sanskrit

Sanskrit for Ayurveda practitioners

By Dr. Mithun Baliga (Ayurveda Counselor Student)
and Lori Black

Sanskrit is the spoken language of the Devatas or Demigods, according to Vedas. Samskrtam is said to be the oldest language known. Sanskrit is such a language rich in meaning, oftentimes there is no equivalent translation of the depth in which a word or sentence may be expressed through its context. Any student who is interested in Ayurveda will inevitably turn to the Briyat Treya.

Once we realize how simplified modern translations are of the ladened meaning meant to convey, we find a desire to understand the classics a bit more. We decide to dig into what Sushruta was trying to say; or how Patanjali could say so few words by present a meaning so in-depth. Not to mention the mantra of Sanskrit traditionally is what has supplanted the classics when there were no written versions available.

We look at the history of Ayurveda and see how there was a time when Indians were precluded from possessing the texts for fear of political retribution. Therefore, memorization was often accomplished through mantra; teaching was accomplished through mantra. As it seems so appropriate that any student who is serious about Vedanta, Ayurveda or any of the amazing Indian philosophies once must embark on the quest of deepening their preliminary understanding to even peek at what is revealed from the heart of the Gods.

Ayurveda is an ancient science believed to have divine origins. The language of the time was Sanskrit. Hence all the original texts are written in that language. Of course, we now have a translation in various languages. So we can ask certainly as the question: what is the importance of Sanskrit to Ayurveda practitioners? since everything is now available in English. It is important for many reasons.

1. The arrangement of information is the texts are in poetic form. This was to facilitate memorization which is easier why set to rhyme and meter. This poetic way of delivering information has to be interpreted correctly in the original language it was written(as in all poetry). Otherwise, errors can occur.

2. Sanskrit is an original stand-alone language, meaning it has no borrowed words. So, many times it is not possible to find exact equivalent words in other languages like English. Eg: the word dosha. The closest translation could be "a fault" but we know that "a fault" is not what we mean when we say dosha in Ayurveda. For this reason, Ayurvedic practitioner has to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the language so that they can use those Sanskrit words correctly and with confidence.

3. Some aspects of Ayurveda involve invoking mantras and or salutations. Although these can also be translated, again their inner meaning is lost. To recommend these forms of adjuncts to therapy, the practitioner may find the knowledge of Sanskrit helpful.

4. As a diagnostic tool: Although not used nowadays, in the past the ayurvedic practitioner would ask the patient to read out the syllables of the Sanskrit language. By observing the pronunciation and speech patterns, they would diagnose the patient's issues.

5. At a higher level, the Sanskrit language has divinity in itself. The syllables have a deeper meaning and specific combinations have different effects and strengths. Chanting Vedic and other hymns are known to bring about profound changes in the physical body as well as the mind and for spiritual progress.

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