“About two thirds of all of the languages on Earth are languages that were influenced by, or sourced in, Sanskrit, including English by the way. I remember my master Maharishi once saying that English was just Sanskrit spoken with a terrible accent.”Thom Knoles
While many of us think of language as something that evolved from the grunts and noises made by our prehistoric ancestors, Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Veda, has a very unique distinction; it’s an ‘inspired’ or cognized language, reflecting the intention of Nature through sound.
Having obtained a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney, majoring in Sanskrit, Thom is well placed to give us an overview of its origin and a demonstration of its beauty.
He explains how its custodians have preserved its integrity over the centuries, protecting it from the inevitable change of common use.
And for those of us who don’t want to dive deeply into understanding it more fully, he explains why we don’t need to understand Sanskrit intellectually in order to benefit from its meaning or intent.
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The First Child of the Language of Nature
Rishi – One with Super Subtle Perception
Seeing the Sounds
An Absolute Language
An Effect Without Understanding
The Means Alone Won’t Get You There
A Lifetime of Learning Isn’t Enough
Sama Veda – Enlivening Our Experience of the Unified Field
A Beautiful Sound On Its Own
Jai Guru Deva
The Beauty of Sanskrit
[00:45] The First Child of the Language of Nature
I’m Thom Knoles. This is my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. Thank you for listening, and today we’re going to spend some time in a deep understanding and analysis of the language of Sanskrit, what it is, what makes it tick, and so many different things about it. That will be an enticement for you to learn more.
Sanskrit, which frequently in the West is pronounced as San(d)skrit or even Sanscript; those are incorrect pronunciations by the way. Sa(r)nskrit, Sa(r)nskrit. Sa(r)nskrit. The language itself is the first child of the language of Nature. Let me explain.
From the position of the Vedic worldview, every object, every form, every phenomenon is a form, a phenomenon, an object, which has emerged as a vibration out of the undifferentiated, unmanifest Unified Field.
When the Unified Field breaks its symmetry and becomes a form or a phenomenon, then the Unified Field makes a sound. In fact, even before that, when that one, indivisible, whole Consciousness Field, which is the baseline of all the entire Universe, from the microscopic to the macroscopic. When it intends to cause to come into being a form or a phenomenon, the intention itself makes a detectable sound.
[02:45] Rishi – One with Super Subtle Perception
The person who can perceive this sound is referred to as a Rishi, R-I-S-H-I, Rishi. A Rishi is a seer, but a seer means, in this case, someone who has full capability of super subtle perception on the level of all five senses, taste, touch, smell, sight and sound.
Being able to detect the intention of Nature as a sound, a Rishi is able to immediately experience the full quality, the full breadth of qualities of a form or a phenomenon which is being intended.
When a form appears, or a phenomenon appears, a force of Nature, or an object appear, then those objects, those forms, those phenomena, all contain a vibration. They capture a particular vibration and embody it, and that vibration is making a sound, which one can imitate with one’s voice.
When a Rishi imitates the sound of a form or a phenomenon, then that imitation with the voice we call an onomatopoeia. Some of you will remember from high school English lessons what an onomatopoeia is.
[04:28] Sounds Like…
It is a word that attempts to use significant human vocal sounds. We refer to these as phonemes, P-H-O-N-E-M-E-S, for the plural phonemes, or a phoneme. Significant human vocal sounds are used to imitate the phenomenon or the form that one is witnessing. Some examples of this would be sizzle, splash, flap, slap, creak, groan, boom, zoom and so on.
There are more than 6,000 versions of onomatopoetic words that are contained in some of the English dictionaries that we have. So using onomatopoeia evidently was a very powerful method of communication, which has persisted in our language groups for thousands of years.
It is said that the language of Sanskrit is 100% onomatopoetic. That means that the entire language, which is a human language, that is the first child of the language of Nature. Language of Nature is the language of the sound, of the intention of Nature when it’s about to manifest a form or a phenomenon. So when we imitate that using significant human vocal sounds, phonemes, we end up expressing things in the language of Sanskrit.
A Rishi, or a seer, is someone who can detect from the Sanskrit what the form or phenomenon is that is being described, and they can have a fully fledged experience of that form or phenomenon just by hearing the Sanskritic sounds that go into making up that form or phenomenon.
[06:35] Seeing the Sounds
Risha yah mantra-drishtarah, is the way that it is expressed in Rig veda, one of the Sanskrit texts that came out and was written down for the first time more than a thousand years ago, though it’s a 10,000 year old text.
Risha yah mantra-drishtarah, means she is a Rishi who can see sounds. They can see the sounds of the mantras. Now, when we use the word mantra here, let’s not be confused. Bija mantras are the kinds of mantras we use with which to practice vedic Meditation. These are mantras that have no intended meaning and relate to no intended form. They simply de-excite the mind of the thinker of the Bija mantra.
But there is a mantra for every form and phenomenon in Creation. That’s because every form and phenomenon is radiating vibration into the atmosphere, vibration that can be detected by a Rishi. And so to a Rishi, the world is a world of sounds.
Those sounds also have a tactile element and a vision element, and so sight, tactile, and sound, altogether. We won’t leave out gustatory and olfactory. Gustatory means taste, and olfactory means smell, but those are relatively minor compared with those other big three; sight, sound, and tactile sensation.
So the world of Rishi is a world in which the entire world is vibrating Sanskriticly. Sanskrit, therefore, stands out as a unique language.
[08:38] Lingua Franca
For a period of thousands of years, Sanskrit was the dominant communication form of all of South Asia, and there were many scholars who spoke Sanskrit in a very conversational fashion. But there was a point at which there was agreement amongst all users of Sanskrit to stop using it as the lingua franca.
Lingua franca is Latin for the language, which, like French, once upon a time was a language you could speak, if you could speak French, lingua franca, you could speak anywhere in the world because almost everybody spoke some French somewhere. But the word lingua franca, t means now, a language that, if you have that language then you’re pretty likely to be able to communicate with people all over the world.
Sanskrit had been the lingua franca of South Asia, but there was a certain point at which there was agreement reached amongst all of its speakers that it should remain in its current form as it was at that time, and not be used as the common language or the common tongue. And then other languages evolved from it.
And there are several hundred languages in the Sanskritic, proto Indo-European language groups. About two thirds of all of the languages on Earth are languages that were influenced by, or sourced in, Sanskrit, including English by the way. I remember my master Maharishi once saying that English was just Sanskrit spoken with a terrible accent.
[10:29] An Absolute Language
So Sanskrit is the first child of the language of Nature. Someone who has access to that level of consciousness that has that super-subtle perceptual capability, that perceptual acuity, and who can detect the vibration coming from forms and phenomena, is able to experience fully and even find spontaneous language that is Sanskritic. This is a unique role for any language on Earth to have.
One of the reasons why Sanskrit is such a reliable language is that, unlike the average spoken languages of the earth today, no one speaks Sanskrit conversationally. In fact, Sanskrit has not been spoken conversationally for more than 3000 years. The language of Sanskrit has remained an absolute.
[11:32] Fluid Languages
English, for example, goes through a massive amount of change in every generation. The way that we use nouns, verbs, pronouns, proper nouns, articles, connecting phrases, adjectives, adverbs, and all of the different elements that go to make up the grammar and language, expressed language of English, these all are fluid. They’re moving around all the time.
Someone who spoke English very properly 15 or 20 years ago could today also be considered to be speaking very properly, even if they change their language quite considerably from 15 years ago. So what it is that comprises properly-spoken English is change.
[12:32] Olde English
I mean English once upon a time, during the times of Chaucer, and old English times, if you had to listen to A Canterbury Tale, which was a poem written by Chaucer, a classic poem of a pilgrimage that took place in England, and you heard it in olde English as it was once spoken, unless you had training and understanding the meaning of olde English, you wouldn’t be able to follow it.
And so even though it is in English, we need modern-day translations in order to understand it.
The biblical language that was expressed in the King James version of The Bible, for example, with all the thees and thous and thine and thou shalt not, and thou shalt, and all of that; that style of speaking English was very popular not so long ago, during the time of King James in England, when translations of the Bible were modernized to the King James style of speech, which was a style of speech that was in the common parlance that many years ago.
Sanskrit has been made immune to these kinds of changes because it’s not a conversational language and therefore it has, as close as we can possibly attain to in the relative world, it has a certain quality of being almost absolute. Its quality hasn’t changed, even though change is the nature of most conversationally spoken languages.
[14:19] An Effect Without Understanding
Sanskrit is a language which has benefits in terms of both, if you are in a sufficiently high consciousness state and you hear it, then you can visualize the meaning of what’s being spoken, even if, and here’s the catch, even if you don’t understand and haven’t studied Sanskrit. Sanskrit will cause effects in an individual whether or not they understand intellectually what they’re hearing.
And so if I were to say it to you, Oṁ pūrṇam-adaḥ pūrṇam-idaṁ pūrṇātpūrṇamudacyate, pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate, even though you may not understand what I’m saying, and I’ll happily translate that in a moment, it has an effect on you, which is the effect of what’s being spoken in the Sanskrit, the effect that’s there on the level of meaning.
But even without meaning, Sanskrit has a vibratory quality which, when heard by the ear, awakens the intent of those sounds and vibrations in the experiencer of it.
Oṁ pūrṇam-adaḥ pūrṇam-idaṁ, it says, I’m looking at The Universe and That is infinite and full.
Oṁ pūrṇam-adaḥ pūrṇam-idaṁ, and this, the Knower is also infinite, infinite fullness. I am the Unified Field as the Knower, and I am looking at the expressed value and both the Known and the Knower are infinite.
Pūrṇam-adaḥ pūrṇam-idaṁ pūrṇātpūrṇamudacyate, if you take all of that Known away from the Knower.
Pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate, then you will still have infinity because the Knower represents infinity in fullness.
And then it can be sung in a meter, [THOM SINGS] Oṁ pūrṇam-adaḥ pūrṇam-idaṁ pūrṇātpūrṇamudacyate, pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate, and putting it into a sing-song fashion in a meter like that awakens fully the power of hearing that thing.
[17:00] The Means Alone Won’t Get You There
But even if you don’t understand what it means, just hearing it, even if you’re not in Rishi Consciousness, hearing it awakens the truth of the statement inside your Consciousness. This is the unique power of Sanskrit.
Kriyāsiddhiḥ satve bhavati mahatāṁ nopakaraṇe.
Kriyāsiddhiḥ, the success of the actions. Kriyāsiddhiḥ satve bhavati mahatāṁ, the success of the actions of the great is not based in the means that they’re using, nopakaraṇe, it’s based in the Sattva, that is the degree of Pure Consciousness that’s possessed by the person, not just the means.
If you want to achieve something and become great, then the means alone won’t get you there. The means to achieve anything great are attracted to Pure Consciousness, just like iron filings are attracted to a magnet,
Kriyāsiddhiḥ satve bhavati mahatāṁ nopakaraṇe, it means don’t go just with means. Develop that state of Consciousness that attracts all the means to it. Like that.
[18:25] A Lifetime of Learning Isn’t Enough
So Sanskrit is a beautiful sounding language. It has a wonderful musical quality about it. It is deeply rich and absolutely worth studying.
I might hasten here to add, you won’t be mastering Sanskrit in your lifetime.
The Sanskrit scholars whom I know consider themselves to be students of Sanskrit even after 60, 70, or 80 years of study of it.
Sanskrit is a language form, the details of which just keep on giving. It never stops. It’s a beautiful, beautiful language, beautiful to the ear, and beautiful to awaken the intelligence of the Cosmic Intelligence embedded in every Knower.
[19:28] Sama Veda – Enlivening Our Experience of the Unified Field
We strongly recommend listening to Sanskrit in a variety of situations. When you come away on a Vedic Meditation retreat, then you are treated to, in the evenings. After all of the lecture times are finished, you’re treated to recorded recitations of what’s called Sama Veda. It’s the sound Veda.
The Veda. Veda means knowledge or truth, the Veda of sound, and when we hear Sama Veda, this is pure chanting, always done by two pundits who are chosen to have voices that are perfectly resonant with each other. And they chant in a particular meter, and in that meter when chanting, they elongate the sounds, all the different sounds of Sanskrit.
And by chanting in that particular way, in that particular meter, even if you don’t understand exactly what it is they’re chanting, the sound quality of it is designed to awaken those inter-neuronal connections in your brain that allow you to have an experience of Unified Field Consciousness.
To awaken Unity Consciousness is the purpose of Sama Veda, and in our Vedic Meditation retreats, we have Sama Veda available for you to listen to in a relaxed way. After every evening lecture, before going to bed, you get to listen to Sanskrit being chanted, ancient Sanskrit in its purest form. We’re very fortunate to have recordings of that.
Sanskrit can also be very helpful to listen to again, even if you don’t understand fully what it is, what it means in other formats.
For example, when you first learn Vedic Meditation, the teacher of Vedic Meditation, who’s been trained to do this, performs a brief ceremony of gratitude to the tradition of masters who have brought to us all of this wisdom of integration of life.
And the whole thing is done in Sanskrit in a particular meter, intoned in a particular way that awakens in the teacher all the qualities of cognitions, of all the masters whose names are being intoned in that ceremony of gratitude.
When the student hears those intonations occurring, they are a secondary beneficiary. This is why we ask people innocently to witness the ceremony of gratitude. They don’t have to be involved in it, and it’s no business that there’s really. It’s for the teacher to raise the teacher’s consciousness to the highest possible level before giving the mantra that will be used for Vedic Meditation.
But even hearing those Sanskritic sounds intoned in the atmosphere will awaken and open up the consciousness of the listener, who’s the innocent witness of the ceremony that the teacher’s performing for themself and puts you, the student, into the most receptive mode for receiving that element of the practice, the key element, the mantra, that, when you use it effortlessly, will take the mind from the conscious thinking level all the way to the state of Being, to Pure Consciousness.
[23:32] A Beautiful Sound On Its Own
So there are a few tasty tidbits that have to do with Sanskrit. Let’s learn to pronounce the language properly, not San(d)skrit. Not Sanscript. We want to learn to pronounce it correctly. Sa(r)nskrit, Sa(r)nskrit, Sa(r)nskrit.
Sanskrit is a beautiful sound on its own, and that the very first word you learn in Sanskrit is the word Sanskrit.
How to pronounce Sanskrit properly, it starts off with learning to pronounce properly the name of the form of communication itself. The first child of the language of Nature.
Jai Guru Deva