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Samskrit for the Computers!

Pushpahaas
India suffers from a civilizational loss owing to an acute loss of dharmic civilizational ethos. Samskrit, the mother of all Indian (and IE) languages too suffered great misfortune owing to prolonged invasions over millennia. Today in Southern and Eastern parts of India due to growth of powerful proselytizing Islamists and Christians, new fault lines are emerging. Rajiv Malhotra has meticulously researched this in his path breaking book titled ‘Breaking India : Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultline’. We can define dharmic civilizational ethos as disruption of world view in polity, society and culture. Samskrit is the language of knowledge, science, philosophical, moral-ethical thinking when receded to background and was limited to prayer and rituals. In one shot we are cut-off from the whole knowledge base and value paradigm of our ancestors. Someone has very aptly termed such things as stealing of identities.


Samskrit under foreign rule

The replacement of Samskrit with foreign languages like Persian, Arabic or English was a cultural hegemony. Naturally to pre-empt any local resistance to this hegemony necessitated vilification of Samskrit as a vehicle of caste-discrimination, otherworldly speculation, arcane rituals and all imaginable weaknesses of Indian polity. This was ably carried forward by missionary scholars and Indologists. The local languages were pitted against the Samskrit. The Brahmana, Ksatriya, Vaisya were progressively demonized by varied interest groups like missionaries, exclusivist favor seeking political outfits and social workers etc.

Started by colonial missionary scholars, this corrupting education system was carried forward by Indologists and their progeny with Marxists-Islamists apologists in India. In pre-independent India, Sanatana dharma was first time defining itself in terms of alien dominant narrative. Thus a few noteworthy attempts to rebuild the Dharmic civilizational ethos by Tilak, Agarkar, Nivedita and Aurobindo too failed to make significant impact in absence of awareness among masses and active patronage of social leaders. In pre British India, traditional education was carried out by Brahmana and temples that in return used to get social patronage. Sri Dharmapal in his extensive research proved that at that time it was the best education system available to public at that time in the World. British Government through successive policies marginalized it and promoted deracinated school system. The State and social patronage to traditional education system of Toal and Paathshalas started diminishing while convent schools, like some invasive weed are growing exponentially since then.

The Political arena was full of stratagem of narrow-focused religious Islamists, hard-nosed Christian British and divided, suppressed and distracted Dharmic minds. The leaders belonging to so-called ‘Hindu’ religion generally educated in the West were incompetent to understand the Dharmic ethos and political expediencies always restricted them from taking a decisive stand to promote dharmic values.

Democratization of polity sans respect to Dharmic civilizational values which was also a process of consolidation of republic of Indian state gave Northerners numerical advantage over others due to broad Urdu-Hindi-Hindustani amorphous cohesion. The greatest advantage was this sort of proletariat mainstream bypassed that strong current of old values dharmic-social order and monarchies which was despised by major actors of that time for conflicting and opposing objectives. Sanatanis hated monarchies due to their experiences of Mughal and Islamic rulers; Muslims disliked it due to predominance of Sanatani-Hindu under currents and british were suspicious of all rulers and their connect with the masses. The new mainstream was colorless, odorless and sterile concoction and thus the Brits, Nationalist and Islamist; all found it very handy and useful. 

With English as a new nation-wide language of rulers and power elite, the new generation was exploring present and past through lenses of missionary scholars, Indologists and Marxists etc. The post independent Indian republic continued with this hotchpotch values approach under garb of secularism; while the partitioned Islamized portion of India marched towards greater arabic Islamic values. The discourse of Indian history thus was deeply skeptical of local capabilities and skills; it discounted every noteworthy achievement of Sanatani past. The atheistic-materialist political thought of Abrahamic School called Marxism moved western educated and rootless people to new heights of frenzied iconoclasm. 

Why Samskrit is indispensible today?

We know that Samskrit is the only language that could evolve a scientific system in form of Vaidic oral tradition which has preserved knowledge from hoary past with unmatchable fidelity, employing ingenious use of meter-pronunciation and rules. Along with this astronomical observations and calculations, information about flora-fauna, geography and their effect and relationship with human consciousness are encoded in these ancient Chaandas rhymes. The logical structure and holistic understanding of phenomenon in Samskrit etymology makes it most perfect language for the sharpening of intellect and broadening of wisdom. As to more tangible benefits, Rajeev Srinivasan has very eloquently argued on the indispensability of Samskrit for us today:

-         It is the language that gels with Indian Ethos
-         It is literary and liturgical language
-         and most importantly its “most scientific human language of all time. I will have to delve into my computer science background and formal language theory to explain this. I have heard people say, “XYZ says Sanskrit is the best language to do Artificial Intelligence with” or words to that effect. This is not strictly speaking true: for AI, you need logic-based languages such as LISP or Prolog.

Paninian or Classical Samskrit (as contrasted with Vedic Samskrit) is the most refined and precise human language ever invented. It has an astonishing property known as a “context-free grammar”, and so far as I know, it is the only human language that has ever had this. Context-free means that the language is utterly unambiguous and every sentence in it can be derived precisely from a set of rules. In Paninian Sanskrit, as embodied in the Ashtadhyayi, there are 3959 rules.

Its context-free nature comes from an audacious attempt by Panini to encapsulate the infinite variety of expression in language in a finite number of rules. Even now, it is difficult to imagine that somebody, 2,500 years ago, had the chutzpah to attempt to condense infinity into a finite set of rules. This idea could have only arisen in ancient India, with its familiarity with the mathematical notion of infinity.

This idea, that codified, was independently re-discovered in the 1950s by IBM engineers, as they tried to figure out a way to communicate with computers. What they needed was to find a way to instruct computers in totally unambiguous fashion. So came up with context-free grammars (there was some work by in this area), and lo and behold, they were astonished to find out Panini had anticipated them by two and a half millennia!
 
... So what exactly does “context-free” mean? It means that the meaning doesn’t depend on contextual knowledge or common sense. Obviously human languages are context-sensitive: you just have to know certain things as a user of the language or else you will be confused. Here is an example of two sentences in English:

1.     Fruit flies like an apple
2.     Time flies like an arrow

The two sentences are lexically identical, but to the human reader, based on contextual knowledge, they are vastly different. But to a computer, which has no context, they are identical. If the computer is fed the first and told that fruit flies are a kind of fly and that apples are fruits, it will create certain semantic model. Then, when given the second sentence, it will conclude that ‘time flies’ are a kind of fly and that arrows are fruits!

It is essentially impossible to write such ambiguous sentences in Paninian Sanskrit. That is one of the reasons why word order doesn’t matter in Paninian Sanskrit, as it does in English (imagine “Rama killed Ravana” and “Ravana killed Rama” as examples).

That someone millennia ago was able to conceptualize, and even more astonishingly, created a Grand Unified Theory of Language is simply stunning. Let us note that even a widely acknowledged genius like Albert failed to come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Physics, even though he tried hard. Arguably, Panini’s successful effort then was the greatest accomplishment of a single mind in all of recorded history: creating something so advanced that it took 2500 years to figure out how to use it!
 
There is another reason for the perfection of Sanskrit, and that is the logical nature of . There is no other alphabet that so scientifically orders different sound families horizontally, and the associated types (dental, retroflex etc.) horizontally. Just consider the Roman script – it has a randomly assembled set of sounds, in no particular order, in stark contrast to the rigorous order of Devanagari.

Many of us have studied another rigorously ordered scientific table that has horizontal families and vertical variants or types: that is the Periodic Table of Elements of Mendeleev, which was also so advanced that he was able to group the elements and suggest that there were gaps where new elements, yet to be discovered, belonged. The resemblance is no coincidence: Mendeelev was strongly influenced by Devanagari, and he acknowledged as much in his terminology.
 
Where there were gaps, he would call the missing, to-be-discovered elements eka-boron, or dvi-silicon or tria-carbon, consciously using the Sanskrit words for one, two, three etc. Later, these anticipated elements were indeed discovered and given new names. So here’s an example of what Rajiv Malhotra might call “digestion” of Indic ideas into western memes, although, to be fair, there is indirect credit.”
 
How Should I Start?

Since by Samskrit we mean the Values and cultural paradigm and not merely a language; learning Samskrit is easy and fun. Apart from formal Samkrit education here are a few popular ways:

-         By reading Etithaasa like Ramayana and Mahabharata Samskrit text along with translation in language you are most comfortable with regularly.
-         By including Samskrit Chants and Stutis in daily worship.
-         By reading Samskrit dictionaries like Amarkosha etc.
-         By reading Samskrit literature along with translations
-         Reading online courses.
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