Sanskrit: Elite Language or Language of the Heart?
Over the past 20 years of teaching Sanskrit, I have discovered two distinct ways that people engage the language. Either people study Sanskrit and become more arrogant as a result or they connect more with their heart.
The etymology of the word Sanskrit itself hints at its largess and these two ways of potentially connecting with the subject. Sam = wholly + Krta = done, made, so Samskrita (Sanskrit) means that which was completely made, wholly, completely or perfectly. Sanskrit is said to be a language where nothing is left out. In order to realize this concept of linguistic wholeness, the language evolved a complex and vast grammatical structure, which takes anyone interested to learn the subject some real time to understand.
Additionally, the vocabulary is extensive: There are many words to convey the same thing. To name just a few: The verb to see can be drś (paśyati) to see, or it can be īksh (īkshate) to see. The word for sun is ravi or sūrya or aśira… and there are many more. It leaves the student questioning: Why would there need to be many words for the same thing? Is it all so necessary or is it somehow verbose on the part of the language? The reality is, as mentioned above, that in order to learn Sanskrit, with its large grammar and extensive vocabulary, you will have to put real time into the study. That said, does that large amount of time and focus inevitably have to lead to arrogance or elitism? Aren’t those who possess true knowledge kind, attentive, and loving?
How to Grow in Knowledge
There is a saying in the Pañca-Tantra that we at the Sanskrit Studies Method take very much to heart. It says: Vidyā dadāti vinayam, which says real knowledge gives humility. In the Sanskrit Studies Method, I talk about growing in grammar and simultaneously expanding in Self-understanding and connectivity. I am not interested in teaching students to be knowers above anyone else. I want students to learn the grammar, and as they do this I tell them to also allow a feeling of humbleness to be present with them at all times. When there is humility, there is real grounding. And when there is grounding there is a space within for the light to land.
Years ago my mother taught me that it’s a privilege to have access to the teachings of yoga and to be a place of kindness and light. When you learn Sanskrit through the Sanskrit Studies Method, you will dive deeply into the grammar. Simultaneously you will expand your soul-knowledge by listening to the words of the great Rishis, yogic sages. As my mother taught me, this is a privilege. This is a blessing.Vidyā dadāti vinayam … Real knowledge gives humility.
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