From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Sphotavada, SphoTavAda, Sphotavaada

Sphoṭavāda literally means ‘the doctrine of “breaking forth”.

This is the theory of the school of grammarians. How does the meaning of a word flash in the mind? When a person utters the word ‘cow,’ its meaning as an animal of certain peculiar characteristics flashes across the mind immediately after the word is fully uttered. That factor or principle or power by which this happens is called ‘sphota’.

Sphoṭa is different from the individual letters of the word which die or disappear as soon as they are uttered. Only after the last letter is uttered, the meaning flashes in the mind. Hence, it is not the letters that produce the meaning. A separate factor different from them, but which gets manifested through their combination like a flash, has to be accepted. This is sphoṭa. It applies to a sentence also.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore