Sutras and their built-in defence mechanisms

I am extremely proud of our ancient knowledge and learning systems- the systems that our ancestors developed and practised. We preserved all our wisdom and knowledge by following only oral tradition. Our learning system of passing knowledge from one generation to another was based on memory. We did not use script and believed in the power of human mind to preserve our vast body of learning. It called for unfailing memory along with great precision and analysis. Today, we have a boom of data but very little understanding of how to use it.

Much of ancient Indian knowledge exists in the form of sutras. They were precise, easy to remember, and tightly composed. They had certain in-built defences. Any deviation from the authentic version used to get exposed as either it did not conform to the rules, or exceeded the precision of letters and words that it was supposed to contain. In order to be recited in the correct form they never had even a single letter out-of-place. In the transfer of knowledge, and in the process of learning, these sutras guarded themselves from misrepresentation. According to Ramanuja-

Alapaksharam asamdighdham saaravantam viswatomukham
Astobhyam anindyam cha sutram sutra vido viduhu

This is a sutra defines sutra. It says that the following are the qualities of a sutra-

  • alpaksharam- it should contain as less number of letters as possible.
  • asamdighdham- there should not be any ambivalence in what is stated, it should not give rise to any doubt.
  • saaravantam- it should contain the entire essence of the proposition.
  • viswatomukham- it should touch upon all the different angles there are to a proposition.
  • astobhyam- it should not have any repetition.
  • anindyam- it should be flawless.

Let me tell you that I have not come across a more strict, precise, and meaningful definition of how a proposition should be.

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2 responses to “Sutras and their built-in defence mechanisms

  1. I appreciate your effort, for diverting your readers to the ancient literature, at least few will take up interest in this.

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