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All posts by Matilal

Language : The Vibration of Consciousness

Bhartṛhari propounds a cosmological thesis. The whole universe (or we should say the linguistic universe), consisting of two different types of things, the vācyas, bits and pieces of the constructed world to which language refers, and the linguistic expressions, the vācaka (signifier), has evolved out of one principle called the Word-Essence, śabda-tattva, the Eternal Verbum, śabda-brahman, the ever-exceeding consciousness of the sentient. We may discount this point as a theological or metaphysical bias, but there may be an important truth implicit in it here. Our perceived world is also an interpreted world. And this interpretation is invariably in terms of some language or other. Interpretation is ‘languageing’. Bhartṛhari believes that both language and the ‘world’ it purports to refer to (and this ‘world’ by his own explicit admission may or may not coincide with the external, actual world) form an indivisible, unitary whole.

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Beyond Saussure and Derrida: Bhartrhari’s Holistic view of Language

It is obvious to any reader of Derrida how this ‘condemnation’, in a paradoxical manner, provides ammunition for Derrida’s deconstruction of the texts of Saussure and Rousseau. As far as I know, such condemnation of writing was conspicuous by its absence in the Indian tradition in which Bhartṛhari flourished. Hence the sphoṭa theory of language was not ‘logocentric’ in any damning sense. As I have said, both sonic and graphic symbols can be the ‘illuminator’ of the sphoṭa, and being the illuminator, either of them can be identified with the illuminated. Both speech and writing can be in perfect harmony (where talk of ‘violence’ would be pointless) in Bhartṛhari’s holistic view of language.

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The Language of the Indian Mystics

There are several ways by which our mystic-authors may (and actually do) present the so-called ineffable. I can identify at least three broad ways by which they accomplish it. This does not mean, however, that the mystics have been lying or deceiving themselves when they have been claiming IME. I take the IME Ineffability of Mystical Experience doctrine to be a warning signal to the readers (or hearers) to alert them against a facile understanding (a misunderstanding) of what the mystics say, such an understanding being based upon a too literal interpretation of their words. The words of the mystics are generated by a flash of inspiration and a similar sympathetic feeling may be needed in order to fully grasp their message.

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Centre For Indic studies
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