Nature’s Abundance in India’s Sacred Language, Sanskrit

by bria4123 on November 6, 2011

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Reading Sanskrit can feel like swimming in an ocean.


Indians and Greeks were asking questions about the most basic reality by 500BCE. The first Upanisads were being composed by then, and their charged language takes you into a different world than most Greeks knew.

The Chandogya Upanisad takes you back to the universe’s origin. It says that the basis of reality is without eyes, without ears, without voice, without mind, without splendor, without breath, without a mouth, without measure, without an inside, without an outside. Say what?

It’s sure hard to imagine many Greeks being satisfied with this speculation. “Hey Demetrius, you and my donkey are the only things without mind!” They usually liked things to be concrete and defined.

But this statement from the Chandogya Upanisad seems like a huge negative–it’s long, and leaves you with nothing at the end. But the Sanskrit poetry pulls you into a deeper world.

To express a negative in Sanskrit, you just add an A to the beginning of a word. The lines in many Sanskrit poems are much longer than those in ancient Greek. So all the negatives seem to flow in one long current as you recite. Reality is acaksuskam, asrotram, avak, amanah, atejaskam, apranam, amukham, amatram, anantaram, abahyam. All these terms together lift your focus beyond the distinct object that you can define. They encourage you to conclude that ultimate reality can’t be defined, but it’s everywhere. It’s like salt dissolved in water. You can’t see the salt, but it pervades the water.

And the Sanskrit makes you feel like you’re merged in this reality. Reciting this list of words can make a sensitive person feel like he’s swimming in a vast river of life that emerged from the origins. It can seem that you’re dissolved into the energies that the universe came from and that still pervade it. It’s all Brahman.



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tabata May 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Do you have a Facebook fan page for your site?

bria4123 May 17, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Not yet, but I have a personal FB page under Brian Holihan.

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