Shaastra Lakshana: Qualities of An Ideal Treatise

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) and Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Shaastra i.e. a treatise or text book of reference or a literature or a scientific paper would be called an ideal tool of comprehensive knowledge only if it satisfies certain regulations. 

The qualities of an ideal Shastra or treatise which would be accepted universally as a ‘well documented standard reference’ are explained in Ayurveda as below mentioned.

Shaastra lakshana

Qualities of ideal treatise (Shaastra Lakshana)
Charaka vimana 8/3

Sumahad yashaswee dheera purusha aasevitam –
The shaastra should have been analyzed, scrutinized, accepted and verified by great, famous and dedicated stalwarts well versed in the field of the related topic or topics being discussed in the mentioned treatise. Example, an Ayurveda treatise or document holds value and would be universally accepted if it is analyzed, scrutinized and sanctioned (forwarded) by the famous stalwarts and geniuses in Ayurvedic field.
Read related: Tantra Yukti: Tools For Composing And Understanding Treatises

Artha Bahulam –
Artha = topics, Bahulam = rich
The treatise would be a good one when it comprises of wide array of interesting topics written, aligned and assembled in a good chronology so as to make it interesting and easy to read. Thus the shastra should be rich in its topics and coverage of the same.

Aapta Jana Poojitam –
The Shastra should have been accepted and forwarded (recommended) by the Apta purushas.
Aapta Purushas are those saintly people who are –

  • By themselves resources of good quality unadulterated and unbiased knowledge
  • They are free from raja and tamo gunas of mind (distractive properties or morbidities of the mind), thus they are clear and transparent by mind. They have clarity of thoughts.
  • These people are Trikaala gnaanis i.e. they have a good knowledge about the past, present and future, i.e. they are great visionaries.
  • They are disciplined scholarly people whose teachings can be blindly followed.
  • There will not be an element of doubt in whatever they say.
  • They always speak the truth and are unbiased.

Trividha Shishya Buddhi Hitam –
The Shaastra and its content should be such that it could easily be accessed and understood by the students of various levels of intelligence and memory.

According to Ayurveda, there are 3 types of Shishyas or students. They are equipped different and varying proportions of skill and intelligence. They are:

Uttama Shishya – Best or brilliant students, have Utkrushta Buddhi (high level of intelligence and thought process)
Madhyama Shishya – Moderate or average students, have Madhya Buddhi (moderate levels of intelligence and thought process)
Adhama Shishya – Dull, weak or below average students, have Alpa buddhi (less level of intelligence and thought process)

The shastra should be written and documented in such a way that it is easily read and understood by all 3 masses of students.

Apagata Punarukta Dosha –
Shastra should be devoid of repetitions. We often find that many things are frequently or repeatedly said in treatises. This would reduce the interest in the reader and make the shastra look awkward. Therefore the shaastra should be carefully written avoiding repetitions of words, sentences, instances or materials.

Aarsham –
Aarsha is a word derived from the word or connected to the term Rishi, meaning sage. The Shastra which gets documented should have been dictated, narrated, preached or taught by a Rishi.

Supraneeta Sutra Bhaasya Samgrahakam –
Shaastra should have a proper assembling and presentation of Sutra (grass-root basics), Bhaashya (content of the context or contexts with commentary) and Samgraha (compilation of material and chapters in proper chronology).

Swaadhaaram –
The material in the shaastra should be well supported or complimented with good meaning, i.e. the content should be meaningful and easy to understand.

Anavapatita shabdam –
The language of the text of the shaastra should be a known one. The literature should not be written in an unknown or less popular language. The words and sentences used also should be in an easily known popular and common language. It should not comprise of broken, split, unclear and un-meaningful words.

Akashta Shabdam –
The shaastra should comprise of easy words and sentences (easy to read and understand).

Pushkalaabhidhaanam –
The shastra should have provided an elaborate and comprehensive explanation of the topics and contents covered in it. The explanation should be complete and devoid of lacunas.

Kramaagata artham –
The topics and subjects dealt in the Shaastra should follow chronology and should have continuity.

Artha tattva nischaya pradhaanam –
The shaastra should substantiate the theory it beholds and give a meaningful and acceptable conclusion.

Sangataartham –
The Shastra should give references to context from other chapters. Each chapter should highlight why that topic is being discussed and which topic would be discussed in relevance after the topic in discussion has been dealt with.

Asankula prakaranam –
Shastra should not have chapters which comprise of cocktail of various topics and subjects of discussion weirdly blended with each other under one topic, so as to lead to confusions. Each topic should adhere to the subject related to it. Unnecessary subjects from one topic shall not trespass into the territory of some other topic leading to abrupt presentation. That means to tell that there should not be ‘contextual trespassing’. Whatever subject is related to that particular topic shall be discussed in that topic itself, not elsewhere. Similarly the subject of another topic shall not be brought into the topic of current discussion.

Aashu prabodhakam –
Shaastra should be devoid of complicated presentation. The topics or chapters embedded in it should give ‘quick meaning’ i.e. the subject or sentence or sentences shall be easily and quickly understood as and when one reads them.

Lakshanavat –
Shaastra should be enriched with good qualities (all those mentioned above). It should also describe the qualities and characteristics of the terms, subjects or objects covered within it.

Udaaharanavat –
In the Shaastra things should be explained taking the help of suitable and interesting examples. Anything explained with examples are appealing and easily understood, they are also remembered for long time.

Just before Conclusion –
A wonderfully compiled, edited and presented work, treatise or book gives pleasure to read. When shaastra is written abiding to the above mentioned regulations it becomes worth reading, because it is not just reading which matters, in fact it is how much we ‘understand and apply it’ is what really matters. It is worth appreciating that the ancient people were great visionaries and had framed certain regulations under which a shaastra should be written and presented. This becomes a basis of modern day ‘paper presentation’ or ‘thesis presentation’ or in fact presentation of any material in a systematic way.
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