Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC)

Spandana – Feeling the Pulsation of a Divine Language

Start Date:  26th January 2020
End Date:   : 1st February 2020
Location:  Sri Aurobindo Society

Spandana – The annual Sanskrit Intensive course Level 1 offered by SAFIC,  in its 10th  year now, was conducted at Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry from 26th January to 1st February 2020. It was conducted by Dr Sampadananda Mishra, Director, SAFIC and was attended by thirty two participants from different locations including from Malta and USA. The variety included scientists, teachers, business owners, professionals and even a 13 year old.

The schedule of the Intensive Course though was not intense but its effect was intense for everyone who participated sincerely. The schedule was of about 7 hours each day of actual learning sessions. The coverage was wide, in-depth, yet simple. For those who were new, it was challenging but not daunting.

The beginning – Mangalaacharanam –  often lays the entire content of a text. Similarly the opening session laid out the purport of learning Sanskrit  – TO KNOW, TO LIVE, AND TO BE, and align the very purpose of life with the Divine. Language was therefore a means to allow one to be an expression of Brahman.

The participants were taken through the aspect of language which the Mother spoke about – to learn the roots and thereby get a sense of Sanskrit.

Many people at the outset shared the reason for taking the course. The reasons were varied but a common theme was each one wanted to access the wisdom woven in the language directly and not through translations.

We learnt many interesting facets:

-a great percentage of all Sanskrit composition available to us is in poetry form;

-the deep meaning behind the systematic arrangement of Varnamaalaa;

-infinite possibilities of creating words;

-how open ended the language was that it could never be fixated and contained;

-and although Sanskrit has intricate rules yet it has unlimited scope of expansion.

These are only some of the fascinating facts of the language which is known as Devabhasha.

There were many new concepts and definitions which all participants learnt. Each definition had a fresh profoundness. Like the word svara (Sanskrit word for vowel) and vyanjana (Sanskrit word for consonants), and the difference between them. The participants learnt how the sequence in which the sounds are arranged in the Sanskrit alphabet is harmonious, non-arbitrary, logical and even scientific. It was amazing to learn the perspective of phonetics or natural sahaj pranaayaam by singing the verses. How the words used to denote something had precise and contextual linkage to the reality so that the articulation of expression and naming of objects was apt. For example the word AHAM – that it meant an individual but it also meant all letters between ‘a’ to ‘ha’, a sense of completeness and totality represented by the word for an individual. The participants were told that although there were 48 letters, these plus a few others were made from only four different types of strokes.

The entire course pattern can be divided into these broad parts:

  1. Mantra Yoga

This was the first session each day. It consisted of introduction to Sanskrit mantras and through them the deeper message of Indian culture and heritage. The mantras selected were of two types – from the Vedas and Upanishads and the second were of more from the devotional literature and some of them were of recent origin. Both series carried inspirational, spiritual and practical aspects. The participants were taken through each word, it’s meaning, uchaaraNa and chanting it melodiously. The participants would listen to the teacher uttering it precisely and then utter it in unison.

The highlight was the session on purification of chakras through Mantras. Focusing on Chakras and invoking their Shakti through specific mantras in both ascending and descending orders.

The days thus began on the right note.

  1. Technical sessions and Fundamentals

These sessions covered Varnamaalaa, Chhandas, Root sounds, a session of Bhagavad Gita, VyaakaraNa. VarNamaalaa laid out the entire back drop of formative characters of Sanskrit. How every varNa expressed a fundamental, wide and specific aspect of existence and beyond. VyaakaraNa walked participants through rules of composition of words and sentences. In the session on Chandas we experienced and practiced metres. It was a revelation to find the aesthetic sophistication of Chandas – the precision, sequentiality, rhythm, that if put to melody invoked the spirit of letters and enhanced the effect on the speaker and listener.

Bhagavad Gita session walked the participants through the effort and study tool created by SAFIC. The app that is available for free is a stupendous effort and truly a labour of love towards the propagation of studying the Gita. The sheer functionalities the website and App kept the participants amazed and inspired. There is perhaps no other learning tool that so comprehensive and supportive.

  1. SambhaashaNam

This was a free flowing yet innovatively created part of the Intensive. Each day we learnt for 2-3 hours Sanskrit speaking. This laid foundation of conversing in Sanskrit. Dr Mishra made every session interesting to keep attention and interest at high level. The methodology and its application were particularly admirable and effective. The focus was entirely on the plain use of words and letters to form sentences of mundane use. Since each person had to form sentence and speak, no one could escape from feeling a sense of having done what she was learning. The focus was maintained on singular and tenses were saved for the next level.

The poetries and stories made sambhaaShaNam even more enjoyable. Story writing from words was done as a group work. Several times the participants ended up singing contemporary Sanskrit rhymes and songs that had words we would use commonly and got a taste of delight of Sanskrit poetry.

These sessions had elements of humour also. Like the verse on Roti or on Chai or a verse from Shrimad  Bhaagvatam which was about drinking and its effect, till we found that it talked about drinking the nectar of devotion.

  1. Other highlights

One highlight was preparing group talks on ‘Importance of Sanskrit in Daily Life’ or on ‘Education system and Sanskrit’. Participants shared their perspectives and understanding before the class on either of the subjects. The session on SAFIC initiatives showcased the work done by the SAFIC for preservation and promotion of Indian culture, which is a precious offering to entire humanity for its universal and integral values and practical timeless utility.

During the sessions the participants could clarify their understanding or the lack of it with Dr. Mishra. Since the sessions were interactive nearly every person asked questions and got his doubt addressed.

The last day there was a session on resources available to further support our study of Sanskrit. This was particularly useful. It was heartening to know that there are more than enough resources available online for one to take help in studying Sanskrit. At the end people shred their experiences and feedback and received a certificate of participation. Each person was especially grateful to Sampadananda ji and his team for supporting our endeavour.

The 6.5 days of immersion in Sanskrit in the sacred and serene environs of Ashram, in the time to come, will open up new and unique path for every participant to assimilate the essence that was taught and caught.

(This report by Raman Jokhakar, Chairman & Editor, Bombay Chartered Accountant Journal (BCAJ), who participated in this Sanskrit Intensive Course.)

Feedback by few participants:

-It was very comprehensive and complete. The theory and practical were blended nicely.

-It was easy to follow. The content was delivered with clarity.

-I liked the teaching method, dedication and organization.

-I liked the Mantras and all presentations and explanations given by the teacher. These brought clarity to the topics.

-I liked the Mantra chanting, especially the Chakra Purification Mantras.

-We were encouraged and given equal opportunities to interact during all sessions.

-I liked the Chandas session very much.

-I liked everything: the content, the place, the teacher.

-It gave in-depth knowledge of our Devabhasha.

-The teacher’s ability to explain complex and deep knowledge in simple words was very inspiring.

-The relationship between Sanskrit and nature was explained beautifully with example.

-I liked the many methods of teaching which created interest and did not allow boredom.

-I liked the morning mantras and chandas most. It has opened a gate way to be in right way tuned with Vedic mantras and its spirit.

-I liked the facilitation and the way the class unfolded, and the teacher’s dedication and commitment to spreading the knowledge of Sanskrit.

-Excellent teaching and excellent atmosphere.

-I liked most the way of teaching. All sessions were interactive, very well planned and organized. Learning Sanskrit was never so playful for us.

-Excellent mix of theory and practice.


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