This book explores the nature of human language, its relation to truth and to the natural laws of the universe. It focuses on truth according to Advaita (non-dualism), and concentrates mainly on the Sanskrit language. The author draws on his long experience as a student and teacher of both Advaita and Sanskrit.
He identifies some principles of Advaita which are particularly relevant to human language, such as the primacy of consciousness, unity in diversity, and sound as the basis of the universe. He then compares Sanskrit, English and Mandarin in the light of these principles. What follows is an investigation of how far the basic elements of the Sanskrit language such as its alphabet, its roots and the deep structure of its grammar, may be seen as the expression of such principles. The book continues with an examination of the fundamental nature of words, of sentences and of meaning, all of which are illumined by insights into the deeper significance of the sound and structure of the Sanskrit language. What emerges is a radically different view of language from that found in most modern Western philosophy.
Human language is seen as having an innate capacity to reflect the light of consciousness, the primary element of the universe, and evidence is provided to show the extraordinary reflective capacity of the Sanskrit language. Many books have been written on Advaita, but the combination of Advaita and language as tackled in this book may be unique.
Paul Douglas began studying Advaita philosophy in the 1960s and took up Sanskrit shortly afterwards. He is a member of the School of Philosophy and Economic Science in London where he has tutored for many years, written a foundation course in Sanskrit for students in the School and for similar schools abroad, as well as a series of booklets on Paninian grammar. More recently he has also studied modern Western philosophy, which has led him to see connections between some recent views of language, Advaita philosophy and the ancient principles on which Sanskrit is formed. He retired a few years ago after a career in the Senior Civil Service in the UK.
“Language and truth are intimately connected in Advaita [philosophy]. One reason for this is the Sanskrit language, because the sound and structure of the language itself appear to reflect and convey that truth.”
“The glimpses of the Paninian system which the book affords are fascinating; and the author’s emphasis on the ontological importance of the Indian tradition is apposite and welcome.”
“This book presents a radically different view of language from that found in most modern Western philosophy. Human language is seen as having an innate capacity to reflect the light of consciousness, the primary element of the universe, and evidence is provided to show the extraordinary reflective capacity of the Sanskrit language. [It] is a very interesting book, which usefully spans two worlds:
– a modern Western tradition that has now come to emphasize the use of the written word and of mechanically recorded documentation, through socially and politically organized institutions in the external world.
– an ancient Sanskrit tradition that still maintains its emphasis upon the spoken word of a living teacher, as told afresh to each individual student.”