Dr. Pandit, Haridwar, India 1995 Dr. Pandit, Haridwar, India 1995

Sanskrit Education

Marcy discovered her interest in Indian traditions in the course, “Asian Search For Self,” at the University of Rochester.  Before wandering into that memorable class taught by Dr. Douglas Brooks, she had been studying neuroscience and psychology.  But his class opened the door to more compelling ways of studying consciousness.  Two years later, while listening to a captivating sitar concert by Dr. Mark Dyczkowski, she decided in an inspired moment of clarity to continue learning about Indian traditions in graduate school.

At the University of California, Santa Barbara, Marcy was immediately riveted by Sanskrit.  Her meticulous notebooks with thorough grammatical analyses and translations confounded her friends, but she relished every detail of the mellifluous language.  Mrs. Nandini Iyer, M.A. introduced her to the world of grammar. She then took advanced classes on the Bhagavadgītā and Yoga Sūtra with Dr. Gerald Larson who really launched her love for the language.  Participating in Muktabodha Indological Research Institute’s Sanskrit Seminars co-taught by Dr. Douglas Brooks and Dr. Paul Muller-Ortega refined her translation skills.   A grant from Muktabodha supported her study of Kashmir Śaiva traditions in India with the late Dr. B.N. Pandit, Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit and Philosophy at Himachal Pradesh University, and Dr. Debabrata Sensharma, Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit at Kurukshetra University.

Dr. David White supervised Marcy’s doctoral dissertation for which she was awarded The Professor Gerald J. Larson Dissertation Award.  Her project was an historical study of a set of ideas in Āyurvedic and Hindu Tantric texts:  1)  Āyurvedic texts mention types of unmāda (“madness” — verbal root /mad, prefix ut) that are pathologized, whereas later Hindu Tantric texts describe desirable experiences of bhaktyunmāda (“madness of devotion” — verbal root /mad, prefix ut + bhakti); 2)  Āyurvedic texts mention samāviśant (“possessing” –  present active participle, verbal root /viś, prefixes sam + ā) divinities that cause seemingly desirable symptoms that should be eradicated.  Later Hindu Tantric texts describe the pinnacle of meditation as samāveśa (“co-penetration, entrance into Consciousness” — abstract noun, verbal root /viś, prefixes sam + ā).

Picking apart Sanskrit words (vyākaraṇa, the word for “grammar,” literally “to take apart”) to discover deeper meanings is fascinating and fun.  For instance, did you know that the verbal root of ‘āsana’ means ‘to sit, rest, be present, celebrate’?

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