[Advaita-l] Need information on learning Vedas online

Raghavendra Hebbalalu hs_raghavendra at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 22 23:30:46 CDT 2013

First off, sorry for one more contribution towards heat than light on Advaita-L by adding one more post to this never ending thread. This will be my first and last post on this topic.

One needs to put in reasonable effort to be able to express oneself flawlessly (or even decently) in a given language and understand classics in it. The more the effort, the better the results. 

Samskrit is no exception. Some works (including some of the purANAs) are easy to understand. Several others are not - because of terminology and the subject itself, not just because of language. 

Everybody here has been appreciative of Samskrita Bharati. But the criticism seems to be more in a complaining tone than in a constructive one. I figured I needed to add my perspective because of my association with Samskrita Bharati.

1. Samskrita Bharati insists upon grammatical purity at every given opportunity. Why, they go to the extent of taking mahAkavis like kAlidasa to task for their apANinIya-prayoga in their publications! Look at SB's publication catalog.

2. Samskrita Bharati has a team of vyAkaraNa scholars for their support. Several of them have been honored by none other than mahAsvAminaH at shringagiri. Enough said about vyAkaraNa-baddhatA of Samskrita-Bharati.

3. During the initial stages of learning a language, one must be encouraged. Weren't we encouraged as children to talk more? As babes in Samskrit, the initial learners are expected to stumble and stutter. However, the uniqueness of Samskrita Bharati is in not silencing the speakers but in encouraging them. Did we just start walking? Didn't we crawl and stumble several times? Weren't we encouraged? It pays to encourage shy and demurring speakers of Samskritam by tolerating mistakes. Of course, they will be corrected gently, by their teachers. Samskrita Bharati follows this approach. If some happen to see more of such speakers, it says a bit more about them than about Samskrita Bharati's methods. 

4. Before carping about the lack of dvi-vachana and madhyama-puruSha in introductory Samskrit, think about how other Indian languages are structured and how speakers of such languages approach Samskritam. How many have dvi-vachana? madhyama-puruSha requires more memorization of more lakAras. For conversation, use of Samskritam without these is sufficient. Of course, I miss the natural idiom of Samskrita there - it sounds more like another Indian language - but that will come everywhere with time. To go forward, one must put in more study and Samskrita Bharati has publications to help people move further. Please note, however, that Samskrita Bharati does not "forbid" the use of these features of Samskrit. Samskrita Bharati is, after all, not a self-appointed custodian of the Samskrita language but serves gIrvANabhAShA with a lot of love.

5. About the teachers - just think of primary school teachers as another example. They are definitely not sarvajnas - but suffice for young children. Several of Samskrita Bharati's teachers are at the "primary school" level - able to deliver a prAthamika-shibiraM effectively. After all, it is more about igniting curiosity and interest than getting people bored by getting them to memorize lakAras without knowing why. (This learning by rote method has its merits, no doubt - but it leaves the vast majority running scared from the "magnificent edifice" of Samskritam). The question to answer really is, do we want Samskritam to remain an "elitist" language or be used in conversation and enrich peoples' lives?

6. It is very easy to criticize but very difficult to make a lasting contribution towards popularizing a great language in the face of constant opposition from misguided orthodoxy and misguided "modern" thinking. How many movements can claim as much effectiveness as Samskrita Bharati in the propagation of Samskritam? Can I request for some constructive criticism rather than some off-handed comments in a large list such as this? Please send your mails to ShrI-Krishna-Shastry himself. I am sure he will be glad to answer you.

I am saying all this because I am a proud volunteer for Samskrita Bharati. I too had some misgivings initially but after seeing the love and shraddhA towards gIrvANabhAShA and the sheer selflessness of the volunteers, and seeing its effectiveness in getting people to learn Samskrit, I am happy with the methods of Samskrita Bharati - which obviously are not stagnant but constantly evolve to address newer needs.

I am glad that I have company in Sri Ajit and Sri Subrahmanian on this list.

Finally, demanding that spell checkers and tools be ready to fix our grammatical errors is an irresponsible and lazy statement. Let's make an honest attempt to learn the language before asking for all of this.



----- Original Message -----
From: "rajaramvenk at gmail.com" <rajaramvenk at gmail.com>
To: V Subrahmanian <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com>; A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2013 3:41 PM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Need information on learning Vedas online

I'm a supporter of samskrta bharathi. The volunteers stay at our place in India. I think scholars should improve their methods rather than criticise samskrta bharathi. Also, traditional scholars should be open to criticism from scholars such as Dr. Bhardwaj, whose intention is right.

Even if I heard it wrongly due to inattention, I will be able to correct it my self if I knew the roots and derivation. Is that not right? We can also develop spelling and grammar checkers as we have for English. You may have noticed the errors in my sanskrit mail to Mani Dravid Sastrigal and Lance. I had to use Sanskrit as it is the only common language between them. Let's understand why I got it wrong? a. I'm of low intelligence or b. negligent or c. it genuinely takes hard work to get sanskrit right or d. we don't have the right tools. I think it is the last. 

Scholars also need to understand rules and apply them correctly to create new words. How do we really talk about fracking, chocolates, boson, iPad, scooter etc. If I have to say scooteryanam, its weird. 

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

-----Original Message-----
From: V Subrahmanian <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2013 14:56:43 
To: Rajaram Venkataramani<rajaramvenk at gmail.com>; A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta<advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Need information on learning Vedas online

On Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 1:48 PM, <rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> I went to Samskrta Bharathi's kshibhiram for a few days and it is very
> good pedagogy. My parents completed up to Kovida and speak, read and write
> fluently. My mother taught me to speak family matters in just one week flat.

It is not the mistake of Samskrita Bharati if you have not even got the
name of the course you attended right :-) It is 'shibiram' and not the
word/spelling you have invented.  If you did not care to even put that much
effort how can you fault the institution and their method?  I was awestruck
to hear a homemaker, a Tamilian, address us in fluent Sanskrit at the end
of the ten-day course.  She reported to us how she saw the Ad for the
course a year ago in the newspaper, joined the course and was deeply
impressed and started speaking at home with her three year old daughter and
husband.  To my knowledge she did not take up advanced courses.  She stands
as a model for others to emulate since SB invited her to address us.  I
urged upon her to post her talk on the YouTube so that many can get

As Ajit said in his last (latest) post, most people do not move forward.
In my own case, even if I did not go the paNini-text learning way, the
two-year course of SB was of immense use.  I had the opportunity to pursue
the Vedanta bhAShya-s and texts and the SB course contributed to the
understanding.  As it is the case with acquiring skills in any discipline,
here too the student's effort in exploring newer opportunities to express
himself in Sanskrit is a must.  He should try writing, speaking in whatever
ways possible and learn that way.

Coming to getting expertise I have seen scholars trained and teaching
grammar for decades too use certain prayoga-s cautiously, often checking
with others in the audience openly if their usage is 'sAdhu'.  I have
reported here earlier that the Sringeri Jagadguru has corrected the usages
of such scholars who come to make presentations.  Just like any other
discipline, senior scholars disagree among themselves about certain usages
and the application of the pANinian rules.  Perfection is a lifelong effort
and not easily achieved.


> But one of my friends who is a paninian expert thrashed my confidence in
> speaking and  termed it as "prakrtam". I didn't pursue samskrta bharathi
> further because he convinced me that I will have to unlearn a lot.  My
> parents are of the view that I am at a loss because of that.
> My friend's view is that sanskrtam is a created language and therefore we
> should first learn panini. We should learn usage only as an example of
> paninian sutras.  Couple of friends are teaching through texts such as BhG,
> Ramayana etc. All these
> IMO, scholars should come together to support samskrta  bharathi
> correcting any flaws they may have.

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