Narach Philosophy

THE CHARACTER OF SANSKRT


As will have been observed, all that has been stated in these pages can be understood by means of the method of interpretation explained in the Mimansa; and it is said to consist chiefly in the division of words into parts, and assigning suitable meanings to each, when the combined result would give us the real meaning of a word, and enable us to understand the text.

Thus, the real meaning of the word Agni, commonly said to be the god of Fire, is intellect, as the Mimansa tells us; and it can be obtained by dividing the word into its parts, A, g, n, i and assigning suitable meanings to each part. This is necessary, for the dictionary gives a number of meanings to each letter of the alphabet, and we must make a proper selection which, as the Mimansa tells us, should have a bearing on the idea of action.

The Mimansa also tells us that a number of words used in the text have been newly coined to bring out the idea of action and the laws of Nature, with which the Vedas deal; and this, as well as the nature of the meanings of letters, for they are said to be the same throughout raises the question of the character of the Sanskrt language itself.

Most languages, we find, are associated with a people or a country; and so have "a local habitation and a name"; but Sanskrt is one of the few languages in the world which are without such limitations; and it would be found on examination that it is a really "reformed" or "purified" language, as the word literally means. Indeed, if, as the Mimansa tells us, a number of words have been newly coined to fit into this scheme of composition, and they and their parts retain their meanings throughout, it implies that special meanings have deliberately been given to the letters of the alphabet to bring out the ideas sought to be expressed in the text; for without this it would clearly be impossible to frame so many words in this form. This conclusion is borne out by the statement made in the Mimansa itself that these letters signify dravyas or substances referred to in the systems of philosophy, the five great "elements", Space, Tune, Mind, and the Soul.

Letters of the alphabet and centres of sound: The whole structure of the Sanskrt language, and the division of the letters of its alphabet into groups formed in accordance with the centres of sound from where they are produced, gutturals, palatals, linguals, dentals, and labials goes clearly to show that there is a deliberate design underlying its construction, for it is possible only in a language that is either wholly new, or has been recast, "reformed" or "purified", as Sanskrt is said to be. Indeed, it can only be the latter, for the Mimansa tells us that, in addition to a number of newly coined words, many old words have also been used in the text of the Vedas, only in a number of cases they have been made to conform to this scheme of composition.

A language of the Gods: Sanskrt is also sometimes spoken of as Deva-nagari or a language of the people of the city of the gods; and it is commonly believed that this is due to its extraordinary richness and sweetness of tone. But the expression has its own special significance too; for the Mimansa tells us that the gods refer to the great forms and forces of Nature; and what belongs to the people of their city can only refer to concrete ideas of life formed in accordance with them and their laws. And it is this that we might expect to be contained in the letters of the alphabet, by means of which we are able to understand the text in terms of these laws.

The forms and forces of Nature: We have seen what these forms and forces of Nature really are, for they can refer only to what emerges out of Prakrti when it evolves into life; and that, as the Sankhya has told us, consists of the intellect, ahankara, mind, the ten senses of knowledge and action, and the five great "elements" and their properties. It is these that constitute the dravyas or substances of the systems of philosophy, and have been distributed among the letters of the alphabet, so as to give us these meanings in turn.

The voice of Nature: Conceived in this sense, Sanskrt would be regarded as the voice of Nature itself. This is indeed true of all languages in more or less degree, for the object of human speech is to give expression to the thoughts of man in connection with all he can think of, imagine, or do; but it is so in the case of Sanskrt in a very special sense.

The theory of the language: It is not necessary to discuss here the theory underlying the structure of the Sanskrt language; nor is it necessary to discuss the form of the older language, on which the existing language was based, a certain number of the words of which, as the Mimansa tells us, have been used in the text of the Vedas. It is possible, even as scholars believe, that there was a common stock of Indo-European languages, to which Sanskrt, Greek, and a number of other languages belong; but Sanskrt, in its present form, such as we find in the Vedas and later literature, "purified" and "reformed" out of the original tongue, as the word literally signifies, with special meanings attaching to the letters of the alphabet, which have retained their import throughout could only have been devised in India, where it continues in its perfect form still.

The idea of vowels and consonants: It may be of interest to observe that, though the letters of the alphabet of a language are usually divided among vowels and consonants, the consonants in Sanskrt are separated from the vowels, and written in such a manner that they cannot be pronounced without their aid. At the same time, both vowels and consonants are referred to the same centres of sound from which they emanate; for instance, "a" belongs to the guttural class, and "u" to the labial. This would appear to imply that, while both vowels and consonants refer to the great forms and forces of Nature, the vowels refer to some hidden power that moves them, while the consonants to something more objective and more easily grasped. It would thus be more convenient to consider the idea of the consonants first.

Consonants: We have observed that the consonants refer to the great forms and forces of Nature, from the intellect to the "elements". In this connection we have seen the idea of ahankara, or the I-as-an-actor, which too figures as one of the creations of Prakrti or Nature in the different systems of philosophy and religion, so that, if we regard the soul as an actor, there can be no place for ahankara as a separate entity. As the final conclusion of the systems of philosophy and religion is that it is the soul that acts, there is no place for the Mimansa or the system based on the character of ahankara, in the great systems of religion. Corresponding to this, it would be unnecessary to assign any separate role to ahankara among the letters of the alphabet, and its idea would be included in that of the mind on the one hand, and the soul on the other.

The idea of the consonants would accordingly be limited to the intellect, mind, the ten senses, and the "elements" and their properties; for, in addition to these, there is only the soul, which is unmanifest, and so its idea cannot be represented directly by the consonants.

The principle of distribution: It would be obvious that the principle of distribution of the forms and forces of Nature among the letters of the alphabet must be the same as is evidenced in the pattern of thought of the great systems of philosophy and religion and their prototype in the Vedas, for otherwise it would be impossible for these letters to represent the corresponding forms and forces, and with such consistency throughout; and it implies that this pattern was well-known from the very inception of the "reform" which resulted in the formation of Sanskrt and the composition of the Vedas, and was scrupulously followed by all who wrote on the same subject.