My purpose in this series was to give a taste of every type of Sanskrit Literature. I did not write any post for well known texts like the Vedas, Mahabharata or Ramayana. Of course I have mentioned these and highlighted some of their aspects from time to time. This being the last post in the series, in addition to summarizing, I have included some of Sanskrit or Sanskrit texts that I have missed.
In the post ‘varieties of vidya‘, I have given an overview of the entire knowledge system of ancient India. It is interesting to note that the ancient seers tried to address all dimensions of human life. If they declared that in order to have a fulfilled life human beings should be engaged in four pursuits – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, it is a logical follow up that Shastras should be composed to address all these aspects.
In fact they wanted to probe and have theories about all and everything. The inclusion of everything is not only seen in the knowledge system but also in individual texts texts like Mahabharat or Charaka Samhita. There is a saying that there is no story in the whole world that you would not find in Mahabharat. All the permutation of combinations that any plot can have can be found in Mahabharat. This attempt to include everything is seen in the Sanskrit alphabet system (varnamala) also. The inventors of Sanskrit varnamala attempted to cover the entire range of possible sounds that a human mouth can make.
This is the civilization that gave to the world the concept of zero and infinity – infinity not only in the sense of multiplicity but also in the sense of infinitesimal divisibility (which is at the root of the decimal system) so as to cover all the possibilities of a number system.
And mathematics did command a central place. There was no excuse for any expert of any field for not knowing mathematics. We have seen this in the context of Jyotisha. It is no mere coincidence that all the Jyotisha Shastris were great mathematicians.
Music is considered to be a right brain activity where as logic and mathematics are said to be left brain activities. We see this dichotomy fade away as ancient Indian theories of music had a mathematical base. I have brought out this aspect in my post Ones and Zeros. Charaka used combinatorics to show various permutations and combinations of humours. Each Jantra or Mantra has a mathematical base.
In the blogpost ‘varieties of vidya‘ we have gone through various types of classifications of texts based on the subjects or the issues they addressed. Texts can also be classified according to their style of their composition. It can be in a sutra format where the contents are condensed like telegraphic messages. However the majority of the ancient texts were in verse form – whether Vedas, epics, dramas, or even medical texts. In the later period a large number of works were composed in prose especially the extensive commentaries on various Upanishads and other treatises. Vishnu Sharma’s Panchatantra is in simple prose forms, which provides good and interesting reading material for all, whether beginner or an expert in Sanskrit language.
Many of the treatises have a well laid out logical sequence. In one of the posts I have already mentioned about how the Rishis were particular about defining the main terms in the beginning itself. Narada Bhakti Sutras starts with the definition of Bhakti. Same way Patanjali’s Sutras Yoga starts with the definition of Yoga. If you want to talk to me first define your terms – said Voltaire. This is essential before probing into a subject or engaging in a debate.
The pattern is – first define the main terms, then state the goal, and subsequently tell how to achieve it. If there are other related contents, those come last. The goal of yoga is Samadhi. So, in Patanjali Yoga Sutra the first section is called Samadhi Pada, where Patanjali Maharishi discusses various types of Samadhi and the symptoms and feelings associated with it. Once you are interested enough in the goal, the Rishi tells you how to do it. There is no point telling you about the ways if you are not interested in the goal in the first place.
Hope, under the constraints of relating the posts serially to English alphabets and the number of posts, I have been able to give at least some glimpses into various aspects of Sanskrit Language and literature. My purpose was to arouse interest and clear prevailing misconceptions about the indic texts. Since most of us never got the opportunity as part of our curriculum to explore Sanskrit beyond the primary or secondary level, we remained ignorant of the beauty, vastness and the depth of the language and literature.
It has been as much a learning experience for me as it must have been for those who have followed my journey of BlogchatterAtoZ Challenge 2021. Or so do I hope.
I began this series with a prayer. Let me end with a shanti path:
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantih Aum! Let there be peace in me! Let there be peace in my environment! Let there be peace in the forces that act on me!
This is the alphabet concluding (Z) post of Blogchatter AtoZ Challenge 2021. My theme this year is ‘The beauty of Sanskrit and Sanskrit texts’, where in I explore selected compositions in Sanskrit and also some unique aspects of Sanskrit language and texts. Join with me in my journey to understand India’s spiritual and intellectual heritage. All the posts of AtoZ Challenge 2021 can be accessed here.