India, my Love|Dec 3, 2006 2:44 PM| by:

Sanskrit and India’s Self-Development

India can best develop herself and serve humanity by being
        Herself and following the law of her own nature.
– Sri Aurobindo

Sanskrit is a very special language, India is a very special country and Her National Development an extraordinary promise, each inextricably one with the other two. To study Sanskrit and learn it therefore will not be in terms of its vocabulary with grammatical structure and usage – that may serve only a preliminary acquaintance. A real and intimate entry into it would demand a proper initiation into its native character, its inherent nature, its vision, its philosophy and science and its yogic and occult dynamism. There are for example, some recognised features of Sanskrit, vocally quite familiar to the traditional ear, but demanding a very profound insight of the initiate. The name, as the epithet, samskrita, is a dynamic expression of an inward samskriti with no reference to a geographical location or historical age or people.

In nature, every language develops and evolves. Sanskrit in particular is a living and conscious force, an entity that has evolved from its origin as Devabhasha, ‘Language of the God’, from its root-sounds and root-terms. Growing and flowing into currents of potency, shaping and reshaping its forms and informing itself into inherent connotations, its logical and psychological systems of expressions perfect in the physics of sound in pronunciation, script, philology, phonetics, phonemics, syntax, meanings, naturally emerging from sound and phrases and linguistic gestalts etc. etc. Is it a sheer legendary fantasy that all the primary sounds that issue forth form beats of the drum of Lord Shiva, and that Sound in its original essence is the Original Reality?

Sanskrit not only communicates but it is greatly creative and recreative. It has the power to arouse in us the ideas of Truth and Reality.

The ancient and classical creations of the Sanskrit tongue both in quality and in body and abundance of excellence, in their potent originality and force and beauty, in their substance and art and structure, in grandeur and justice and charm of speech and in the height and width of the reach of their spirit stand very evidently in the front rank among the world’s great literatures. The language itself, as has been universally recognised by those competent to form a judgement, is one of the most magnificent, the most perfect and wonderfully sufficient literary instruments developed by the human mind, at once majestic and sweet and flexible, strong and clearly formed and full and vibrant and subtle, and its quality and character would of itself be a sufficient evidence of the character and quality of the race whose mind it expressed and the culture of which it was the reflecting medium. (SABCL Vol. 14, pp.255-56)

    India’s Self-development: Her National Reconstruction

India being India, not a mere ordinary country, her national development has to be intrinsic, according to her unique inner nature, not extrinsic, in imitative terms. In modern times the word ‘development’ has come to be grossly confused and misleading. We speak of different countries as ‘developed’, ‘developing’, ‘underdeveloped’, ‘undeveloped’ etc. The terms in which we consider their development are material means, technical equipments, economic status-industry, production, plenty to spend and waste etc.– military power and political position; there is hardly any reference to human qualities, cultural refinement, psycho-spiritual excellences, Wisdom, Harmony, Beauty, Nobility, Saintliness, Righteousness. India’s Greatness, her Indianhood demands its own characteristic development. Her National Reconstruction deserves to be primarily inward. Here it has to be a revival, a reorientation, self-recovery, self-awakening, a truly Indian renaissance. Otherwise, carried away by imitative tendencies, we would deface ourselves
into a grotesque figure of modernity in the name of progress.

Our self-recovery, our renaissance would not mean only a return to the past forms of living, it would mean a great and recharged preparation for a greater future in tune with our unique living. In the words of Sri Aurobindo: “The past is our foundation, the present our material, the future our aim and summit.”
Sri Aurobindo’s full guidance is as follows:

Indian can best develop herself and serve humanity by being herself and following the law of her own nature…. India has the key to the knowledge and conscious application of the ideal; what was dark to her before in its application, she can now, with a new light, illumine; what was wrong and wry in her old methods she can now rectify; the fences which she created to protect the outer growth of the spiritual ideal and which afterwards became barriers to its expansion and farther application, she can now break down and give her spirit a freer field and an ampler flight: she can, if she will, give a new and decisive turn to the problems over which all mankind is labouring and stumbling, for the clue to their solutions is there in her ancient knowledge. Whether she will rise or not to the height of her opportunity in the renaissance which is coming upon her, is the question of her destiny. (SABCL Vol. 14, pp.432-33)

We say to the individual and especially to the young who are now arising to do India’s work, the world’s work, God’s work: “…Materially you are nothing, spiritually you are everything. It is only the Indian who can believe everything, dare everything, sacrifice everything. First, therefore, become Indians. Recover the patrimony of your forefathers. Recover the Aryan thought, the Aryan discipline, the Aryan character, the Aryan life. Recover the Vedanta, the Gita, the Yoga. Recover them not only in intellect or sentiment but in your lives. Live them and you will be great and strong, mighty, invincible and fearless… (SABCL Vol.2, p.20)

The soul of India is one and indivisible. India is conscious of her mission in the world. She is waiting for the exterior means of manifestation. The future of India is very clear. India is the guru of the world. The future structure of the world depends on India. India is the living soul. India is incarnating the spiritual knowledge in the world. (The Mother)

The term ‘spirit’ and ‘spirituality’ are quite often mistaken for some exclusive World-negating principle and some world-shunning pursuit for liberation. But the words of the Mother charge: “True spirituality is not to renounce life, but to make Life perfect with a Divine perfection.” And for the reshaping of Indian spirit, her true Renaissance, we have got the clearest guidance of Sri Aurobindo:

The recovery of the old spiritual Knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth and fullness is its first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical Knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavour to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualised society is the third and most difficult. Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity. (SABCL Vol.14, p.409)

    Importance of Sanskrit as National Language

Such being the need and the task of India in view of her uniquely important role in the community of nations, we have now to address ourselves to the effective measures for the recovery of our spiritual culture. And it is here that we have to realize the importance of our native tongue which alone can hold and sustain the generative power of our spiritual and cultural ideals, for a language not only communicates, it also preserves and recreates all the thought-significances, all the psychological richness, all emotional refinement, all the intellectual attainment, all the aspirational depths, all the moral and aesthetic sense, all the spiritual experience. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

….each language is the sign and power of the soul of the people which naturally speaks it… Therefore it is of the utmost value to a nation, a human group soul, to preserve its language and to make of it a strong and living cultural instrument. A nation or race or people which loses its language, cannot live its whole life or its real life.

But what precisely is our native tongue? The geographical extensions of India are so big and its historical ranges are so vast that a simple answer might not appear easily acceptable. And yet the unique fact that in spite of its geographical immensities and despite all the long ages of its history the unbroken oneness of Indian culture has maintained itself, – a fact unknown in the history of any other culture in the world, – invites us to go into a probe about that language which, in spite of all the vicissitudes in our outward life, has all along been vitally effective in our cultural life. History bears out that that language has been Sanskrit.

Just a close study of Indian life will show that we continue having one and the same cultural language throughout the country, and the variations that characterize our different regional languages are of no essential consequence. The entire word-stock in the literary, cultural, religious and spiritual language in all the regions of the country is common, the variations are mostly pronunciational. Most of the regional languages are simply outflows of the original Sanskrit naturally fashioned into folk-phrase, turning into dialects and eventually standardized for convenience as languages. And yet in the whole of this process of democratization the root-words as well as the world-values are perpetually retained and the essential substance of Sanskrit remains intact.

And the other remarkable feature, consistent with the above process of evolution of regional languages from Sanskrit, is that each step of chastening our current language naturally leads us towards the original Sanskrit, and the more chaste a regional language is the closer it comes to every other language in the country. Also, the greater the need of finding adequately rich and appropriate expressions in the regional language, the greater the imperative of falling back upon and drawing from the perennial source of Sanskrit. In addition, the vitality and dynamic creativity of Sanskrit continues working for every language in the country according to the need of coining new words.

As far as our spiritual culture is concerned, and that certainly is our chief concern, – most of the above truths obtain without exception even in the Dravidian tongues, and Sanskrit words and phrases equally abound in them, sometimes even more chaste than in other tongues.

The truth of the matter, therefore, is that Sanskrit not only was but continues to be the one common language of India, running through all the regional languages, and though not widely spoken by the people, yet most alive to their cultural being. Its vitality is an undying vitality. To speak of it as dead is sheer ignorance, it is like refusing to accept the presence of vital breath in a plant because it makes no sound. If we have eyes to see, the truth simply reveals that Sanskrit is our national language, not of course on the surface but deep in the current of our national life.

Recovery of Sanskrit

India’s self recovery naturally implies the recovery of her true language from the underlying currents on to the overt workings. Given a little attention, Sanskrit has all promises. The Mother in her simple words once exhorted:

It would be ideal if, in a few years, Sanskrit becomes the representative Language of India, a Sanskrit made young, that is, a spoken Sanskrit…we find Sanskrit behind all the Indian languages…And it should be that.

Referring to the essentials of Sanskrit, its advantages of root-sounds, etc. the Mother added:

And it is that which ought to be the language of the country which every child born in India must know, just as every child born in France must know French.

Usually, when we speak of Sanskrit, we think of it as a classical language and unnecessarily create for our mind awe about it, believing that only great scholars can learn it. We take it that ordinary students cannot manage with it. The orthodox way of teaching and learning of Sanskrit in the traditional pathashalas has, perhaps, been responsible for this kind of feeling. But all this is due to confused ideas, and we deserve clear understanding. The Mother’s advice is for the original and basic Sanskrit, Sanskrit at the roots of all our languages. She said, “not scholarly Sanskrit, but the Sanskrit, a Sanskrit…that may open the door to all the languages of India. I think it is indispensable.”

Dr, Maheshwar

(Dr. Maheshwar was the Principal of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy at Vrindavan. He later joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and was a Professor of Philosophy at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre for Education. He has written several books and given talks in various Centres in India and abroad.)