Wednesday, 18 May 2016
Vichar Mahakumbh: Sanskrit as a Language of Spirituality, Values and Education
I was glad to have been invited as a speaker in the ‘Vichar Mahakumbh’ held in Ujjain from 12-14 of May 2016 in which thousands of delegates and participants had gathered to do ‘vichar manthan’ on the topic “The Right Way of Life”. After reaching the venue I found my name among the list of speakers in a session called ‘Spirituality, Values and Education’. As a number of Sanskrit scholars and enthusiasts also had gathered in the convention, I decided to speak on Sanskrit as a one stop solution to the crisis in the field of spirituality, values and education. The time given to each speaker was 5-10 minute in which I managed to communicate to the gathering a few important features of Sanskrit and highlighted that we Indians must give the knowledge of Sanskrit to our children. The children of India must not grow ignorant about Sanskrit and the whole tradition therein.
Here am providing the note that I had prepared on the same day for my talk.
Sanskrit as a Mantric Language
Any language can be released from its inertia and elevated to the level of Mantra. It all depends upon the users of the language: how and for what purpose the language is being used. But in the case of Sanskrit it has been designed from its very inception as a Mantric language. The language is so flawlessly structured that anyone who comes in contact with it feels a greater force behind its words. The musical and rhythmic beauty of this language, its power of expression, the purity and vibration of its sounds, the eternal relationship between its words and senses, all these have made Sanskrit a wonderful language which, like a Mantra, has the power to uplift and illumine and enlighten.
The ideal of a spiritual language is to reproduce as faithfully as possible, within the limitations of human consciousness, the vibratory rhythm or sound values of an experience in a pregnant utterance. A Mantric language is an ideal language and it enables the individual to express his experience (1) with no loss or minimum loss of the content of the experience, (2) with minimum expenditure of energy, and (3) using minimum words. When we look at Sanskrit, we find all these ideals are in full manifestation. What can be more precise than the Upanishads and the sutra writings!
The quality of a language then depends on the efficiency and effectiveness with which the language enables the individual to express his experience; how perfectly it can communicate and arouse in the listener the exact experience of the speaker. It has to encompass the infinite variety and richness of life, its moods, its depths and its heights and reflect them like a perfect mirror, without any distortions. This is a difficult and challenging task. It demands the capacity to contradictory qualities. The language must be supple and flexible, capable of subtle shades and nuances, and yet efficient and efficacious, clear, precise and unambiguous. It must be compact and pithy and also rich and opulent; concise yet suggestive, strong and powerful yet sweet and charming, capable of growth and expansion to meet new challenges of the future, and at the same time an inspiring repository of all the great achievements of the past. An impossible demand, one would say. But Sanskrit has successfully met this challenge as perhaps no other language has. When we look at Sanskrit, we find that in the course of its long evolution it has acquired a fullness and completeness. In other words, this is a language which is complete in all the dimensions of its personality. Its power of expression is commendable. Its power to create new words is incredible. Its flexibility is remarkable. Its linguistic structure is unblemished. Its richness of vocabulary is unparalleled. Its literature marks excellence in all fields of knowledge. This is why it is known as ‘Sanskrit’ – that which is sculpted to perfection and has been well structured and refined to the utmost.
As a Mantric language Sanskrit works like a Force functioning at many levels of consciousness, ever purifying, ever formative and creative. It not only tells us or makes us feel that we are potentially Divine but also helps us in manifesting that and leading us from the level of man-animal (pashu) to man-Human (viira) to the man-Divine (divya). In this way Sanskrit has immense power to make the Divine Life possible upon the earth. This is the sole purpose of a Mantra: to bring in the transformation. It is in this sense that Sanskrit is a Mantric language. This is the language that attunes us with the cosmic creative vibration which is capable of bringing the real change. This is the language which tells us in numerous ways that all is Divine and shows us how live life in the right way.
The Utmost Flexibility of Sanskrit and its Power of Expression
Sanskrit is immensely capable of expressing every kind of human experience, spiritual, aesthetic and intellectual. It has an unambiguous linguistic structure. Its grammar is perfect. It is unimaginably rich in its vocabulary. It provides various alternatives and possibilities from which the speaker can choose just the right word and the right structure. Here comes the significance of synonyms in Sanskrit. This is a language where synonyms are plenty. What is a synonym? In most languages, synonyms are different names for the same object. They are words that grow out of a convention and do not often have any inherent significance. One could have used the same word to denote a completely different object and, if the convention was sufficiently strong, the word would become a synonym for that object. But this is not so in Sanskrit. Firstly, the name is not just a convention but grows out of a root with the addition of specific suffixes. Therefore, its meaning too is not a convention but is very specific and determined. The synonyms of a word are not just alternate names, where one can replace one by another. Each synonym grows out of and reveals a special quality or attribute of that object. In this sense Sanskrit is not an object specific but a property based language. One has to choose from the many possibilities the one that conveys best the exact property in mind.
For example the word fire has as many as thirty-four equivalents in Sanskrit. The dictionary called Amarakosha prepared by Amarasimha is a dictionary of equivalent words in Sanskrit. Fire is known by many names like: Agni, Vahni, Jvalana, Anala, Shushmaa, Dahana, Paavaka, Hutabhuk etc. Each word here has a specific and different connotation and leads to a particular experience with fire, represents a particular quality of fire. For example vahni comes from the root vah ‘to carry’, and means that which carries (the offerings to the gods); while jvalana comes from the root jval ‘to burn’, and means that which is burning; similarly paavaka comes from the root puu ‘to purify’, and means that which purifies; and shusmaa comes from the root shush ‘to dry’, and means that which dries up. The word anala means ‘not enough’ na alam, it conveys that nothing is enough for the fire. It is the all devourer, ever dissatisfied one. The entire creation can go into the mouth of the fire still it is not enough. So, it is for the writer or the speaker to decide the most appropriate word for ‘fire’ in a given context. This adds to the expressiveness of Sanskrit.
As a perfect language Sanskrit has the capacity to grow, to meet the demands of completely new experiences. It not only allows but enables its users to create new words to suit their needs. From this point of view, Sanskrit is extremely elaborate and sophisticated. Sanskrit has the ability to create new words and any amount of words to meet the challenges of future. It has got a beautiful system of formation of words by combining its root-sounds with suffixes and prefixes.
The Practical Value of Learning Sanskrit
Learning Sanskrit is always fascinating. Sanskrit, as many conscious learners have experienced, generates joy, clarity, purity and peace. It is indeed a perfect harmonizer (saamarasyaparaayaNaa) that harmonizes the body, mind and soul. It leads to true happiness and fills the heart and mind with a perfect sense of immortality. Its purity draws us, inspires us, and constantly reminds us of the true aim of our life, makes us conscious of the Truth that exists within us. The rhythmic beauty and melody of this language, vibrational purity of its sounds, richness of its phonetic quality, transparency of its root-sounds and their senses, richness of its vocabularies and thought contents, all these have made Sanskrit not just great but a language of relevance in all ages.
Sanskrit as a highly systematic and structured language, trains the mind to think logically, brings clarity of expression, develops intellectual strength, provides keen insight into the meanings of the words, and refines the various levels of consciousness. The vibrational quality of Sanskrit has a direct impact on the functioning of the brain, and can help in enhancing memory and the ability to concentrate. Sanskrit, when taught right from an early age, helps immensely in the inner growth of the children by empowering the inner faculties like concentration, memory, observation, thinking, imagination, creativity etc. This indeed is the true aim of Education: to help a child to grow from within. Herein lies the most practical value of learning Sanskrit.
It is not enough to study Sanskrit and learn it in terms of its vocabulary with grammatical structure and usage – that may serve only a preliminary acquaintance. But a real and intimate entry in it would demand a proper initiation into its native character, its inherent nature, its vision, its philosophy and science and yogic and occult dynamism. Sanskrit, when learnt and taught with this vision in the mind, becomes a fit vehicle not only for communication but for transformation as well. It is not just a language. It is, indeed, a self-existent truth and power that can arouse in us the ideas of Truth and Reality.
-Sampadananda Mishra, SAFIC, Puducherry, India