Pls forward to Advaita List (fwd)
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Dec 14 18:25:29 CST 1998
I'm for anything that encourages people to learn more about Sanskrit but
some aspects of this concern me.
> >The teaching starts with speaking and not with grammar.
> >The instructor will speak only in Sanskrit from day one.
> >You don't need to memorize any noun or verb tables. Did we do that to
> >our mother tongue?
The comparison is invalid because your mother tounge you pick by listening
to people around you and it is constantly reinforced by all those people.
Thus although I wasn't born in Gujarat I can speak (and read and write)
Gujarati well enough to communicate with people who were. But my wife who
did grow up over there often teases me about the grammatical mistakes I
make. While the use of language is instinctive, understanding grammar is
This matters is because people who learn Sanskrit are not doing it so they
can order a Taco Bell burrito in Sanskrit but so they can understand our
shastras. A sloppy command of a language is good enough for the first
task but no good for the second. The reason the science of Vyakarana or
Grammar developed so early on in our history and achieved such importance
is because our Rshi-Munis believed precision in language was of the utmost
No doubt this teacher will attract a lot of students with the promise of
not having to memorize noun and verb tables. Judging by the things people
have told me, this is the bane of the Indian schoolchilds existence and
responsible for turning many people off of Sanskrit altogether. Ironically
the Indian educational system blindly copies Western methods of learning
Latin rather than looking at the our own teachers have traditionally
taught Sanskrit. Since the time of Panini, Sanskrit has been analyzed
into sutras. Bhattoji Dikshit rearranged the Vyakarana sutras into a more
logical order in his Siddhanta Kaumudi and Bhatta Varadaraja reduced them
to the main ones in his Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi. This is what the
traditional Sanskrit student learns thus he also has to memorize things
but the absolute minimum amount necessary. Also he understands _how_ the
grammar works rather than just the end-products of it. It took me about
six months all told to memorize the 1500 or so sutras in the LSK and
although it was tedious at first I'm so glad I did it. Now I have no
problems reading and understanding Sanskrit. Conversation is good too and
great fun but it should come _after_ a thorough grounding in Vyakarana.
It's a natural human tendancy to look for gimmicks and shortcuts but in
most things in life there is no substitute for effort.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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