I had so much fun learning a 5,000-year-old “dead” language today.
I put “dead” in quotations because that was the way Sanskrit was described by an acquaintance who questioned the necessity of learning the language. I challenged him on this point: It may not be used in everyday speech, but it’s very much alive in the yoga community. And I wanted to learn — at the very least, so I wouldn’t get so tongue-tied trying to pronounce asana names.
Moksha hosted Nicolai Bachman, a renowned Sanskrit scholar, to help us understand the language, and ground the education in its application to yoga practice and chanting.
I bought a few of Nicolai’s books upon signing up for the Moksha teacher training program — but haven’t really given them a thoughtful read. I just wasn’t disciplined enough to do it; and other yoga books were just more “fun” to read. I figured that these workshops would help me understand pronunciation, meaning and application better than self-disciplined book study. Perhaps it would even inspire me to give my Sanskrit books and flashcards another look.
Perhaps. I definitely feel like I have a better appreciation for the language. I love that sound and meaning mirror each other in Sanskrit. In other words, the meaning and/or emotion is conveyed via the sound, without necessarily needing to know the exact translation. The sound and repetition of mantras will attract and ignite what you call out. “You attract the energy of whatever you are chanting,” Nicolai said.
We learned the alphabet; how to use our entire throat in reciting the sounds; then put it together, applying it to some “Vedic chanting karaoke” (Nicolai’s description).
The chanting was really great — and very different from the Sanskrit chanting in which I participating a few months ago when teachers from India visited Moksha. I was lost then. But today, I had a new confidence. I could follow, thanks to the foundation and technicality that Nicolai provided.
How do you say “Hooray” in Sanskrit?