Vyakhyana (Samskrit: व्याख्यानम्) is a kind of explanatory exposition used to explain obscure expressions and sutras (short terse aphorisms) found in samskrit literature. Different kinds of expositions have different characteristics regulated by some principles. An exposition is made to help students of a subject or shastra understand the terse concepts presented by acharyas and aid in the comprehensive study of samskrit texts. Such exposition is varied according to the capacity and necessity of students and hence we see expositions of various kinds from time to time.
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
Samskrit literature abounds with various kinds of expositions to help students study difficult shastras. Every exposition is basically a study, but different kinds of expositions have different characteristics. The chief function of a Vyakhyana is to remove doubts pertaining to the sense of words, as is aptly shown below in the text Paribhashendusekhara.
व्याख्यानतो विशेषप्रतिपत्तिर्नहि सन्देहादलक्षणम्॥ १ ॥ vyākhyānato viśeṣapratipattirnahi sandehādalakṣaṇam॥ 1 ॥ (Pari. 1)
It indicates that where there arises doubt regarding the verbal meaning, a shastra cannot be regarded as futile, simply because its words are not always easily intelligible and such doubts should be removed with the help of traditional expositions.
The words such as commentary are used to introduce explain such kinds of expositions as seen in samskrit literature, but it does not sufficiently explain the lakshanas seen for each kind of exposition.
लक्षणम् ॥ Lakshana
After understanding the chief function of having different different kinds of expositions, we now deal with what exactly constitutes Vyakhyana and their characteristics. Patanjali in his Mahabhashya, presents the definition of Vyakhyana as generally adopted in vyakarana texts.
न केवलानि चर्चापदानि व्याख्यानम्-.... किं तर्हि? उदाहरणं प्रत्युदाहरणं वाक्याध्याहार इत्येतत्समुदितं व्याख्यानं भवति। (Maha. Pasp.)
na kevalāni carcāpadāni vyākhyānam-.... kiṁ tarhi? udāharaṇaṁ pratyudāharaṇaṁ vākyādhyāhāra ityetatsamuditaṁ vyākhyānaṁ bhavati
Just the words of rules do not constitute vyakhyana, but the examples, counter examples and the supplying of what is wanting in a sentence - all these together constitute the Vyakyana. Prayogaratnamala Vyakarana, says for easy understanding of students are three tools of vyakhya, namely examples (उदाहृतिः), deduction of words from a vakya (पदकृतिः), and understanding the separate meanings (पदार्थानां)
उदाहृतिः पदकृतिः पदार्थानां विवेचनम्, तन्त्राणां त्रिविधा व्याख्या शिशूनां शीघ्रबोधिनी।
udāhr̥tiḥ padakr̥tiḥ padārthānāṁ vivecanam, tantrāṇāṁ trividhā vyākhyā śiśūnāṁ śīghrabodhinī।
Parashara Upapurana clearly lays down the lakshana and the five characteristics of Vyakhyana,
पदच्छेदः पदार्थोक्तिर्विग्रहो वाक्ययोजना | आक्षेपस्य समाधानं व्याख्यानं पञ्चलक्षणम्॥ (Para. Upap. 18.17-18)
padacchedaḥ padārthoktirvigraho vākyayojanā | ākṣepasya samādhānaṁ vyākhyānaṁ pañcalakṣaṇam॥ (Para. Upap. 18.17-18)
- Padaccheda (पदच्छेदः) is the deduction of words from the sentences.
- Padarthokti (पदार्थोक्तिः) is to show the senses of words.
- Vigraha (विग्रहः) is to show the sense of compounds.
- Vakyayojana (वाक्ययोजना) is to show the inter-relation of words so as to furnish one complete sense.
- Aakshepa (आक्षेपः) is the raising of doubt and Samadhanam (समाधानं) means the removal of such doubts.
It is amply clear that Vyakhyana is that exposition which is concerned chiefly with conceptual clarification of doubts, aiding to the extent of breaking down the words and sentences to understand the sense conveyed without direct touch with the meaning of words. Vyakhya or Vyakhyana is that statement which clarifies the import of words. Now this clarification can be made variously according to the need and capacity of students for whom an exposition is made. Not only do we find various kinds of expositions, we also find that some shastras were mainly composed for this purpose.
Types of Vyakhyas or Expositions
In this section we get an in depth understanding about the kinds of expositions that we see in samskrit literature since the earliest times they were composed. Explanation of four well-known kinds of expositions are given below
- वृत्तिः ॥ Vrtti
- वार्तिकम् ॥ Vaartika
- भाष्यम् ॥ Bhashya
- टीका ॥ Tika
वृत्तिः ॥ Vrtti or Vyakhyana
सूत्रार्थप्रधानो ग्रन्थो वृत्तिः । sūtrārthapradhāno grantho vr̥ttiḥ ।(Padamanjari)
The exposition which chiefly contains the meaning of the Sutras is designated as Vrtti, as is remarked above by Haradatta Mishra. Vrttis appear to be the earliest attempts to show the sense of sutras. A Sutra does not necessarily contain all words which are needed to explain the complete function of a Sutra and as such there is necessity of the Vrttis for the completion of Sutrartha (सूत्रार्थ) or import of a sutra. In the Kalaapa Vyakarana, a Vrtti is defined as सूत्रार्थे विवरणं वृत्तिः। Similarly Kavyamimamsa by Rajasekhara also defines Vrtti as सूत्राणां सकलसारविवरणं वृत्तिः। which simply put mean that Vrtti is the comprehensive explanation of the meaning of Sutras.
Vyakhyana lakshana given in the previous section, as defined by Patanjali in his Mahabhashya is identical to Vrtti for the function of a Vrtti is nothing but to disclose the Sutrartha (सूत्रार्थ) through the use of examples, counter examples.
Factors that are to be considered when presenting Vrttis are thus as follows
- सूत्रार्थे विवरणं । sūtrārthe vivaraṇaṁ- Explanation of Sutras only have to be attempted.
- उदाहरणं प्रत्युदाहरणं । udāharaṇaṁ pratyudāharaṇaṁ - In Vyakarana, presenting examples and counter-examples (to support explanation of sutras) is also the duty of a Vrttikara.
- अधिकारा । adhikārā - Discussion on Adhikara (province) of topics is to be presented as remarked by Kaiyyata who mentions that वृत्तिकारस्तु अधिकाराणां प्रवृत्ति-निवृत्ती व्याचक्षते।vr̥ttikārastu adhikārāṇāṁ pravr̥tti-nivr̥ttī vyācakṣate (Pradipa 7.4.24)
- पदच्छेदः । padacchedaḥ - Deducting the Padas from the sentences is required, since no direct exposition is possible without this step. It is also found that in a few cases, the Padacchedas made by different Vrttikaras are not the same (Pradipa 6.3.76) and each padaccheda is accepted in a particular school. It is the basis for the difference of opinion regarding the meaning of a sutra according to the different view-points of the Vrittikara.
- प्रसिद्धहनिः शब्दानाम् अप्रसिद्धे च कल्पना न कार्या... । prasiddhahaniḥ śabdānām aprasiddhe ca kalpanā na kāryā... ।
Tantravartika of Kumarila points out what should not be done by a Vrttikara as given in point 5. It says that a Vrittikara should confine himself to disclose the sense of the sutras without going into extensive discussion on any subtle theme.
वार्तिकम् ॥ Vaartika
उक्तानुक्तदुरुक्तादिचिन्ता यत्र प्रवर्तते तं ग्रन्थं वार्तिकं प्राहुः वार्तिकज्ञा विपश्चितः। (Sambandha Vartika)
uktānuktaduruktādicintā yatra pravartate taṁ granthaṁ vārtikaṁ prāhuḥ vārtikajñā vipaścitaḥ। (Sambandha Vartika)
Suresvara defined the second type of Vyakhya is वार्तिकम् (Vaartika) as given above and it is supported by Rajasekhara also in his Kavyamimamsa
उक्तानुक्तदुरुक्तचिन्ताकारि वार्त्तिकमिति (Kavy. Mima. 2)
According to Suresvaracharya, Vaartika is that exposition in which the Vaartikakara discusses refutation (arguments) of what has been established by the Sutrakara termed as Uktachinta (उक्तचिन्ता) along with statements that are not expressly said in the original work termed as Anuktachinta (अनुक्तचिन्ता). Vishnudharmottara Purana, along with a discussion about Tantrayukti (the language tools used for writing treatises of shastras) mentions about the topics to be discussed by a Vaartikakara -
प्रयोजनं संशयनिर्णयौ च व्याख्याविशेषो गुणलाघवश्च ॥ कृतव्युदासोऽकृतशासनं च सा वर्तिको धर्मगुणोऽष्टकश्च ॥ (Vish. Dhar. Pura. 3.6)
prayojanaṁ saṁśayanirṇayau ca vyākhyāviśeṣo guṇalāghavaśca ॥ kr̥tavyudāso'kr̥taśāsanaṁ ca sā vartiko dharmaguṇo'ṣṭakaśca ॥ (Vish. Dhar. Pura. 3.6)
A vartika should contain the following qualities
- प्रयोजनं।prayojanaṁ - the use of a Shastra (ex. as is found in vartikas of Katyayana on Ashthadhyayi of Panini)
- संशय-निर्णयौ । saṁśaya-nirṇayau - raising of a doubt and its refutation (ex. Vartikas on Panini system of vyakarana are composed to criticize the view and the Sutras of Panini)
- व्याख्याविशेषो ।vyākhyāviśeṣo- to establish the view of a the Sutra by discovering a hidden sense of any Sutra.
- गुणलाघवः । guṇalāghavaḥ - a discussion on the verbal brevity of the sutras (an explanation is required for a deeper understanding).
- कृतव्युदासः।kr̥tavyudāsaḥ- refutation of what has been established by the Sutrakara (Uktachinta according to Suresvaracharya)
- अकृतशासनं । akr̥taśāsanaṁ - mention of a new statement which is not expressly said in the original work (Anuktachinta according to Suresvaracharya)
Kaiyyata defined what is beyond the scope of a Vartikakara in his commentary on Mahabhashya
वार्तिककारेण नैतदन्वाख्येयं सर्वाधिकाराणाम् अन्वाख्यानप्रसङ्गात्। vārtikakāreṇa naitadanvākhyeyaṁ sarvādhikārāṇām anvākhyānaprasaṅgāt । (Pradipa 7.4.21)
It is clear from the above statement that discussion on Adhikara is not to be done by a Vartikakara. It appears that Vartikas are composed after the Vrttis for unless the Sutrartha is completely shown by the Vrttikara there can be no criticism of the Sutras.
भाष्यम् ॥ Bhashya
आक्षेपसमाधानपरो ग्रंन्थः भाष्यम् । ākṣepasamādhānaparo graṁnthaḥ bhāṣyam (Padamanjari)
That grantha (treatise) which engages in answering to an objection (आक्षेपस्य समाधानम्) is a Bhashya (भाष्यम्) according to Haradatta. This is the chief characteristic of a Bhashya, which differentiates it from the Vrtti.
सूत्रस्थं पदमादाय पदैः सूत्रानुसारिभिः, स्वपदानि च वर्ण्यन्ते भाष्यं भाष्यविदो विदुः। sūtrasthaṁ padamādāya padaiḥ sūtrānusāribhiḥ, svapadāni ca varṇyante bhāṣyaṁ bhāṣyavido viduḥ (Para. Upap. 18)
An explanation of the words of the Sutra along with own expressions is said to be a Bhashya according to the learned among those who knowledgeable of the Bhashyas.
A bhashya is also designated as a Vivarana (विवरणम्) as per Kaiyyata. It is the secondary duty of a Bhashyakara to show the sutrartha in particular case, if not in all. Rajasekhara in his Kavyamimamsa mentions आक्षिप्य भाषणाद्भाष्यम्। ākṣipya bhāṣaṇādbhāṣyam where the text expressing criticism is called Bhashya.
Secondly, स्वपदवर्णन । svapadavarṇana (own verbal expressions) is another important characteristic of a Bhashya. A Bhashya can introduce a new topic or can use new terms and as such it can explain its own verbal expressions, while there no such attempt in the Vartikas. Ex: Mahabhashya starts with अथ शब्दानुशासनम् is discussed by Patanjali himself.
In the Paninian system, the Bhashya criticises the views of the former Vartikakaras and generally supports the Sutrakara, although in some cases refuting the view of the sutrakara (Panini) is also noticed. In the Nyaya-vartika there are many places where the Varttikakara criticises the views of Gautama and Vatsyayana. The main difference in the आक्षेपसमाधान of Varttika and that of a Bhashya is that the Varttikas have direct touch with its own tradition, while the scope of Bhashya is far more extensive.
टीका ॥ Tika
टीका निरन्तरा व्याख्या । ṭīkā nirantarā vyākhyā ।
Tika is that which explains each word of the original text without any exception, as further elaborated by Hemachandra as सुगमानां विषमाणां च विरन्तरं व्याख्या यस्याम्। sugamānāṁ viṣamāṇāṁ ca virantaraṁ vyākhyā yasyām as that explanation where both the easy and hard words are explained always.
Tika is the most familiar style of exposition. The above definitions clearly show that the chief duty of a Tika is to explain each word without leaving any word but at the same time it is devoid of आक्षेपसमाधान (complaint and rebuttal) of the Vartikas or introduction to any new subtle topic as seen in Bhashya. Hence Rajasekhara defined it as
यथासम्भवमर्थस्य टीकनं टीका। yathāsambhavamarthasya ṭīkanaṁ ṭīkā  that which makes clear the "as is" meaning of the text (sutras and other types of works) without any extrapolations.
Tikas are later day texts which are replaced by Vrttis in ancient times, although Vrttis were more precise and authoritative in comparison to Tikas. A Vrtti exclusively deals with Sutras only, whereas Tikas can be composed on other types of works also. Thus a Tika is supposed to be composed for beginners while a Vrtti is of a higher standard. In modern terms, a commentary on Bhashya is called a Tikaa.
There are other lesser used, at least five kinds of expositions as follows
- पञ्जिका ॥ Panjika
- पस्पशा ॥ Paspasha
- उपोद्घातम् ॥ Upodghata
- कारिका ॥ Karika
- पद्धतिः ॥ Paddhati
पञ्जिका ॥ Panjika
Panjika is defined as विषमपदभञ्जिका पञ्जिका। viṣamapadabhañjikā pañjikā by Rajasekhara in his Kavyamimamsa. It is that particular kind of exposition, which attempts to clarify the sense of obscure parts only of the text. Hemachandra explains it further showing its chief characteristic as पञ्जिका पदभञ्जिका.... पच्यन्ते व्यक्तीक्रियन्ते पदार्थाः ... विषमाण्येव पदं भनक्ति। pañjikā padabhañjikā.... pacyante vyaktīkriyante padārthāḥ ... viṣamāṇyeva padaṁ bhanakti. Here the word Padabhanjika (पदभञ्जिका) is explained further as that which clearly expresses the padartha, especially of difficult or obscure words.
पस्पशा ॥ Paspasha
It can be said that Paspasha was also a kind of exposition. Mallinatha defines it as the kind of exposition that is used as the starting point of the shastra in the grantha, similar to Upodghata. Ballabha says Paspasha is a "Prayojana grantha" dealing with the various uses of the shastra in this section. In the Uddyotana commentary of the Mahabhashya, Annambhatta defined पस्पशव्याख्या । paspaśavyākhyā clearly stating that Paspasha and Upodghata are identical.
शास्त्रस्यारम्भको ग्रन्थ उपोद्घात इतिरितः स एव ग्रन्थसन्दर्भः पस्पश कथितो बुधैः।
śāstrasyārambhako grantha upodghāta itiritaḥ sa eva granthasandarbhaḥ paspaśa kathito budhaiḥ।
उपोद्घातम् ॥ Upodghata
Some consider that Upodghata (उपोद्घातम्) is also a particular kind of exposition and is not identical to Paspasha. Upodghata not only describes the प्रयोजन or शास्त्रारम्भ-समर्थनम् (prayojana or śāsrārambha-samarthanam) but also the place (स्थान ) and reason (निमित्त) for the discussion. Many consider this as the extension of Paspasha though many use the term Upodghata.
A few other expositions seen in the samskrit literature, terms also used in modern parlance, include the following
- कारिका ॥ Karika : In the Kavyamimamsa, Karika is also accepted as a kind of vyakhya, अर्थप्रदर्शनकारिका कारिका। arthapradarśanakārikā kārikā one that displays the meaning is a karika. For example exposition of samkhya darshana is given as karikas.
- पद्धतिः ॥ Paddhati : Further Rajasekhara defines सूत्रवृत्तिविवेचनं पद्धतिः । sūtravr̥ttivivecanaṁ paddhatiḥ where an explanation of Vrttis is called a Paddhati.
- समीक्षा ॥ Samiksha : अन्तर्भाष्यं समीक्षा । antarbhāṣyaṁ samīkṣā । अवान्तरार्थविच्छेदश्च सा । avāntarārthavicchedaśca sā । an exposition that parses out the secondary meanings is a samiksha.
- Bhattacharya. Ram Shankar, (1955) Kinds of Expositions in Sanskrit Literature. Poona: ABORI (Annals of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute) Vol 36
- Paribhashendusekhara (Full Text)
- Mahabhashyam (Paspashahnikam)
- Tripathi, Kapiladeva. (1990) Paraasaraopapuranam (Samiikshatmakam Sampaadanam). Varanasi: Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. (Page 219)
- Kavyamimamsa (Adhyaya 2)
- Vishnudharmottara Purana (Khanda 3 Adhyayas 6-10)