[Advaita-l] SRI SUKTAM - Meaning

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 13 16:38:46 CST 2009

Dear Vidyasankarji,

Yes. The Vedic verses need to be pronounced properly as otherwise corruption may creep in and eventually the meaning may get corrupted too. The Shrutis were not written down in the Vedic age and the Brahmi script came into existence only in the Kaliyuga. No doubt one has to master the Vyakarana and Chanda etc. before entering the Vedas. Therefore the sentence "Meaning alone is important' should not be taken very literally. But in the Vedic age, ie. much before Panini came into the picture, I think the rishis had some liberty (Arsa prayoga). This being so, should we judge the Vedic Sanskrit very critically with a Paninian eye? I think we should try to get the reading right to the extent possible but do not get overly worried by that.


Sunil K. Bhattacharjya

--- On Fri, 2/13/09, Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) <vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com> wrote:
From: Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) <vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] SRI SUKTAM - Meaning
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Date: Friday, February 13, 2009, 10:21 AM

Dear all,

While I agree that meaning is more important, we also have to
pay careful attention to details. For vedAnta per se, we may not
need to pay much attention to the technical details of the
recitational aspects of the veda. However, taking the veda-s as
a whole, these aspects do become important. To that extent,
they are worthy of discussion. They might not hold interest for
everybody on the list, so please ignore these postings, if they
are not your cup of tea.

For me, personally speaking, the interest arises from the ethos
of the tradition. Take for instance, the SAnkarabhAshya on the
first vallI of the taittirIya upanishat. The word used is SIkshA
(with a long vowel, I), whereas classical Sanskrit grammar
would indicate SikshA (with a short vowel, i). Similarly, there
is the sentence, kaScit samaSnutA (3) u, where the (3)
indicates a pluta duration for the vowel sound. Now, the
bhAshya tells us that the word SIkshA is indeed SikshA,
the vowel lengthening being only "chAndasaM", and also
explains that the pluta is due to sandhi between aSnute + u. 

Thus, Sankara bhagavatpAda does not consider these details
to be insignificant, nor does he invest them with more meaning
than they are worth. The danger with saying "meaning alone is
important" is that if we don't consider and understand other
aspects of the vedic tradition, we are likely to start attaching
contrived "vedAntic" meanings to things that have no
philosophical significance. Failing to understand these details
can lead to lots of unnecessary confusion. If for nothing else
but for that purpose alone, one needs to know them.

Finally, in the veda, the pitches and inflexions do correlate with
meaning. There is an often cited example of the word indraSatru,
where placing the accent on the wrong syllable changes the
meaning of the word completely as compared to what was
intended originally. Granted, this is more important in the
samhitA-s than in the brAhmaNa and AraNyaka portions, but
then some important upanishad texts are from the samhitA
texts! So, to sum up, it is not an emphasis on grammar "alone"
that we are doing here. It is an interest in grammar "also".


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