Thought for the week

S. V. Subrahmanian svsubrahmanian at YAHOO.COM
Thu Oct 18 18:54:44 CDT 2001

                  || Om Sri lalitAmbikAyai namaH ||
           || Salutations to the Divine Mother Sri Lalitha ||

A few members have been asking questions about reading SAstras.   So I thought
I might spend this week's column on explaining some basic classes of
commentaries that are prevalent in the literary body of SAstras.  I have
restricted myself to commentaries on upanishad, bhagavad gItA and brahmasUtra.
The following are main classes of commentaries available today.

1.  bhAshyam
A bhAshyam is a commentary on an original text.  It is usually in the prose
form.  The main characteristics of bhAshyam are

a)  anvaya = Establishing syntactic connection.  A sentence might be longwinded
in the original text or some meters might jumble the words.  bhAshyam clarifies
the syntactic connection between them.

b)  padachcheda = Resolving sandhi-s to individual words.  sandhi-s are
combination of sounds usually formed between different endings of words.

c)  padArtha = Having identified the individual words, the bhAshyam gives the
meaning of the word.

d)  vAkyArtha = Apart from meanings of individual words, bhAshyam elaborates
the meaning of the entire sentence

e)  pUrvapaksha = Handling objections to the author's interpretation.  It is
necessary to eliminate wrong ideas.  It also clarifies why a particular
interpretation has been chosen over others.

f)  siddhAnta = Conclusion and defences if any of the one's interpretation.

Example:  Sri Shankara's SankarabhAshyam (commentary) on brahmasUtra (original

2.  vR^tti
A vR^tti is very close to a bhAshyam in content and intent.  The only
difference being that vR^tti does not handle pUrvapaksha (above).  Also, vR^tti
can be in poetic form.

Example:  Sri Shankara's vAkyavR^tti explains the mahAvakya "tatvamasi".

3.  vArtikam
This is a commentary or elaboration on both the mUlam (original text) and
bhAshyam (principal commentary).  Here primarily the bhAshyam is commented upon
independently ie., not with a line by line correspondence but a general
correspondence.  It is in the verse form.  Its purpose is to highlight those
that have been either left unsaid (anuktam) and those that have been imporperly
said  (duruktam).

Example:  Sri Sureshvara's bRhadAraNyakopanishad-bhAshya-vArttika on
ShankarabhAshyam on bRhadAraNyakopanishad.

4.  TIkA
This is an explanatory note to the bhAshyam on an original text.  The TIkA
maintains a line by line correspondence with the bhAshyam in its explanation.
Another function of the TIkA is to offer defence to the interpretation in the
bhAshyam.  However, the more the TIkAdefends the bhAshyam, the more logical and
complicated it gets.  I have heard from Sanskrit scholars that sometimes,
students get a feeling that the original text is much easier than the TikA!

Example:  Sri vAchaspati mishra's bhAmati on ShankarabhAshyam on brahmasUtra

5.  kArika
This is an elaboration in verse form of a topic contained in a text.  kArika is
an independent presentation of the same topic and is linked to the main text.

Example:  Sri GaudapAda's mAndukya-kArika linked to mAndukyOpanishad.

6.  prakaraNa grantha
This text is an independent presentation of the whole topic contained in one
text or a collection of texts.  This maintains fidelity to the original texts
only in content, but does not follow the original text in any particular way.
Normally these texts are on the whole of Vedanta.

Example:  Sri Shankara's vivekachUDamaNi is Shankara's presentation of Vedantic

7.  siddhi grantha
This is a work that establishes a particular view point or fact, totally
analyzing the topic till it is firmly established.

Example:  Sri Sureshvara's naishkarmya siddhi.

8.  TippaNi
These are basically footnotes which can be for any of the texts listed above
right from bhAshyam to prakaraNa/siddhi granthas.

Our sampradAya has done future generations yeoman service by giving us all
these wonderful works of wisdom.  One is led to wonder as to whether such an
elaborate hierarchy of texts are needed at all or not.  According to Swami
Dayananda Saraswati, once a student goes through these rigorous treatment of
the texts, his understanding becomes firmly established and his mind is free of
doubts, confusions, conflicts and controversies.  His conviction becomes firm.
It is to this end that these works have been presented by the wise down the

I hope this helps earnest seekers to know what text they are looking at when
they encounter them.

Have a nice rest of the week and weekend.

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