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I've come across mention of four types of Vāni in several texts e.g., Ganapathi Atharvashisrsha, Saraswati Sukta, etc. One of the direct references is Rigveda 1.164.45:

HYMN CLXIV. Viśvedevas.

Catvāri vākparimitā padāni tāni vidurbrāhmaṇā ye manīṣiṇaḥ |
Guhā trīṇi nihitā neṅgayanti turīyaṃ vāco manuṣyā vadanti ||

Speech hath been measured out in four divisions, the Brahmans who have understanding know them. Three kept in close concealment cause no motion; of speech, men speak only the fourth division.

I've read that these four types are Parā, Paśyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari but don't know anything more than that.

What are those four types of speech?

  • Created a tag for vak after finding no other suitable. Suggest better tagging (if any). – Pandya Oct 25 '19 at 6:16
  • David Frawley explains in his book about this aspect (books.google.co.in/…) @Pandya – Srimannarayana K V Oct 25 '19 at 10:51
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    @MarinoKlisovich Please avoid italicizing all Sanskrit words. You are free to do this in your own posts (questions or answers) but there's no need to do this in others' posts (see this meta post). – sv. Oct 25 '19 at 22:12
  • I have heard about the mystic power of vak-siddhi. Those who constantly speak the truth develop this power. Whatever they say turns out to be true. – user17738 Oct 26 '19 at 10:03
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चत्वारि वाक्‌ परिमिता पदानि तानि विदुर्व्राह्मणा ये मनीषिण: |
तानि विदुर्व्राह्मणा ये मनीषिण: गुहा त्रीणि निहिता नेङ्गयन्ति तुरीयं वाचो मनुष्या वदन्ति ॥ R.V. 1.164.45 ||

Four are the definite grades of speech: those Brahmans who are wise know them : three deposited in secret, indicate no meaning: men speak the fourth grade of speech. (H.H.Wilson).

Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari ( परा , पश्यंती , मध्यमा , वैखरी ) are the four successive phases from which sounds pass through before we can hear it or it becomes audible. These are four successive stages of transformations of sound. By these four phases, we can learn about the origination or utterance of a word from the mouth. In Sanskrit, these are called Vani or vaak.

Among these, the three are hidden inside our body but one can experience the fourth i.e Vaikhari speech. First, let's take a quick look at what are they.

Para - eternal, Pashyanti - felt by a sage or a person in his deep consciousness, Madhyama- when it translates as an idea in the intellect, Vaikhari when the Vani is actually verbally expressed through the mouth, The daily spoken language.


The successive phases of Vaak Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari are explained in Shrimad Bhagavata Purana as follows - :

स एष जीवो विवरप्रसूति: प्राणेन घोषेण गुहां प्रविष्ट: ।
मनोमयं सूक्ष्ममुपेत्य रूपं मात्रा स्वरो वर्ण इति स्थविष्ठ: ॥ SB 11.12.17॥

sa eṣa jīvo vivara-prasūtiḥ prāṇena ghoṣeṇa guhāṁ praviṣṭaḥ
mano-mayaṁ sūkṣmam upetya rūpaṁ mātrā svaro varṇa iti sthaviṣṭhaḥ

This is that perceptible Supreme Lord who infuses life in all and who manifests himself within the nerve -centres or plexuses (chakras) known as Muladhara and others (existing in the internal parts of the human body ). With the prana impregnated with nada (called para speech), he enters the cave (known as adhara chakra ,located near the anus). He proceeds (ahead) assuming the subtle mental form ( known as pashyanti and Madhyama forms of speech in the spiritual plexuses called Manipura and Vishuddhi located at naval and at the throat respectively. He reveals Himself in the mouth in the form of short and long notes, accents ( such as udatta,anudatta and svarita ) and articulate sounds (like the velars , palatals ,dentals etc. ) This is the grossest speech-form (called Vaikhari) of the Vedas and branches.


Para

The meaning of the word Para is highest and in the context of sound, It is the highest eternal sound. So at the very beginning sound comes from an eternal source, which is always present in the Ether. In Hinduism we call it as a Shabda Brahman or Naad Brahma - ( शब्द ब्रह्म, नाद ब्रह्म ). Para Vani is divine which can be heard in the void (Shunyata) state of mind.

The Muladhara Chakra is the place of this Para form of sound from where it originates and reaches to the heart. This is described in following shlokas by author Bhartrhari in his work Vakyapadiya.

विशेषरहिता चेतनमिश्रा सृष्ट्युपयोगिनी जगदुपादानभूता
कुण्डलिनीरूपेण प्राणिनां मूलाधारे वर्तते

varṇādi -viśeṣarahitā cetanamiśrā sṛṣṭyupayoginī jagadupādānabhūtā
kuṇḍalinīrūpeṇa prāṇināṃ mūlādhāre vartate

Without any speciality and with the consciousness Para in the form of Kundalini resides at, originates at the Mulaadhaaracakra where it is called (Para).


कुण्डलिन्याः प्राणवायुसंयोगे परा व्यज्यते

kuṇḍalinyāḥ prāṇavāyusaṃyoge parā vyajyate

Para form of sound manifests with the interaction of Prana-Vayu (vital breath) with Kundalini.

So in the beginning sound starts its journey as constituted of air or vital breath as first stirring of the breath mixed with Kundalini Shakti which is conscious power inside us. We can call it as a chetana shakti also. It is said that Ishita Siddhi is required to master the Para speech.


Pashyanti

After the first stage when this Para vani reaces to heart is called as pashyanti. Manipura Chakra is the seat of this vani. In other words, the language spoken from the heart is called Pashyanti, the faint whispering at the heart.

It is said that the ancient sages used to give the boons and curses with this type of speech


Madhyama

The next stage is called Madhyama is the intermediate stage.It is the speech which comes after some consideration and action done thoughtfully. It is in better words can be described as the speech which is active in the form of contemplation. Madhyama resides in our mind and in intellect. It is believed that the seat of this speech is Anahata chakra.

The Pashyanti Vak thereafter transforms into an internal (antahs-amnivesini), subtle (sukshma) intellectual process (Jnana), the level of thought (buddhi-matropadana), during which the speaker becomes aware (parigrihita) of the word as it arises and takes a form within him.

That sequence of thoughts results in a definite and clear array of words. This is the intermediate stage – The Madhyamā vak, a sequenced but a pre-vocal thought –described as the voice of silence; perhaps best understood as internal speaking. Here, there is no perceptible sound (Nada). The Madhyamā vak is in an inaudible wave or vibratory (spandana) form.


Vaikhari

Vaikhari : This is best explained as a daily spoken language, which do not require much thought. The faculty of speech. Vaikhari is articulate and according to commentary is of the lowest class.

The forms of Vaikhari speech are velars, palatals, dental etc i.e. matras , swaras , varnas ( मात्रा , स्वर , वर्ण ) in grammar. Unlike Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama other people can hear the Vaikhari speech. It is said that Prakriti and Paramatma both manifests through Vaikhari. Vaikhari is a full transformation of Vaak from subtle to gross form.

All the vaikhari sounds are considered as the voice of Brahman only.


A well-known scholar S.D.Satavalekar is explaining the commentary of the mantra you quoted Rig-Veda Subodh Bhashya (a commentary on Rig Veda) in Hindi.

enter image description here



And finally here is a shloka mentioning the transformation of vaak from Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad

परायामंकुरी भूय पश्यन्तां द्वीदलीकृता।
मध्यमायां मुकुलिता वैखर्या विकसीकृता।
पूर्व यथोदिता वाग्विलोमेनास्तगा भवेत। || 3.18-19 ||

That vaak (power of speech) which sprouts in Para. Gives forth two leaves in Pashyanti :buds forth in Madhyama and blossoms in Vaikhari -that vak which has before been described reaches the stage of absorption of sound reversing the above order ( viz . begining with Vaikhari , etc. ).

And here is next interesting shloka about Vaak from the same book.

20 - Whoever thinks that He who is the great lord of that vāk, who is the undifferentiated and who is the illuminator of that vāk is Self; whoever thinks over thus, is never affected by words, high or low (or good or bad).


info. about four stages of speech

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