Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Strike three and you are in

One of the most difficult performances of Tom Hanks must have been the movie Cast Away. Imagine a lush island, turquoise sea, heavenly beach, fine sand, a noisy crew and good food all around you. And yet he has to act like a lonely man for the best part of 2 hours of the movie. The movie was pretty boring, except for one poignant scene, where the protagonist after returning back to civilization, looks unbelievably at a lighter. Hanks' expressions in that scene are brilliant yet subdued. (I wonder what Shivaji Ganesan would have done in that scene). Anyway, in the island, he discovered "fire" on his own after several attempts and kept the fire going. But here, a simple lighter did the job.

Have you paused to think when you tried to strike a light with a match-stick a few times, but it does not light up? You know it will. There is no loss of heart, frustration or despondency when a simple match stick does not light up the first few times. But then, you re-adjust the match box, the stick, your fingers gripping slightly a bit tighter, your mind focusing on it a little  more intently, strike hard once more, only this time, the stick lights up.

When the Yamunotrii 2013 campaign was going on, several people subtly wondered the need for a residential camp, when the regular classes and weekend workshops are happening, which gives a better time management than a "whole weekend" camp. When the registrations only trickled, at one point of time even I was questioning myself the need for a residential camp. Are we thrusting an event into minds of people? Is there a false sense of achievement of learning Samskritam over a weekend? Can Samskritam be appreciated in one day, which has enough literature for a jIva to go through in multiple janma-s? Is Samskritam really important for a jIva, whose ultimate sAdhanA is mokSha? Can the flip of the switch happen just like that?

The last question is the easiest to answer. We have heard from the biographies of great achievers that that flip of the switch or what I call the strike of the match does happen. For some like Pattinathar, Purandhara Dasa, Tulasidas, Ramana Maharishi such a strike happened in a single moment. But for some, like Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated this year, the light happened after a few strikes.

For the rest of the questions, I searched for the answers in the camp itself. The camp is not exactly about learning Samskritam. It is not possible to learn a language in one weekend. It is about an immersive experience, that people all around you are talking, thinking and arguing about Samskritam. I have been to several technical conferences, but almost always have come back with none wiser than before. May be a few contacts, a few made in China gifts and a good amount of advertisers spamming my email after the event. But conferences are really about an experience of being there and hearing and listening only about the subject matter all the time. We often use the word "mandiram" for temple. I like the word "aalayam" better, because the word implies the "coming together of all minds". The similarity in thought all around you makes the neurons spike the voltages more frequent to excite that first strike.

Learning Samskritam is just like learning any other subject. Books can provide information, but they cannot explain the abstractness of knowledge. Books can provide a structure, but they not communicate a thought process. One of the classes was about sup vibhakti-s. The word was मित्रम् (friend) and question put to students was why मित्रेण सह is in तृतीया-विभक्तिः. Note that the question is not what is the तृतीया-विभक्तिः एक वचनम् of मित्रम्, but why मित्रेण सह  itself is in तृतीया-विभक्तिः. Why not मित्रम् सह or मित्रस्य सह? After various guesses, one of the students quizzically said "otherwise, it doesnt sound right?". Yes. That's the closest answer one can get. Grammar does not drive a language. Grammar is derived from a language and then it provides a scaffold to the language. That experience of abstractness of knowledge is the second strike.

Pretty much all the interpretations of the vaidika dharma accept that mokSha is the ultimate goal. How mokSha is defined is a different question. But to attain mokSha, sAdhana is important and for sAdhana, the tool is equally important. How much ever you try to light up holding that matchstick inversely, you are not going to succeed. For those who think that gIta, stotram-s and other Samskritam texts are a tool, the realization that the tool must be understood correctly without usage of any other monkey-spanner, is the third strike.

When we were campaigning about the event, I remarked a bit pessimistically to my fellow kArya-kartA Srini Raghavan that those who decided would have already registered and those who are undecided most likely wont. But he replied quite enthusiastically, "Im not worried about people who are not into learning Samskritam. Im looking for people who want to speak Samskritam, but who may regret that they missed an opportunity by not knowing about a way to learn it".

Indeed. In fact, I would have counted myself one among them. I'm in. Are you?.


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