Revive Sanskrit

We reproduce below the full text of The Telegraph’s leading editorial on 2.3.2016 :

The teaching of Sanskrit, in so far as it exists in Indian educational institutions of higher learning, has become a part of western pedagogy. But in the universities in the West that have a history of teaching and research in Sanskrit, there is emerging a different and remarkable trend. After training in a western academy– be it Oxford or Harvard or somewhere equally distinguished– Sanskritists are coming to India to complete their training by sitting at the feet of a guru in India. Learning Sanskrit in the traditional way with a pundit seems to be making a comeback. The career of Diwakar Nath Acharya, who has just been appointed the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at the University of Oxford, is a case in point. He studied Sanskrit in the modern and the traditional way. One of his predecessors, Bimal Krishna Matilal, also spent time learning nyaya with the traditional pundits in Nabadwip. One factor that is inducing this return to traditional modes of learning Sanskrit is the unfortunate fact that in the western-style  institutions in India, Sanskrit is a dying subject.

Few study it, and even fewer pursue it at the level of research. This is one reason why it is difficult to find a top-class Sanskritist in India outside the world of traditional pundits. Both Mr Acharya and Mr Matilal spent substantial parts of their working life teaching and working in universities abroad.This plight of Sanskrit studies in Indian universities is in need of urgent attention. The human resource development ministry spends time and money in organizing conferences on the correct date of the Vedas and on how ‘Sanskrit’ should be spelt in English. But scant attention is paid to the improvement of the teaching of Sanskrit and research on it in the Indian universities. From the point of view of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the bolstering up of Sanskrit could be a very “nationalist” activity. The aim should be to nurture a pool of talented Sanskrit scholars without first ideologically brainwashing them. To be a good Sanskritist, it is not necessary to be a Hindu. What is needed is a rigour, a discipline and a good blend of the modern and the traditional modes of imparting instruction. Beginning this process would be the first step in getting scholars like the Spalding Professor-elect to come back to teach and work in India.

1. Bhuter Mukhe Ram Nam– Can a ghost utter the name of Ram! Perhaps. As we see ‘The Telegraph’ whose vision is perverted by hideous apostasy and whose love for semetic religion is unbound, has bowed its haughty head and spoke eloquent in favour of Debbhasha of ‘bigoted’ Hindus! Somehow or other it has uttered the truth. Moreover it is championing for the implementation of traditional method of teaching and learning of Sanskrit education and its plight of Sanskrit studies in Indian universities. The words it has used show as much. But surely it sees– of course dimly for a clear vision is impossible to a blind advocate of modernity. Nevertheless, we must welcome the dawning of the sense.

The paper admits that after training in a western academy– be it Oxford or Harvard or somewhere equally distinguished– Sanskritists are coming to India to complete their training by sitting at the feet of a guru in India, and that it is difficult to find a top-class Sanskritist in India ‘outside the world of traditional pundits’.

2. No doubt, the advocates of traditional method of learning in foreign countries found out that Sanskrit literatures are rich with irradiating sparks of knowledge and wisdom and storehouse of immutable truths and this supreme knowledge or Jnyan and wisdom can be attained only by sitting at the feet of the guru and not in a modern classroom.

The admirers of Sanskrit also realized that Sanskrit learning cannot be complete without a study of Sanskrit literatures which are indispensable in Sanskrit education, and that Sanskrit literature offers an expansive view of human nature and Sanskrit literature embodies a comprehensive map of the human makeup: spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. Its philosophical literature presents a clearly structured way of understanding our relationship to the rest of creation and lays out guidelines on how to live life well. This realization can come only by surrender at the feet of Guru.

The Telegraph may lack the inner vision but the world outside India with respectful attitude might have realized the pith that teaching Sanskrit in the modern way, may deny a person of treading the path for the attainment of real bliss and development of the soul to its full delight. The education imparted in the schools and colleges, has nothing to do with the weaning of the soul, with the correction of nature, with the inculcation of truth. True, one need not be a Hindu to learn Sanskrit, but one must have respect towards the Sanatani ethos.

3. Since time immemorial, traditional method of learning through guru-sishya relationship has several advantages. The guru- sishya tradition, or parampara (“lineage”), denotes a succession of teachers and disciples in traditional Indian culture, where knowledge is imparted through the developing relationship between the guru and the disciple. It is considered that this relationship, and the respect, commitment, devotion and obedience of the student, is the best way for subtle or advanced knowledge to be conveyed. The student eventually masters the knowledge that the guru embodies.

The guru accepts responsibility for the educational and spiritual well-being and progress of the new sishya. Sometimes this process will include the conveying of specific esoteric wisdom and/or meditation techniques. In the parampara system, knowledge (in any field) is believed to be passed down through successive generations. Sometimes defined as “the passing down of Vedic knowledge”, it is believed to be always entrusted to the Acharyas.

The guru passes his knowledge to his disciplesby virtue of the fact that his purified consciousness enters into the selves of his disciples and communicates its particular characteristic. The Guru-Shishya relationship pre-ordains the following criteria :

• Deep humility and self-effacement, admission of sin and weakness;

• Total surrender to God as the only true refuge; and

• A divine relationship of love and utmost veneration.

• The strict and unconditional adherence by the sishya to all of the commands of the guru.

An example is the legend that Karna silently bore the pain of a wasp stinging his thigh so as not to disturb his Guru Parashurama.

4. It is also heartening to note that when our own countrymen despise Sanskrit as a dead language and put a saffron tag onto it, its lovers outside India are acknowledging its superiority and sincerely trying to learn it and establish the fact that Sanskrit is still an useful language and rich; rich in vocabulary, rich in literature, rich in thoughts and ideas, rich in meanings and values. Sanskrit with its perfect language, its grand and inconceivable Upanishads, its unrivalled Purans and Itihasas, is a bewitching study, uplifting the soul out of the rut of the millennium, deepening the intellect, widening the vision.

5. “It seems impossible”, says Sir John Woodroffe, “that a race should adopt with avidity a foreign language neglecting its own, as also foreign ideas and customs inimical to ones cultural inheritance”.

Our Founder has commented over it in his inimitable language that :

“The impossibility has been made possible only by a foolish adoration of science, which shows how positively dangerous science is, to real education, to the building up of manhood, to the stiffening up of the human backbone, to the cure of the canker of apish invertebracy. “Godless English education has done its worst, in less than 100 years. It has inculcated into the Hindu mind a contempt for Shastras, a repugnance to truth, and a fascination for falsehood, a senseless sheepishness which can see no good except in a foreign land, an inane and inordinate desire to abjure the customs of their forefathers however good they might be and change them for pernicious and soul-killing customs of the foreigners. Sanskrit is the only cure for these terrible disease of the soul and that is why sinister hearts have been crying bitterly for a long time for the abolition of the Sanskrit.”

Source: “Truth” Dated 29-04-2016 Vol:84 Issue:3 published by Shastra Dharma Prachar Sabha, 91, Chowringhee Road,Kolkata -700020

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