presents many different, often mutually
exclusive, views on language and its relationship with cognitive processes and extra-linguistic relation. Modern scholars designate this methodological
approach as perspectivism. This paper provides the analysis of perspectivism as a philosophical strategy. Two general features of Bhartṛhari's perspectivism
have been identified, namely the functional attitude and the idea of the relative incompleteness of every single doctrine. The origin of both features has been
traced in the works of the ancient grammarians as well as in the earlier Brahmanic texts."
———. 2018. "Language and Extra-linguistic Reality in Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya." Sophia no. 57:643-659.
Abstract: "Relation between language and extra-linguistic reality is an important problem of Bhartṛhari’s linguistic philosophy. In the
‘Vākyapadīya,’ [VP] this problem is discussed several times, but in accordance with the general perspectivist trend of Bhartṛhari’s philosophy each time it is
framed through different concepts and different solutions are provided. In this essay, an attempt is undertaken to summarize the variety of different and
mutually exclusive views on language and extra-linguistic reality in VP and to formulate the hidden presuppositions on which the actual viewpoints expressed in
the kārikās are based. As a result, the following approaches are formulated: (A1) Language is coextensive with external reality. (A2a) Language,
designated as kalpanā/vikalpa, is distinct from reality. (A2b) Language refers to the secondary/metaphorical reality (upacārasattā/aupacārikī
sattā). (A3) Language and reality somehow correlate, because otherwise, practical/linguistic activity (vyavahāra) would be impossible. The origin
of these approaches and their affinities with different schools of Indian philosophy (Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika and Buddhist Pramāṇavāda) are examined. Approach (A3),
according to which correlation between language and reality is functional and not ontological, seems very close to Dharmakīrti’s concept of
arthakriyā. This approach accords with Bhartṛhari’s perspectivist philosophical strategy. It enabled him to explain how effective linguistic activity
is possible, capturing language in its dynamic aspect, without limitative static ontological constructions."
———. 2021. "Atman as Substance in the Vākyapadīya and Beyond." Philosophy East & West:287-308.
"The “Dravyasamuddeśa” is a chapter of Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya (VP) that considers substance (dravya) to be the
referent of all words and the ultimate essence of all phenomena. In the first kārikā of this chapter (VP 3.2.1) Bhartṛhari lists several synonyms of
dravya, with Ātman being the first among them. It follows from Helārāja’s commentary that each member of this list is the central concept of
some philosophical tradition—Ātman in particular belongs to the Advaitavādins. Being a traditional commentator, Helārāja could not have cared less for
the chronology, but approaching his explanation critically one may wonder what particular form of Advaita he might have in mind and whether Bhartṛhari, who
flourished circa the fifth century C.E., could have been familiar with this teaching. Moreover, there is another question that may arise with respect to this
kārikā and Helārāja’s explanation: what generally is the reason to identify Ātman with substance?"
"The present essay attempts to clarify the meaning of this doctrine and the possible reasons for it to appear. An attempt is also made
to trace possible origins of this doctrine in the tradition prior to Bhartṛhari. In what follows, I will dwell, first, on the immediate context of
kārikā 3.2.1. Second, I will focus attention on the concepts of dravya and Ātman as they appear in the VP and in some earlier works,
namely in the Mahābhāṣya, in the Upaniṣads, and in some other works. Finally, I will analyze possible reasons for dravya and Ātman
to be equated, arguing that the clay or gold analogy widely used in different texts can be considered a clue to this equation." (pp. 287-288)
Devi, Shantipriya. 2020. "Transmission of Language in the Metaphysical Framework of Bhartṛhari." International Journal of Trend
in Scientific Research and Development (IJTSRD) no. 4:386-387.
Abstract: "As the traditional texts have shown many lights on the theory of language, the Vedas have shown the path to a large extent.
The people started communicating with each other and it became the medium of expression. When language started then systematization started slowly and
grammatical treatises became possible and were made available through transmission. In the grammatical tradition Bhartṛhari became the champion in analyzing
the metaphysical framework of it in detail. The paper discusses that very aspect here."
Dobre, Florina. 2007. "The Sphoṭa Theory of the Indian Grammarians and Structural Linguistics Theories." In Proceedings of the
International symposium, University of Valahia, Targoviste, 3-4 november 2006, 1-9. Targoviste: Valhai University Press.
"The sphoṭa theory is a rather wide topic of discussion among the Indian linguistics theories given its role on both the phonetic as
well as the semantic plan of language. In this paper, I do not plan to take care of all aspects of the theory but rather focus on certain similarities and
disagreements between the Indian grammarians' theories on sphoṭa and some interpretations of the linguistic sign as envisaged by the structural linguistics
schools of Saussure and Hjelmslev.
The sphoṭa doctrine is generally considered as one of the most important contributions of the old Indian grammarians to the central problem
of general linguistic as well as philosophy of language(1). According to it, the word or the sentence when taken as an indivisible meaning-unit is the sphoṭa.
It's not certain whether Pāṇini knew the term in its full complexity, but in the sūtra 6.1.123 "avaṅ sphoṭāyanasya”(2) of the Aṣṭādhyāyī he
refers an early grammarian called Sphoṭāyana. The later grammarians such as the 10th century Harādātta or the 16th century Nāgeśa Bhaṭta are of the opinion
that this Sphoṭāyana fathered the doctrine. On the other hand, Yāska(3) who is generally placed one century earlier than Pāṇini holds that another grammarian
Audumbarāyaṇa is the forerunner of the sphoṭa theory." (p. 1)
(1) B.K. Matilal, The Word and the World. India’s Contribution to the Study of Language, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990.1989,
(2) Pā 6.1.123: avaṅ sphoṭāyanasya "According to the opinion of Sphoṭāyana, there is a substitution of avaṅ for the o of
go when it is follwed by any vowel”.
(3) The Nighaṇṭu and the Nirukta of Yāska., I.1-2, 1998, p. 29.
Dravid, Raja Ram. 1972. The Problem of Universals in Indian Philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Chapter IX: The Grammarian’s view of word and meaning, pp. 209-263.
"The Grammarian has made significant contribution to the study of word and meaning. Our discussion of the Grammarian's view would be
based mainly on Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya and the commentaries thereon by the author himself, Puṇyāraja and Helārāja. It is necessary to state at the very
outset that the philosophical standpoint of the Grammarian is absolutistic. The ultimate reality (Brahman), as Bhartṛhari describes it, is of the nature of the
word; it is without beginning or end, it is the cause of the manifested phonemes, it is what appears as the objects, and it is from which the creation of the
world proceeds. The word-Absolute
is said to have dual aspects of unity (vydiā) and diversity (avydiā), but, of these, the former alone is real, while the latter is merely
apparent. In itself the Word-Absolute is undifferentiated, but due to the power of nescience it appears as diverse.
Thus, the world of objects, according to the Grammarian, is nothing but the appearance of the Absolute Word." (p. 209, note omitted)
Dwivedi, Prabha Shankar. 2016. "Signification and Resolution of Absolute in a Textual Structure: A Study in Relation to Bhartṛhari and
Jacques Lacan." Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics no. 39:123-133.
Abstract: "This paper intends to explore affinity and interface between Indian and Western concepts of the signification and
configuration of meaning in conceptual forms by focusing the attention on Bhartṛhari (Indian Grammarian, Linguist and Philosopher of c. 5th Century A.D.) and
Jacques Lacan (A French psychoanalyst and early Poststructuralist critic). This comparative study of historically and culturally wide apart Indian and Western
epistemology and linguistics aims to provide exegesis to those unearthed concepts, which could only be explained in relation to each other. Both, Bhartṛhari
and Lacan confer the ultimate eminence to language, according to them the governing power of the whole world is contained in language/word/śabda.
Bhartṛhari concedes śabda to be a seed of the entire universe, everything evolves from it. It is this śabda that expresses itself in all the forms; all the
three states of bhoktā (enjoyer), bokta (enjoyed) and bhoga (enjoyment) are its varied manifestations. As per Bhartṛhari, who considers it
Brahman, it is this śabda Brahman that prevails everywhere. It simultaneously is the cause of reality and illusion in one and the same thing. Lacan, like
Bhartṛhari, has full faith over the power of language which in itself sufficiently deals with all the transactions of the world and proffers it its immediate
existence which particularly by human beings is viewed as organized, systematic, coherent and to a large extent real.
The paper concludes as Bhartṛharian ideas/expositions present in the Vākyapadīyam, unequivocally, have the universal appeal and
extant acceptance irrespective of physical limitations, spatial contexts and temporal boundaries; that is why his stand in respect of language studies precedes
all the major theoreticians in the field regardless of cultural and historical variations."
———. 2017. "Thinking Dialectically on Indian Tradition of Knowledge and Western Knowledge System with Special Reference to Bhartrhari
and Saussure." Litterit:133-143.
Abstract: "This paper aims at the dialectical study of Indian and Western traditions of knowledge with special reference to Bhartṛharian
philosophy of language and Saussure's conception of linguistics. Philosophico-linguistic study of both the systems of knowledge leads the researcher to a point
where postulation of one is clearly perceived to be corresponding with the other. Opinions of the scholars in language study won‟t be divided on the fact that
Saussure's theory of language and meaning was much influenced with his study of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic philosophy propounded and taken forward by
Pāṇinian school and particulaly by Bhartṛhari, which the present paper supports with textual evidences. Both Bhartṛhari and Saussure consider meaning to be the
result of the interplay of relations among individual linguistic units in a structure of the system of language.
This paper also uncovers the conceptual growth of the idea establishing the structural notion of language in respect of configuration of
meaning through constitutive linguistic units. Bhartṛhari in his Vākyapadīyam deals with many ground-breaking linguistic facts in which the idea of
language as structure is centrally located. Both, Bhartṛhari and Saussure consider meaning to be the result of the interplay of relations among individual
linguistic units in a structure of the system of language. The paper also gives a detailed account of how Saussure's thought the founding-stone of
structuralism, pre-figure in those of Bhartṛhari‟s pronouncements in his monumental treatise, the Vākyapadīyam."
———. 2019. Bhartṛhari, Structuralism and Poststructuralism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Contents: Preface VII; 1. Vâkyapadîya and (Post)Structuralism 1; 2. Bhartṛhari and Saussure 33; 3. Bhartṛhari and Derrida 77; 4. Bhartṛhari
and Lacan 117; 5. Conclusion 149; Appendix 169; Bibliography 175; Index 185-188.
"The convergence of content into being is actually the consequence of the contextual value inscription, which supposedly commences after
the valid permutations, authorised by the existing rules and laws of the language in the construction of a textual structure. In a textual form, value is not
generated; instead it is configured for having been due upon varied contextual conditions, as in different contexts and relational associations, a linguistic
unit hardly stands for the same meaning. That is why, Ferdinand de Saussure observes it to be arbitrary, and Bhartṛhari considers smaller units as 'unreal'
before the structure obtained by the authorized permutations of the contents, which for the similar reasons is viewed as 'erratic' and 'unreal' by Jacques
Derrida and Jacques Lacan. But these poststructuralist theoreticians vary from Bhartṛhari in the final resolution of this semantic event, where for Bhartṛhari
the forms/structures consecutively emerged bear meanings, and if the event continues, the finally obtained value would be considered 'real' against the forms
obtained at different steps. This state, which in Bhartṛhari, is being addressed as final, never arrives in Derrida, and even for that matter in Lacan. Both
the theoreticians view the whole process as a chain of endless signification, where each content is constitutive of some other content, and thus, the process
attains a state of infinity. Here, the value obtained, being aberration leads to another value, which further directs to some other, and in this way a constant
event of perpetual postponement of meaning begins, not to be resolved at any point, while structuralism, like Bhartṛhari, always procures a meaning that can be
considered to be final by the authority of the logos, where the process of signification may end for the given conceptual form. In the subsequent pages of the
present book, an effort has been made to comprehend the nature of meaning as it is obtained in the views expressed by Bhartṛhari, and European structuralist
and poststructuralist theorists so as to establish the nature of affinity between discursive formation inherent upon Indian and Western traditions of
thought." (from the Preface)
Ferrante, Marco. 2013. "Vṛṣabhadeva’s Sphuṭākṣarā on Bhartṛhari’s Metaphysics: Commentarial Strategy and New Interpretations."
Journal of Indian Philosophy no. 41:133-149.
Abstract: "Although somewhat neglected in the scholarly debate, Vṛṣabhadeva’s commentary (known as Sphuṭākṣarā or
Paddhati, possibly 8th c. CE) on Vākyapadīya’s first chapter, offers a remarkable analysis of Bhartṛhari's views on metaphysics and philosophy of
language. Vākyapadīya’s first four kārikās deal with ontological issues, defining the key elements of Bhartṛhari’s non-dualistic edifice such as the
properties of the unitary principle, its powers, the role of time and the ontological status of worldly objects. Vṛṣabhadeva’s interpretation of the
kārikās in question is intriguing and seems to be guided by the urgency to find a solution to the riddle which every non-dualistic theory has to face:
how is it possible to postulate a unitary principle of reality when reality is cognized as multiple? In accomplishing the task Vṛṣabhadeva proposes various
solutions (some of them based on concepts which are hardly detectable in Vākyapadīya and appear close to the ones propounded in certain trends of Advaita
Vedānta), finally suggesting an explanation which, focusing on the pragmatic aspect of language, is altogether consistent with Bhartṛhari's theoretical
———. 2014. "How ro Obtain Salvation Through Language? Bhartṛhari on śabdapūrvayoga." Rivista di Studi Orientali
no. 87 - Supplemento n* 2:161-176.
Abstract: "Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya (5th century AD) is a seminal work in the history of Sanskrit grammatical tradition. It
offers an original blending of linguistic and philosophical ideas that will have a strong impact in the ensuing history of Indian speculation. Among other
issues, the work endorses the idea that language is capable to bring about spiritual consequences that goes far beyond the boundaries of the ordinary
experience. In a nutshell, language has a soteriological import. In particular the article deals with a puzzling expression contained in the first chapter of
the work — śabdapūrvayoga — which seems to embody Bhartṛhari’s peculiar conception of language as a tool for obtaining “salvation”."
———. 2015. "Vṛṣabhadeva on the Status of Ordinary Phenomena: Between Bhartṛhari and Advaita Vedānta." Journal of Indian
Philosophy no. 43:61-83.
Abstract: "Vṛṣabhadeva’s Sphuṭākṣarā, a commentary on the first chapter of Bhartṛhari's Vākyapadīya and its
Vṛtti, offers a peculiar interpretation of the monistic ideas exposed at the beginning of the mūla text. The reflection on the status of
ordinary reality and its relation with the unitary metaphysical principle is particularly interesting. Although according to Bhartṛhari’s perspective the
entities of the world are real, the Sphuṭākṣarā offers a more intricate picture in which different degrees of reality seem involved. Furthermore, the
author adopts hermeneutical tools that are unusual in Bhartṛhari’s texts, and comparable to those of Advaita Vedānta. In particular, the article will deal with
Vṛṣabhadeva's use of the notion of ‘inexpressibility’ (anirvacanīyatva), as well as with other concepts which are typical of the scholastic phase of
Advaita. In discussing these affinities the paper will also touch upon the problem of Vṛṣabhadeva’s historical collocation."
———. 2017. "Studies on Bhartṛhari and the Pratyabhijñā: The Case of svasaṃvedana." Religions no. 8:1-25.
Abstract: "The article addresses a critical problem in the history of South Asian philosophy, namely the nature of the ‘knowledge of
knowledge’ (svasaṃvedana). In particular, it investigates how the ´Saiva tantric school of the Pratyabhijñā (10th–11th c. CE) used the notion as an
argument against the Buddhists’ ideas on the nature of the self. The paper then considers the possibility that the source of the ´Saivas’ discussion was the
work of the philosopher/grammarian Bhartṛhari (5th c. CE)."
———. 2017. "Bhartṛhari and verbal testimony: a ‘hyper-antireductionist’ approach?" Kervan – International Journal of
Afro-Asiatic Studies no. 21:227-246.
Abstract: "The grammarian and philosopher Bhartṛhari (5th. c. CE) developed a philosophy that is essentially characterized by the
prominent role language has in structuring humans’ efforts to cope with reality. Within this broader picture, he adopted an epistemological standpoint that was
somehow at odds with the standard view of other South Asian thinkers, usually founded on a careful and systematic distinction of the means able to lead to a
reliable cognitive event (technically called pramāṇas). Bhartṛhari claimed that such an interpretation is rather artificial, and that a cognition is actually a
multifaceted process, whose single components are almost always hard to pinpoint. His main theoretical contribution consists of affirming that such a
multifaceted cognitive act is informed and shaped by language.
The article deals with Bhartṛhari’s epistemology by discussing the author’s opinion on the nature of testimony. Furthermore, it addresses the
question whether pure inference should always be regarded as an accurate way of acquiring knowledge."
———. 2020. "Studies on Bhartṛhari and the Pratyabhijñā: Language, Knowledge and Consciousness." Journal of Indian
Abstract. "The article examines the impact the grammarian/philosopher Bhartṛhari (460–510) had on the way the ‘School of Recognition’
(Pratyabhijñā, tenth/eleventh c. CE) elaborated the notion that knowledge and consciousness have a close relationship with language. The paper first lays out
Bhartṛhari's ideas, showing that his theses are rationally defensible and philosophically refined. More specifically, it claims that the grammarian is
defending a view which is in many respects similar to ‘higher-order theories’ of consciousness advanced by some contemporary philosophers of mind. In the
second part, the paper shows how Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta adopted Bhartṛhari's scheme without significant alteration."
———. 2020. "The Place of Language in the Philosophy of the Recognition." In The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian
Philosophy of Language, edited by Graheli, Alessandro, 135-149. New York: Bloomsbury.
§ 4. The Influence of Bhartṛhari and Pratyabhijñā’s Innovations, p. 142.
"Bhartṛhari’s discussion of the issue [the necessary relationship that obtains between knowledge and language] takes place around a
well-known stanza of his Vākyapadīya (VP), the one in which the author claims that language pervades all knowledge.(20) In regard to this, Bhartṛhari holds
that the criterion of veridical cognition is causal efficiency.(21)
He maintains that there is no knowledge without a cognitive synthesis that binds together nonconscious cognitions, and that this higher order
cognitive synthesis is conceptual and linguistic.(22)" (p. 142, sanskrit in the notes omitted)
(20) 20 VP, 1.131: “In the world there is no cognition without the pervasion of language. All knowledge shines as if pierced by
(21) VP, 1.129: “In the world all that is required to be done is dependent on language. A child too understands it on the basis of the traces
of previous births.” See Vākyapadīya-Vṛtti on 1.131: “Just like one has a verbal potentiality in a contracted form, similarly no effect is produced by
indeterminate knowledge, even if it arises in relation with objects that are [already] known.” And finally VP, 1.135: “Language urges all creatures towards
successful activities. If it were to disappear, all this world would appear as unconscious as a piece of wood.”
(22) Vṛtti on VP, 1.132: “If knowledge were not by nature linguistic, that very vague cognition that has been produced, being unable
to contribute to another cognition, would not function as a means to accomplish the action of knowing. In fact, once there is a cognition of a bare object,
whose different parts are not functional to each other and are mutually independent, immediately after comes a unification, a synthesis, the production of a
unitary content, that is, the grasping of conjoined capacities as undifferentiated; all this is connected to the linguistic nature of knowledge.”
Gajjam, Jayashree Aanand, Kanojia, Diptesh, and Kulkarni, Malhar. 2018. New Vistas to study Bhartṛhari: Cognitive NLP. World Sanskrit
Conference (WSC 2018): 1-19.
Abstract: "The Sanskrit grammatical tradition which has commenced with Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī mostly as a Padaśāstra has
culminated as a Vākyaśāstra, at the hands of Bhartṛhari. The grammarian-philosopher Bhartṛhari and his authoritative work
‘Vākyapadīya’ have been a matter of study for modern scholars, at least for more than 50 years, since Ashok Aklujkar submitted his Ph.D. dissertation at
Harvard University.[*] The notions of a sentence and a word as a meaningful linguistic unit in the language have been a subject matter for the discussion in
many works that followed later on. While some scholars have applied philological techniques to critically establish the text of the works of
Bhartṛhari, some others have devoted themselves to exploring philosophical insights from them. Some others have studied his works from the point of
view of modern linguistics, and psychology.
Few others have tried to justify the views by logical discussions.
In this paper, we present a fresh view to study Bhartṛhari, and his works, especially the ‘Vākyapadīya’. This view is from the field
of Natural Language Processing (NLP), more specifically, what is called as Cognitive NLP. We have studied the definitions of a sentence given by Bhartṛhari at
the beginning of the second chapter of ‘Vākyapadīya’. We have researched one of these definitions by conducting an experiment and following the methodology of
silent-reading of Sanskrit paragraphs. We collect the Gaze-behavior data of participants and analyze it to understand the underlying comprehension procedure in
the human mind and present our results. We evaluate the statistical significance of our results using T-test, and discuss the caveats of our work. We also
present some general remarks on this experiment and usefulness of this method for gaining more insights in the work of Bhartṛhari."
[*] Ashok Aklujkar, The philosophy of Bhartṛhari's Trikāṇḍī, unpublished dissertation, Harvard Univesity, 1970.
Gajjam, Jayashree Aanand, and Kulkarni, Malhar. 2019. A Novel Outlook for Studying 'Vakyapadiya': A point of Departure. In Proceedings of
Academics World 106th International Conference, Pune, India, 24th - 25th November, 2018.
Abstract: "The ‘Vākyapadīya’ written by ancient Indian grammarian-philosopher Bhartṛhari in the fifth century CE ranks among the
principal authoritative works in Sanskrit Grammar. This phenomenal text has been the topic of research for various grammarians, philosophers, philologists, and
linguists since then. While various modern scholars have applied different methods to critically examine the theories stated in the ‘Vākyapadīya’, we propose a
novel approach to study them i.e. psycholinguistics perspective. We present the theoretical discussion of the sentence-definitions given in the ‘Vākyapadīya’
along with the experimental design for each of them to analyze them from a cognitive point of view. This preliminary work is the first of its kind of work in
Sanskrit grammar and can be considered as a bridge which brings two disciplines together i.e. Sanskrit grammar and the psycholinguistics. The approach in this
paper is to provide a point of departure for the researchers working in these two fields. We also present guidelines for the experimental procedure and the
methodology that is to be followed. We discuss the caveats of this work and suggest possible future work."
Ganguli, Hemanta Kuma. 1963. Philosophy of Logical Construction: An Examination of Logical Atomism and Logical Positivism in the Light of
the Philosophies of Bhartṛhari, Dharmakīrti and Prajn̄ākaragupta. Calcutta: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar.
"The author of the present treatise has tried to view the matter from a new angle of vision. It is perhaps the first attempt of its kind
to examine some fundamental tenets of modern positivism in the light of some systems of ancient Indian Philosophy. Bhartṛhari was the greatest theoretician of
Nominalistic Idealism as it is understood in Indian Philosophy, and Dharmakīrti the most formidable figure of Yogacara Buddhism, along with his most competent
commentator Prajn̄ākaragupta, was perhaps more enthusiastic about the status of the 'pure given' than many among the modern positivists.
Without entertaining any mission for murdering metaphysics, but with an unsurpassed zeal for hair-splitting analysis, they discussed some
basic problems which are still plaguing the minds of the modern positivists, such as, the relation between language and reality, the role of language in
shaping human knowledge, the nature of logical fictions, the status of meaning, the essence of the 'given' and the possibility of its representation in
language, and lastly, the problem of verification and contradiction.
They reached their respective conclusions which received from them a full-throated declaration, but which might have also been announced by
the modern positivists had they been less afraid of being called metaphysicians or subjective idealists. These ancient philosophers might have been right or
wrong, but they were at least more consistent than most of the modern positivists. This is the matter in the main that I have attempted to show in this
book." (Introduction, pp. IV-V)
Haag-Bernede, Pascale. 2001. "Conflicting Views in the Interpretation of Bhartṛhari? The Case of Madhyamapurusa in the
Vākyapadīya." Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute no. 82:233-242.
"This paper aims to draw attention to a problem of interpretation in the Purusasamuddeśa (PS), which is the 10th chapter of the
Praklrnakanda, the third part of the Vākyapadīya (VP). This samuddeśa is one of the shortest chapters of the whole work, as it contains only
nine kãrikãs. The PS can be divided into three parts: the first three kãrikãs deal with the meanings of the three persons (prathama,
madhyama and uttamapuruṣa). The first kãrikã establishes that uttamapuruṣa expresses the state of pratyañc, that
is to say, according to Helārāja's commentary, the ego-sense, or the individual soul. Madhyamapuruṣa expresses the state of being different from that
pratyañc (parabhāva). The second and third kãrikãs state that these two persons alone are able to convey the meaning of
caitanya, "consciousness", whereas prathamapuruṣa in the remaining cases (i.e. when the meaning of caitanya by the
verbal-ending). The second part is devoted to one special feature of the second person: some hold that the sense of (sambodhana) is always understood
when the verbal-is used. This question is discussed in three kãrikãs (be dealt with in the present paper. The third part of the last three
kãrikãs, does not actually concern the but constitutes a general statement about the interpretation rules. The above mentioned problem lies in the
last kãrikã section, which I find difficult to interpret: it appears the quotation of another view by Bhartṛhari, or his refutation view." (pp.
233-234, notes omitted)
Halbfass, Wilhelm. 1991. Tradition and Reflection: Explorations in Indian Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Chapter 2: The Presence of the Veda in Indian Philosophical Reflection, pp. 23-50 (On Bhartṛhari pp. 37-41).
Chapter 3: Vedic Orthodoxy and the Plurality of Religious Traditions, pp. 51-85 (On Bhartṛhari pp. 59-66).
Hattori, Maasaki. 1980. "Apoha and Pratibhā." In Sanskrit and Indian Studies: Essays in Honour of Daniel H.H. Ingalls,
edited by Nagatomi, M., Matilal, Bimal Krishna, Masson, J. M. and Dimock Jr., E. C., 61-73. Dordrecht: Reidel.
"The apoha-theory which aroused much controversy concerning the meaning of the word among the Indian philosophers in the classical
period was first expounded by Dignāga in his Pramāṇasamuccaya. The fifth chapter of this comprehensive work, which is devoted to the elucidation of the apoha
theory, begins with the following verse [Sanskrit omitted]:(1)
That [means of cognition] which is based on word is not an [independent] means of cognition other than inference. Because [the word as the
basis of] it expresses its own object through the exclusion of the other [things], just as [the inferential mark] 'krtakatva' or the like [establishes
the object to be proved through the exclusion of what is not a possessor of that inferential mark].
As is clear in this verse, the function of a word is recognized by Dignāga as identical with the function of a linga (inferential
mark) in the process of inference." (p. 61)
"It is to be noted that pratibhd is recognized in this statement as the meaning of the sentence. The concept of pratibhd is of great
importance in the philosophy of word and meaning of the grammarian-philosopher Bhartṛhari.
In the Vākyakāṇḍa of the Vākyapadīya, Bhartṛhari sets forth his doctrine of pratibhā in some verses, beginning with: [Sanskrit
When the meanings [of the words in a sentence] are understood by separating [the words from the sentence], there arises pratibhā which is
different [from the meanings of the words]' That [pratibhā] effected by the meanings of the words is called the meaning of the sentence." (p. 63)
(1) PS: Pramāṇasamuccaya, V, k. 1, cited in TSP: Tattvasamgrahapanjikā (Bauddha Bharati Ser., 1), p. 539.17-18.
(8) VP: Vākyapadīya, II. 143. The verse number of VP is given in accordance with M. Biardeau, Vākyapadīya Brahmakāṇḍa, avec la
vṛitti de Harivṛṣabha, Paris 1964 for I (Brahmakāṇḍa) and with K.V. Abhyankar and V.P. Limaye (ed.), Vākyapadīya of Bhartṛhari, Poona
1965 for II (Vākyakāṇḍa). The doctrine of pratibhā is expounded in VP, 11.143-152. Cf. also ibid., I.118, II.117, etc.
Herzberger, Hans Georg, and Herzberger, Radikha. 1981. "Bhartṛhari's Paradox." Journal of Indian Philosophy no.
Reprinted in Roy W. Perrett (ed.), Indian Philosophy. A Collection of Readings: Vol. 2. Logic and Philosophy of Language, New York:
Routledge 2001, pp. 311-327.
"Assuming that many things in our experience and in the world can be named, one may consider whether there are any limits to this
process, and whether there are any things which cannot be named. This was a standing question in traditional Indian philosophy, with some schools of thought
affirming that everything could be named while others denied it. The affirmative position was especially characteristic of the Nyaya-Vai§esika school:(1)
"Naiyāyikās are fond of a saying, which is sometimes found at the head of their works: whatever is, is knowable and nameable".
The negative position was characteristic of the Buddhist philosophers and may have been held by others as well. In its most general terms it
may be formulated by an existential statement:
Unnameability Thesis: There are some things which are unnameable.
While it may be surprising and to some extent counter to commonsense, this unnameability thesis belongs to the theory of language and should
be subject to rational inquiry. But perplexities arise as soon as one tries to verify it by positive instances, for any positive instance of the unnameability
thesis seems bound to name that which it declares to be unnameable. This is the problem we call "Bhartṛhari's paradox", after the fifth century
grammarian and philosopher of language, who clearly enunciated it in his Vākyapadīya." (p. 311 of the reprint)
(1) See K. Potter, 1977, p. 48. Further discussion is to be found in K. Potter, 1968, which also describes a contradiction having some
affinity with Bhartṛhari's paradox, but arising within a rather different philosophical context.
Potter, Karl (1968). "Astitva Jñeyatva Abhidheyatva", in Festschrift für Erich Frauwallner, Wiener zeitschrift fur die
Kunde Sud-und Ostasiens und Archiv fürindische Philosophie, Wien, 275-280.
Potter, Karl (1977). Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Volume 2 (Princeton
Herzberger, Radhika. 1986. Bhartṛhari and the Buddhists: An Essay in the Development of Fifth and Sixth Century Indian Thought.
"The Vākyapadīya of Bhartṛhari and the Pramāṇasamuccaya of Dignāga(*) are seminal texts in the history of ancient Indian philosophy. One
text deals with grammar, the other with logic, both are the work of committed metaphysicians. Written within a span of less than a hundred years, between the
fifth and the sixth centuries A.D., these texts have generally been treated separately, as representing independent schools of thought.
This essay attempts to interpret these texts jointly, as a dialogue between a grammarian and a logician. This way of approaching these texts
highlights unexpected facets of Bhartṛhari and Dignāga's theories of language and is intended to identify the individual achievements of each. Above all, this
treatment is an exercise in writing the intellectual history of a period in time, rather than a history of a school of philosophy.
The prevailing view of Bhartṛhari holds that his linguistic techniques are not intrinsic to his metaphysics. The conclusions reached in the
present essay are that Bhartṛhari's metaphysics underlie his linguistic techniques and articulate their presuppositions.
The prevailing view of Dignāga maintains that for him language deals with illusory entities and must falsify what is real. The conclusions
reached in the present essay are that Dignāga's logical rules are designed to ensure that in using language one is not committed to a belief in fictional
entities." (from the Preface, p. IX)
(*) Note: I follow the current practice of spelling the logician's name Dignāga rather than Dinnāga.
———. 1986. "Apoha and Śimśapāvrksa." In Buddhist Logic and Epistemology: Studies in the Buddhist Analysis of Inference and
Language, edited by Matilal, Bimal Krishna and Evans, Robert D., 143-169. Dordrecht: Reidel.
"... I shall try in the course of this paper to identify the philosophical problems that Dinnaga's apoha doctrines were
designed to solve, and to locate the problem so identified within a historical frame of reference; a part of my overall concern will be to articulate the
relevant philosophical issues in universally recognizable terms.
The major theories regarding names can be identified as predating Dinnaga's writings on apoha: the first can be traced to
Bhartṛhari, a philosophical grammarian belonging to the fifth century A.D. whose name ancient tradition associated with that of a celebrated poet: the second
is attributed to Katyāyana, a grammarian who belonged to the second or third century B.C. My attempt in this paper will be to find a place for Dinnaga's
apoha doctrines within the tensions arising between Bhartṛhar's and Katyāyana's theories." (p. 143)
Ho, Chien-hsing. 2006. "Saying the Unsayable." Philosophy East and West no. 56:409-427.
Abstract: "A number of traditional philosophers and religious thinkers advocated an ineffability thesis to the effect that the ultimate
reality cannot be expressed as it truly is by human concepts and words. However, if X is ineffable, the question arises as to how words can be used to gesture
toward it. We can't even say that X is unsayable, because in doing so, we would have made it sayable. In this article, I examine the solution offered by the
fifth-century Indian grammarian-philosopher Bhartrhari and develop it into a linguistic strategy based on the imposition-cum-negation method. The purpose is to
show how we can non-contradictorily say, or rather indicate, the unsayable."
Ho, Cheh-hsing. 2014. "Meaning, Understanding, and Knowing-what: An Indian Grammarian Notion of Intuition (Pratibhā)."
Philosophy East and West no. 64:404-424.
"For Bhartṛhari, a fifth-century philosopher of the Indian Grammarian (Vaiyākaraṇika) school, all conscious beings — beasts, birds and
humans — are capable of what he called pratibhā, a flash of indescribable intuitive understanding such that one knows what the present object “means”
and what to do with it. Contemporary scholars writing on pratibhā generally translate the Sanskrit term as “intuition,” not in the sense understood by many
analytical philosophers as an a priori judgment appealed to in thought experiments to test philosophical hypotheses, but in the sense of a spontaneously
arising awareness that is immediate, reliable, indescribable, and pregnant with meaning. Significantly, our instantaneous understanding of a sentence or
complete utterance already counts as an instance of pratibhā. Given that to understand a sentence is to know its meaning, such an understanding, if correct,
amounts to a mode of knowing that may best be termed knowing-what, to distinguish it from both knowing-that and knowing-how.
This essay attempts to expound Bhartṛhari’s conception of pratibhā in relation to the notions of meaning, understanding, and knowing laid out
in his magnum opus, the Vākyapadīya (henceforth VP ).(1) The conception is philosophically intriguing and contemporarily relevant. Yet, it has not hitherto
been subjected to a systematic analytical philosophical treatment.(2) Here, I hope to fill this lacuna." (p. 404)
(1) For a critical edition of the Sanskrit text of the Vākyapadīya, see Rau 1977. Verse numbers in the present article are given
according to that edition.
(29 Bhartṛhari’s presentation of the topic is laconic and requires hermeneutic elucidation, for which one may refer to Subramania Iyer 1982,
Tola and Dragonetti 1990, and Akamatsu 1994. However, the approach of these works is more philological than philosophical. Readers may also consult Coward and
Raja 1990 for discussions of the relevant issues in the Grammarian school.
Akamatsu, Akihiko. 1994. “Pratibhā and the Meaning of the Sentence in Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya.” In Bhartṛhari: Philosopher and
Grammarian, edited by Saroja Bhate and Johannes Bronkhorst, pp. 37–43. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Coward, Harold G., and K. Kunjunni Raja, eds. 1990. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 5, The Philosophy of the
Grammarians. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rau, Wilhelm, ed. 1977. Bhartṛharis Vākyapadīya: Die Mūlakārikās nach den Handschriften herausgegeben und mit einem Pāda-Index
versehen. Wiesbaden: Kommissionsverlag Franz Steiner GMBH.
Subramania Iyer, K. A., 1982. The Vākyapadīya: Some Problems. Pune, India: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.
Tola, Fernando, and Carmen Dragonetti. 1990. “Some Remarks on Bhartṛhari’s Concept of Pratibhā.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 18,
no. 2 : 95–112.
Honda, Yoshichika. 1998. "Bhartrhari on Sentence (vākya) and Its Meaning (vakyārtha) as Pratibhā."
Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies no. 46:1033-1044.
"Bhartrhari, a grammarian-philosopher, is well known as the upholder of the view that a sentence is an indivisible unit
According to him, it is not the word (pada) but the sentence (vākya) that really conveys the meaning in our verbal
communication; the meaning of the sentence (vākyārtha) is pratibhā. The word pratibhā is usually rendered as 'intuition', 'flash of insight', 'flash
of understanding', 'instinct' and so on. These renderings are not able to give us an accurate understanding of pratibhā; rather, they are very misleading. The
pratibhā Bhartrhari considers to be the sentence-meaning is properly the cognition by which all its constituent word-meanings are unified into an integrated
whole and in which they are connected with one another through the qualificand-qualifier relation (viśesanaviśeyabhāva)." (p. 1044)