Hello Dr. Ramakrishnan!
It is wonderful to sacn your many accomplishments on your user page. I was especially impressed at the degree you have become a polyglot, as languages have always fascinated me personally. Since I studied Latin and Attic Greek as an undergraduate, I was curious as to your opinion on whether the degree in English was more or less difficult than that in the "dead" language Sanskrit. Keep up the good work! Aaron Neumann
"From the words of the poet men take what meanings please them; yet their last meaning points to thee." LXXV Geetanjali,Tagore.
Thank you for your appreciation. Regarding your curiosity about less/more difficulty in "the degree in English... than that in the "dead" language Sanskrit", I would like to tell you a bit about the attitude towards language in our Vedic tradition. Sanskrit is considered not only a language of communication but also a language of expression such as breathing! This breath-taking comprehension of Sanskrit will be felt by any person who closely observes one's breathing process. Try this: watch the sound while you breathe out, it is felt as hum (like hum in Humphry) and it is felt as sah while breathing in. Thus the term for breath in Sanskrit is Humsah which also means a bird. Hence Sanskrit is a living language and yet we are dead to it!
Further, the Goddess of Learning, Saraswati, in the Vedic tradition is meditated upon as having language-form which includes all languages.
Both the languages serve a definite purpose in my life's mission. With Sanskrit I know what I am and what I want. With English I can let others know what I am and what I want to do for humanity.
That was a fascinating description of the way we use language inspired by the Vedic tradition, certainly not considered by me before. I understood you intuitively, though. I grew up with English, a complex, nuanced language I always saw as a basic and at times clumsy tool for communication. It was not until I studied Latin and to a lesser extent Greek that I realized how language itself could become a means of knowledge. The simplicity and precision of these ancient languages allowed me to reflect on the world and myself in a new, clear light. I was introduced to the fascinating world of true meaning behind the common sounds we speak, simply reflecting on words such as amicitia, iustitia, and deus.
It is this ability to guide one's thoughts by one's language that is gained in learning ancient languages, which saddens me when I think of how few American students are in Latin classes these days. I still regard English as a means of communication, but can enjoy a retreat into meaningful contemplation through the words of Plutarch and Cicero.
I thank you for your wonderful discussion, and hope to speak again soon.