Be natural and at ease with yourself

Fluent Sanskrit Speakers in India

The population of India is over a billion: 1,189,172,906 according to the CIA world factbook. About 80% of them, 750 million people, speak one of the Indo-Aryan languages. Yet the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of the Registrar cites the 2001 census as finding 14,135 list Sanskrit as their mother tongue, and around 49,736 say they are fluent in Sanskrit. (the numbers vary, and have gone up and down in census figures over the past hundred years.) Ethnologue gives a different number: the 2001 survey indicated 2,950 native speakers and 194,433 using Sanskrit as a second language.

For thousands of years, Sanskrit has served as a donor language to “the Prakrits,” the vernaculars. Some scholars estimate that half of the vocabulary of the modern languages of India comes from Sanskrit.

Sanskrit is serving as a donor language to English. For example, the first two lines of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra contain these words: shri devi uvacha - shrutam deva maya sarvam rudra yamala sambhavam. Four of these ten words are in English dictionaries: devi, shruti, deva, rudra.

These Sanskrit words used in the VBT, are already in English dictionaries: Agni, akasha, amrita, ananda, bhakti, Brahma, buddhi, chakra, dhyana, Durga, guru, Indra, indriya, kama, Krishna, Kali, maha, mahatma, manas, mantra, Marut, maya, moksha, Mitra, prana, pranava, puja, Rudra, sadhu, Shakti, Shanti, Shiva, Shunya (sunya), tamas, tantra, tattva, veda, yoga. More and more of the Sanskrit lexicon is becoming part of our common usage.

There are over six hundred thousand words in the Oxford English Dictionary, most of them imported from other languages and integrated into English. I say, let’s import a thousand more words from Sanskrit, adopt them as our own, and let them become part of the common usage. In this way, liturgical Sanskrit can stay the same in its own pure realm, frozen in time and “perfected.” At the same time the rich vocabulary of Sanskrit can be part of the ever- evolving subjectivity characterizing the modern world.**

In India, about 10% of the population speaks English, according to the 1991 and 2001 census figures, which translates to over a hundred million people. Compare this to the approximately fifty thousand, or .005%, who speak Sanskrit.

We are not speaking Sanskrit when we use these words from the Yoga lexicon - we are speaking English, with an extended vocabulary that pertains to our practices.

By the way, the word Sanskrit is an English term to refer to the ancient way of speaking. The Sanskrit equivalent is saṃskṛta, (sam "together" + krta- "to make, do, perform.”) संस्कृता वाक् saṃskṛtā vāk, or संस्कृतभाषा saṃskṛtabhāṣā, "refined speech.”

in a footnote to his 1899 preface to the Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Monier-Williams writes, "Sanskrit is now too Anglicized a word to admit of its being written as it ought to be written according to the system of transliteration adopted in the present Dictionary – Saṃskṛit." p. xii, footnote 1
Sanskrit is now too Anglicized to be written Samksrit

In other words, the very word
Sanskrit is an English word.

saṃskṛta: put together, constructed, well or completely formed,
perfected, made ready, prepared, completed, finished, dressed,
cooked, purified, consecrated, sanctified, hallowed, initiated,
refined, adorned, ornamented, polished, highly elaborated (esp.
applied to highly wrought speech, such as the sanskrit language as opp, to the vernaculars)

Dropping the Diacriticals

Except for a few loanwords from French (soufflé), Italian (caffè), and Spanish (jalapeño), English does not have diacriticals, so they have often been dropped in these pages, even though they give clues to pronunciation. When a language such as English is importing and assimilating words from a language such as Sanskrit – which has sounds not found in English – then it is anyone’s guess how the pronunciation, and the spelling, will turn out.

Sanskrit into English


Living languages adopt and integrate new words, adapting the vocabulary to fit the needs of the time, place, and circumstance. English has already integrated many Sanskrit words. For example, the first two lines of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra contain these words: shri devi uvacha - shrutam deva maya sarvam rudra yamala sambhavam. Four of these ten words are now in English dictionaries: devi, sruti, deva, rudra.

A word is counted to be part of a language when it is in use, being spoken to describe what you are feeling or doing, and when it shows up in magazines, newspapers, Twitter, Facebook, and in books. Many Sanskrit words are being used in this way, and are becoming English. The Sanskrit remains where it is, perfectly frozen in time, and at the same time it inspires modern Yoga practitioners to expand their vocabulary.

There are tens of millions of yoga practitioners in Europe and the Americas, and the Sanskrit yoga lexicon is becoming part of the English language, which has already integrated hundreds of words such as ananda, kama, sutra, shanti, shakti, chakra, yoga, prana, bhakti, asana, pranayama, mantra, maya, Kali, Shiva, Durga, Krishna, Marut, sunya, tantra, indriya, puja, Mahatma, Agni and avatar – these terms are in English dictionaries, part of our evolving language, and growing in usage every day.

Besides pronunciation, it is going to be interesting to see how much of the full meaning of the words comes across.

The word for desire, Kama, has a wide semantic range – its meanings resonate in the areas of wish, desire, longing, love, affection, object of desire, pleasure, enjoyment, love, sexual love, sensuality, Love or Desire personified, the God of Love, a stake in gambling, semen, having an intention.

Every Sanskrit word means itself, its opposite, a name of God, and a position in sexual intercourse

- Wendy Doniger

Sources of English Vocabulary

English isn’t English, sort of. The words we use all day come from German and French, which are influenced by Latin and Greek, which are Indo-European languages, as is Sanskrit. Depending on who you talk to, the percentages - or the pie - looks like this:

500px-Origins_of_English_PieChart_2D.svg
source: Wikipedia

English has, by some estimates, either 800,000 words or a million words. English will still be English if we add a couple of thousand Sanskrit words.

Keep in mind that when you use a Sanskrit word because you find it useful and beautiful, you are not speaking Sanskrit - you are speaking English, which is always inventing new words and giving a new home to immigrant words. Words migrate, they emigrate, they want to be known and used and loved. For thousands of years, Sanskrit has served as a donor language to “the Prakrits,” the vernaculars. No one really speaks Sanskrit - even in India, a civilization of over one billion, three hundred million people, only about 55,000 are fluent in Sanskrit, according to the latest census.

*(Chore for some enterprising graduate student: make a list of the identifiable basic words in the VBT, note which are used in the standard sense, and build a list of the special “tantric” jargon). *It is hard for me to tell, from the glossary I’ve built on my computer over the decades, because it is over five thousand pages long.

India as Having the Second-Largest English-Speaking Population in the World

Here is a wild number - India may soon have the largest English-speaking population in the world, (India Business Blog), with over a hundred million speakers. (Nation Master).

Sanskrit Word of the Day: yojana - joining, harnessing, directing the thoughts to one point



Interesting to see that these were horse people – interested in the technology of carts and chariots, and seeing yoga as a form of yoking.

  • Yójana

  • yójana n. joining , yoking , harnessing
  • that which is yoked or harnessed , a team , vehicle (also applied to the hymns and prayers addressed to the gods) RV.
  • course , path ib.(sometimes m. ; ifc. f(ā).) a stage or yojana (i.e. a distance traversed in one harnessing or without unyoking ; esp. a partic. measure of distance , sometimes regarded as equal to 4 or 5 English miles , but more correctly = 4 krośas or about 9 miles ; according to other calculations = 2 1÷2 English miles , and according to some = 8 krośas) RV. &c
  • instigation , stimulation Sa1h.
  • mental concentration , abstraction , directing the thoughts to one point (= yoga) Up.
  • the Supreme Spirit of the Universe (= paramā*tman) L.
  • [p= 858,1] [L=172751] a finger L.
  • nf(ā). use , application , arrangement , preparation RV. Ka1tyS3r. MBh. Sa1h.
  • nf(ā). erecting , constructing , building Ra1jat. Katha1s.
  • nf(ā). junction , union , combination Sa1h. Veda7ntas.
  • yójanā, f. application of the sense of a passage , grammatical construction

more on yojana here. (scroll to end).


Sanskrit Word of the Day: tantrikā - recently from the loom, new and unbleached, doctrine, noise in the ears


Tantrikā

  • tantraka [p= 436,2] mfn. recently from the loom, new and unbleached Pa1n2. 5-2 , 7
  • traditional doctrine
  • tantrikā f. Cocculus cordifolius*
  • f. noise in the ears
What is Cocculus cordifolius? Looks like an herbal remedy: *”This section is from the book "A Manual Of Practical Therapeutics", by Edward John Waring. Also available from Amazon: A Manual of Practical Therapeutics.

897. Cocculus Cordifolius(Menispermum Cordifolium.) (Gulancha, Hind.) Nat. Ord. Menispermaceae. Linn. Syst. Dicia Decandria. Hab. the Peninsula of India, Burmah, and the Tenasserim Provinces.”Med. Prop. and Action. The root and stem (off. Beng. Ph.) are tonic, diuretic, and slightly febrifuge, and render the Indian practitioner in a great measure independent of foreign medicines of the same class. It is a remedy highly esteemed by the Hindoos, and one which might be advantageously admitted into European practice, being abundant, cheap, and efficacious as a general tonic. The Extract, called by the Hindoos Pah, is considered to be possessed of great power. The best forms for exhibition are the Decoction (oz. ij. - Water Oj., boil thirty minutes, strain, and boil down to fl.oz. iv.) in doses of fl. oz. j. with honey, thrice daily. The Infusion (oz. ij., Cold Water Oij.; bruise the stems in a little water, then add the rest: let it stand for six hours and strain) in doses of fl. oz. ij. - fl. oz. iv., thrice daily; or Tincture (oz. viij., Proof Spirit Oij.), in doses of fl drs.ij.-fl.drs.iv. Of the Aqueous Extract, the dose is gr. lx. - gr. clxxx. daily, in milk, the taste being disguised with sugar.”898. Therapeutic UsesIn Intermittent Fevers, the Extract has been successfully employed by Drs. Stewart, Campbell, Hardie, Piddington, and others; but O'shaughnessy * says that, in his trials with it at the College Hospital in Calcutta, he could scarcely attribute to it any very decided febrifuge effect. In 20 cases of ordinary Quotidian fevers, such as occur in the Tenasserim Provinces, I employed it in doses much larger than those advised in the Bengal Ph., and in every case it prevented the accession of the cold stage; but it did not appear to diminish the severity, or prevent the return of the hot stage. This is a peculiar effect, and one which I have not observed under the use of any other remedy. The Extract deserves further trials; the only forms in which I employed it were the infusion and decoction.”


Glossary of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

(Partial as of July 2011)
Sanskrit has a huge vocabulary to describe delicious states of consciousness. Many of these words are in the process of migrating into English, becoming part of our spoken and written language. There are tens of millions of yoga practitioners in Europe and the Americas, and as they talk to each other about their experiences, the Sanskrit yoga lexicon is becoming part of the English language, which has already integrated hundreds of words such as avatar, asana, mantra, karma, guru, ashram, ananda, kama, sutra, shanti, shakti, chakra, yoga, prana, bhakti, pranayama, maya, Kali, Shiva, Durga, Krishna, Marut, sunya, tantra, indriya, puja, Mahatma, and Agni. These terms are in English dictionaries, part of our evolving language, and growing in usage every day. Sanskrit is acting as a donor language to English, as more and more of its words become part of our common usage. This is what happens when words from one language are adopted and integrated into another language. Living languages do this all the time, adapting the vocabulary to fit the needs of the time, place, and circumstance.

Here are a few of my favorite words from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. Feel free to play with the sounds and their meanings, make friends with them. I love these words and like to give them room to breathe.

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is only about 2000 words in Sanskrit, perhaps 1200 unique words. A simple word count on the text here gives 2392 discrete “words” - that is, anything surrounded by two spaces. But if you delete the | marks, there are only 1901 words, then if you subtract the verse numbers, you get 1740 words. Many of these are long compounds, such as dhāmāntaḥkṣobhasambhūtasūkṣmāgnitilakākṛtim, so if you undo some of the Sandhi and separate the words, you get back up to about 3000 words.

Most of the words used in the text are common dictionary words that can be found in the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary. So it is do-able to have a glossary of each term. That does not mean that they are translatable into one corresponding word of English. Each word resonates through the entire history of yoga, including the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and sometimes back to the Vedas and Upanishads. Very often, the secret “tantric” meaning of a word is alluded to in its dictionary definition.

There is no single English word, or even sometimes a thousand words, that does justice to the vast semantic range of some of these terms. That is why in doing the translation (or version), I often walk around for an entire day chanting just one word and holding its dozen meanings in my awareness. Then I’ll meditate on the word in its sequence, or krama, in the text. More on polysemy in Sanskrit here.

For example, Bhakti:
• distribution, partition, separation
• a division, portion, share
• a streak, line, variegated decoration
• a row, series, succession, order
• being a part of
• belonging to
• that which belongs to or is contained in anything else, an attribute
• attachment, devotion, fondness for, devotion to,
• trust, homage, worship, piety, faith or love or devotion (as a religious principle or means of salvation)

This definition of bhakti, which is simply the dictionary entry put into a bulleted list, weaves a wonderful melody - singing of the relation of the part to the whole, the play and interplay of separation and union. In order for there to be bhakti, devotion, there has to be a sense of separation. See the full definition here. The definition looks more like something from mathematical set theory than a gushy, loving feeling. But that is exactly the precision of this language. Take the phrase, “that which belongs to or is contained in anything else” - a whole genre of popular song lyrics has been generated with this. You belong to me. I belong to you. We are both part of something larger.

Each word is used with great skill, with lots of little jokes, sexual innuendo, and puns thrown in. Just look at samplava, used in verse 70 of the VBT. The sutra sings about the experience of remembering a deep kiss:

lehanāmanthanākoṭaiḥ strīsukhasya bharāt smṛteḥ |
śaktyabhāve 'pi deveśi bhaved ānandasamplavaḥ || 70 ||

samplava: sam-plava - flowing together, meeting or swelling (of waters), flood, deluge, a dense mass, heap, multitude, conglomeration, taking a form or shape, rise, origin, noise, tumult, submersion by water, destruction, ruin, end, close of.

Here in this one word, samplava, is an essay about the delight of being flooded by sensations in the memory of lovemaking, or the desire for lovemaking: The multitude of sensations from everywhere in the body, the sense of something divine and at the same time, the sense of being ruined. You can hear samplava in the speech of ordinary people, and in popular songs.

In these three sections, Sanskrit A-R, Sanskrit S, and Sanskrit T-Y, are a partial glossary of each individual word in the VBT. (task for someone: count how many words are in these three sections).

Keep in mind that when you use a Sanskrit word because you find it useful and beautiful, you are not speaking Sanskrit - you are speaking English, which is always inventing new words and giving a new home to immigrant words. Words migrate, they emigrate, they want to be known and used and loved.

Sanskrit Word of the Day Archive:


From the
Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Sanskrit, it turns out, is good for expressing certain forms of subjectivity, delicate inner experiences. Many if not most of us know these experiences, through love and following our passions, but we may not have the language to express.

Rasa seems to have started life as a word for the sap or juice of anything, and then become sublimated into a word for feelings and the essence of something.

The blue numbers below (that look like this: 869 work as links to the MW dictionary, the other blue abbreviations don’t work.)

Svarasa - your own essence.

svarasa
svá--rasa [p= 1276,2]
own (unadulterated) juice or essence
ib.
partic. astringent juice or decoction
-tas , " through own inclination " , " for pleasure ")
svá--rasa
(ā)n. agreeable or pleasant to one's taste , congenial Sch.
svá--rasa
N. of a mountain Pur.
sva-rasa [p= 1282,1]
āj &c » [p= 1276,2].
(H3) m.

natural or peculiar flavour

proper taste or sentiment in composition

a

the sediment of oily substances ground on a stone

own inclination (

feeling for one's own people

instinct of self-preservation (?)

analogy
(H3B) mf
(H3B) m.
(H1) sva-r


Tantrikā

  • tantraka [p= 436,2] mfn. recently from the loom, new and unbleached Pa1n2. 5-2 , 7
  • traditional doctrine
  • tantrikā f. Cocculus cordifolius*
  • f. noise in the ears


What is Cocculus cordifolius? Looks like an herbal remedy: *”This section is from the book "A Manual Of Practical Therapeutics", by Edward John Waring. Also available from Amazon: A Manual of Practical Therapeutics.

897. Cocculus Cordifolius(Menispermum Cordifolium.) (Gulancha, Hind.) Nat. Ord. Menispermaceae. Linn. Syst. Dicia Decandria. Hab. the Peninsula of India, Burmah, and the Tenasserim Provinces.”Med. Prop. and Action. The root and stem (off. Beng. Ph.) are tonic, diuretic, and slightly febrifuge, and render the Indian practitioner in a great measure independent of foreign medicines of the same class. It is a remedy highly esteemed by the Hindoos, and one which might be advantageously admitted into European practice, being abundant, cheap, and efficacious as a general tonic. The Extract, called by the Hindoos Pah, is considered to be possessed of great power. The best forms for exhibition are the Decoction (oz. ij. - Water Oj., boil thirty minutes, strain, and boil down to fl.oz. iv.) in doses of fl. oz. j. with honey, thrice daily. The Infusion (oz. ij., Cold Water Oij.; bruise the stems in a little water, then add the rest: let it stand for six hours and strain) in doses of fl. oz. ij. - fl. oz. iv., thrice daily; or Tincture (oz. viij., Proof Spirit Oij.), in doses of fl drs.ij.-fl.drs.iv. Of the Aqueous Extract, the dose is gr. lx. - gr. clxxx. daily, in milk, the taste being disguised with sugar.”898. Therapeutic UsesIn Intermittent Fevers, the Extract has been successfully employed by Drs. Stewart, Campbell, Hardie, Piddington, and others; but O'shaughnessy * says that, in his trials with it at the College Hospital in Calcutta, he could scarcely attribute to it any very decided febrifuge effect. In 20 cases of ordinary Quotidian fevers, such as occur in the Tenasserim Provinces, I employed it in doses much larger than those advised in the Bengal Ph., and in every case it prevented the accession of the cold stage; but it did not appear to diminish the severity, or prevent the return of the hot stage. This is a peculiar effect, and one which I have not observed under the use of any other remedy. The Extract deserves further trials; the only forms in which I employed it were the infusion and decoction.”


Svatantra
Self-dependent, self-willed, independent, free, uncontrolled, one's own system or school, one's own army.


Tantra

  • a loom, the warp
  • the leading or principal or essential part, main point, characteristic feature,
  • model, type, system, framework,
  • the principal action in keeping up a family i.e. propagation,
  • doctrine, rule, theory,
  • scientific work, chapter of such a work,
  • a class of works teaching magical and mystical formularies (mostly in the form of dialogues between śiva and durgā and said to treat of 5 subjects , 1. the creation , 2. the destruction of the world , 3. the worship of the gods , 4. the attainment of all objects , esp. of 6 superhuman faculties , 5. the 4 modes of union with the supreme spirit by meditation
  • a spell
  • oath or ordeal
  • an army
  • a row , number , series , troop
  • government Das3. xiii S3is3. ii , 88
  • a means which leads to two or more results , contrivance Hariv. a drug (esp. one of specific faculties) , chief remedy .

more on Tantra.


Mahodaya - Great fortune, prosperity, final emancipation, sour milk with honey


great fortune or prosperity Ka1v. BhP.
pre-eminence , sovereignty L.
final emancipation L.
conferring great fortune or prosperity , very fortunate Mn. MBh. &c
mfn. thinking one's self very lucky BhP.
m. a lord , master L.
m. sour milk with honey L.
m. N. of a vāsiṣṭha R.
m. of a royal chamberlain (who built a temple) Ra1jat. (cf. below)
m. of another man MBh.
m. of a mountain R.
N. of the city and district of kānya-kubja Ba1lar. (also m. L. )
f. Uraria Lagopodioides L.
f. an overgrown maiden L.
f. N. of a mythical town on mount meru BhP. Sch.
maho* dayā [p= 802,3] [L=161324]
f. of a hall or dwelling in the world of the moon Ka1d.

See page 802[p= 802,2] of the Monier-Williams

asya sarvasya viśvasya paryanteṣu samantataḥ |
adhvaprakriyayā tattvaṃ śaivaṃ dhyatvā mahodayaḥ || 57 ||

Bonus word: Prakrit. Prakrit, means “original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual.”

Prakrit is contrasted with Sanskrit, an English word referring to saṃskṛta - “put together, constructed, well or completely formed, perfected, cooked, highly wrought.”

When we adopt vocabulary from Sanskrit, these great and useful words, we are not speaking Sanskrit. We are speaking English, which gets most of its vocabulary from other languages, mostly Greek and Latin. You are speaking English when you say, “I am going to a yoga class” or “I am practicing yoga and pranayama.” Or, I liked the movie Avatar.

Here’s an interesting one: yatimaithuna, when religious mendicants have sex!


yatimaithuna
yáti--maithuna [p= 841,1] [L=169578]
the unchaste life of ascetics L.
(H3) n.




yogapatha

(H3) yóga--patha [p= 857,1] [L=172433]m. the road leading to Yoga BhP.


yogaśarīrin(H3) yóga--śarīrin [p= 857,2] [L=172541]mfn. (one) whose body is Yoga MBh.


yogita(H2) yogita [p= 857,3] [L=172679]mfn. bewitched , enchanted , mad , crazy , wild L.