Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
By Nithin Sridhar
“World Sanskrit Day” is celebrated every year on the full moon day in the month of Sravana. This year the full moon has fallen on 29-August, i.e. today. Sanskrit is considered as a mother of many of Indian languages. It is also called as “Deva-Bhasha”, the language of the Gods. Though, the usage of Sanskrit in daily life has declined over the last few centuries, yet its influence on Indian life, culture, traditions, art, religion, and practices are still alive and flourishing. Further, Sanskrit is used by various saints and priests to communicate with God, to practice devotion and perform rituals.
To know more about the importance of Sanskrit in today’s world, NewsGram spoke to Jeffrey Armstrong (also known as Kavindra Rishi), the founder of Vedic Academy of Science & Arts (VASA) and a well-known teacher of Yoga, Ayurveda and Bhagavad Gita.
Nithin Sridhar: What is the relevance of Sanskrit in modern day society? What role does it play globally in present times?
Jeffrey Armstrong: This is not the first time in recent history that Yoga and Vedic knowledge have left Bharat and are having a profound effect upon world culture. It is only we, who are unaware of the true history of the spread of language, knowledge, and culture on a global scale. Those who colonize other cultures and those who have founded the three Abrahamic religions have not been inclined to mention the sources of those from whom they have “borrowed” the knowledge and practice. This is the third time in the last 5000 years that Yogic wisdom has become a mass movement and reshaped the world.
The first was during the Persian Empire in Babylon from 1500-700 BCE during which time thinkers like Pythagoras (“Pitta Gurus”) were trained in Yoga and Vedic philosophy. The second was just before, during, and after the supposed time of Christ. It is a well-known historical fact that at least 150 ships per year were traveling back and forth between Rome and Bharat at that time. The ships were filled with products from both cultures on both legs of the arduous journey. They also carried language and culture and of course Yoga in all its forms.
For example, Sanskrit is definitely the Mother of Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin and numerous European languages, concluding with English. World culture of the time was abundantly present at the great university in Alexandria, just down the road from where Jesus was supposedly in exile. This means that all three Abrahamic religions were formed surrounded by yogic knowledge. As a note, religion means re-ligare or bound by rules. So only these three qualify as religions. Vedic culture including the Buddhist version are properly called “Dharma Cultures”, since neither are bound by a single “rule book”. Buddha was a reformer of the Vedic culture and not the founder of a religion; the same is true for the Jain Dharma and Mahavira. You could think of the three Abrahamic religions as “people of a book”, whereas the Vedic people are the “people of a library”.
NS: How important is Sanskrit to the practitioners of Hinduism in US, especially to non-Indian practitioners?
JA: At this present moment, the first thing to notice is that no one has been funding the promotion of Yoga throughout the world. It is spreading as a live culture, like a healthy bacteria that is needed in the social body. There are at least 200 million neo-yogis worldwide who demonstrate clearly that the ancient culture of Bharat is alive and well. The same cannot be said for any other ancient methodology for self-realization. Yoga is fulfilling the modern needs for: healthy embodiment, a vegetarian and organic diet, a preventive and natural medical system, a male/female and healthy vision of the Supreme Beings, a view of Earth as a live entity who is sacred, a gentle and non-exploitive view of plants and animals, a many-lifetime world view rather than a fear-based one life perspective, as sex positive culture that sees the human body as a temple, as a practice that connects us to all life but leaves that connection in the hands of the individual, a freedom or moksha-based end goal which rewards individual effort without needless hierarchy and religious bureaucracy. These are just a few of the motivators for the millions of Americans who are adopting Yoga which again is rooted in Sanskrit.
NS: Tell us something about the relevance of Sanskrit in adhyatma (spirituality) and sanskriti (culture and tradition).
JA: A fair comparison would be to ask how relevant programming languages are to the performance of computers, culminating in their use for all forms of wireless communication. Similarly, Sanskrit is the foundation of adhyatma and sanskriti.
On a side note, spirituality is a confusing English word borrowed from the Greek language. The first problem is the use of the word God and many gods as also the word spiritual. The word “spiritual’’ is originated from the Greek word “Spiritus” which means “to breathe”. The English term God was originally a Sanskrit word taken from the Vedas and mentioned several times in the Bhagavad-Gita: “Hutam” or the smoke arising from an offering placed into a sacred fire ceremony. Hutam became “Gutam” in German, “Goot” in Dutch, and “God” in English.
Now the “God” word is the one and only cover word for the Supreme Reality in English. It does not have a specific meaning in English. What is mistakenly called Hindu religion should be referred to as Vedic Sanatan Dharma culture, meaning basically that they are involved with a body of learning which attempts to describe things that are always true. It is not just a book of rules, a blind-faith based club to join or an aggressive conversion based.
NS: In Hindu tradition, the letters (phonemes) of Sanskrit are believed to have been revealed to Panini by Lord Shiva which is popularly called as Maheshwara Sutras. How do you understand this? Should it be seen in a cosmic context as the very sound or shabda (word) being a manifestation of God, and Sanskrit a language which grew out of those phonemes as a language of the Gods?
JA: As I said God, religion and gods are not correct words to speak about Vedic Knowledge. Pannini did not receive the phonemes of Sanskrit, they were given to him in a specific order as 14 combinations which facilitated arranging the 4000 rules of Sanskrit grammar in the best possible arrangement to produce concise sutras. Sanskrit should be seen as the residence of the Devas who are really the various laws of nature. The Vedic idea of creation is that matter was “downloaded” from the realm of Brahman by sound vibration. Pannini said that he was the last scholar in the 50 generations of linguists working on perfecting the written rules of Sanskrit Grammar. That does not mean the letters, which are considered timeless and originated with Pannini.
NS: Why Sanskrit was used to impart Vedas and express other inner spiritual knowledge and experiences?
JA: The point of Deva Bhasa or Sanskritam was to use it as a programming language that does not “drift” or change over time. This would have allowed teachings to be passed on without loss or distortion over very long periods of time.
NS: Is it possible to convey the message of Hindu scriptures in its wholeness using languages like English? There are many terms in Sanskrit like Dharma, which cannot be translated into any single word in other languages. Please share your views about these “non-translatable” (a term often used by Rajiv Malhotra) words.
JA: No, it is not possible in English, German, Latin, Greek or any of the other languages which came from Sanskrit and are thus degraded forms of it. Groups of English words can be arranged to give a fairly accurate representation of those single Sanskrit words like Dharma. To do this requires deep scholarship in both languages. I am almost finished with a Bhagavad-Gita translation that has removed all Christianized English words and insists that the reader learn at least 200 Sanskrit words in order to express the many concepts that have never been explained by English words.
NS: What role has Sanskrit played in the propagation of Indic philosophy and way of life in history, not only in India, but across South Asia?
JA: Too big a question for this space but suffice it to say that if you dig beneath the surface in those cultures you will find Veda.
NS: In certain quarters of academic Sanskrit studies, Sanskrit is considered as being a language of hegemony and oppression throughout history and it is also alleged that Sanskrit was never a common man’s language and was always confined to the elites. What is your view on this?
JA: I believe what you mean is that in the academia created by countries like England, who colonized India and much of the world, extremely intelligent languages like Sanskrit are feared and have been suppressed by inventing the story that they were elitist and that they had been used to suppress others. The historical truth is that Bharat was the wealthiest country in the world when the British arrived. At that time, public education in Sanskrit and regional languages was free for all. That Sanskrit education was purposely destroyed by the British so they could enslave the people of Bharat and steal their wealth. It also explains why the British strategy to destroy India was to stop Sanskrit education of the masses.
NS: These days, Sanskrit is often considered as a dead language in many sections of academia, media, and even by the common people in India. Do you agree with this assessment? Is Sanskrit really a dead language or has it only declined over last few centuries and hence needs to be revived?
JS: In Bharat or as the colonizers called Her – India, there are news broadcasts in Sanskrit listened to by millions of people. Is that also true for ancient Greek, Latin, or Egyptian? Sanskrit is not only alive and growing but the 200 million non-Indian Yogis in the world are beginning to learn it as a part of their Yoga curriculum.
NS: What should be done to promote Sanskrit?
JA: Bhagavad-Gita says: “Yad yad acharati sreshtas tat tad evetaro janaha say at pramanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate.” It means: whatever actions are performed by great persons, other people follow their example. Similarly, whatever standards thought leaders set, others also pursue. Through technological science we now have a universal language of working with matter. That science had its roots in the Vedas. What the world needs badly and is hungry for is a universal language of timeless philosophy that helps us to unify with each other around truths that are for the benefit of all. The Sanskrit vocabulary is filled with concepts and words that will help the world cooperate and find a way to avoid fighting and harming life in all its forms.
NS: Do you want to convey any other message to people, especially the Sanskrit enthusiasts on this World Sanskrit Day?
JA: I would like everyone to realize that Sanskrit is the Mother of our modern languages and hope that by this knowing, they will think of Sanskrit as a universal resource for all beings, and not just as an ancient language or as an Indian language. Sanskrit is a universal language meant to steady our progress as human beings inhabiting this beautiful planet. Words and we ourselves are on a long journey of trying to understand.
Like so many words in English, the word “God” is an acquisition of a constantly colonizing culture, too busy trying to look grown up and sophisticated to bother giving credit to anyone else. This would be less problematic if the dogmatic branches of Christianity had not used the word so abusively, behaving as if they were the first and the only tradition to have a single source conception of the Supreme Reality or a name for such a Being.
The historical truth is that God began His journey as a part of the process of Vedic Yajna, wherein there are various components: the Kratur or Vrat – the vow or intention for the lighting of the fire; then there is the Svadhaa – Sva means “one’s own” and Dha means “intention or offering”; then there is Aushadam or the herbs and medicines which create a healing effect upon the environment including one’s own body. This word is rooted in two Sanskrit words, Ayus and Prashadam; next is the mantra which must be intoned correctly, and then of course comes the Aajyam or the all-important Ghee to be placed into the mouth of Agni, the Deva of fire into whose mouth all this is being placed; and finally, the Hutam or oblation poured into the fire and arising as smoke skyward towards Svarga loka, the realm of the Devas. This Hutam travelled via German as Guta (which it still is in Dutch) and then into English as God stinging the eyes as a minor irritant in the larger atmosphere of theological discourse. Therefore, God is the smoke arising from the offering in a Vedic Yajna.
Alright so now you know that the Christians, while all along decrying the Vedic tradition as Pagans (i.e. Bhagans or followers of the one Supreme Being – Bhagavan), have actually borrowed Hutam now slightly distorted and yet useful Sanskrit name, which they have promoted worldwide as God – the only and true word for their idea of the only true conception of Divinity (see Veda, Vide, Viva and Latin Uiedean).
But, all these Sanskrit words pertaining to God and the Yajna are simply a rudimentary explanation of Chapter 9 verse 16 of the Bhagavad Gita – “I am the ritual, I am the sacrifice, I am the offering, I am the medicinal herb, I am the sacred text, I am the ghee, I am the fire and I am God (oops), I am the smoke arising from the oblation.”
The point I am trying to make is, if you look carefully at English you will see Sanskrit hidden everywhere! Like an archaeological dig, the evidence of our ancient common root and connection with each other is in the languages we speak every day. Sanskrit, Samskritam or as it is translated: the perfected language is a linguistic tool to help us remember our universal relationship with each other. It is everyone’s language and its revival will give us more tools to work together with for a future we will all be proud of and pleased to leave to our children.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, may peace and discernment spread everywhere.
Many stray animals are trying to survive as the temperature in the capital continues to drop. Many strays lose this battle trying to find food and warmth under a scrap of clothing or caged up in the corner of streets. The Perroayuda Welfare Foundation (PWF), a Delhi-based animal welfare organisation, recently held a Mega Stray Feeding Drive in Lajpat Nagar with the goal of feeding all of the area's stray animals. These wonderful Samaritans come from all around Delhi-NCR with one goal in mind: to rescue, feed, and adopt all animals in need.
Many stray animals are trying to survive as the temperature in the capital continues to drop. | Af.Mil
PWF has previously staged feeding drives in Netaji Subhash Place, Connaught Place, North Campus, Delhi University, and other locations throughout the city. A group of 70 volunteers fed over 100 stray dogs in the vicinity and provided water in earthen bowls. To raise awareness about the issue of stray animals, volunteers talked with businesses, local authorities, customers, and hawkers. The actions of this group of young animal advocates were recognised and supported.
"Donations come in from all around the world." To save strays and pay for their treatment, we rely completely on donations. "Every day, our organisation feeds roughly 1000 stray dogs," says Arpit Mathur, the organisation's founder. "Throughout the day, we receive SOS calls. We can only accomplish so much with our limited staff and resources. We hope that more young people, like us, would join us in this cause." In Rohini, the NGO also maintains a recovery centre. Currently, the recovery centre accommodates roughly 40 animals, including cats, dogs, monkeys, and a few unusual birds.
To rescue, feed, and adopt all animals in need is the goal of these people. | Photo by Camilo Fierro on Unsplash
PWF seeks to discover and feed all stray animals in need, as well as provide them with food, care, affection, and medical treatment, and organise Mega Stray Feeding Drives to raise awareness and adoption. "We discover stray animals, pet them, and feed them - no one deserves to be hungry," Mathur adds. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: adopt, feed, rescue, goal, Delhi-NCR, Perroayuda Welfare Foundation, Winter, stray animals, Help, Initiative, volunteer)
Indonesian lawmakers passed a law on the relocation of the nation's capital to the island of Kalimantan, which shares borders with Malaysia and Brunei, from the most populated island of Java. The move is a step forward in one of the most ambitious projects initiated by the country's President Joko Widodo, Xinhua news agency reported. Some former presidents had floated ideas of relocating the capital city in the past. The president, widely known as Jokowi, three years ago vowed to relocate the capital city to the province of East Kalimantan due to a number of issues like high population density and land subsidence in Jakarta which is home to more than 10 million people.
Indonesian lawmakers passed a law on the relocation of the nation's capital. Aditya Joshi / Unsplash
Nusantara, which the new capital is called, will be built in two districts in East Kalimantan -- Penajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kartanegara. It is set to occupy about 256,000 hectares of land. The name of Nusantara, which can be translated as an archipelago in English, was chosen by President Jokowi, Minister for National Development Planning Suharso Monoarfa has said. Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, is home to some 270 million people, consisting of about 17,000 islands. "The national capital has a central function and serves as a symbol of a country to show the identity of the nation and state," Minister Monoarfa explained during a meeting with lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Also Read : Hinduism in Indonesia
The ground-breaking of the construction project that is slated to cost $32 billion was initially expected to be conducted in August 2020, but the Covid pandemic has forced the government to put it on hold. Some of the projects on the construction of the new capital will be carried out by public-private partnerships, and the early stage of the relocation will begin this year and is expected to end in 2024. At this stage, the government will build a presidential palace, parliament buildings, and a housing complex in the primary zone. The move of civil servants at the early stage must be completed before August 16, 2024.
The construction project is slated to cost $32 billion.Sulthan Auliya / Unsplash
Nusantara will serve as the centre of government, while Jakarta would remain the business and economic centre of Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy. A day before the lawmakers passed the bill, President Jokowi stressed that that new capital is not only about physically relocating the offices of government institutions, but also "building a new smart city." It has been reported that Nusantara will be headed by an authority chief appointed by the president and its level of position is equal to a minister. Several former government officials which will likely become the chief include Jakarta's former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and former minister for research and technology Bambang Brodjonegoro. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : Indonesia, Parliament, law, relocate, capital, Nusantara, Jakarta, government, Kalimantan, President, country, people, meeting, construction, palace, buildings, housing, officials.)
- Indonesia has the Poorest Education Sector in Southeast Asia: PISA ... ›
- The Tojarans of Indonesia dig up dead relatives to celebrate Ma ... ›
By Olivia Sarkar
Everyone has a special affinity with their pets. Furry friends are there for you in good times and bad, and they know how to cheer you up. After a hard day's work there's nothing like coming home to your own bundle of joy. Here's a round up of some celebrities who can't do without their pets:
Shraddha Kapoor's pet, Shyloh, is her best buddy. Kapoor is frequently spotted spending peaceful time with her all-time bestie.
Shraddha is frequently spotted spending peaceful time with her all-time bestie. | IANS
Pulkit Samrat's devotion to his dog Drogo has resulted in an Instagram account especially for the adorable canine. We can't get enough of how adorable these two are.
Pulkit Samrat's devotion to his dog Drogo has resulted in an Instagram account especially for the adorable canine. | IANS.
Disha Patani is an animal lover and she has not one, not two but four pets. Besides her dance routines, Patani frequently posts images of Bella, Jasmine, Goku, and Keety on social media. The actress also has an Instagram account dedicated to pictures of her pets.
Disha Patani is an animal lover and she has not one, not two but four pets. | IANS
Dude is very close to Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma's heart. The actress has uploaded numerous photos of herself spending quality time with him.
Dude is very close to Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma's heart | IANS.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Priyanka Chopra has a series on social media titled 'Diaries of Diana'. After she tied the knot, she and Nick have adopted Gino and Panda, to complete the family.
After she tied the knot, she and Nick have adopted Gino and Panda, to complete the family. | IANS
Alia Bhatt adores cats. The actress continues to express her affection for her cats by posting photographs of them on Instagram. She has a cat named Edward, who is her all time favourite companion.
She has a cat named Edward, who is her all time favourite companion. | IANS
Actress Kriti Sanon has Disco and Phoebe. The actress keeps sharing videos and images of her furry friends often cuddling or playing with her.
The actress keeps sharing videos and images of her furry friends often cuddling or playing with her. | IANS
Genelia Deshmukh and Riteish Deshmukh
Genelia and Riteish Deshmukh are a power couple, but its only a party when their pooch is in their Instagram-worthy frame.
Genelia and Riteish Deshmukh are a power couple, but its only a party when their pooch is in their Instagram-worthy frame. | IANS
(Keywords: Genelia Deshmukh, Riteish Deshmukh, Kriti Sanon, Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Anushka Sharma, Disha Patani, Pulkit Samrat)