Kalasakti Bhartrhari’s Philosophy of Time

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Kalasakti Bhartrhari’s Philosophy of Time
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The volume delves into Bhartrhari’s conception of Time as power (Kalasakti) as enunciated in the ninth section of the third Canto of his Vakyapadiya, entitled Kala Samuddesa. Prof. Patnaik tries to argue that Time as the "power" (Kalasakti) serves as an important conceptual tool for Bhartrhari to maintain his non-dualistic position, both in the level of ontology as well as semantics.

The book examines the Bhartrharian model of Kala as sakti in the backdrop of two other models available in the Indian philosophical tradition - Time as substance (Vaisesika and Nyaya Darsana), on the one hand, and Time as a tom (ksana / svalaksanas) of the Yoga and Sautrantika Buddhism. Whether Kala is admitted as an abstract and trans-empirical principle (Kala) or just as a measurable unit of events, no philosophical tradition has been able to discard its semantic role. This is evident from our usage of tense-words. But this double-valued nature of time as a metaphysical principle and as a semantic apparatus comes out most explicitly in Bhartrhari's analysis of time as a power. In his unflinching non-dualistic (advaitin) stand - both in the level of metaphysics as well as semantics - Kala serves as an important conceptual link between unity and diversity; unchanged and the changing. Kala also has the point of convergence between the two streams of philosophy - metaphysics and semantics.

The book is rare in nature, both in content and accessability, as there is very little literature available on the topics discussed in the book. The paucity of materials in the area of thought makes it a scholar's collection.


About The Author

Tandra Patnaik (b. 1947), the author of Sabda: A Study of Bhartrhari's Philosophy of Language and Sunya Purusa: Bauddha Vaisnavism of Orissa, combines in her the scholarship of both Indian and Western philosophy as well as the study of regional philosophical texts. Her passion for treading into the uncharted areas of philosophical literature finds outlet in the study of Bhartrhari's theory of Kala (Time) as Sakti (power).

A researcher for more than forty years, the author of five books on Indian and Western philosophy, four edited volumes and numerous research papers to her credit, Dr Patnaik has been the recipient of ICPR Senior Fellowship and UGC Emeritus Fellowship after her retirement in 2007. She has been nominated as a member of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) during 1995-98 and nominated again as a member of the Governing Body of ICPR since 2013. She continues her research work with relentless zeal.



WHILE working on the manuscript of a book Sabda: A Study of Bhartrhari's Philosophy of Language, I felt quite uncomfortable with the idea of kala (Time). My problem was how to accommodate this concept within the scope of philosophy of language. My training in Western philosophy of language created a sort of mental block, for all along I had entertained a dogma that "time" as a concept properly belongs to the area of metaphysics and it has nothing to do with our understanding of how language as principle functions. But sooner I realized that the Indian philosophical tradition looks at "language" from a different perspective than the Western way of viewing it.

Our tradition focuses primarily on language as "speech". So we pay attention to certain issues that is yet to draw the attention of the Western thinkers. Our philosophers hotly debate about how the hearer grasps the "sense" as the speaker utters the words in a sequence. The peculiar nature of our speech is that it cannot be uttered as whole. By the time we utter the first syllable it is lost and is replaced by the next syllable, and the process goes on till the .whole utterance is completed. This automatically leads us to the notion of sequence and then to time. Gradually I realized that Bhartrhari's analysis of language remains incomplete without his metaphysics, that again is woven around the principle of "language". This also helped me to uproot another deep-seated bias that academic philosophers need not tread into the area of metaphysics. I realized that there is nothing to feel apologetic about going deep into the metaphysical issues.

I chose the theme Kalasakti as I hoped to examine the concept both from metaphysical as well as semantic dimensions. But the choice of the topic posed a huge challenge for me. There was enormous paucity of literature on this area of study in English. As such the concept of time in Indian philosophy has not got the attention of the scholars that it deserves. But in the case of Bhartrhari, the state of affairs is still disturbing. There is virtually no book on Kalasakti. The only works that could be of some help were the translation of Kalasamuddesa by P.S. Sharma and the translation of K.A.S lyer along with the other Samuddesa's of the Prakirna-kanda of Vakyapadiya. Even the Bengali book Bhartrharir Darsane Kalerdhara by P.K Majumdar is also a Bengali translation of Kalasamuddesa with Helaraja's commentary. There are also very few papers published on the concept of Kalasakti of Bhartrhari So my task was really challenging. At the same time I found it worthwhile to undertake it.

Initially, the project was undertaken as the UGC Emeritus Fellow. But I needed more time to go into the depth of the topic. My sickness for the last five months had given me enough scope to go through the work as I was spared of all the household responsibilities. I am grateful to my son Prof. Priyadarshi Patnaik for his suggestion that this could be the right opportunity for me to keep me happy. My daughter-in- law Arundhati, my husband Madan Mohan Patnaik and my granddaughter Pihu saw to it that I finish my task without any hassles. I am grateful to them. My sincerest gratitude to Susheel Mittal of D.K Printworld who stood by me in my travails of life; and his willingness to publish the manuscript.



TIME as a concept permeates our life. We talk of time both in generic sense like "only time will tell", "time and tide waits for none", etc. as well as in particularized sense like "what is the time now?", "how much time it will take to travel from Delhi to Mumbai?". Despite such recurrent use in the wide spheres of activity based on the notion of time, the question - What is Time? - may seem to be the most perplexing one even for the most systematic thinker, not only Indian but any thinking human person in general. The concept is too common yet equally too subtle for a definite human thought and expression. Here I would like to quote St Augustine who very aptly voices the bewilderment of a man faced with the question - What is Time?

Who can readily and briefly explain this? Who can even in thought comprehend it so as to utter a word about it? But what in discourse do we mention more familiarly and knowingly than Time? And we understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it spoken by another. What then is Time? If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.'

In Indian tradition the word time that is mostly referred to as kala2 is much more complex. Every aspect of an Indian life including birth and death, marriage and matchmaking, journey and beginning of any activity is determined by kala - auspicious time (subha kala) and (asubha kala). A number of other words like samaya, rtu, vela, ksana and muhuria are also used to refer to this aspect of time. The concept of kala has played a key role in Indian culture - literature, astronomy, social and religious life as well as in philosophy. In India there existed different Sastras (sciences) that dealt with the phenomenal time, such as Vyakarana (grammar), Jyotisa (astronomy and astrology), Dharma and Niti (precepts), Vastu (architecture), Sangita (music), Citra (painting), Sthapatya (sculpture), Ayurveda (medicine), etc. Interestingly, in our tradition the word kala is again used to epitomize the Time personified like Time as death, Time as the supreme reality, Time as a cycle, Time as destiny and so forth. In the Indian context the problem is doubly perplexing when the philosophers and thinkers try to relate time (the measurable, durable/non- durable phenomenon of the phenomenal world) with the Time that is beyond measurement, beyond division and beyond calculable duration. The problem specifically haunts varied metaphysical and religious systems that come forward to handle this baffling issue with equal disparity depending on their favoured metaphysical stance.




  Preface vii
1 Introduction 1
  Kala in Ancient Tradition: Diverse Spectrum 2
  The Hermeneutics of Time 10
  Bhartrhari: Time, Ontology and Language 13
2 The Metaphysics of the Word: Bhartrhari on Sabdadvaitavada 17
  Sabda as Brahman 18
  The Word and the World 21
  Nature of the World 26
  Sabda and Linguistic Communication 28
  The Problem of Unity and Diversity 31
  The Problem of Change 34
3 Time as Power: Bhartrhari 36
  Kala: The Metaphysical Background 36
  The Concept of Sakti 40
  Kala as Sakti 43
  The Dimensions of Kalasakti 45
  Kala and Creation 52
  Akhandakala and Khandakala 55
  Kala and Avidya 63
4 Time as a Substance: Nyaya- Vaisesika 68
  Kala as a Dravya 70
  The Ontological Angle 71
  The Linguistic Angle 77
  Nyaya- Vaisesika vis-a-vis Bhartrhari 82
5 Time as a Mental Construct: Buddhism and Yoga 85
  Time as Point-Instant: Buddhism 86
  Time as Atom: Yoga 95
  The Atomic View of Time: Two Dimensions 100
6 The Concept of Khandakala: The Divisible Time 103
  Bhartrhari on Division of Time 105
  The Nyaya-Vaisesika on Division of Time 113
  Yoga and Buddhist on the Division of Time 116
  Yoga 116
  Sautrantrika Buddhism 118
  The Relative Priority of Past, Present and Future 119
  Status of the Present 119
  Present as Unreal 120
  Present only Real 125
  Past, Present and Future with Same Status 128
  Past, Present and Future as Unreal 129
7 Time and Creation 132
  Causality and Time 134
  Bhartrhari: Vivarttavadin or Parinarnavadin? 137
  The Connotation of Vivartta for Bhartrhari: Differinz Interoretations 138
  Bhartrhari and Sankara on Vivartta 142
  Time and Causality in the Phenomenal Level 146
8 Kalasakti, Maya, Avidya and Sabda-Brahman 149
  Kalasakti and Maya 149
  A vidya, Kala and Sabda-Brahman 154
  The Phenomenal World and Change 159
  Bhartrhari and Advaitism: The Semantic and Ontological Perspectives 161
  Time and Action 163
9 Conclusion 169
  Kalasakti: The Semantic Facet 170
  Kalasakti: The Ontological Facet 175
  Bhartrhari: The Darsanika 178
  Bibliography 181
  Index 185

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