Reply To: How Languages evolved

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Ashish Dalela

I always try to give people the thinking tools by which they can answer their questions on their own, but time and again I realize that people don’t want those thinking tools. They just want readymade answers. In this case, you have neglected all that I said about the scientific nature of the problem of language, and you want some blanket yes or no answers, which I’m afraid, do not exist. So, strain your mind again and try to understand what I’m saying if you want the answers in any case.

I will rephrase the problem in a different way. There is a space of meaning; it is universal and objective. Then there is a coordinate system of language in which that meaning can be expressed. Finally, based on the universal and objective space, and the individual coordinate system, you can convert the universal meaning into a language-specific representation. Conversely, you can take the language-specific representation, compare it to the coordinate system, and then get the location in space. This is what I was saying above too: There is a universal space of guna which embodies meaning; then there are individual or culture-specific ways of representing that meaning which constitutes the particular language, which is also guna. Then the sound produced by the conversion of the universal location into a coordinate-specific representation is also guna. The points in space can be called A, B, C. The coordinate system axes can be called X, Y, Z. And the values resulting from converting the location into a coordinate system representation can be called M, N, P.

A, B, C, are guna. X, Y, Z, are guna. And M, N, P are guna. By the interaction of any two of these, you can get the third. So, it is like an equation; you can move things from one side of the equation to another. Because there is a rigid relationship between the objective meaning, the vocabulary of linguistic representation, and the words of representation, therefore, these things cannot be arbitrary. If this science is understood, then all the other questions would be naturally answered.

But, let’s go through them anyway. What is Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, etc.? They are coordinate systems. Can they be used to express the locations in the absolute space of meaning? Surely they can. But are these languages ideally suited for the deeply technical and philosophical aspects of the nature of reality? I highly doubt it. All these are vernacular languages and not philosophical or technical languages. So, right at the outset, there is a serious issue, namely, whatever bhakti will be talked of, will be lacking in the discussion of the nature of reality. This type of bhakti is not recommended for a serious practitioner trying to pursue spiritual perfection, but it may be practiced by those who are already perfect. In short, those who are perfect, only talk about God and His pastimes, but what they say is not understood by most people. You can understand this idea by examining Srimad Bhagavatam; it is not just about Sanskrit; it is also that the initial discussion is about the nature of the material world, then about the principles of devotional practice, and finally, there is a discussion about God’s pastimes. If we cannot discuss the first two perfectly, then the third will never happen, although it is possible to read, recite, study, and talk about such things.

You are talking about these devotional recitations about God and His pastimes. But have we understood what God is? Have we understood what soul is? Do we know what perception is? Do we understand how God incarnates in this world? Or, how He can incarnate in our mind? If we don’t know the nature of God, soul, and perception, and we talk about the result of that perception, then the linguistic expression may not be false, but we cannot understand what it means. For example, we can say that God’s form is the form of knowledge. Do we understand what it means? Or that the universe is situated inside God’s belly. Do we understand how that is possible? Or that everything is moving automatically by the will of the Lord. Do we understand what this truly means?

The Vedic system has a certain approach to spiritual perfection, namely, first philosophy, then practice, then perfection. Don’t talk about perfection unless you understand the practice, and don’t try to practice unless you understand the philosophy. But, you can look around all over India, the first step of philosophy is mostly neglected. Then the second step of practice is whatever a person wants to do. Someone will do some puja, then another person will do some bhajan, then another person will chant some mantras, etc. Some people also make up their own mantras and sing whatever they like. People are making up their own process for attaining perfection. In this system of absent philosophy and randomly chosen practice, there is no question of attaining perfection, even though there can be statements about the perfection of realizing God made by great Acharyas.

In simple terms, if someone is singing bhajans about God, but cannot explain the nature of the soul, God, and this world, then will not spend my time listening to what they are saying, or following what they are doing. I cannot stop anyone else, but will not be following that system. We cannot jump to deep aspects of devotion without going step-by-step through the logical process. This type of devotion is considered mundane and sometimes called sahajiya or the “easy path”, followed by the mentally lazy. It is not different than the people in other religions who talk about devotion to God, but have no scientific understanding of God, soul, or the world, and their relationships.

I’m not qualified to comment on specific personalities, nor do I want to do that. I can only describe the general principles, and you can learn about them and try to apply them in your life.

Finally, you ask if the spiritual world also has a language. Certainly, it does. In fact, different spiritual planets can speak different languages. This is because each language is ideally suited for a certain purpose, and each coordinate system is ideally suited for solving different kinds of problems. When something is ideally suited, then it is preferred. It is not because the same meaning cannot be expressed in other languages, but that a certain language is ideally suited for a purpose.

Around the same time that Lord Chaitanya appeared nearly 500 years ago, there was a movement of bhakti ongoing all over India. There are many poets in India who composed texts and bhajans, such as Tulsidas, Sur Das, Mira Bai, Kabir Das, etc. I have read their poetry when I was a boy; many of them express deep emotions too. But that emotionality has nothing to do with a spiritual feeling.

Simply feeling pathetic is not bhakti. We can mentally imagine that Krishna is our child and talk to Him mentally like He was sitting next to us. This imagination is also not bhakti. Real bhakti is that in which the feeling of pathos comes after one has transcended the state of sattva-guna. What is sattva-guna? It means zero desire, zero sadness, zero dependence on the world, and complete self-satisfaction. Then in this self-satisfied state, a new type of feeling develops which is completely different from the ordinary emotions. There is the self-realization that I’m a soul, which is pure sattva-guna. And then there is a deeper realization that my existence as a soul is meaningless without God. Without realizing that one is different from the mind and body, the feeling of emotions about God is not considered spiritual. They are instead called sahajiya. In this sahajiya state, there is no austerity, no attempt at philosophy, no understanding of the material world. Just some songs and dance, and expression of some emotions which are mind-nature, not the soul-nature.

Are some of the people you are talking about meeting the criteria set in the Vedic texts? I don’t know, and I cannot comment on those individual personalities. But you can decide based on the above.