by-vishal sharma

To many, Sanskrit is a dead language. Some think it's a 'useless' language. Quite a few Hindus preen themselves that it is exclusively theirs. But did you know serious scholars are beginning to marvel at the rigour, reach and secularism of Sanskrit? Many of these --all over the world-- are mining it for values the modern world can benefit by. But nearly no one does this exposition with greater commitment, catholicity and religious neutrality than Prof M A Lakshmi Thathachar at the Academy of Sanskrit Research, Melkote, Karnataka. On the 15 acres of the Academy, the assertions in Sanskrit texts regarding ecology, farming, health and right living are on view. The Professor is a farmer, livestock breeder, conservationist, researcher, teacher, computer adept and most of all, a man who embodies all that is best in the Indian tradition. He is a Renaissance man unique to India.


Approaches to the source:

Lakshmi Thathachar's view of Sanskrit's nature may be paraphrased as follows: All modern languages have etymological roots in classical languages. And some say all Indo-European languages are rooted in Sanskrit, but let us not get lost in that debate. Words in Sanskrit are instances of pre-defined classes, a concept that drives object oriented programming [OOP] today. For example, in English 'cow' is a just a sound assigned to mean a particular animal. But if you drill down the word 'gau' --Sanskrit for 'cow'-- you will arrive at a broad class 'gam' which means 'to move. From these derive 'gamanam', 'gatih' etc which are variations of 'movement'. All words have this OOP approach, except that defined classes in Sanskrit are so exhaustive that they cover the material and abstract --indeed cosmic-- experiences known to man. So in Sanskrit the connection is more than etymological.

It was Panini who formalised Sanskrit's grammer and usage about 2500 years ago. No new 'classes' have needed to be added to it since then. "Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of the modern formal language theory used to specify computer languages," say J J O'Connor and E F Robertson. Their article also quotes: "Sanskrit's potential for scientific use was greatly enhanced as a result of the thorough systemisation of its grammar by Panini. ... On the basis of just under 4000 sutras [rules expressed as aphorisms ], he built virtually the whole structure of the Sanskrit language, whose general 'shape' hardly changed for the next two thousand years."

Every 'philosophy' in Sanskrit is in fact a 'theory of everything'. [The many strands are synthesised in Vedanta --Veda + anta--, which means the 'last word in Vedas'.] Mimamsa, which is a part of the Vedas, even ignores the God idea. The reality as we know was not created by anyone --it always was--, but may be shaped by everyone out of free will. Which is a way of saying --in OOP terms-- that you may not touch the mother or core classes but may create any variety of instances of them. It is significant that no new 'classes' have had to be created. Thathachar believes it is not a 'language' as we know the term but the only front-end to a huge, interlinked, analogue knowledge base. The current time in human history is ripe, he feels for India's young techno wizards to turn to researching Mimamsa and developing the ultimate programming language around it; nay, an operating system itself.

Thathachar believes that not enough is being done to explore the rich veins in Sanskrit's knowledge mines. Yoga, ayurveda, architecture, music, dance, statecraft and the like are but a few products that have been brought out. Agriculture, metallurgy, computer sciences etc can gain if new forays are made into the depths of Sanskrit. He is gratified recognition for the Academy's work with Sanskrit is coming slowly. It is an approved 'Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation' [SIRO]. It is recognised by the University of Mysore as a centre that can guide doctoral candidates. Visveswaraiah Technological University, Belgaum has permitted it to award PhD and MSc degrees by research in Information Technology, Materials Science, Aeronautics and Social engineering. Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO] has commissioned it to prepare an Indian view of the cosmos.

We are out in the fields again. "If there is one thing I denounce the West for, it is the concept of banks and interest. Yes, you can quote me -- I am closer to Islam in this respect. Money as an end measure of attainments is ruining everything. Our governance, commerce, farming and relationships are all drifting away from the reality that can work without conflicts. We are fooling ourselves with what is progress. We will face the wall soon," he says. He sounds far from being despondent or extremist, though. In fact there is a glint in his eyes, almost as if he can sense that the trend may be reversing.

momre later....
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