Works on Sanskrit grammar deal with the mechanism of linguistic expression in a synchronic manner with passing references to historical and dialectal variations and also with the nature of the semantic concepts associated with the linguistic elements, giving rise to what is generally called the philosophy of grammar. The extreme brevity of Panini’s Sutras makes it hrad to know what views he held on the semantic problems involved in his analysis. But discussion on these are seen in ample measure in the Varttikas of Katyayana, the Mahabhasya of Patanjali and above all in the Vakyapadiya of Bhartrhari. This tradition of dealing with both the aspects of language is continued upto the very end but with varying emphasis on one or the other aspect, which has given rise to two types of grammatical works in Sanskrit. The Vaiyakaranabhusana of Kaundabhatta primarily devotes itself to the semantic problems involved in the meanings of grammatical elements and categories. As a result of it, it comes in contact with similar views of other philosophical systems of India, resulting into a lively polemic dialogue with them, leading to a further refinement of the concepts involved to an extraordinary degree with the help of the terminology of the Navyanyaya.
Translating and explaining a work of this type is no easy task. It demands on the part of the translator not only a deep knowledge of the subject in hand but an equally good knowledge of other systems of thought with which the polemics is carried on. In addition, the translator must possess an unusual ability to sort out the various ideas inextricably mixed up in the discussion and a facility to explain them in a manner so as to make it understandable and digestible to a modern reader. In translating and annotating the chapter on the lakarartha of the Vaiyakaranabhusana Dr. Jayashree A. Gune has done this arduous work remarkably well and has thus produced a book which is not only systematic and informative but also persuasive and above all pleasant to read. This she has been able to do by separating the problems of general interest in the form of an introduction from the details and technicalities which are treated fully in the notes on the various sections of the book in which it has been intelligently divided afresh.
To a modern linguist what appeals most are the basic semantic problems more than the clever use of a methodology current in earlier days and the arguments based on views then current. In the field of Sanskrit tenses and moods two such problems stand out clearly, the concept of time or tense and the modality of vidhi or lin, the exact significance of which is as much relevant to the present-day thought as it was to the ancient grammarians and philosophers. More than the systematic explanation of the grammatical forms in which they excel, what is more pertinent to us is their attitude towards language and the daring they show in dealing with the exact relation between the linguistic expression and the reality of experience as they conceived it. As such, no demarcation is made between linguistic meaning and semantic level and the writers have boldly accepted the resulting problems and have attempted solutions some of which are acceptable even today. One cannot but come to the same conclusion as the author, that time is not much different from our ideas of the occurrence of events, a view which comes close to the attitude of a modern philosopher like Bergson. Such an attitude alone is likely to explain satisfactorily the usual grammatical categories of tense based on common sense and daily usage. The analysis of the meaning of lin is remarkable in its subtility and its implications to such philosophical and pragmatic systems as Nyaya and Mimamsa. One only wishes that the attempt to explain them– and the author has done an excellent job in clarifying them–should have gone a step further by classifying and correlating them with the ‘motives of action’, which are psychological like istasadhanatva, circumstantial like krtisadhayatva or pragmatic like balavadanistananubandhitva and their role in action. The difficulty which is felt by all the schools in this regard is probably due to their insistance on having only a single motive of one type or the other. Some new light can be thrown on it by bringing in consideration of the historical development of the meanings of the lin forms of Sanskrit and Greek. Of the three uses to which they are put, optativus, potentialis and prescription, the last one is of a later origin and has probably developed from either of the two, which are independent of each other and of equal antiquity. An attempt to derive one from the other is not likely to succeed and the same holds good for the two notions of istasadhanatva and krtisadhyatva.
The reading of this monograph, besides being a thought-provoking and pleasant experience, only whets one’s desire to expect similar studies on the other aspects of Sanskrit semantics for which ample material is available. I should like to conclude with two more points of explanation, if not of justification. At my request the author had to compress the explanations to the maximum extent because of the limitations put on the number of pages, which may have deprived the reader of some nicer points and the hurry in which the work had to be printed has caused some insignificant misprints for which the indulgence of the reader is solicited.
This book discusses the meanings of the lakaras (l-members), the ten sets of verbal endings representing the tenses and moods. Here I must emphasize that Panini and his followers make a clear distinction between forms––even abstract lakara––and meanings which was not done in the West. Semantic theories of the Indian Grammarians and their development in the later schools of the New (navya) Grammarians, as well as the Neologicians and the Ritualists etc. therefore of tremendous interest to the modern scholar.
Considerable work has been done on Panini and many new works are appearing on Patanjali and Bhartrhari. But not much work has been done on the theories of meaning propounded by their successors who as a help in their interaction with the schools of Nyaya and Mimamsa have adopted the navyanyaya style of expression and therefore have remained inaccessible to students of grammar who have not studies Nyaya. The present monograph, it is hoped, will be of some help in this direction. Kaundabhatta’s Lakarartha-nirnaya, which discusses the semantic theories of the schools of Nyaya, Mimamsa, and of course Vyakarana, while also bringing in the opinions of some Vedanta writers, concerning the tense and mood suffixes, is very important from this standpoint.
I am thankful to the Director, Prof. A. M. Ghatage and to the authorities of the Deccan College for undertaking the publication of this work.
I wish to express my gratitude to Prof. George Cardona of the Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, who has been very generous with his help and has gone through every word of an earlier draft and made many valuable and constructive suggestions.
I am grateful to Prof. S. D. Joshi, of the Department of Sanskrit, University of Poona, who first introduced me to this field and has given me constant help and encouragement.
I would also like t thank:–
Prof. Ludo Rocher of the Department of Oriental Studies, University of Pennsylvania, who has always been encouraging;
Prof. C. G. Kashikar and Pandit Shrinivasasastri whom I consulted on various matters concerning Srauta and Nyaya respectively with great profit;
My colleague, Shri. D. B. Polkam, who was a great help in proof-reading and preparing the index;
Dr. Vijayendra Pratap, Dr. V. W. Paranjape, Pandit N. M. Chirputkar and many other colleagues and friends who also helped me in various ways;
Shri. M. S. Latkar of SMS Letter Press, who has been very co-operative throughout in spite of the very short time available for printing.
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