The Launch of a movement: Sanskrit Non-Translatables – The Importance of Sanskritizing English

Beyond the language itself, this book by Rajiv Malhotra and Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji is being likened to a ‘movement’ for reclaiming the narrative about Indian culture and civilization that is shaped by its knowledge traditions, all of which are rooted in Sanskrit.

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Vrindavan, 2020-11-24 (Ashee Sharma): Prolific writer, speaker and researcher Rajiv Malhotra’s much-awaited book ‘Sanskrit Non-Translatables - The Importance of Sanskritizing English’, co-authored by Shri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji of Jiva Institute of Vaishnava Studies Vrindavan, was launched online in the presence of distinguished personalities associated with the Indic renaissance from all across the world.

Before we present snippets of the discussion to emphasise on the significance of this book and why it is being likened to a ‘movement’, here’s an instance of how translating the Sanskrit Non-Translatables distort their meaning...

Sanskrit Non –Translatables: What does it imply?

While there are many examples to quote, the importance of SNTs can be best ascertained by understanding the extent of damage that has been inflicted upon the Hindu/Indian psyche by the mistranslation of the Sanskrit word ‘Ahimsa’ as non-violence, and the Gandhian interpretation of it.

“Ahimsa does not mean non-violence or eliminating harm. What it implies is picking up the least harming option among the ones available at that time, and in that context.  In the Mahabharata war, Krishna upholds ahimsa as dharma by advocating the killing of a few for saving many. Unlike the defeatists, colonial interpretation of it, ‘ahimsa’ is about macro-optimising for a bigger cause, as opposed to micro-optimising for an individual or a selfish, short-sighted, and self-serving agenda,” Rajiv Malhotra.

“The yog sutras say “Ahimsapratishtayam Tatsannidho Vairtyaagah” meaning that real ahimsa is the giving up of all enmity and hatred. Also, in the most well-known of the Gita shlokas ‘yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata; abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛijāmyaham’, Krishna clearly states that there are two elements needed to establish Dharma - eliminating evil and protecting the virtuous – for which one has to engage in ‘himsa’ (violence) as well. One has to see the bigger purpose, i.e Dharma, for realising which ‘ahimsa’ is the means, and not the end in itself,” Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji.

The Launch of a Movement

Having understood why the SNTs are sacrosanct in meaning, one is bound to question what purpose the distortion serves, and how the book will go about challenging the erroneous and deceptive narrative. As Shri Rajiv Malhotra points out, ‘who benefits from making Sanskrit sound meaningless and stripping it of spirituality such that it becomes a dead language’. The answer lies in the insights shared by some of the dignitaries on the online panel discussion.

“Sanskrit and entire Bharatvarsha are being invaded by outsiders wanting to destabilise the nation. We must be aware of how this cultural genocide is carried out. All attempts must be made to ward off Hinduphobia concerning culture, literature, traditions and other aspects of life. The book will be useful not only for non-Indians desiring to learn about Indian culture, but also for all “Macaulay’s Children” in India,” Swami Govind Dev Giri (trustee and treasurer of the Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra).

“Sanskrit Non-Translatables is a big step in Rajiv Malhotra’s decade-long battle against the onslaught on Hindu civilization by Christoislamists and Communists. He has ably exposed the malicious designs of western academia in trying to declare Sanskrit a dead language, albeit only for Hindus while the western world continues to parasite on it and digest all its treasures in the process. The most important contribution of the book will be shaking Hindus out of their ‘dhimmitude’, and forcing them to open their minds to their unique heritage,” Madhu Purnima Kishwar, Indian academic, author, commentator on contemporary issues, and founding editor of the critically acclaimed journal ‘Manushi’.

“To subdue a country one has to subvert its culture which requires the undermining of its knowledge in such a way it loses its meaning and character or ‘swaroop’... And knowledge is continued in language; Sanskrit in our case. Bhartṛhari says there is no thought or cognition that is not accompanied by words in the human mind, except in the thoughtless meditative state. The world that we see around us is a construct of language. While in the western world, language is representational (it represents a pre-existing reality), in India, it is constructivist. In the year 1994 Justice Kuldeep Singh delivered a historic judgement on the Sanskrit language where he noted that ‘Sanskrit is the vocabulary of our thought and culture’. This book will serve to ‘reaffiliate’ Indians who disrespect their own culture back to it; I hope to see it on every educated person’s table,” Dr. Kapil Kapoor, chairperson of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies and a respected authority on Sanskrit studies and linguistics.

“Sanskrit Non-Translatables, the book is very important for two reasons; one is of course the lucid explanation it provides for some of the key concepts of Hinduism that constitute the Hindu way of looking at reality which is not the same as European concepts. Secondly, it’s significant because of all the nations of the world, India’s has become a fight between old colonialists and their successors on the one hand and the indigenous or natives on the other about who shall interpret the past. About a couple of hundred years ago, the Europeans arrogated to themselves the task of interpreting India, and they are not ready to let go. Since Indians and European languages belong to the same family, it gave birth to the ridiculous and bizarre idea that the Vedas which are the most ancient part of our civilization were brought to India by Europeans who are euphemistically called the Indo-Aryans. Something needs to be done to fight back this narrative. I hope people will read the book. It will put the subject on a sure footing so that India and the west can meet on equal terms and appreciate each other,” Subhash Kak (Padma Shri), Indian-American computer scientist, Regents Professor Computer Science Department at Oklahoma State University, honorary visiting professor of engineering at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a member of the Indian Prime Minister's Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).

About the Project Sanskrit Non-Translatables

The book is the fruit of years of labour put in by Shri Rajiv Malhotra and Shri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji on this project. The journey to Sanskrit Non-Translatables began 25 years ago with Rajiv ji and his ground-breaking work in the field of Indic and civilizational studies. The penultimate step to it was his book ‘Being Different’ wherein he laid down five ways, in the form of five different chapters, through which this civilizational difference must be upheld. One of them was the Sanskrit language itself. It was also the largest chapter in the book.

Rajiv Malhotra’s (Infinity Foundation) collaboration with Babaji began as a series of 20-25 minute documentaries which eventually aims to cover 108 ‘Non-Translatable’ Sanskrit words. This volume contains 54 of them with lucid explanation as to why they are sacrosanct in meaning and cannot be translated in any other language. The authors believe that if every Indian, not just an English-speaking person, understands and learns even one word every week, they can become the perfect ambassador for Bharatiya Sanskriti within a year.

The book can be ordered online at www.jiva.org

About Shri Rajiv Malhotra

Rajiv Malhotra is an Indian-American researcher and author who took an early retirement as a computer scientists specialising in AI in 1995 to set up the Infinity Foundation which focuses on Indic studies from an Indian perspective. His invaluable contribution to the resurgence of the Indic movement is documented in six books, a 14-volume series on the History of Indian Science & Technology, and a vast collection of documentaries and talks on the subject.

Rajiv ji’s works include

– Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism

– Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Fault lines

– Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity

– The Battle for Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred, Oppressive or Liberating, Dead or Alive?

– Academic Hinduphobia: A Critique of Wendy Doniger’s Erotic School of Indology

– Sanskrit Non-Translatables: The Importance of Sanskritizing English

About Shri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji

Shri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji is a Gaudiya Vaisnava scholar and practitioner and a polymath. He is the founder of Jiva Institute of Vaishnava Studies, Vrindavan. Babaji has earned four traditional shastric degrees, a law degree from Agra University, and a PhD in Sanskrit form Agra University. His dissertation on Jiva Gosvami’s Bhakti Sandarbha was expanded into a three volume book. He has published fifteen books on Indian philosophy and culture, and is currently in the process of translating all of Jiva Gosvami’s Sandarbhas.

He is also the visiting professor at the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers University and The American Hindu University. Babaji was honoured by the ex-president of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee for representing the Vedic culture worldwide. 

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