The sound of Sanskrit

Why do people chant in Sanskrit during a yoga class? I do not understand the meaning … and isn’t it a “dead” language, anyway?

Understandable questions, however based on the assumption that Sanskrit is an ordinary language. Indeed, Sanskrit is one of the most ancient of world languages, a language that is no longer spoken these days, just like Latin. What makes Sanskrit different is that Vedic spiritual philosophy claims that it has descended directly from the spiritual planes. But on what basis is such a claim formed?

Sanskrit is unique in its makeup because it is not made up of words, but sounds, of a particular vibration, which is directly related to the energy vibration of the mood, object or action they describe.

In Sanskrit, a seed sound can be expanded into several versions of the same word, depending on the context in which it is being used. For this reason, it is almost impossible to directly translate any Sanskrit word but, rather, each word has a number of loose translations that point at the essence of its meaning.

For these reasons, the meaning of Sanskrit words is less important than the proper pronunciation of the words and the mood with which they are uttered. Mantra chanting, for example, is based on the principle that the vibrational frequency of the sounds, as they are being uttered, directly transform the spiritual vibration of the person who is chanting. The sound of Sanskrit has the ability to purify and heal body, mind and spirit, as the sound vibration contained in mantras directly influences the subtle energy vibration of cells and organs, the nervous system and the chakras.

The unique potency of the sound of Sanskrit is also why mantras are chanted according to particular tunes at different times of day, and in a particular order if more than one type of mantra is sung during a kirttan (mantra chanting session). The transformational power of the sound vibration of Sanskrit is also why mantras are considered the easiest and quickest route to purification and self realisation.

All spiritual traditions include some form of chanting in their practice. The first sentence in St John’s gospel in the Bible is: “In the beginning there was the Word and the Word was God”. This refers to sound as being divine in nature, the first form of manifestation and the bridge between the spiritual and the material planes. We must never underestimate the power of the word, in any language, and choose words carefully even when we speak.

Today we are immersed in the mundane such that one may find it challenging to tune into subtle energies. However, it is possible. Sanskrit chanting helps us bridge the gap between the physical and spiritual planes, while strengthening our relationship with the source.

Try chanting Sanskrit yourself and discover how its effects are far beyond what might be apparent on the surface.