Academic journal article Creative Forum

Bhartrhari on Linguistic Understanding

Academic journal article Creative Forum

Bhartrhari on Linguistic Understanding

Article excerpt

Linguistic communication is the very foundation of a civilized society (vacam eva prasadena loka-yatra pravarttate). Speech behaviour or linguistic communication is significant to us, not because we communicate more effectively through it, but our social, spiritual, moral and intellectual life is fully dependant upon "speech behaviour"; and thus speech is part of our identity. Therefore, speech has always enjoyed the supreme status at par with the Supreme Being in the Indian intellectual tradition. Though we understand the significance and importance of speech behaviour, sometime we are not very conscious about the mechanism of speech behaviour and linguistic understanding (LU). In other words, hardly, we think on "why and how someone understands exactly the same thing we want to communicate through our linguistic communication". It is not difficult to understand why sometime we fail to communicate our thoughts properly to the listener, and thus there is no elaborate scientific investigation into this issue. On the contrary there is a vast literature explicating the theories and techniques on "linguistic understanding" found in Indian tradition. The ancient Indian Linguists were very serious not only on speech mechanism but also on the theory of "linguistic understanding". Understanding means knowledge or experience. The first-person experience is the very foundation of Indian thinking / philosophy. And first-person experience is gained through contemplation and/or observation. Observation is the most common means of knowledge acquisition, which is common in the cognitive science and material science as well. Indian schools of philosophy however, treat knowledge as "divine" and the knowledge is the only means of knowing the material world. It is said:

Samvid eva hi bhagavati vastupagame nah saranam (1)

i.e., "Goddess Consciousness" alone is our resort for gaining the knowledge of an entity.

There are controversies on the issue whether knowledge is a substance, a quality, or an action. There are also controversies on whether knowledge / consciousness is eternal or transient. However, irrespective of their affinity, to one or the other schools of thought, almost all thinkers in Indian Philosophy accept that the knowledge is objective (savisayaka) and it is a product. The Naiyayikas almost aphorizing a statement say "visayanirupyam hi jnanam" i.e, the knowledge indeed is described by its object; which to some extent holds true to most of the schools of Indian Epistemology. The Vedantins' though think that the knowledge in its ultimate state refers the Brahman, the Supreme Being (2), still they do agree with the view that the knowledge of mundane reality is object-reflexive and it is a product. Its productivity is possibly conceived not in a very empirical sense, but in the sense of theory building exercise in the Nyaya-Vaisesika system, which of course is a matter of debate. This however is not a matter of our concern in present context.

Indian epistemologists are very particular and very sincere about two aspects of cognitive enterprise: (1) the causal mechanism of the knowledge and (2) its cognitive structure that is being presented to the mind through the causal mechanism. Knowledge is a product and it is produced through a well-defined mechanism (karana-vyapara). The knowledge, thereafter, is presented through the mind (the internal sense organ = antah-karana) to the Self in a well-defined structure. The self, according to the Naiyayikas, is the abode of knowledge. The knowledge, according to them, is a quality (guna) of the Self and it remains in the Self, and thus the Atman (3) is defined in terms of the knowledge. That shows the significance of knowledge not only in the system of Nyaya epistemology but also in the Vaisesika system of ontology as well.

The knowledge is caused by the Cognitive Mechanism (CM) known as Pramanas, defined very logically as prama-karanan (valid means of cognition), that is acceptable in almost all the Indian Systems of philosophies without any reservation. …

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