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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bhāvanā in Śabara

Within Mīmāṃsā, the term "bhāvanā" is found already in Śabara (see, e.g., his commentary ad MS 2.1.1) as indicating the activity of a person, designated by the verbal forms and directed to an object. In fact, such an activity is further specified by its requiring an object, an instrument and a procedure (respectively answering the question “what [does one do]?”, “through what?” and “how?”). In accordance to such an interpretation, Śabara paraphrases svargakāmo yajeta as yāgena svargaṃ bhavati. That is, an object/aim (according to the polysemy of the Sanskrit term artha, noticeably within Mīmāṃsā, see MS 1.1.5 et passim) is connected to the bhāvanā, the root of the verb is read as an instrument (yāgena), and the verbal action is designated by the conjugated verbal form alone (bhavati). 


The bhāvanā theory of action is one of the main contributions of Mīmāṃsā to Indian philosophy, as proved by the fact that it is widely used even in non-Mīmāṃsā contexts (see, e.g., Jayaratha's commentary of Abhinavagupta's Tantrāloka, which adheres strictly to this Mīmāṃsā theory and terminology). It also offers an account of the meaning of verbs and verbal suffixes which differs from the one provided by Grammarians in so far as it stresses the centrality of action and of prescriptive speech over and above descriptive one. In the following (and previous) posts, a discussion of the initial meaning of bhāvanā in its two aspects of śabda- and artha-bhāvanā will hopefully throw some light on the development of the theory from Śabara through Kumārila to late Mīmāṃsā authors.

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