Encoded, Layered & Veiled Meanings within Sanskrit Words
Sanskrit is a language that is somewhat like a secret code, an encryption that can compress multiple layers of meaning in one sound. Early civilizations like the Anasazi, the Celts, the Indus Valley, and the Australian Aborigines used symbols to encode knowledge that would have been easily understood by the people who were a part of these traditions. Similar symbols are reported found engraved on bits of crashed UFOs. One symbol alone can contain metaphysical principles, wisdom, events, and even warnings - the meaning of which would have been orally transmitted from one generation to the next over the centuries. Remember that writing itself is a symptom of the Kali Yuga.
One Sanskrit word can have a confluence many meanings; some are very subtle with layers of information encoded within them. These layers are understood in accordance with and relative to levels of consciousness. As Jesus said, ‘For those who have the ears to hear, let them hear!’ This approach applies to the Sanskrit texts. The Kashmir Shaivite texts are particularly veiled in this respect. They were never intended for people who were only curious and had no real inclination or disposition for the journey to God consciousness.
The language in the Kashmir Shaivite texts is intentionally veiled and meant only for the real seekers who had been chosen and instructed by a qualified teacher, the guru. Even in early times most people could not read Sanskrit, just as today there are very few. So the student would have been dependent on the master.
This is similar to music as no one would think of learning music only from a book. A music teacher, who is also a master with a developed ear and a profound knowledge of music, is essential for any serious achievement. The great teacher will naturally take only the best students, because they are ready and can benefit.
The number of Sanskrit texts that are being translated by western scholars these days are a wonder indeed – to name only a few: Boris Marjanovic, Paul Eduardo Muller-Ortega, Mark Dyczkowski, Alexis Sanderson, Lilian Silburn, Andre Padoux, Raffaele Torella, Alexander Wynne, Lyne Bansat-Boudon, Bettina Baumer, John Nemec, Don Handelman and David Shulman.
I personally am grateful to all of them, especially after my own humble turtle-paced endeavors to learn this very grammatically complicated language. In India they allow 15 years for the student to master Sanskrit. However in the process of reading numerous and varying translations, the problems become evident.
No one can translate these texts with just a dictionary.
I have the super edition of the M. Monier-Williams ‘Sanskrit to English Dictionary’ and I was overjoyed the day it arrived. What a herculean achievement this dictionary was! In the introduction, the primary author Monier Monier-Williams briefly reveals the difficulties he faced in executing this “colossal monument of industry and scholarship” as well as “trials of health and weariness of spirit” which made this a life long effort, which finally came to an end a few days before his death in 1899. We are exceedingly grateful to him and to all the scholars who have contributed to our understanding of Sanskrit and the treasures of wisdom therein concealed.
However again I will say that after reading many translations and translators you realize that these texts cannot be known by mere scholarship, no matter how prestigious, even with the best dictionaries and multiple cross-references to other textual usage. To begin with, English is a language of commerce and the subtle textured layered meanings encoded within one Sanskrit word cannot be fully and precisely translated into a very limited linear language such as English.
Kashmir Shaivism epitomizes this barrier. The teachings emerged in the wonderful magical world of the Kashmir Valley, which was once the intellectual and artistic center of the world and attracted brilliant men and women from many lands including China, Greece, and Tibet. The people of Kashmir were cultured and loved learning; and along with the enchanted perfection of its natural beauty, snowy mountains, pristine lakes and rivers, green forests and valleys - all made Kashmir a womb for creative thinking.
“For 2000 years Kashmir has been the home of Sanskrit learning and from this small valley have issued masterpieces of history, poetry, romance, fable and philosophy...For centuries it was the home of the greatest Sanskrit scholars…no scholar could be considered learned enough till he had associated himself with the illustrious learned men in Kashmir. [S.Sapru]” Kashmir was Shangri La – now lost.
Shaivism is said to have an eternal existence like the Vedas and this is not the place for its history, which can be learned in K.C. Pandey’s study of Abhinavagupta. The teachings were passed from master to disciple and important invaluable texts - from Vasugupta’s Shiva Sutras to Somananda, Utpaladeva, and Abhinavagupta, to name only a few for the sake of brevity. These men were enlightened masters and what they left in this darkening world is from another realm, a higher consciousness.
The entire body of Kashmir Shaivite thought was collected and presented in a superb expression of the Sanskrit language by the polymath Abhinavagupta (950-1020 AD) in his magnum opus the Tantraloka. Abhinavagupta was a brilliant thinker, astute philosopher, sensitive poet, mystic, and enlightened master. He is acknowledged by India herself as perhaps India’s greatest mind. He is a rare pleasure to read.
The enlightened masters who wrote these texts intentionally veiled the true meaning, which was only intended for the chosen, advanced aspirants who had purified their consciousness. In my view, the texts of Kashmir Shaivism reflect the transmission of the eternal wisdom that would have been known to all in the Satya Yuga.
As the Moslems began to invade and finally captured Kashmir, this invaluable Kashmir Shaivite wisdom had to be hidden and protected. In our current Kali Yuga, these Sanskrit texts reveal the sacred understanding of our real nature as the Oneness and also provide true enlightening ‘means’ (upayas) for the journey Home.
When scholars, however well meaning and good hearted, attempt to translate the Kashmir Shaivite texts, their translations are often filled with confused ambiguity that sometimes comes close to real understanding - and occasionally is abstruse and bewildering. Understanding this confusion among the translations has taken me a few years of acquiring and reading stacks of books, some of which were very helpful and others useless. I am hoping to make clear and simple what took me a great deal of time and money to learn.
I began to read the Shiva Sutras in 1997. Thankfully the Jaideva Singh edition was easy to obtain. In those days I had no idea who Swami Lakshmanjoo was and even the word ‘swami’ had rather negative connotations for me that carried the memory of those ambitious bogus snake-oil-peddlers who had come to the USA and passed themselves off as enlightened masters.
In my preliminary readings I did not notice that the introduction to Jaideva Singh’s translation of the Shiva Sutras mentioned Swami Lakshmanjoo: “He taught me the sutras together with the commentary of Ksemaraja (Abhinavagupta’s pupil) and gave luminous exposition of some very knotty problems. I am deeply beholden to him for unraveling the meaning of this difficult text.”
The fact that Swami Lakshmanjoo was the only living source for the authentic meaning and interpretation of all the Kashmir Shaivite texts became more and more apparent as I read more of Jaideva Singh’s translations of the Spanda Karikas, Pratyabhijnahridayam, Paratrishika Vivarana, and others - all of which were dedicated in humility to Swami Lakshmanjoo. Other scholars who wrote books on and translated these Sanskrit texts also acknowledged Swami Lakshmanjoo as the last and only authority on these highly complex and intentionally encoded veiled profound texts.
Even now as I am writing my thoughts on the Shiva Sutras and using both the Jaideva Singh edition and Swami Lakshmanjoo’s revelations, it is obvious to me which version is superior, at once both simpler and deeper. I do not question Jaideva Singh’s spiritual achievements and without him I would not have ever known about these brilliant texts. I am however emphasizing the greatness of Swami Lakshmanjoo’s consciousness. I feel certain that Jaideva Singh would agree.
Swami Lakshmanjoo lived in Kashmir all his life and did not bother to sell himself to the west. He was taught by Kashmir Shaivite masters, and spent his entire life reading, studying, and mastering for himself these texts. He spoke Sanskrit fluently. He was born with a photographic memory and from memory alone could spontaneously quote verses. Still the depth of his greatness is beyond that, beyond the power of words to describe. When you read and listen to him, you will come to your own understanding of his consciousness and the power he has to transmit these liberating enlightening ideas.
“Due to events of the past, the tradition and teachings of Kashmir Shaivism have remained concealed for the past eight hundred years. Swami Lakshmanjoo is the last and the greatest of the Saints and Masters of this tradition. He is like a splendid and rare jewel. He spent his whole life, beginning when he was a small boy, studying and practicing the teachings of this tradition and in so doing, has, due to his intellectual power and the strength of his awareness, realized both spiritually and intellectually the Reality of its thought.
“It is this oral teaching which is the very life of this tradition and it is Swami Lakshmanjoo who is the last living repository of this secret wealth.” [John Hughes – Introduction to Kashmir Shaivism]
Kashmir – the continuing conflict: The last Hindu king Udiana Deva, was replaced by Shams-ud-Din in 1346, whose dynasty ruled until 1586 when the Mughul (Persian for Mongol) emperor Akbar conquered Kashmir to firmly establish Muslim influence.
Lost Shangri La, Glimpses of Ancient Kashmir, by S. Sapru; Decent Books, New Delhi, 2001.
ABHINAVAGUPTA, An Historical & Philosophical Study, by K.C. Pandey; Chaukhamba Amarabharati Prakashan, Varanasi, 2000.
Sanskrit-English Dictionary, by M. Monier-Williams, Edited and Revised by Pandit Ishwar Chandra; Indica, Parimal Publications, 2008.
KASHMIR SHAIVISM, The Secret Supreme, Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, edited by John Hughes; The Universal Shaiva Fellowship, 1985, 2003.
Swami Lakshmanjoo: Shiva Sutras, The Supreme Awakening, With the Commentary of Kshemaraja, Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, and edited by John Hughes; Universal Shaiva Fellowship, 2002. Introduction by John Hughes.
Jaideva Singh: Siva Sutras, The Yoga of Supreme Identity, Text of the Sutras and the Commentary Vimarsini of Kshemaraja Translated into English with Introduction, Notes, Running Exposition, Glossary and Index; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1979 and reprints.