[Advaita-l] slkah on vyasa

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Mar 26 04:49:11 CDT 2011

On Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 10:15 AM, Srikanta Narayanaswami <
srikanta.narayanaswami at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Dear Sri Vidya shankar.
> The madhyamam apart from understanding as one who is in the middle can also
> be interpreted as "madhyamam" of medium disposition.So,instead of giving
> rise to such interpretations,"madhyagam"is more apt.


You are right in holding that the word 'madhyamam/ mA  can give rise to a
meaning of being 'medium' in the sense of 'a medium grade'.   Here is a fine
example from the Kathopanishat:

Mantra 1.1.5: बहूनामेमि Among many students I rank  प्रथमो highest
बहूनामेमि Among many  मध्यमः I rank as belonging to the middling.

In the bhashya we have:

// So he makes a self-assessment of himself as someone most of the time
ranking highest among his classmates.  At the most he allows himself a *
middling* position but never the back-bencher. //

Thus, as we can see the word 'madhyama' does give the meaning of 'medium'.
However, in the shloka that is being discussed, there is no room for the
above interpretation. There the 'Arambha', 'madhyama' and 'paryanta' (which
signifies the end ) are conveying the idea of beginning, middle and end.  In
this context it is impossible for anyone to imagine 'madhyamA/m' to be of a
medium grade.  If the shloka had been one making a comparison among the
uttama, madhyama and adhama, then madhyama will by default give the meaning
of 'medium'.

For first person, second person and third person in grammar, the sanskrit
equivalent is:  uttama puruSha, madhyama puruSha and prathama puruSha.
Surely no one will try to interpret the word 'madhyama' here to be of some
'medium disposition'.  Despite the word 'madhyama' having the possible
meaning of 'medium disposition' the founders of Sanskrit Grammar did not
find it necessary to give a different name for the second person.

Since Sanskrit is a language that affords many meanings to a word, one has
to be guided by the context while assigning a meaning to a word.  This is
most important.  Otherwise, we can even start a new debate on the word
'Arambha' contained in that verse.  For this word has a meaning of
'karma'/action/endeavor (Gita 18.48).  Or even the 'samArambha' in that
shloka can mean some 'celebration' as this word has been admitted in
Kannada.  Or much worse someone can bring up an interpretation: 'rambhaa' is
a celestial damsel.  By adding a prefix or two to this one can give a
meaning that can sound extremely derogatory to the Guruparamparaa.  Such
exercises will be endless.

It is always wise to recognize that the words in a verse are to be
interpreted keeping in mind the context.  When this is done, there will be
no room for any grouse whatsoever in accepting the word 'madhyamaa/m' as a
valid, defect-free one.



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