Aptopadesha Pramana – Features, Description

By Prof. Vd. Rangaprasad Bhat
Aptopadesha is a sort of oral tradition of knowledge which were passed from one generation to another through word of mouth. Ayurveda considers Aptopadesham as the most sacred and important one.

It may be recalled that, Lord Brahma the creator of this universe according to Indian mythology, was the profounder of Ayurveda, even much before human came into existence. The unscripted knowledge of Ayurveda was passed from Lord Brahma to Daksh Prajapati, through shabda pramANa aka Aptopadesha, in the form of shloka hymned by Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma gave the knowledge of Ayurveda in a hundred thousand verses. These shlokas were in Sanskrit language and were verbally addressed to him by Lord Brahma. And from him the data base of Ayurveda knowledge was orally transferred to Ashwini Kumaras (the twin brothers). They taught it to Lord Indra, who in turn passed on the knowledge orally to Sage Bharadwaja for the benefit of humans.

From sage BharadwAja his disciples learnt Ayurveda and was spreading the knowledge through their lineage of shishyas. Thus Ayurveda was spreading as a medical science all over the world. It is only from the level of Sage BhardwAja, Ayurveda was documented in palm leaf manuscript technology and preserved in the form of textual knowledge. Until that period, terabytes of datas of information related to Ayurveda were getting transferred through oral tradition (from Lord Brahma to reach upto Rshi BharadwAja).

The satva (mental acumen) and I.Q in those days were were considerably high, that it was possible to register the verbal datas intact, preserving the syntaxes along with the chandas metres and recollect it at the will of the person.

The syntax of the vedic texts became easy for registering and recollecting due to the texts designed systematically with chandas (metres) like GAyatri chandas, AnusTubh; TrisTubh; Bruhati; Pankti; Jagati chandas etc.

Sensing the difficulty of the next generations to memorise and recollect the datas perfectly, the disciples of Bharadwaja as per the instruction from him, started maintaining the written datas of the Ayurveda sUtras as dictated, taught and explained by Acharya Bharadwaja.

How so ever, the Aptavachana and shabda pramANa is still considered as a supreme form of knowledge, and respected even today by the modern era Ayurveda vaidyAs, since they consider the Apta vacana to be truth and nothing else but truth.

A review article titled “A critical review of rhythmic recitation of Charakasamhita as per Chhanda Shastra” by the author Asit Panja, Assistant Professor, Department of Maulika Siddhanta, N.I.A, Jaipur, mentions the following findings. “Thirteen different Chhandas are available in whole Charakasamhita, namely, Anustup, Arya, Indravajra, Indravamsha, Kusumitalatabellita, Puspitagra, Rathoddhata Rucira, Svagata, Upajati, Upendravajra, Vamshastha, and Viyogini.”

Michael Witzel- the Wales professor of Sanskrit At Harvard University– the Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University and the editor of the Harvard Oriental Series (volumes 50-80) , while explaining about the oral tradition says – “The Vedic texts were orally composed and transmitted, without the use of script, in an unbroken line of transmission from teacher to student that was formalized early on. This ensured an impeccable textual transmission superior to the classical texts of other cultures; it is, in fact, something like a tape-recording… Not just the actual words, but even the long-lost musical (tonal) accent (as in old Greek or in Japanese) has been preserved up to the present”.

Aptopadesha definition, features

Supplementing commentary: –
The words or speech from authoritative person id denoted as Aptavacanam.

The doubtless and undeniable knowledge of the smritis (oral traditional knowledge) and shAstrAs (vedic scriptures) were passed on from one generation to another over the Guru –shishya parampara (tradition) through specific mnemonic devices which include the components like artha vaada (praising verses), alliteration, AnuvAda (repetition), assonance, and VacanarUpam (proverbial sayings) etc. Indeed due to the unbroken and impeccable transmission of the textual words of the vedic scriptures through the word of mouth from generation to generation, sort of audio recording which was registered as a permanant impression in the minds of the disciples helped preserve the textual words intact. The syntax of the vedic texts became easy for registering and recollecting due to the texts designed systematically with chandas (meters) like GAyatri chandas, AnusTubh; TrisTubh; Bruhati; Pankti; Jagati chandas etc.

Not getting attached or attracted, sheelam – conduct, upatApa – hurt, vibhaagavido – distinguished
AptAs are those who donot get attached or attracted towards the rAga, dveSha etc., rajo and tamo guna related conducts. And exhibit noting but kindness towards fellow human beings. the AptAs

By the virtue of such quality (being devoid of rajas and tamas), the sayings or words from the AptAs gets the status of non contadicting knowledge promoting shabda pramAnam.

The AptAs attain complete abscence of rajas & tamas, by the practice of tapsa (rigourous and concenterated meditation).
The trikAla word indicated the future, past & present time periods.

The word amalam refers to pure and real (vitatham) accurate / concrete knowledge.
(non contradictory) – : – AvyAhatam means non contradicting
means Learned / educated preceptor.
Provides exact essence of the knowledge, hence they are AptAs.

shiShTA means – provison of knowledge of kArya (functional) & akArya (non-functional), efficacy(pravrtti) and non efficacy(nipravrtti) from both of their perspectives.

Boddhavyam means perceptible intelligence.
Only hence, the words from AptAs with above said qualities are considered and accepted to be doubtless and definitive as equal to the truth.

The AptAs never speak or opine false, but always speaks and opines the truth alone.
The word nirajastama: indicates “devoid of rajas and tamas”
Why are they going to say falsified facts Never they would

Because, asatyam (falsified facts of knowledge) is the result of mithyAjnAna occuring due to the influence of the rAga-dvesha etc., dvandvaja gunas. The purusha who is devoid of rajas and tamas, hence donot get mithya jnAna since they donot get attracted towards the rAga-dveShAdi dvandva gunAs. Only hence falseified inputs of knowledge is never a possibility from the owrds of AptAs.

Supplementing commentary: –

CharakAcArya in vimAnasthAna supplements Aptopadesha with another term named “Aitihyam” (Traditional instruction / Oral History).

Aptopadesha classification

Classification of Aptopadesha / Shabda:-
The aptopadesha is broadly classified into two categories.
1. Laukika shabda
2. Vaidika shabda

Laukika shabda is the prAmAna of words arising from the knowledge of the common man.
Vaidika shabda refers the sentences of the Shruti or scared texts. A group of words (pada) form the sentences(vAkya). The pada is filled with energy (shakti). It is by the pervasiveness of the inner energy filled in these words the sentences formed from them too emanates such truth filled and radiant knowledge due to presence of abhidhA (indicative) & lakshana (explanative) components with in it (energy of the word).

Prof.Vd.A.Rangaprasad Bhat
[email protected]
Padmanilayam”, (Ayurveda & Non Conventional Marma Chikitsa Clinic) 49/46, Kanagaraya Malaiyappan St, Raja Annamalaipuram, Mandavelipakkam, Chennai- 600028

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