Who invented the apoha theory? On Kunjunni Raja 1986

Who invented the apoha theory? If you, like me, are prone to answer “Dignāga” and to add that Dignāga (as shown by Hattori) was inspired by Bhartṛhari’s theory and that Dharmakīrti and Dharmottara later fine-tuned Dignāga’s one, you are ready to have your view challenged by K. Kunjunni Raja’s article in Buddhist Logic and Epistemology (ed. by B.K. Matilal and R.D. Evans, 1986, I am grateful to Sudipta Munsi who sent me a copy of it).

Kunjunni Raja argues that, in fact, the theory of exclusion can already be found in the work by Vyāḍi, an ancient grammarian whose views are referred to by Patañjali in the Mahābhāṣya. Until now, I had known of Vyāḍi only because he is linked to the theory that words denote individuals (vyakti) and, therefore, opposed to Vājapyāyana who supported the opposite view that words mean universals (jāti). But, Kunjunni Raja explains, what happens if this theory is applied to the sentence-meaning? Words denoting individuals end up delimiting each other by excluding whatever else. Kunjunni Raja refers to a passage where Patañjali discussed sāmarthya, a condition given by Pāṇini for compounds (Kunjunni Raja quotes a shorter version of the same passage):

Indeed, the sāmarthya is the distinction (bheda), or the association [of words in the compound]. Someone else said: “The sāmarthya is the distinction and the association”. What is indeed the distinction and what is the association? In this [compound, namely rājapuruṣa, which can be analysed as “the servant of the king” (rajñaḥ puruṣaḥ)], the term “of the king” is automatically associated with everything which belongs to him, whereas “the servant” is automatically associated with all possible masters. Now, when one utters the sentence “Bring the servant of the king!” “the king” removes (nivṛt-) the servant from all other masters and also “the servant” [removes] the king from anything else which belongs to him. In this way, given that both are determined [by each other], if [each word] relinquishes its own meaning, let it be. It is not the case that one can bring a “servant” in general.
(sāmarthyaṃ nāma bhedaḥ, saṃsargo vā. apara āha —bhedasaṃsargau vā sāmarthyam iti. kaḥ punar bhedaḥ saṃsargo vā? iha rājña ity ukte sarvaṃ svaṃ prasaktam, puruṣa ity ukte sarvaṃ svāmī prasaktaḥ. ihedānīṃ rājapuruṣam ānayety ukte rājā puruṣaṃ nivartayaty anyebhyaḥ svāmibhyaḥ, puruṣo ‘pi rājānam anyebhyaḥ svebhyaḥ. evam etasminn ubhayato svavacchinne yadi svārthaṃ jahāti kāma.˛jahātu na jātucit puruṣamātrasyānayanaṃ bhaviṣyati, MBh ad A 2.1.1.5, p. 330, my translation)

In other words, in order to accomplish the order to fetch someone, one needs a specification, and words, while connected, specify each other. Does this amount to a proto-apoha theory? I would not say so, although some key terms are there, most notably bheda and nivṛt-, since in this theory each words delimits another word’s meaning. It is not the case that no word has an own meaning. In other words, distinction steps in for Vyāḍi only at the sentence level, and not as the meaning of each single word (which is, as already mentioned, an individual).

By the way, I am by no means familiar with Patañjali, but I checked Kaiyaṭa’s Pradīpa and Nāgeśa’s Uddyota on this passage and could not find any indication of Vyāḍi’s name. Kunjunni Raja does not really elaborate on this point, but refers in a footnote to Helārāja’s commentary on VP 3.1.2:

According to the opinion of Vyāḍi, the meaning of a sentence is the distinction (bheda), because [the sentence-meaning] is denoted through the fact of being the purpose of the exclusion (nivṛtti) [operated] by the individual substances expressed by words.
(vyāḍimate bhedo vākyārthaḥ, padavācyānāṃ dravyāṇāṃ dravyāntaranivṛttitātparyeṇābhidheyatvāt, my translation).

The interesting challenge now becomes to determin whether later authors had in view Vyāḍi or already an apohavādin while discussing about bheda as the sentence meaning. I will discuss Jayanta’s case next week, while Kunjunni Raja mentions Kumārila (“Tantravārttika, p, 447″) and Pārthasārathi (“Ślokavārttika (Benares ed.), p. 854″). I have not checked them yet, but the first one is quoted by Kunjunni Raja as follows:

bhedo nāma padārthānāṃ vyavacchedaḥ parasparam. […] vyaktipadārthapakṣe sarvavyaktīnāṃ gavādipadenaivopāttatvāt viṣayaśabdaiḥ śuklādibhiḥ kṛṣṇādivyavacchedamātraṃ vaktavyam.

I would imagine that a good criterion would be to focus on what is the locus of exclusion (sentence meaning or each word meaning?). Kumārila seems to fulfil it, also insofar as he mentions that the words themselves mean individuals (vyakti) and not exclusions. Pārthasārathi’s text is not reported, and I will need the library to reopen after Easter to check it.

Do you know the passages by Kumārila and Pārthasārathi? Do you agree with Kunjunni Raja’s attribution? Can you think of other examples of critiques against Vyāḍi (and not the apohavādins)? Last, how long and how much “popular” was Vyāḍi?

(cross-posted on my personal blog)

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog: elisafreschi.com, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

One thought on “Who invented the apoha theory? On Kunjunni Raja 1986

  1. Hi, Elisa! I think, Kunjunni Raja’s interpretation is a typical Indian trend to justify some innovation, attributing it to the former tradition.
    Of course the idea, that words in a sentence delimit each others meaning, is not the same as the apoha theory. Moreover, Raja’s interpretation obviously contradicts Patanjali’s Varttika on Panini’s sutra 1.2.6: dravyAbhidhAnaM vyADiH, whereas dravya in other places of Mbh is understood either as individual object (vyakti) or as substance.
    One can also wonder about the reason, why Vyadi, who evidently belonged to some Brahmanic school, would have argued for the theory that is based on the denial of the existance of individual objects.

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