My Sanskrit Top Three

If you do yoga you can’t avoid sanskrit. The chants are in sanskrit, the asana names are in sanskrit, the original texts are translated from sanskrit, and everywhere you go people are ‘om’ing and ‘namaste’ing you all over the place.

Not that I’m complaining. A new language brings new words into your life, and new words bring new ways of thinking, as they often introduce concepts you may not have come across before. Of course for every ‘zeitgeist’ there’s a ‘schadenfreude’, but in terms of language, as long as it increases our understanding of the world, it’s all good.

NB: If you want to get your head around an interesting concept, try the Japanese word ‘mu’.

There are so many sanskrit words we use every day I can’t list them all here, nut for now here’s my top three sanskrit words that make me think or make me smile (and quite often both).

1. Ahimsa

so cute!

From ‘a-‘ (the opposite of) and ‘-hims‘ (to strike)

Ahimsa is a simple concept. It basically means ‘non-violence’ or ‘compassion’, but its application (because ahimsa is something that you do) goes much deeper than that.

It recognises that the divine is within all of us, be it man or animal, and to hurt another being is to hurt ourselves. It encourages us to find understanding for others, even when they are being violent or aggressive towards us, and never to give in to our own aggressive tendencies.

Its a wonderful concept, and one we should probably all try and practice a little every day.

2. Satyagraha

nature walk vs fence

From ‘satya‘ (truth) and ‘graha‘ (insistence)

Satyagraha is a term coined by Mahatma Gandhi and was a key part of his non-violent resistance movement.

Its a tough one to sum up in a few words, but it basically encourages adherence to the truth in all things, and suggests that we gain great strength from such a thing (what Gandhi would call ‘Truth Force’).

For many, satyagraha is the practice of ahimsa. Or rather, “…ahimsa is the means; Truth is the end.” ~ Gandhi.

Satyagraha is ahimsa in action. It is the non-violent bringing about of positive change, even against great odds. It sees no separation between the means and the end, and as such means you cannot use violence to bring about peace. In many ways, if you practice satyagraha, you have already won.

Anyone who practices satyagraha is a Satyagrahi.

3. Mudita

a strange encounter

Mudita is ‘vicarious joy’. It is “…the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being.”

It is the opposite of schadenfreude, and I like it because of its unselfish nature. To delight in other peoples’ happiness, what could be better than that?

“Mudita is a pure joy unadulterated by self interest.” ~ wikipedia


So what do you think of my top three? Are these words you’ve come across before? Maybe not. As I said, I just like them because they make me think about other ways of being, other ways of coming at the world, and that can only be a good thing. Because the more we think about things differently, the more we come to know.


4 thoughts on “My Sanskrit Top Three

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