Sanskrit syntax problem: Double bind constructions

Lawrence McCrea ljmccrea at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Mon Mar 15 04:11:07 UTC 2004

Dear Mr. Buescher,

     I can't point you to any secondary literature on this phenomenon, but it 
is quite common and well-known within the tradition.  The principle that allows 
terms to construe backwards and forwards at the same time is generally referred 
to as the "si.mha-avalokana-nyaya"-- "the rule of the lion's glance".  Lions 
are said, either when pursuing prey or fleeing a hunter (I've seen it explained 
both ways), to periodically leap into the air and cast a quick glance backwards 
to see what's behind them, and this provides an analogy for the grammatical 
phenomenon.  There are brief entries on it in Apte, Monier-Williams, and 
MacDonell, but none cites any passages.  MW, in his typically frustrating 
manner, says that it's found in commentaries on Mahabharata, 'Saankhaayana, and Taittiriya Prati'saakhya, but declines to cite passages.  A 
couple of references are given in  You might also want to 
look at Abhyankar's _Dictionary of Sanskrit Grammar_.  Hope this is helpful to 

     Larry McCrea 
     Lecturer, Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies 
     Harvard University 

Quoting Hartmut Buescher <buescher at HUM.KU.DK>:

> Dear VyAkaraNa-savants,
> now and then we meet with ambivalent syntactic constructions in Sanskrit,
> that is, with cases where a particular part of a sentence -- say, a
> genitive
> construction -- is strategically placed so as to be connected to both the
> preceding and the subsequent elements with equal strength in terms of
> semantic possibilities. 
> Recently I saw that, for example, Jan E. Houben (in: The
> saMbandha-samuddeza
> [Chapter on Relation] and BhartRhari's Philosophy of Language, Groningen
> 1995: 6 n. 8) shortly referred to this phenomenon. 
> In the context of Buddhist studies it has been the phrase "ekasmin samaye"
> in the opening formular of sUtras ("Thus I have heard [: ?] once [: ?] the
> Buddha was staying .....") that has triggered a fairly large scholarship
> providing interpretations, references to which have been conveniently
> collected by Daniel Boucher (on p. 90 n. 1 of the contribution "The
> NagaropamasUtra .... " in: Sanskrit Texte aus dem buddhistischen Kanon:
> Neuentdeckungen und Neueditionen, Dritte Folge, Göttingen 1996). With
> particular reference to Paul Harrison, Boucher's solution is to take
> "ekasmin samaye" as what I am here designating as "double bind
> construction"
> (being unaware of any existing technical terms to designate this
> phenomenon).
> The problem becomes more complex when we have to try to reconstruct the
> original Sanskrit wording of a philosophically significant passage, e.g.,
> from the Tibetan. 
> It is -- just to come up with an example without wishing to discuss the
> passage itself -- rather problematic, when Lamotte reconstructs the
> Sanskrit
> original of the term kun gzhi as a verb ["gîte (Aliiyate)"] in the
> MahAyAnasaMgraha I.2 passage
> chos kun sa bon thams cad pa'i / rnam par shes pa kun gzhi ste //,
> because Aliiyate has regularly (though, admittedly, not always) been
> translated by sbyor ba (just as in the immediately subsequent passage MSg
> I.3).
> On the basis of contextually related passages, I regard it as quite
> probable
> that the original Sanskrit read:
> *sarvabIjakaM vijJAnaM sarvadharmANAm AlayaH //
> whereby sarvadharmANAm would also semantically be closely related to both
> the preceding and the subsequent elements. 
> Now, in view of such problems I would like to become more familiar with
> this
> type of double bind constructions in Sanskrit. The title of Prof.
> Deshpande's book "Ellipsis and Syntactic Overlapping ... " sounded
> attractive, but I had to realise that it was not pertinent to the present
> concern. The Speijer centennial volume "Studies in Sanskrit Syntax", ed. by
> H. H. Hock contains a long bibliography; yet, from the listed titles
> themselves I could not immediately spot those that might eventually help
> further.
> I am interested in all sorts of references drawing attention to instances
> of
> double bind constructions either in connection with more or less extended
> theoretical reflections, or just in form of (foot-)notes merely saying:
> "here occurs this phenomenon; I deal with it in such a way".
> For any pertinent information I would be grateful.
> Best regards,
> Hartmut Buescher

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