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Is Sanskrit really the "mother of all languages"?

Is Sanskrit really the "mother of all languages"?

Whether Sanskrit (or any other language) can conclusively be said to be the "mother tongue of all languages of earth" is the subject of a never-ending and often heated debate. Lacking the ability to travel back in time, we're left with the choice of whose version of the truth to accept. This holds true for determining the antiquity of the Sanskrit language as well as the validity of Vedic teachings themselves.

Many scholars propose that a great number of world languages can be traced to a common ancestor tongue they call Proto-Indo-European, or PIE. PIE is a reconstructed, theoretical language meant to reflect and explain the many similarities between the major Indo-European languages. PIE is widely accepted in academic communities and is taught in schools. Although there is no written evidence of PIE, its popularity rests on the belief that its proponents—including some of the most world's respected linguists since the late eighteenth century—have thoroughly done their homework, which they certainly have.

Our aim is not go enter into lengthy discussion on PIE here, nor are we qualified to do so. Anything we might say to a true PIE believer would likely not be taken seriously anyway. We would like to point out, however, that theories, inference and research—no matter how academically qualified the researcher—are at best an unreliable means of gaining conclusive proof.

Our process of obtaining knowledge is "descending" rather than "ascending." In other words, receiving knowledge from a qualified source is a more quick and effective means of learning than inference or speculation. This is the essence of the parampara system, which has always been the means of transmitting Vedic wisdom. Srila Prabhupada often compared this system to asking our mother who our father is, rather than attempting to determine our parentage through costly and time-consuming DNA research which may prove inconclusive anyway.

Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, which we accept as timeless knowledge. Vedic sages would say that the Vedas are eternal, without origin, like the soul and God. The soul, atma, always exists as a minute expansion of the spiritual energy of Krishna, who also always exists. And Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He Himself is the compiler of the Vedas and that the whole point of the Vedas is to know Him (Bg. 15.15). So for Krishna's statements to be true, the Vedas would have to be eternal.

It may be unfashionable to accept axiomatic truth these days, considering the current overwhelming proliferation of lies and hype. But Vedic truth has remained constant throughout the millennia, and its spiritual wisdom can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, anytime, with guaranteed positive results. Whereas even the most well-researched and brilliantly postulated theories are bound to fall out of fashion and be replaced someday. Our aim in accepting Vedic knowledge is to be happy, rather than to congratulate ourselves that we're smarter than everybody else.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2.1.10, Purport:

". . . the system of receiving Vedic knowledge is called avaroha-pantha, or the process of receiving transcendental knowledge through bona fide disciplic succession. For advancement of material knowledge there is a need for personal ability and researching aptitude, but in the case of spiritual knowledge, all progress depends more or less on the mercy of the spiritual master. The spiritual master must be satisfied with the disciple; only then is knowledge automatically manifest before the student of spiritual science."

Narada-bhakti-sutra, 59:

"Pramana means proof. Vaishnava philosophers condense all the different types of pramanas into three: pratyaksha, anumana, and shabda.
Pratyaksha means direct evidence by the senses. But since the senses are imperfect, pratyaksha often has to be corrected by higher knowledge. Anumana refers to deductive and inductive logic, which depends on the validity of its premises and reasons, and so cannot prove anything with final certainty. Shabda means receiving knowledge from authoritative sources. Vedic knowledge is shabda-pramana. This is particularly applicable to transcendental subject matter, which cannot be understood by the empirical and theorizing methods. Even in ordinary affairs, there are many things we have to accept on authority. We can learn the identity of our father from our mother, the only foolproof authority. Aside from the mother there is no way to know for sure who our father is.

When the source of information is perfect, as in Vedic knowledge, then shabda-pramana, or shabda-brahma, becomes the ultimate proof. As Srila Prabhupada states, "As far as the soul's existence is concerned, no one can establish his existence experimentally beyond the proof of shruti, or Vedic wisdom" ( Bg. 2.25, purport)."