[Advaita-l] sabda nityatva vAda...a query

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 12 15:28:06 CDT 2011

Dear Sri Raghav Kumar ji

Pl allow me to clarify. Shankaracharya condemns sphota vada; Bhartrihari is the foremost exponent of sphota vada. So, the basic position is that Sankara condemns Bhartrihari; but I heard my teacher say that it - Sabadabrahma - can be seen as a particular presentation of Brahman; the condemnation by Sankara is to prevent other particular presentations like Rasabrahma, Rupabrahma etc.

Earlier Sri Shankara Bharadwaj Khandavelli wrote saying that the distinguishing feature of Advaita is the vivarta-vada and actually mentioned that it is the only darSana which uses this vivarta-vada. Sphota theory also uses vivartavada: There is one primordial, eternal Sabdabrahma which manifests as different words. In that, the resemblance between Advaita and sphotavada is close.

Curiously the grammarians say that varnas and padas are unreal, mere scaffolding which needs to be dispensed with once vaakyaarthabodha is realised. This is in contrast to the Mimamsakas who view the pada and its components, mainly the pratyayas which denote duty, action etc. as important. Thus we have the pada-sastra (Vyakaranam) saying pada is unreal; and the vakya-sastra (mimamsa) saying pada and pratyayas in that are the most important elements. This juxtaposition of sphota against purva-mimamsa is often encountered. The meaning of the title Vakya-padiya is actually 'concerning the word and sentence'. Kumarila often criticises the views of Bhartrihari in his Sloka Vartika and Tantra Vartika (glosses on the Bhashya of Sabara on the sutras of Jaimini).

Sabda-nityattva is mentioned in Nirukta and implicit in the AshTaadhyaayi going by the very first vartika - "siddhe Sabdaarthasambandhe...". When Sankara mentions Panini acharya as an example of a Sastra-pravartaka knowing more than what he says (in the bhashya on Saastrayonitvaat), the reference is to the fact that along with the prakriya - nuts and bolts of grammar - Panini has incorporated philosophy in the sutras. That philosophy has been drawn out by the Bhashyakara, Patanjali and dealt with in a systematic manner by Bhartrihari.

Amidst all this, it is notable that Bhartrihari does not deal with the paraa-aspect of Vaak. This led some to state that he believed in only 3 phases of Vaak; others say that such is not the case, as he does not deny the paraa-aspect. I am not very sure about the theories advanced as to why he does not deal with that, but the tradition of Nirukta and Vyakarana indeed talks about four aspects of Vaak.

There is actually a short work called Sphotasiddhi by Mandana Mishra defending sphotavada against Kumarila Bhatta's criticism. 

To paint a picture with broad strokes, it looks like most arguments against purva-mimamsa and nyaya were first given by Bhartrihari, just like Kumarila has done most of the work required to refute Bauddham, preparing the ground for Sankara to present a tight and complete argument to establish the true interpretation of Vedanta.

Sphotavada later led to the Dhavani theory in Alankara Sastra. Thus the concept of sphota is met with, in the second millenium after Christ, more in Alankara Sastra (where Dhvani is so influential that all later works are set in relation to Dhvanyaloka) rather than in Philosophical works, may be because most of its tenets seem to have been absorbed in Vedanta, or may be because by that time Vedanta and Nyaya were the only two competing Darsanas.

Vacaspati Misra who wrote on all Darsanas seems to have left sphota alone; but Nagesa Bhatta (another acharya who wrote on all Darsanas) has indeed touched upon this in his super-commentary Udyota on the Pradipa (by KaiyaTa) on the Mahabhashya, which in turn is a commentary on the AshTaadhyaayI and Vartikas on that.

To conclude, shota-siddhanta is indeed expressly condemned by Sankaraacharya, but it might be the closer to Advaita, than the other five traditional Darsanas, so much so that some treat it as a particular presentation of Advaita itself.

Finally, this topic is something on which I am less than sure-footed and welcome corrections. I would not have posted but for the mention of my name in your post.


From: Raghav Kumar <raghavkumar00 at gmail.com>
>To: A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
>Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 9:37 PM
>Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] sabda nityatva vAda...a query
>Namaste Sriram ji
>The vR^itti supposed to be by bhartRhari himself seems to imply that
>shabdatattvaM is unchanging i.e., it is vivarta kAraNam of everything
>; it is not pariNAmI.  It appears to me that the word shabdatattvaM
>means shabdasya-tattvaM i.e., the essence of sabda.  There is a small
>article in pdf format which may be useful ; it is @
> http://www.advaitin.net/ananda/vakyapadiyaexcerpts.pdf
>I quote a few relevant portions with a some changes -
>First shloka from vAkyapadIya of bhartRhari -
>> anAdinidhanaM brahma sabdatattvaM yadakSharaM
>> vivartatE(a)rthabhAvEna prakriyA jagatO yataH
>The changeless essence of the Word is all there is. It has no
>beginning nor does it come to end   It manifests (as though
>transformed ) through the aims and objects (of the world) , as they
>come to be ; from it proceeds the changing world.
>(words in brackets are mine)
>The vR^itti for the shloka quoted by you is :
>vidya-avidya-pravibhAga-rUpam,  apravibhagam
>Its form appears to manifest through the distinction of knowledge and
>But in itself, just as it is, there’s no distinction to be found
>sthiti-pravrtti-nivrtti-vibhAgA shabdena akriyanta
>From shabda are formed the divisions of steadiness, activity and inactivity
>tac ca  aksara-nimittatvad aksaram ity ucyate .
> But that itself remains unchanged. because of its continuing
>causality, it is called ‘aksara’ or ‘that which does not change’.
>(Here the word akshara-nimittattvAt akSharam seems to imply that the
>sabdatattvaM always remains as the unchanging cause. It does not in
>reality transform in to the effect.Its nimittatvaM (kAraNatvaM) is
>akSharam (immutable).  In other words it is a vivarta-kAraNam.)
>I have a question for you and other interested members -
>1. Is bhartRhari accepted as an advaitin in the shAnkara tradition ?
>Senani ji said yes.
>2. Does BhartRhari accept sphotavAda ; bhAshyakAra denies it in BSB
>devatAdhikaraNam ? 3. The vAkyapadiyA talks of only 3 level of vAc ;
>how do we redress the question of the non-mention of parA vAc ?
>4. Are there other references to sabda-brahman in Sankara-bhAShya or
>other standard vedanta literature of SrI vAcaspati mishra, SrI
>sureshvara etc ?
>Ok please make that 4 questions...
>In my present state of understanding, it appears there is nothing
>wrong with the sadba-brahman unfoldment of bhartRhari etc. But I am
>not sure how the sticking points like the denial of sphotavAda by
>Bhagavan Upavarsha and seconded by bhAShyakAra etc is to be reconciled
>with the grammarian prakriyA of unfolding Brahman which is otherwise
>quite remarkable.
>Thanking you in advance
>On Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 6:50 PM, Venkata sriram P
><venkatasriramp at yahoo.in> wrote:
>> Namaste Dear Members,
>> There is a sloka from bhartruhari’s vAkyapadIyaM which says:
>> ////
>> //
>> The above verse determines the eternality of the sabda-brahma
>> ie., nityatva of sabda-brahma.  This also states that sabda-brahma
>> is both kArya & kAraNa
>> To support the above statement, the reference “sabdabrahmaNi niShNAtaH
>> parabrahma adhigacchati” is cited.
>> Does this sabda-nityatva vAda of vAkyapadiyaM supports
>> vivartavAda or pariNAmavAda?
>> Kindly explain.
>> Regs,
>> Sriram
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