23 Apr Practicing language, Attaining enlightenment
(Presented at ILA’s 63rd Annual Conference, April 20 to 22, 2018, at Saint Johns University in Queens, New York)
Use of a language and the notions behind it are much more dependent on culture. For some it may be a medium for business, a medium for material gains and for Sanskrit, the idea behind the use of language itself, is attaining enlightenment. In fact, the whole idea underlying language is known as śabda Brahma, which means the supreme power in the form of word.
For scholars of Sanskrit, practising grammar is considered similar to progressing on the path to attain enlightenment. There are many views related to it based on the differences in the schools of these scholars. For some, the supreme power is one, yet it manifests itself in many forms from time to time based on its will. People may perceive the supreme power itself and its features/powers being different from one another, though they are one and have no distinction. These views hold true about language as well.
Pratyabhijnā states that one can recognize something based on the recognition of something which was recognized earlier and was then forgotten at a later stage. When one is able to know the functioning of language, this realization is no less than realizing Brahma, and in fact, the process is considered identical. This is the reason why the realization of Brahma can happen in the same way as the realization of śabda Brahma.
There are others, who present the view that using language for communication is so easy and natural that it is taken for granted. In fact, grassroots are never concerned about the premises of language, i.e., underlying Language, which enables them to use language. Moreover, this is why such a realization may help them attaining enlightenment. The nyāyikas emphasize representing/recognizing things in terms of features rather than themselves, which also emphasize the same thing.
This paper is an attempt to throw light on some such epistemological theories and how this affects the identity of Sanskrit speakers.