Sanskrit and The Study of The Yoga Texts and ScripturesThe yoga masters tell us that in the language of Sanskrit the meaning of each syllable or word is contained or embodied in the actual sound. Hence the need for correct pronunciation. And that if we take a verse or phrase and repeat or chant it over and over with deep concentration and meditation, that even if we donít understand the language of Sanskrit, the meaning will be revealed to us through the omniscience of our deeper, pure consciousness, the Soul.
Iíve found that when you study the yoga texts Itís a good idea to have at least three, if not four or five, translations so that you can compare them. Unless youíre fluent in Sanskrit, you have to depend on the translations of others. And even though those translations are probably accurate, each syllable can have several possible meanings, or at least intents, and when you factor in the inclination of the person translating it, there is certainly the potential that the translations will be slightly different. And when you begin to combine syllables to create words the possibility of a different translation increases. Usually the fundamental translations of a verse are the same, but the over all meaning may vary greatly. When we compare several translations we can get a broader, deeper, more clear understanding of the meaning of the material weíre studying.
The original alphabet of Sanskrit is called Devanagari Script. Thereís another alphabet used to read and write Sanskrit called Transliteration. Transliteration is a system that is phonically based on the western languages which makes it easier for us to read and write Sanskrit.
If you look at a translation of The Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita, you will see that in most cases the verse is given in transliteration and then in English, French, Spanish, etc., which may then be followed by a commentary on the verse. Some times the transliteration is even preceded by the original Devanagari Script as it is, for example, in Sri Yukteswar Giriís book "The Holy Science".
To make your study of the yoga texts more effective and fun, I highly suggest taking a rudimentary course in Sanskrit, or to get a book and audio program to help you with pronunciation. Then when you study a text you can try reading and pronouncing the transliteration instead of skipping over it. As you do this, over time you begin to recognize the syllables and words and start to have an understanding of what they mean. Being able to speak the words will also enable you to chant the verses. This is fun and enjoyable in itself, but it will help to deepen your meditations and is very purifying. And because the meaning is embodied in the sound of the syllables and words, this will be a way to deepen your understanding of the material.
When youíre studying a text, unless youíre studying two or three verses that are related to each other, or a specific topic, itís best to go slowly and take only one verse at a time. Read and study the verse and commentary and reflect on it in your meditation and throughout the day or week trying to apply the wisdom and guidance in your daily life. Chanting the verse is also helpful. Re-read the verse and commentary during the day or week in order to help deepen your understanding of it and to infuse itís meaning into your consciousness.
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