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The Significance of Prefixes in Sanskrit Philosophical Terminology

The Significance of Prefixes in Sanskrit Philosophical Terminology
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Item Code: NAD357
Author: Betty Heimann
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788124606353
Pages: 133
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 275 gms
About the Book

This volume attempts to present a dynamic approach to translating Sanskrit philosophical texts while emphasizing on keeping certain principles in mind when rendering Sanskrit philosophical texts such as: the fundamental concreteness, the basic dynamics, the resultant ambiguity and the necessary congruence of the term in question with the specific context in which it is introduced. In this context, it particularly throws light on the use and significance of prefixes, particularly of propositions used as prefixes, in Sanskrit philosophical terminology It also examines the basic problem in dealing with prefixes; their relation to the verbal roots to which they are attached. It studies the philosophical texts of various leading schools and systems including Vedanta, Mimamsa, Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Buddhism and Jainism, to examine the compound-terms in them and the mental operations which are grammatically and philosophically expressed. Study of the variation of terms brought about by the application of prefixes is intended. It argues that the prefixes throw into relief, by the different modes of their application, the specific bent of the systems themselves. They have retained the motional and emotional significance, which they apparently once had, at the earliest stage. The book also takes up some vital questions, such as, whether the prefix or the noun is the essential bearer of the meaning.

The volume is a well-researched study of the use of language in Sanskrit philosophical texts. It will prove useful to scholars and students of Indology, particularly those concerned with Sanskrit language and philosophy.


About the Author

Betty Heimarin studied Sanskrit and cultural epistemology (philology) in Kiel, Heidelberg, Gottingen and Bonn. In 1919, Heimann got PhD from Kiel University where her thesis was on Upaniad Bhaya. Besides, she was the founder of the Department of Indian Philosophy and Sanskrit at the University of Ceylon, where she taught for several years. Her major works are: Studies for the Characteristic of Indian Thinking (1930); Indian and Western Philosophy—A Study in Contrasts (1937); and Facets of Indian Thought (1964).



I owe the idea for this book to my pupils.

It originated from the fact that they frequently proffered widely divergent renderings in my classes on Sanskrit philosophical texts and commentaries. Whenever they provided a translation which differed from the one I had myself in mind, I tried to trace the reason for our divergences. It generally turned out that their translations were perfectly correct with regard to the dictionaries, but among the many lexicographical possibilities they had preferred to select those renderings which, as the most abstract and fixed, they considered the most appropriate for philosophical thought.

But there remains this problem: do all philosophical systems in all philosophical literature all over the world always employ the most abstract denominations? If this axiom does not hold good for Indian philosophical literature, then, in face of the embarrassing multitude of meanings proffered in the Western Sanskrit dictionaries, the primary task would be to trace the original meaning of each Sanskrit term and to separate it from its later divergent derivations. Not from any secondary meaning but from the concrete primary concept we have to try to find a connecting link to the meaning suggested by the context of the passage in hand.

From the very concreteness of Sanskrit linguistic expressions there radiate widely divergent meanings, and more divergent meanings in fact than in any other Indo-European language.

The more dynamic the character of a language, the greater the impetus for such radiation, i.e. for divergence of the meanings derived. In the search for an adequate rendering of Sanskrit philosophical texts these principles have all to be kept in mind: the fundamental concreteness, the basic dynamics, the resultant ambiguity, and on top of it the necessary congruence of the term in question with the specific context in which it is traduced. These complex factors, their different valuation, or neglect of one of them, account for the great divergence of translations, i.e. interpretations.

The following essay tries to give a lead in the method of translating Sanskrit philosophical texts. It does not aim at providing a panacea for every difficulty of translation. On the contrary, it voices a warning not to overlook the basic complexity and oscillatmg ambiguity involved.

After having completed the following monograph in 1945, I was fortunate enough once more to spend some years of study and teaching in the East itself. It has taught me that also modern Eastern students have to be reminded of the creative nature of their languages and to revitalize their etymology. They, too, have consciously to revive their abstract and stagnant use of terms by retracing the meanings from the original productive and concrete roots.

Finally, a word of acknowledgement. The late Professor E. H. Johnston (Baliol, Oxford) was kind enough to read my MS. after its completion. He made various valuable suggestions. The passages concerned I have marked at their proper place in the footnotes.



As I tried to point out in my "Deutung und Bedeutung indischer Terminologie" (Proceedings of the International Congress of Orientalists, Rome, 1935), fixation such as deadens fertile potentiality of meaning has always been repugnant to the Indian mind. In spite of all (late) systematics and predilections for classification India's terms never get the rigidness of Latin "termini", fixed limits. Hence I ventured in my "Terms in statu nascendi in the Bhagavadgtta"' to analyse the different means by which every term (noun) is revived in its functions. Either it is connected with its respective verbal root, with forms of its full verb, or its participles, or else its various potentialities are accentuated by putting it in a taipurusa-compound, etc.

In this study then I shall approach the problem of the immanent changeability and dynamics of "terms" from yet another angle. The significance of prefixes, and preferably of prepositions used as prefixes, will be investigated. Dynamics is one of the leading Hindu notions, daily brought home by observations made in such a mainly tropical climate as that of India. Quickness of growth and decay can be observed in the fertile tropical districts of India (e.g. at the Malabar Coast and in Bengal), and an equally surprising quickness of change from barren desert during the period of drought to abundant fertility during the rainy season in the other regions of this subcontinent. Furthermore, the unbreakable regularity of sudden change from day to night with nearly no twilight, of growth and decay without the stages of slow budding and fading, led the Indian to concentrate on the dynamic aspect of life as manifested in continuous abruptness of change.

The reflection of these fundamental natural laws can be traced even in a field apparently as remote as grammar. In early discussions of the grammatical problems mirrored in Yaska's Niruktam there seems to have prevailed a tendency primarily to attribute the functional significance to the verb (kriya, action!) of which the noun is considered only a derivative. From this fundamental assumption we may explain that Sakatayana, quoted and refuted by Yaska (Nir. I, I, 3) came to the opinion that the secondary grammatical elements, like prepositions or prefixes, serve only the purpose of setting free the immanent divergent possibilities latent in the verb itself.

The basic problem in dealing with prefixes is their relation to the verbal roots to which they are attached. Three different views are taken of this. Either the prefixes are considered as artha-oacakas, independent bearers of meaning. Or - and this is the more frequent attitude among the Indian grammarians - they are regarded as artha-dyotakas, illuminants of the meaning immanent in the verb. This latter view is made clear by the simile of a lamp, the purpose of which is not self- illumination, but to throw light upon the actual shape and quality of the objects concerned, the verbs. A third school, with some difference of conception, regard the prefixes as saha-karinas, i.e. co-operants, with the verbs, respectively verbal nouns.' Yaska, in adopting the view of Sakatayana's opponent, Gargya, asserts that the prefixes add their specific meanings to the dynamics of the verbal root to which they are attached. Hence, they are termed upa-sargas, lit. the flowing (sarga) towards and upon (upa), thus providing an additional tendency. The intentional forward motion expressed by the prefix upa is its primary meaning (cf. its general use, e.g. in upa-cara, upa-sarana, and upa-krama, and further examples passim in my study), while the result of this motion towards an aim, the static meaning of upa, reaching this aim and nearness to it, is but its second, and thus secondary, significance.

As will appear below, I am inclined to emphasize that explanation of upa-sarga which attributes to the prefixes a definite independent tendency, i.e. a meaning of their own. In favour also of this view Rgveda Pratisakhyas, 11,5, may be quoted, where the prepositions (and prefixes) are plainly called artha-vacakas, bearers of independent meanings. Their full functional tendency is furthermore enhanced by the teachings of Panini, I, 4, 59 ff. This past-master of Indian grammar attributes to "adnominal" prepositions, prefixes, and all other adverbial expressions like particles, etc. the significant term gati, motion. Whatever limits the activity of the verbal function to any particular direction serves to increase the intensity, as it were, of the sentence.

In the following studies, which have been made from the philosophical texts themselves, independently of the theories of Indian grammarians, I am bound to come to the conclusion that prepositions and prefixes in Hindu thought have retained the motional and emotional significance which they apparently once had at the earliest stages of all languages. Paradoxically, it is through the very feeling of dynamics that the dynamics of prefixes seem periodically degraded by the Indian grammarians for the sake of giving full stress to the dynamical function of the verb. In the West, on the other hand, the concreteness of the prefixes has been effaced both, in theory and in practice, for the sake of logical abstraction; and this process has been favoured in the West by less dynamic conditions of nature in the temperate zone.



  Preface vii
1 Introduction 1
2 The Single Systems and their Keywords 14
  Vedãnta 14
  Mimämsa 26
  Sathkhya 30
  Yoga 35
  Nyaya 44
  Vaiesika 50
  Terminology of Granimar 55
  General Terms of Hindu Philosophy 58
  Buddhism 60
  Jainism 69
3 Multiple Prefixes 78
4 Appendix : The Significance of Simple Terms 91
5 Epilogue : Comparison of the Technical Terms of Philosophy and Poetry 96
6 A Countertest: Sanskrit Prefix-terms and their Western Equivalents or Counterparts 103
  Index of Terms Treated 115

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