Tatparya and its role in verbal understanding

Tatparya and its role in verbal understanding

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Tatparya and its role in verbal understanding

I examine the concept of intention (tatparya) and its role in the phenomenon of verbal comprehension (sabdabodha) with special reference to Navya Nyaya, followed by some critical and evaluative remarks. An effort has been made to give an account of the apprehension of intention (tatparya) in four types of sentences: a) the ambiguous sentence b) the non-ambiguous sentence c) the vedic sentence and d) the sentence uttered by a parrot.


The present paper gives an account of the concept of intention (tatparya) and its role in the phenomenon of verbal comprehension (sabdabodha) with special reference to Navya Nyaya, which is followed by some critical and evaluative remarks. In this connection, an effort has been made to give an account of the apprehension of intention (Tatparya) in four types of sentence: (a) ambiguous sentence; (b) non-ambiguous sentence; (c) vedic sentence and (d) sentences uttered by a parrot.


The Naiyayikas have pointed out the philosophical significance of intention (Tatparya) first in the context of enquiring the seed of implicative meaning (Laksana). To them the non-realisability of intention or tatparya (tatparyanupapatti) is the seed of laksana i.e. implicative meaning. In fact, the implicative meaning of the term, ganga as found in the sentence gangayam ghosah is the bank of the ganga.. The primary meaning of the terms ghosah and ganga are ghosapalli and a particular flow of water (Jalapravaha-visesa) respectively. The milk-man-colony cannot remain in a particular flow of water and hence there is the non-realisability of the relation (anvayanupapatti) between them. This can be removed, if the bank of the ganga is taken as the meaning of the term ganga through laksana. In the same way, the implicative meaning of the term ghosah is also possible. In the former case laksana in the term ganga is accepted, but not in the term ghosah. In another, the reverse case is accepted. If laksana is accepted in either of the terms, there will not be the non-realisability in respect of relation (anvayanupapatti). If it is argued that the removal of the non-realisability of relation is the result of laksana, the rule that the implicative meaning of the terms ganga and ghosah are to be accepted becomes meaningless. In reply, it can be said that the rule becomes contradicted if it is accepted that the removal of the non-realisability of relation is both the result and seed of laksana.

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Hence, it is admitted that the non-realisability of intention, but not of relation is the root of laksana. The importance of the application of laksana lies in the fact of removing the non-realisability of intention (tatparyanupapatti) of the speaker. (1) which is also supported by Nagesa. (2)

Now what is to be understood by the term tatparya ? The desire of the speaker (vakturiccha) is tatparya. (3) In other words, it has been stated that when a word or a sentence is uttered with a desire to convey something, it is called tatparya (tatpratiticchaya uccaritatvam). (4) When there is the utterance of a particular word with a desire to convey his own idea to others, this particular desire or intention is tatparya. The term uccaritatva is superfluous here on account of the fact that in the written statement of the dumb persons there is tatparya in spite of not having utterance of the same. Hence, it is better to accept the former definition (i.e. the intention of the speaker is tatparya) which is also supported by the grammarians. (5)

If a speaker bears a particular intention to express that fish resides in the water and utters the same sentence (i.e. gangayam ghosah), the implicative meaning is to be accepted on the term 'ghosah' denoting 'fish' secondarily in order to bring the realisability in tatparya. If a apeaker, on the other hand, possesses an intention to make others aware that the milkman-colony exists on the bank of the ganga and utters the same sentence, the implicative meaning has to be accepted in the term ganga as per the intention of a speaker as well as for the realisability of tatparya. As per the intention of the speaker the implicative meaning of the terms ganga and ghosah are to be taken as the 'bank of the ganga' and 'fish' respectively. Hence, the realisability in respect of tatparya but not relation, is the seed of laksana. Moreover, this point is substantiated when the implicative meaning is accepted in the sentence, kakebhyo dadhi raksyatam (i.e., protect the curd from crow etc.) in which there is obviously tatparyanupapatti, but not anvayanupapatti. In order to incorporate all types of laksana it is better to accept the non-realisability in respect of tatparya is laksana but not otherwise.

Let us see the role of tatparya in determining the meaning of an ambiguous sentence having various meanings. If someone utters the sentence saindhavam anaya, it may mean the bringing of a horse or salt. The exact meaning of the term saindhava is to be determined according to the intention of the speaker uttered under a particular context. (6) That is why, the knowledge of tatparya is taken to be the cause of verbal comprehension.

If it is so, the question may arise how a hearer will be able to know the intention of the speaker. One can know one's intention through the contact in the form of conjoined inherence (samyukta samvaya) with the mind. But through this contact the intention of others cannot be known, as such contact is not all possible with the intention existing in other selves.

It can be said in reply that in order to understand the intention of the speaker the context (prakarana), qualifier (visesana), space (desa) etc. serve as promoters. If in the context of taking meal the term saindhava is uttered, it will mean salt. But if the context is otherwise (i.e. going to the battle-field) the same term would mean horse. (7) After hearing the sentence of the speaker uttered in a particular context, the hearer infers the intention in the following way. The term saindhava existing in the above mentioned sentence has got the tatparya in salt as it is uttered in the context taking meal (etadvakyaghatakasaindhavapadam lavanatatparyayakam bhojanaprakarane prayuktatvat). In the same way, the hearer infers the tatparya of the same term as otherwise depending on a different context. In this way, the intention of the other person (i.e., the speaker ) can be known through inference. (8)

Let us consider the intention of different sentence uttered in a different context. If a teacher asks his student to do something after uttering the word dvaram (door) and pointing out to the door, the student may have confusion due to having multiple alternatives such as either closing or opening the door. Let us think of a situation when the door remains closed and suddenly there is a power cut. The teacher utters the term 'door' to a particular student, which would likely imply the opening of the door as the context is in favour of this. If the situation is otherwise (i.e., the door is open), and suddenly a dusty storm comes and the teacher utters the some word 'door' which would refer under this circumstance to the closing of the door. Hence, a word can give its accurate meaning only if the proper context is known by the hearer. Hence, the role of intention of the speaker dependent on the context has also to be accepted as a fundamental basis of verbal comprehension.

Dinakara has analysed the concept in the context of non-ambiguous sentence, Tatparya is the intention of the speaker of conveying the sentences like 'Bring a jar' (ghatam anaya) in which 'jar' has become a prakara or qualifier, karmatva or the property of being an object attached to it has become a qualificand and superstratumness (adheyata) has become a relation. When there is the awareness of the sentence ghatamanaya, there is the knowledge of a jar, karmatva as denoted by the word ghatam and as this, being a property, remains in the substance ghata. Here the jar is the substratum and karmatva is the superstratum. This is the nature of awareness (pratiti) which is the intention of the speaker. (9) When a particular sentence is uttered in order to convey a particular intention, the knowledge of such intention of the speaker is the cause of verbal comprehension. (10)

Ramarudra further raises a different problem. To him ambiguity is of two types : ambiguity as involved in the sentences like Saindhavamanya etc. and as involved in ghatamanaya patamanaya etc. It may be argued that the intention of the speaker is very difficult to understand if two sentences 'Bring a jar', 'Bring a cloth' are uttered simultaneously without the copula 'and'. For there are two intentions, which leads the hearer to the land of confusion about the real intention of the speaker. (11) In order to remove this problem it is said that the particular intention of the speaker behind the utterance of a particular sentence must be taken as the cause of verbal comprehension of it. If it is said sveto dhavati (i.e. the white runs), the intention of the speaker may sometimes be known as the object bearing white colour runs or sometimes as 'the dog etc. run'. (12) Such an awareness of intention serves as the main factor for apprehending the meaning. If there is the doubt or confusion as to the intention of speaker or if there is the ascertainment of that which is not intended by the speaker, the verbal comprehension from the sentence is not at all possible. Hence, the knowledge of intention has to be taken as the cause of the same. (13)

The context and other factors that are the promoters to the apprehension of tatparya cannot be taken as the causes of verbal comprehension due to the absence of common connotation in them. In other words, for verbal comprehension sometimes context, sometimes proximity and sometimes remoteness becomes the cause and hence there will be no common connotation in them. (14) As all these factors like context etc. (prakaranadi) are the promoters to the origination of the knowledge of tatparya, the common connotation among them is possible. Hence, the knowledge of tatparya becomes the cause of verbal understanding as it comes under the law of parsimony. (15)

By the term adi attached to the term prakaranadi, the proximity (samyoga), remoteness (duratvam) and co-existence (sahacarya) are to be understood. When it is said, 'The jar is to be removed,' the intention is ascertained in the jar existing in front due to having proximity. In the sentence like 'Bring the jar here' the intention is ascertained in the jar existing in a distant place due to remoteness. In the sentence 'Bring the jar and cloth' the intention is ascertained in both jar and cloth due to their co-existence in the same place. (16) Apart from these Bhartrhari has accepted a few more criteria for determining tatparya, such as contradiction (virodhita), context (prakarana), sign (linga), association of other word (sabdasyanyasya sannidhih),space (desa), time (kalah) voice of an individualetc etc. (17)

Let us see how the intention of the vedic sentence and Sukavakya can be understood. Even the vedic statements contain some intention. God who is accepted as the agent of the Vedas is supposed to have such intention. God's knowledge of intention can be inferred as the cause of the verbal comprehension arising from the Vedic sentences. It may be argued that the knowledge of intention of the teacher should be taken as the cause of the said apprehension. This view is not tenable, because the knowledge of tatparya of the teacher cannot be the cause of the same due to the absence of him before the initial creation. It may, again, be argued that if the dissolution is not accepted, the question of initial creation cannot be thought of. This position is also not sound, because the existence of dissolution is known from the Vedas and hence there is the initial creation. (18) In the same way, the Divine knowledge of tatparya can be said to be the cause of the verbal understanding of the sentence uttered by a parrot without any intention of its own and revealing the true picture of reality (samvadi). (19) The knowledge of the intention of the trainer is the cause of the verbal understanding of the sentence (uttered by a parrot) which does not correspond to the reality (visamvadakata). For, the property of being non-correspondent to the reality (visamvadakatva) lies on the intention of the trainer, but not on that of God, as in the intention of God visamvaditva is not possible. (20) Hence, the knowledge of tatparya existing in God cannot be the cause of verbal understanding of the visamvadi statements made by a parrot. (21) The term samvadi in this context has been introduced to convey that God's knowledge of intention becomes the cause of understanding the sentence (uttered by a parrot) which is prama. If the parrot, on the other hand, utters the sentence vahnina sincati (i.e. watering with fire), God's knowledge of intention cannot be the cause of the same, as God does not possess any intention which does not correspond to the reality (visamvadiccha). In order to exclude such sentences from the purview of the Divine intention the term samvadi is introduced. (22)

Generally, a speaker of the sentence is supposed to have a volition in favour of what is said in the sentence (vakyanukula). As the Divine volition is working behind each and every effect, it becomes favourable to what is uttered by a parrot incidentally. As a parrot cannot have intention of its own, there are no other alternatives than to accept Divine intention behind it. (23)

It may be aruged that if context, etc. are taken as the causes of the potency of a word, it (i.e. potency) should be taken as the cause of meaning and hence there is no necessity of accepting another distinct cause i.e. tatparya.

This view is not tenable. For, when a word or a sentence having double meaning is uttered, the intention of the speaker cannot be known due to having potency of conveying two meanings, which leads to the impossibility of verbal understanding. Hence, the knowledge of the intention of the speaker has to be accepted as a determining factor in verbal understanding, which has been beautifully classified by Nagesa. (24) Moreover, for understanding a non-ambiguous sentence also the the intention of the speaker plays a prominent role. It determines the potency of word giving rise to sentence.


Human actions in the forms of inclination (pravrtti) refraining form (nivrtti) and being indifferent (upeksa) are dependent on the knowledge of the intention of the speaker. If someone utters an ambiguous sentence navakambalam anaya (i.e. Bring nava blanket or blankets), no pravrtti or inclination of the hearer is possible due to the non-understanding of intention on the speaker. In this case, it is not clearly known to us what the speaker intends to say by this sentence (i.e. whether the speaker intends to have a new blanket or nine blankets denoted by the word 'nava'), which leads us to the land of inactivity.

It may be argued tht the intention or tatparya of the speaker may be to confuse others under certain circumstance. It may happen that the speaker wants to hide his own intention by way of confusing others deliberately so that he does not face an undesired situation. At this stage, the concealing of his own intention may be treated as his own intention. In such cases the sentence cannot provide us with the proper understanding though the knowledge of the speaker's intention is known.

To reply, it can be said that if a speaker bears an intention to hide his own intention by using an ambiguous sentence, the sentence cannot give us an accurate non-ambiguous meaning. As the speaker's intention in adopting this method of confusing others is known to us, it falls under the category of chala. Unless it is known or detected, we cannot be successful in philosophical debate which leads to highest good (nihsreyas) of seen (drsta) type. To understand the particular intention of the speaker in adopting chala has got a positive role in philosophical debate. The philosophical significance of the inclusion of chala under sixteen categories lies on the fact that a true debater should not adopt chala in his speech unnecessaroily, and at the same time it is essential to detect the same in an opponent's speech. This detection of chala is also possible through the knowledge of intention of the speaker to confuse others, If the intention of the speaker is tatparya, it can be described as such and hence it is very much important in the field of philosophical discourse.

The non-realisability of tatparya is the seed not only of laksana but also of suggestive (vyanjana) and metaphorical meaning as accepted by the rhetoricians. Moreover, tatparya is closely related or indentical to vivaksa (i.e. intention to convery something) of the speaker. In other words, it is the vivaksa of the speaker which is the tatparya of the sentence uttered by him. A sentence which is non-sensical in a particular context may seem to be significant in another context depending on the vivaksa of the speaker. A word or a sentence may seem to be significant if the speaker wants to signify something by uttering this. This desire of signifying (vivaksa) is the tatparya of the sentence. Even the sentence signifying identity (e.g., 'London is London' or Bombay is Bombay')' may seem to be non-sensical apparently, but somehow this usage finds justification if the speaker wants to signify the incomparability of the cities like London or Bombay through this. If this vivaksa is taken into account, this sentence will certainly bear tatparya.

Though Raghunath does not accept the absence of the absurd entities like Sasasrngam nasti, etc. (which is called alikapratiyogikabhava) as real absence, it is known from the ordinary experience that such usages provide us with some information. Though the direct meaning (sakyartha) of this is not possible, these usages give some implicative meaning due to the tatparyanupapatti in the direct meaning which leads to exploration of some secondary meaning. Because it signifies something when it is used or uttered by someone secondarily on the strength of tatparyanupapatti in the direct meaning. Raghunatha's position is substantiated by assigning the following reason in favour of him. For understanding an absence the knowledge of the absentee (pratiyogi) is the precondition, which is not at all possible in the case of absurd entities like Sasasrnga, castle in the air, etc. This view of Raghunatha, I believe, is acceptable so far as the direct meaning (Sakyartha) of the sentence is concerned. But it cannot be denied that these sentences convey us some sense which is available secondarily. Otherwise, these would not have been uttered by the speaker. The utterance of a particular sentence is a particular context by an individual presupposes some vivaksa which is the intention. Considering the particular aspect Dharmakirti has accepted the importance of vivaksa in determining the meaning of a word or a sentence in the following Karika.

'vaktrvyaparavisaye so'rtho buddhau prakasate pramanyam tatra sabdasya narthatattvanivandhanam' (25)

That is, in the expression of a speaker the corresponding image appears in our awareness. It is consitituted and evidenced by the words, but not by the meaning of the same. When someone says, 'I am building a castle in the air', the intention of the speaker is to convey to us some image about some absurd events through this sentence, and hence it is not all non-sensical.

Let us consider whether the intention of the speaker can be treated as a cause of verbal understanding only in the case of ambiguous sentences as advocated by a section of scholars. This view is not tenable. For, though in an ambiguous sentence the intention of a speaker is to be known perfectly, it is also essential for an non-ambiguous sentence also. Otherwise how can a sentence be known as 'non- ambiguous'? As the intention of the speaker is perfectly reflected in the language used by him, it is taken as a non-ambiguous one. When a sentence is uttered, the particular intention of a speaker is expressed there (through which he intends to convey something). Otherwise the utterance of a sentence would be of no use. Hence, the intention of the speaker cannot be denied in providing the sentence-meaning though it is true that the role of it is much more prominent in the case of an ambiguous sentence. The role of tatparya in non-abmibuous sentences like ghatamanaya Patamanaya, etc., has already been pointed out. The samyoga,distance, co-existence, etc., are taken as the indicators (jnapaka) of a non-ambiguous sentence.

The above-mentioned view can be substantiated from the standpoint of Jayanta. Tatparya is the knowledge which is endowed with the capability of expressing a particular comprehension (tatpratitijananayogyatva). To him the words of a sentence can convey to us their distinct (non-related) meanings like iron-stakes and hence their construction or relation among them is not possible. These isolated meanings cannot be the meaning of a sentence as they are not related to each other. This relation is not possible through abhidhavrtti. Hence, tatparyavrtti has to be accepted as a connecting factor among the word-meanings. The power of Abhidha lies on giving rise to primary meaning of a word (suddhapadartha-visayini) while tatparya gives rise to connected meaning (samsargavisayini). (26)

It has already been accepted that God's intention is the cause of the samvadi sentence uttered by a parrot as a parrot cannot have an intention of its own. This view again needs thorough review. As God is taken as a Nimttakarana of all activities, His intention etc. would have to be taken as common cause to all activities, including our utterance of word or the utterance of sentence by a parrot. If God's intention is common cause to the Samvadi sukavakya, it cannot be taken as an uncommon cause of verbal understanding. In fact, the sentences uttered by a parrot though vaild bears no intention of its own, but on the other hand, it repeats that it imitates from others or trainer and samvadakatva is just a co-incient. If there is any intention at all, it is of others from which it has learnt and through it the intention of that person is reflected.


(1) Tatparyanupapattirlaksanavijam,
Tarkasangraha-dipika. Henceforth TSD.

(2) Vastutastu tatparyanupapattipratisandhanameva tadvijam
Paramalaghumanjusa, henceforth, PLM.

(3)Vakturiccha tu tatparyam parikirtitam,

Bhasapariccheda, Verse No. 84.

(4) Tatpratitichhaya uccaritatvarupatatparyajnanam ca vakyarthajnanahetuh, TSD.

(5) Nanarthasthale loke tatparyantu etatpadam vakyam va etadarthapratyayaya
mayoccaryate iti prayokturiccharupam. PLM.

(6) Yadi tatparyajnanam karanam na syat tada saindhavamanayetyadau
Kvacidasvasya kvacillavanasya bodha iti na syat.
Siddhantamuktavali on Verse No. 84.

(7) Prakaranadikam tatparyagrahakam TSD,
Tatparyaniyamakam ca loke prakaranadikameva ato bhojanaprakarane saidhavamanayetyukte saindhavapadena lavanapratyayah, yuddhavasare' savpratyayah PLM.

(8) Adhyapana on TSD by N.C. Goswami.

(9) Ghatamanayetyadau karmatvavisesyakadheyatasamsargakaghata-
prakarakapratiticcha vaktustatparyam.
Dinakari on S.M. on Verse no. 84.

(10) Tadrsecchayoccaritamidam vakyamityakarakam srotustatparya-jnanam
sabdabodhe karanam

(11) Tatra ca ghatamanaya patamanayeti vakyadvayaprayogasthale vakturicchadvayajnanat kasmat vakyat kidrsastasya bodho bhavatiti nirnetumasakyam.

(12) Tatra kadacidchetagunavisistasya kadacit kukkuraderbodhasya
tatparya jnananiyamyatvat.
Dinakari on S.M. on Verse 84.

(13) Tatparyasamsaye vyatirekaniscaye va sabdabodhanudayacchabdabodhe
tatparyajnanam karanam
Dinakari on S.M. on Verse 84.

(14) Na catatparyagrahakanam prakaranadinam sabdabodha-karanatvamastviti
Vacyam tesamananugamat
Siddhantamuktavali on Verse 84.

(15) Tatparyajnana janakatvena tesamanugame tu tatparyajnanameva laghavat

(16) Samyogah sannidhyam, viyogah duratvam, Sahacaryamekadesavrttitvam.
Ghato pasaraniya ityadau samipasthe ghate tatparyagrahah samipyat. Ghatamanayetyadau ghatapadasya durasthe ghate
tatparyagraho duratvat. Ghatam patancanayetyadau
ghatapatapadayorekadesavrttighatapatayoh sahacaryat.
Ramarudri on Dinakari on S.M. Verse-84.

(17) Samyog viprayogasca sahacaryam virodhita arthah prakaranam lingam sabdasyanyasya sannidhih samarthyamucitah deso kalo
vyaktisvaradayah sabdasyanavacchede visesasmrtihetavah.
Vakyapadiya -2/315-316.

(18) Ittham ca vedasthale'pi tatparya jananarthamisvarah kalpyate. Na ca
tatradhyapakatatparyajnanam karanamiti jnanam,
sargadavadhyapakabhavat. Na ca pralaya eva nastiti kutah sargadiriti
vacyam. Pralayasyagamesu pratipadyatvat.
Siddhantamuktavali on Verse-84.

(19) Sukiya tatparyabhavena agatya isvarasyaivavaktrtva-svikaraditi
Ramarudri on Dinakari on S.M. Verse no. 84.

(20) Isvarecchayam visamvaditvabhavaditi bhavah.
Dinakari on S.M. Verse-84.

(21) Itthanca sukavyakye' pi isvariyatatparyajnanam karanam
Visamvadisukavakye tu siksayitureva tatparyajnanam karanam
Siddhantamuktavali on Verse-84, Henceforth S.M.

(22) Pramajanaketyarthah idam ca vahnina sincatitisukavakyajanyasa-
bdabodhe isvariyatatparyajnanam na hetuh, Isvarasya
Ramarudri on Dinakari on S.M. Verse-84.

(23) Vakyanukulprayatnavata eva vaktrtvena Isvaraprayatnasya
karyamatranukulatvena sukavakyanukulatvaditi bhavah.
Sukiyatatparyabhavena agatya isvarasyaiva, vaktrtvasvikaraditi

(24) Nanu prakaranadinam saktiniyamakatve saktyaiva nirvahe kim tatparyeneti cenna. Asmacchabdarthadvayavisesyako bodho jayate arthadvaye saktisattvat tatparyam kveti janima ityanubhavavirodhat.

(25) Pramanavartika
Nirapeksaprayogeyahsalakakalpanabhavat & . Tadanvitabhidhanetu padantaramarthakam & . Abhidhatrmata saktih padanam svarthanisthata tesam tatparyasaktistu samsargamavadhi. Nyayamanjari, pp. 370 - 72, Choukhamba 1936.
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