Everyone (reading this blog!) has heard of the syllable ‘OM’. The Devanagari for this is the immediately recognizable ॐ but it is made up of three letters, a, u and m. Thus, it could actually be represented as औम् and the ITRANS, instead of being written OM, would be ‘aum’.
How OM can function as a symbol for brahman or the entirety of creation is elucidated by Gaudapada and described in my book ‘A-U-M: Awakening to Reality’. Here is the section that describes the Sanskrit aspects:
The spoken word ‘OM’ is actually Sanskrit. The written ‘OM’ is its ‘Romanized’ representation (i.e. using the English alphabet). In its original language, it actually looks like this:
If you have ever been to India, this character will be very familiar and it also frequently appears on New Age items and jewelry. But this is in fact a special, shorthand representation and the word is actually formed from three separate letters. (Only this word, in the entire language, has a special symbol – this is an indication of how important it is considered to be.) Continue reading
Since you are reading this blog, you are presumably a spiritual seeker interested in Advaita. It is also very probable that your knowledge of Sanskrit is minimal or non-existent. I receive occasional complaints about the use of ITRANS – the transliterated ‘English’ form of Sanskrit words – so even that causes problems for many, let alone the original script (called Devanagari) which Sanskrit uses. So why would you want to learn anything at all about the language? Well, if you really are interested in Advaita (or Buddhism, if it comes to that), it is a fact of life that most of the original material from which these teachings derive was written in Sanskrit. Without any knowledge of the language, without even the ability to look up a word in a dictionary, you are forced to rely upon the abilities, and the integrity, of whichever author happened to ‘translate’ the original text on which he or she is commenting. I am currently writing a book on the Mandukya Upanishad and Gaudapada kArikA-s, and this has involved me in referencing many different translations of the original text. [Note that this is a good example why you need to know some Sanskrit. The word kArikA means ‘a verse, commentary or treatise’ but if you ignore the capitals and write this as ‘karika’, it means ‘an elephant’!] And it would amaze you how it is possible to render quite different meanings. Whether this is because of language ability or because the author has a vested interest in propagating a particular point of view is not always possible to say. What I can say, is that is essential to be able to check specific words from time to time to ensure one gleans original intent rather than a modern, possibly biased interpretation. And, before I continue, here is a confession from the introduction to the book: Continue reading