Why Sanskrit?
Posted on: 7/7/2020

A busy mother’s view

There are two activities which I have found restorative, and these are playing the piano and studying Sanskrit.

When all else fails, when the heart is churning and the mind is racing and the memory of stillness is distant and intangible, I can sit at the piano, or sit down to some Sanskrit, and be restored. This happens every time without exception. The mind clears.

The intellectual aspect of one’s mind is not needed very much when raising five children. I had definitely felt that a part of me had been put aside to fulfil the mothering role, but that intellectual part of me awakened with the introduction of Sanskrit grammar. It is really tricky and complicated, but the satisfaction of working out the translation of a simple sentence is delightful! It felt like solving a quadratic equation. I realised how hungry I was for the mental stimulation.

It is the variety of ‘activities’ which fall under the umbrella of Sanskrit study which I find most useful of all. An hour of Sanskrit grammar in the afternoon gives a wonderful feeling of achievement and mental stimulation when the rest of the day has been meal preparation, endless car driving and grade 6 children’s homework!

In this world of instant access to information via the internet, and all cell phone numbers being stored on the phones themselves, I found that my capacity to memorise things had dwindled. Not anymore! It feels a little like the rusted cogs of an old disused machine starting to turn, but I can say that my memory has brightened.

Perhaps the most magic aspect of Sanskrit study occurs in simple contemplation. There are always so many ‘meanings’ of Sanskrit words, and if one works back to the root form of the word, yet another aspect of the meaning of the word is suggested. It feels as if the Sanskrit words call their meaning to the surface of my consciousness.

So Sanskrit study opens a door into a different way of discovering things. I have found such richness and delight in my journey with Sanskrit.

Why Sanskrit? Why ever not?

M. Braithwaite

(extract from an article first published in The Sanskrit Review 2017)

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