(HinduDharma: General)

It is sad that people keep fighting over this or that language. It seems that it would be better for us to be voiceless than keep quarrelling in this manner. Language is but a tool, a tool to convey our thoughts and feelings, to make ourselves understood. It cannot be the same in all countries. Each community, each region or country, has its own tongue. So it is absurd to quarrel over claims that one's language is superior to another's. We could at best say that "we know that language" or "we do not know it". But to talk of "my language" and "your language" is not right. It is also wrong to give greater importance to one's mother tongue than to God or religion. I would go to the extent of saying that we have no need even for Sanskrit, considered merely as a language, as a language per se. But our Vedas and sastras, which are basic to our religion, are in that language and, since they must be preserved, Sanskrit too must be kept alive.

After composing his Kural Tiruvalluvar went to Madurai for its arangetram. There, in the city, was the pond of the golden lotuses and the seat of the learned (the Samgapalagai). The poet placed his work on this seat. At once all the learned men seated on the Samgapalagai fell into the pond but the book remained on it. It was thus that the Kural was presented to the public. Many distinguished poets and savants have sung the praises of this work and its content. In Tiruvalluvar-Malai which contains these praises one poet says:

Ariyamum centamizhum araynditaninidu

Siriyadu tenronraicepparidal-Ariyam

Vedam udaittu Tamizh Tiruvalluvanar

Odu Kuratpavudaittu

"I thought about the question, which is superior, Sanskrit or Tamil. Sanskrit and Tamil are equal in their greatness. We cannot say that the one is superior to the other. The reason is that the Vedas are in Sanskrit and now in Tamil we have the Kural. If there were nothing equal to the Vedas in Tamil, Sanskrit should have been said to be superior. Now the Kural is present in Tamil as the equal of the Vedas. Both languages- Sanskrit and Tamil- are now seen to be equally. "

Why is Sanskrit considered a great language? In his praise of the Tirukkural here the poet gives the answer: it is because the Vedas are in that language. Some do not seem to attach any special significance to the fact that the Vedas are in Sanskrit. They think that these sacred texts could be known through translations.

Nowadays a number of books are translated from one language into another and in this process the original form or character is changed or distorted. The words spoken by a great man on a particular subject may not be fully understood today. But if they are preserved in the original in the same language, there is the possibility of their meaning being fully grasped at some future date. You use a beautiful word to convey an idea in your language, but its equivalent may not be found in any other tongue. Also, it may become necessary to express the same in a roundabout way.

There is also the possibility that the opinion expressed first, in its original context, may not come through effectively in a translation. We must consider the further disadvantages of the translation being circumscribed by the mental make-up of the translator, the limitations of his knowledge and understanding of the subject dealt with. The translation done by one may not seem right to another. When there are a number of translations of the same work, it would be hard to choose the right one We shall then be compelled to go back to the original.

This is the reason why I insist that the Vedas must be preserved in their original form. They are the source of the philosophical systems associated with the great acaryas. These masters evolved their doctrines from their own individual viewpoints, without making any modifications in the Vedas to suit them; nor did they establish any religions of their own outside the Vedic tradition. The source, the root, of their systems of thought is one and the same- the Vedas. It is because this source has remained unchanged in its original character that thinkers and teachers have, from time to time, been able to draw inspiration and strength from it to present new viewpoints. But these viewpoints have not meant the creation of new religions. The reason is that all of them- all these systems- belong to the larger system called the Vedic religion.

"Hindu Dharma" is a book which contains English translation of certain invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at various times during the years 1907 to 1994).
For a general background, please see here