Event — Lecture

Why the shutting down of the meaning? Sphoṭa and Śabda in the Yogaśāstra of Patañjali

Lecture, organised by the Friends of the Kern Institute, by IIAS-Gonda fellow Rocco Cestola ('La Sapienza'), who will introduce a topic termed as 'Pātanjalayogaśāstra Philosophy of Language'. 

The sphoṭa (the disclosure of meaning) is fundamentally a speech act. Then what is the use of sphoṭa theory in the Yogaśāstra of Patanjali, considering that, in order to attain higher levels of meditation, one has to shut down mental state and function?

Drinks afterwards.

The current lecture introduces a topic termed as 'Pātanjalayogaśāstra Philosophy of Language'. It is precisely concerned with the exposition of philosophical-linguistic themes occurring in the literature of Pātanjalayogadarśana. Among these, the disclosure of meaning (sphoṭa), word (pada) and phonemes (varṇa) are the key-concepts.

In the context of verbal communication, the sphoṭa theory explains how the meaning is conveyed, and why the sentence is regarded as the meaningful linguistic unit. Initially formulated as a semantical and phonological theory by Sanskrit grammarians, the term sphoṭa is also and curiously included in the Yogadarśana of Patanjali.

The sphoṭa is just one among many other theories of verbal reference and is fundamentally conceived as a speech act, and a psychic entity taking place in the mind of both speaker and listener. Considering that in order to progress towards higher levels of meditation, the Yoga practitioner has to shut down mental state and function, what is then the use of the sphoṭa theory in the Yogaśāstra of Patanjali?

Rocco Cestola obtained his Ph.D. in Indology from the Sapienza University of Roma. He has prepared a critical edition grounded on manuscript sources, the first English annotated translation and a study of the first Pāda of Nāgeśa Bhaṭṭa’s (17th-18th AD c.) Vṛtti on Pātanjalayogaśāstra. Currently, he is an IIAS fellow thanks to the fellowship provided by the J. Gonda Foundation of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). His main project proposal is committed to linking the field of Yoga studies with Sanskrit philosophy of language. In particular, this research project proposes to study a marginal topic concerning the overall role and function of language (śabda), the sphoṭa theory and the linguistic-philosophical arguments as formulated in the text entitled Pātanjalayogaśāstra and its relative literature of explanation.