Sanskrit : A Language Sculpted to Perfection

– Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, Director, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture, Pondicherry, India

 Sampadananda Mishra

Dr. Sampadananda Mishra is passionate about Sanskrit. He has spoken at various conferences both nationally and internationally, conducts workshops, teacher training programmes and authored many books. Dr. Mishra has launched the first ever 24 hours Sanskrit Radio called Divyavani. The Govt. of India has conferred the President’s award (Maharshi Badarayna Vyasa Samman 2011) on Dr. Mishra for his outstanding contribution to Sanskrit.

Sanskrit, as many conscious learners have experienced, generates joy, clarity, purity and peace. It is indeed a perfect harmonizer (saamarasyaparaayanaa) that balances 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, constantly reminds us of the true aim of our life, and 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 vocabulary and thought content, all these have made Sanskrit truly great.

Sanskrit always starts from a deeper base. It believes that the Sound and the Word are at the origin of creation. It believes that they have light, consciousness and power – the sound has potency. Therefore the meaning of the fundamental Sanskrit roots is not arbitrary but based on a deeper truth. Through a process of deep contemplation and intuition, it is possible for one to enter into the heart of a sound vibration and discover its meaning. This was the way of the Rishis when they gave meaning to the roots. Thus each seed-sound and each root-sound in Sanskrit has a fundamental meaning associated with this. Further the fundamental meaning can give rise to many other meanings related to the root-experience. By a deeper analysis of the Sanskrit sounds and words derived from root-sounds one can arrive at the fundamental experiences associated with those sounds and words. In this manner each word in Sanskrit has its own connotation, its definite shade of meaning, its special nuance.

Let us look at a few examples.

A letter in Sanskrit is called akshara (a + kshara) which literally means imperishable. This is not merely attributive. The term akshara reveals the whole secret of the speech process or the sound system. It says that the sound is eternal. It does not perish. Shabdonityah. Nityaavaivaak. Na vaakkshiiyate. It shows that the moment one makes a sound, it remains forever and can be retrieved by special yogic power. This is how the Veda Mantras are revealed to the Rishis in their meditation. The word vyakarana (vi + aa + kri + ana) is not limited simply to grammar. It shows the development and growth of speech from its undistinguished stage to the distinguished stage, and while doing so it leads to the Sound-force, the eternal shabdabrahman. The word darshana (from root drish to see) is not philosophy, but a seeing revelation; svaadhyaaya is not mere reading but the process of going deep into self contemplation. The word chatra is not an umbrella but anything that covers. The Sanskrit word for beauty is sushama. In its true sense it means superbly (su) equal (sama). This shows that true beauty is full of harmony. To remain svastha is not just to be healthy but to remain stable in one’s own state of being. When someone falls sick he becomes asvastha which means he has fallen from his own state of being. These are few examples showing not only the high connotative power of the Sanskrit words but also how Sanskrit has derived meanings of its words from their very depth. It shows that the meaning of the word is inherent within the word itself. And it is always discoverable by going back to the root of the word. And further the word and the meaning are inseparable. They fuse into one another and give life to one another. An in-depth study of many Sanskrit words shows that in this language a word is not just a conventional expression for an idea, but itself the parent and the creator of ideas. This transparent system of formation of words from the root sounds follows a natural process and is one of the important factors that makes Sanskrit an ever-creative language.

The resonating power and vibrational purity of Sanskrit make it a perfect instrument for an integral spiritual growth. Its very name Samskritam means ‘polished’, ‘refined’, ‘sculpted to perfection’. The physical structure of the language is flawless. Its construction follows an organic and logical development. In Sanskrit, all the sounds are articulated through five distinct places of articulation located in the mouth: throat, palate, cerebrum, root of the upper teeth and lips. Therefore, the sounds are guttural, palatal, cerebral, dental or labial. Though the letters of one group are pronounced from one location, yet each sound of that group differs from the other because of its internal efforts. For example: ka, kha, ga, gha and nga belong to the guttural group. Here ka is a hard unvoiced consonant with minimum breath; kha is also hard and unvoiced but it is pronounced with maximum breath; ga is soft and voiced with minimum breath while gha is soft and voiced with maximum breath; nga is the last sound in the group which is soft and voiced but nasal. For this sound, the breath gets released through nostrils and the mouth. The arrangement of the rest of the consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet follows the same order. The importance of this scientific organization lies in the degree of resonance created by each sound. Thus, the sounds of Sanskrit are amazingly capable of bringing clarity of articulation. And because of this refinement, perfection and structure, Sanskrit is capable of infusing into its conscious users a sense of completeness, scientific spirit and, at the same time, a sense of beauty and harmony.

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The mere speaking of or listening to the sounds of Sanskrit generates joy, clarity and inspiration. It has a refining influence on one’s consciousness. By a conscious use of this language one gets the result of doing Pranayama. Thus, Sanskrit, with its power of great resonance is highly powerful and potent for creating a happy and peaceful atmosphere in and around the one who uses it consciously. Furthermore, each language has its own dharma, its uniqueness, and when its growth and development are in harmony with that, then the language becomes capable not only of sustaining itself but also of enriching its users in many ways. An intimacy with Sanskrit also reveals that in its journey it has always been in harmony with its svabhava and svadharma.

The seers and sages (rishis) of ancient time were minutely discerning in their observations, and were highly conscious in the matter of using the language. They did not use the language just for the purpose of communication, they used it as a tool for discovering the true nature of their selves and all that they saw in and around themselves. Herein lies the sacredness of Sanskrit—it helps to discover the nature of everything; it helps to discover the sacredness of life. It is a force that functions at many levels of consciousness, ever purifying, ever formative and creative. It has tremendous potentiality to make the Divine Life possible on the earth.

However, the most practical value of learning Sanskrit lies in the fact that it trains the mind to think logically, brings clarity of expression, develops intellectual strength, and provides keen insight into the meanings of the words. 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. Moreover, it helps in the growth of consciousness, has immense power in bringing a greater transformation.

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