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THE THEORETICAL POSITIONS OF BHARTRHARI AND THE RESPECTABLE GRAMMARIAN

Jan E.M. Houben
Rivista degli studi orientali
Vol. 72, Fasc. 1/4 (1998), pp. 101-142
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41881019
Page Count: 42
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
THE THEORETICAL POSITIONS OF BHARTRHARI AND THE RESPECTABLE GRAMMARIAN
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Abstract

In this paper six references to a respectable person in Bhartṛhari's MBhD have been investigated, and three references in the Vṛtti on Bhartṛhari's VP. The term used in the MBhD is ihabhavantaḥ, whereas the term used in the VP-Vṛtti is tatrabhavat (once singular, twice plural). It was found that the two terms refer to a grammarian in the Pāṇinian tradition. All statements in the MBhD and probably also those in the VP-Vṛtti (which are generally shorter) have Patañjali's MBh as their starting point. The argument in the statements attributed to the respectable grammarian is quite sophisticated. He usually seeks to arrive at an optimal justification for a passage in the MBh. It seems that this grammarian was theoretically committed to the notion of the universal. With regard to the expression «give curds to the Brahmins, buttermilk to Kaundinya», an expression which was discussed and explained in divergent ways in his time, he insisted that it should be accepted as two sentences. It was further found that the statements of ihabhavantaḥ contrast in several respects with the general character of the MBhD. In the case of ihabhavạntaḥ it can be said that he wanted to make 'optimal' contributions 'in a vertical dimension'. The most striking feature of Bhartṛhari's MBhD, however, is that it contains 'perspectivistic' contributions 'in a horizontal dimension'. Next, the statements attributed to tatrabhavat in the VP-Vṛtti are found to be similar in character to those of ihabhavantaḥ in the MBhD. The evidence of the MBhD, the VP-Vṛtti and the references they contain to the 'respectable grammarian', suggest that in Bhartṛhari's own time most grammarians, even if they accepted the sentence as a meaningful unit, did not consider it the primary unit in language. In this light it was one of the special contributions of Bhartṛhari that he demonstrated the theoretical possibility of accepting the sentence as the primary unit, without claiming that it was the only valid theoretical option. In the light of the conclusions of the investigation, it is very well possible that ihabhavantaḥ (and perhaps also tatrabhavat) refers to Bhartṛhari's teacher, but he was in any case not Bhartṛhari's sole and only source of knowledge and inspiration. The investigation has also implications for the VP-Vṛtti authorship problem, and for the problem of the concluding verses of Kāṇḍa 2 of the Vākyapadīya.

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