Sanskrit & Sánscrito (English-Home)

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 Learning Sanskrit - First Steps (1)

Introduction - An overview of the Sanskrit universe


 Introduction

This page is an introductory one. It is not intended to display in depth Sanskrit, Yoga and so on but rather to give you an overview of the Sanskrit universe. It begins with a brief history of the Sanskrit language, then covers different philosophical and grammatical aspects as well as transliteration and pronunciation, and lastly ends in a set of some celebrated Sanskrit quotes. Well, I hope you will enjoy it really!

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 Brief history of Sanskrit Language

Sanskrit is a very old language. Even though there is no definitive proof, Sanskrit is believed to come from a more primitive tongue called Indo-European. Indo-European is a language built through extrapolations, and there is no written proof. The learned ones say lots of things which oppose one another, but they agree in one point: Sanskrit is a very old language.

The ancient Aryan tribes migrated to India, but their starting point is still controversial. In the last two centuries, the linguists have said a lot of things. At first, the point of departure was located in Europe, later in Bactria and Sogdiana (Central Asia); however, recently, according to the latest researches that zone is traced to be in eastern Anatolia. There is the same uncertainty in relation to the age of Sanskrit, speaking of 1200 BC (the most conservative ones) to 6000 BC. According to some modern researches, the date would be intermediate, about 3000 BC.

In turn, the date on which those Aryan departed --Indo-European-- would be 4500 BC, approximately.

In other times Sanskrit was believed to come from ancient Phoenician, but many contradictory factors with respect to this theory were there. The most important factor was as follows: Sanskrit was a highly sophisticated and philosophical language, but Phoenician had noticeable commercial features, since the Phoenicians were excellent merchants. Well, despite all, the prevalent theory by now --apparently-- states that Sanskrit has an ancient language called Proto Indo-European as its source.

The complicated linguistic study that was done in order to specify dates; and the way in which Indo-European languages, besides Sanskrit, were developing, are not topics to be analyzed here, in this brief history of Sanskrit language. The most important thing is that Sanskrit has connections, somewhat, with most languages we know; and that despite some people believing it to be dead, it is completely alive yet.

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 Codes to be used for Transliteration

Sanskrit language utilized a sign alphabet called Devanāgarī. This alphabet can be learnt but it takes a long time to learn it. That is why, a Transliteration alphabet was created, which uses easy-to-read Roman script and it is not necessary to know signs. However, as Sanskrit has 20 more letters than Roman script, it is was necessary to create 20 new characters --at least-- with diacritical marks (hyphens, dots, etc.). For example, in Sanskrit there were three kinds of "n": the first one is practically as ours, as "n" in "nature"; the second one is as "n" in "burning" (it is pronounced by rolling the tongue back slightly); and the last one is as "n" in "thing" (it is pronounced nasally).

So, a problem arises: how to represent those last two "n", which are not existent in the traditional Roman script? Therefore, an International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) was created, in which a dot (diacritical mark) under "n" was assigned in order to point out a rolling back of the tongue; and a dot above "n" to indicate nasalization. By using Unicode you have your way paved but some characters with diacritical marks will not look rightly on the browsers. Thus, you have to implement a special font too. In my own case, "Andika" is the Unicode font I chose to do the trick.

Transliteration Chart
International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST)
Ā ā
Ī ī
Ū ū
"a", "i" and "u" with a hyphen above are protracted doubly
Ṛ ṛ "r" with a dot below (vowel)
Ṝ ṝ "r" with a dot below and a hyphen above (vowel)
Ḷ ḷ "l" with a dot below (vowel)
Ḹ ḹ "l" with a dot below and a hyphen above (vowel)
--rarely used, hence I generally do not include it in the Sanskrit alphabet--
Ṁ ṁ
Ṅ ṅ
The dot above a letter indicates nasalization ("m" and "n" with a dot above them)
Ḥ ḥ "h" with a dot below indicates the vowel named Visarga
Ṭ ṭ Ṭh ṭh
Ḍ ḍ Ḍh ḍh
Ṇ ṇ Ṣ ṣ
Consonants pronounced by slightly rolling the tongue back are written with a dot below them ("t", "th", "d", "dh", "n" and "s", all of them with a dot below)
Ś ś "s" with a written accent above is just like English "sh"

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 Sanskrit and Indian Philosophies

Most Indian philosophies are in Sanskrit, that is, they possess a mostly Sanskrit literature. Indian literature is the greatest literature in the world; and to set an example: the extent of the sacred Mahābhārata is as much as 14 Odyssey (by Homero). Sanskrit literature is unrivaled all over the world, however, despite the efforts of many individuals, people --especially in my country-- are not properly informed about the matter.

There are six traditional philosophies in India, but they are not the only ones, as several "non-traditional" philosophies are very important too. By the word "traditional" I refer to these 6 philosophical systems as accepting the authority of the four sacred books named Veda-s (Ṛk, Sāma, Yajus y Atharva), and thereby having them in their literature. The traditional systems are as follows:

-NYĀYA: This short word means "logical reasoning". It was founded by Gautamarṣi, that is to say, the seer called Gautama. It is a system of logic and is occupied with the means for acquiring correct knowledge. It is also known as Ānvīkṣikī and Tarka. It maintains a logical reasoning philosophy. The great contribution of this school was the making of inquiry tools and its formulation of the argumentation technique.

-VAIŚEṢIKA: This long word means "excellence", because, according to its followers, this philosophy is superior to other philosophical systems. It also means "particularity", for this system develops the particularity theory. To describe this theory surpasses the knowledge level in these pages. This viewpoint (darśana) was founded by Kaṇādarṣi, and goes practically hand in hand with Nyāya. It classifies all in nine basic realities: earth, water, light, air, ether, time, space, soul and mind. It discusses how these nine basic realities give rise to everything. This movement was at that moment quite a "green wave" that revolutionized traditional concepts.

-SĀṄKHYA: This term means "enumeration". This system is so called since it enumerates twenty five tattva-s or categories of Universal Manifestation, which are not derived from nine basic realities but from two ones, Puruṣa and Prakṛti. We need more knowledge to understand the exact explanation; I will only say that they could be named "spirit" and "matter". That is an approximation. Sāṅkhya also means "discriminative knowledge" for it gives the knowledge needed to discriminate between Puruṣa and Prakṛti, which is essential in order to attain spiritual Liberation in accordance with this viewpoint or darśana. The nine basic realities belonging to the previous system are not put aside anyway here. It only shows that they are not final realities, in the same way as atom decomposition into electrons and protons did not discarded the atom existence, but only showed it not to be the ultimate possible reduction of matter. Sāṅkhya shows that everything evolved from Prakṛti, except the Self or Puruṣa, who does not evolve from anywhere and is ever-existing and uncreated. This phenomenon of philosophies including one another is a constant feature in the majority of systems. Perhaps the followers argue with each other, but not the philosophies themselves.

 -YOGA: By this word a sort of Yoga is specifically indicated, the "Eightfold Yoga". Very careful! This term means "union", and is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj" (to unite, to join). It is so called inasmuch as it unites the individual soul with the Universal Soul. It was founded by Maharṣi Patañjali, that is, the Great Seer (Maharṣi) called Patañjali. It is the practical aspect of Sāṅkhya doctrine. In Yoga, the principal interest lies in the means by which the individual may control his mind, and thus know his I-ness through direct experience. Manifold means divided into eight stages are utilized just for this. This system works harmoniously along with the previous one, as far as to speak of even a "Sāṅkhya-yoga".

-PŪRVAMĪMĀṀSĀ: "Pūrva" means "the first part", by which the first part or portion called Mantra in the ancient Veda-s is being referred to here. "Mīmāṁsā" means "inquiry or interpretation". So, the full translation would be "an interpretation or inquiry into the first part or portion called Mantra belonging to the ancient Veda-s". It was founded by Jaiminirṣi (the seer Jaimini).

This system investigates mainly the vedic rites and their uses. Its principal object is to establish the Veda authority. Freedom from slavery is, according to this school, a liberation from action by doing it with no attachment. Ritual or proper actions to attain the desired goal are predominant in it. In short, rituals are the proper actions to achieve Liberation.

-VEDĀNTA: It is also known as Uttaramīmāṁsā. The word "uttara" means "the final part", that is to say, the final part or Upaniṣad portion in the ancient Veda-s. The term "mīmāṁsā" means "inquiry or interpretation". So, the full translation would be "an interpretation or inquiry into the final part or Upaniṣad portion in the ancient Veda-s". In turn, the term Vedānta means "the end (anta) of the Veda-s (veda)". This meaning admits two interpretations, viz.:

1) The most exalted one, the best in the Veda-s.

2) The latter part of the aforesaid Veda-s, that is, the portion known as Upaniṣad --which deals predominantly with knowledge, while the former portion of the Veda-s deals with rituals--.

This philosophy is divided into three autonomous systems:

a) Non-dualism or Advaita

b) Qualified Non-dualism or Viśistādvaita

c) Dualism or Dvaita

I will not go into details because that would be a long process and time has not come yet to do it. I will just say that the founders of those three systems are Śaṅkarācārya, Rāmānuja and Madhvācārya respectively.

The three Vedantic systems integrating one System, agree with one another regarding this subject: "the findings of Sāṅkhya must not be discarded". However, they all maintain the existence of one Ultimate Reality. They analyze the Process of Cosmic Manifestation in almost the same way as Sāṅkhya. The three Vedānta-s affirm the existence of One God but both His nature and His relationship to oneself are explained in a different way.

There are "non-traditional" philosophies which do not have the four Veda-s within their literature. For example: Tantric philosophies. Within Tantra itself there are several systems: Trika, Kaula, Krama, etc. When talking about Tantra, the majority, because of ignorance, associates it "at once" with sexual practices. But, since Tantra has mainly two branches, that is not completely true at all. Those two branches are as follows:

1) Right-handed Tantra, based on formal meditation.

2) Left-handed Tantra, based on several practices to attain to Enlightenment, the sexual ones are included among them.

My specialty is Trika or Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir (it belongs to right-handed Tantra, and therefore it has nothing to do with sexual practices). Nevertheless, I will say a few words on left-handed Tantra: Nowadays, these sacred teachings designed to help man to evolve through a sexual path have been mostly misunderstood. Those practices were designed to make a householder or a housewife attain the aforesaid Enlightenment, which in other times was only attained by leaving all and going to the woods. Sex, which could not be left by people with a family, was used in some practices as a means for spiritual growth. All that is far far away from some sexual practices carried out now, that just show ignorance and perversion. Once again, mind of man, despite good intentions and purity existing in the beginning, turned all into impurity.

-TRIKA: With respect to Trika or Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir, I have to say that:

I have taught it for many years. Basically, it brings revolutionary viewpoints that affect deeply the life of a person who analyzes them. For example: the concept of unity among all things and that of independence are brought forward noticeably here. This system states that all of us have treasures, but we do not enjoy them out of mere ignorance. In short, it makes human being realize the foolish life he is living, full of fear and ignorance, and then it casts him into his own Inner Self, into his own Spirit. It is not a mere "armchair" philosophy postulating various theories, which have no connections to the concrete facts in our lives. On the contrary, it is predominantly practical and changes life of anyone getting in touch with it.

Its analysis of the Creation is simply magnificent and very complete indeed. In it, one may clearly see the interconnections in this Manifestation. Another feature is that it does not postulate "to leave the world". On the contrary, it states that the real problem is not the world but one's poor viewpoint with regard to the world. Besides, it gives us a new and "blissful" point of view to analyze this world.

Of course, I like Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir very much, but I am not saying: "This system is the best philosophical system". On the contrary, each of the philosophies referred to is very good. Every human being has his own way, and his own philosophy. These philosophical systems are huge. So, I had to choose at least one system to learn deeply. My lifetime is short, you know. And I chose Trika since it met my philosophical and practical needs. Therefore, you must always choose that philosophy which is fit for you. This must be understood completely.

The other systems referred to --Kaula and Krama-- are closely associated with Trika, though they possess features of their own. The analysis on Sanskrit performed by Kaula, indicating sounds for each of the 36 stages stated by Trika's Process of Creation, is very interesting. In turn, Krama also contains a number of deep analyses about those stages, but relating them to various goddesses. In short, a true treasure available for everybody.

I have surely forgotten about some systems, but with this I think it is enough. The important thing here is to understand the following: We have lots of tools available in order to understand our lives and life in general. If my effort is able to provide just one person with this wisdom, so my mission will be accomplished.

One more thing, check Sanskrit Quotes, since those scriptural quotes have close relationship to the philosophies merely outlined here. Besides, below every quote there is an explanation by me.

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 Sanskrit and its connections with Yoga

First of all, let us define what we call "Yoga". The word "Yoga", as we know, means "union". Union with whom?: union with a Higher Reality. Well, there is a traditional Yoga --previously referred to-- or Patañjali's Yoga, named like this because it was designed by the sage Patañjali. Note I am using a written accent on "o" in "Yoga". I use written accent to help people pronounce properly.

That Yoga is also known as Aṣṭāṅgayoga or Eightfold Yoga, because of its postulating 8 stages. The first stage is Yama or Restraint (non-violence, truth, abstention from stealing, continence and abstinence from avariciousness), and the second one is Niyama or Observance (cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study/recitation of Scriptures, and devotion to God). The third stage is Āsana or Posture; in it meditative postures are only taught. The fourth stage is Prāṇāyāma or Realization of Vital Energy; in it different ways of breathing make one realize Vital Energy. The fifth stage is Pratyāhāra or Withholding of senses; in it one withholds his attention of external senses and thereby attains introversion. The sixth stage is Dhāraṇā or Concentration; in it mind becomes onepointed for a very little while. The seventh stage is Dhyāna or Meditation; in it Concentration is much longer, till it attains to the eighth stage named Samādhi, in which one achieves Total Realization regarding the object of meditation.

Well, this has been just a summary. Besides this traditional (vedic) Yoga, there are other Yoga-s: the famous HAṬHAYOGA (the known system based on body postures); BHAKTIYOGA (Devotional Yoga), JÑĀNAYOGA (Yoga of Knowledge), KARMAYOGA (Yoga of Action), MANTRAYOGA (Yoga of Mantra-s or Sacred Words), etc. All these Yoga-s are also related to philosophies, some of which were outlined previously, so the universe of knowledge is immense. And everything is in Sanskrit, and not everything is translated so far, since it is very large and very few people are able to translate it properly.

For that reason, the links between Yoga and Sanskrit are noticeable. For example, the traditional literature of Haṭhayoga is in Sanskrit (Haṭhayogapradīpikā, Haṭharatnāvalī, etc.), and the names of the postures, breathings, seals, etc., are in Sanskrit too, despite there are western names recently invented for some poses. This brief analysis shows the tremendous importance of Sanskrit language in the Yoga world. Yoga could not exist without Sanskrit.

We must understand at last that the word "Yoga" (used very often nowadays) does not mean only "postures, breathing, etc.", but lots of practices at multiple levels (emotional, intellectual, sound, etc.). Therefore, Yoga is not synonymous with Haṭhayoga, but Haṭhayoga is a portion of the whole Yoga. This is a common mistake here in Argentina, because people generally take the entire Yoga for a few postures, breathings and so on. No, that is Haṭhayoga, which is a little portion of a number of methods: meditation, repetition of mantra-s, devotional acts, study of Scriptures, etc. In short, Yoga is all Yoga-s (Haṭhayoga, Bhaktiyoga, Jñānayoga, Mantrayoga, Rājayoga, etc.) and not only Haṭhayoga.

In order to get further information on this subject, go to the Sanskrit quotes.

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 Sanskrit alphabet

The main alphabet used by Sanskrit is the one known as Devanāgarī, which can be divided into several parts according to diverse approaches. So, let us see the alphabet and learn how to pronounce the letters in the following section. One more thing, the vowel "ḹ" is not considered here, because it is a theoretical and rarely used vowel. With "theoretical" I mean that it was invented to maintain the pairs short/long: a/ā, i/ī, etc., so that "ḷ" is not without its long counterpart.

Sanskrit Alphabet
Letters
Vowels
अं अः
a ā i ī u ū e ai o au aṁ aḥ
Consonants
First Group
Subgroups Hard Soft
Unaspirate Aspirate Unaspirate Aspirate Nasals
Gutturals
ka kha ga gha ṅa
Palatals
ca cha ja jha ña
Cerebrals (Cacuminals)
ṭa ṭha ḍa ḍha ṇa
Dentals
ta tha da dha na
Labials
pa pha ba bha ma
Second Group
Semivowels
ya ra la va
Third Group
Sibilants
śa ṣa sa
Fourth Group
Sonant Aspirate
ha

One of the remarkable things about Sanskrit is that the consonants are syllabic, that is to say, they carry the vowel "a". Without "a" they could not be pronounced, because "a" is the supreme letter. Most of the vowels (except the Anusvāra "ṁ" and the Visarga "ḥ") can be pronounced by themselves, without the necessity of consonants or other vowels, but the consonants cannot be pronounced without vowels. This clearly speaks of an entire philosophical model hidden in these simple characters. The vowels and their sounds have predominantly to do with what is superior and independent, while the consonants (mainly those of the first and second groups) have predominantly to do with lower stages of the Creation. The topic is far more extensive, no doubt. This has only been a mere "hint" of a peculiar characteristic of the Sanskrit: it is a language extremely elaborated in total agreement with a science that hides itself behind it. This is the wonderful thing regarding this language. Lastly, the vowel "ṁ" (denominated Anusvāra), just as its name points out, always comes after a vowel that gives it support (in the formal alphabet it is used, of course, "a" to give it support). The vowel "ḥ" (denominated Visarga) also needs the vowel support, being represented in the alphabet united with "a".

One more thing: Apart from these characters that compose the formal Alphabet, there is a series of "hybrid" signs, which are the combination of two or more formal characters. For example:

त्त (tta) द्य (dya) ङ्ग (ṅga), etc. Go to Conjuncts for more information.

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 Pronunciation Guide

By basing my study on the previous Table, I will try my best to explain the pronunciation of the different letters. If you also want to listen to the sounds, go to Pronunciation 1: The Letters.

First of all, there is a measure unit called "mātrā" or "time gap needed to pronounce a short vowel (like "a")". Short vowels (a, i, u, ṛ, ḷ) last 1 mātrā, while long vowels (ā, ī, ū, ṝ) and diphthongs (e, ai, o, au) last 2 mātrā-s. In turn, Anusvāra ("ṁ") and Visarga ("ḥ") last 1/2 mātrā each.

The consonants need a vowel to be pronounced. In the Sanskrit Alphabet, the chosen vowel is "a".

Pronouncing Sanskrit vowels
Vowels
Original characters Transliteration Information
a Of course, it should not be pronounced just as in English at all. Your mouth should not be widely open, but it should be open just as if you were to pronounce "o". This vowel sound is felt in the throat, therefore it is Guttural.
ā The last vowel doubled (twice).
i It should be pronounced just as "i" in "bit". The sound is felt in the palate, therefore this vowel is Palatal.
ī The last vowel doubled (twice).
u It should be pronounced just as "u" in "put". The sound is felt in the lips, therefore this vowel is Labial.
ū The last vowel doubled (twice).
The tongue is rolled slightly backward, pressing against the roof. After that, the "ri" sound is to be pronounced. "r" is stronger than English "r". I could not find any exact example in English. The sound is felt in the roof of the mouth, therefore this vowel is Cerebral (or Cacuminal).
The last vowel doubled (twice).
"ṛ" with a "l" in the beginning. This "l" is to be pronounced with the tongue pressing the back of the teeth. Since the sound is felt in the back of the teeth first and then in the roof, this vowel is Cerebral-Dental.
e It is a diphthong (a + i). For that reason, it begins just as "e" in "bed", but in the end a little "i" (as in "bit") appears. This vowel is a long one (2 mātrā-s). It is Guttural-Palatal.
ai It is a special diphthong (a + e). The stress is on "i", not on "a". It is a long vowel (2 mātrā-s). This vowel is Guttural-Palatal.
o It is a diphthong (a + u). For that reason, it begins just as "o" in "pot", but in the end a little "u" (as in "put") appears. This vowel is a long one (2 mātrā-s). It is Guttural-Labial.
au It is a special diphthong (a + o). The stress is on "u", not on "a". It is a long vowel (2 mātrā-s). This vowel is Guttural-Labial.
अं aṁ It is called Anusvāra, because it always come after a vowel. It is a nasal lengthening of a vowel, just as a "m" but pronounced through the nose (the mouth is shut). It lasts 1/2 mātrā. Here we can see it united with "a".
अः aḥ It is called Visarga (emission), because it is pronounced through an emission of air. This vowel sounds just as "h" in "home". Sometimes, an echo of the preceding vowel is to be pronounced too. This echo is used if the Visarga (in the end of the word, obviously) belongs to a word placed at the end of a sentence. In turn, if the word is placed somewhere else, the echo is not pronounced. This vowel lasts 1/2 mātrā. Here we can see it united with "a".
Pronouncing the first 25 Sanskrit consonants
Consonants
First Group
Guttural
Original characters Transliteration Information
ka It is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "k" in "kick".
kha It is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "k" but with an exhalation of air.
ga It is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "g" in "game".
gha It is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "g" but with an exhalation of air.
ṅa It is a nasal soft letter. It sounds just as "n" in "bang". All nasal letters are soft.
Palatal
ca It is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "ch" in "champion", but it is written "c" not "ch". Careful!
cha It is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "c" but with an exhalation of air. It does not sound like English "ch". Careful!
ja It is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "j" in "Jane".
jha It is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "j" but with an exhalation of air.
ña It is a nasal soft letter. It sounds like "nya". All nasal letters are soft.
Cerebral (Cacuminal)
ṭa It is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "t" but with the tongue rolled slightly backward (pressing against the roof).
ṭha It is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "ṭ" but with an exhalation of air.
ḍa It is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "d" but with a slight rolling back of the tongue.
ḍha It is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "ḍ" but with an exhalation of air.
ṇa It is a nasal soft letter. It sounds like a "n" but with a slight rolling back of the tongue (as in "turn"). All nasal letters are soft.
Dental
ta It is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "t" in "time", with the tongue pressing the back of the teeth.
tha It is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "t" but with an exhalation of air.
da It is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "d" in "doubt".
dha It is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "d" but with an exhalation of air.
na It is a nasal soft letter. It sounds like "n" in "name". All nasal letters are soft.
Labial
pa It is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "p" in "pink".
pha It is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "p" but with an exhalation of air.
ba It is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as "b" in "boat".
bha It is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as "b" but with an exhalation of air.
ma It is a nasal soft letter. It sounds like "m" in "make". All nasal letters are soft.
More consonants
Second Group
The 4 Semivowels
Original characters Transliteration Information
ya It is a palatal soft letter. The sound is just as "y" in "yet". All Semivowels are soft, that is to say, they reverberate.
ra It is a cerebral soft letter. "r" is not just as English "r" at all. The tongue rolls slightly backward till it presses against the roof, but not the soft palate. And the sound is slightly stronger than the English "r" sound.
la It is a dental soft letter. The sound is just as "l" in "land", but with the tongue fully pressing the back of the teeth.
va It is a labial soft letter. The sound is just as "v" in "vain", but sometimes, when it comes after a consonant it is usually pronounced as "u" (Sanskrit "u", not English "u"... in English it would be "w"). For example: "svāmī" (master) is generally articulated as "swāmī". However, you can also pronounce "svāmī", and it is correct too.
Third Group
The 3 Sibilants
śa It is a palatal hard letter. The sound is just as "sh" in "show". All Sibilants are hard, that is to say, they do not reverberate.
ṣa It is a cerebral hard letter. The sound is just as "ś", but with a slight rolling back of the tongue.
sa It is a dental hard letter. The sound is just as "s" in "surf".
Fourth Group
Sonant Aspirate
ha It is a guttural soft letter. The sound is just as "h" in "hello".

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 Notions of Sandhi or Combinations

There is something that complicates the Sanskrit language and that, however, gives it an exclusive feature: the laws of Sandhi or Combinations. The raw words (say, those of dictionary), such as verbal roots, substantives, etc., go through various transformations before being moved to the sentence. But, in the same sentence, very often they also have to go through certain adaptations so that a harmonious phonetic flow may be maintained. In English, this point is not generally kept in mind.

For example, the sentence "Ted takes". We see here that "d" (soft) appears before a "t" (hard). So, there is no phonetic harmony, and this lack of it hinders the pronunciation. Because of this annoyance, the tongue fixes the problem generally by omitting "final d" (pronouncing "Te takes"); or else by turning that "d" into a "t" (pronouncing "Tet takes"). This is what usually happens.

On the contrary, in Sanskrit, this annoyance has been foreseen and it is overcome by adapting one of the two letters (the final or the initial one) or both of them at the same time, so that the tongue will not have to make any omission or transformation. According to the given example, if the sentence "Ted takes" was in Sanskrit, it should be possibly written like this: "Tet takes" --I changed "final d" into a "t"--. Now there are two t's and both of them are hard. Thus, no uncomfortable lack of phonetic harmony is taking place. Maybe, the example was not very satisfactory, but you surely have understood me.

This beautiful characteristic complicates the things a little, but it gives an enormous flow of beauty and harmony to the Sanskrit, which is very difficult to be found in other ordinary languages. This feature --Sandhi or Combinations-- makes this language a very special one (particularly special to be used in chanting). It also minimizes the writing, because although in the transliteration that minimization will not seem to be remarkable, however, when one writes in original Sanskrit characters it will. Obviously, I am not going to specify now all the laws of Sandhi. I will outline only some laws, but you must fully understand that even though they may appear to be arbitrary, they are based on an entire science which lies behind it.

Let us see a simple example of a very typical law of Sandhi. There is a Sanskrit raw word: "namaḥ" (derived from "namas" in the dictionary), that means "salutation", among other things. Suppose that one would want to write "Salutation to the Auspicious One"; then he would have to add the word "śivāya" (to the Auspicious One). Now, I join both of terms together:

Namaḥ śivāya (in this case, there was no change, because the final Visarga "ḥ" is hard --it does not resonate-- just as initial "ś". Therefore, there is no lack of phonetic harmony).

But, suppose now that one would want to write "Salutation to God"; then he would have to add the word "devāya" (to God). Well, I join merely both of terms together:

Namaḥ devāya (but there is a lack of phonetic harmony, because the final Visarga "ḥ" is hard, while initial "d" in "devāya" is soft).

How do the Laws of Sandhi resolve this problem? They tell that, in this particular case, one should change the final ending "aḥ" in "namaḥ" into "o" (soft vowel). Of course, the process to get to that "o" is more complex --see Combination (4) in the Sanskrit section--:

Namo devāya (and now, there is no lack of phonetic harmony, because "o" and "d" are both soft letters)

Of course, the letter change is not always so clear and simple, because there are cases in which even though there is no apparent phonetic problem, one must use the Laws of Sandhi in order to make pronunciation even easier. For example, --I will use again "namaḥ" (you surely noticed that when "namaḥ" stands alone I use written accent, but I do not when "namaḥ" is in a sentence. Well, accents are not generally used in Classic Sanskrit. I only use them on words standing alone to help you pronounce correctly)-- suppose that one would want to write "Salutation to you"; then he would have to add the word "te" (to you). Now I join the two terms together:

Namaḥ te (Sandhi would not be seemingly necessary, because the final Visarga "ḥ" is hard just as initial "t").

Nevertheless, "aḥ" ending should be changed into "as". Thus, the phrase completely finished is:

Namas te ("s" is also hard, just as "t").

Perhaps you wonder, why should one do that? Well, besides improving somewhat the phonetic harmony, that change minimizes the writing, because I can join both of words together:

Namaste

Maybe, minimization is not remarkable in the transliteration, but when one writes in original Sanskrit characters it is. Look:

Namaḥ te
नमः ते

Namaste
नमस्ते

Now, you can see the aforesaid minimization. You may say "it is just a bit", but when you have to write long paragraphs, it will be noticeable indeed. Furthermore, the sentence looks like more compact.

I hope you have realized the greatness and beauty of this sacred language through those simple examples.

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 Notions of Sanskrit Grammar

By the way, the Sanskrit grammar is very extensive and elaborate. It is beautifully interlaced with the philosophy and both of them form a coherent and perfect "whole". Obviously, I cannot deepen into it in this simple page, but I will show you examples about two main subjects: VERBS AND NOUNS.

VERBS: The first thing I must say is that in the dictionary the verbs appear as verbal roots. These verbal roots never appear within a sentence in their "dictionary form", but rather they have to undergo a clearly defined transformation. Before being used (conjugated) in a sentence, a verbal root firstly has to be transformed into a verbal base, and then it will be fit to be conjugated. The root by itself is not generally capable of receiving the terminations used in the conjugation. So, it has firstly to be changed into a verbal base. This is quite easy to understand.
However, the matter gets complicated just a bit because the roots are grouped in ten Houses (gaṇa-s) affecting only the Present and Imperfect Tenses as well as the Potential (also known as Optative) and Imperative Moods. Each of the Houses has an accurate set of rules to form verbal bases. Fortunately, the ten Houses may be even divided into two big sections: Unchangeable ("a" is to be added to form the base) and Changeable ("a" is not to be added to form the base). Of course, this topic is very deep and much more extensive; I am only giving you a first glance at it (go to Verbs for more information).

I will just explain the roots with unchangeable bases, which include 4 Houses: 1st, 4th, 6th and 10th. They must all include one "a" to conjugate. And among those four Houses I will analyze the House 1 alone. Before going on it is necessary to know what the "Guṇa substitution" is. By the word "Guṇa" I am not referring to the well-known qualities of Sattva --goodness--, Rajas --passion-- and Tamas --darkness-- (as they are defined in the philosophical system of Sāṅkhya-yoga), but rather to a Gradation of Vowel Alternation (what a long term!). In short, we are talking very subtly. The Gradations of Vowel Alternation are three:

Gradations of Vowel Alternation
Type Vowels
WEAKENED GRADATION (simple vowels) a i-ī u-ū ṛ-ṝ
STRENGTHENED GRADATION (Guṇa) a e o ar al
PROTRACTED GRADATION (Vṛddhi) ā ai au ār āl

For instance, the strengthened gradation or Guṇa for the vowels "i" and "ī" is the vowel "e"; while their protracted gradation or Vṛddhi is "ai". To get strengthened and protracted gradations, one simply should add "a" to the simple vowels (weakened gradation). The letter "a" is the first one and represents the Highest Reality. Consequently, it is logical that another vowel would become strengthened when "a" is added to it. The rules of Sandhi or Combination which are used to construct the strengthened gradation are very simple: (a + i/ī = e); (a + u/ū = o); (a + ṛ/ṝ = ar); (a + ḷ = al).
In turn, to build the protracted gradation or Vṛddhi, one simply should add another "a" to the strengthened gradation or Guṇa. The rules of Sandhi or Combination that are utilized to construct the protracted gradation are also very simple: (a + a = ā); (a + e = ai); (a + o = au); (a + ar = ār); (a + al = āl).

And perhaps you are wondering: what is the point of learning Guṇa, etc.?

Good question. The answer is simple: to get a verbal root transformed into a verbal base you will need indispensably to know the Gradations of Vowel Alternation. And now, I will give an example by only using a verbal root of the House 1.

There are two rules to form a verbal base in this House 1:

  1. If the penultimate letter of a verbal root is a short vowel (a, i, u, ṛ, ḷ), it is necessary to substitute its Guṇa (strengthened gradation) for it, that is, "a, e, o, ar and al" should be substituted for "a, i, u, ṛ and ḷ", respectively. It is to be noted that "a" remains the same, without any change.
  2. If the last letter of a verbal root is a vowel (short or long), it is necessary to substitute its Guṇa (strengthened gradation) for it.

Having understood fully the aforesaid rules, now I will study attentively how to construct the verbal base of a very well-known root: "bhū" (to be, to become):

भू
Since this "bhū" root has a long vowel in the end, the rule 2 (pertaining to this House) is to be applied to it. Then the verbal base is "bho", because "o" is the Guṇa or strengthened gradation for "ū". It was relatively easy.

Let us continue with the conjugation: Now we already have the verbal base, and suppose that we would want to conjugate in the 3rd person singular--"he, she or it is" or "he, she or it becomes"--. As this root belongs to the House 1, and in turn, this House belongs to the group in which "a" is to be added to form the base (Houses 1, 4, 6 and 10, respectively), I have to add "a". So:

verbal base + "a" = compound verbal base
bho + a = bhoa

But the vowel group "oa" cannot exist since it is prohibited by a rule of Sandhi or Combinations. Then, "o" will have to be replaced for something else. The very rules of Sandhi or Combinations give the solution; they say that:

Since "o" is really "a + u", and "u" may be changed into the semivowel "v", one could write "av" instead of "o".

I do so and "bhoa" is transformed into "bhava" instead. This is a "compound" verbal base... yes, I think we could call it like this.

Lastly, I have to add the appropriate 3rd person Singular termination. The desinence or termination is "ti"; so, the full-fledged conjugation is:

bhavati

He, she or it is
He, she or it becomes

Notice I have used a written accent, although it is not generally used in the sentence. I merely accentuate single words for teaching you the correct accentuation.

I know very well that you will be wondering many things, and also know that you will have many doubts right now since so many things appear to be extremely arbitrary. However, you should understand that I cannot give even a elementary course on Sanskrit grammar in this introductory page. All that has just been explained by me was only a little sample of how elaborate and polished Sanskrit grammar is regarding verbs. Sanskrit is a full-grown, refined and highly technical (nothing at random) language; and just as the XHTML used by me to write this page, precise rules for the correct construction of conjugations, sentences, etc. are to be used in Sanskrit. In short, this language is quite consistent, forming in itself a kind of living organism completely harmonized in order to keep functioning.

NOUNS: They have also many interesting and elaborate characteristics. Contrary to what happens in English, in Sanskrit such words as: to, toward, of, from, with, etc., are not generally used; but rather the end of the noun (or adjective) is changed to add this words. This is denominated Declension. We could say that there are two general groups of nouns:

  1. Those ending in a vowel.
  2. Those ending in a consonant.

Obviously, there is a set of terminations or endings for every group of nouns. In fact, since several consonants and vowels are involved, I could even say that there are as many sets of terminations or endings as final vowels and consonants. In sum, there is a set for nouns ending in "a", one for those ending in "ṛ", one for those ending in "in", etc. One could say: it is a madness to have to learn by heart so many terminations. But something comes to help us out of this difficulty:

It could be said that the set of desinences (endings or terminations) used for the nouns ending in a consonant is a kind of pattern for all the other sets of desinences or terminations.

Well, I will not speak any more of this topic, because it involves more knowledge. I will only explain the most common nouns:

Substantives ending in "a" (only masculine)

Firstly, I inform you that besides the Singular and the Plural numbers, the Dual number is also used in Sanskrit. The guidelines are as follows: Singular denotes "one", Dual denotes "two" and Plural denotes "three or more".

As I told you before, such prepositions as "to", "toward", "of", etc. are not generally used in Sanskrit, but rather declension (the final part of a noun or adjective is transformed) is used to produce the aforesaid prepositions. There are eight Cases (in each number --Singular, Dual and Plural--, of course), which possibly you already know:

The eight cases
Cases Meaning
Nominative "It names"; in short, when the noun (or adjective) is declined in this Case, is just named and it occupies the subject position in the sentence. For example: "man eats".
Accusative It adds "to/toward"; that is, when the noun (or adjective) is declined in this Case occupies the place of Direct Object. For example: "they eat man".
Instrumental It adds "by/through/by means of/with"; that is, when the noun (or adjective) is declined in this Case appears as an "instrument" of the verb. For example: "they grow by man"
Dative It adds "to/for"; that is, when the noun (or adjective) is declined in this Case occupies the place of Indirect Object. For example: "we give food to man". In this case "man" is the Indirect Object, and "food" is the Direct Object of the verb.
Ablative It adds "from/because of/due to"; that is, when the noun (or adjective) is declined in this Case indicates an origin or else an instrument. For example: "they come from man", or else, "from man everything is generated".
Genitive It adds "of"; that is, when the noun (or adjective) is declined in this Case gives a sense of belonging to. For example: "the cat of man".
Locative It adds "in/on"; that is, when the noun (or adjective) is declined in this Case gives a sense of location. For example: "virtues live in man".
Vocative It adds "oh!/eh!/hey!"; that is, when the noun (or adjective) is declined in this Case gives a sense of invocation or calling. For example: "Oh man, wake up!", and also "hey man, come closer!"

The simple chart of terminations for masculine nouns ending in "a" is as follows:

Terminations for nouns ending in "a" vowel
Cases Singular Dual Plural
Nominative aḥ au āḥ
Accusative am au ān
Instrumental ena ābhyām aiḥ
Dative āya ābhyām ebhyaḥ
Ablative āt ābhyām ebhyaḥ
Genitive asya ayoḥ ānām
Locative e ayoḥ eṣu
Vocative a au āḥ

Let us see an actual example now, by using the word "Śiva" ("Auspicious"; an epithet of the Supreme Being)

Declining a word ending in "a" vowel
Cases Singular Dual Plural
Nominative śivaḥ śivau śivāḥ
Accusative śivam śivau śivān
Instrumental śivena śivābhyām śivaiḥ
Dative śivāya śivābhyām śivebhyaḥ
Ablative śivāt śivābhyām śivebhyaḥ
Genitive śivasya śivayoḥ śivānām
Locative śive śivayoḥ śiveṣu
Vocative śiva śivau śivāḥ

And now, just in case you have gotten lost among so many words, I am placing one more chart with the possible translations of all these declensions for the noun "Śiva".

Translation
Cases Singular Dual Plural
Nominative the Auspicious One the two Auspicious the Auspicious (3 or more)
Accusative to the Auspicious One to the two Auspicious to the Auspicious (3 or more)
Instrumental by/through/by means of/with the Auspicious One by/through/by means of/with the two Auspicious by/through/by means of/with the Auspicious (3 or more)
Dative to/for the Auspicious One to/for the two Auspicious to/for the Auspicious (3 or more)
Ablative from/because of/due to the Auspicious One from/because of/due to the two Auspicious from/because of/due to the Auspicious (3 or more)
Genitive of the Auspicious One of the two Auspicious of the Auspicious (3 or more)
Locative in/on the Auspicious One in/on the two Auspicious in/on the Auspicious (3 or more)
Vocative Oh Auspicious One!/eh, Auspicious One! Oh two Auspicious!/eh, two Auspicious! Oh Auspicious (3 or more)!/eh, Auspicious (3 or more)!

As you see, it is very simple, because these guidelines are also fully functional for the rest of nouns ending in other vowels (besides "a") and for all those ending in a consonant. Only the endings will be changed. Well, and now a simple example that shows both verbs and nouns in action simultaneously. Suppose I mean:

the Auspicious One eats

Here I have a noun (Auspicious One) which is in Nominative Case (the Auspicious One), and the verb "to eat" conjugated in the 3rd person Singular Present Tense. I glance through the dictionary and I find that the verbal root for "to eat" is "khād", and that it belongs to the House 1 (remember that there are 10 Houses). The rules for the House 1 state the following:

  1. If the penultimate letter of a verbal root is a short vowel (a, i, u, ṛ, ḷ), it is necessary to substitute its Guṇa (strengthened gradation) for it, that is, "a, e, o, ar and al" should be substituted for "a, i, u, ṛ and ḷ", respectively. It is to be noted that "a" remains the same, without any change.
  2. If the last letter of a verbal root is a vowel (short or long), it is necessary to substitute its Guṇa (strengthened gradation) for it.

The root "khād" (to eat) does not fulfill the rule 1 because its vowel is the penultimate letter but it is long; and of course it does not fulfill the rule 2 either. Thus, the verbal root has to undergo no modifications and it can already work like verbal base. In turn, since the House 1 is one of the four Houses with unchangeable bases (Houses 1, 4, 6 and 10 respectively), it is necessary to add "a" to the base. Then, the compound verbal base is "khāda". Lastly, I add the termination for the 3rd person Singular Present Tense; this ending is "ti". Thus, the verb fully conjugated is as follows:

khādati ("he/she/it eats"; but in this case it is translated as "he eats" because we are referring to Śiva, "the Auspicious One")

In turn, the noun "Śiva" (Auspicious) must be declined in Nominative Case (as subject of the verb "to eat"). I look at the chart above and then write:

Śivaḥ (the Auspicious One)

Now I simply join noun and verb together:

Śivaḥ khādati (the Auspicious One eats)

It is not necessary to modify the union among the two words by means of the rules of Sandhi or Combinations, because the final Visarga ("ḥ") is a hard letter just as initial "kha".

Let us make something more complex, let us translate into Sanskrit the sentence:

The Auspicious One lives in man

"The Auspicious One" is, as I have already explained, the Nominative Case of "Śiva". Thus:

Śivaḥ (the Auspicious One)

The verbal root for "to reside, to live, to dwell" is "vas" (which belongs to the House 1 and as you can see it fulfills the first rule given previously to transform the verbal root into a verbal base). But Guṇa of "a" is the same "a". So, verbal root = verbal base. Then, I add "a" to it (because "vas" is a root with a unchangeable base), and lastly the desinence "ti" (3rd person Singular Present Tense). Thus:

vasati ("he/she/it lives, resides, dwells"; but in this case "he lives, resides, dwells")

And at last, the noun "man" (nara) is to be declined in Locative Case. Therefore, I must add the corresponding termination (which replaces "final a") to "nara". Thus:

nare (in man)

Now, I simply join all together:

Śivaḥ vasati nare (the Auspicious One lives in man)

Look, the Visarga (ḥ) in Śivaḥ is a hard letter, while initial "v" in "vasati" is a soft letter. Therefore, there is a lack of phonetic harmony here. In order to correct it, I use a simple rule of Sandhi or Combinations that you will have to accept arbitrarily, because I cannot explain it to you now. This rule states that "aḥ" is to be changed into "o" (soft letter). So, the fully assembled and phonetically harmonious sentence is as follows:

Śivo vasati nare (the Auspicious One lives in man)

शिवो वसति नरे

And a last comment: this sentence is correctly written, but the verb is very often placed at the end. This way:

Śivo nare vasati ("the Auspicious One in man lives"; it is to be noted that the previous rule of Sandhi or Combinations continues to be functional because "n" in "nare" is also a soft letter just as "v" in "vasati")

शिवो नरे वसति

This sentence can also be changed into:

Nare śivo vasati (in man the Auspicious One lives)

नरे शिवो वसति

Very well, this has been all for the time being. I hope you have realized how wonderful this language is. If you have, you probably understood that the wisdom --hidden in it and in the philosophies supported by it as well-- has to be a wonder too. And that is my goal: to disseminate this wisdom as much as possible, because it can shed light on your life. Consequently, my purpose is not merely to turn you into a grammarian but into a wise person. And now, a few quotes extracted from very celebrated Scriptures. These quotes will show you gracefully the whole process of a translation being made directly from the original Sanskrit characters. It is my gift for you.

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 Sanskrit Quotes

... तत्तत्सङ्कुचितवेद्याभासात्मनो ज्ञानस्यापूर्णोऽस्मि क्षामः स्थूलो वास्म्यग्निष्टोमयाज्यस्मि...

... tattatsaṅkucitavedyābhāsātmano jñānasyāpūrṇo'smi kṣāmaḥ sthūlo vāsmyagniṣṭomayājyasmi...

... (She is the Mother) of knowledge (jñānasya) whose nature (ātmanaḥ) (is) a flash (ābhāsa) of various (tad tad) contracted (saṅkucita) cognitions (vedyā). (This limited knowledge or cognition appears in the form of) "I am (asmi) imperfect (apūrṇaḥ)", "I am (asmi) thin (kṣāmaḥ)" or (vā) "I am (asmi) fat (sthūlaḥ)", "I am (asmi) a performer (yājī) of the Agniṣṭoma sacrifice (agniṣṭoma)"...

Śivasūtravimarśinī, commentary of Kṣemarāja on the 4th aphorism of the Śivasūtra-s

Note that when the words are combined in a sentence, they look like somewhat different in comparison with their individual forms. This is a sample of how to use Sandhi or Combination laws.

This is an excerpt of the commentary by the wise Kṣemarāja (the tenth century AD) on the 4th aphorism of the major Trika's Scripture denominated "Śivasūtra-s" (The aphorisms of the Auspicious One). As you have been told by me before, this philosophy (Trika or Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir) is my specialty. Here Kṣemarāja speaks of a un-understood force or power, to which he calls "the Mother of knowledge". This Mother is the progenitor of all letters that compose the various languages. As this Mother is not fully understood gives rise to quite a progeny of notions that remain hidden behind diverse phrases, which affect deeply the life of every human being. The author gives three examples that show three basic limitations in every person.

The first limitation is shown by the phrase "I am imperfect". Accompanied with this notion depicted by the previous phrase we live all our life with a feeling of non-plenitude, always seeking that perfection on the outside. This is the tragedy.

The second one is shown by the phrase "I am thin or fat". Accompanied with this notion depicted by the previous phrase (this example was used, but we could use any other differentiating example, "I am white or black or yellow", etc.), we differentiate both people and things from each other, and at the same the time we consider ourselves to be different from those people and things. Just pain is derived from this differentiation.

The third limitation is shown by the phrase "I am a performer of the Agniṣṭoma sacrifice". Let us remember that the author is an Indian man of the tenth century. The Agniṣṭoma sacrifice, without going into details, is a fire ritual quite known in India. If we occidentalize the example, we could say: "I am a builder of this bridge". Whatever example it may be, the goal is to show how deeply attached to actions we are, constantly considering ourselves as the authors of them, and reaping the corresponding fruit (bad or good).

And now let us study the second aphorism of the Yogasūtra-s (the Aphorisms of Yoga) by the sage Patañjali:

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः॥२॥

Yogaścittavrittinirodhaḥ||2||

Yoga (yogaḥ) is the suppression (nirodhaḥ) of the modifications (vṛtti) of mind (citta).

Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, 2nd aphorism, Book 1

Here, Patañjali defines Yoga clearly, according to his own interpretation. There is a little controversy about the word "nirodhaḥ" (suppression), sometimes being translated as "appeasement". In short, beyond these differences, Patañjali tells us that the real Yoga or Union arises when all modifications of mind (five in total) are suppressed or appeased. In that inner silence the Truth is revealed.

And now an aphorism of a rather well-known Scripture dealing with Haṭhayoga. The sage Svātmārāma says, in the very beginning:

अथ हठयोगप्रदीपिका।
श्रीआदिनाथाय नमोऽस्तु तस्मै येनोपदिष्टा हठयोगविद्या।
विभ्राजते प्रोन्नतराजयोगमारोढुमिच्छोरधिरोहिणीव॥१॥

Atha haṭhayogapradīpikā|
Śrīādināthāya namo'stu tasmai yenopadiṣṭā haṭhayogavidyā|
Vibhrājate pronnatarājayogamāroḍhumicchoradhirohiṇīva||1||

And now (atha), (the scripture) shedding light (pradīpikā) on Haṭhayoga (haṭhayoga) (begins): Let there be (astu) a salutation (namas) to that (tasmai) venerable (śrī) Primordial (ādi) Lord (nāthāya) by whom (yena) has been taught (upadiṣṭā) the Haṭhayoga science (haṭhayoga-vidyā) which shines forth (vibhrājate) in the form (iva) of a stairway (adhirohiṇī) for that person who wishes (icchoḥ) to ascend (āroḍhum) to the superior (pronnata) Rājayoga --lit. "Royal Yoga"-- (rājayogam)||1||

Haṭhayogapradīpikā, 1st aphorism, Chapter 1

Svātmārāma states clearly that the science of Haṭhayoga (consisting of postures, breathings, purifying actions, etc.) is a stairway leading lastly to Rājayoga (Royal Yoga). Royal Yoga is Patañjali's Yoga (even though there are currently certain Rājayoga-based systems somewhat different from that of Patañjali). In a word, by means of postures, breathings, seals, purifying actions, etc. one gets ready for ascending to a higher stage of Yoga known as Rājayoga. Then, the goal of Haṭhayoga is not merely to make the body agile or thin, but to prepare us to bear the tremendous impact of Royal Yoga, which is full of divine revelations. This is the Haṭhayoga's purpose just as it is taught traditionally. Nowadays, many Haṭhayoga teachers seem to have forgotten about it. They teach this ancient science as merely being a means to fight against the stress, fat, etc. It is true that these by-products are obtainable through Haṭhayoga practice, however this is not the real goal. The foremost purpose is to be a stairway for human being to attain to the Royal Yoga heights. In short, the real goal is to achieve Supreme Peace.

And now, let us glance at an ancient Scripture known as Gurugītā (Song about the Guru):

गुरुर्बुद्ध्यात्मनो नान्यत् सत्यं सत्यं न संशयः।
तल्लाभार्थं प्रयत्नस्तु कर्तव्यो हि मनीषिभिः॥९॥

Gururbuddhyātmano nānyat satyaṁ satyaṁ na saṁśayaḥ|
Tallābhārthaṁ prayatnastu kartavyo hi manīṣibhiḥ||9||

The Guru (guru) is no (na) other (anyat) but the conscious (buddhi) Self --ātmā-- (ātmanaḥ). (This is) the truth (satyam), (this is) the truth (satyam), no (na) doubt (about it) (saṁśayaḥ). In order to (artham) obtain (lābha) That --the conscious Self-- (tad), an effort (prayatnaḥ) must be done (tu kartavyaḥ) by the wise (manīṣibhiḥ), undoubtedly (hi) --in short, the wise must do an effort to obtain the conscious Self--||9||

Gurugītā, 9th aphorism

According to the old knowledge, the Supreme Being performs five functions:

Manifestation (sṛṣṭi), Maintenance (sthiti), Dissolution (pralaya), Concealment (tirodhāna) and Revelation (anugraha). The first 3 are cosmic functions which appear within and without man. For example, various climatic phenomena appear, last for a while and finally vanish. Likewise, different emotional processes come into existence within man, last for a while and finally vanish. However, the last two (Concealment and Revelation) are internal functions. The function named Revelation is also known as "Guru". Concealment of what, Revelation of what?, you might wonder. The concealment of your essential nature and the revelation of it. The ignorance hides your immortal soul from you, and consequently makes you search for joy outside; while the Guru reveals your immortal soul to you, and as a result you are filled with bliss.

Nevertheless, the Guru is not a physical form but a Cosmic Principle which may or not operate through a human being. If you understand this Truth about the Guru, that should be enough for you, I think.

I finish this document now, because I do not want it to be too long... OK, it was a joke, hehe.

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Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

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