Education

Practical Sanskrit: Simple Sanskrit, Great Ideas

The Sanskrit language is been one of the key contributor for richness of Indian heritage and culture. Making Sanskrit relevant to contemporary world is very critical to understand deeper aspects of ancient Indian thinking.

Shashi Joshi started a blog to bring Sanskrit to common man and shares details with MyBangalore.



How did the idea of practical Sanskrit emerge? What was the motivation behind this?  
 
I have been interested in Sanskrit ever since 5th grade, and after the regular 5-9 class coursework, I borrowed a book - Hitopadesh - from my grandfather, and that perhaps changed my outlook altogether. Since then I have been studying Sanskrit books as a hobby. While in US I found most views of Indians about our culture or Sanskrit per se were very skewed, swinging to extremes. One holds that Vedas have every conceivable science in the world, nuclear bombs were made; to the other extreme that the Vedic people were just a bunch of nomadic nature fearing superstitious people.  
 
About Sanskrit people believe that it either has high-flying spirituality which is good for retirement or has religious superstitions devised for social oppression. In all these extreme views, the opinionated person is the only loser. Sanskrit has a lot of literature by a lot of wise people in a variety of fields. Be it leadership, drama, poetry, psychology, some hard sciences, or practical wisdom. The best use for common people is to benefit from the practical wisdom, the subhashita shlokas - easy to understand. The idea behind Practical Sanskrit is precisely that – ‘Simple Sanskrit. Great Ideas’ and ‘Come curious. Go wise’  
 
When it comes to Sanskrit, it leaves an individual with lot of mysteries because of the ways it can be interpreted (ex. Vedas). There is also an argument going on that whatever Science has invented has already been said in ancient Sanskrit texts. How do you see this argument?
There is nothing mysterious about Sanskrit, just like any other language. You and me may find Greek mysterious because we don't it now. Some non-IT guys may find C++ totally mysterious and esoteric, some mambo-jumbo that non-Bangaloreans have invented to gain supremacy over Bangalore and deprive locals of the economic benefit! How true would that be? :)
 
It is true that Sanskrit is highly refined language and just like training is required for one to be a good programmer, similarly training is required for Sanskrit as well. Interestingly, in 500BC, Panini described the grammar of Sanskrit in much the same way as modern computer languages are defined to the compiler (BNF form). It is not true that every science has been said in Sanskrit texts. What they do excel, the Indian seers, is in the study of the mind and its variations. No doubt there. Human problems are still the same at the core, e.g. self-control, jitendriya is today even more relevant and important.
 
Lot of Chanakya applies, with reinterpretations, even today for corporations, which are today's empires.  Regarding the statement ‘Vedas are infallible truth’, the way I would interpret is that the compilers of Veda richas only carried forward those that they found as truth for their time and space. So whatever is there in Vedas is true, with proper interpretation. But this doesn't means truth can't be found anywhere else. There is no monopoly on truth.

There is a lot of need to bring vernacular languages to Internet. Your thoughts on this?
Language is a vehicle of knowledge and experience. Each language develops vocabulary for thoughts and things that its people need or find. E.g. Sanskrit is rich in spiritual, intellectual vocabulary; English is rich in modern scientific vocabulary due to obvious reasons.  
 
Every language should be used by its speakers. At the end of the day, we are human beings, not living just for earning livelihood, writing computer programs. We need to experience and communicate life. That is best in one's own mother tongue. With Internet being a platform to reckon with, all languages should come on it as well.  
 
How do you see the response for your blog, especially from younger generation?

The response is good. I had held some session in Barcamp Bangalore (6 and 8) on Lesser Known Aspects of Kamasutra, Panchatantra and Yoga Philosophy, where it was heavily younger crowd. They loved each session, which was purely interactive and spontaneous and informal.
 
The crowd on Practical Sanskrit is loyal and growing at a steady rate. It is already over 400 on Facebook in less than 2 months. For a site that provide no movie, fashion or shopping experience, but requires you to be a thoughtful person, that is a pretty good rate, I think.

Some related links:
 
http://practicalsanskrit.blogspot.com

Tags: Sanskrit, Shashi Joshi

2 comments

shashikgp Aug 27th, 2009 08:16 PM

hi,
the links at the end of the article are not working.
they all have extra space in the link's href="" (%20%20 at end)

shashikgp Aug 26th, 2009 09:41 PM

hi, thanks for publishing this.
would like to suggest a minor correction:
 
"the compilers of Veda riches only carried forward those" should read as
"the compilers of Veda richas only carried forward those"
(riches -> richas)
 
the word richa (Richaa, ऋचा) is the name for vedic hymns, from which the first veda gets is name - "rig-veda".
thanks

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