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Gauracandra

Studying Sanskrit

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I was wondering if anyone could share their opinion on the best way to study/learn sanskrit. I was studying for a while (a few years back) with a teacher but that fell through after a bit. After that I purchased "Sanskrit: A complete course for beginners" by Michael Coulson. The book is very good, but I think its a little bit technical. Plus you don't really get any interaction, or learning how things should sound. Is there any tape series that I could listen to? You know, something like those travel language series that teach you french while you're driving a car.

 

Actually I was thinking right now even if I can't learn the grammar at the moment, perhaps I could build up my vocabulary abit. My idea was to get a simple list of the most common words. For instance, how many distinct words are there in the Bhagavad Gita, not including the conjugated versions. Also, I wanted to get a list of simple words like colors, numbers, animals, adjectives, verbs etc.... I figured vocabulary is the basis of language, then eventually I could learn how to put the words into a proper grammatical order with conjugation etc...

 

So if you could share your opinion on this I'd appreciate it. My prior Sanskrit teacher said the easiest way to learn spoken sanskrit was by learning little rhymes or sayings. I don't remember what they were called but they were the sanskrit equivalent of "A rolling stone gathers no moss" or "The early bird gets the worm". Anyways, any info would be appreciated.

 

Gauracandra

 

 

[This message has been edited by Gauracandra (edited 06-16-2001).]

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I don't think you should try to build vocabulary without learning grammar. Otherwise you will have to learn many many words. But if you learn grammar first, then by knowing the meaning of one word, you will be able to know meanings of many other words. I am not suggesting that you must know everything in Sanskrit grammar before building up vocabulary. In fact, they can go hand in hand. Try to give time on learning Kaal, Kaarak, Sandhi and Samaas.

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I like a book called "First Lessons in Sanskrit Grammar and Reading". Its available from Amazon.com, there is even a link to order it from our books section.

 

What I like about it is that it is more practical. It takes actual verses from the Gita and other sources and explains a gramatical rule from each, so you can see it how it is actually used.

 

 

[This message has been edited by jndas (edited 06-16-2001).]

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Thanks alot guys for the info. I think I'll order some of the cassetes from that site Jagat. I have also heard that there is a radio station in India that broadcasts all of its news every day in Sanskrit. If any of you have heard of it, do you know if they have a real audio site on the internet?

 

Learning a language is sort of odd. It seems to me the way we "learn" (say english in my case) is not by studying (at first) but by interacting with others on a daily basis. Slowly over time our mind starts to see patterns in what it is we are doing. It is only later on that we formally learn the grammatical rules that apply. I remember when I took the SAT, I never used any grammatical rules to determine what I thought were the mistakes in the sentences provided. I almost always just let my ear determine what was right or wrong. Just a few observations.

 

What do you guys think is the best way to study it? My former teacher said the best approach, in his opinion, is just strict memorization. He said memorize first, then the patterns and understanding will come later. I kind of agree with this. When learning math for instance, I think it best to just memorize the multiplication tables. Don't try to understand what 2+2=4 means, just learn it. What it means will become apparent over time. So if you have any tips I'd appreciate hearing them.

 

Gauracandra

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There is a big difference between learning Sanskrit and learning English. You will get many people with whom you can converse in English. But it is very difficult to find a person with whom you can converse in Sanskrit.

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Originally posted by animesh:

But it is very difficult to find a person with whom you can converse in Sanskrit.

Yes thats right.

A lot of them are hermits.

 

Why not learn Brij Bhaas Hindi, the language of Radha and Krishna?

 

 

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Originally posted by jndas:

Hindi did not exist 5,000 years ago, and certainly had nothing to do with Krishna. Brij bhash today has been influenced by many other languages, as have all Indian languages.

1. Pardon my ignorance, but what language did Krishna speak in the historical Vindiraban? Pali?

 

2. When I studied Linguistics, BrijBhaash was accepted as a dialect of Hindi. Perhaps it is the original vernacular and other hindi dialects are perversions of it.

 

 

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Originally posted by animesh:

I like a book called "First Lessons in Sanskrit Grammar and Reading".

 

Why the word First? Is it because the book is very elementary?

Perhaps, Animesh, because it is the first lessons that the author has written:>)

 

 

I wished someone would answer my question too. Earlier I asked, "Pardon my ignorance, but what language did Krishna speak in the historical Vindiraban?"

 

 

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Gauracandra et al, Why not study Sanskrt right here! We can do zravanam kirtanam right here on this thread. Or begin a separate thread.

I also have that Coulson book here next to me. We can go through it together. Something can be learned daily. Forward Ho!?

If so, on what page shall we begin?

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Coulson is good. It is geared toward kavya literature like Kalidas. So anyone who reads it through would likely be well equipped for reading Rupa Goswami.

 

Coulson has the added advantage of leaving everything in transliteration for a while. You have to learn the alphabet eventually, but certainly for learning sandhi, I find that transliteration seems more natural.

 

If anybody wants to do this, I offer my help. I would suggest getting familiar with the sandhi grid on page 34-35 for starters.

 

Ys, Jagat

 

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Just to begin somewhere...

Here's a practical question:

(As it used to be vs As it now stands)

In Svami BhaktivedAnta's 1972 "Gita As It Was" (11.32) we read:

The Blessed Lord said:

Time I am, destroyer of worlds, and I've come to engage all people.

Excepting you (PANDavas), all soldiers here on both sides will be slain.

In his posthumous tampered with 1983 "As It Protrudes" version we read (and weep):

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said:

Time I am, great destroyer of worlds, and I've come to destroy all people.

Excepting you (PANDavas), all soldiers here on both sides will be slain.

This is both a Sanskrt vocab as well as philosophical inquiry.

Which is closer to truth, Absolute Truth?

1972 pravrddhaH = to engage

1983 pravrddhaH = great

1972 pravrttaH = to engage

1983 pravrttaH = engaged

1972 samAhartum = to destroy

1983 samAhartum = in destroying

samAhartum is in/an infinitive form.

There seems to be one verb to many in this zloka. Or not?

Perhaps one too many is symptomatic of our Vizva-rUpa's mood?

kutas tvA = wherefrom this 1983 "destroy all people" idea has come?

After so much Vedik book distribution, could this "destroy all people" be some editor's hidden agenda?

A personal preference?

A next step in the wrong direction?

Why not mass suicide?

Jim Jones followed our 1983 version years before its print.

Did he satisfy Vizva-rUpa by doing so?

 

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<center>mahAn prabhur vai puruSaH

sattvasyaiSa pravartakaH

sunirmalAm imAM prAptim

IzAno jyotir avyayaH</center>

 

First of all, Upanishadic Sanskrit is not always purely classical in form. The Svetasvatara is a late, classical Upanishad. There are 11 major Upanishads, but their language is quite different.

 

The Brihad Aranyaka and Chandogya have the most archaic language, being somewhere between classical and pure Vedic and closer to the language found in the Brahmanas, which are considered to be the first set of scriptures that followed the Vedas themselves.

 

But one of the things that can be observed in all the Upanishads is that sometimes a purely correct grammatical reading is impossible. That will be shown in these verses.

 

Second, this verse has to be read in context, because both the one preceding it and the one following it are thematically connected and consist mostly of nominatives.

 

<hr><font color=#669999>Nominative is the "subject" case. The subject of a sentence is always in the nominative. Words in apposition to the subject are also put in the nominative.

 

-- "He is a boy." saH bAlakaH.

-- "She is a girl." sA bAlikA

-- "It is a mountain." tat parvatam <hr></font>

 

The first verse --

 

<center>sarvAnana-ziro-grIvaH

sarva-bhUta-guhAzayaH

sarva-vyApI sa bhagavAn

tasmAt sarva-gataH zivaH </center>

 

ANVAYAH: <font color=#666666>sa bhagavAn sarvAnana-ziro-grIvaH sarva-bhUta-guhAzayaH

sarva-vyApI. tasmAt zivaH sarva-gataH</font>

 

"That Lord [is possessed of] all face-head-neck, [is] hidden in the cave (heart) of every living being; [is] all-pervading. Therefore Shiva is all pervading."

 

GRAMMAR COMMENTS: <font color=#9999FF>There are different classes of compound word in Sanskrit. Most of them are pretty straightforward, so it is not really necessary to give a complicated explanation. But there is one kind, called bahu-vrIhi that is found here: "sarvAnana-ziro-grIvaH", which carries the idea "one who possesses or has all these things." Krishna is called pItAmbara, "yellow-dress" because he wears a yellow cloth.</font>

 

So right away in this verse, we see that the name of Shiva has been found. The Svetasvatara Upanishad has several references to Shiva and none to Vishnu. So though it is a real favorite of theists (it is the most overtly theistic Upanishad), it is not at all Vaishnava in mood. The following verse also has a common name used for Shiva, IzAnaH.

 

<center>mahAn prabhur vai puruSaH

sattvasyaiSa pravartakaH

sunirmalAm imAM prAptim

IzAno jyotir avyayaH</center>

 

ANVAYAH: <font color=#969696>eSaH mahAn prabhuH vai puruSaH IzAnaH jyotiH avyayaH sunirmalAm imAm prAptim [prati] sattvasya pravartakaH </font>

 

<font color=#9999FF>Usually what happens when we do the anvaya is to group the words in the different cases together. You have to be somewhat careful, but certainly when the Sanskrit is simple, it works. Here we have many nominatives, so I have just grouped them at the beginning of the sentence.</font>

 

"This (eSaH) great (mahAn) master (prabhuH) [is] certainly (vai) the soul/spirit (puruSaH), the controller (IzAnaH - also a name of Shiva), the imperishable light (jyotir avyayaH). He is the director (pravartakaH) of existence (sattvasya) towards (prati) this (imAm) most pure (sunirmalAm) attainment (prAptim).

GRAMMAR COMMENTS: <font color=#9999FF>sattvasya is in the genitive case, the possessive, which basically translates as "of." pravartakaH is connected to pravRtti in the Gita verse we had earlier. Nouns that have "ka" at the end are usually (not always) some kind of agent noun. Someone or something that does something. So here it is "one who engages us or makes us act." (The "us" is understood.)

 

The word prati, "towards," is supplied by the commentators. What justifies this addition? Well we have a problem. We have a phrase in the accusative without any verb or preposition governing the accusative case. The best we can do is say that God is engaging our being (sattva) and directing it towards "this" most pure attainment.</font>

 

CONCLUSION: Certainly the words mahAn prabhuH, though evocative of our beloved Mahaprabhu, hardly justify our interpreting this verse as being a predictor of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Indeed, a straightforward reading leads us to confirm that Shaivaite theists wrote this in glorification of their iSTa-devatA.

 

Sorry if that was a bit dense. Please let me know if this is at all helpful to anyone. If it is not, then I will desist.

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The Svetasvatara Upanishad has several references to Shiva and none to Vishnu.

Some Vaishnava commentators explain the name Shiva to refer to Vishnu, which is in line with the statements of Vishnu Purana. Of course you are aware of this, but just for the information of others.

 

 

Certainly the words mahAn prabhuH, though evocative of our beloved Mahaprabhu, hardly justify our interpreting this verse as being a predictor of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

I agree that it isn't a very useful evidence of a prediction. Whether or not the verse actually has this dual meaning will only be known by those who have "seen" the mantra, not on paper of course.

 

Indeed, a straightforward reading leads us to confirm that Shaivaite theists wrote this in glorification of their iSTa-devatA.

I would disagree. Even a text like the rudram is directed to Shankarshana's destructive aspect, though it appears to be a text about shiva (which it also is, since he is part of the destructive aspect of Shankarashana).

 

If we see each of these personalities as absolutely separate entities, the text appears more sectarean. Otherwise the text can be seen as refering to multiple levels of activity, in this case destruction.

 

Anyway, I'm sorry for disrupting this nice thread with a somewhat off topic post.

 

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<center>kAlo'smi loka-kSaya-kRt pravRddho

lokAn samAhartum iha pravRttaH

Rte'pi tvAM na bhaviSyanti sarve

ye'vasthitAH pratyanIkeSu yodhAH</center>

 

I will start by putting the text into proper Sanskrit prose word order (subject-object-verb) and taking the sandhi out. This is called "anvayaH" or putting things in order.

<hr>

 

1. (aham) loka-kSaya-kRt pravRddhaH kAlaH asmi.

 

"I am (aham asmi) time, which is the destroyer of worlds and has grown mature (pravRddhaH)."

 

These two adjectives, loka-kSaya-kRt and pravRddhaH, as well as pravRttaH at the end of the second line, are all in the masculine nominative case, because they have to agree with the noun they modify, kAlaH.

 

(If anyone has a problem with the idea of gender or adjective-noun agreement, let me know.)

 

Different commentaries have different understandings of pravRddhaH. Basically it means "(much) increased" or "(very) mature", like vRddha means old. It would appear to mean "ripe" as in "the time is ripe" for all good karma to come to fruition.

 

2. lokAn samAhartum iha pravRttaH

 

iha here.

 

pravRttaH means "taking up an action." It comes from the same place as pravRtti in pravRtti-mArga.

 

Taking up what? You need an infinitive, so samAhartum, "to completely take away." Basically, "destroy" is good. This is what saMhAra means, which is used in creation, maintenance and destruction. (vizva-saMhAra means destruction of the universe.) The extra "A" doesn't change this meaning.

 

lokAn is the accusative plural of "worlds." That is what is being destroyed.

 

3. Rte'pi tvAM na bhaviSyanti sarve

ye'vasthitAH pratyanIkeSu yodhAH

 

ye yodhAH pratyanIkeSu avasthitAH [te] sarve na bhaviSyanti tvAM Rte api

 

"All the soldiers (yodhAH) who (ye) are standing (avasthitAH) in the opposing armies (pratyanIkeSu), they (te) all ((sarve) will not be (na bhaviSyanti), except for you alone (tvAM Rte'pi)."

 

That's all the time I have.

 

 

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That is creative hermeneutics. I have no objection, as everyone does that to some extent.

 

The argument is basically: the S.U. speaks of a theistic god for whom it uses epithets normally associated with the god Shiva. The theistic principle is more important than the names.

 

Jagat

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The apparent contradictions in the Vedas and Upanishads are all overcome by making the purport as mono-theistic. Hence all schools are agreed that Shiva in the Veda = Vishnu = Brahman.

 

ekam eva advitIyam brahma

 

Cheers

 

 

[This message has been edited by shvu (edited 07-05-2001).]

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<font color=#FF00FF>Since we started on the Gita, I thought I would go through the Bhagavad Gita for Sanskrit beginners. Please give some feedback. I don't know if we'll get through the entire Gita, but a chapter or two will get us through a lot of the basics. I think we can have a test every Sunday or something.<hr></font>

 

<center>dharma-kSetre kuru-kSetre samavetA yuyutsavaH

mAmakAH pANDavAz caiva kim akurvata saMjaya</center>

 

ANVAYA: saMjaya, yuyutsavaH mAmakAH pANDavAH ca eva dharma-kSetre kuru-kSetre samavetAH kim akurvata?

 

Sanjaya, desiring to fight my sons and the Pandavas assembled on the religious field of Kurukshetra. What did they do?

 

GRAMMATICAL COMMENTS:

 

Since I am assuming that most people will be beginners, I will give detailed notes. At the beginning, this may be quite extensive. As we go along, we will be trying to avoid repetition.

 

<font color=#5F9F9F>1. yuyutsavaH. There are many kinds of declension in Sanskrit. Usually you are obliged to memorize these. You are welcome to do so and if you want to follow this, then keep your declension tables at hand. What we have here is the nominative plural of a masculine adjective ending in –u, yuyutsu. There are many nouns that follow this declension, starting with viSNu, etc.

 

Yuyutsu is interesting because it is derived from the root /yudh meaning “to fight.” It comes from the desiderative form of the verb. You are probably familiar with mumukSu “desiring liberation,” or bubhukSu “desiring to enjoy,” or zuzrUSu, “desiring to hear” (also “desiring to serve”).

 

2. mAmakAH and pANDavAH are also nominative plurals of masculine nouns ending in –a. This is the most common declension and more than half of all nouns follow this system. So this declension should definitely be memorized. (I will give the full declension later.)

 

yuyutsavaH is an adjective describing these two nouns. “My sons and the Pandavas want to fight.”

 

3. dharma-kSetre kuru-kSetre. Masculine AND neuter nouns ending in –a share most of the same conjugation. Here we have the locative case, which as its name shows, indicates location, “in” or “at.”

 

kSetra is neuter, as you can see in chapter 13, the nominative singular is kSetram.

 

4. samavetAH is also an adjective agreeing with the two nouns. Now this is also derived from a verb. It is a very important form called the past participle. In Sanskrit, we can often avoid using a finite verb (i.e., one that is conjugated) by using a declined verb form that agrees with the noun.

 

What is interesting about past participles is that they are usually passive, but are sometimes used actively, like here, and with other verbs meaning “to go” and their derivatives.

 

The verb root here is /i, “to go.” The actual p.p. is itaH. Here the prefixes “sam” and “ava” have been added to make samaveta. The prefix sam as you probably know, often means “together” as in <u>saM</u>-kIrtanam.

 

5. kim “what?”. This is an interrogative pronoun in the neuter gender. These pronouns have a special kind of declension that is similar in part to the nouns ending in –a. tataH kim “What next?”

 

They can stand by themselves, or modify a noun. e.g. kiM kSetram “What (or which) field?”

 

6. akurvata “did”. This is a not very common form of the verb kR meaning “to do.” This is one of the most important verbs in Sanskrit, and though it follows a not very common conjugation, it should eventually be learned.

 

It is in the imperfect (past) tense, third person plural, middle voice (Atmanepada). This is just to introduce the terms. I will explain them later.<small><font color=#f7f7f7>

 

 

[This message has been edited by Jagat (edited 07-05-2001).]

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<center>LESSON TWO</center>

<hr><font color=#FF00FF>For July 6, 2001.</font><hr>

 

<center>dRSTvA tu pANDavAnIkaM vyUDhaM duryodhanas tadA

AcAryam upasaMgamya rAjA vacanam abravIt</center>

 

ANVAYA: tadA tu rAjA duryodhanaH pANDavAnIkam vyUDham dRSTvA, AcAryam upasaMgamya, vacanam abravIt.

 

GRAMMATICAL COMMENTS

<font color=#5F9F9F>

1. tadA means “then.” <center><table border=5><font size=-2><tr><td>Adverb<td>Time<td>Place<td>Manner</tr>

<tr><td>interrog.<td>kadA<td>kutra<td>katham<td></tr>

<tr><td>trans..<td>when?<td>where?<td>how?<td></tr>

<tr><td>relative<td>yadA<td>yatra<td>yathA<td></tr>

<tr><td>trans.<td>when<td>where<td>as<td></tr>

<tr><td>correlative<td>tadA<td>tatra<td>tathA</tr>

<tr><td>trans.<td>then<td>there<td>so<td></tr>

<tr><td>universal<td>sadA<td>sarvatra<td>sarvathA</tr>

<tr><td>interrog.<td>always<td>everywhere<td>in every way<td></tr>

</table></center></font>

 

The same pattern is found in pronouns, as you will see.

 

Doubling the relative pronoun adds an “ever.” yadA yadA “whenever”; yatra yatra “wherever,” etc.

 

2. rAjA duryodhanaH “King Duryodhana.” The -aH is, as we have already seen, the nominative masculine ending. Duryodhana is the subject of this sentence. rAjA is the nominative of rAjan. There are a few words that decline in the same way, like Atman, which has AtmA as its nominative form.

 

3. pANDavAnIkaM vyUDham. vyUDham is a <u>passive</u> past participle, “arranged (in battle formation).” It has the same root as the noun vyUha as in catur-vyUha. These words are the object of the first verb in the sentence.

 

4. dRSTvA “having seen.” This is our first encounter with the gerund. This is a very important element in Sanskrit syntax. Sanskrit doesn’t use verbs the way we do in English, nor do most other Indian languages, which follow the Sanskrit model.

 

In English, we will use two finite verbs in the same sentence and join them with “and.” “I ate and ran.” In Sanskrit, we would say “Having eaten, I ran.” khAditvA gataH.

 

Gerunds are pretty simple. They end in -tvA if they have no prefix, and -ya if they have one.

 

upasaMgamya is of the latter kind. upa + saM + /gam + ya. gam is the basic verb root, “to go.” This is a very important verb. “upa” indicates closeness, “sam” together. So it means “coming up to” or “meeting.” AcAryam again is the object.

 

5. vacanam. “word or statement.” This is the object of the verb that follows. It is a neuter noun, but when they end in -a, singular neuter and masculine nouns are exactly the same. They are only different in the nominative.

 

6. abravIt “he spoke,” is another verb in the imperfect tense. It has that a marker before the root, like in akurvata. This is another fairly irregular verb, so I won’t get into it here. This is in the active voice. </font>

 

So, King Duryodhan, saw the Pandava army arranged in battle formation, he went to Dronacharya, and said (this) statement.

<small><font color=#dedfdf>

 

[This message has been edited by Jagat (edited 07-05-2001).]

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