~ excerpted from Learning Sanskrit and Physics, by Linda Bosbyshell
I have been working toward a bachelor of science degree at a nearby University. All this time, I knew that the ideas I had learned from you were helping me to remain focused, but it was not until that first evening of Part II that I realized how much the “choice to learn” has become a part of me in the past two and a half years. I have probably raised my hand more than everyone else combined in my classes over the course of each semester. However, the true gift you have given me is the ability to recognize that state of being “off the point” with such immediacy and then come back to focus. The knowledge that it is my choice to learn is the source of the power to do this with such ease.
For some years now, I have enjoyed reading books that describe the discoveries in the field of physics, but like many others I stayed away from books with equations in them out of intense fear of mathematics. I realize now that it is the continual choosing to learn that has enabled me to go beyond my fear of math and to enjoy the subject of physics more fully through the very elegance of the equations. . . the ease with which I could apply your method to math and physics may imply that these subjects have certain qualities in common with the study of Sanskrit. Both mathematical truths and the energy that makes up this universe simply exist and can be discovered, just as the truth that exists within us can be discovered through the Sanskrit language. Although these subjects are highly developed and therefore complex, none are contrived. By “not contrived” I mean that they are revealed to us, and not engineered by us. There is a purity, a simplicity even, that pervades the complexity . . .”
~excerpted from Sanskrit for Professionals, by Judith Ferry
The process of learning Sanskrit is like weight training for the mind. In every moment, the only task is to focus all of the energy of the mind and the senses on the point which is being taught in that moment, and to understand it fully and deeply but with no concern at all for remembering it later. Learned in this way, Sanskrit seeps into your eyes and ears and later bubbles up in the mind automatically, without effort . . . letting go of self-judgement - to simply absorb the material without worrying whether someone else is getting it faster than you are.
When I realized that this was what I was learning: how to fully occupy the present moment, free from fears arising from past experience or concerns for the future; to move out from under the burden of constant self-judgement; to know that my self-worth is not dependent upon the quality of my performances - I became very excited. Specifically, I was excited about the prospect of going back to work on Monday morning and putting these new skills to work. I know that being able to make decisions and initiate actions from a sense of being entirely present in the moment will immeasurably enhance my power for right and effective action, and will also give me protection from the stress and burnout which so vex my colleagues. To practice law and to do the business of government from this place is a thrilling prospect. . . the skills I have learned in the study of Sanskrit will have more direct and powerful relevance to the practice of my profession than any legal or management seminar I have taken.
I also see that the study of Sanskrit is an ideal vehicle for teaching mindfulness and meditation to hyper-rational, “left-brained” professionals. To suggest to such a person that they “let go of all thoughts” or “just sit” is unlikely to be successful. . . to ask such a mind to focus all of its intensity for a time on learning this intricate language is much more likely to produce the desired result. The awesome logic of this language has an elegant beauty not unlike mathematics, which is matched by the exquisite delight of its sounds; the mind is irresistibly seduced. By using Sanskrit as the object of focus, the mind is powerfully retrained by a process which is effortless and joyful. And the greatest reward of all is on the teachings written in this magical language. The Sanskrit language has the capacity to convey truth with a power and efficiency that is almost blinding.
~excerpted from Public School Application, by Sid D. Napper, Hunter J.H.S., West Valley City, Utah
Having taught English, dramatics, and speech in the public school system for the past 17 years . . . I have been constantly interested in new approaches to learning. Unfortunately, it seemed that every "new and better" approach brought out by the so called teaching experts fell flat on its face when taken out of the workshop and applied to the actual environment . .
I recently completed an intensive two day course in Sanskrit taught by Vyaas Houston. I entered the class with an interest in learning the language and not really thinking that I would be exposed to any revolutionary teaching style. It was quickly evident to me that the methods of teaching that Vyaas was using were out of the ordinary and were extraordinarily effective. Our entire class of about 20 people, from varied walks of life and various educational levels, was able in two days, to learn how to accurately pronounce and read a very complex language. We accomplished in two days what could have conceivably taken several months to do in the typical class environment. I was so overwhelmed and excited by my experiences, that I decided to use those same techniques, with some slight modification, with my junior high school English students.
In the less than two months time that this program has been used in my classes, I have seen more positive change in the students' attentiveness and achievement in English, than in all the other programs that I have used in the last 17 years put together.
~ excerpted from Yoga Journal article, by Linda Sparrow
Vyaas assures us all that by the end of our three day stay here we will be able to read the Yoga Sutras in the original Sanskrit, chant them, and come away with a clearer understanding of the immense power of Sanskrit as sacred language.
I’m not so sure. After all, I spent a number of years at a prominent university studying the Sanskrit language, and I can’t say that I remember much from those classes. The way I learned was conventionally Western - much the way we learn any foreign language - through hours of memorization. We memorized case endings for nouns, verb tenses, and mood endings. We were tested on the strict laws that govern the blending of letters into words; practiced writing the Devanagari script; pronounced seemingly endless strings of letters; and translated difficult concepts into English. Each semester more people would drop out of the program, frustrated and discouraged.
So, 20 years later, I find myself in New York City listening to Vyaas Houston promise that he can teach anyone to read Sanskrit in the original script-and in just one weekend. Of course, on this particular Friday night-the first segment of his three-day intensive - he appears to be the only one who believes that. But I’m willing to give it a shot.
. . . Sunday’s lessons prove challenging, and several of us now understand why Vyaas took so long on Friday night to tear down our old learning habits. We have a lot to absorb if we’re to read the Yoga Sutras any time soon. . . The next several hours are as exhilarating as they are exacting. We’re chanting longer phrases now, putting syllables together to form simple words. The color-coded alphabet takes on a whole new meaning now that we’re mixing and matching sounds. . .
Armed with this new knowledge and the ability to recognize the other vowel sounds, we’re ready to take on the Yoga Sutras! I think back to Friday night, remembering Vyaas’s promise that we’d be reading the sutras within three days. At the time, I was skeptical . . . As I feel my voice rise to meet the others in the room, I feel connected not only to everyone else in the room but to a place deep inside myself. I now understand what Vyaas meant when he said, “The vibrational purity and resonating power of Sanskrit is above all an opera on a grand cosmic scale that you can sing with your whole heart and being.”
~excerpted from Sanskrit Summer - Iyengar Assoc. of the NW Newsletter, by Kathryn Payne
It was also after the third day of applying every tactic known to the modern-day student and getting nowhere that I began to have serious reservations about my success as a Sanskrit scholar. . . That night my sub-conscious wove a tale in which a dark-haired woman with a long, red tongue cut off my head! I awoke quite “light-headed.” I learned later that this woman was actually a Hindu goddess named Kali who slays egos for a living. Her timing was perfect. From that point on, I was able to start the process of relinquishing control and past learning patterns to have a direct and permanent experience of Sanskrit.
. . what impressed me the most was Vyaas’ attention to the student. It’s hard for me to tell whether his love of Sanskrit or his love for the student is stronger. Certainly both are necessary to enable Vyaas to declare he can teach Sanskrit to every student who comes to him. With this statement he places an enormous responsibility upon himself, and yet, as his student, it’s easy to see how he’s able to fulfill his promise.
~excerpted from AIGA: Journal of Graphic Design, by Juanita Dugdale
. . . during that week he kept his promise that everyone would master Sanskrit basics, alphabet, pronunciation, and basic word structure in order to start reading simple verses. However, it quickly became clear that the course’s value was less in learning Sanskrit than in overcoming personal learning blocks.
. . . Another revelation was his discovery that color-coded diagrams provide an effective way to explain the complexity of Sanskrit’s sound structure. It comes as no surprise to graphic designers that “mapping” the mouth with diagrams would help the student to identify where the sound of each letter is generated by the tongue, throat, palate, or lips. Houston then carried color relationships from this diagram into alphabet charts that demonstrate how sounds relate to letter forms.
Houston’s other graphic breakthrough occurred once when he forgot to bring prepared charts and had to reconstruct them on the spot using calligraphy. The act of slowly drawing every Sanskrit character so heightened everyone’s attention that he achieved a much higher level of group concentration. Now his classrooms routinely become wallpapered with polychromed pages of drawn Sanskrit characters, visual metaphors for the rhythms of verse chanted intermittently throughout class.
Houston’s holistic teaching method is particularly appropriate to Sanskrit because it engages the student in a direct aural and visual experience that reveals the language as a “river of sound.” And the beauty of it is that the philosophy for this teaching method, which emphasizes doing and feeling over thinking, comes directly from ancient Sanskrit lessons.