Saturday, June 2, 2012

Metarules in Śrautasūtra, Mīmāṃsā and Grammar

Pāṇini's Grammar is well-known (among other things) for its highly sophisticated complex of rules and meta-rules. However, meta-rules are present also in Śrautasūtra and in Mīmāṃsā.

The meaning of paribhāṣā is –against expectations– not fixed. As for its usage in the Śrautasūtras, Chakrabarti explains:

The term paribhāṣā was not well-defined and it appears that no definition was strictly adhered to when the sūtras were characterizes as paribhāṣā. Not only the basic interpretative clues, but also the general rules were regarded as paribhāṣā. They contain some heterogeneous topics, and some insignificant rules too crept into the paribhāṣās (Chabrabarti1980, p. vii).

As for Grammar, Dominik Wujastyk (editor of the Vyāḍīyaparibhāṣāvṛtti) argues that paribhāṣās have been introduced for solving problems of the Aṣṭādhyāyī and suggests that they might have, accordingly, a different degree of abstraction:
Rather than giving up Pāṇini's grammar as wrong in such cases, it is natural to try to improve the theory. The tradition introduces extra rules to correct the situation. These are the paribhāṣās, a term which may be translated as 'metarules', 'principles', 'theorems' or 'auxiliary hypothesis' (Wujastyk1993, p. ix).

In Mīmāṃsā, by and large, we might understand the term paribhāṣā (and even more so its quasi-equivalent in Mīmāṃsā, i.e., nyāya) in two senses: in a loose or in a technical sense.  In the looser sense, a nyāya is a general rule regarding a certain behaviour. In the stricter sense, it is a rule ruling other rules. An example of the former kind of nyāya is the Mīmāṃsaka khalekapotavan-nyāya 'the rule of the pigeons in the threshing floor'. This is only a similarity used to represent cases in which many items at once occur in the same place, just like pigeons hurrying to grasp some grains. But it does not regard rules. By contrast, rules such as 'the meanings of the words in the Mīmāṃsāsūtra are the same as in the ordinary communication' (in Śābarabhāṣya ad Mīmāṃsāsūtra 1.1.1) is a rule which applies to other rules, the ones mentioned in the MS.
Although the technical usage of nyāyas derives from the looser one, it is convenient to distinguish between the two. In order to be a meta-rule, a rule needs to refer to further rules. Since the main focus of the Mīmāṃsā is the Veda, rules regarding it directly do not need to be meta-rules. By contrast, meta-rules are rules ruling a certain exegetical rule. For instance, all rules applying to other rules of the Mīmāṃsāsūtra, or all rules applying to an exegetical rule discussed in the ritualistic thought prior to the Mīmāṃsāsūtra.

For other cases testifying a common prehistory shared by Śrautasūtras, Grammar and Mīmāṃsā authors, see this post (on tantra), this and this one (on prasaṅga, the latter discusses a metarule, i.e., "an exception counts more than the general rule").


Dominik Wujastyk said...

It's a tiny point, but the subtitle of my book is The Vyāḍīyaparibhāṣāvṛtti .... Annoyingly, the title page (by me) and the book cover (by the publisher) have different titles. But the title page is correct. There's an issue here: for a while, I thought that Vyāḍi might be the author of the vṛtti. Later, I revised my book completely, to the view that this was an anonymous vṛtti on a list of paribhāṣā's ascribed to Vyāḍi.

I think you would find of interest the article "Towards a Methodology of Applying the Paribhāṣās in the KauśikaSūtra (I)" by Julieta Rotaru. She explores the use of formal paribhāṣās in the Atharvaveda gṛhya literature. She demonstrates wonderfully how critically important these paribhāṣās are to a correct understanding of the text. The same is true in āyurveda, by the way, where there are global paribhāṣā rules saying that one should use a double measure of fluid in a recipe in certain conditions, or fresh not dried ginger, etc. If one doesn't know the general rules, one would make false medical compounds.

I don't agree that nyāyas are almost the same as paribhāṣās. I think they are very different in content, purpose and in how the tradition understood things.

elisa freschi said...

Dear Dominik,
thanks a lot for the comment and the reference to J. Rotaru's article. I will immediately look for it. As for nyāyas and paribhāṣās, may I ask you to elaborate further? I agree that we have to leave beside laukikanyāyas. Yet Mīmāṃsā authors do not use the term "paribhāṣā", although they do write meta-rules (such as "the words in the Mīmāmsāsūtra" should be understood in the same meaning as in the ordinary communication"). And the label for them seems to be nyāya. But you surely know much more about it…

Unknown said...

According to the derivation, ‘parito bhāşate’, as also a special emphasis on the indeclinable, ‘paritas’, Paribhāşās can be thought to be the various doorways of a system. Since ‘paritas’ means ‘all around’, ‘overall’, etc. it can be safely conjectured that paribhāşās, by derivation, enjoy application to a closed system, though influx of foreign paribhāşās into such a system (obviously with suitable connotative modifications) may be allowed, to keep pace with developments going all around, i.e. in other branches of knowledge. Thus probably it includes both the general sense of nyāya or general principle, and the stricter sense of ‘metarule’. Keeping such an interpretation of the word ‘paribhāşā’ in view, and also bearing in mind that from the same root, bhāş, both bhāşā and bhāşya are derived, I think it’s good to translate the word in a new way as ‘pan-comments’. I also think that whereas a sūtra is a morphological and structural abridgement of an idea, paribhāşā is a semantic abridgement of the same. Once admitted, I think, this similarity between a paribhāşā and a sūtra has tremendous historical and philosophical bearings on the history and interpretation of early Indian philosophical texts.

Sudipta Munsi,

elisa freschi said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Sudipta. In Pūrvamīmāṃsā at least, it is certainly the case that the denotation "paribhāṣā" could be applied to (almost?) all sūtras. Could you elaborate on the "tremendous bearings"?
As for "pan-comments", I guess you mean "comments applying globally". But would the average reader understand it?

Unknown said...

Anvaya and Vyatireka are the two paribhāşās which originally pertain to Nyāya. Their definitions are “tatsattve tatsattvā” and “tadasattve tadasattvā” respectively. However, the same are used in Pancadaśī, but with different names: anuvŗtti and vyavŗtti. May be, such new coinages allow greater liberty in the usage of these terms, while remaining within the greater structure of its general meaning of agreement and disagreement. However, others prefer to use the old terms, anvaya and vyatireka. Again, guņa is a highly polyvalent term. Thus, whereas one hand it has a very specific meaning in Vyākaraņa, it is also used (at least in the Mahābhāşya) in the Nyāya sense of quality. The Śvetāśvataropanişad, Brahmasūtras, Śānkara Vedānta, etc. have generally understood guņa in the Sāmkhya sense. The same Nyāya paribhāşa, jāti, is used in Vyākaraņa and Mīmāmsā as ākŗti. All this suggest the inter-allied and interdependent character of the various schools of Indian philosophy (this point was also made, though on a different score, by the late Bimal Krishna Matilal, in one of his essays included in the volume, The Word and the World) and also underline its generally evolutionary nature. Again the evolution of the highly technical paribhāşās of Navya-Nyāya gave an altogether new orientation to the writing of texts of various schools of Indian philosophy, i.e. while old Nyāya was, generally speaking, more related to prameya or valid knowledge, Navya-nyāya was to a great extent (if not totally) concerned with pramāņa or the means of valid knowledge. This also led to the genesis of the highly technical and abstruse series of texts and commentaries of neo-Vedānta dialectics, which almost did away with the flowery rhetoric of Ādi Śankarācārya on one hand, and the dictatorial certainty of his conclusions on the other.
Yes, the translation, “global comments” is preferable to “pan-comments.”


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