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The Sanskrit Language by Jennifer Schmid

According to the American Sanskrit Institute’s website, Sanskrit is the source language of yoga, mantra and meditation. Dating back as early as 1500 BCE, this language is experiencing a global resurgence, due to the fact that many more people are becoming devotees of yoga and meditation

Yoga and Sanksrit

In today’s Western world many people relate to Sanskrit through the practice of hatha yoga. The names of the postures practiced on the yoga mat are in Sanskrit. It also is the language of Patanjali, who authored the Yoga Sutras, arguably one of the oldest written texts on yoga psychology and philosophy which is still being studied throughout the world today by aspiring yogic practitioners. The most translated work of all Sanskrit literature is the Bhagavad Gita, which means “Song of the Lord.” It has been studied and praised by Western poets, philosophers and modern scientists for its sublime, universal spiritual message.

The Melody of Sanksrit

The devotional practice of kirtan chanting, becoming more and more popular with both young and old, derives itself directly from Sanskrit mantras. Chanting is a way of deepening the relationship to our innermost self.

People who have spent time studying Sanskrit experience a special vibratory quality in the very sounds of this language. As most of the literature has been transmitted in verse form, there is a unique rhythm and melody inherent in all Sanskrit compositions. This allows the study and chanting of Sanskrit to function as a meditative discipline and an energizing holistic therapy. Each syllable is said to relate directly to specific centers in our brain, which accounts for the well-known healing quality of Sanskrit chanting. Even a very basic knowledge of Sanskrit grammar as “science of vibration” will give a more genuine and direct experience of the language and more independent access to the ancient texts which encompass all branches of knowledge and culture.

Holistic Nature of Sanskrit

According to Professor Ram Karan Sharma, an eminent scholar, educator, Sanskrit poet, translator and long-time president of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies (IASS), “Sanskrit is one of the oldest surviving members of the Indo-European family of languages, characterized by its uninterrupted continuity for at least the last six thousand years. It is not confined to any region, any religion, any one philosophical school or race or caste. It has served as a vehicle for all kinds of literary, cultural, spiritual, intellectual, philosophical and scientific expressions of humankind throughout the ages. It continues to serve as a medium of expression including day-to-day conversation and modern aesthetic creations. It also has served as a most effective medium for a dialogue of cordial understanding between the East and the West for at least the last two centuries. Sanskrit represents not merely a language, but a distinct tradition that brings us closer to one another linguistically, philosophically, culturally as well as spiritually.”

Sidebar: Dr. Ramamurti S. Mishra (Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati), founder of Ananda Ashram in Monroe, made an incredible contribution to the Western world by creating an educational and spiritual center where the Sanskrit language continues to be taught regularly. In an essay written in 1980, Dr. R.S. Mishra writes: “Language is like the current of a river, such as the river Ganga. It embraces all rivers coming into it, but continues to move on and on, with fresh currents in every moment, and finally its journey is perfected by merging into the ocean. The Sanskrit language is like the Ganga… and its ultimate perfection is in freedom and enlightenment.”

Jennifer Schmid is a resident and teacher at Ananda Ashram in Monroe. The Ashram offers unique classes in Sanskrit language and scriptures regularly throughout the year. Intensives are taught every summer, including intermediate/advanced courses taught by Dr. Ram Karan Sharma. For more information, visit AnandaAshram.org/SchoolofSanskrit.

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