Pls forward to Advaita List (fwd)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Dec 15 17:25:32 CST 1998

On Tue, 15 Dec 1998, Subhanu Saxena wrote:

> It is NOT meant to be a subsitute for learning vyAkaraNa, which we know to
> be one of the vedAnga's.

Well I'm only going by what was posted which seemed to suggest otherwise.
I'm happy to be proved wrong on this.

> Learning through this method breaks down the
> preconceived notion that Sanskrit is impossibly difficult.

I've been thinking about this.  Although the "negative reinforcement" many
people get in school is a factor I believe Indians think Sanskrit is
really difficult for a different, more psychological reason.  It's because
of the awe and reverence we feel towards the language that we actually
_want_ it to be "impossibly difficult."  As the saying goes "familiarity
breeds contempt" and an attempt to bring Sanskrit too "down to earth" may

> 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.

I don't think that it's that obvious.  Sanskrit is in a different class
than those languages.  Although it is spoken in certain circles even to
this day, it is primararily a literary language.  That doesn't make it a
"dead" language but it is not quite a "live" one either.  Rather than
German or Russian, a better comparison to the domain-specific jargon of
say Mathematics.  It is used creatively but only in a certain context.
Although it could be used in a wider one, it generally is not.  Or many of
the Veda Pandits for instance go their entire lives without ever learning
the literal meaning of the words they have memorized but we cannot
conclude those words have no meaning for them.

To get back to the point, the sociocultural use of the Devabhasha is to
talk to the Devas not our neighbors.  And in that situation it does make
more sense to concentrate on grammar rather than speech.


> > 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

I didn't mean that that's what the teacher is after but that's what will
attract students like the aunt of mine who used to hide up a tree during
Sanskrit class. :-)

> 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.

I truly believe that such an approach is the best way to get people well
trained in Sanskrit.


> Agreed-it requires both head and heart.  Learning spoken Sanskrit is not a
> gimmick and shortcut.

No it isn't but people can think it is.  I think we (and no doubt Krishna
Shastriji too) agree that "LEARN SANSKRIT IN A WEEK" is more of a
marketing kind of thing (which is not necessarily a bad thing) not to be
taken literally and the idea is after a week to get people interested in
pursuing the subject for maybe a whole lifetime of study.  But people will
sometimes be attracted to the right things for the wrong reason and they
were the ones I mainly was addressing.

> 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.

Again a non-spoken language is not necessarily a dead one.  A language
without meaning is dead and Sanskrit still has great meaning even to
people who do not speak it conversationally.  The approach that will work
best is the one that is most meaningful.  And by all means that approach
should be fun, just because something is serious doesn't mean it cant be
fun.  We should just keep our priorities that's all.

> A language has many parts, of which conversation, literature, and
> grammer are its foundation.  Let us not rob Sanskrit of one of its legs.

Conversely lets not confuse a leg with an elbow. :-)

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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