We've studied several new forms, so the vocabulary section will be quite short:
Translate from Sanskrit to English.
Translate from English to Sanskrit. Make the pronoun explicit in your translation.
- You think.
- I become confused.
- He asks.
- You go.
- The two of us strike.
- They are born.
- We revere.
- We speak.
- They obtain.
- You shine brilliantly.
- I deride.
- He speaks.
- You strike.
- The two of us ask.
- They walk.
- You speak.
- We become confused.
- They ask.
- I release.
- You find.
- I enjoy.
- The two of us are born.
Translation (Sanskrit to English)
- He sees. Bhagavad Gita 13.28
- It is I. a mantra from advaita vedānta
In the modern day, we usually use the term "Hinduism" to broadly refer to an extremely large and diverse group of religious practices. But as you might be able to guess, the word "Hinduism" is itself quite new. The term comes from the word "Hindu," which itself is a Persian form of the Sanskrit word sindhu. sindhu is the ancient name of the Indus River, and it was the river that most of India's conquerors first saw as they proceeded into the country.
So, what term did the ancient Indians use to describe what we call Hinduism today? This is a very good question, but it is also misleading; for the word "Hinduism" includes dozens of schools that were once fierce rivals, and these schools often had little in common with each other. Eventually, the term āstika was used. This term is derived from a word that means "it is." In this case, "it" refers to the Vedas; the āstika schools, to varying extents, all accept the authority of the Vedas. This term is largely used in contrast with the nāstika schools, which rejected the authority of the Vedas. But you should be careful with the words āstika and nāstika, because they hide an important fact: āstika and nāstika schools have influenced each other for thousands of years, and not all schools can be sorted into one group or the other. For example, the foundational text of yoga borrows Buddhist and Jain terminology, and it makes very little reference to the Vedas.
Traditionally, there are six āstika schools. Along with yoga, the most popular today is vedānta, which primarily deals with the Upanishads. The name literally means "end of the Vedas," and it is divided into many separate sub-schools; of these, the most famous and popular is advaita vedānta, or "nondualistic vedānta." It summarizes its philosophy as follows:
Brahman is truth. The world is a deception. The soul is Brahman itself, and nothing more.
Given this, you can see how the mantra above becomes significant. It completely equates the soul ("I") with Brahman ("it" or, less commonly, "he"). It is usually chanted with one syllable inhaled and the other exhaled. Sources disagree as to which is which.
But there's still more to discuss about this mantra. One interesting thing about it is its association with the haṃsa bird. As a masculine -a noun, haṃsa is haṃsaḥ in the case 1 singular. When repeated, we get haṃsaḥ haṃsaḥ haṃsaḥ …, which becomes haṃso haṃso haṃso …. This result sounds identical to the mantra above, which when repeated would give us so 'haṃ so 'haṃ so 'haṃ …. Partly because of this, haṃsa birds are an important symbol in advaita vedānta.
With just a small bit of Sanskrit, you've unraveled the mystery of this very famous mantra.
Translation (English to Sanskrit)