Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sanskrit lessons

When I started the Sanskrit course, I decided to follow a personal inspiration in designing it. It is a bit more work to do it this way, but I wanted to carry out an idea that I had when I started writing the "learning Sanskrit through the Bhagavad-Gita" course, which never made it past the first chapter. The plan there was to go through the Gita verse by verse and just learn whatever grammar and vocabulary came up, as it came up.

Although I hope to go to the Gita as soon as I can, I have started by explaining the verses that are chanted here on a regular basis. I explain them word by word and teach whatever grammar, sandhi, etc., is needed to understand the verse. I figure that if you start with something that is already familiar and meaningful, make it more comprehensible to the student, that makes them feel comfortable and confident with regards to the subject matter.

I don’t know to what extent that is actually happening, but my students are certainly smiling a lot, so at least they are having fun.

Since I am not so much in control of what is being taught (that is being dictated to me by the grammar and other content of the verses), I have found myself teaching the passive construction, using the passive participle with the instrumental case. It is actually quite intelligent to do this, as several of the verses use this construction, and it is quite common overall, even though my students really have less command of English than those attending an English medium course should have.

I get to see them in other circumstances, like at meal times, when I can reinforce the lessons. At mealtime last night, I was quizzing one student as he was being served (is this a definition of student hell or what?), asking ओदनं केन दत्तम् ? किं दातव्यम् ? राहुलेन किं दत्तम् ? त्वया किं गृहीतम् ? "Who gave you rice? What should they give you? What did Rahul give you? What did you take? etc."

Anyway, for tomorrow, it will be interrogative pronouns. I will have my students memorize these verses from Moha-mudgara by Shankaracharya.

कस्त्वं कोऽहं कुत आयातः का मे जननी को मे तातः।
इति परिभावय सर्वमसारं विश्वं त्यक्त्वा स्वप्नविचारम्॥२३॥

kas tvaṁ ko’haṁ kuta āyātaḥ?
kā me jananī? ko me tātaḥ?

Who are you ? Who am I ? Where did I come from ?
Who is my mother ? Who is my father?
(I am leaving out the last two lines.)

का ते कान्ता कस्ते पुत्रः सम्सारोऽयमतीवविचित्रः।
कस्य त्वं कः कुत आयातः तत्त्वं चिन्तय तदिह भारत॥८॥

kā te kāntā kas te putraḥ
samsāro’yam atīva-vicitraḥ
kasya tvaṁ kaḥ kuta āyātaḥ
tattvaṁ cintaya tad iha bhārata 8

Who is your beloved (kāntā)? Who is your son (putra) ?
This samsara is really (atīva) incredible (vicitra).
Whose are you ? Who comes from where ?
O Bharata! Think (cintaya) about that (tat) truth (tattvam) here and now (iha).

वयसि गते कः कामविकारः शुष्के नीरे कः कासारः।
क्षीणे वित्ते कः परिवारो ज्ञाते तत्त्वे कः संसारः॥१०॥

vayasi gate kaḥ kāma-vikāraḥ
śuṣke nīre kaḥ kāsāraḥ
kṣīṇe vitte kaḥ parivāro
jnāte tattve kaḥ saṁsāraḥ 10

When you are old, what lusty transformation (is there)?
When the water is dried up, what is a pond?
When your money has run out, what is a family?
If you know the truth, what is samsara?

In other words, when you are old, what is the point of having desires? You can't act on them. Or, alternatively, you don't have any desires.

भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं मूढ़मते !!


Anonymous said...

I wish to study sanskrit,but all courses are too complicated..Lot of grammar and finely nothing stays in the brain..

Anonymous said...

I love languages and especially Sanskrit because so many languages are derived from it. I would love to be able to study with someone who would be willing to have an apprentice. Do you know of any one (or a site) that is willing to devote time to a student?