Sanskrit is considered to be the oldest language in the world. It carries the treasure trove of Vedic wisdom, which can enrich and enhance a person’s life. Sanskrit was the lingua franca in ancient and medieval India. Not only was it taught as literature, but every single person read, wrote, and spoke it in their daily lives. However, as times passed and society changed, Sanskrit lost its value in the vicious cycle of time. Samskrita Bharti, founded by Chamu Krishna Shastry, aims to break the perception of Sanskrit as just a language of literature and make it the medium of communication just like in olden times. He wishes to unlock the infinite knowledge and wisdom that Sanskrit has to offer to help people experience a fulfilling human existence. Nikita Mukherjee reports.
paritraanaaya sadhuunaam vinaashaaya chadushkritaam |
dharma samsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yuge ||
For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the evil, and for the establishment of dharma (righteousness), I (the Lord) am born from age to age.
(Bhagavad Gita. Chapter 4. Verse 8)
I have often heard this shloka from the Bhagavad Gita, and I am sure a lot of you have read or heard it as well. Ever since I got to know about it, I have been deeply inspired by the mysterious power and strength reverberated by its words. If you try to speak it out loud or even hear it, you’ll feel a sudden rush of powerful and magnetic vibrations pumping through your veins, which is hard to explain in words. The shloka, eventually, evoked an urge in me to read the Bhagavad Gita. Although the holy book has been translated into various languages including English, I could not enjoy the translated versions. I always felt that the true meaning of the verses must have got lost in the cycle of translations and that the same must be true for other ancient Hindu scriptures, like the Vedas and the Puranas, as well.
Some people learn Russian to read the original works of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Many others learn French and German just to read Albert Camus and Franz Kafka in the original, simply out of their love for literature. Similarly, many seekers from foreign lands as well as India learn Sanskrit in order to understand the Vedic wisdom. This makes me wonder how wonderful it would have been if all of us were fluent in the most ancient language in this world! How deeply insightful and aware would we all have been if only Sanskrit was our mode of communication.
A vast ocean of knowledge
yadha kinchignyoham dhvipa iva madhandhaha samabhavam
thadha sarvgnyosmithyabhavadh avaliptham mama manaha
yadha kinchith kinchith budhajanasakashadh avagatham
thadha murkhosmithi jvara iva madho me vyapagathaha ||
I became blind, like an intoxicated elephant, when I acquired a little knowledge. My mind was overcome with pride, and I thought I knew everything.
I realised how ignorant I really was when I began to learn more, little by little, from the truly wise; then, my pride subsided, like a fever.
Sanskrit is the original divine language. Considered the language of the gods, it was revealed by Lord Brahma in the form of the Vedas and the holy scriptures to his seven sons, also known as the Saptarishis (the seven sages). The first account is mentioned in the Rigveda.
The language of the ancient Indian subcontinent, with a 3,500-year history, Sanskrit is the primary language of Hinduism and the predominant language of most works of Hindu philosophy as well as some of the principal texts of Buddhism and Jainism. It is also considered the mother of major European languages like Russian, Greek, Latin, and German. “The basic roots of some of the major European languages are derived from Sanskrit. Every word you read in Greek, German, Latin, Russian, etc., has its foundation in Sanskrit. In the ancient times, it was not only just used for teaching literature but was itself a medium of teaching and communication,” says Mr Gavish Dwivedi, spokesperson of Samskrita Bharti. People in ancient India communicated through Sanskrit irrespective of which class they belonged to. It wasn’t just a language of the Brahmins or the elite but was the primary mode of spoken communication and a way of life in which everyone deeply believed.
Spirituality, a major aspect of Hinduism, was widely practised by one and all in ancient times. Sanskrit played a huge role in imparting the knowledge of spirituality to all seekers, as most of the Hindu scriptures and holy texts were written in the Brahmi and the Devanagari script. Even in today’s era, if you don’t want to be a victim of any religious dogma or superstition, you must study and understand the scriptures properly. For a spiritual seeker, to get direct access to Vedic wisdom imparted through the works of Valmiki, Vyasa, Kalidasa, Bhasa, etc., learning Sanskrit is mandatory.
Saving the tradition and finding the way
bhashasu mukhya madhura divya girvanabharati |
tasmaddhi kavyam madhuram tasmadapi subhashitam ||
Among languages, Sanskrit is eminent, sweet, and divine. Sweeter is Kavya (Sanskrit poetry); even sweeter is Subhashita (shlokas or wise sayings); and in the bitter tree called Samsara (worldly life), there are two fruits as sweet as nectar: tasting the rasa (taste) of Kavya and Subhashita and the company of good people.
To achieve something big, it’s not necessary to have a big plan. Samskrita Bharti started with a very simple plan of injecting Sanskrit into our daily lives by asking each volunteer and person associated with the organisation to communicate through Sanskrit with everyone they meet or engage with. This way, the curiosity about Sanskrit would grow, and people would start participating in the process. “The major reason why Sanskrit lost importance over time is because of the way it was taught. The pedagogy of Sanskrit changed with time, and it was no longer treated as a medium through which other subjects and languages were taught. Gradually, it became a language of literature and other languages like English and Hindu took over as the medium of communication,” says Mr Dwivedi.
Samskrita Bharti considers itself in the ‘Jambavan’ stage (Jambavan was the bear who made Lord Hanuman realise his immense hidden powers). “The people living in society are Hanumans who have no idea that Sanskrit is inbuilt in them and that they can access it and take in all the wisdom it holds for a fulfilling life. Samskrita Bharti is playing the role of Jambavan by making the Hanumans realise about their lost powers,” laughs Mr Dwivedi.
Samskrita Bharti’s mission is to break the stereotype of considering Sanskrit a difficult language or a language of the privileged and instil the habit of communicating through Sanskrit in everyone on a larger scale. They hold 10-day capsule classes where every participant is encouraged to converse in Sanskrit, in order to inculcate a habit of speaking the language. “We have managed to impart the knowledge of Sanskrit by reaching out to one crore people across the globe in the last 40 years. Because of our endeavours, Sanskrit is included as a part of the curriculum in 250 plus schools and universities across India and overseas. There are almost 18 major universities across India where Sanskrit is used as the primary medium of communication and teaching. We have also seen and heard people struggling to communicate through Sanskrit, but, at least, they have realised its importance and are trying their best to promote our efforts on a large scale so that more and more people join us in the mission to make Sanskrit great again,” says Mr Dwivedi very enthusiastically.
“Our sanstha (organisation) wants to break that narrative and make everyone in society realise that Sanskrit is not just a form of literature but a passage to a myriad of possibilities and profound knowledge. Understanding Sanskrit will open the door to those possibilities and enrich our lives in ways we could have never imagined,” remarks Mr Dwivedi.
Bye-bye, exercises; Sanskrit will make me fit!
Punarvittam punarmitram punarbharya punarmahi |
Etatsarvam punarlabhyam na sariram ounah punah ||
Wealth, a friend, a wife, and a kingdom may be regained; but this body, when lost, may never be acquired again.
(Chanakya Neeti 14.2)
According to Mr Dwivedi, Sanskrit holds the power to improve a person’s physical and mental health as the pronunciation of words in Sanskrit improves body vitality as well as increases and stabilises the vibrations in our body. “If you speak the word ‘Ram’ in Sanskrit, it is pronounced as ‘Ram-ah’ and when you do that, you can feel your stomach going in, which is a good exercise for losing fat and strengthening the functions of the bowels,” remarks Mr Dwivedi.
In fact ‘Om’ is largely speculated to be a Sanskrit word which signifies an energy or a vibration. If we chant it correctly while meditating, it can stabilise our energy levels, calming us from within and giving us mental as well as emotional peace. Also, chanting ‘om’ activates the chakras in our body. “Speaking Sanskrit is an exercise. You don’t need to do Kapalbhati or pranayama because when you speak Sanskrit, the varnamala (alphabet) and the dhwani (sound) evoke powerful vibrations inside your body, which makes you feel better. They also strengthen and stabilise the nervous system,” highlights Mr Dwivedi.
He explains the science behind this by enlightening me about the Pratyahara Sutra, a series of Varnas in Sanskrit (which originate from Lord Shiva’s damru or little drum), also famously known as Maheshwar Sutra. In simple words, the elongated use of ‘aa’ and ‘ee’ stretched after every word in Sanskrit is known as the Maheshwara Sutra. According to doctors, whoever stutters while speaking can often get cured by extensively practising this sutra. In fact, many known speech therapists use Maheshwar Sutra in their sessions for healing.
Sanskrit as the Future
Aano Bhadra krtavo yantu vishwatah |
Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions.
I once watched a video on YouTube where the caption read ‘Scientists contact Vedic Guru to unlock the mysteries of Black Hole.’ I wondered why modern scientists who claim to unearth and answers to every possible theory and mystery existing in the universe through science would want to contact a Vedic scientist for finding answers related to the mysterious Black Hole? “Sanskrit is the key to every possible knowledge out there. Whether it’s science, arts, literature, or spirituality, be it any field, Sanskrit is the source of knowledge in every aspect of life,” says Mr Dwivedi.
I heard from someone that Sanskrit can become the language of computers in the next 20 years. It will be possibly used in making super-computers which would require a very high level of technological programming and intelligence, and Sanskrit perfectly fits the picture. “Sanskrit is the perfect language for programming computers. It is relatively easier to use in programming as the placement of words or formulas in a specific coding can be changed without changing the meaning, which would be much easier for the computer technology to adapt to. In present times, for programming computers, we use the binary formula (0,1) and properties of the English language which are very rigid in nature. One change or shuffle in the current order of formulas and the coding takes a whole new meaning which jeopardises the programme altogether. But suggestively, the computers of the future will be designed based on the grammar and properties of Sanskrit which are very flexible in nature. We can change or shuffle the order of a formula in a specific coding, and it will remain the same without changing its meaning. This way, we can figure out a whole lot of technological possibilities and decode a plethora of scientific knowledge.”
He further explains that, in present times, to teach or programme something on the computer, we must follow an elaborate step. This elaborate step can be covered in one or two sentences in Sanskrit which would be much easier for the computer technology to adapt to.
Mr Dwivedi shares another example: Dr Manjul Bhargav hailed from the village of Multa, Rajasthan, and worked as a mathematics professor in Canada. At that time, he was working on a mathematical theorem for the last three-four years, which he couldn’t solve through modern techniques and studies. During that period, when he visited his native village in India, he discovered a pile of Sanskrit manuscripts one day, which belonged to his grandfather who was a great Sanskrit scholar. After consulting a few other professors in order to understand them, Manjul was successful in solving his theorem with the help of those Sanskrit manuscripts. He even went on to get a field medal, which is equal to the Nobel prize, for his outstanding contribution to mathematics.
The master key
Sanskrit holds the potential of uplifting the way society lives today. Many prominent scientists and philosophers came to India from across the globe to learn this language of the gods and use it as a key to eminent discoveries. Proof of foreigners coming to Indian universities like Takshashila and Nalanda has been found, which shows how actively everyone was associated with Sanskrit since ages. But as time flew by and foreign dominance over the Indian subcontinent grew, the influence of Sanskrit started to diminish as rulers started imposing their culture in the mainland.
After ages, an organisation like Samskrita Bharati had felt the need to revive the language which had been a way of life. Sanskrit can reveal answers to a lot of questions we have been looking for since ages. It also holds the key to many future possibilities as decoding Sanskrit can open doors to divine knowledge, helping us lead a fulfilling life in the process.
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