Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC)

Research at SAFIC

The Sanskrit Immersion Experiment: Mental, Emotional, Psychological And Physical Impact

The proposed research uses an exploratory and descriptive qualitative approach using a single case study of one research participant.

The Research Questions

The study aims to investigate the following key research questions:

  • What happens to the human psyche, brain, mind, emotions when the native language, that which gives all the rules of social structure and habitual thought patterns (in this case English) is programmed out, and only the ancient Sanskrit language, pure, unchanged, is spoken?
  • What happens to the person’s sense of identity, ego, sense of individuality, sense of self when one no longer has the crutch of the language one grew up with?

Time Period

The study will be conducted over a period of several months. While the bulk of the data will be collected during the period of four or five months when the research participant is in India, the preparation for the immersion component of the study will begin a year prior to her arrival in India. Some data will also be collected during the first few months after the end of the immersion period.

  • Pre-immersion period: November 2018 – November 2019: Research participant to speak once a week in Sanskrit to gain some fluency in Sanskrit language.
  • Immersion period: December 2019 – April 2020: Research participant to spend this time in India speaking and reading ONLY SANSKRIT.
  • Post-immersion period: The initial few months after the research participant re-adjusts to speaking in English, her native language.

Research Team

The proposed study uses an autobiographical approach to gather key data. It will thus have two key investigators, playing different roles:

  1. Principal Investigator: Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, Director, SAFIC: He is a Presidential awardee and a Sahitya Akademi award winner Sanskrit scholar.  As the principal investigator, he will be responsible for organising and planning the details of the project, arranging the various immersion activities for the research participant, discussing and analysing the emerging findings and collaborating in the documentation of results.
  2. Co-investigator: Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Associate, SAFIC: She has extensive experience of qualitative research design, educational organisation and academic writing — skills which she will be bringing to the present project design and execution.
  3. Research Associate: Dr. Sharanya Reddy: With her background in biochemistry and extensive research experience she will be a resource for analysing some of the medical/physiological profile of the research participant and for preparing the final research report.

Research Participant

Ms. Gabriella Burnel, who will be the research participant and the primary gatherer of subjective data will be responsible for keeping sincere record of all outer and inner changes she experiences during the different stages of the study period, especially during the immersion period. She will also be the key collaborator in analysing the emerging findings and documentation of results.

Qualitative Research Approach

This study uses a single-case study approach. Only one self-volunteering research participant, Ms. Gabriella Burnel will be part of the study.

Some of the primary assumptions guiding the qualitative approach of the project are as follows:

  • All knowledge is ultimately grounded in the subjectivity of human experience.
  • The objective, rational approach of scientific method does not answer all the questions related to human experience.
  • An intuitive or inner perspective to research and knowing adds the much-needed dimension to our attempts to develop newer and deeper understanding of human experience.
  • There is a need for direct investigation and description of phenomena as consciously experienced, without theories for explanation and as free as possible from unexamined preconceptions and presuppositions.

Other key aspects of the qualitative research approach used are as follows:

  • This is an Exploratory study as it will attempt to investigate the little understood phenomenon of the impact of Sanskrit on an individual’s whole personality and sense of identity and self. What makes this study unique is that the individual under investigation is a non-native speaker of Sanskrit or any other Indian language, hence the dimension of giving up one’s native language and to completely immerse oneself in Sanskrit for a duration of 4 to 5 months will be an important addition to the existing studies on the impact of Sanskrit. The findings from this exploratory study will also help generate more informed hypotheses for future research on the relation between Sanskrit language and the growth of consciousness.
  • It also employs an Explanatory approach as it will try to explain the patterns related to the phenomenon in question, namely, the impact of Sanskrit on an individual’s physical, emotional and mental states of being, over a period of time. An attempt will be made to identify plausible factors shaping the findings. The unique aspect of the study will be the use of research participants’ autobiographical or self-reported subjective observations and reflections as the source of primary data. Some objective data will also be gathered in the form of physiological and psychological examinations of the research participant conducted by a certified professional.
  • The study also qualifies as a Descriptive one as the emphasis will be on documenting and describing the phenomenon under investigation in as much detail as possible.

Documentation of Findings

Several methods of documentation of research findings will be employed:

  1. Documentary Film: The results of this experiment will be shared globally through a documentary film prepared under the close guidance of the Research Participant, and will be of interest to the general public, as well as linguists, scientists, psychiatrists, spiritual seekers and academics.
  2. The film’s copyright will remain with the film-producers. But SAFIC will appreciate the right to show/exhibit this film, in full or in part, for research dissemination and educational purposes only, giving due acknowledgement and credit to the film-producers.
  3. Research reports and articles: These will be written by SAFIC Research Team, in discussion with the research participant, and sent for publication in various journals.

Research findings will be disseminated via presentations at conferences, seminars, Sanskrit institutions and universitie

Scroll to Top