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Many times, while reading translations, I get the impression that it’s not a perfect translation. Is it important in our modern society to learn and understand Sanskrit?

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Public Satsang at Sai Anandam, Singapore – 8th August 2017

Swami: Sanskrit is the language of the gods. The first thoughts that came to the rishis, which they placed into words were in Sanskrit. It is good to learn Sanskrit because you can understand things clearly with the first reading or experiences of the language. It is a very beautiful and very logical language. There is no harm in learning Sanskrit. It will remove from the mind the issue of confusion and misunderstanding; therefore, it is good. If you decide to teach yourself another language, there is nothing more beautiful than the Sanskrit language, which is so precise, so logical, so beautiful and so rhythmic that it is almost musical. That is the language of Sanskrit.

If you learn Sanskrit, it is not a problem. Do learn a new language. If you still cannot learn, despite trying, then refer to two or three translations that touch your heart and appeal to you, and work with those. That is very important. However, if you do not know a language, do not try to preach it to others – that is very dangerous. When you do not know a language and you speak of it, you can twist and change its meaning.

Knowing the language is very important. Without knowing, chanting like a parrot may just change the meaning.
There’s a great Thyagaraja song – do you know it? Thyagaraja sang to Rama, “Ne pogadakunte neekemi kodavu Rama?” It means, “If I don’t praise You, what are You going to lose, Rama? You are going to lose nothing if I don’t praise you.”

Another person sang it as, “Ne pakoda tinte neekemi kodhavu?” That means, “If I eat pakodas, what is your problem?” (Laughter) In Telugu, ‘pagadu’ means ‘to praise’, whereas ‘pakoda’ refers to a fried snack.

See, the whole meaning changes if you do not know the language. Therefore, it is better you learn and then chant. Understand first and chant after, which is very good if you cannot teach yourself the whole language. Otherwise, learn from scholars who know it well, or use two or three translations where you can compare and learn from them.

Ultimately, the meaning should touch your heart. It is important to teach yourself another language. Then too, if it is a language like Sanskrit, the mother of all languages, there is nothing like it.