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Sakyartha – Primary Meaning Of Words In Hindu Philosophy

There are two types of meaning to a word: primary and implied. In Hindu philosophy, the primary meaning is known as sakyartha, while the implied meaning is referred to as lakshyartha. The primary meaning is also referred to as mukyartha and vacyartha. When the primary meaning of the word proves inadequate in apprehending the logical connection and import of a sentence, the implied meaning is resorted to.

The sakyartha is governed by shakti (significance). Shakti is the direct reference of words to their respective meanings. The object of such significance is called Sakyartha. Shakti, or the power, is inferred from its effect, which is the apprehension of the meaning. The primary meaning can be a dravya (a physical object), guna (an attribute), kriya (an action) or sambandha (a relationship).

There is difference of opinion among ancient Hindu philosophers regarding the relationship between the words and their meanings.

The Samkhya and Nyaya philosophers state that the primary meaning refers to vyakti, the particular, while Mimamsa (Kumarila School), Advaita Vedanta, and Jainism hold that the word signifies jati, the universal.

According to the latter view, for instance, the word ‘pot’ refers to ‘potness’, the universal, rather than an individual pot. Since the universals are eternal, words too are eternal, and so is the relationship between them.

While the universal endures, it is only the particulars (such as ‘a pot’) that are subject to creation and destruction. According this latter school, knowledge of the universal or the generic leads to the universal; it is indirect and regard to the particular. This is exactly the reason why a person having known a pot can recognize any other pot. Thus the word primarily or explicitly denotes the universal and only secondarily or implicitly refers to the individual.

  • Method of Knowledge Vedanta Paribhasa (English translation) Swami Satprakasananda – Sri Ramakrishna Math Chennai
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IX page 100 - IHRF