[Advaita-l] 'The battle for Sanskrit' - Rajiv Malhotra

Ryan Armstrong ryanarm at gmail.com
Mon Jan 25 05:44:08 CST 2016


I have not had the time to watch the whole lecture, but have made a start...
However, I felt the need to make a comment or two as an "outsider" who has
great love for the language.
I say "outsider" in the sense that I am a South African and as such
"foreign", but in Truth any differences are in name and form only. (
नामरुपैव )
I cannot say when or how it came about, but as a young child I felt the
desire to learn संस्क्रृतम् . Later, when I was about 20 years old at
university, I noticed a young lady writing with a calligraphy pen what
turned out to be a page of the letter "अ" for practice. That single letter,
written repeatedly was beautiful to behold and I inquired as to what she
was doing.  She explained that the "School" she belonged to learned
संस्क्रृतम् as a means to understanding scripture. That was how I was led
to the "School of Practical Philosophy" which is the local branch of the
"School of Economic Science" founded in London.
The school had been founded in the 1930s, and the early 1960s the leader
made contact with His Holiness Sri Shantananda Saraswati who (at the time)
was the Shankaraacharya of the North (jyotir math).
Under His Holiness's direction, the school began learning Sanskrit - and
the work prescribed was the लघुसिद्धान्तकौमुदी.
So when I joined the school and began the study, almost 30 years had passed
since His Holiness had given the direction.
I began by learning a number of incantations - the गायतृ मन्त्र, the
perfect prayer (from) ईषोपनिशद् and others. All activities in the school
begin and end with the dedication : औम् परमात्मने नमः
Then, in 1994 when I attended our annual week-long सत्संग we learned the
prayer which begins यज्जाग्रतो दूरमुदैति
This had a profound effect on me, and I resolved to learn the alphabet in
written form. Up to then, I had learned the sounds and could recite the
अक्षरानि but had not yet begun writing.  When I returned from the सत्संग, I
house-sat for one of the older ladies who was attending the सत्संग during
the next week. Knowing that she had various books on Sanskrit, I went to
her library and found a beginner's book with the alphabet in it. What
followed was a revelation!  Within half an hour, I discovered that I could
write every letter. And the reason was that the hand held some memory of
forming these letters - there was no mental memory, it was purely muscular!
Well this discovery impressed on me the idea that I had learned this before
- in a previous incarnation.

In any case, I have continued the study and have written exams through
Cambridge University.  The next exam I can write is the "A-level" (AS was
completed last year.)
But I am approaching this in the reverse manner which than that which Shri
Rajiv Malhotra states - I no longer wish to study under the "modern"
system. I say modern, not Western since it is my opinion that even that
great work सिद्धान्तकौमुदी is a step backwards from the अष्टाध्याय़ी of
The reason for this opinion is simple - पाणिनि bases his grammar on the
evolution of sound from the causal through the subtle to the physical.  By
re-grouping the सूत्रानि into the categories of "noun", "verb" etc. the
approach begins with the physical. I have not come across anything
equivalent to the धाताव in any other language (although Jewish friends
imply that the ancient Hebrew may have used similar seed sounds.)
The Cambridge approach is (as much of Western education is) one of "learn
by rote."  So the राम रूपानि are learned by reciting रामः, हे राम, रामम्
रामेन etc. Up to this point in my studies, there has been no mention of the
सुप् सूत्रानि. This is an example of what formed my opinion of modern
language - the end product is what counts, the physical manifestation.  But
the ancient grammarians took the opposite approach.
So while the course states that पाणिनि is "the first grammarian," common
sense tells me that he was the last. It also dates the रामायन at about
But this work itself states that वाल्मिकि composed the work before राम was
even born!  And having lived at the end of the त्रेत युग, this means that
the work is at least 800 000 years old!

I have often given the allegory of trying to study संस्क्रृतम् using a
different language (in this case English) as a dam trying to comprehend the
ocean. The academic means of study lumps it with all other languages - but
this is ridiculous. There is no possibility of संस्क्रृतम्  having any
origin other than divine.  The perfection of its structure, the purity of
its sound, the ability of universal expression all point to this.  So,
after more than 20 years of study, I feel as if I have "scratched the
surface." But this study has allowed me to read ancient scriptures in the
language they were written.  And संस्क्रृतम् is undoubtedly the perfect
means to express Truth.

So as an outsider, I completely agree with Shri Rajiv Malhotra.  For a
language which has been unchanged for millions of years, it would be folly
to have the teaching of it controlled by those with no understanding of its
origins and the traditions which uphold it.

Yours in Truth

On 22 January 2016 at 19:38, V Subrahmanian via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Copying a  post that appeared in the Advaitin group:
> Namaskars,
> I am not sure whether the advaitin group has seen this video by Rajiv
> Malhotra about the battle for Sanskrit. i feel that we should be aware of
> this development.
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxcvh2BQu1g
> Aravinda Rao
> regards
> subrahmanian.v
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Ryan Armstrong
+27 82 852 7787
ryanarm at gmail.com

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