Sri Aurobindo has said: “The vital question is how we are to learn and make use of Sanskrit and the indigenous languages so as to get to the heart and intimate sense of our own culture and establish a vivid continuity between the still living power of our past and the yet uncreated power of our future.”

“Law and process must have governed the origins and developments of language. Given the necessary clue and sufficient data, they must be discoverable. It seems to me that in the Sanskrit language the clue can be found, the data lie ready for investigation.” (The Secret of the Veda, p.47) Sri Aurobindo gives us a key to study the language from a different point of view. He started his investigation in his work “The Origins of Aryan Speech” and did not finish it. But he gave us the principles and the direction for farther studies: “… we can find an equal regularity , an equal reign of fixed process on the psychological side, in the determining of the relation of particular sense to particular sound.”The four first simple vowels a, i, u, ç of Sanskrit language “indicate the idea of being, existence… A in its short form indicates being in its simplicity without any farther idea of modification or quality, mere or initial being, creative of space; i an intense state of existence, being narrowed , forceful and insistent, tending to a goal, seeking to occupy space; u a wide, extended but not diffused state of existence, being medial and firmly occupant of space; ç a vibrant state of existence, pulsing in space, being active about a point, within a limit.” (Sri Aurobindo, Archives and Research, December 1978, v.2, No 2, pp. 155-156) Similarly a simple sound a was seen by Vedantic and Tantric traditions as ever-lasting sound-basis for all other sounds which were considered to be only its different modifications. These modifications became, so to say, an “Alphabet”, not in an abstract way as it happened with Western Alphabets, which followed the occult traditions of the Middle East and took unconsciously the very order of an occult significance of the Mystery of Creation already unknown to them, but as a logic variations of consciously articulated different modes of the Meaning of One.

Thus the sound a was representing for them the very basis, pronounced without any special articulation. Psychologically it could be seen as a substance of speech, which all other sounds were derived from with a help of articulation. So, being modified by the means of articulation this very sound, symbolically “a”, signifying “existence as it is” , could carry other meanings, as for instance: “ intense state of existence” (sound i) or “extended state of existence” (sound u) or “vibrant state of existence” (sound ç) and so on. Psychologically one could perceive this process as an attempt to articulate a specific sense-meaning through the given (determined) apparatus of articulation.

If apparatus would be different (non-human) than the sounds also would be different, in other words, sounds are only representatives of a specific articulation or better to say of a living and conscious attempt to articulate a specific meaning. Therefore we could say that not the sounds, which are really important, but the conscious effort to articulate a particular meaning, and because of its correspondence with outer means (human apparatus of speech) which are fixed, the significance of the sound-values must also be fixed, and therefore can be systematised and studied.
Sanskrit Language is the language, which has preserved its own original and complete system of etymons, simple sound-ideas, roots. Therefore it does not require any other language to explain its own derivations, for it has all the evidence in its own basic system, and refers only to it. This system is based on the interrelation of the meaning with the sound.

“The Rishis’ use of language was governed by this ancient psychology of the Word. When in English we use the word “wolf” or “cow”, we mean by it simply the animal designated; we are not conscious of any reason why we should use that particular sound for the idea except the immemorial custom of the language; and we cannot use it for any other sense or purpose except by an artificial device of style. But for the Vedic Rishi vçka meant the tearer and, therefore among other applications of the sense, a wolf; dhenu meant the fosterer, nourisher, and therefore a cow. But the original and general predominates, the derived and particular is secondary.” (Secret of the Veda. p.51-52).

The difference between the etymological and contextual or conventional meaning has to be mentioned here. The word vçka- is derived from the root vçj , or as some propose from vra÷c , to tear, to break asunder, which is a member of a simple vç-root family. So to really grasp the etymological meaning of the root vç- one has to become aware of the significance of simple u and ç . Moreover about their significance in all other roots. That is what we mean when we speak about the system of etymons, which can be clearly perceived only in their completeness.
Sri Aurobindo writes in his article “Philological Method of the Veda”: “The Vedic Sanskrit … abounds in a variety of forms and inflexions; it is fluid and vague, yet richly subtle in its use of cases and tenses. And on its psychological side it has not yet crystallized, is not entirely hardened into the rigid forms of intellectual precision. The word for the Vedic Rishi is still a living thing, a thing of power, creative, formative. It is not yet a conventional symbol for an idea, but itself the parent and former of ideas. It carries within it the memory of its roots, is still conscient of its own history.”

Back to Top