Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Myths around - Is Sanskrit really the best language for computer programming?

Dependency Parser [from paper by Amba Kulkarni]

I recently received a forward about an article on the net Is Sanskrit really the best language for computer programming?  at https://techzoworld.wordpress.com It seems to be the only article on the blog, back from April 2018. No author name given.

The article laments the over-glorification of Sanskrit, specially in context of its use in Computer Science Indeed, there are many such comments, posts, and ideas floated on the net, inspired by Rick Briggs' NASA paper in 1985.

The exaggerations are almost always made by people who don't understand Sanskrit or Computer Science or both.

At the outset, one must understand that Sanskrit is not proposed to be a language in which one does programming. That is, instead of English letters (or French or Chinese or Hindi) one should use Devanagari letters and Sanskrit language. That is never a claim, though fully possible. And that can surely give some boost to folks to write programs in local languages/scripts on India. Just like folks write programs and use computers in languages other than English.

The importance of Sanskrit in Computer Science is to do with the way its grammar is encoded by Panini. He described the entire gamut and power of the language (i.e. its grammar) with a set of about 4000 formulas. Pretty much the way used to define the grammar of a modern computer language. This fact is well documented and not disputed by anyone.

The exaggerations are almost always made by people who don't understand Sanskrit or Computer Science or both. But the author of the article on techzoworld went to the other extreme, most probably due to lack of knowledge of Sanskrit. And towards the end, the author did get carried away in the bashing that he gave space to any and every claim made by just about anybody. Just a few demystification would have been enough for the intelligent.

The aim of this post is to point out other fallacies or misunderstandings in the above article at https://techzoworld.wordpress.com , and not vindicate any exaggerated claims.

Why me? Well, I know enough of Computer Science and Sanskrit to be dangerous enough to write a post about it!

Below, the original text from the article is given, and then my explanation/comment.

Storage issues
Despite the arguably best verbal efficiency, there are a few issues with the language in actual knowledge representation. Sanskrit has a glyph based script rather than the alphabet based script as with Latin and its derivatives.

Any language can be written in any script, if it has enough symbols. Even a new script can be formed. Sanskrit language can be written in almost all of Indian scripts, and a few scripts are not glyph based. Back in early 1990s, Indian students in US developed an ASCII based mapping for the entire Devanagari script, which would not be glyph based! It is called ITRANS. For example, you could write without ambiguity any Sanskrit verse. Like:
IAST: yā vīṇāvaradaṇḍamaṇḍitakarā yā shvétapadmāsanā
Devanagari: या वीणावरदण्डमण्डितकरा या श्वेतपद्मासना
Plain ASCII (ITRANS): yA vINAvaradaNDamaNDitakarA yA shvetapadmAsanA
There are other mappings as well.

Script and language are different, and should not be confused.

Sanskrit’s naturalness
The fact is that Sanskrit, unlike other languages, hasn’t had a natural evolution. Nearly everything about Sanskrit, as is known today, was codified sometime around the year 500 BCE by one person, Panini, who was bent on making it as precise and concise as was humanly possible. Sanskrit didn’t simply happen to have the required characteristics of an artificial language by coincidence. It’s there by design. It is indeed the work of a primitive computer scientist without the hardware. This is not to say Panini intended for his language to be used with machines. At best, his work caught the eye of a pattern seeking human in need of an answer to a difficult, perhaps unsolvable problem – it was bound to happen sooner or later.

This is indeed completely misunderstood perception.

Sanskrit spoken before Panini and after Panini doesn't have a difference of black and white! Even the Sanskrit of Vedas is very similar in structure, vocabulary and grammar as after Panini.
For example, 'na duruktAya spRihayet' 'न दुरुक्ताय स्पृहयेत्' is from Rigveda 1.41.9 (pre-Panini) and is perfect Sanskrit even today (post Panini).

Panini did not define Sanskrit grammar. He described it, not prescribed it.

He created rules that could encapsulate the existing language of his times.

He, like a true scientist, labored hard to make his product (set of rules, not the language itself) as precise as possible, using as little resources (words) as possible. So, it is not at all easy to understand Panini's aShTAdhyAyI on one's own, it is almost impossible. But commentaries that explain the formulas, do help a lot.

But, children learned the Sanskrit language before and after Panini, without learning the grammar first. Just like English kids learn English without learning the grammar first. Sanskrit is a natural language indeed. It was or is not like Klingon language.

Panini was not the first grammarian either. He was one in a chain. He himself cites at least ten grammarians before him. His genius was that he formulated, captured the essence of the entire existing language in a set of about 4000 formulas, that once encoded, were adhered to in learned circles. His grammar text Ashtadhyayi is not meant at all for novices, and even die-hard students take years to master it, because it is encoded succinctly, for an expressed purpose of brevity. That doesn't make the language difficult, it just makes mastering the formulas difficult.

From Wiki source:

The text takes material from lexical lists (DhatupathaGanapatha) as input and describes algorithms to be applied to them for the generation of well-formed words. It is highly systematised and technical. Inherent in its approach are the concepts of the phoneme, the morpheme and the root. His rules have a reputation for perfection[62] – that is, they tersely describe Sanskrit morphology unambiguously and completely. A consequence of his grammar's focus on brevity is its highly unintuitive structure, reminiscent of modern notations such as the "Backus–Naur form".[citation needed] His sophisticated logical rules and technique have been widely influential in ancient and modern linguistics.

The Aṣṭādhyāyī was not the first description of Sanskrit grammar, but it is the earliest that has survived in full.

'it was bound to happen sooner or later.' - this surely reeks of arrogance. This way, anything can be dismissed, be it Newton or Wolfgang Pauli!

The work of Panini was in wide circulation and use in India to teach grammar. When the British got to know of it, and published it in Europe, the entire science of modern linguistics was born. When the world was at war or enjoying wine, women and land - there were minds in India obsessed not just with the tone, scale, stress of the voiced utterances we call speech, one man Panini was also obsessed with finding a way to describe the entire language in as succinct a way as possible, with minimum syllables to remember. And succeeded.

That - is an extraordinary feat for the entire humankind.

The Sanskrit of today, the one reportedly spoken by a few tens of thousands, is about the same as that codified two and a half millennia ago. The language doesn’t evolve, it can’t evolve. Unlike natural languages, speakers of Sanskrit cannot be classified as proficient or eloquent as its precision does not allow gradations. You either speak the language or you don’t; there is no grey. Even artificial languages do not suffer that restriction.

This too is incorrect. Just like there are low, medium and great programmers in computer languages, or even in English (students do get grades, right!) so can one be a good, better, best speaker of Sanskrit language.

Sanskrit doesn't force you to make long words, or non-ending strings of syllables. It allows it, but doesn't demand it. The dreaded sandhi is also mostly optional. Simple spoken Sanskrit is still possible. Will that help you understand deep philosophical texts from 2000 years ago? No. Well, six years of modern English won't help you understand even 500 years old Shakespeare either.

Samskrit Bharati, a Bangalore based organization, focuses on spoken Sanskrit, and has trained thousands of people from all walks of life, who otherwise had no spoken exposure of the language. Learning a language is not difficult, excelling it it to precision and grandeur is. Every child learns his or her mother tongue very easily. But it takes extreme toil to learn a new language later in life. Or to master one's own mother tongue! Not every English speaking person is a Frost, not every musician a Bach.

Sanskrit was never widely spoken. During the past two and a half millennia, Sanskrit scholarship was an exclusive club. None other than the Brahmins were allowed to use it. That all literary works in Sanskrit was made accessible only to the Brahmins, spelt its doom. The thing about languages is that, like living organisms, languages too evolve by natural selection.

Natural languages thrive by fitting the need of the era. The flexible of the lot flourish organically forcing the less prominent ones to wither away. Sanskrit’s resistance to change was the reason of its demise. This is essentially why every attempt to revive the language will fail, no exceptions.

This is a just a hearsay remark, that is just as ridiculous as the author found claims made about Sanskrit. Both arising out of venturing in unknown territories.

Sanskrit was not an exclusive realm of Brahmins only. Its rigorous teaching may have done been mainly by Brahmins. It was as a language taught in every gurukula, which even till mid 19th century had students from all walks of society (as noted in East India Company/British journals of the time). Since every proof has to be from a third party source, one should check "The Third Report on The State of Education in Bengal" by William Adam, 1838 ! Yes, 1838.
As per Western and liberated opinions, by this time, Hindu society must have reached its nadir in terms of all the ills. But refer to page 14 and 18 of the book, to give an idea of the castes of the teachers and students. These are only for sake of example, read the full book for more. And this is just one province in one state.

Page 14 - "The Third Report on The State of Education in Bengal" by William Adam

Page 18 - "The Third Report on The State of Education in Bengal" by William Adam

Sanskrit does allow borrowing words, and actually there has been healthy exchange of vocabulary between Sanskrit and other languages. It has its own rules for making new words, like any language. It can take loan words as well by doing a simple trick. For all vehicles, it can take the loan word and add -yAnam (-यानम्) at end, thus enabling the same word formation as native Sanskrit words. Like, kAra-yAnam (कार-यानम् = car), basa-yAnam (बस-यानम् = bus), Trena-yAnam (ट्रेन-यानम् = train), eyarplena-yAnam (एयरप्लेन-यानम् = airplane, or simple the native Sanskrit word vAyu-yAnam वायु-यानम् = air-vehicle). This is just an example.

The degree of precision that Sanskrit affords its speakers prevents verbosity i.e. purposefully lengthening prose for effect. Attempts at verbosity leads to a redundant prose. Translating to Sanskrit from any other language would thus lead to loss of data. This data isn’t particularly useful in the context of the prose, but having it allows one to deduce information about the author – things like their personality and state of mind while writing. A language that attains precision does so at the expense of creativity. This clearly doesn’t happen with Sanskrit considering the abundance of Sanskrit works.

There is nothing preventing one to be verbose in Sanskrit. It is just not seen very erudite to yap in 15 words, that which can be said in one or two. For example, mantram (one word), its dictionary meaning is a phrase - mananam trAyate iti mantram = that which when contemplated upon, saves/rescues/redeems. So instead of mantram, one can keep using the phrase 'yasya mananam trAyate, tat' (whose contemplation rescues, that), or simply use 'mantram'.

Translating from other languages can be done in a Sanskrit way, going for the message than just the word, or in a very literal way if one chooses to. One also has to look at how words are formed in various languages. Most words in Sanskrit are formed from the attribute of the thing being described. For example, a lotus is called aravindam (one whose petals are spread like spokes), jalajam (one born in water), pankajam (one born in muddy water), kamalam (that which adorns water) etc. And the particular 'synonym' is chosen based on context and meter. But in English, all will go to 'lotus'. I am not aware of any 'meaning' of the word 'lotus' except that the sound combination was chosen to mean a certain flower plant. (I may be wrong here.)

As for 'A language that attains precision does so at the expense of creativity', think of any game. The more rules there are, the more evolved the game is considered! Chess has rules, and you have to play within the rules, and yet players are creative!
Image result for chess image"

Indian classical music has raga, and each raga has set a sequence of allowed and prohibited notes in ascending and descending that must be observed. One may say, how can one create music or enjoy it with so much restrictions!? Here is an example of raga Kirwani on santoor. But there are some of the most heavenly renditions created by maestros while perfectly playing by the rules. So rules don't suppress creativity, they can actually enhance it!
Image result for shivakumar sharma and zakir hussain"

Coming back to Sanskrit, the creativity of the masters of Sanskrit grammars is astounding, and the best examples are rarely understood by mere mortals. They can go so cryptic that it would put Obfuscation C code competitions to shame!

There is an aspect called varNa-chitra, where the Sanskrit grammar master show off, sometimes just to show off, and create amazingly creative verses.

Here are some crazier examples (from The Wonder That is Sanskrit):

  1. jajaujojAjijijjAjI, taM tato'titatAtatut |
    bhAbho'bhIbhAbhibhUbhAbhU-rArArirarirIraraH || (uses same consonants within each quarter) - shishupAlavadham 19.3
  2. dAdado duddaduddAdI dAdado dUdadIdadoH |
    duddAdaM dadade dudde dAdAdadadado'dadaH || (same consonant in both lines) - shishupAlavadham 19.114
  3. kShitisthitimitikShiptividhivinnidhisiddhiliT |
    mama tryakSha namaddakSha hara smarahara smara || (same vowel in each line) - sarasvatI kaNThAbharaNam 2.278
  4. yAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyA |
    yAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyAyA || (all yA's) - pAdukAsahasram #936

Example 1 - shishupAlavadham 19.3

Example 2 - shishupAlavadham 19.114

Just like the craziness of this prize winning code of a chess playing C program :

B,i,y,u,b,I[411],*G=I,x=10,z=15,M=1e4;X(w,c,h,e,S,s){int t,o,L,E,d,O=e,N=-M*M,K
=78-h<<x,p,*g,n,*m,A,q,r,C,J,a=y?-x:x;y^=8;G++;d=w||s&&s>=h&&v 0,0)>M;do{_ o=I[
p=O]){q=o&z^y _ q<7){A=q--&2?8:4;C=o-9&z?q["& .$  "]:42;do{r=I[p+=C[l]-64]_!w|p
==w){g=q|p+a-S?0:I+S _!r&(q|A<3||g)||(r+1&z^y)>9&&q|A>2){_ m=!(r-2&7))P G[1]=O,
K;J=n=o&z;E=I[p-a]&z;t=q|E-7?n:(n+=2,6^y);Z n<=t){L=r?l[r&7]*9-189-h-q:0 _ s)L
!(I[p+1]^n)+l[n&7]*9-386+!!g*99+(A<2))+!(E^y^9)_ s>h||1<s&s==h&&L>z|d){p[I]=n,O
-O|i-n|p-b|LM))P y^=8,u=J;J=q-1|A<7||m||!s|d|r|o<z||v 0,0)>M;O[I]=o;p[I]=r;m?
*m=*g,*g=0:g?*g=9^y:0;}_ L>N){*G=O _ s>1){_ h&&c-L<0)P L _!h)i=n,B=O,b=p;}N=L;}
!r&&++C*--A));}}}Z++O>98?O=20:e-O);P N+M*M&&N>-K+1924|d?N:0;}main(){Z++B<121)*G
++=B/x%x<2|B%x<2?7:B/x&4?0:*l++&31;Z B=19){Z B++<99)putchar(B%x?l[B[I]|16]:x)_
x-(B=F)){i=I[B+=(x-F)*x]&z;b=F;b+=(x-F)*x;Z x-(*G=F))i=*G^8^y;}else v u,5);v u,

Here’s the thing though. People who praise Sanskrit for its precision are the same people who suggest that works in the language need interpretation by scholars. They’re the same people who bend their scriptures to make them appear to reference newly discovered scientific facts. They say Sanskrit doesn’t need disambiguation while failing at translating all of the “ancient knowledge” trapped in their literature.

While there may be some instances of force fitting and extrapolating done by people who are not conversant in science or Sanskrit (or both), over all this point doesn't hold.
Sanskrit works of more than 14 or 20 centuries can be easily understood even today by any college going Sanskrit student, some even school going students. (five to six years of Sanskrit as a first language study). Works of Kalidasa, the Panchantantra, kathA-sarit-sAgara (Ocean of rivers of stories) are all simple enough Sanskrit, and thanks to Panini's standardization, all these works can be understood perfectly well even today. And are actually standard texts in higher classes and college.

What does need lot of interpretation are the deeper philosophical and spiritual texts. For that matter, even the original Bible has not been fully understood. It is just one book, what to say of hundreds and thousands of spiritual works in Sanskrit!

Of course, that doesn’t in and of itself mean anything. It is possible that the paper just gets quoted a lot for having kickstarted all of that research into Sanskrit. The logical next question is, is there any research at all? So, I dedicated about two hours of my info-binging time to look up research related to Sanskrit. Almost all of the publicly accessible real academic research on the language is about its literature, its cultural impact and decoding its complex grammatical rules – yes, that’s still a work in progress apparently. Every research that relates to both, the language and computation, are conducted under dedicated Sanskrit research academies based in India. I’m not saying research done in India is any less worthy than elsewhere. However, there is none to back the claims about Sanskrit gaining a foothold in modern computing.

You obviously understood all about it by two hours of net binging! I just learned Latin and Greek with DuoLingo in 15 minutes! English classes are still discussing Shakespeare and nuances of its shades of meanings and what not! Why ? Haven't they figured out mundane works created only 500 years ago?

True, the speed of work in Sanskrit Computational area has not picked up speed in India, for the same reason. There are not very many who know both the areas deeply. Incidentally, just a few weeks back the 6th International Sanskrit Computational Linguistic Symposium was concluded in IIT Kharagpur. and here is the link to their papers presented.

6th International Sanskrit Computational Linguistic Symposium was concluded in IIT Kharagpur

I would argue that English is in fact the best language to test the scope of natural language parsing simply because the evolution of English isn’t regulated by an academy like many others. It’s free to change and vary depending on the culture that speaks it. English linguists are almost exclusively descriptivists – they don’t police one’s speech as long as everyone understands what they’ve meant. It constantly borrows words from other languages for their own use. When new non-existent words become mainstream, they embrace rather than despise. It thrives by adaptation. An AI system that adapts itself to the evolving language rather than requiring people to speak with precision – that’s intelligence.

Sanskrit grammar is also descriptive. And 'as long as everyone understands' is not happening magically. Every time someone deviates, one has to explain it. And every time a new person stumbles upon a quirk, it has to be learned all over as a new fact. It is like English spellings. It is not just 26 letters and sounds, one has to learn each combination that spells one way but sounds another. It all seems easy if one learns from childhood. There too, one can see how a kid intuitively spells the 'wrong' spelling, because English is a lousy spelling language! It is not a great language, it is a language enforced upon the world due to the British imperialism.

In my somewhat arrogant but educated opinion, Sanskrit as a spoken language is worse than useless today. It’s extremely difficult to learn as is, and it’s not spoken widely.

Opera is not appreciated by many. Percentage wise, less number of Western (Euro-descending) people appreciate Opera, than folks that can understand and appreciate basic Sanskrit, or its musical hymns, prayers and shloka verses! Is ballet, opera dead?

The most famous formula of the world E= mc^2 is utter nonsense to a fifth grader. One has to earn the reward of understanding it, by rigorous Physics and Maths. Is it then all useless? There are only a handful of people who can actually use that formula to actually create something nuclear with it!

Language carries its thoughts, culture, knowledge system with it. From that angle Sanskrit is extremely important and useful. But that is drifting from the topic, which was its use in programming. So, let us not venture in other territories!

The purpose of this article is not to make false claims about Sanskrit the language or its literature. But humans have this tendency, to exaggerate. Everyone does it, in different spheres.

Sanskrit as a language - amazing.
As a store house of human inner wisdom - unparalleled.
As a discipline - mind-blowing.
As the most ancient human oral sounds alive in form of Vedic chanting - unbelievable.
As a language whose study itself promotes logical and analytical thinking - true. If you do it with rigor and sincerity, not a fly-by Learn Sanskrit in 30-days class..

Let us not fly high in exaggeration, nor dig ditches in shaming it.
Either way, loss is one's own, not of Sanskrit.
For truth needs no saving.
It is.
It just is.

[ As usual, if I made a mistake, it is my limited understanding. Please send me your opinion, or comment below. But do try to understand the spirit of the post.]

(c) Shashikant Joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved. Check us on Facebook.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Happy New Year - Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Bihu, Baisakhi, Chaitr Navaratri ...

Image result for ugadi

Wishing all the readers a very Happy Hindu New Year which is celebrated under various names across India. 6th April 2019 is also the Pratipada prathama (date 1), shukla paksha (waxing phase of moon) for the year 2076 Vikram Samvat (year of Vikram)

Ugadi in Andhra and Karnataka, Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Bihu in Assam, Baisakhi in Punjab and Chaitra Navaratri. You may find more details here. The reason is the same - Spring is here.

Mangoes of the first season are seen in the market now. Dishes of unripe green mangoes is common in many parts. Coconut, jaggery, neem leaves are also special for the occasion.

Image result for chaitra navratri

Then of course, we have the Navaratri begin as well. The Chaitra Navaratri, the other one being about 6 months later with the onset of Sharat season.

It has been some time since I have been active regarding Sanskrit writing - blog or Facebook.
With this New Year, I am happy to announce that I am back, with a commitment to much more time for Sanskrit works, and soon full time.

I will be transitioning to spending more and more time working on various projects related to making Sanskrit more relate-able and enjoyable for even those just starting out who may not have enough exposure to it.

Here is to more time spent with ancient wisdom expressed in Sanskrit works, and making them relevant today.

(c) Shashikant Joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved. Check us on Facebook.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Saraswati - how we learn - shraddhA, dhAraNA, medhA

One who is shraddhA, dhAraNA, medhA, divinity of speech and dear to the Creator BrahmA, who resides on the tip of the tongue of the devotee and gives many virtues such as self-control (peace) etc.

Shloka as is:

या श्रद्धा धारणा मेधा वाग्देवी विधिवल्लभा ।
भक्तजिह्वाग्रसदना शमादिगुणदायिनी ॥

yā shraddhā dhāraṇā médhā vāgdévī vidhi_vallabhā |
bhaktajihvāgrasadanā, shamādiguṇadāyinī || (IAST+)

yA shraddhA dhAraṇA medhA vAgdevI vidhi_vallabhA |
bhaktajihvAgrasadanA, shamAdiguNadAyinI || (ITRANS)

Simplified for reading:

या  श्रद्धा       धारणा     मेधा    वाग्देवी     विधिवल्लभा ।
yā  shraddhā dhāraṇā  médhā  vāgdévī  vidhi_vallabhā |
yA  shraddhA dhAraṇA  medhA  vAgdevI  vidhi_vallabhA |

भक्त     -जिह्वाग्र      -सदना    शमादि    -गुण    -दायिनी ॥
bhakta  -jihvāgra  -sadanā, shamādi -guṇa  -dāyinī ||
bhakta  -jihvAgra  -sadanA, shamAdi -guNa  -dAyinI || (ITRANS)

Anvaya (अन्वय)/prosification and sandhi-break:

या  श्रद्धा       धारणा     मेधा    वाक्-देवी     विधिवल्लभा ।
yā  shraddhā dhāraṇā  médhā  vāk-dévī  vidhi_vallabhā |
yA  shraddhA dhAraṇA  medhA  vAk-devI  vidhi_vallabhA |

भक्त     -जिह्वा-अग्र      -सदना    शम-आदि    -गुण    -दायिनी ॥
bhakta  -jihvā-agra  -sadanā, shama-ādi -guṇa  -dāyinī ||
bhakta  -jihvA-agra  -sadanA, shama-Adi -guNa  -dAyinI || (ITRANS)

One who is shraddhA, dhAraNA, medhA, divinity of speech and dear to the Creator BrahmA, who resides on the tip of the tongue of the devotee and gives many virtues such as self-control (peace) etc.

This describes the process of learning. How do we learn?

shraddhA. absorbing, reading to receive the knowledge.
First we must have shraddhA. The mindset to absorb, learn from the guru, book, speaker, experience, whatever that we are trying to learn from. If we don't trust the teacher to be knowledgeable, even he or she reads from a standard textbook, we will doubt. But if we believe in a palm reader, we will trust any prediction made. Children grow because they trust their parents. Every single moment is learning for them in early years. They won't survive if they didn't have the shraddhA in their parents, that whatever parents are doing is for my good.

This also means one is attentive and alert to receive.

All of a sudden many traditional practices make sense - respect for teacher and books, early morning bath (fresh and alert), sitting appropriately while studying etc.

Then we must have the ability to retain what we have heard or read or experienced. This is the memory part.
Whatever we learn, must remain with us, else it is no use listening from one ear and letting go out from the other, as mothers scold their kids in India who don't listen to her sometimes. Attention  and retention. This memory power can also be helped by certain foods, regular practice of being still in body and thought.

After that we must be able to process it, analyze it with our intellect. What use is it to absorb and retain if we can't process it? This too can be helped by certain foods, regular practice of being still in body and thought. But even as modern science proves, one is born with one's IQ, intellect, and there is not much that can change it.

And finally, once we have learned, solved the problem that we were having (whether to cook, build a road, find why I am on this planet, any kind of problem that caused us to sit up and search an answer by learning), once we have solved that, we must communicate it to others for their benefit as well. That is vAk. Communication. Oratory. Teaching ability. Transmitting the knowledge. The power that is knowledge.

Then the other will start a new circle of ‘absorb, retain, analye, communicate’.

And thus, learning is a cyclic process, a paramparA.

Notice how this is what a computer does as well. Input device (absorb), RAM (retain), CPU (process) and output device (communicate).

It is not that everyone has all the four abilities, actually very few have all the four. But those who do, they shine anywhere, no matter what field.

After a devotee (student) has followed this process thoroughly, what happens? A person who has all four abilities, and has used them appropriately, what happens to that person? Saraswati herself packs her bags and shifts her house. She builds a tiny little house on the tip of the tongue of such a devotee, student, learner. Whatever this person then speaks is truth, elegant, easily understood, and communicated. There is a very common saying in India 'Saraswati sits on his/her tongue', specially said for the great poets.

And what else happens to the student, learner?

After knowing there is so much to know, first things happens to a true student is humbleness. And then knowing how the ‘show’ works, how things interconnect, and world is interconnected, the person becomes calm. Fear comes from the unknown. Once you know, the fear is not there. You can avoid it, you can accept it, you can embrace it. After knowing the transient nature of everything, the desire quenches. One doesn’t run after this and that. One becomes self-content. If this doesn’t happen, one has not yet learned truly. The knowledge is shallow.

This lack of disturbance is called sham, the control suppression of. Of what? Of the chaos? Which chaos? The chaos of fluctuating mind-variations (chitta-vRitti). Hence a positive word like peace (shanti) has a negative word like suppress in it. Because, you natural state is peaceful and healthy (svastha). Most animals are peaceful in their own except when driven with body needs. We have created most of the un-peace due to our own mind variations, our own wanton, uncontrolled, ever multiplying desires.

When we know, we control them. We attain peace. So she is the giver of virtues like self-control and peacefulness as well.

[ There are many shlokas, aShTakamas, mantras of divinities. Many would simply think of them as religious talk, with no other value than to the devotee of that religious form. The beauty of most Indian forms is that the form is there to help you, interest you, hold your attention, inspire you. But the real value, wisdom is equally applicable to anyone. There are two layers to everything. For a gyAna-yogI (j~nAna-yogI), one who is only interested in knowledge and not the form, they too can gain. But none should deny the other. That is a gyAna, karma and bhakti are multiple ways to move forward, and most of us have all three types of tendencies in us. ]

And now the language aspects -

yā = she who [is]

shraddhā = the mindset of, being worthy to receive the truth, ready to receive the truth

dhāraṇā = retention, holding.

médhā = intellect, mental vigor or power, intelligence

vāk-dévī = speech-divinity. vAk = speech, voice.

vidhi_vallabhā = dear (vallabhā) to the creator brahma (vidhi)

bhakta = devotee

jihvā-agra = tongue-tip

sadanā = resider. sadana = house, abode. sadanā = one who resides (fem)

shama-ādi = control-etc.

guṇa = virtues

dāyinī = giver (fem)

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Five qualities of a man - पात्रे त्यागी गुणे रागी

Five qualities of a man – giver, virtuous, sharer, intelligent, brave.

(हिन्दी में व्याख्या नीचे दी गयी है)

(Another variation of the fourth quarter goes as ‘sa vai puruSha uchyate’ = he is said to be a man.)

Five qualities of a (real) man:
1) gives to the worthy needy (thoughtfully, not carelessly). Just giving to anyone is not a good giving. Good giving is that which gives to the worthy, needy, in right amount, at right time in the right place. There is not point giving to someone who already has, or will make bad use of it, or when it is too late or too little for the needs.

2) indulges in virtues (not vices). A real cultured man is naturally inclined towards virtues and virtuous, developing good qualities, sponsoring inculcation of good qualities. They are sponsors and pursuers of arts and sciences, dance, music, sports etc.

3) shares [prosperity] with relatives (doesn’t usurp property, or enjoy his good fortune alone). With so many inheritance laws, and land being one of the basic cause of fights from long long time, (Mahabharata!?), the real man does not cheat his relatives of their share. Even from his own share of prosperity, he shares with relatives, so no one feels jealous or inferior.

4) intelligent enough to understand shastra (classics of science and art). A real man is not just about muscles, he is equally smart and intelligent and keen thought leader as well. He is smart in real life situations, negotiator, understand his stuff so no one can fool him!

5) and brave like a warrior in battle. When the time comes, situation demands, he faces it bravely like a fierce warrior in battle.

It may not be possible for one man to have all of them, specially 4 and 5, but it is not that difficult either. Maybe today when we have forgotten how to raise good upright citizens, just (partially) skilled robozens from schools, we may think that you can either be smart academically or strong physically. But bravery is a mental virtue of not giving up, facing what may come in the fight for justice and truth.

Now the language part:
pAtre = in the worthy
tyAgI = giver , one who gives to the worthy, needy
guNe = in qualities
rAgI = one who loves
saMvibhAgI = one who divides equally
cha = and
bandhuShu = among relatives
shAstre = in shAstras, scriptures, sciences
boddhA = knower, knowledgeable
raNe = in battle
yoddhA = warrior
puruShaH = man
pa~nchalakShaNAH =(is) of five characteristic

हिन्दी व्याख्या:
पात्रे त्यागी गुणे रागी संविभागी च बन्धुषु ।
शास्त्रे बोद्धा रणे योद्धा पुरुषः पञ्चलक्षणः ॥

सुपात्र को दान देना, गुणों में रुचि, बन्धुजनों के साथ बाँट कर भोगना, शास्त्रों का ज्ञाता और रण में योद्धा - पुरुष के ये पाँच लक्षण हैं ।

(एक अन्य पाठ्यान्तर में चौथा भाग ‘स वै पुरुष उच्यते’ है ।)

सत्पुरुष के पाँच लक्षण होते हैं –
१) सुपात्र दान । केवल नाम के लिए दे दिया ऐसे नहीं – अच्छा दान वह है जो देश, काल, पात्र, मात्रा देख कर दिया जाए । समय के बाद, गलत जगह पर, गलत मात्रा में या ऐसे किसी को जो उसका दुरुपयोग करे – ऐसा दान ठीक नहीं ।

२) गुणों में रुचि । एक सुसंस्कृत पुरुष स्वभाव से ही गुणों व गुणियों की ओर आकर्षित रहता है । स्वयं गुणों को बढ़ाता है, औरों की भी सहायता करता है । संगीत, नृत्य, कला, विज्ञान आदि स्वयं भी अनुसरण करता है, अन्य लोगों को भी प्रोत्साहित करता है ।

३) बन्धुजनों के साथ बाँट कर भोगना । भूमि को लेकर बहुत पुराने समय से ही विवाद होते रहे हैं (महाभारत !?) । सत्पुरुष पैत्रिक सम्पत्ति में से बन्धुओं का भाग नहीं हड़पता, अपनी समृद्धि में से भी मिल बाँट कर खाता है जिससे किसी में ईर्षा या हीनभावना न आ जाए । गीता कहती है – जो अकेला खाता है वह पाप खाता है ।

४) शास्त्रों का ज्ञाता । शास्त्र का अर्थ है कोई ज्ञान क्षेत्र या किसी भी ज्ञान क्षेत्र में सर्वमान्य अधिकारी कार्य । पुरुष केवल शारीरिक बल का ही प्रतीक नहीं अपितु बौद्धिक बल का भी प्रतीक है । वह व्यवहारकुशल और विचारकुशल है । जीवन के पहलुओं में मध्यस्थता में कुशल, और कोई मूर्ख न बना सके इतना चतुर भी ।

५) और रण में योद्धा । जब समय आ जाए और परिस्थिति की माँग हो तो वह एक निर्भीक योद्धा की तरह लड़ता भी है ।

शायद आप सोच रहे हैं कि यह सब एक ही पुरुष के लिए सम्भव नहीं, विशेषतः ४ और ५, पर यह इतना असम्भव भी नहीं । आज जब स्कूल अच्छे जागरूक नागरिक की बजाय केवल दक्ष रोबोट बना रही है, तब लगे कि या तो बौद्धिक या शारीरिक बल ही बढ़ाया जा सकता है । लेकिन शौर्य या वीरता मानसिक गुण है, जो हमें सत्य और न्याय के लिए लड़ने की शक्ति देता है ।

और अब भाषा विश्लेषण –
पात्रे = (सु)पात्र में
त्यागी = (दान) देने वाला (अपनी वस्तु का त्याग कर किसी और को देने वाला)
गुणे = गुण में
रागी = राग/रुचि रखने वाला
संविभागी = बराबर व ठीक से बाँटने वाला
च = और
बन्धुषु = बन्धुओं में
शास्त्रे = शास्त्र में
बोद्धा = बुद्धिमान, समझने वाला
रणे = रण, युद्ध में
योद्धा = योद्धा, शूरवीर
पुरुषः = पुरुष
पञ्चलक्षणः = पाँच लक्षणों वाला (होता है)

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Take it easy. No one is perfect.

Take it easy. No one is perfect.
Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have or could have.

कस्य दोषः कुले नास्ति व्याधिना को न पीडितः ।
व्यसनं केन न प्राप्तं कस्य सौख्यं निरन्तरम् ॥
= kasya doṣhaḥ kule nāsti vyādhinā ko na pīḍitaḥ |
vyasanaṃ kena na prāptaṃ kasya saukhyaṃ nirantaram || (IAST)
= kasya doShaH kule nAsti vyAdhinA ko na pIDitaH |
vyasanaM kena na prAptaM kasya saukhyaM nirantaram || (ITRANS)

Whose family doesn’t have faults? Who is never afflicted with disease?
Who has not got troubles? Whose happiness has been eternal?

The meaning of this shloka is pretty much straight forward. The main point is, everyone has troubles, no one is perfect, so don’t brood over faults, defects, shortcomings; focus on what can be done, achieved; what you have, rather than what you could have!

Remember Chanakya was a very practical person, so in every one of his utterances, there is an element of practical wisdom, urging to get up and achieve, be careful in the world of ambitions.

And now the language aspects -

kasya doṣhaḥ kule nāsti
vyādhinā ko na pīḍitaḥ |
vyasanaṃ kena na prāptaṃ
kasya saukhyaṃ nirantaram ||

After sandhi vichchheda and anvaya (rearranging) becomes:

kasya kule doṣhaḥ na asti
kaḥ na vyādhinā pīḍitaḥ |
vyasanaṃ kena na prāptaṃ
kasya saukhyaṃ nirantaram ||

kasya = whose? kaḥ/kā/kim = who (m/f/n)

kule = in (extended) family. kulam = family lineage

doṣhaḥ = doShaH = defect, abnormality, fault, bad quality

nāsti = nAsti = na asti = not is

vyādhinā = vyAdhinA = by disease (vyAdhi)

kaḥ = kaH = who

na = not

pīḍitaḥ = pIDitaH = afflicted, stricken by

vyasanaṃ = vyasanaM = bad time, trouble

kena = by whom

na = not

prāptaṃ = prAptaM = obtained

kasya = whose

saukhyaṃ = saukhyaM = happiness. sukha -> saukhyam

nirantaram = without gap, continuous, nir/niH/nis + antaram

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

बर्बर = barbara = barbarian, uncivilized

बर्बर = barbara = barbarian, uncivilized

A barbarian is a human who is perceived to be uncivilized or primitive.

It was used as early as Mahabharata, where Ghatotkacha's son was named barbarIka, having curly hair. He is worshiped as Khatushyamji today in Rajasthan.

Ghatotkacha was born with no hair on his head - ghaTa ut kacha - head without hair.

The Greeks used the word to mean non-greek. The Greeks and Romans used the term as they encountered scores of different foreign cultures, including the Egyptians, Persians, Medes, Celts, Germanic peoples, Phoenicians and Carthaginians. In fact, it became a common term to refer to all foreigners. However, in various occasions, the term was also used by Greeks, especially the Athenians, to deride other Greek tribes and states (such as Epirotes, Eleans, Macedonians and Aeolic-speakers) but also fellow Athenians, in a pejorative and politically motivated manner.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

क्षुरः - kShuraH - razor, knife

Remember those days when you (or your dad) would go to the barber shop and get a shave done with the 'ustaraa' (उस्तरा)? Some even thought of having one for home, to save on the constant expense on the flimsy blades that went blunt in 3 shaves.

The word for knife in common parlance is chhura (छुरा), or chhuri (छुरी).

The famous Zanjeer movie song that went -
chakku chhuriyaan ~~~~
tez karA lo
chakku ki aisee dhaar
ke chakku ban jaaye talwar
(चक्कू छुरियाँ ~~~~~
तेज़ करा लो
चक्कू की ऐसी धार
के चक्कू बन जाए तलवार)

THAT chhuri.

The word comes from Sanskrit word - kShuraH (क्षुरः) .

kShur = क्षुर् = to scratch, to cut
kShuraH = क्षुरः = razor
kShurikA = क्षुरिका = knife, dagger

And we know how 'kSha' gets modified into 'chha' or 'kha' or 'Sha' in languages derived from Sanskrit. That is normal linguistic simplification.
kShetra (क्षेत्र) becomes khet (खेत) (field)
kShetrapaala (क्षेत्रपाल) become khetarpaal (खेतरपाल) (surname)

Only real macho guys get a shave with a 'kShuraH' anymore.
All others are safe in the hands of Mach 5 Twin Blade Smooth Glide Razor Blades.
Sounds like some space mission! :)

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।

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Monday, October 26, 2015

हरिद्रा - haridrA - turmeric

So, yesterday we saw why ginger is called 'adarak'. Ardra (आर्द्र) = moist, and we mentioned turmeric as well.

The color of turmeric powder is bright yellow. And it is a common material to give the yellow color of paintings and dyes. India has been famous for its vibrant colors from time immemorial. Just see any festival dresses, or see the desert designs of Rajasthan. Even before they were writing, they were coloring and making alloys. Remember steel and brass and bronze and the Ashoka pillar?

So, turmeric was used to dye cloths as well. And the color yellow is mentioned many times in names like 'peetambar/pitambar' in shlokas for Vishnu and his avatars.

The cloth on Lord Vishu's chest is of a characteristic yellow color. And Lord Vishnu is called pItAmbaraH (पीताम्बरः = One whose cloths are yellow) or pItAmbaradhArI (पीताम्बरधारी = one who wears yellow cloths). Yellow is also a primary color in the CMYK scheme.

"On the dark skinned (shyAma) Vishnu/Rama/Krishna the yellow cloth seems like the lightening in the dark rain-bearing (hence life giving) clouds" - thus go most of the descriptions of the three. (E.g in shrI rAmachandra kRipAlu bhajuman haraNa bhavabhaya dAruNam ...)

So, turmeric has got the color that is favorite of Hari, i.e. Lord Vishnu.

And hence it is called हरिद्रा (haridrA), - "the moist one with Hari's color."

Turmeric is very beneficial for bones and immunity development and is a natural antiseptic. It was applied on open wounds (after some preparation, not directly as powder) to prevent infection as well. Taking a pinch of it with warm milk daily is a great practice for healthy bones and great immunity and no extra cost.

It is also called haritA. The word 'haladee' is also used in later works of Sanskrit, and is the name in Hindi and many other languages.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

आर्द्रिका - ArdrikA - ginger

We all love a 'kadak adarak-wali chai' - strong ginger tea (with milk, black tea leaves and sugar - of course)

Wah Taj! 
Raindrops dancing on my balcony railing ...
... while I don't have to drive :)

and all that come rushing to the mind.

But what is up with the word 'adarak'? Where did that come from?

I always wondered these things way back in middle school - where do words come from? How did potato come to India? Where did ginger come from? Imported? Do we know if we had potato sabji 3000 years ago? Or ginger cold remedy back in 2000 BCE? And if not imported, what were they called earlier? And how did the new names come up?

Seems that ginger has been around for a while.
It was called aardrika/ArdrikA (आर्द्रिका).
Comes from the base word - aardra = आर्द्र = moist

Now, if you are an old timer, and have seen raw ginger or turmeric (or if you grab the fresh ginger at the vegetable vendor) , you will know that the ginger roots are moist when fresh. So, is turmeric. And then you dry them. Chop them in small pieces or grind them to powder, and use liberally to strengthen your immunity and bones.

So what is turmeric called?

adarak is also called - आर्द्रकम् (aardrakam)

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Saturday, October 24, 2015

तत्त्वम् - tattvam - essence

We all know this word to mean essence of something. But the etymology is even more enlightening. 

tat = it, that
-tva = suffix to denote -ness

For example, 
apanatva = अपनत्व = feeling something, someone as one's own, say with a good friend
mahattvam = महत्त्वम् = greatness, importance
puMsatvam = पुंसत्वम् = manliness

So why does it-ness or that-ness mean essence? 
The Supreme Divine has no gender. It is referred as 'it' or 'that'. The word that itself comes from tat.

The essence of everything is That. It. 
What more indication of the depth of the language and its philosophy!

तत्त्वमसि = tat tvam asi = tattvamsi = That Thou Art!

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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