Archive for the ‘sanskrit’ Category
The Pandit (काशीविद्यासुधानिधिः)
A Monthly Journal, of the Benares College, devoted to Sanskrit Literature
This was a journal that ran from 1866 to 1920, and some issues are available online. “The Benares College” in its title is what was the first college in the city (established 1791), later renamed the Government Sanskrit College, Varanasi, and now the Sampurnanand Sanskrit University.
There are some interesting things in there. From a cursory look, it’s mainly editions of Sanskrit works (Kavya, Mimamsa, Sankhya, Nyaya, Vedanta, Vyakarana, etc.) and translations of some, along with the occasional harsh review of a recent work (printed anonymously of course), but also contains, among other things, (partial?) translations into Sanskrit of John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Bishop Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Also some hilarious (and quite valid) complaints about miscommunication between English Orientalists and traditional pandits, with their different education systems and different notions of what topics are simple and what are advanced.
The journal’s motto:
श्रीमद्विजयिनीदेवीपाठशालोदयोदितः । प्राच्यप्रतीच्यवाक्पूर्वापरपक्षद्वयान्वितः ॥
अङ्करश्मिः स्फुटयतु काशीविद्यासुधानिधिः । प्राचीनार्यजनप्रज्ञाविलासकुमुदोत्करान् ॥
The metadata is terrible: there’s only an index of sorts at the end of the whole volume; each issue of the journal carries no table of contents (or if it did, they have been ripped out when binding each (June to May) year’s issues into volumes). Authorship information is scarce. Some translations have been abandoned. (I arrived at this journal looking at Volume 9 where an English translation of Kedārabhaṭṭa’s Vṛtta-ratnākara is begun, carried into three chapters (published in alternate issues), left with a “to be continued” as usual, except there’s no mention of it in succeeding issues.) Still, a lot of interesting stuff in there.
Among the British contributors/editors of the journal were Ralph T. H. Griffith (who translated the Ramayana into English verse: there are advertisements for the translation in these volumes) and James R. Ballantyne (previously encountered as the author of Iṅglaṇḍīya-bhāṣā-vyākaraṇam a book on English grammar written in Sanskrit: he seems to have also been an ardent promoter of Christianity, but also an enthusiastic worker for more dialogue between the pandits and the Western scholars), each of whom served as the principal of the college. (Later principals of the college include Ganganath Jha and Gopinath Kaviraj.) Among the Indian contributors to the journal are Vitthala Shastri, who in 1852 appears to have written a Sanskrit commentary on Francis Bacon’s _Novum Organum,_ (I think it’s this, but see also the preface of this book for context) Bapudeva Sastri, and others: probably the contributors were all faculty of the college; consider the 1853 list of faculty here (Also note the relative salaries!)
The issues I could find—and I searched quite thoroughly I think—are below. Preferably, someone needs to download from Google Books and re-upload to the Internet Archive, as books on Google Books have an occasional tendency to disappear (or get locked US-only).
https://books.google.com/books?id=Z71EAAAAcAAJ 1866 Vol 1 (1 – 12)
https://books.google.com/books?id=ESgJAAAAQAAJ 1866 vol 1 (1 – 12)
https://books.google.com/books?id=Sr8IAAAAQAAJ 1866 Vol 1 (1 – 12)
https://books.google.com/books?id=JAspAAAAYAAJ 1866 vol 1-3 (1 – 36)
https://books.google.com/books?id=Y78IAAAAQAAJ 1867 Vol 2 (13 – 24)
https://books.google.com/books?id=JigJAAAAQAAJ 1867 Vol 2 (13 – 24)
https://books.google.com/books?id=cL1EAAAAcAAJ 1867 Vol 2 (13 – 24)
https://books.google.com/books?id=g78IAAAAQAAJ 1868 Vol 3 (25 – 36)
https://books.google.com/books?id=eL1EAAAAcAAJ 1868 Vol 3 (25 – 36)
https://books.google.com/books?id=OSgJAAAAQAAJ 1868 Vol 3 (25 – 36)
https://books.google.com/books?id=m78IAAAAQAAJ 1869 vol 4 (37 – 48)
https://books.google.com/books?id=WygJAAAAQAAJ 1869 Vol 4 (37 – 48)
https://books.google.com/books?id=g71EAAAAcAAJ 1869 vol 4 (37 – 48)
https://books.google.com/books?id=vr8IAAAAQAAJ 1870 vol 5 (49 – 60)
https://books.google.com/books?id=eCgJAAAAQAAJ 1870 vol 5 (49 – 60)
https://books.google.com/books?id=24dSAAAAcAAJ 1870 vol 5 (49 – 60)
https://books.google.com/books?id=0b8IAAAAQAAJ 1871 Vol 6 (61 – 72)
https://books.google.com/books?id=nigJAAAAQAAJ 1871 vol 6 (61 – 72)
https://books.google.com/books?id=5YdSAAAAcAAJ 1871 vol 6 (61 – 72)
https://books.google.com/books?id=878IAAAAQAAJ 1872 Vol 7 (73 – 84)
https://books.google.com/books?id=uCgJAAAAQAAJ 1872 Vol 7 (73 – 84)
https://books.google.com/books?id=TrZUAAAAcAAJ 1872 vol 7 (73 – 84)
https://books.google.com/books?id=6ygJAAAAQAAJ 1873 vol 8 (85 – 96)
https://books.google.com/books?id=jHxFAQAAIAAJ 1876 vol 1
https://books.google.com/books?id=fQ4pAAAAYAAJ 1888 Vol 10
https://books.google.com/books?id=gAopAAAAYAAJ 1890 vol 12
https://books.google.com/books?id=2wopAAAAYAAJ 1891 vol 13
https://books.google.com/books?id=LwspAAAAYAAJ 1892 vol 14
https://books.google.com/books?id=BAwpAAAAYAAJ 1896 Vol 18
https://books.google.com/books?id=UwwpAAAAYAAJ 1897 vol 19
https://books.google.com/books?id=1wwpAAAAYAAJ 1898 Vol 20
https://books.google.com/books?id=Xg4pAAAAYAAJ 1900 Vol 22
https://books.google.com/books?id=MhApAAAAYAAJ 1901 Vol 23
https://books.google.com/books?id=4w4pAAAAYAAJ 1902 Vol 24
https://books.google.com/books?id=Tw8pAAAAYAAJ 1904 Vol 25
https://books.google.com/books?id=vw8pAAAAYAAJ 1905 Vol 27
https://books.google.com/books?id=iBApAAAAYAAJ 1907 vol 29
https://books.google.com/books?id=bQ0pAAAAYAAJ 1908 Vol 30
https://books.google.com/books?id=Bv1SAAAAYAAJ 1908 Vol 30
https://books.google.com/books?id=LNA9AQAAMAAJ 1911 Vol 33 Snippet View
https://books.google.com/books?id=ctA9AQAAMAAJ 1912 Vol 34 Snippet View
https://books.google.com/books?id=3dA9AQAAMAAJ 1913 Vol 35 Snippet View
https://books.google.com/books?id=a9E9AQAAMAAJ 1916 Vol 38 Snippet View
https://books.google.com/books?id=N9E9AQAAMAAJ 1916 Vol 37 Snippet View
Bhavabhūti, the 8th-century author of the very moving play Uttara-rāma-carita, has in one of his other works these lines, any author’s consolation that even if your work receives not enough praise today, someday the right sort of reader will come along, who will derive great joy or meaning from it.
ये नाम केचिदिह नः प्रथयन्त्यवज्ञां जानन्ति ते किमपि तान्प्रति नैष यत्नः । उत्पत्स्यते तु मम कोऽपि समानधर्मा कालो ह्ययं निरवधिर्विपुला च पृथ्वी ॥
ye nāma kecit iha naḥ prathayanti avajñām
jānanti te kim api tān prati na eṣa yatnaḥ |
utpatsyate tu mama ko api samāna-dharmā
kālo hi ayaṃ niravadhiḥ vipulā ca pṛthvī ||
Those who deride or ignore my work —
let them know: my efforts are not for them.
There will come along someone who shares my spirit:
the world is vast, and time endless.
This verse has become a favourite of many. It appears already in the first known anthology of Sanskrit verses (subhāṣita-collection), Vidyākara’s Subhāṣita-ratna-koṣa. (It’s numbered 1731 (= 50.34) in the edition by Kosambi and Gokhale, and translated by Ingalls.) Ingalls writes and translates (1965):
Of special interest are the verses of Dharmakīrti and Bhavabhūti, two of India’s most original writers, which speak of the scorn and lack of understanding which the writings of those authors found among contemporaries. To such disappointment Dharmakīrti replies with bitterness (1726, 1729), Bhavabhūti with the unreasoning hope of a romantic (1731). If the souls of men could enjoy their posthumous fame the one would now see his works admired even far beyond India, the other would see his romantic hope fulfilled.
Those who scorn me in this world
have doubtless special wisdom,
so my writings are not made for them;
but are rather with the thought that some day will be born,
since time is endless and the world is wide,
one whose nature is the same as mine.
A translation of this verse is also included in A. N. D. Haksar’s A Treasury of Sanskrit Poetry in English Translation (2002):
The Proud Poet
Are there any around who mock my verses?
They ought to know I don’t write for them.
Someone somewhere sometime will understand.
Time has no end. The world is big.
— translated by V. N. Misra, L. Nathan and S. Vatsyayan [The Indian Poetic Tradition, 1993]
Andrew Schelling has written of it in Manoa, Volume 25, Issue 2, 2013:
at my work
and declare their contempt—
no doubt they’ve got
their own little wisdom.
I write nothing for them.
But because time is
endless and our planet
vast, I write these
poems for a person
who will one day be born
with my sort of heart.
“Criticism is for poets as ornithology is for the birds,” wrote John Cage. Bhavabhūti has scant doubt that future generations will honor his work. The reader who will arise, utpalsyate [sic], is somebody of the same faith, heart, or discipline, samānadharmā.
Just now also found it on the internet, here (2014) (misattributed to Bhartṛhari):
There are those who
treat my work with
Maybe they know something,
but I’m not writing for them.
Someone will come around
who feels the way I do.
Time, after all, is limitless,
and fortune spreads far.
Finally, in Sadāsvada, written by my friend Mohan with some comments from me, this was included in one of our our very first posts (2012):
In his play Mālatīmādhava, he makes a point that deserves to be the leading light of anyone wishing to do something of value and
isput off by discouragement. Standing beside the words attributed to Gandhi (“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”) and Teddy Roosevelt (“It is not the critic who counts…”), Bhavabhūti’s confidence in the future stands resplendent:
“They who disparage my work should know that it’s not for them that I did it. One day, there will arise someone who will truly know me: this world is vast, and time infinite.”
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
[Note on the text: in Vidyākara’s compilation the verse ends with “विपुला च लक्ष्मीः” (vipulā ca lakṣmīḥ) instead of “विपुला च पृथ्वी” (vipulā ca pṛthvī), but the actual source work Mālatī-mādhava has the latter, as do all quotations of this verse elsewhere (e.g. the काव्यप्रकाशः of Mammaṭa, the Sahityadarpana of Viśvanātha Kavirāja, the रसार्णवसुधाकरः of श्रीसिंहभूपाल), and that is what Ingalls uses: “For lakṣmīḥ, which utterly destroys the line, read pṛthvi with the printed texts of Māl.” Actually, most quotations have “utpatsyate ‘sti” in place of “utpatsyate tu”: “either will be born, or already exists…”.]
One of Kālidāsa’s famous similes is in the following verse from the Raghuvaṃśa, in the context of describing the svayaṃvara of Indumatī. The various hopeful suitors of the princess, all kings from different regions, are lined up as she passes them one by one, her friend doing the introductions.
संचारिणी दीपशिखेव रात्रौ यम् यम् व्यतीयाय पतिंवरा सा । नरेन्द्रमार्गाट्ट इव प्रपेदे विवर्णभावम् स स भूमिपालः ॥ ६-६७
saṁcāriṇī dīpa-śikheva rātrau
yam yam vyatīyāya patiṁvarā sā |
narendra-mārga-aṭṭa iva prapede
vivarṇa-bhāvam sa sa bhūmipālaḥ || 6-67
Only today did I discover a decent translation into English. It’s by John Brough (1975/6):
As if a walking lamp-flame in the night
On the king’s highway, flanked with houses tall,
She moved, and lit each prince with hopeful light,
And, passing on, let each to darkness fall.
Every other translation I have seen really falls short. Witness the misunderstandings, and the killing of all feeling.
Here is Ryder (1904), who is usually good:
And every prince rejected while she sought
A husband, darkly frowned, as turrets, bright
One moment with the flame from torches caught,
Frown gloomily again and sink in night.
The idea is there, but requires too much effort to understand.
This is P. de Lacy Johnstone (1902):
Now as the Maid went by, each suitor-King,
Lit for a moment by her dazzling eyes,
Like wayside tower by passing lamp, sank back
In deepest gloom. …
Every king, whom Indumati passed by while choosing her husband, assumed a pale look as the houses on a high way are covered with darkness in the absence of lamps.
Whatsoever king the maiden intent on choosing her husband passed by, like the flame of a moving lamp at night, that same king turned pale, just as a mansion situate on the highway, is shrouded in darkness when left behind (by a moving light).
67. pati.m varA sA= husband, selector, she – she who has come to select her husband, indumati; rAtrau sa.mcAriNI dIpa shikha iva= in night, moving, lamp’s, [glittering] flame, as with; ya.m ya.m= whom, whom; [bhUmi pAlam= king, whomever]; vyatIyAya= passed by; saH saH bhUmipAlaH= he, he, king – such and such a king; narendra mArga= on king’s, way; aTTa= a turret, or a balustrade; iva= like; vi+varNa bhAva.m= without, colour, aspect – they bore a colourless aspect; prapede= [that king] obtained – that king became colourless, he drew blank.
Princess indumati who came to choose her husband then moved like the glittering flame of a lamp on a king’s way, and whichever prince she left behind was suffused with pallor just like a turret or balustrade on the king’s way will be shrouded in darkness and becomes dim when left behind by the moving light on the king’s way. [6-67]
And this is representative of the average quality of Sanskrit-to-English translations, and how much beauty is lost.
Viṣṇu, appearing before Bali as Vāmana, transformed into Trivikrama, filling the universe, covering all the earth and the heavens in two steps.
The verse that opens the Pūrva-pīṭhikā of Daṇḍin’s Daśakumāracarita plays on this imagination, and on the word daṇda / daṇḍin. Here’s the verse (in Sragdharā metre of pattern GGGGLGG—LLLLLLG—GLGGLGG):
May the leg of Trivikrama,
pole for the parasol that is the universe,
stem of the lotus that is Brahma’s seat,
mast of the ship that is the earth,
rod of the streaming banner that is the river of the Gods,
axle-rod around which the zodiac turns,
pillar of victory over the three worlds,
rod of death for the enemies of the Gods,
favour you with blessings.
brahmāṇḍa-cchatradaṇḍaḥ śata-dhṛti-bhavan’-âmbhoruho nāla-daṇḍaḥ
kṣoṇī-nau-kūpa-daṇḍaḥ kṣarad-amara-sarit-paṭṭikā-ketu-daṇḍaḥ /
jyotiścakr’-âkṣa-daṇḍas tribhuvana-vijaya-stambha-daṇḍo ‘ṅghri-daṇḍaḥ
śreyas traivikramas te vitaratu vibudha-dveṣiṇāṃ kāla-daṇḍaḥ //ब्रह्माण्डच्छत्रदण्डः शतधृतिभवनाम्भोरुहो नालदण्डः क्षोणीनौकूपदण्डः क्षरदमरसरित्पट्टिकाकेतुदण्डः । ज्योतिश्चक्राक्षदण्डस्त्रिभुवनविजयस्तम्भदण्डोऽङ्घ्रिदण्डः श्रेयस्त्रैविक्रमस्ते वितरतु विबुधद्वेषिणां कालदण्डः ॥
[The Mānasataraṃgiṇī-kāra, agreeing with Santillana and von Dechend the authors of Hamlet’s Mill, considers the “pole” or “axis” motif central to the conception of Vishnu (e.g. matsya‘s horn, Mount Meru as the rod on kūrma, nṛsiṃha from the pillar, etc.: see here), sees much more depth in this poem, and that Daṇḍin was remembering this old motif.]
The translation above is mildly modified from that of Isabelle Onians in her translation (“What Ten Young Men Did”) of the Daśa-kumāra-carita, published by the Clay Sanskrit Library:
Pole for the parasol-shell that is Brahma’s cosmic egg,
Stem for Brahma’s lotus seat,
Mast for the ship that is the earth,
Rod for the banner that is the rushing immortal river Ganges,
Axle rod for the rotating zodiac,
Pillar of victory over the three worlds—
May Vishnu’s leg favor you with blessings—
Staff that is the leg of him who as Trivikrama reclaimed those three worlds in three steps,
Rod of time, death itself, for the demon enemies of the gods.
Ryder, in his translation (“The Ten Princes”), takes some liberties and manages verse in couplets:
May everlasting joy be thine,
Conferred by Vishnu’s foot divine,
Which, when it trod the devils flat,
Became the staff of this and that:
The staff around which is unfurled,
The sunshade of the living world;
The flagstaff for the silken gleam
Of sacred Ganges’ deathless stream;
The mast of earth’s far-driven ship,
Round which the stars (as axis) dip;
The lotus stalk of Brahma’s shrine;
The fulcrumed staff of life divine.
For another verse that fully gets into this “filling the universe” spirit, see The dance of the bhairava on manasa-taramgini.
[Originally posted to linguistics.stackexchange.com as an answer to a question by user Manishearth, who asked: “I’ve heard many times that learning German is easier for those who speak Sanskrit, and vice versa. Is there any linguistic basis for this? What similarities exist between the two languages that may be able to explain this?”]
This is an answer not to the part about whether it is easier to learn German after Sanskrit (I don’t know), but rather, a few more assorted points re. “What similarities exist between the two languages”, or even more generally, “Why would people make such a claim?”
As Cerberus [another user] noted, most of these claims come from people whose familiarity, outside of Indian languages, is with mainly English, and perhaps a bit of French (or rarely, Spanish or Italian). So even though many similarities noted between Sanskrit and German are in fact those shared by many members of the Indo-European family, the claim just means that among the few languages considered, German’s similarities are remarkable.
[My background: I have a reasonable familiarity with Sanskrit; not so much with German. For impressions about German I’ll rely on the Wikipedia articles, and, (don’t lynch me) Mark Twain’s humorous essay The Awful German Language — of course I know it’s unfair and not a work of linguistics, but as examples of what the average English speaker might find unusual in German, it is a useful document.]
With that said, some similarities:
German apparently has four cases; Sanskrit has eight cases (traditional Sanskrit grammar counts seven, not counting the vocative as distinct). As Cerberus [another user] notes, “Sanskrit and German have several functional cases, whereas French/Spanish/Italian/Portuguese/Dutch/English/etc. do not. Those are the languages one might be inclined to compare Sanskrit with”.
Although English does have short compound words (like bluebird, horseshoe, paperback or pickpocket), German has a reputation for long compound words. (Twain complains that the average German sentence “is built mainly of compound words constructed by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any dictionary — six or seven words compacted into one, without joint or seam — that is, without hyphens”) He mentions Stadtverordnetenversammlungen and Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen; Wikipedia mentions Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz and Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft. But these are nothing compared to the words one routinely finds in ornate Sanskrit prose. See for example this post. Sanskrit like German allows compounds of arbitrary length, and compounds made of four or five words are routinely found in even the most common Sanskrit texts.
Verb appearing late
It appears that German words tend to come later in the sentence than English speakers are comfortable with. I notice questions on this SE showing that German has V2 word order, not SOV. However, many English speakers seem to find late verbs in German worth remarking on. One of my favourite sentences from Hofstadter goes
“The proverbial German phenomenon of the “verb-at-the-end”, about which droll tales of absentminded professors who would begin a sentence, ramble on for an entire lecture, and then finish up by rattling off a string of verbs by which their audience, for whom the stack had long since lost its coherence, would be totally nonplussed, are told, is an excellent example of linguistic pushing and popping.”
Twain too, says “the reader is left to flounder through to the remote verb” and gives the analogy of
“But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselor’s wife met,”
“In the daybeforeyesterdayshortlyaftereleveno’clock Night, the inthistownstandingtavern called `The Wagoner’ was downburnt. When the fire to the onthedownburninghouseresting Stork’s Nest reached, flew the parent Storks away. But when the bytheraging, firesurrounded Nest itself caught Fire, straightway plunged the quickreturning Mother-stork into the Flames and died, her Wings over her young ones outspread.”
Well, this is exactly typical Sanskrit writing. Those sentences might have been translated verbatim from a Sanskrit text. Sanskrit technically has free word order (i.e., words can be put in any order), and this is made much use of in verse, but in prose, usage tends to be SOV.
Of Sanskrit’s greatest prose work, Kādambarī, someone named Albrecht Weber wrote in 1853 that in it,
“the verb is kept back to the second, third, fourth, nay, once to the sixth page, and all the interval is filled with epithets and epithets to these epithets: moreover these epithets frequently consist of compounds extending over more than one line; in short, Bāṇa’s prose is an Indian wood, where all progress is rendered impossible by the undergrowth until the traveller cuts out a path for himself, and where, even then, he has to reckon with malicious wild beasts in the shape of unknown words that affright him.” (“…ein wahrer indischer Wald…”)
(This is unfair criticism: personally, I have been lately reading the Kādambarī with the help of friends more experienced in Sanskrit, and I must say the style is truly enjoyable.) Now, the fact that this was a German Indologist writing for the Journal of the German Oriental Society somewhat goes against the claim of Sanskrit and German being similar. But one could say: for someone familiar with Sanskrit’s long compounds and late verbs that even Germans find difficult, the same features in German will pose little difficulty.
Adjectives decline like nouns
In Sanskrit, as it appears to be in German, an adjective takes the gender, case, and number of whatever it is describing. (Twain: “would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective”)
Gender of nouns has to be learned
By and large, it is so in Sanskrit as well. Twain notes that in German “a tree is male, its buds are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats are female — tomcats included, of course; a person’s mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head is male or neuter according to the word selected to signify it, and not according to the sex of the individual who wears it — for in Germany all the women either male heads or sexless ones; a person’s nose, lips, shoulders, breast, hands, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair, ears, eyes, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience haven’t any sex at all”. (He goes on to write a “Tale of the Fishwife and its Sad Fate.”) It does not seem quite so bad in Sanskrit, but yes, gender of words needs to be learned. (In Sanskrit there exists a word for “wife” in each of the three genders.) However this is a feature common to many languages (including, say, languages like Hindi or French that have only two genders) so I shouldn’t list it among similarities.
This is something quite trivial, and linguists often don’t even consider orthography a part of the language proper, but spelling seems to be a pretty big deal to Indians learning other languages. The writing systems of most Indian languages are phonetic, in the sense that the spelling deterministically reflects the pronunciation and vice-versa. There are no silent letters, no wondering about a word spelled in a particular way is pronounced. Indian learners of English often complain about the ad-hoc inconsistent spelling of English; it seems a bigger deal than it should be. From this point of view, the fact that it is claimed that for German, “After one short lesson in the alphabet, the student can tell how any German word is pronounced without having to ask” means that that aspect of German is easier to learn.
The harmony of sound and sense
This is extremely subjective and will be controversial, and perhaps I will seem biased, but to me, in Sanskrit, it seems possible to pick words whose sounds match the desired feeling, better than in other languages. I have seen people who knew many languages say the same thing, and also Western translators from Sanskrit etc., so it is interesting for me to see Twain make a similar remark about German. Anyway, this is subjective, so I’ll not dwell on this much.
There are of course many; e.g. Sanskrit does not have articles (the, etc.) unlike German. It also has very few prepositions (has only a few ones like “without”, “with”, “before”), as the work of prepositions like “to”, “from”, or “by” is handled by case. The difficulty of German prepositions does not seem to be present in Sanskrit.
Some alleged difficulties of learning German, such as cases, long compounds, and word order, are present to a far greater extent in Sanskrit, so in principle someone who knows Sanskrit may be able to pick them up more easily than someone trying to learn German without this knowledge. However, this may not be saying anything more than that knowing one language helps you learn others.
Here’s a great, simple write-up aimed at a Western audience, from the Clay Sanskrit Library edition of Kālidāsa’s The Recognition of Shakuntala, written by Somadeva Vasudeva:
Imagine that you find yourself going to see a performance of “Romeo and Juliet.” You are in the right mood for the play, no mundane worries preoccupy your mind, you have agreeable company, and the theatre, the stage, the director and the actors are all excellent—capable of doing justice to a great play. Your seat in the theatre is comfortable and gives an unobstructed view.
The play begins and you find yourself drawn into the world Shakespeare is sketching. The involvement deepens to an immersion where the ordinary, everyday world dims and fades from the center of attention, you begin to understand and even share the feelings of the characters on stage—under ideal conditions you might reach a stage where you begin to participate in some strange way in the love being evoked.
Now, if at that moment you were to ask yourself: “Whose love is this?” a paradox arises.
It cannot be Romeo’s love for Juliet, nor Juliet’s love for Romeo, for they are fictional characters. It cannot be the actors’, for in reality they may despise one another. It cannot be your own love, for you cannot love a fictional character and know nothing about the actors’ real personalities (they are veiled by the role they assume), and, for the same reasons, it cannot be the actors’ love for either you or the fictional characters. So it is a peculiar, almost abstract love without immediate referent or context.
A Sanskrit aesthete would explain to you that you are at that moment “relishing” (āsvādana) your own “fundamental emotional state” (sthāyi-bhāva) called “passion” (rati) which has been “decontextualised” (sādhāraṇīkṛta) by the operation of “sympathetic resonance” (hṛdayasaṃvāda) and heightened to become transformed into an “aesthetic sentiment” (rasa) called the “erotic sentiment” (śṛṅgāra).
This “aesthetic sentiment” is a paradoxical and ephemeral thing that can be evoked by the play but is not exactly caused by it, for many spectators may have felt nothing at all during the same performance. You yourself, seeing it again next week, under the same circumstances, might experience nothing. It is, moreover, something that cannot be adequately explained through analytic terms, the only proof for its existence is its direct, personal experience.
It is, moreover, a blissful experience. The fact that sensitive readers often weep while reading poetry does not mean that they are suffering, rather the tenderness of the work has succeeded in melting the contraction of their minds or hearts.
The non-ordinary nature of such aesthetic sentiments makes it possible for the spectator or reader to derive a pleasurable experience even from what in ordinary life would be causes of grief.
The Indian scholarly tradition has a lot more, including some very thoughtful deliberation and perceptive observation, but it seems good to start a discussion of rasa with an example like this, than to start with the technical details.
[Another good start may be via film. See for instance:
How to Watch a Hindi Film: The Example of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai by Sam Joshi, published in Education About Asia, Volume 9, Number 1 (Spring 2004).
and perhaps (and if you have a lot of time):
Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking? by Philip Lutgendorf, published in International Journal of Hindu Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Dec., 2006), pp. 227-256.
Previously on this blog: On songs in Bollywood]
Famous verses appear in many variants. Thanks to Google, it is easy to find many of them. For “paropakāraḥ puṇyāya, pāpāya parapīḍanam”, Google throws up a lot of variants for the first half.
The Vikramacarita has:
śrūyatāṃ dharmasarvasvaṃ, yad uktaṃ śāstrakoṭibhiḥ /
paropakāraḥ puṇyāya, pāpāya parapīḍanam
Other variants are:
saṅkṣepāt kathyate dharmo janāḥ kiṃ vistareṇa vaḥ |
paropakāraḥ puṇyāya pāpāya para-pīḍanam ||Panc_3.103||
aṣṭādaśapurāṇeṣu vyāsasya vacanadvayam /
paropakāraḥ puṇyāya pāpāya parapīḍanam //
ślokārdhena pravakṣyāmi yaduktaṃ grantha-koṭibhiḥ
paropakāraḥ puṇyāya pāpāya parapīḍanam
Going by the first line gives other verses:
śrūyatāṃ dharmasarvasvaṃ śrutvā caivāvadhāryatām | (or caiva vicāryatām ।)
ātmanaḥ pratikūlāni pareṣāṃ na samācaret ||
[Cāṇakya-nīti, Pañcatantra, Subhāṣitāvalī etc.]
prāṇā yathātmano ‘bhīṣṭā bhūtānām api te tathā |
ātmaupamyena gantavyaṃ buddhimadbhir mahātmabhiḥ
तस्माद्धर्मप्रधानेन भवितव्यं यतात्मना ।
तथा च सर्वभूतेषु वर्तितव्यं यथात्मनि ॥ Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva 167:9
05,039.057a na tatparasya saṃdadhyāt pratikūlaṃ yadātmanaḥ
05,039.057b*0238_01 ātmanaḥ pratikūlāni vijānan na samācaret
05,039.057c saṃgraheṇaiṣa dharmaḥ syāt kāmād anyaḥ pravartate
As Hillel says, the rest is commentary.
For (some) commentary, go here.