Shastra Shikshana Paddhati (शास्त्रशिक्षणपद्धतिः)

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Shastra shikshana paddhati (Samskrit : शास्त्रशिक्षणपद्धतिः) means the teaching methodology of shastras. Ancient poetic and scientific treatises are classified on the basis of their purpose, readership, the volume of the subject matter apart from many other things. Almost all shastras describe the anubandha chatushtaya which are the four fold relationship between the student, the book, the subject matter and the purpose. To facilitate teaching, memorization and brevity of content, shastras have been composed in a certain format for easy understanding.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

Scientific treatises and other texts such as poetry, not only display the use of major devices like yuktis, ashrayas described in shastra rachana paddhati but also employ other systems of word constructs which play an important role in the learning of the subject and language. Teaching of shastras, rituals, grammar, philosophy and other literary works include texts written in the formats that are extremely compressed (brevity) to wide descriptions for explanation of concepts. Some include detailed explanations with objections and answers to a concept and reasoning to establish a theory. Texts generally include one or many of the following types of compositions.

  1. Sutras (सुत्रम्)
  2. Vrtti (वृत्तिः)
  3. Paddhati (पद्धतिः)
  4. Bhashya (भाष्यम्)
  5. Tika (टीका)
  6. Panjika (पञ्जिका)
  7. Karika (कारिका)
  8. Vartika (वार्तिकम्)
  9. Vyakhyana (व्याख्यानम्) or
  10. Tippani (टिप्पणी)   

Sanatana Dharma has six systems or six different schools of thought called the Shad Darsanas. Each school has developed, systematised and correlated the various parts of the Veda in its own way. Each system has its Sutrakara, i.e., the one great Rishi who systematised the doctrines of the school and put them in short aphorisms or Sutras. The Sutras are terse and laconic. The Rishis have condensed their thoughts in the aphorisms. It is very difficult to understand them without the help of commentaries by great sages or Rishis. Hence, there arose many commentators or Bhashyakaras. There are glosses, notes and, later, commentaries on the original commentaries.[1]

Apart from philosophy, various fields of arts, law and social ethics developed respective sutras, which helped teach and transmit ideas from one generation to the next. Each set of Sutras has got its Bhashya, Vritti, Vaartika, Vyakhyana or Tika and Tippani.[1] Further sections are an attempt to define each of the above styles of compositions.

सुत्रम् Sutra

Sutra (Samskrit : सूत्रम्) is a Samskrit word with many meanings such as "a rule, string, thread". Each sutra is any short rule, like a theorem distilled into few words or syllables, around which "teachings of ritual, philosophy, grammar or any field of knowledge" can be woven.[2]


Patanjali's Yoga sutras define a sutra thus

अल्पाक्षरमसन्दिग्धं सारवद्विश्वतो मुखम्। अस्तोभमनवध्यञ्च सूत्रं सूत्रविदो विदुः॥

Summary : Knowers of sūtra consider a sūtra to be brief (अल्पाक्षरम्), clear (सन्दिग्धम्), pithy (सारवत्), multifaceted (विश्वतोमुखम्), devoid of interjectionary sounds called stobha (अस्तोभम्) (which means that a sutra is without pauses or stoppages, exclamatory sounds), and without any faults or objections (अनवध्यम्).

A Sutra or an aphorism is a short formula with the least possible number of letters, without any ambiguity or doubtful assertion, containing the very essence, embracing all meanings, without any stop or obstruction and absolutely faultless in nature.[1]


The best example of the greatest, the tersest and the most perfect of Sutra literature is the series of aphorisms called the Ashtadhyayi composed by Panini. Panini is the father of all Sutrakaras from whom all others seem to have borrowed the method of composition. The Sutras are meant to explain a big volume of knowledge in short assertions suitable to be kept in memory at all times. The six Vedangas and the six systems of Hindu philosophy form the twelve sets of Sutra literature of the world.

In addition to these, there are later compositions like the Narada-Bhakti Sutras, the Sandilya-Bhakti Sutras.[1]

भाष्यम् ॥ Bhashya

A Bhashya (Sanskrit: भाष्य) is an elaborate exposition, a commentary on the Sutras, with word by word meaning of the aphoristic precepts, their running translation, together with the individual views of the commentator or the Bhashyakara.[3]


Patanjali's Yoga sutras defines a bhashya thus

सूत्रार्थो वर्ण्यते यत्र, पदै: सुत्रानुसारिभिः। स्वपदानि च वर्ण्यन्ते, भाष्यं भाष्यविदो विदु: ॥

Meaning : Knowers of bhāṣya (commentary) consider a commentary to be that which elaborates the meaning of the sūtra using words in consonance with those of the sūtra and which explains the words used in the commentary as well.


The best and the exemplary Bhashya in Sanskrit literature is the one written by Patanjali on the Vyakarana Sutras of Panini. This Bhashya is so important that it is called the Mahabhashya and its celebrated author is specially called the Bhashyakara. Patanjali is the father of Bhashyakaras.

The next important Bhashya is the one on the Mimamsa Sutras written by Sabara-Swamin who learnt the art from Patanjali's commentary. The third important Bhashya was written by Sankara on the Brahma Sutras, in close following with Sabara-Bhashya. The Bhashyas on the six sets of aphorisms dealing with Indian philosophy were written by Vatsyayana, Prasastapada, Vijnanabhikshu, Vyasa, Sabara and Sankara. On the Vedanta or Brahma sutra there are about sixteen Bhashyas, like those of Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, Nimbarka, etc.[3]

वार्त्तिकम् ॥ Vartika

A Vartika is a work where a critical study is made of that which is said and also of that which is left unsaid or imperfectly said in a Bhashya. It also includes ways of making it perfect by supplying the omissions therein.


Patanjali's Yoga sutras defines a Vartika thus

उक्तानुक्तदुरुक्तार्थव्यक्तीकरग्रन्थो वार्त्तिकम्।

A vārttika is a book that clarifies what is stated, left unstated, and unclearly expressed in an original work, usually of a commentary.


They include the Varttikas of Katyayana on Panini's Sutras, of Suresvara on Sankara's Upanishad-Bhashyas, and of Kumarila Bhatta on the Sabara-Bhashya on the Karma-Mimamsa, Vijñanabhiksu’s Yogavivaraṇa on Vyāsa’s commentary.


A Vritti is a short gloss explaining the aphorisms in a more elaborate way, but not as extensively as a Bhashya. An example is Bodhayana's Vritti on the Brahma Sutras.

Vyakhyana or Tika

A Vyakhyana is a running explanation in an easier language of what is said in the original, with little elucidations here and there. A Vyakhyana, particularly of a Kavya, deals with eight different modes of dissection of the Sloka, like Pada-Chheda, Vigraha, Sandhi, Alankara, Anuvada, etc. This forms an important aspect in the study of Sanskrit Sahitya Sastra. An Anu-Vyakhyana—like the one written by Sri Madhva—is a repetition of what is already written, but in greater detail. An Anuvada is merely a running translation or statement of an abstruse text of the original. Tika is only another name for Vyakhyana. The best Vyakhyanas are of Vachaspati Misra on the Darsanas, especially on Sankara's Brahmasutra-Bhashya.


Tippani is just like a Vritti, but is less orthodox than the Vritti. It is an explanation of difficult words or phrases occurring in the original. Examples are Kaiyata's gloss on the Mahabhashya of Patanjali, Nagojibhatta's gloss on Kaiyata's gloss, or Appayya's gloss on Amalananda's gloss on the Bhamati of Vachaspati Misra.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism, Page 47-50
  2. Monier Williams, Sanskrit English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Entry for sutra, page 1241
  3. 3.0 3.1 Swami Sivananda, All about Hinduism