1927 | 11,233,916 words
Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....
SANSKRIT, THE WORLD’S OLDEST
SPIRITUAL & SCIENTIFIC LANGUAGE
Of all the discoveries that have occurred and developed in the course of human history, language is the most significant and probably the most taken for granted. Without language, civilization could obviously not exist. On the other hand, to the degree that language becomes sophisticated and accurate in describing the subtlety and complexity of human life, we gain power and effectiveness in meeting its challenges. In ancient India the intention to discover truth was so consuming, that in the process, they discovered perhaps the most perfect tool for fulfilling such a search that the world has ever known – the Sanskrit language. Sanskrit, the world’s oldest spiritual language, is the only unambiguous spoken language on the planet. It can also be inferred that the discoveries that occurred in India in the first millennia B.C. were also the result of collaboration and inquiry by a community of spiritual scientists utilizing a common scientific language.
The extraordinary thing about Sanskrit is that it offers direct accessibility to anyone to that elevated plane where the two, mathematics and music, brain and heart, analytical and intuitive, scientific and spiritual become one. This is fertile ground for revelation. Great discoveries occur, whether through mathematics or music or Sanskrit, not by the calculations or manipulations of the human mind, but where the living language is expressed and heard in a state of joy and communion with the natural laws of existence.
Why has Sanskrit endured? Fundamentally it generates clarity and inspiration. And that clarity and inspiration are directly responsible for a brilliance of creative expression such as the world has rarely seen.
Sanskrit after all is the language of mantra – words of power that are subtly attuned to the unseen harmonies of the matrix of creation, the world as yet unformed.
Interestingly enough, this is exactly what is triggered in people who are faced with the opportunity to learn Sanskrit. The basic attitude towards learning Sanskrit in India today is, “It’s too difficult.” Actually Sanskrit is not difficult. On the contrary, there are few greater enjoyments. The first stage, experiencing the individual power of each of the 49 basic sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet is pure discovery.
The script used in written Sanskrit is known as Devanaagari or that “spoken by the Gods.” Suitably for Sanskrit, it is a perfect system of phonetic representation. According to linguists, the phonetic accuracy of the Devanaagari compares well with that of the modern phonetic transcriptions. One thing is certain, Sanskrit will become the planetary language when it is taught in a way which is exciting and enjoyable. Another hope for the return of Sanskrit lies in computers. Sanskrit and computers are a perfect fit. The precision play of Sanskrit with computer tools will awaken the capacity in human beings to utilize their innate higher mental faculty with a momentum that would inevitably transform the world.
What makes a language sacred is how we use it. If a language is used to discover the sacredness of life, it becomes a sacred language. Whether or not a language is sacred is determined by who is using it. This in turn has a great deal to do with whether a language is being used consciously or unconsciously, whether we use language as an instrument to accomplish our real purpose in life, that is, wake up and find out who we are; or whether we are unconsciously programmed by language, to maintain patterns of a struggle for individual survival established by previous generations.
Most of us, most of the time, tend to be at the influence of the unconscious operation of language. But this is just peeling away the first layer. There’s a still deeper layer of the unconscious operation of language where we have predefined who we are, based on whether or not we get it right. This can be seen by making a list of the apparent implications and consequences of getting it right and getting it wrong. To make the point, let me describe a language exercise
if I get it right...
I am a smart person. I am a competent person. I am accepted and respected. I am likeable and lovable. I am a skillful person. I am a powerful person. I can make money. I am a success. I am a winner. I am better than others. I can be happy. I have choices and options. Others cannot control and dominate me. I will not be abused, and will not be ‘the victim of others’ cruelty. I will not suffer and die.
if I get it wrong...
I am a stupid person. I am an incompetent person. I am unworthy of respect. No one could like or love me. I am powerless. I am doomed to poverty. I am a failure. I am a loser. Others are better than me. I’m doomed to misery. I have no choice, no options. Others will control and dominate me. I will be abused, the victim of others’ cruelty. I will suffer and die.
The above is a perfect example of a survival model of language. We could call it a “dominate and survive model of language” or simply a “survival language”. What is most striking about this model of language is that who I believe myself to be is determined by whether or not I get it right. The other most distinctive feature of a survival language is the utter falseness of the conclusions it is used to arrive at. It’s certainly not true that we are either smart or stupid because we do or do not get something right, let alone that we would live or die.
The problem with “getting better” is that we become programmed to always getting better, but it’s never good enough. Getting better is an endless proposition. This survival model of language has conflict and suffering woven into its very fabric. This particular phenomenon is defined in the Yoga Sutras as avidyaa, the fundamental lack of awareness which is the root klesha, or subtle cause of all suffering. The definition of avidyaa is: anitya-ashuci-duhkha-anaatmasu nitya-shuci-sukha-aatma-khyaatir avidyaa. Avidyaa perfectly describes the nature of a survival language. A survival language is steeped in avidyaa. As long as who I am, is defined by such a language, I remain the victim of an endless vicious circle.
The single most outstanding difference between a sacred and a survival language is the definition, orientation and use in the language of the word “I”. The only real problem that arises with regard to learning Sanskrit is forgetting why one decided to learn it in the first place – to feel the joy and purity one felt as a child. When the real purpose is forgotten, we automatically default to concerns about success and failure based on past programming. It is in this connection that the idea “too difficult” can arise.
If you multiply all the words of any language, times all prior generations’ fears about survival, you could get an idea of just how thick the walls of this prison are. Our ultimate challenge is to see right through those walls rather than to take them apart brick by brick. It’s absolutely essential to redefine our relationship to language. The sage Shankara wrote:
satsangatve nissangatvam, ina state of satsanga, good company, (comes) non-attachment; nissangatve nirmohatvam in non-attachment, a state beyond confusion nirmohatve niscalitatvam in truth beyond confusion, motionlessness niscalitatvam jiivanmuktih in motionlessness, living freedom.
It all begins with satsanga, good company. The best example of this that I know of is a group of people come together to learn Sanskrit. It seems that on some level, perhaps unconsciously, a person who has decided to learn Sanskrit, has decided in some way to use this sacred language for that which it was designed – to be free. It is remarkably easy for such a group of people to change their relation to language, to put themselves at the source of language and then select and use language in a way that gives them access to Sanskrit, with ease and enjoyment. Without the mutual agreement of the group, satsang, good company, it would be highly unlikely that the shift could ever take place. We grew up in a world where a mistake was a bad thing, enough so that most people would not risk making one. This led to massive withdrawal. Though people remained in a group, they were not really part of the group. In truth, fear dominated nearly all groups. Natural unity was shattered. The satsanga was lost. Groups were ineffective. Alone, individuals were powerless. And languages like Sanskrit were scarcely spoken.
A state of listening is present, samadhi, in which we feel the nuances of Sanskrit, its power, and the subtle way it resonates in the heart of our being, like ancient and eternal music. There’s no more struggle to learn, to gain and accumulate knowledge. The words of Sanskrit, through their sound vibration are like waves of pure energy, which we enjoy as if watching a performance taking place inside us – while their meanings describe our own fathomless perfection, as the seer of all, ancient, eternal.