Sanskrit is older than we thought

Sanskrit is dead, long live Sanskrit!


Do you have to learn a language that hardly exists in the natural environment? I was asked that when I chose my second foreign language at school: Latin. The choice fell on the one hand out of intuition - even if I wasn't clear about it at the time, on the other hand out of youthful protest that was supposed to be directed against my poor mother. Because my mother is Francophile. From childhood on, chansons were thrown around my ears - at home or in the car. French was pulled over me like a straitjacket. The language stayed away from me, however, and only the album covers with the Eiffel Tower could inspire me (even later I bought my LPs mainly by cover). It seemed to me that my mother even chose her circle of friends for French-speaking people. I almost took it as a nuisance. But what do I blame her for? It's crystal clear why she was enthusiastic about French: it was the time after the war, and the occupying armies brought a first breath of internationality to the German living rooms, which smelled of sauerbraten on Sundays. And depending on the region, there were Americans, British or French (Russians too, but they were a little further away) who divided Germany up. When I got into a French occupation zone, my mother was probably one of the first of her generation to take part in an exchange with France. That was revolutionary. Then she said goodbye to her two braids and learned that as a young lady you can swim in the sea even when you have your days and not pollute the sea or yourself. In the next generation, I was able to take the liberty of finding French stupid - by the way, without ever losing my love for the country. In my ears the language is too bound, too soft and too temperamental. French, always near the front, more breathy and spoken with O-sounds, I always feared that the last bits of food would come out again. In short: I took Latin and quickly realized that it was more logic, system and grammar than a language. With so much grammar it is impossible to speak intuitively - however the Romans did it ?! The first few years I even enjoyed teaching until I switched teachers. Everything, everything depends on the teacher!

If you find Latin difficult, you can look forward to Sanskrit. With the difference that Sanskrit cannot be imagined without feeling. There is just one place in India called “Mattur” where Sanskrit is still spoken. But why is all yoga full of these Sanskrit terms? Isn't it enough to say “looking down dog” instead of “Adho Mukha Svanasana”?

Well, yoga is the gift that India has given the world. Sanskrit is the associated language and Devangari is the associated script. Why reject something when you recognize it as one of the most beautiful gifts in your life? Why not care for it and let it grow? From the outside, a looking down dog looks exactly like an Adho Mukha Svasana - apart from the fact that it never looks like the day before and changes again and again. But we do feel a subtle difference in ourselves. Most of the time we start yoga grossly, and over time we develop almost imperceptibly towards subtle matter. Where exactly does it get warm in the body, in which corners does the breath reach, does it hurt where we really thought, what do thoughts with us, where does the energy go, who are we without our body, and how are we living beings with each other networked? And Sanskrit, heard and spoken, also has an effect on us. Sankrit is the power of sound. First there were the mantras - letters, words and verses bound in sound that the rishis (seers) received from the gods. "The gods" means: according to nature. The completely logical, unadulterated and pure. Only after the mantras did the language arise and only long after the existence of these logical words was the name "Sanskrit" given. Sanskrit means: put together, fine, refined, formed and has been proven to have remained unchanged for over 3500 years. It is possibly the oldest language of all.

For me, Sanskrit is alive and well. My yoga practice is different when I am allowed to chant a mantra at the beginning of the class, asanas are implemented in Sanskrit - it's just that extra pinch of mindfulness. Languages ​​are acoustic waves and therefore energy. And that's one of the goals of yoga: moving energies upwards, channeling them and, above all, feeling them.

Everything depends on the teacher! I wanted to get a glimpse of the language, and I wasn't even aware of that a short time ago. Waiting on the back bench, I got the much sought-after seat Moritz Ulrich in the Peace Yoga Berlin. I couldn't have gotten better. Everything depends on the teacher!

I have already reported on Moritz many times, and my enthusiasm is still not waning - even and certainly not after the three intensive days of learning in a small, friendly group. I still didn't dare to ask how old Moritz actually is. This question seems too indiscreet to me because I still treat Moritz with the utmost respect and wonder how much human there is in him. How can you be so wide awake at every moment, hold your lessons in multiple languages ​​at the same time, see everything, really everything (so that a thought may never slip away because this would also become visible), have completed a medical degree, both in yoga practice and? can answer almost anything in theory and have studied Sanskrit for almost ten years? And that's just the part that I know so far. That might sound like a highly gifted autistic person or a retiree who doesn't know what to do with his time. None of this applies! You meet a young person who you would like to offer an advertising contract for toothpaste and who is also extremely empathetic and humorous. Most fascinating, however, is the voice that comes from Moritz. All the Bang & Olufsen in the world look pale with this differentiated sound reproduction! After a short exchange with other students during the lunch break, I know that I am not alone with my impression. Listened to Moritz chanting once and it happened. Melted hearts are left. More bhakti (devotion) is not possible.


And he also teaches Sanskrit in the same way. Accuracy in reproduction, differentiation in the finest nuances and, above all, dedication. At least with Moritz's method, that of American Sanskrit Institute (ASI) is from Philadelphia. You could study Sanskrit and Indology, maybe even in self-study, but it would always be linguistically interpreted - without feeling like stale bread. We learned the letters of the alphabet through repetition and melody. When sung, things fit together much more easily in the brain and new synapses are formed. We can suddenly remember things that we had previously tried in vain to cram in. How the air past our tongue, which is sometimes streamlined, sometimes positioned as a resistance in the wind tunnel (i.e. our oral cavity), was new to me. Except for one mudra (seal), the Khechari Mudra, which is exceptionally done with the tongue instead of the usual fingers, I haven't paid much attention to this part of the body until now. But it is precisely with the tongue that the energy can be directed. Each word gets its own dynamic through the stringing together of letters.

In summary: in our Sanskrit course we sang, felt and laughed out loud. And when I laughed at the latest, I knew that Moritz was human - or that gods laugh too. (I'm often laughed at for my enthusiasm - but I caught fire with him, and I'll just continue to let myself go in admiration for Moritz's teaching style. Come what may. Moritz's partner Niklas is the co-owner of the Peace Yoga Berlin studio and the perfect addition ... and by the way was also in the Sanskrit class. And if you keep laughing, I will probably have to give a lecture about the different kinds of love.)

It was also important that we do not make any comparisons to other languages ​​(so no Latin after all), if possible, not build a donkey bridge to what we have learned in the past - but rather let ourselves be fully involved in these hieroglyphs, err Devangari script. And as much as we like yogis to use transcriptions (phonetic spelling in Latin letters) for Sanskrit expressions - in the course we learned from the bottom up how to connect the Devangari letters with the sounds. So not that I can now decipher words - or maybe ... in hours of work. But it's just so much more accurate than phonetic transcription. Many characters are lost during transcription, and such a character, perhaps with a tiny tick or a dot, can make a huge difference. There are transcriptions that are quite precise - but they can never be equivalent to what has been learned with feeling.

When speaking from one generation of teachers to the next, right through to the students, serious mistakes are often passed on when pronouncing, which have simply remained to this day. For years we have been told about “Schiewa” (God “Shiva”), but the person called never feels addressed (with a short jagged “i” instead of a stretched one, however, it would work a little better). But imagine that “God” does not mean “God”. It is fortunate that the divine is present in everything and everyone. I have been annoyed by the word “God” since I was a child. With the name you have no choice but to imagine a being outside, which only dissolves into dislike or understanding after years of questioning. Until then, however, God is an old, long-bearded man on a cloud who registers exactly whether another bar of chocolate has been eaten too much or the hands are in the "wrong" places under the covers. After all, God sees everything, and there is probably no way around us feeling miserable in our human existence - until new possibilities for interpretation may open up. In short, names have their own energies through sound and there are even studies that the character of a person adapts to his name.

We also believe in many Sanskrit translations. For example for the word “guru” - I think I once described it as “lead us from dark to light”, simply because it is explained that way from book to book. This translation may or may not be correct. Perhaps this is how it was written down by a romantic with too much interpretation. The sutras of Patanjali are accompanied by many interpretations, depending on the edition, and in reality the magic formula lies in discovering the beauty in the little and simple. Always transferring yoga to your own life and making connections is definitely wanted. Only when passing it on should the freedom be created so that everyone can form their own picture.

The letters of the Sanskrit alphabet have it all. You can pronounce the same letter with different tongue positions. There are five mouth positions: 1. Guttural or throat sound - takes place at the back of the soft palate; 2. Palatal on the anterior, soft palate; 3. Cerebal at the highest point of the palate, the roof of the mouth; 4. Dental on the upper incisors; 5. Labial on the lips. This suggests that there must be significantly more vocal sounds than in our part of the world. This can now also be combined by pronouncing letters short and jagged or long and drawn out.

The next stage is to pronounce the letters hard or soft. There are vowels, semi-vowels, consonates. There are anus varas, visargas, sakviras, diphtongs and ligatures. And since I'm "only" at level 1 so far, so I still have a long way to go, I don't have an overview of what might be lurking around the corner.

However, I can already confirm one rule: it is getting finer and finer - hence the name “Sanskrit”.

So if you want to know what “Guru” really means and what the up to now always wrongly pronounced “Ahimsa” and poor “Shiva” actually sound like, who has a bit of passion and wants to have the fun of his life with this “dead” language , may register for Sanskrit Level 1 from 17.05.2019 – 19.05.2019 in the Peace Yoga Berlin. I would like to take part again, but I mustn't gamble away my luck - and joy shared is joy doubled!

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात्