1 (c. 5th century ce) The most important thinker in the field of vyākaraṇa (linguistic analysis/grammar), and largely responsible for its establishment as an independent darśana (philosophical system). A grammarian of the school of Pāṇini, in his major work, Vākyapadīya (‘Of Sentences and Words’), Bhartṛhari developed a complex, unique, and highly influential theory of speech (śabda) or language. Language for him is an activity that can be likened to the vibration (spanda) of consciousness. It has two levels: underlying or inner speech (sphoṭa), the bearer of meaning, which is an integral part of everyone's consciousness, and its derivative, or manifestation, articulate sound (nāda, also known as dhvani), through which meaning ‘bursts forth’. The entire universe has evolved out of a single principle, the śabda-brahman (the ‘eternal verbum’ or ‘word-essence’), i.e. the ultimate reality. Language and the universe it refers to are therefore one, an indivisible whole. Underlying this essentially monistic and idealistic theory is a soteriology that promotes knowledge, acquired through precise linguistic analysis, as a means to liberation. This results in realization of the absolute, unity with the śabda-brahman. Bhartṛhari's thought had an effect on the development of both Advaita Vedānta and Buddhist philosophy, but its most direct influence was on Kashmiri Śaivism and the work of such figures as Utpala and Abhinavagupta.
2 (date indeterminate) A great Sanskrit poet (according to some the same person as the grammarian—see (1), the author of the Śatakatraya (‘Three Centuries’), a collection of verses divided into three sections, dealing with polity, renunciation, and passionate love.