Vrindavan, 2018.02.24 (VT) During a recent speech encouraging people to learn Hindi and Sanskrit, Jaya Devi said, “words like dharma cannot be translated into English”. Jaya Devi, who has a PhD in Sanskrit, was invited to speak at Madhav College in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. Seminar, “Reflections on Nationalism in India”.
The seminar was held to discuss the rapid spread of Western culture and values in India and how to best protect Hindi language and culture. Jaya Devi presented a brief talk on “Why it is necessary for Indian people to study their mother tongue.”
Presenting her speech in Hindi, Jaya told the enraptured audiences, “When I came to India 30 years ago, I heard contradictory statements about cultural practices, the caste system, the sati rite, and the status of women. On the one hand, women were described as goddesses then again, as personified maya, the cause of men’s downfall. How to reconcile these two statements?
I then decided to study Sanskrit and find out what the scriptures were actually saying. Sanskrit opened the door to a vast body of knowledge that is not available anywhere else in the world. I learned that it is important to study Indian philosophy in the local language because the original meanings and the intentions of the author are often lost in translation. This gives rise to misunderstandings.
“Certain words cannot be translated into English. For example, ‘dharma.’ Dharma is translated into English as ‘religion.’ In Sanskrit ‘dharma’ is more correctly translated as ‘that which upholds society.’ This deeper meaning cannot be conveyed simply by the English word, ‘religion.’ (see full speech here)
Reflecting on her reasons for deciding to start a Hindi course for foreigners in Vrindavan, Kanta Dasi, who has been living in Vrindavan since 2000, said, “We need to get our practical work done in Hindi. We need to purchase things and take them back. We need to get around with local transportation, and, what a feeling it is to be able to understand katha directly from the mouth of a sadhu!
A year ago, when I was about to start looking for a job, I decided that I wanted to teach Hindi. Not only to manage monthly expenses but also because I think it can benefit so many devotees. I’ve dedicated the last year to compiling systematic lessons to teach Hindi.”
For devotees wanting to learn Sanskrit, Jiva Institute offers courses at beginner and intermediate levels.