Why do I have to study Sanskrit words and Indian ideas?

Question: Why do I have to study Sanskrit words and Indian ideas in order to practice the traditional yoga? It claims to be an experimental science and method and experiments should not depend on any particular language.

Answer: One answer is to look at the example of Western instrumental music. Music is something direct, which does not depend on any particular language. But the fact is that the first substantial developments were in Italy and the basic technical terms such as allegro, staccato and sonata are internationally understood technical terms. If every composer wrote the musical directions in his own language (Wagner tried it) there would be confusion.

   The second answer is from medicine. If you have distressing symptoms of thirst your doctor may diagnose diabetes and prescribe treatment. To follow the elaborate directions you have to learn words like insulin and you have to study the essential points of the various dietary and other restrictions. If you do not fully understand the reasons for them you will probably not keep them up. In fact some diabetics do kill themselves because they never took the time to master the reasons for the programme and therefore constantly allowed exceptions.

   In yoga we need to study enough to be convinced of validity of the working basis and the programme of mind control and meditation. Experience shows that unless there is a fairly clear outline, the initial enthusiasm will tend to wear off. As with music and medicine, to get a clear idea one has to learn some technical terms which in this case happen to be in Sanskrit. The word yoga for instance has no really satisfactory translation in English.

© Trevor Leggett

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