Teaching Sanskrit at Jiva

Vinode Vani, who is one of my new pupils at Jiva Institute Sanskrit, asked me to answer some general questions about my method and objectives. So I thought I would share what I wrote here.

My earliest idea was not very ambitious at all. I started teaching and developing the course and method while in Rishikesh, but the yoga students there were less interested in pursuing Sanskrit. This is not so unusual as I have found very few foreign devotees to think that it is at all necessary. After all, it is well nigh impossible for foreigners to develop the kind of fluency in Sanskrit that comes from being born in a living, breathing cultural environment.

For me personally, Sanskrit began as an inexplicable attraction, based probably on hearing Prabhupada chant shlokas like the Shikshashtakam or Shadgosvamyashtakam or Gurvashtakam, etc. So I assume that there will be some few people who will have that inclination and it is important to give them facility. Love of Sanskrit will be helpful to developing love for Krishna, or the Supreme Truth.

But since spiritual life is so multidimensional, with so many levels of adhikara, I was just hoping to teach students those portions of text such as the daily prayers and so on so that they would have some understanding and enhanced pleasure and inspiration when chanting them. My main purpose was simply to enhance for them the simplest and most common Sanskrit experience through chanting.

When it came to teaching here at Jiva I started out with pretty much the same idea, but because of the nature of the institute and the students, I am being a bit more ambitious.

So it is or will be an important part of this course to learn the Bhagavata verses that Babaji chants as a regular part of the morning program. I hope to be able to get students to that point sooner or later, but we will have to start by first reading simpler texts like the Gita. So in this way the material that I prepared in Rishikesh like the Gita verses and Ishopanishad, etc. are being made use of in this course.

The big difference between the yogi culture of Rishikesh and that of Vrindavan is the way that we Gaudiya Vaishnavas love our scriptures. The importance given to hearing the Bhagavatam is one of the most central principles in our disciplic succession. The sound vibration itself is sacred and not different from Bhagavan. So the better access that we have to the Sanskrit language, the better we will be able to put into practice the bhakti-anga of shravanam, and from there be able to enter more deeply into the other bhakti practices.

Conversational Sanskrit is an important goal, but I have not got much experience in this area so that is why I will get the Sanskrit Bharati people to come here in February when I go on a bit of voyage to the East. By then many of the forms will be familiar to the students so they will be ready. Learning a bit of conversation according to their method will make students more familiar and comfortable with Sanskrit. So I look forward to including that in the program.

In my view, language has very strong link to a person's perception of the world. Language is the operating system software that we use for much of what we do and how we perceive and interpret reality. By using the English language, we naturally swim in the reality of the Anglosphere, which is the dominant matrix of reality of globalization. It is the default system of globalized reality and most Western people are naturally using it unself-consciously.

Americans and other people born in the core Anglosphere are often unilingual and have a blind spot about their own conditioning. By learning another operating system, especially one like Sanskrit, which is the medium for an entire civilization, we have the opportunity to do more than just enrich our own personality or satisfy our thirst for knowledge : it gives us a new way of perceiving and interpreting the world, and thereby insights into the common purpose of humanity.

These insights, by their inherent power, will be able to inform the dominant globalized culture by counteracting atheism, nihilism, consumerism, totalitarianism and other diseases of the age.


Back to Godhead said…
After meditation this morning, whilst browsing the internet my person came accros the following Blog posting entitled "Jayapataka's Immortality plan":


My person had no previous knowledge of who Swami Jayapataka "Tridandi Biksu Jayapataka Swami" (formerly, Gordon John Erdman II) is, or what he represents. From the blog posting image embedded at the top of the post, it was obvious he had seen better days in the 1970's buying fruit in Kolkata.

In my own tradition (of the Kaula) there are only the fruits of practice; all that is true will stand, all that is false will fall (this eternal truth stands the test of time in both practice and theory).

Ignorance is simply not knowing; to know, one must put theory into practice (my person knows this truth full well, having many times neglected real practice blinded by the burning coles of my own [false] desire).

If my person was to give Swami Jayapataka advice in his present incarnation, it would be to let go of everything (and while you still have breath in your body), learn at the feet of śrī (yes, śrī) Jagadananda Das.

As my person has found out; when one teaches, two learn...

Kind regards,




DKM said…

Mine is actually a question:

Do you know anything about the following PhD thesis? कृष्णकुतूहलम्, क्रिटिकल स्टडी ऑफ, ए ड्रामा बाय मधूसूदन सरस्वती विथ एडीशन ऑफ दि सेम. ¾ झाकर, एन..हि. *** सौरष्ट्र, 1979, पी.एच.डी.

All I am interest in is: A Hindi or English translation of Madhusoodana Sarasvati's KR^shNakutoohalam.

Any help from you would be a blessing for me.

DKM Kartha

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