Some Thoughts on Sanskrit

My dear friend, Dana Flynn of the very wonderful Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, interviewed me for the school’s latest e-newsletter, and I thought that I would also post my responses here. Thanks, as always, to Dana for being a shining light of  expanding possibilities…

Q: What was going on in your life, when you found Sanskrit?

JM: I have always been drawn to discovering the roots of things. When I discovered Sanskrit, I was already a practicing psychotherapist. I was engaged in a regular āsana practice, but I wasn’t fully content with āsana alone. I wanted to understand the philosophical and psychological underpinnings of yoga. Studying Sanskrit gave me the keys to deepen my understanding and my love of yoga exponentially.

Q: What are some favorite stand out moments memories with your Teacher?

JM: My teacher Vyaas Houston taught me a yogic model of learning that gave me the opportunity to consciously free myself from long-standing habituated patterns. Every time I teach, I remember the joy that I felt from the initial experience of freedom through that model of learning and the cascade of “AH-HAH” moments that followed. It thrills me to no end when I see my students discover some of these for themselves. As I think about it, the simple things stand out the most. When I am back on the East Coast, I usually go and visit Vyaas at his home in New Jersey. There are enchanted woods and a beautiful, sacred pond behind his house. Some of my fondest memories are of walking with him through the woods or sitting by the pond, watching the dappled afternoon light dance on the water. Just being in each other’s company is a blessing. During these walks, he has told me many stories of his experiences with his own teacher and how his own studies and teaching have evolved, but strangely, it is the silent moments that stand out the most as I think about it now. Silence teaches beyond where all words can go.

With my other teacher, the inimitable Dr. Ram Karan Sharma, my favorite thing to do is to sit at the table and drink tea with him and talk about life. Just to be in his presence evokes a state of deep peace and joy for me. Dr Sharma is an ocean of both knowledge and humility. Through him I get to repeatedly experience the truth of the ancient Sanskrit saying that states “the purpose of (gaining) knowledge is to learn humility.” Plus, his wife makes a serious cup of chai! Caffeine-o-Rama! 🙂

Q: How does an ancient language change your life, and how has it changed yours?

JM: Just like raw food has within it the enzymes necessary to digest the food, Sanskrit has within it the “sonic enzymes” necessary to digest the subtle and profound truths of Yoga Philosophy. Through the study of Sanskrit, yoga philosophy begins to make a lot more sense. The sounds of Sanskrit also naturally draw the mind inward towards a meditative state. When the mind is filled with beautiful, organized thought, there is very little room for anything else. Sanskrit gives the opportunity for old limiting thoughts and identifications of self to slip away or lose their potency. Plus, it is a lot of fun to be able to chant and pronounce yoga-related words, āsana names, sūtras and timeless verses with accuracy and fluidity.

Studying Sanskrit has allowed yoga to come alive for me in a way that I did not know was possible. Teaching Sanskrit and Yoga Philosophy has allowed me to travel the world and to meet thousands of extraordinary people. I  am getting to directly experience how the world is connected through yoga. Also, whenever I teach, I also learn, and Sanskrit has given me the beautiful opportunity to be constantly learning

Q: What surprised you most about learning/studying Sanskrit?

JM: The most surprising thing that I learned about studying Sanskrit is that it is EASY! There is a huge misperception that Sanskrit is difficult to learn. This is completely false! When Sanskrit is approached with an attitude of humility and experienced through a “yogic model of learning” the language unfolds naturally, easily and joyously. Learning Sanskrit can be a lot of fun. I certainly would not be doing it if it wasn’t…


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Debra Evans
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 13:47:40

    Thank you, Josh! What rich dialogue. I’m especially appreciating this thought of yours: “When the mind is filled with beautiful, organized thought, there is very little room for anything else.” What an inspiring way to make that point!

    One of your biggest fans,


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