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March 26, 2012 / A

A somersaulting bear eating samosas


Via Flickr.

Chapter 1.3 of the Ashtadhyayi is growing on me. The subtleties of आत्मनेपद, as ridiculous as they are, can sometimes be rather fascinating, especially since such a small change can sometimes produce huge changes in meaning (as in Patanjali’s example for उपस्था). I have about 40 rules to go before finishing this rather long chapter (although I’ve heard it’s among the shortest in the entire text!), but one of the main issues I’ve been having is in keeping the section’s many roots in their proper order. Unfortunately, it’s not alphabetical. So far I’ve seen these:

विश् — to enter क्री — to buy जि — to conquer दा — to give क्रीड् — to play स्था — to stand तप् — to scorch यम् , हन् — to restrain, to strike/kill गम्, ऋच्छ् — to go, to go ह्वे — to call कृ — to do नी — to lead क्रम् — to walk ज्ञा — to know वद् — to speak गॄ — to swallow

As if that’s not enough, many of these verbs have rules that sound similar (and sometimes they’re almost identical). For instance, I twice confused the end portions of these two rules because they shared the word ज्ञान:

1.3.36 संमाननोत्सञ्जनाचार्यकरणज्ञानभृतिविगणनव्ययेषु नियः
नी (is आत्मनेपद) in the senses of respect, lifting up, the action of a teacher, knowledge, wages, payment of what is due, or the “outlay of money” (Joshi, III p.64).
1.3.47 भासनोपसंभाषाज्ञानयत्नविमत्युपमन्त्रणेषु वदः
वद् (is आत्मनेपद) in the senses of brilliance, reconciliation, knowledge, effort, discord, and “secret communication with the intention of seduction” (Joshi, III p.75).

It’s difficult to keep all of this straight. I tried to just memorize the list as usual (and this helped me remember the order कृ-नी-क्रम्), but there are still a lot of roots to keep track of, and within the groups pertaining to those roots there are plenty of words that are easy to confuse. So I took a page from more modern memory techniques and tried to create ridiculous images using the pieces I had already. The prefix आङ् (आ) I remembered as a horse. वि became a yarmulke (ablative वेः reminded me of “oy vey!”). सम् became a samosa. प्रति became Preity Zinta. The first two images are more absurd, and it’s easier to understand where the latter two images were coming from. But my goal was to use specific images with which I could create memorable scenes. I didn’t need to capture the whole of a rule — just enough to recall it and keep moving forward.

I knew the first few rules (up to जि) from when I tried to memorize the chapter a year ago. The others were loosely connected like this:

I enter through a door with a horse on it (आङो दो ऽनास्यविरहणे) into a toy shop (क्रीडोऽनुसंपरिभ्यश्च) and stand like a sapo (Spanish for “frog”) (समवप्रविभ्यः स्थः , where the letters in sapo loosely spell out सम् अव प्र वि) on a podium (प्रकाशनस्थेयाख्ययोश्च) and rise up (उदो ऽनूर्ध्वकर्मणि) while chanting (उपान्मन्त्रकरणे). I get a UV sunburn (उद्विभ्यां तपः , where UV suggests उद् वि) as a horse kicks me down (आङो यमहनः), where I start moving like a samosa (समो गम्यृच्छिभ्याम्) until I call over to Jar Jar Binks (निसमुपविभ्यो ह्वः where निस reminds me of the way Jar Jar Binks speaks) and we compete with each other on horseback (स्पर्द्धायामाङः)

I know the कृ and नी sections fairly well, so I go through those normally. Likewise I start with the first rule of क्रम् : वृत्तिसर्गतायनेषु क्रमः . But then I return to these ridiculous images:

I see a pogo stick (उपपराभ्याम् , where the image reminds me of the पप sound) coming out of a bouncing horse (आङ उद्गमने) who has yarmulkes on his feet (वेः पादविहरणे , where it’s a nice coincidence that this refers to horses) that burst into flames (प्रोपाभ्यां समर्थाभ्याम् , where the fire reminds me of propane and प्रोप्).

Somehow I remember अनुपसर्गाद्वा (“and preferably when used without prefixes”). Then it’s back to these images:

A man denies that he’s known another woman (अपह्नवे ज्ञः) while trying not to remember eating samosas with Preity Zinta (संप्रतिभ्यामनाध्याने).

Somehow I remember अकर्मकाच्च (“or intransitively”) in-between these two rules. There’s a detour for वद्, which I know more comfortably. Then:

bear does a somersault (अवाद् ग्रः , where गॄ sounds like a bear and अव made me think of birds –> flipping the bird –> flipping over) while promising to eat samosas (समः प्रतिज्ञाने).

That’s about as far as I am so far. I can’t tell what the lasting effects of this approach will be, but I can tell already that these rules are now much easier to remember. The only downside: now I really want to eat some samosas.

Update (6/3) — Many of these mnemonics have now become unnecessary or subconscious.


Leave a Comment
  1. Nityanand Misra / Jun 3 2012 8:45 pm

    1.3.22 is not समनुप्रविभ्यः स्थः, rather it is समवप्रविभ्यः स्थः in the multiple editions I have seen. I am an investment banker living in HK and started memorizing Ashtadhyayi last month. I go with 10 or 15 Sutras a day (short on time), and am into fourth quarter of first chapter now. Was nice to come across your blog.

    • A / Jun 3 2012 10:50 pm

      Thanks for the correction. Although I know the rule correctly, I still make that typo consistently.

      I understand what you mean about being short on time. I’ve been stuck on 3.2 for far too long; I only know about 50 rules of the quarter, and I thought I would be done with it right now.

      Best of luck to both of us.

      • Nityanand Misra / Jun 3 2012 11:10 pm

        Thanks, do you memorize with Sutra number? It helps me sometimes to form associations between numbers and Sutras. E.g. 1.3.6 षः प्रत्ययस्य begins with ष and so does षट्. Also I remember the 10th, 20th, 30th with numbers well which serve as markers. Unless one has an एकश्रुत memory like my Guru, repetitions are the only way.

      • A / Jun 28 2012 7:16 pm

        I use line numbers quite like you do, but not to the same extent. Instead of memorizing rules according to अनुवृत्ति, I break rules into blocks of ten. I found this helped me to fill in gaps where normally I would tend to skip over them. See my post about that here.

      • Nityanand Misra / Jun 3 2012 11:16 pm

        Do you have a Guru? My Guru says these scriptures can be mastered only when learned from गुरुमुख, sitting at the lotus-feet of the Guru. Without that it is too difficult and now I am realizing it. My Guru narrates an incident from his student life where in a शास्त्रार्थ on 1.2.45 अर्थवदधातुरप्रत्ययः प्रातिपदिकम् (the शास्त्रार्थ was on the अधातु part) in Varanasi, some युक्तिs came to him effortlessly without studying anywhere previously, and he attributes them tot the Grace of the Guru. He has also invited me to study LSK from him for a month, which I plan to do when I get some time from work next year.


  1. End 1.3 « अवग्रह

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