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An analysis of sabda and vak - part 1


The Universe’s expression (call it the expression of the Atman) and human expression (of Speech) follow the same pattern. We can say the human expression of speech follows the pattern of expression of Universe.

This understanding from the Vedas and Upanishads (in my view) triggered several vedanta speculations and philosophies later. More on it in the next blog.

This series is inspired from this article. and as a response to it.

Sabda - Vibrations

According to Jaimini’s mimAmsa(3), Sabda is a quality of AkAsa. The characteristics of sabda in AkAsa is eternal and unchanged, as it is defined as the ‘dharma’ (law of Universe). Depending on manifesting agency, the sabdas are perceived and transmitted. Veda (knowledge) is born in that manifesting agency.

Since the characteristics of sabda is eternal and unchanged, more and more manifesting agencies manifest more and more sabda, create more and more veda (information). Thus Veda becomes eternal (always increases).

Sabda- in Universe’s expression

If we take AkAsa as the ‘antarikSa’ with empty space/vacuum, then sabda (sounds) are quantum energy oscillations of vacuum. The characteristics of these quantum energy oscillations and the way they manifest are are all eternally defined as ‘dharma’ (law of Universe). They don’t change.

In this case the Sabda, the quantum energy oscillations, is eternally present in the vacuum, but is far off from perception. Hence it is called para.

Different manifesting agencies make this sabda or para perceptible. For eg. the force-field of quarks impel/vibrate the quantum energy oscillations manifesting quarks/anti-quarks, thus making the sabda perceptible. From this para, three divisions of expressions happen as explained in vakyapadiya(1).

Sabda - in Human expression

If we take AkAsa as the ‘sky’ with air, then sabda (sounds) are mechanical push and pull vibrations of air. The characteristics of these sabda/vibrations like frequency, wavelength, velocity of propagation in a medium of sabda are all eternally defined as ‘dharma’ (law of Universe). They don’t change.

In this case the Sabda, the mechanical push/pull vibrations of air, is eternally present in the air (air is always moving/vibrating), but is far off from perception. Hence it is called para.

Different manifesting agencies make this sabda or para perceptible. For eg. thoughts of human beings impel the prAna, vibrate the vocal chords, setting new vibrations in air molecules, creating sounds, thus making the sabda perceptible. From this para, three divisions of expressions happen as explained in vakyapadiya(1).

The Canto 1

Sloka 1

Anadi-nidhanam Brahma sabda-tattvam yad-aksharam

vivartate artha-bhavena prakriya jagato yatah

The principle of brahman in Sabda is akSara, its changing/growing into objects from which the worlds gets created. Brahman is the principle of this evolution (of the sabda).

Universe’s expression
Brahman is evolution, that evolves quantum energy oscillations into quanta/primitive particles and into more complex particles from which the worlds get created.

Human expression
Brahman is evolution, that evolves vibrations of air (air molecule movements) into akSara/primitive sounds and into more complex sounds from which the speech get created.

Sloka 2

ekameva yad AmnAt bhinna shaktibhya pAkSayAt

apUthaktve api shkatibhya pUthaktvena eva vartate

The one as mentioned gets divided (becomes multiple) because the unfiltered gets filtered into different ones.

Universe’s expression
The different force-fields filter that quantum energy into different primitive particle/quanta types.

Human expression
Our prAna filters the air into different sounds. Based on the manifestations of prAna, based on the way we inhale and exhale, sounds are produced in air.

Sloka 3

adhyAhitakala yasya kAla shaktiM upakSitA

janmAdhayo vikAra Sat bhAva bhedasya yonaya

From the time of birth six-fold changes are the source of differentiation due to which the indivisible decays over time.

Universe’s expression
From the time of birth, the quantum energy oscillations manifest as flavors of particles. They are six flavors of quarks and leptons.

Human expression
From the time of birth, six different vowels or akSaras manifest (a (aa) , i (I), u(U), ae (Ae), ai, o (O)) that does not require the ‘tongue’, but only the prAna and filtering of prAna.

Sloka 4

ekasya sarva bIjasya yasya ca iyam aneka tha

bhoktu bhoktabhya bhedena bhoga rUpeNa ca sthiti

The one seed/cause of all of which this becomes multiple into enjoyer, enjoyed and also the form of enjoyment.

Universe’s expression
Thus one quantum energy oscillations, filtered through different force-fields, create the particles of Universe, which is the enjoyer, enjoyed and enjoyment.

Human expression
Thus prAna, filtering the air through vocal chords, create all the speech, of the enjoyer, enjoyed and is the enjoyment.

Sloka 102
According to Jaimini (and vakyapadiya) Sabda are present eternally in AkAsa. Hence they are vibrations. They are vibrations of air (as when AkAsa is sky with air) or vibrations of quantum fields (as when AkAsa is spacetime with vacuum). vakyapadiya differentiates between zabda, sphota and dvani.

ya samyoga vibhagAbhya karane rupa janyate

sa sphota zabda-ja zabdA dvanyo anyai rudrahadatA

'Sphota' are those that take the 'rupA' from Union/compression and dis-engagement/expansion of instruments (like vocal chords). So clearly Sphota is human or other artificial sounds produced by beings. Hence it is translated as 'words' produced by human beings.

The same sloka also says what is dvani. Dvani are the vibrations (sabda) produced by (ja) such sphota, the vibrations produced by compression and expansion of vocal chords/such instruments. In other words, dvani are the vibrations in the audible range.

Sabda are vibrations, Sphota are compression/expansion produced sounds/words, dvani are vibrations in audible range. If Sphota are like flame of Agni, dvani are the light from the flame.

Sloka 94

Now that we know what is zabda, sphota and dvani more clearly, we can go back in the slokas and check what vakyapadiya has to say and nityatva and anityatva of sabda and dvani.

avikArasya zabdasya nimitai vikruto dvani

upalabdho nimittatvamupayAti prakazavat

As light reveals the objects near it, on account of (nimitta) non-changing (avikAra) vibrations (zabda), on changing/transforming (vikruta) audible vibrations (dvani) are caused.

The eternal zabda, the vibrations in air or vacuum, is the 'light' that causes the more perceivable 'dvani' that is produced by compression and expansion.

The compression/union and expansion/dis-engagement actions (say of vocal chords) vibrates more the already present vibrations (either in air or in vacuum). The word/sound produced out of that action is sphota, the vibrations that are set up in air/vacuum from the production of sphota is dvani.

If there is no air molecule vibrations (sabda), dvani can't be produced. So sabda is the like the light which makes the dvani perceptible.

Same way, if there are no quantum oscillations in vacuum, the Universe's expression is not possible.

Sloka 95

na ca anityeSv abhivyaktir niyamena vyavasthitA

akshayer api nityA nA jAto nA vyarti riSyati

anitya (the dvani) which manifest due to certain niyama and not established as decayless, eternal , unborn, not wasted, destroyed.

The dvani born out of the Sphota, which is born due to some observances/niyama (of compression and expansion) is anitya compared to Sabda, which is decayless, eternal, unborn, not wasted, not destroyed.

The sabda are decayless, eternal, unborn, not wasted and not destroyed. They are anitya. The dvani that radiates from Sphota, which is produced by compression and expansion is not anitya. it is nitya.

Sabda is nitya. dvani is anitya.

Sloka 120

zabdasya pariNAmo ayam iti AmnAya vido viduh,

chandobhya eva prathamam etad vizvam vyavartata

Those well versed in Vedas know the pariNAma of sabda, the vibrations. The Universe changes/evolves primarily to the Chandas due to this pariNama.

Universe’s expression
Those who are knowledgeable know the transformation of quantum energy oscillations in vacuum (sabda). The Universe changes/evolves primarily to the chains of compounds and complex substances from these mere oscillations.

Human expression
Those who are knowledgeable know the transformation of vibrations of air (sabda). The Universal expressions evolve to the poetry from the mere vibrations of air.

Sloka 121

iti kartavyata loke sarva sabdabhya pAksaya

yA pUrvahitasaMskAro bAlo api pratipadhate

All the actions/deeds of Universe are by these sabda. From the youngest, step/word by step/word it grows building on previously placed preparations/accomplishments (past experiences).

Universe’s expression
All actions/deeds of the world are made of the quantum energy oscillations. It builds on step by step, word by word, on the previously placed joint-actions/works (saMs kAra)

Human expression
All actions/deeds of the world are made of vibrations of air. It builds on step by step or word by word, on the previously placed joint-actions/works.

Sloka 122

Adya karaNa vinyAsa prAnasya urdhva samIraNam

sthAna anAma abhighAtaz ca na vina zabda bhAvanAt

The starting action arrangement, is setting the prAna in motion, prAna striking the unnamed places not without producing the vibrations.

Universe’s expression
The starting arrangement is setting the force-fields in motion, striking unnamed places/positions not without producing quanta of particles. prAna are the force-fields here.

Human expression
The starting arrangement is setting the prAna (breathe) in motion, striking at unnamed positions, not without producing the different vibrations of air. prAna is breathing here.

Sloka 123

na so asti pratyayo loke ya zabda AnugAma adRte

anuvindam iva jjAn sarva sabdena bhAsate

Nothing becomes convincing in the world when accompanying zabda is not honored. All knowledge are found when by the appearance of the sabda.

Universe’s expression
All matter are found by the appearance of the quantum energy oscillations.

It’s only when these oscillations manifest in force-fields, they lead to particles. Its only when these particles interact they lead to forms of matter. If the vibrations don’t accompany the force-fields, the Universe does not exist.

Human expression
Only when people honor the words/speech that accompany (an object or an action or an explanation), they develop new knowledge. Thus any knowledge that people find are due to speech rather than without the speech.

Sloka 124

vAgrupata cet utkrAmed avabodhasya zazvati

na prakAza prakAzate sa hi pratyavamarzini

vAg-rupA is if ascension of the consciousness perpetually, no light shines just by thinking. (it has to become words or action for light to shine).

When does the 'rupA' or external forms of consciousness occur..? It occurs when the thoughts continuously ascend (and make the prAna to go up and strike the unnamed positions producing sound). No light shines just by mere thoughts or thinking.

Universe’s expression
The outwardly form of matter is if there is ascension from quantum energy oscillations of vacuum. No electromagnetic force (or any other force-field) manifest if these oscillations do not rise and manifest in these force-fields.

Human expression
The outwardly form of speech is if there is an ascension of the thoughts from perpetual consciousness. No light shines just by thinking. Likewise for any outwardly speech, thoughts have to work on prAna.

vAg - The rupA of avabodha

vAca is outward expression. ‘Uvaca’ is speak/expressed. Uvaca indicates something expressed intended to be meaningful for the receiver.

The air molecules are always vibrating. They don't produce human speech. When human beings express through compression and expansion of say vocal chords, the sounds acquire the 'rupA' form and it becomes vAca. Then the expression together with the default vibrations of air is called 'vAg'.

The four levels in vAkyapadiya(1)

Sloka 143

vaikharyā madhyamāyāś ca paśyantyāś caitad adbhutam

anekatīrthabhedāyās trayyā vācaḥ paraṃ padam

vaikhArya, madhyamAya and pazyantya these extra-ordinary multiple path-divisions three expressions of param padam, which means 'based/shelter on paraM'.

Para is the ‘shelter’ on which three divisions of vAca namely vaikhAri, madhyamA and pazyanta become three extraordinary multiple paths.

vAca is the outwardly expression of para, as we discussed in sloka 124. This vAca gets divided into three outwardly expressions that are based on the para. Para is the shelter/basis (padaM) for the three.

Thus including para, there are four folds of vAk.

Often people quote that vakyapadiya accepts only three forms of vaca, while other texts quote four.

But I don't see actually a difference. vakyapadiya considers three divisions of outwardly expressions of vAca and the para from which the vAca rises.


In Universe’s expression, para are Quantum energy oscillations of vacuum. It is beyond universal expressions (hence parA).

In human expression, parA are the oscillations of air molecules that are ever present. It is beyond expression of human speech (or behind that expression) and is not subjected to human grammar.


According to the vrtti (4) of vakyapadiya(1), pazyanti is the perception/thought of producing a sound, in human mind. This is in the human expression. This is thought arising from the consciousness.

In Universe’s expression, pazyanta are the quanta of force-fields (quarks, leptons, photons etc) as quanta of force-fields (or particle manifestations) are the first visibly seen.


According to the vrtti of vakyapadiya (1), madhyama is action performance of generating a sound. It is invoking/instructing the prAna to ascend, strike unnamed places and produce sounds.

madhyama involves 'buddhi' and human intellect to arise the prAna, unite/dis-engage the vocal chords and produce sound.

In Universe’s expression, madhyama are the composite particles that are produced from interaction of multiple force-fields (their compression/expansion) that exist independently in Universe (like protons, electrons, nucleus etc).


According to the vrtti of vakyapadiya (1), vaikhAri is actually conveying sounds with grammar as defined by human intellect, agreed between sender and receiver.

In Universe’s expression, vaikhAri are the atoms, elements, compounds that make the matter in Universe.

anitya, aupurusheyatva in vakyapadiya

Purusha denotes Human beings as well as the pancha-purushas of the Universe (2). Pancha-Purushas (2) are said to guide the evolution of Universe, while Human beings guide the evolution of speech.

Anything guided by Purusha is said to have purusheyatva and anitya (not eternal). Those beyond the Purusha (of Universe, human beings) is said to be aupurusheyatva and nitya (eternal).

Sabda/para, the vibrations are aupurusheyatva and nitya.

vakyapadiya also states sabda is nitya and dvani (audible vibrations produced by sphota) is anitya.

The Sabda/para is nitya because the vibrations of air molecules and vibrations of quantum force-fields are eternally present for the time of Universe/earth and hence nitya. The three outwardly expressions sheltered on sabda/para are anitya because they produce dvani.

The Sabda /para, as quantum oscillations in vacuum is beyond Universe's expressions of matter as guided by the pancha-purushas (2). Hence it is aupurusheyatva.

The sabda or para as vibrations of air molecules is beyond Human expression/grammar. Hence it is aupurusheyatva. The three outwardly expressions (vAca) sheltered on para/sabda, viz pazyanti, madhyama and vaikhAri are based on 'buddhi' of human beings. Hence it is said to be purusheyatva.

More to come..

Sabda and vAk in Veda, Upanishads and Vedanta and comparison with kanzas paper..


  1. Studies in the vAkyapadiya Vol I - The Vakyapadiya - By K. Raghavan Pillai 1971
  2. http://vedabhasya.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-pancha-maha-yajnas.html
  3. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/25297/10/10_chapter 5.pdf
  4. Houben, Jan E. M. “BHARTṚHARI'S ‘VĀKYAPADĪYA’ AND THE ANCIENT VṚTTI (1): THE VṚTTI AND VṚṢABHADEVA'S PADDHATI ON VĀKYAPADĪYA 1. 46a ĀTMABHEDAṀ | ĀTMABHEDAS.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, vol. 78, no. 1/4, 1997, pp. 177–198. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41694946.