Post-Shankaran Vedantins

Ravisankar Mayavaram msr at ISC.TAMU.EDU
Mon Dec 14 18:37:47 CST 1998

On Mon, 14 Dec 1998, Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:
> Swami Jayendra Saraswati
> ------------------------
> Probably this centuries most popular teacher and philosopher of Advaita
> Vedanta.

I think you wanted to say shrI chandrasekharendra sarasvatI
former pontiff of kanchi kAmakoTi pItha. Collection of his talks
called "deivaththin kural" (the voice of God) edited by Ra.
Ganapati (this series runs to 8 volumes), some parts of it was
translated into English (I think two volumes), is very famous.
The English translation is called "Hindu dharma : the universal
way of life / Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Svami". This book and
many other books edited from his talks are available from the UT

  He is popularly known as periyava and now his successor shrI
jayendra sarasvati is also known by the same title. The term
periyava literally means the "great one" in thamizh. There is
nice WWW page describing about the
kAmakoTi maTha.


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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>From ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU Tue Dec 15 06:23:37 1998
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On Tuesday, December 15, Jaldhar Vyas wrote:
> While the use of language is instinctive, understanding grammar is
> not.
> 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
> importance.
I'm afraid you miss the point of the purpose of learning spopen Sanskrit.
It is NOT meant to be a subsitute for learning vyAkaraNa, which we know to
be one of the vedAnga's.  Learning through this method breaks down the
preconceived notion that Sanskrit is impossibly difficult.  As you point
out, one learns one's mother tongue by immersing oneself in it by being
around people who speak it.  This is also true of learning other languages.
It is the only way I was able to learn French, German and Russian. In all
cases, including and particularly Sanskrit, grammer obviously follows.  The
courses on Spoken Sanskrit raise awareness of what is possible, and also
develop a desire to learn more.  I have met people who, having attended
these courses, have gone on to study up to MA level in Sanskrit.

> No doubt this teacher will attract a lot of students with the promise of
> not having to memorize noun and verb tables.
This is not what is promised. It is a fun way to START learning the language
>   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.
        This, I believe, is exactly the point.  The "current" system in
India of teaching Sanskrit is NOT the traditional method of teaching
Sanskrit, as it is an ape of how Latin and Ancient Greek are taught (witness
the following comment in a textbook for learning ancient Greek "since
Ancient Greek is no longer spoken, we can be less concerned about how it is
pronounced"-Hardly a recipe for learning Sanskrit!). Note, however, moves to
teach Latin through spoken means. Words on the traditional method follow

> 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 abot
> 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.
> You will be interested to know that there is an English school in London,
> St James' school that teaches Sanskrit to young children through LSK.
> Conversation is good too andgreat fun but it should come _after_ a
> thorough grounding in Vyakarana.
The traditional method encompasses both conversation and grammer side by
side. In this day and age different people approach language learning in
different ways. If you can learn both in parallel in the traditional manner,
then great. If not, your experience of learning other languages will be the
best guide as to what is most appropriate for you.

> It's a natural human tendancy to look for gimmicks and shortcuts but in
> most things in life there is no substitute for effort.
Agreed-it requires both head and heart.  Learning spoken Sanskrit is not a
gimmick and shortcut. It is in fact an integral part of the ancient
traditional method of learning Sanskrit.  The more we believe such
approaches to be gimmicks and shortcuts, the more disservice we do to
Sanskrit, as we help reinforce the idea that it is a dead language.  A
language has many parts, of which conversation, literature, and grammer are
its foundation.  Let us not rob Sanskrit of one of its legs.



"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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