Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Samskrit in the Modern World

The use of Samskrit in modern world

By Chamu Krishna Shastry

More than 60 per cent of the vocabulary of most of the Indian languages is derived from Samskrit. Their underlying grammar too has its source in Samskrit. India’s Constitution mentions that the vocabulary of the official language of India should mainly be drawn from Samskrit. Hence Samskrit is complementary to all Indian languages. Samskrit can help in preserving the regional languages of India in their undiluted form.

Samskrit has been the vehicle of our culture and thought from time immemorial. Samskrit is the fountainhead of the Dharma, Sanskriti and Darshan of the land that is Bharat. Culture and language are inseparable. They go together. Hence, reviving Samskrit is rejuvenating our culture, rejuvenating our culture is reviving the Samskrit language. Other Indian languages are also cultural languages, but Samskrit is the common cultural language of the common man of India. Since other Indian languages are regional in nature, Samskrit is the Pan-Indian cultural language of India. Bringing Samskrit back to everyday life is just like bringing culture back to everyday life. Samskrit is inevitable to pass on-or transmit, communicate, or give-our cultural heritage to our next generation, and to ensure its continued passage from generation to generation. People say that they need rice, not paddy. Good. But if the husk is removed, then the paddy will not last long and it cannot be reproduced. Rice is culture, and the husk is Samskrit. Samskrit is the husk that protects and enables our culture to grow and nourish itself. Milk cannot be served without a cup. Culture is like milk, and Samskrit is the cup.

We need Samskrit today more than ever before to preserve our cultural moorings, to stay connected to our roots. It is the ‘anti-virus software’ to protect our ‘systems’ from external attacks/soft-threats. Samskrit is the best tool to engender the cultural renaissance of Bharat.

Samskrit is very much essential to understand the essence of our culture. Without Samskrit, we cannot understand the very meanings of the names given to our people, our practices, our Gods, our philosophical concepts, etc. There are no equivalents in English for words such as Punya, Abhishekam, Teertham, Naivedyam, Prasada, Dharma, etc.

Translation can rarely communicate the original meaning. Translation is translation. For example, the phrase ‘Herculean Task’ will be understood only by those who have studied English literature. The phrase can be explained, but it cannot be translated. In the same way, the translation of Bhima Parakram, Govardhanagiridhari, Pitambaradasa in English will not be effective at all. Leave alone the unpublished works of Samskrit, not even 1 per cent of the published Samskrit literature has been translated into other languages. Mantra Shakti is the power of the Samskrit language, and translation cannot possess that Shakti.

Opportunity for new knowledge creation/dissemination

Samskrit literature is a phenomenal repository of knowledge. It contains hundreds and thousands of ancient works pertaining to every branch of knowledge. Teaching the Samskrit language is like providing the key to the treasure house of knowledge. Every individual strives for three things - Knowledge, Prosperity and Happiness. Samskrit is the ideal instrument to access them all.

The word-generating power of Samskrit is unparalleled. It can create/coin an infinite number of words by using about 2,000 roots, 22 prefixes and about 200 suffixes. No other language in the world offers such phenomenal versatility.

It is estimated that there are at least five million manuscripts-most of them in Samskrit-are lying neglected and unattended all over India and in several corners of the world. Knowledge retrieval from them is impossible without Samskrit.

Yoga, Ayur Veda, Gita, Vedanta, Vaastu, Jyotisha, etc. are making a comeback all over the world today. People who are initiated into these subjects are not satisfied by reading the translated texts of these subjects. They want to read the original works, and in their original language. Hence they have started studying Samskrit. Samskrit is the gateway to the heritage of scientific knowledge in ancient India. A good basis in Samskrit will ensure that one gets independent and direct access to the primary sources of that knowledge.

Today, in the context of such terms as the ‘knowledge society,’ ‘knowledge economy,’ ‘knowledge industry,’ ‘knowledge-driven globe,’ etc., it is important to understand the meaning of the Samskrit word ‘Bhaaratam’. Bhaa means light, knowledge; ratam means immersed. A person or a society, immersed in knowledge is Bhaaratam. Until today, Samskrit literature was mostly considered as religious and spiritual literature, which is partially true. But if the Vedas, Shastras and other works in Samskrit are studied from the science point of view as well, if science-and technology-related Samskrit texts are studied, and if they are properly decoded, then there would be nothing short of a "knowledge explosion."

Knowledge of Samskrit will enable people to understand the prayers they perform in Samskrit. Samskrit would also go a long way in revitalising Hinduism and Hindu temples.

One of the reasons for the decline of Ayur Veda is the neglect of the Samskrit language. Today, even though Ayur Vedic medicine is becoming increasingly popular, the Ayur Veda Shastra itself is not growing. In the same way, the neglect of Samskrit is being reflected in the scant attention paid to the Yoga Shastra, the Vedanta Shastra, etc.

While Samskrit allows us to access an infinite fountain of knowledge and wisdom, it is nevertheless important to ask the question: "What can we do to maintain and nourish such a language?"

Vehicle for social harmony

Samskrit has been the great unifying factor of India. Prayers like Gange ca yamune caiva, godavari sarasvati, narmade sindhu kaveri, jalesmin sannidhim kuru, and masterpieces such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Gita, in Samskrit have bonded India together. Down the ages, Samskrit literature has always projected and depicted all of Bharat as one nation. It has never promoted regional or sectarian feelings, unlike some other languages.

Self-esteem is essential for the development of an individual or of a society. Self-esteem comes by understanding our past achievements and inheritance. Providing Samskrit to our younger generation is like empowering them with the much-wanted self-esteem and pride.

Samskrit literature promotes and propagates an All-Inclusive Ideology-on the lines of "Unity in diversity", Ekam sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, etc.-which could constitute the foundation for global peace and harmony. Samskrit is the torch-bearer of Vishwa Dharma, a concept that represents far more than it’s usually accepted meaning of "Universal Code of Ethics".

Samskrit is an effective instrument of social harmony in India. The dalits and other neglected sections of Hindu society have long been deprived of learning Samskrit. As Swami Vivekananda put it, the knowledge of Samskrit can give them the power and prestige, and it can elevate them culturally. Samskrit can be a major tool for social transformation, given its ability to eradicate differences of caste, sect, gender and region.

Means of understanding our national heritage

More than 60 per cent of the vocabulary of most of the Indian languages is derived from Samskrit. Their underlying grammar too has its source in Samskrit. India’s Constitution mentions that the vocabulary of the official language of India should mainly be drawn from Samskrit. Hence Samskrit is complementary to all Indian languages. Samskrit can help in preserving the regional languages of India in their undiluted form.

Samskrit is not just a language. It is a Jeevan Darshan. It reminds us of a great tradition of both spiritual and material wealth. Learning and speaking Samskrit gives you a sense of belonging to a great heritage. It gives you power and confidence.

The knowledge of Samskrit alone can lead to a complete and authentic study of Indian art, sculpture, music, science, history, political science, etc.

As Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, "Without the knowledge of Samskrit, the education of every Indian is incomplete."

Experience shows that while most of the Hindus living abroad are usually divided by the Indian regional languages, Samskrit is the language which brings them together and instills in them the sense of unity and harmony.

Learning Samskrit is our duty-our national duty.

Opening up new dimensions

We must enrich, empower, enlighten and elevate ourselves through Samskrit. We must empower our younger generation with the most superior tools of self-management.

Samskrit language is considered to be the only suitable natural language for computers. Software is being developed for the machine translation of Indian languages with Samskrit as the intermediate language.

A research article titled "Sanskrit and Brain Function" by Dr. Travis, showing that the physiological effects of reading Sanskrit are similar to those experienced during the transcendental meditation technique, has recently been published in the International Journal of Neuroscience.

(The writer is General Secretary Samskrit Bharati and can be contacted at

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sanskrit Classes Starting in Toronto!

Just register by email sankara1 at msn dot com

There will be 20 classes in the year. About 2 per month starting October 4, 2009.

Adults and childrens classes at the Vedanta Vidya Mandir in Toronto from 1:30 to 4:15 alternating Sunday afternoons.

Students at all levels learn to speak Samskrit and understand the Bhagavad Geeta without a translation.

Try it out and experience the sublime Samskrit speaking experience. Don't let this chance pass you by.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dharmendra Speaks Sanskrit

Film dialogues to popularise Sanskrit!
Updated on Sunday, September 06, 2009, 16:13 IST Ahmedabad: A city-based academy has hit upon a novel idea to popularise country`s oldest language and has taken the help of Indians` biggest passion--Hindi movies.

A Sanskrit-teaching academy here has taken up the mantle to bust the popular notion that the language is hard to learn and of little use.Eklavya Sanskrit Academy (ESA) is using dialogues from Bollywood super hits like Sholay and Deewar, and is translating them in Sanskrit to popularise the ancient language among the youth and general public.

"There is a myth prevailing among people that Sanskrit is a difficult language. They also think of it as a language which has no use," Mihir Upadhyay, director of the academy, told reporters."But, the language has immense potential.

Even the advertising world quotes Sanskrit shlokas and many manuscripts hold great knowledge. We want to create awareness about Sanskrit and promote research," he said."We also want to show people that Sanskrit is an easy and interesting language.

To popularise it, we recently did an experiment by using dialogues of around 17 superhit Hindi films to attract people, mainly youths," Upadhyay said.For example, the famous dialogue by Amjad Khan (Gabbar) in film Sholay, "Ab tera Kya Hoga Kalia? (What will happen to you Kalia), will become "Kaalia, tav ki bhavisyasi?" in Sanskrit.