There has been interest expressed here in Sanskrit language study. How is this language studied? In American universities, this is typically done by the instructor assigning lessons from a book, and then in class answering questions that arise from the students doing these lessons. There is often very little actual instruction given by the instructor. Most of the instruction comes from the book. When this is the case, this is something that can just as well be done online. Then the only real need to pay thousands of dollars for a professor, or more often a graduate student, to do this, is for those who need the credential.
 
We suggest purchasing and using Judith Tyberg's First Lessons in Sanskrit Grammar and Reading, to serve as the instructor. This is available at Amazon for $13.95. Any questions that arise from going through these lessons can be discussed here on this forum. Nancy Reigle will be available for this, as time permits. She started studying this book with the late Judith Tyberg in 1978. This book is highly recommended to start one's studies of Sanskrit with.
 
A detailed listing of what books are available for Sanskrit study can be found in "Sanskrit Language Study: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Materials in English" (attached here, and also at: http://www.easterntradition.org/etri%20bib-sanskrit%20study.pdf). For those who want a more advanced course, there are several options. A couple of these can be used for self-study, but most require an instructor. Among the latter is the Devavanipravesika: An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language, by Robert Goldman and Sally Sutherland Goldman. Nancy studied this book in an exceptional class with the co-author, Sally Sutherland (Goldman), at University of California, Berkeley, and can also reply to questions on its lessons.
 
Whatever book you choose, we wish you well in this difficult but rewarding study.

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We have been discussing that while learning the Sanskrit alphabet, it is also important to learn the class to which each letter belongs.

    The reason for this is that the Sanskrit language has a very sophisticated system of sound combination known as Sandhi. When two letters (sounds) coalescence, certain changes take place, depending on the class of the letters involved. An example in English is "cats and dogs." When an "s" is added to "cat" to make it plural, the "s" is still pronounced as an "s" because it follows a "hard" sound, the final "t" of cat. But when we add an "s" to "dog," it is pronounced as "dogz." That is because the "s" there follows the final "g" of dog, which is "soft." Sandhi changes occur all the time in our spoken languages, but Sanskrit actually accounts for these changes in its written language. The most frequent sandhi changes we will see initially in Sanskrit are those that occur between words, which is called external sandhi. (There is also internal sandhi, which occurs within words. Internal sandhi is an issue that we do not have to be concerned with now.)
   
    While learning the alphabet, in addition to learning the class to which each letter belongs, one should also learn the further distinction as to whether a consonant is "hard" or "soft."

    For study purposes, I have attached a copy of page 1 of R. Antoine's A Sanskrit Manual For High Schools, Part I. He has an excellent chart that classifies all the consonants of the Sanskrit alphabet according to class, and to whether or not they are "hard or soft," and also "unaspirate or aspirate." All of the vowels are classified as soft.

 

The semi-vowels "ya, ra, la, and va" are classified as soft.

The sibilants: s (with the accent), sha, and sa are classified as hard.

The consonant "ha" is soft.

 

Attachments:
While waiting for persons interested in studying Sanskrit to obtain copies of our text, Judith Tyberg's First Lessons in Sanskrit Grammar and Reading, some quotes can be posted. The first one is very familiar:

    satyaan naasti paro dharma.h | 

    There is no Religion higher than Truth. (Tyberg, p. 14)

(Satyaat--than truth; na--not; asti--is; para.h--higher; dharma.h--religion.)

[The word-by-word vocabulary here is given in its original form before sandhi changes: satyaat becomes satyaan; na + asti = naasti; and para.h becomes paro.]
The Sandhi rules are given in Tyberg's book in Appendix IV, pp. 164-172.    

(Note: This system of transliteration will be used until we can get a diacritical font operational here:
    long vowels will be doubled (aa, ii, etc.); letters written with a dot under (the dot will precede the letter); and an accent mark will precede the palatal s ('s).

*If anyone knows how we can get a Unicode font to work here, please let me know. Thanks!

I should be able to help out here and there with people cracking open the first layers of Sanskrit; and if there's interest enough for forming study groups etc. I also have a fair deal of network in people who are more formally polished in their grammar and linguistic systems.

Here's something you may find quite useful in working with the original texts: Diacritic and Indic Script Conversion · diCrunch v2.0.1 . Converts between all common transliteration schemes and Devanagari/Bengali/Oriya scripts. http://www.codewallah.com/diCrunch/diCrunch.php

Here's also Grantha Mandira, a site I have been collaborating on for the past decade with two Sanskrit pundit-professors to create a free online archive of e-texts: http://www.granthamandira.com/ Some of the hundreds of texts there are syndicated and offered in different formats at IGNCA's resources, and the Sanskrit Documents site (http://www.sanskritdocuments.org/) is of course also a great source for all Vedic/Astika texts like the Upanishads. These should all at some point be entered into a uniform public master database. (I have had databases of these for my own research for a while now, but have not as of yet found the time to hack it all up into a solution that'd be ready for prime time.)

Thank you very much, Markus, for kindly offering to help with this. It is great to have such expertise available here. Thanks also for the useful links. The many Sanskrit texts of the Hindu tradition that are now available online will certainly make study easier for large numbers of people.

Markus Ananda Asgeir said:

I should be able to help out here and there with people cracking open the first layers of Sanskrit; and if there's interest enough for forming study groups etc. I also have a fair deal of network in people who are more formally polished in their grammar and linguistic systems.

The Mahavakyas

The mahavakyas (mahaavaakya) are the "great sayings" or "great utterances" of the Vedas. According to the Vedanta school of Indian philosophy, these sayings embody the spiritual truth of the identity of divinity (brahman) with the spiritual core of each person (atman). As Judith Tyberg says in her book, Language of the Gods, "All sacred chants that have come down to us through the ages were originally the outpouring of divine experience, and hence may act as a light on our higher pathway" (p. 20).
 
These mahavakyas (mahaavaakya) are much used as seed-thoughts for meditation. In the Vedanta classic, the Panchadashi, Vidyaranya says: "In short, an indirect knowledge of Brahman by the intellect can be gained from other Shruti passages; but direct knowledge is achieved by reflection upon the great Shruti sentences (mahavakyas)." (Chapter 7, verse 69)

There are four main mahavakyas (mahaavaakya), each associated with one of the four Vedas: Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva. Probably the most well-known one is:
       
    tat tvam asi (from the Chandogya Upanisad of the Sama Veda)

    "That (tat) you (tvam) are (asi)"; or "You (tvam) are (asi) that (tat)" (i.e., brahman). When Biblical English was in vogue for the translation of religious books, it was translated as: "That thou art."
    
Mahāvākya (Great Saying)

The second of the four major mahāvākyas listed here comes from the Aitareya Upanişad of the Ŗg-veda:

prajñānam brahma

"Consciousness is brahman."

Prajñānam (consciousness) [is] brahman (the impersonal absolute).

Nancy, would you care to start a separate thread on the mahavakyas, whenever you have them all down? If I start streaming here about them, it'll flood your entire thread in short order!

That's a great idea, Markus. Yes, I will start a new thread shortly, and we look forward to your contributions.



Markus Ananda Asgeir said:

Nancy, would you care to start a separate thread on the mahavakyas, whenever you have them all down? If I start streaming here about them, it'll flood your entire thread in short order!
Mahāvākyas (Great Sayings) 3 and 4


The third and fourth of the four major mahāvākyas listed here are:


 3. aham brahmāsmi (from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad of the Yajur-veda)

        "I am brahman."

Aham (I) brahma (brahman) asmi (am).
 

4. ayam ātmā brahma (Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad of the Atharva-veda).

        "This self is brahman."

Ayam (this) ātmā (self) [is] brahma (brahman).



    Here are the remaining two of the four major mahāvākyas (great sayings) in preparation for a new discussion forum that will be starting soon. Although I had intended to start one, I haven't been able to do so. Markus is welcome to take it from here and start this. We all look forward to reading his posts on this topic.   


Before the next discussion about mahavakyas will be open, I want to share with you the Shankaracharya's advice, found in Sadhanapañcakam, Five verses about the spiritual practice:

Brahmāsmī vibhāyatām

And it means:

You have to realize fully the [meaning] "Brahmasmi".

Brahmasmi as in the third mahavakya.

Nancy Reigle said:

The third and fourth of the four major mahāvākyas listed here are:


 3. aham brahmāsmi (from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad of the Yajur-veda)

        "I am brahman."

Aham (I) brahma (brahman) asmi (am). 
 



This is great--locating the mahāvākyas in their scriptural contexts.
 
This verse uses the passive imperative verb vibhāvyatām (to cultivate in meditation) in connection with the mahāvākya: "I am brahman". As usual, there is a wide variance in the way each translator chooses to translate this verb into English:    
 
Realize fully (cited below)
Remember (R. E. Gussner)
Meditate upon (Swami Satchidanandendra)
Revolve in the mind (C. S. Venkateswaran)
Be absorbed in the attitude (bhāv) (Swami Chinmayananda)
Understand and be immersed in the bhāva (attitude) (H. H. Muralidharan)
 


Leila Becquer said:

Before the next discussion about mahavakyas will be open, I want to share with you the Shankaracharya's advice, found in Sadhanapañcakam, Five verses about the spiritual practice:

Brahmāsmī vibhāyatām

And it means:

You have to realize fully the [meaning] "Brahmasmi".

Brahmasmi as in the third mahavakya.


More Mahāvākyas
 
In addition to the four major mahāvākyas, there are other, lesser-known mahāvākyas as well. Here are two of them:
 
    sarvam idam brahma
 
    "All this is brahman."
 
    Sarvam (all) idam (this, i.e., the manifested universe) [is] brahma (the impersonal absolute).
 
 
The second one is:
 
    brahmaivedaṃ sarvam
 
    "Brahman, indeed, is all this."
 
    Brahma (brahman) eva (indeed) [is] idam (this, i.e., the manifested universe) sarvam (all).
 
        (Sandhi: brahma + eva = brahmaiva; brahmaiva + idam = brahmaivedam.)  
 
 
These two nearly identical mahāvākyas express the same thought.
 

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