Mahfil. v 7, V. 7 ( 1971) p. 1.


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Vidya Niwas Misra

SANSKRIT RHETORIC AND POETIC

Some basic definitions and theip application

The first step toward an understanding of Sanskrit rhetoric and poetic involves the understanding of the complex concept of vak. The word V'ak has multiple and interrelated meanings: primarily it indicates "activity," "knowledge," and "the power of speech itself." Its nature partakes both of the unrevealed and revealed world, and it is conceived in the form of layers, the inmost being cosmogenic energy itself, the wellspring of existence, of reality^ Vak, then, is the essence of creative energy, conceived in the earliest Indian thought as an all-prevailing reality, and an abstraction that is more comprehensive than the sensory world which is but a partial manifestation of its power. Legends of the Brahmana literature over and over identify vak with the Supreme Reality, the Byahman, with His creative will, also with the ritual representation in which the cosmic process is restored, and finally with the power of divine speech. Vak represents these stages of being, not in single form, but as strata, taking a different character at different layers. This very idea of layers of meaning led to a pervasive impulse to systemize, as can be seen in the Sanskrit approach to linguistics.'

If both Indian and Greek thinkers "postulated an ontological abstraction,"3 Indian tradition has maintained abstractness more vigorously in every sphere of creative activity, from the visual arts to spiritual discipline. A glance at the Paninian theory of language suggests how fundamental and pervasive is the impulse to abstraction in Indian thought. This theory begins with the assumption that "language precedes every knowledge and entire knowledge is manifested only because it is pierced through by a linguistic activity." "Moreover, the independent and the self-contained reality of language cannot be questioned."/ Reality, in this radical view, is in fact the linguistic sign. What language refers to and the sound of speech are merely two unreal adjuncts to the linguistic sign.0 This reality transcends logic, since language is arbitrary, a way of life accepted by the community. Nor is this reality understood as sensory cognition, or concepts It is sphota, that is, the linguistic abstraction of the surrounding world. Awareness of this reality, called pratibha or "shining back," is inherent in the continuous usage of language and its impression.--



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