THEOSOPHY, Vol. 42, No. 5, March, 1954
(Pages 211-218; Size: 22K)


"If I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses, and what is her finest heritage, I would answer unhesitatingly it is the Sanskrit language and literature and all it contains." 

SANSKRIT is the vehicle of evolved human thought, the philosophical and scientific language of the future. Today, as throughout the past, it is unknown and unspoken in its true systematized form except by the Initiates, as it is pre-eminently a mystery language. To the Kabiri, or Titans, is ascribed the invention of letters -- the Devanagari -- or the alphabet and language of the gods; Devanagari being the letters or characters of the Sanskrit language. Real Devanagari, non-phonetic characters -- meant formerly the outward symbols, the signs used in the intercommunication between the gods and initiated mortals. The Kabiri, "great and powerful gods," are in their original divine characters the beneficent Entities who, symbolized in Prometheus, brought light to the world, and endowed humanity with intellect and reason. They were our first instructors. Hermes, Orpheus, Cadmus, Asclepios, all these demi-gods and heroes, said to have appeared as the benefactors of men and to whom is ascribed the revelation of sciences to man, are all generic names of the Kabiri. They are the Dhyan Chohans who once were men like ourselves, products of evolution.

Evolution for this period, it is taught, began millions and millions of years ago, succeeding a vast period of darkness or hibernation. And preceding that period of sleep there were eternally other periods of activity or manifestation. Now, in these prior periods of energy and action the same evolutionary progress went on, from and out of which came great beings -- men perfected and become what to us are gods, who had aided in countless evolutions in the eternal past. These became Dhyan Chohans, and took part in all succeeding evolutions. Such is the great goal for all human souls to strive after. Of the Dhyan Chohans and the Mahatmas we may know something, and are often given, as it were, tangible proof of their existence. For the Adepts are living men, using bodies similar to our own; they are scattered all over the earth in all nations, all knowing each other. They have times when they meet together and are presided over by some among their number who are more advanced in knowledge and power than the rest; and these higher Adepts have their communications, at which the One who presides is the highest: from these latter begins the communication with the Dhyan Chohans....

From these "gods" descended to present man of the Fifth race, as to his forebears, the language of the gods -- Sanskrit. It is very easy to see that the imperishable doctrine had to be filtered down through various channels. The communicator of it to mortals would be regarded by his finite auditors as a god. The same method is observable in the Gita (chapter four), where Krishna says to Arjuna that "this never-failing doctrine I formerly taught to Vivaswat and he to Manu, who told it to Ikshwaku, succeeding whom came the Rajarshees who studied it." No human language save the Sanskrit can adequately render into a European tongue the grand panorama of the ever periodically recurring Law. It will one day be again the language used by man upon this earth, first in science and in metaphysics, and later on in common life. Terms now preserved in that noblest of languages will creep into the literature and press of the day, crop up in reviews, appear in various books and treatises. The language will be one which is scientific in all that makes a language, and has been enriched by ages of study of metaphysics and the true sciences.

The same is said of the return of Latin and Greek: there will be a time when the Greek of Æschylus, and far more perfect still in its future form -- will be spoken by all in Southern Europe; during which time Sanskrit will be resting in its periodical Pralaya; and Attic Greek will be followed by the Latin of Vergil. Latin and Greek, perfected and finished as they are, and therefore models for our imitation and emulation in the perfecting of our use of our own tongue, are but shadows of the noble Sanskrit, the perfection of language of the past Race, embodying in it all former perfections since the beginning of speech upon the earth. For Sanskrit, in the days when it was a living tongue, was also the living vehicle of thought. Its sounds, the active phase of language, were so entirely the vehicle of meaning, that they conveyed their own definition, and immediately induced in the mind of the listener the exact modification, that is -- the exact state of being of the speaker. Misunderstanding of one by another, so universally common and unavoidable in our times, was then unknown, for language was the living antaskarana of thought or ideation. The listener not only heard sounds and words: he heard, saw, felt, what was taking place in the mind of the speaker, as if it was himself.

The vast number of roots common to both Latin and Greek were present in the Pelasgian tongues. The latter were of a language with the same, and even stronger roots than the Greek. This was their common ancestor, the "language spoken at one time by all the nations of Europe -- before their separation." The Pelasgians were one of the root-races of future Greece, and were a remnant of a sub-race of Atlantis.

In the Sanskrit, as also in the Hebrew and all other alphabets, every letter has its occult meaning and its rationale; it is a cause and an effect of a previous cause, and a combination of these very often produces magical effects. The vowels, especially, contain the most occult and formidable potencies. The Mantras -- esoterically magical rather than religious -- are chanted by the Brahmans and so are the Vedas and other scriptures. The literal meaning of the fourth Veda, the Atharva, is "magic incantation, containing aphorisms, incantations, and magical formulae." As said in The Secret Doctrine: "To pronounce a word is to evoke a thought and make it present; the magnetic potency of the human speech is the commencement of every manifestation in the Occult World." The Sanskrit letters of the Devanagari are 63 in number. They are all musical and are read, or rather chanted, according to a system given in very old Tantra works. And since each answers to a numeral, and has therefore a far larger scope for expression and meaning, it must necessarily follow that Sanskrit is far more perfect and far older than other languages which followed the system, but could apply it only in a limited way.

For a language so old and so perfect as Sanskrit to have survived alone, among all languages, it must have had its cycles of perfection and its cycles of degeneration. It has its special purposes in the reign of immutable cyclic laws, and is now slowly spreading in Europe and will one day have the extension it had thousands upon thousands of years back -- that of a universal language.

The question naturally arises, would a substitute universal language be of absolute benefit to the world today? While it is true that a universal language would be a good thing, it is aLso true that the average level of intelligence is low and that a highly cultivated person is far above the average. The universal tongue would have to be limited to the whole level of the mediocre average so as to be understood by all -- or else the cultured ones would have to deal in another set of terms to express their higher ideas; this would be tantamount to a newer language than the first, and so on ad infinitum. When however, the race is entirely lifted up to a right level of moral condition, character, aspiration, and ideal, then we will be ready to have a universal tongue.

Unquestionably, as the change in the Buddhi and Manas of the race proceeds, more and more of the race will begin to talk on a higher plane. There are persons who never think with the higher faculties of their mind at all; those who do so are the minority and are thus, in a way, beyond, if not above the average of mankind. Those will think even upon ordinary matters on a higher plane. And thus will the structure of language and the meanings of words be brought to achieve a higher level. By this means will Sanskrit eventually come to be "again the language used by man upon this earth." And, accomplishing the revivification of the "language of the gods" will come also the realization of one of the Objects of the Theosophical Movement. To hasten the advent of that day with all that it implies, was the reason for the coming of H. P. Blavatsky among men, for her writing, teaching, working as she did, and for interjection into the language of Theosophy of so many Sanskrit terms and ideas. This because Sanskrit is no ordinary human development, but from Those, once human but no longer so, for whose doctrine no other vehicle is adequate.

"The introduction of English in India brought with it a new spirit in Sanskrit and new enthusiasm in Sanskrit scholars. Today every cultured land has a chair in Sanskrit in its universities. Once every two years a large number of research scholars meet in a Conference of Orientalists in India, and among them at least a hundred can be named who are doing active research and making substantial contributions to Sanskrit knowledge. The Conference includes many Persian and Arabic scholars who do excellent work at studying, preserving and publishing Persian and Arabic manuscripts to be found in India. Sanskrit, we believe, will not die, but will continue to lend itself through the centuries to those adaptations which serve for the betterment of mankind. Even though at the present moment nations of the world exhibit only casual interest, as time passes and the mad quest for money-making loses its beauty they will be compelled to give more serious attention to Sanskrit."(2)

Today, marking the new phase of India's awakening, are to be recognized among her sons men of will and fixity of purpose, such as have not appeared on the Eastern scene for centuries. From the profusion of moral energy and emerging Manasic perception now evident in the Motherland of the Aryans, must come also a virility of thought and vigor of language that will ultimately parallel the developments of the Western world. And, as Sanskrit brings its philosophic dimensions to Western speech, so has the vigorous English of the erstwhile conquering race engrafted its energy on the parent stem. The spiritual rebirth of India must be counted in any attempt to determine how Sanskrit will "reincarnate."

Standing at the top of an enormous Sanskrit Indian literature, the source of all varieties of knowledge, religious, secular, scientific, mystic, are the Vedas. These are best known as the scriptures of the Hindus. The word is from the root vid, "to know," or "divine knowledge." The Vedas are the most ancient as well as the most sacred of the Sanskrit works. They are claimed by the Hindus themselves -- whose Brahmans and Pundits ought to know best about their own religious works -- to have been first taught orally for thousands of years and then compiled on the shores of Lake Manasarovara, beyond the Himalayas in Tibet. Each Veda, and almost every one of its hymns and divisions, is the production of various authors. They have been written at various periods of the ethnological evolution of the Indo-Aryan race. The Vedic writings are all classified in two great divisions, exoteric and esoteric, the former being called "division of actions or works" (Karma-Kanda), the latter, "division of (divine) knowledge" (Jnana-Kanda). Both departments are regarded as sruti or revelation. The Rig Veda is the first and most important of the four Vedas. To each of its hymns the name of the seer or Rishi to whom it was revealed is prefixed. It thus becomes evident on the authority of these very names (such as Vasishta, Viswamitra, Narada, etc.), all of which belong to men born in various manvantaras, that centuries, and perhaps millenniums, must have elapsed between the dates of their composition. The Gayatri, the most sacred hymn of the Rig Veda, is taken from the third of the ten cycles of hymns, the cycle of the Rajaputra Sage Viswamitra.

In their final form, as compiled by Veda-Vyasa, the Brahmans unanimously assign 3,100 years before the Christian era, the date when Vyasa flourished. The primitive, purely spiritual language of the Vedas, conceived many decades of millenniums earlier, had found its purely human expression for the purpose of describing events taking place 5,000 years ago, the date of Krishna's death, from which date the Kali Yuga or Black Age began for mankind. Therefore the Vedas must be as old as that. But their antiquity is sufficiently proved by the fact that they were written in such an ancient form of Sanskrit, so different from the Sanskrit now used, that there is no other work like them in the literature of Sanskrit. Only the most learned of the Brahman Pundits can read the Vedas in the original.

The Vedas have a distinctly dual meaning -- one expressed by the literal sense of the words, the other indicated by the metre and the intonation which are the life of the Vedas. The mysterious connection between intonation (swara) and light is one of its most profound secrets.

Attached to the Vedas are the Upanishads and the Brahmanas. The Brahmanas, Hindu sacred books, are commentaries compiled by the Brahmans on those portions of the Vedas which were intended for the ritualistic use and guidance of the "twice-born" (Dwija) or Brahmans. The Upanishads are to the Vedas what the Kabala is to the Jewish Bible. They treat of and expound the secret and mystic meaning of the Vedic texts. They speak of the origin of the universe, the nature of Deity, and of Spirit and Soul, as also of the metaphysical connection of mind and matter. They contain the beginning and the end of all human knowledge, but they have now ceased to reveal it, since the day of Buddha. The Upanishads are the priceless treasures of the Vedanta, but require now the additional possession of a Master-key to enable the student to get at their full meaning. The Anugita is regarded by translators as a continuation of the Bhagavad-Gita, and its original is one of the oldest Upanishads. It is stated by contemporary authority that, today, more than one hundred Upanishads have been published and that probably hundreds more await discovery and editing. Their literary range covers the gamut of "philosophical and legal works, grammar, history, the Epics and other classes of poetry, medical, lexical, polity, fable and romance, the science of poetics, the drama, tantra, astronomical, astrological and mathematical literature."

The alphabet and the art of writing were kept secret for ages, as the Dwijas (twice-born) and the Initiates alone were permitted to use this art (dictated by those anterior cycles and the condition of mankind). Therefore is the word lipi, "writing," absent from the oldest manuscripts, a fact which gave to the Orientalists the erroneous and rather incongruous idea that writing was not only unknown before the days of Panini, but even to that sage himself. That the greatest grammarian the world has ever produced should be ignorant of writing would indeed be the greatest and most incomprehensible phenomenon of all! Panini, called "the last of the Rishis," composed a grammar containing 3,996 rules, the most perfect grammar the world has ever known. This most elaborate and scientific of all systems, brought to perfection about 1440 B.C., consummated the era of "Vedic Sanskrit" by inaugurating that of Classical Sanskrit, thus bringing the Vedas into their final compiled form.

Dr. B. Bhattacharyya, Pandit Sanskritist of India, writes(3) that "...foreign hordes, and various trans-Himalayan tribes often succeeded in conquering parts of India, founding principalities and even empires; all of whom finding the influence of Sanskrit everywhere too strong, tried to destroy Sanskrit culture by destroying temples and monasteries, burning libraries, killing priests en masse. ... But the wonderful power of Sanskrit resisted all these attacks, and whenever Pandits found breathing time they again started their teaching and studying, writing and copying of Sanskrit works, while under their advice the kings built temples and monasteries. The lately discovered Mohenjo Daro civilization, which is dated by European scholars at 3200-2800 B.C. and which is thus contemporaneous with the beginning of the Kali Yuga, was deeply influenced by the Vedic civilization, since at this period the Vedas were a settled fact."

Dr. Bhattacharyya continues:

From time immemorial Sanskrit descended from father to son and from preceptor to disciple. Study was the duty of all classes except those who were fitted only for menial duties. Monetary considerations played no part in these schools. The teacher collected together boys in the village and taught them first the Vedas and then the useful Shastras (authoritative treatises, including law-books), and this irrespective of whether he received remuneration or not, because that being his social and religious duty he was bound to render it to society. [Compare with what is written of the methods used by Pythagoras (Yavanacharya) in his school at Crotona.] Thus was Sanskrit language transmitted through the ages.

In the beginning the Guru used to recite the Vedas or the Shastras, and the disciple repeated, and later the disciple recited independently and the Guru corrected. This process went on for years -- sometimes as many as eighteen years -- until the disciple acquired enough knowledge and power. By this process memory developed to such an extent that the voluminous literature of the Vedas could be recited at one sitting, correct to the last accent, without ever opening a book or manuscript. When we remember that a printed edition of the Rig Veda alone covers more than a thousand pages, royal octavo, the feat of reciting the whole from memory will appear to anyone as stupendous and marvelous. Persons who can recite the whole of the Rig Veda from memory are still in existence in India amongst the Maharastrians, Nambudiris and Madrasis. And in like manner sciences, Shastras, grammar, lexicography were learnt. It is the kind of learning that produces really learned men. There was hardly any need for costly education in schools and colleges.

According to H. P. Blavatsky in her Secret Doctrine, the members of the several esoteric schools -- the seat of which is beyond the Himalayas, and whose ramifications may be found in China, Japan, India, Tibet, and even in Syria, besides South America -- claim to have in their possession the sum total of sacred and philosophical works in manuscripts and type: all the works, in fact, that have ever been written, in whatever language or characters, since the art of writing began; from the ideographic hieroglyphs down to the alphabet of Cadmus and the Devanagari. Let us then, advises Mr. Judge, get ready to use the material in this ancient storehouse of India, treasures that no man can be called a thief for taking, since the truths acquired by the mind respecting man's life, conduct, constitution, and destiny are the common property of the human race, a treasure that is lost by monopoly and expanded by dissemination.

In America and in India alike, there is a vast stirring and a preparation. No one can predict with certainty how or when will come the hoped-for union between East and West, nor the precise manner of the reciprocal osmosis of ideas and concepts that should bind these two great centres of civilization into a cultural whole. But unity there will be in spirit, philosophy, and language, whether centuries or even millenniums hence, just as the several lines of evolution will meet.

Next article:
[Part 1 of a 12-part series]

Back to the complete list of the

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".


(1) NOTE.--Collated mainly from Theosophical sources.
Back to text.

(2) Sanskrit Culture in a Changing World. B. Bhattacharyya.
Back to text.

(3) Sanskrit Culture in a Changing World.
Back to text.

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.