lakṣaṇā

(‘implication’)

There are three ways in which words can express their meanings. The direct way or vācya is the first, as for instance in ‘ayaḥ,’ which means iron. The meaning hinted at or vyaṅgya is the second, as in ‘saśaṅkhacakro hariḥ,’ ‘Viṣṇu with śaṅkha (conch) and cakra (discus)’. Here though the word ‘hariḥ’ has several meanings like lion, monkey, Yama, Vāyu or Viṣṇu, the additional word ‘saśaṅkhacakraḥ’ limits it to Viṣṇu alone. The implied meaning or lakṣya is the third. For instance in the sentence ‘Kaliṅgaḥ sāhasikaḥ’, ‘The Kaliṅga is a bold man’, though the word ‘Kaliṅga’ means the country of that name, it means by implication, a citizen of that country.

Implication, called ‘lakṣaṇā’, is of three types: jahal-lakṣaṇā, ajahal-lakṣaṇā and jahad-ajahal-lakṣaṇā.

In ‘jahal-lakṣaṇā’, the direct meaning is completely given up (jahad = giving up) in favour of the implied meaning. For example, consider the sentence ‘gaṅgāyāṁ ghoṣaḥ’, ‘The village of cowherds is in the Gaṅgā river’. Since a village cannot exist inside a river it is to be interpreted as ‘on the bank of the Gaṅgā river’, so near that it looks as if it is under the river.

In ‘ajahal-lakṣaṇā’ the direct meaning is not altogether given up (ajahad = not giving up) though it cannot also be accepted in toto. For instance, in the sentence ‘śoṇaḥ dhāvati’ (‘red colour is running’), obviously it means a red animal like a horse which is running and not red colour (śoṇa = red) itself.

In ‘jahad-ajahal-lakṣaṇā’, a part of the direct meaning is given up and another part is retained. In a sentence like ‘soyaṁ devadattaḥ’ (‘This is that Devadatta’), Devadatta who is seen here and now is recognised as the same person seen earlier in some other place. In this recognition, Devadatta, the person, is retained whereas the time and place are ignored.

It is this ‘jahad-ajahal-lakṣaṇā’ that is adopted by the Advaitins while interpreting the famous Vedāntic dicta like tat tvam asi (‘That thou art’) or ahaṁ brahmāsmi (‘I am Brahman’).