Hi Nancy and all, I want to add some thoughts about the mahavakyas but maintaining the focus in the reflection about the sanskrit language, topic which meet us here.
The first reflections is related to a post I made some weeks ago, I wrote:
And it means:
You have to realize fully the [meaning] "Brahmasmi".
Quoting Sankaracarya and his Sadhana Pañcakam.
Afterwards Nancy added:
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)
The interesting point here is the polisemic aspect of a sanskrit word, not only in its translation (as seen before) but in the original too. In some cases this is due to the long history and wide usage of a term that produces many differents meanings. The root system also is part of this and the use of particles as preverbs, suffixes, etc. It can be add that the orthodox sects have their own methods of interpretation, etymology and word families, it can be seen when a brahmin explains the meaning of a verse or a word and the system he uses to establish links with others words, deduce etymologies, exchange of synonyms, etc. This method not always fit in with the occidental one but is very interesting and enlightening.
Another interesting thing is that a mahavakya is not only a sentence to be repeated or a concept in the surface of the mind, but a subconscious attitude, a real belief. For instance, we can say to ourselves: ahambrahmasmi, even meditate upon that, but if instinctually we act ignoring that, we have no yet understood the mahavakya. In the same text by Sankaracarya we have an example of that:
deha= body aham= I iti= “x” ruj= destroy
And could be translated as:
The idea: “I am the body” must be destroyed.
So, deho'ham has the form of a mahavakya but is an idea firmly rooted in our subconscious mind, it is the identification with the upadhi, in the same way, the mahavakyas have to penetrate deep into our hearts until they turn an instinc (spiritual of course).
Sāṃkhya-Kārikā, verse 1, commentary
Here is Gauḍapāda's commentary for verse 1, based on Har Dutt Sharma's English translation, with some adaptations:
Salutations to Kapila who, out of compassion for the world sunk in the ocean of ignorance, constructed a boat, as it were, in the form of Sāṃkhya, for crossing (that ocean).
For the benefit of students, I shall concisely explain this science, this short and clear text, including proofs, conclusions, and reasons.
“Threefold suffering”: This verse (āryā) is introduced. The blessed one, Kapila by name, was the son of Brahmā. As it (has been said):
Sanaka, Sanandana, and third, Sanātana, Āsuri, Kapila, Voḍhu, and Pañcaśikha—these seven great sages are said to be the sons of Brahmā.
Kapila was born with virtue, knowledge, desirelessness, and power. He, being born thus, seeing the world sinking in blinding gloom through the succession of saṃsāra (birth and death), having true compassion, taught this knowledge of the twenty-five principles to the enquiring Brahman Āsuri, of his own lineage; from which knowledge the destruction of suffering results.
One who knows the twenty-five principles, in whatever stage of life he may be, whether he has matted hair, or is shaven, or has a topknot, becomes liberated; there is no doubt about it.
So (they) say this (verse 1): “Due to affliction from threefold suffering, inquiry (should be made).” The three kinds of suffering are internal, external, and celestial. The internal (suffering) is twofold, bodily and mental. Bodily is fever,
dysentery, and the rest, brought about by disorder of wind, bile, or phlegm. Mental is separation from what is liked, union with what is not liked, and the rest. The external (suffering), caused by the fourfold host of living beings, arises from those born from the womb, those born from an egg, those born of sweat, and those born by sprouting, i.e., humans, domestic animals, wild animals, birds, snakes, biting flies, mosquitos, lice, bugs, fish, crocodiles, sharks, and stationary beings (plants). The celestial (suffering), celestial because it belongs to the gods, or celestial because it comes from the sky—what arises with reference to that (the gods or the sky)—is cold, heat, wind, rain, thunderbolt, and the rest. Thus, since “due to affliction from threefold suffering, inquiry” should be made, (made) into what?
“Into the means for its removal”: Into that which is the means for the removal of that threefold suffering.
“If (it be said that) this is useless when (there exist) evident (means)”: If (cet), i.e., if (yadi), (it be said that) this inquiry is useless when (there exist) evident means for the removal of the threefold suffering. (For the removal) of the twofold internal (suffering), there are, through treatment according to medical science, by coming together with what is liked, avoidance of what is not liked, the pungent, the bitter, the astringent, and other decoctions, and the like, quite evident internal means. The evident (means) for the removal of external (suffering) are by protection and the like. If you thus think that this (inquiry) is useless when (there exist) evident (means), (then we reply:) no.
“Because of the absence of certainty and finality”: Because by evident means the removal (of suffering) does not occur certainly, i.e., necessarily, and finally, i.e., permanently. Therefore, inquiry, i.e., investigation, into the means for certain and final removal (of suffering) should be made elsewhere.
Sāṃkhya-Kārikā, verse 2, Grammatical Analysis
dṛṣţavat ānuśravikaḥ saḥ hi aviśuddhi-kṣaya-atiśaya-yuktaḥ |
tat-viparītaḥ śreyān vyakta-avyakta-jña-vijñānāt || 2 ||
dṛṣţavat (indeclinable) = [are] like (-vat) the evident (dṛṣţa) [means]. The words "[are]" and "[means]" are implied.
ānuśravikaḥ (adjective; masculine nominative or 1st case singular) = scriptural [means].
saḥ (pronoun; masculine nominative or 1st case singular) = it; contextually "they."
hi (indeclinable) = for.
aviśuddhi-kṣaya-atiśaya-yuktaḥ (tatpuruṣa compound; noun; masculine nominative or 1st case singular) = [are] linked (yuktaḥ) with impurity (aviśuddhi), destruction (kṣaya), and [inequality due to] superiority (atiśaya). In this tatpuruṣa or case relation compound, the case relation is between two members. The first member is the first three words taken together. These three words, aviśuddhi, kṣaya, and atiśaya, form a dvandva or conjunctive compound. An "and" must be supplied between impurity (aviśuddhi), and destruction (kṣaya), and [inequality due to] superiority (atiśaya). The second member is the last word, yukta. Here is where the case relation comes in, by supplying "with." So we have "linked (yukta) with" the preceding.
tat-viparītaḥ (tatpuruṣa compound; adjective; masculine nominative or 1st case singular) = [A means] contrary (viparītaḥ) to those (tat). In this tatpuruṣa or case relation compound, the ablative or 5th case ending, "than," or idiomatically "to" in this English phrase, must be supplied for the pronoun tat, "that" or "those."
śreyān (adjective; masculine nominative or 1st case singular) = [is] better. The undeclined form of this word is śreyas.
vyakta-avyakta-jña-vijñānāt (tatpuruṣa compound; noun; neuter ablative or 5th case singular) = [resulting] from the discriminative knowledge (vijñānāt) of the manifest (vyakta), the unmanifest (avyakta), and the knower (jña). In this tatpuruṣa or case relation compound, the case relation is between two members. Like the compound in the first line of this verse, the first member is the first three words taken together. These three words form a dvandva or conjunctive compound, in which an "and" must be supplied between the three words. Then with the second member, vijñāna, the case relation comes in, supplying "of." So we have "discriminative knowledge (vijñāna) of" the preceding.