Etymology of a few words

ken knight hilken_98 at YAHOO.COM
Sun May 19 02:39:01 CDT 2002

--- Shrinivas Gadkari <sgadkari2001 at YAHOO.COM> wrote:

> I guess, I asked for too many words. Here I will
> again
> initiate a similar exercise with just one word.
> Take the Shri: Sh + r + I
> Shri generally means anything that gladdens the
> heart.
> Now what does Sh-kAra represent and why ?
> What does r-kAra represent and why ?
> What does I-kAara represent and why ?
> I mean there must be something very basic about
> sounds
> here.

Namaste Shrinivas,
I cannot join in much at the moment owing to my
lightning-exploded modem so I had to leave your
earlier posting. I am not an etymologist but share
your interest.  Etymology is a Vedanga so deserves
more attention than it is given these days.
May I comment as follows and soon I will be able to
join you more.  My authority in these thoughts is
Yaska and his Nirukta.

Yaska takes us beyond dictionaries down to the
individual sounds as you have above. He says that this
is valid etymology. But he puts in this warning:
'Single words isolated from their context should not
be thus derived for without a knowledge of their
context, it is often difficult to know the precise
meaning of a word.'
Let us take an example:
When I was a child, if I read this sentence,'The gay
man walked down the street' it would mean that a happy
man walked down the street, probably singing to
himself.  Nowadays it would be taken to mean that a
homosexual man was walking down the street and he may
or may not be happy.
So in our search for meaning we must have context.  We
also need to know the intentions  of the writer and
the reader.

Ultimately the context and the impulse to know must be
Brahman.  And with sruti we can be sure that the
impulse of the author is Brahman. However we must then
look to our own 'desire to know' and its context,
ultimately Brahman also but covered by adhyasa.
Different meanings of a word can then arise for
ultimately a word 'means what it does.'
For example: I once sat in a group that was allegedly
learning about advaita. The tutor had a great dislike
for study and so was attracted to the superficial. He
like the play of words such as 'evil' is 'live'
backwards. One day he said that 'presence' means
'pre-sense' but my own etymological enquiry showed the
word to be rooted in 'es' as in essence.  Two
different contexts on our parts.  Both equally
meaningful to each of us; he preferred his and I
preferred mine. That was a legitimate conclusion as
there was neither right or wrong; in both cases some
ignorance had been removed.
The problem comes if either of us makes that meaning
'fixed for all time' for then we create a stone idol
and lose its essence because our own context has
become tamasic and solid when in truth it is ever

So, having rambled so long, I would like to join you
in the exercise. Our common context is the first verse
of the Brahma Sutras but could we please have the
context of the word you are enquiring into ie. the

If I am in error in the above, please ignore it,

best wishes

ken knight

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