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Learning Sanskrit: A Promise to Myself

Sanskrit is a language I use on a daily basis; it’s the language used for all the mantra that I use. However, I can’t read Sanskrit. At least, I can read Sanskrit script. I’ve become familiar with transliterated Sanskrit and usually know the pronunciation of words, and the meanings of many, but the script is another thing altogether.

I love Sanskrit in its original form and would love to be able to read it. And so a couple of years ago, I began a course in learning in the language. I quickly became frustrated; it’s quite complicated! I mean, aside from the fact that it’s a script, rather than roman letters (I’ve never attempted to learn a language that used anything other than the roman alphabet before, although I was once called upon to cover a Russian lesson, where all the instructions were written in Cyrillic!), it has a complicated structure. So much so, that I didn’t even complete the very basics - the alphabet!

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There are 15 vowels and 33 consonants, the latter being split into six groups. And many of them sound almost identical and/or look almost identical. I got through the vowel lessons, and passed the tests. I came gloriously unstuck with the consonants and gave up.

Today, I am promising myself I will go back and restart the course. My interest in Sanskrit and desire to learn it hasn’t gone away, I just lost faith in myself. So, once the children have gone back to school, I’m going to try and dedicate time each day to learning this - and not just in writing the symbold over and over, which I love and find very therapeutic!

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A couple of my Indian clients asked me once why I was bothering to learn Sanskrit; after all no-one speaks it! It’s true, Sanskrit stopped being a conversational language many, many moons ago. And yet. It’s the language of mantra, the “Mother of All Languages”. It’s a language I first became familiar with when I was 18 and studying Buddhism at university. And even then, when I was as familiar with Pali as Sanskrit, I always favoured Sanskrit. I loved the feel of the words in my mouth, especially compared to Pali which felt rough and jagged to me in comparison.

And so here we are. I’ve dug out my Sanskrit notebook, logged back into the course, found my calligraphy pens, all ready for when I have an hour to myself to dig in and start again. From the beginning.

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