Intermezzo: Bible in Sanskrit


Your Narrator has met the second main character. He was completely exhausted after undergoing the first three stages on our Odyssey to “Who are you”. The recovery of these efforts has lasted a long time, because the second main character is rather old. Now he is recovered more or less: the next week we can resume our Odyssey.

At the end of June – at the beginning of his rest period – he has attended the graduation ceremony of one of his granddaughters. She and her family beamed. He has been in the background: he is not invited to the ceremony, because he and his family are alienated from each other. In the next stage we will learn more about the life of the second main character. Now he will give his report.

During the graduation ceremony all successful candidates receive a Bible to their wish. It is a Christian school and although I am of Jewish origin, my children and grandchildren are raised Christian. Most students have chosen a Bible in the usual translations. Some have received a Bible in English and one girl from Japan has been given a bible in Japanese. Two outliers have received a Bible in Swahili – “Hakuna matata” [1]  – and a Koran. The Bible in Sanskrit – The language of the gods in the world of the men [2] – is not requested.

  [3]

A few months ago I have seen two translations of the New Testament in Sanskrit [4]. I started to study this language a few years ago, so my knowledge is still limited. Reading the John Gospel in Sanskrit, it strikes me that the opening sentence has an additional interpretation.

  [5]

  [6]

Or in our alphabet: “Âdau vâda âsît, sa ca vâda îshvarâbhisukha âsît”

At first glance, the translation [7] of this sentence is equal to the text in our language:

“In the beginning was the word,

and this word was with God”.

But looking closer at the words in the sentence, creates a deeper insight.

The first word “âdau” is a conjugation – locative singular – of the word âdi” meaning “beginning”.

The second word looks like the word “vada” meaning “good/meaningful word”. But the translator has, in my opinion correctly, choosen the word “vâda” meaning “word of/about”.  “Vâda” is composed of “vâ” meaning “blow like the wind” and “da” meaning “to give”. So “Vâda” can mean “gift from the wind” or “sound of the wind”. If the word ” Vâda” is interpreted in this sense, than “sound/gift of the wind” refers to the memory and remnants of the first separation of air and earth [8].

The third word  “âsît” is a conjugation of the verb root “as” meaning “to be”. This verb is conjugated  –  in accordance with the verb root – in the active voice or the “parasmaipada”: this means that the fruit of the action is transferred to the other. Here my preference is the middle voice or the “âtmanepada” [9]: the fruit of the action remains with “the Self”. In this case I choose for the verb root “âs” meaning “to sit/remain/exist/inhabit/praise”; I prefer to change “âsît” to “âsta”.

The fifth word is “ca” meaning “and”.

The fourth word is “sa” meaning in this case “this or his”.

The sixth word – “îshvarâbhisukha” – is a consistent of “îshvara” and “abhisukha”. The word “îshvara” is composed of the noun “îsh” – in which the German word “ich” may be recognized – meaning “God, ruler”; “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, go” and “ra” meaning “give, influence”.  “Abhisukha” means “approaching, focus the face on, in the vicinity of” and consist of “abhi” meaning “to, towards” and “sukha” meaning “happy, comfortable”.

The seventh Word is âsît again. Here I also prefer “âsta” meaning “he sat/remained/existed/inhabited/praised”.

With this background knowledge the opening sentence of the Gospel of John has the following additional interpretations in Sanskrit:

“In the beginning the gift of the wind exists,

and the sound of the wind was encompassed in the All/Self”.

With this additional interpretation the air and the earth are not yet separated in the opening-sentence of the Gospel of John. I love the sound of the wind. In it I still hear the connectedness of air, earth and water within one “All/Self”.

“A breath of the wind

In the rustling of the trees

Your voice is heard[10]

 In following post the second main character explains why he is studying Sanskrit.


[1] Literal meaning Swahili: “No problem”.

[2] Free rendering of the title: Pollock, Sheldon, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men – Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in the pre-modern India. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006

[3] Source image: http://www.ehow.com/how_7834631_frame-university-diploma.html

[4] See: http://sanskritebooks.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/the-bible-in-sanskrit/

[5] Source image: http://www.archive.org/details/dharmmapustakasy00brit

[6] Source image: http://www.archive.org/details/NewTestamentOfBibleInSanskrit

[7] In the analysis of the text the electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – the introduction to Sanskrit MWDDS v1.5 Beta, the introduction in Sanskrit by Egenes, Thomas and the Sanskrit by Mulder, Maaike and the Whitney, William Dwight are used.

[8] See former post “Two” of 11 April 2011.

[9] The word “âtman” means in Sanskrit “Breath, Self/self”; also “ât” means “thus/then” and “man” means “think/consider/observe”.

[10] Moses saw and heard – the voice of – God in the burning bush. See Old Testament, Exodus 3:2

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