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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Brain plasticity or growth

This was in response to the April 3 1997, issue of Nature which has an article by Bruce McEwen of Rockefeller University. The article states, "...significantly more new neurons exist in the dentate gyrus of mice exposed to an enriched environment compared with littermates housed in standard cages." The Nature article suggests that this is biological confirmation of the importance of education and contradicts the previous dogma that the number of active brains cells is essentially fixed early in life. Similar tests were performed in the 1970s by psychologist William Greenough at the University of Illinois and they reached this same conclusion.
Roger Penrose in his book The Emperor's New Mind describes the relevance of synaptic firing in the phenomenon of brain plasticity. He states, "It is actually not legitimate to regard the brain as simply a fixed collection of wired-up neurons. The interconnections between neurons are not in fact fixed but are changing all the time. I am referring to the synaptic junctions where the communication between different neurons actually takes place. Often these occur at places called dendrite spines, which are tiny protuberances on dendrites at which contact with synaptic knobs can be made. Here , 'contact' means not just touching, but leaving a narrow gap (synaptic cleft) of just the right distance - about one forty-thousandth of a millimeter. Now under certain conditions, these dendrite spines can shrink away and break contact, or they (or new ones) can grow to make new contact."
It is estimated the you have about one hundred billion neurons in your brain, about ten billion of which are in your neo-cortex. It has been speculated that you lose about one thousand neurons each day after you reach forty. Research is finding that this loss can be offset by stimulating the brain regularly. A nerve is not like a simple relay circuit. Whether it fires or not depends on a complex interplay of many inputs. These can be inhibitory or exhibitory influences from the neurons surrounding it, or the intracellular fluid that fills the synaptic gap. If a neuron doesn't get enough excitatory input from the neurons connected to it, or gets too many neurotransmitters that inhibit neural action, it will do nothing.
Other research has found that if a neuron is being used, it secretes substances that affect nearby cells responsible for the neuron's nourishment. These cells, in turn, produce a chemical that appears to preserve the neuron from destruction. If the neuron does not get that substances, it dies.
In concert with this effect, Leif Finkel and Gerald M. Edelman of Rockefeller University have discovered that neurons do not act randomly but as a network. They tend to organize themselves into groups and specialize for different kinds of information processing. For example, when a touch stimuli comes in from the finger it first comes into the neural network. The information activates some groups of neurons more than others, and this high level of activity causes the connections among the group of excited neurons to be reinforced. As more and more similar patterns come through the network, the connections among the activated group of neurons becomes stronger and stronger, and eventually the group becomes specialized for processing that one finger's sense of touch.
As far back as 1949 Canadian neurophysiologist Donald Hebb proposed in his work Organization of Behavior that, "When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite a cell B, and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A's efficiency as one of the cells firing B is increased." In other words, if one neuron sends a lot of signals that excite another neuron, the synapse between the two neurons is strengthened. The more active the two neurons are, the stronger the connection between them grows; thus, with every new experience, your brain slightly rewires its physical structure.
In working with nerve tissue scientists have also found that if two connected neurons are stimulated at the same time, the amount of signal passing from one neuron to the other can double. This is known as long-term potentiation or LTP. Whether this is permanent or not has yet to be verified. But work with aplysia, a sea-slug, by Eric Kandel of Columbia University, verified that the animal's neurons grew stronger as it learned to associate a food it disliked with the presence of a beam of light.
The internet is replete with more information on neural networks and brain plasticity. A simple search engine inquiry into either of these subjects will give more detailed information and lead to specific scientific articles.
This purpose of this site is to provide a simple method to 'exercise' the brain daily and make new connections. The brain's plasticity is becoming more apparent in cognitive science. More and more evidence is surfacing to validate the idea of "use it or lose it." Though this is something that common sense might dictate, there are very few mechanisms created that will allow us to use our brains in unfamiliar ways each day. Doing different puzzles will produce different kinds of thought processes as you search for solutions. Puzzles are useful because they do have solutions, therefore you can test your ability to find a resolve because there is one.
The ability to flex the mind in whatever direction is necessary to find resolve is what leads to true creative thinking. Creativity is not just coming up with something that is different, but with something that is coherent, useful and relevant to whatever stimulated the need for a creative thought. Learning to think creatively is a skill that anyone can learn. Test yourself and see how flexible your mind is. Try this method for six months and see if you are able to think more clearly and apply either logical or analogical thought at will to any situation that arises.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Brain culture -Interview in 2005 Indian Express chennai Dr Vilayanur S Ramachandran

Brain culture -Interview in 2005 Indian Express chennai
Monday September 19 2005 11:49 IST

Dr Vilayanur S Ramachandran

One of the most efficient scientists in the world today, Dr Vilayanur S Ramachandran is Director, Center for Brain and Cognition, and professor of Neurosciences at the University of California. He had received many honours, including a Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, the Ramon Y Cajal award from the International Neuropsychiatry Society, the Presidential Lecture Award from the American Academy of Neurology, and two honorary doctors. Newsweek named him a member of the Century Club, one of 100 most prominent people to watch in the 21st century. En route to London, where he will be awarded the 2005 Sir Hendry Dale prize and a life Fellowship by the Royal Institute, Dr Ramachandran spoke to The New Sunday Express in Chennai.

Who would you name in particular as your scientific heroes?

Michael Faraday and Thomas Huxley. Faraday moved a magnet to and fro within a coil of wire and linked two entire fields of physics; electricity and magnetism. I learnt that there’s no correlation between the sophistication of methodology or technology and the importance of the result. Maybe this is what has given me my perverse streak. I like doing experiments which make my colleagues go: ‘‘Why didn’t I think of that?’’ I also admire Huxley - for his overall approach, for his wit and pugnacity, and for bringing science to ‘‘the common people’’ ( his phrase) without dumbing it down.

Also the unknown Indian genius in the first millennium BC who combined the use of place value, base 10 (which was more practical than the Sumerian 60) and, most importantly, zero as an independent number and place holder. This marks the dawn of mathematics.

Any modern scientific heroes?

Norm Geschwind and Francis Crick, both of whom have had more sheer FUN doing science than anyone else I know.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever got for doing research?

All from Francis Crick. First, sheer intellectual daring - chutzpah. It is better to tackle 10 fundamental problems and solve one than tackle 10 trivial ones and solve all. Fundamental problems are not NECESSARILY more difficult, inherently, than trivial ones. Nature isn’t conspiring against us to make fundamental problems more difficult.

Second, don’t become trapped in small cul-de-sacs of specialization because you feel comfortable or your immediate peers reward you for it. Strive not for pats on the back from the majority of colleagues but only for the respect and admiration of those few exceptional people at the top of your field whom you genuinely hold in high esteem.

Do you enjoy writing about science?

Yes, and I feel I am reviving a venerable tradition. In Victorian times, it was not merely acceptable but fashionable to make science accessible to the common people. Lay audiences flocked to listen to Humphrey Davy, Huxley and Faraday lecturing at the Royal Institution. Inevitably one runs the risk of inadvertently oversimplifying some of the concepts and offending some experts.

Which of your own scientific achievements are you especially proud of?

It’s hard to name a favourite. I have pursued two parallel careers - one in visual perception and the other in neurology. In vision, I have always tried to link psychology to biology, especially to known anatomy and physiology and to evolution. I discovered several new visual illusions which have excited the interest of physiologists and researchers and resulted in a renaissance of interest in perceptual illusions - a neo-gestalt revolution in vision.

But in the last 12 years, my work has mainly been in behavioral neurology or cognitive neuroscience. Our overall strategy has been to bring old clinical ‘‘curiosities’’ from the clinic to the lab and show that they can provide fundamental insights into normal brain function. For example, our work on phantom limbs has shown that a massive reorganization of sensory pathways occurs after amputation, and we were able to correlate phenomenology with brain imaging data.

More recently, we studied synesthesia, a condition in which people get their senses muddled up. They ‘‘see sounds’’. We showed that it was a genuine sensory effect, discovered the brain regions involved, and pointed out its relevance to understanding metaphor and creativity. Indeed, one can go from synesthesia genes to brain anatomy to perceptual phenomenology all the way to metaphor and Shakespeare in a single ‘‘preparation’’.

And what honours or awards are you especially proud of?

I’d have to say the BBC Reith Lecturership. Many previous

Reith Lectures have been turning points in Western civilization and were given by my boyhood heroes - Bertrand Russel, Peter Medawar, Robert Oppenheimer and Arnold Toynbee.

What would you say are the key problems in your field?

Well, first, what is the basis of abstract thinking? How did it evolve? I mean, how do we use neurons to sequentially juggle ideas in our heads? As when you say A is bigger than B, B is bigger than C, therefore A must be bigger than C. Is that transitivity, a deduction, learned through induction and empirical observation? If so, is this acquired through learning or hardwired through natural selection?

The second big question is consciousness. Crick and Koch galvanized the scientific community by daring to suggest (correctly, I believe) that it is a tractable scientific question.

But I disagree with their specific view that there are ‘‘consciousness neurons’’. I think consciousness arises not from individual neurons or from the entire brain but from small specialized circuits unique to (or very highly developed in) humans. This allows the brain to create an explicit metarepresentation of earlier sensory representations that we share with lower primates. This is accompanied by a sense of agency and self and especially to that uniquely human feature - knowing that you know or that you see, or knowing that you don’t know. These abilities are all closely interdependent in a way that we don’t yet clearly understand.

What are the major ethical issues raised by biology today?

Well, there are the usual ones, but there’s no need to go into them in any detail. There’s the fear of cloning , but that's absurd, because clones already exist - they are called identical twins! There’s also the fear that recent advances in molecular biology might lead to ‘‘genetic engineering’’ but that too is absurd. Because, as pointed out by Medawar, we have already had the resources and capacity to do this for centuries, using the far simpler technique of selective breeding. We haven't done it on humans because of ethical reasons, and the same ethical reasons will prevail when we consider chemically induced genetic engineering in the future.

Few people realize that the Nazi movement - the desire to create an albino, blue-eyed master race - didn't begin in Germany. It began in Cold Spring Harbor in America two decades earlier and was later adopted by Hitler. The eugenics movement, spearheaded by Charles Davenport, resulted in the mass sterilization of thousands of ‘‘imbeciles, prostitutes, criminals, homosexuals and epileptics’’, especially in Virginia. Even alcoholics were sterlilized. If such a law were in place today, it would involve the sterilization of 8 per cent of Americans, the incidence of alcoholism in the US, and that includes the president!

The ‘‘research’’ that all this eugenics was based on was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Goddard commission also administered IQ tests to immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s and forbade the immigration of thousands of Jews on the grounds that they were ‘‘feeble minded’’.

It's a bit ironic that, since that time, the ratio of Jewish vs. non-Jewish Nobel prize-winners has been about 10 to 1. Combine this with the fact that Jews constitute only 5 per cent of the US population, and you will see that if you are Jewish, you have 200 times greater chance of winning a Nobel than if you are a WASP or indeed any other ethnic strain!

Davenport and Goddard would have had a far more positive impact on the US had they measured nose sizes instead of IQ and only admitted people with large noses. Their enterprise wasn’t all that different, if you think about it, than Mengele’s attempt to make Jews more intelligent by injecting blue dye into their irisis. Yet Mengele was considered a monster to be hunted down, whereas Davenport and Goddard have been conveniently erased from the American conscience. Even though the Holocaust began with them and not with Hitler. Nor are other countries immune to such crimes. Equally heinous acts are committed in India in the name of ethnic origin, caste and other misguided views on intrinsic superiority. There is simply no excuse for the way ‘‘mainstream’’ Indians treated ‘‘tribals’’ - Adivasis - in the past.

So what is the difference, then, since it is not genetic?

I think the difference is cultural. After all, Jews and Arabs are genetically almost identical, so if there are very few Arab Nobelists, it is almost certainly a temporary historical phenomenon. They had their heyday between the 5th and 12th centuries, when they were vastly superior to Europeans. Baghdad was the most civilized city in the world - a great center for culture and learning. Al Quarizmi (who translated Aryabhatta’s mathematics texts into Arabic and from whose name the word ‘‘algorithm’’ is derived) coined the word ‘‘algebra’’. Omar Khayam, the poet who wrote the Rubaiyat, also discovered the famous binomial theorem. A single quatrain from the Rubiyat is sufficient evidence for the glory of the Persian civilization.

My reason for bringing up nose size was to parody unidimensional measures of human ability such as IQ tests. My goal is to undermine WASP ideas on racial inequality on their own terms, using their own arguments. My point is that extraordinary achievement correlates much more highly with ‘‘nose size genes’’ than with albinism genes!

But isn't that kind of racism a thing of the past? And aren’t universities such as those you represent insulated from it?

No, it is in fact quite widespread. Even now and even in the hallowed halls of academia. While most of our faculty (within the University of California) are enlightened, there are many failed academics and bigots who get themselves into administrative positions and committees on campus and become a real nuisance, denying opportunities to younger colleagues. As Sherlock Holmes told Dr Watson: ‘‘Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself. It requires talent to recognize genius’’.

Are there any special circuits that are unique to humans?

My point is that the human brain is primarily an organ of cultural sophistication and diversity. It is this trait above all that makes us absolutely unique in the animal kingdom. Let us not forget that war, imperialism, racism and neocolonialism are also examples of neuropsychiatric ailments. The best way to cure them is not through political intervention alone but by treating them as brain disorders - something that can only be achieved through a deeper understanding of the brain.

I have been reading a biography of Gen. Dyer, who was celebrated as a national hero by the British for having massacred 700 innocent people, including women and children, during a peaceful meeting in Amritsar. Judging from his symptoms, Dyer, in my humble medical opinion, probably had a form of sociopathic behavior caused by frontal dysfunction. For example, biographers say he was shy, had great difficulty making eye contact, had a perpetual blank stare and a volatile temper - all characteristic of frontal dysfunction. He may have had a genetic deficit, or he may have been born with congenital neuro-syphilis from his mother if she had slept with her pankha waala! (Although I have examined photos of Dyer, and there is no depressed nasal bridge caused by erosion of cartilage by spirochetes, one of the cardinal signs of congenital syphillis )

Are there any other bioethical issues that might emerge more directly from brain research?

More directly relevant to neuroscience is a second ethical dilemma that will emerge 300-500 yrs from now, when we completely understand the brain. Imagine a neuroscientist can transplant your brain into a vat - a culture medium - and artificially create patterns of activity which will make you feel like you are living the lives of Francis Crick, Bill Gates, Hugh Hefner, Mark Spitz and a dash of Mohandas Gandhi, while at the same time retaining your identity.

Given a choice would you rather pick this scenario or just be the real you? Ironically most people I know, even scientists who are not religious, pick the latter on the grounds that it is real. Yet there is absolutely no rational justification for this choice, because in a sense you already are a ‘‘brain in a vat’’ - a vat called the cranial vault, nurtured by cerebrospinal fluid and bombarded by photons. All I’m asking you is: ‘‘Which vat do you want?’’ and you pick the crummy one!

There is a sense in which this is the ultimate ethical dilemma. I confess I would myself pick the ‘‘real’’ me, perhaps because of a foolish sentimental attachment to my present reality or because I secretly believe there is something more, after all.

I gave the Alfred Deakin lectures in Melbourne this year; the other lecturers were E O Wilson and Sir Gustaff Nossal. Wilson gave an eloquent lecture. The gist of it was that we have spent three billion dollars on the Human Genome Project and should therefore allocate at least the same amount to identify, catalog and classify all the species on the planet - as a prelude to preserving the diversity of the gene pool for posterity.

I disagree. Or let me rephrase; I think Wilson’s goal is worthwhile but a bit skewed. I find it ironic that there is so much time, effort and money spent on protecting obscure species in the interest of genetic diversity, in stark contrast to what’s spent to protect cultural diversity on the planet.

Everywhere in the West I hear talk of resurrecting the mammoth or the recently extinct Tasmanian tiger. Cloning the latter from dead tissue sample might cost a few million. Sure, it would be fun to revive the Tasmanian tiger, but what about the Tasmanians themselves? I mean the humans! The last one was paraded as an ethnological curiosity in London in Victorian times. We know nothing of their culture - evolved over thousands of years - of their poems, their Gods, their religion, their customs, their art or their language. And we never will. My point is not that the Tasmanians were the proud bearers of a sophisticated culture; I don't know if they were. My point is that we will never know.

In America hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on protecting the bald eagle, but not even a fraction of that on the Cherokees or Apaches. Not to pick, again, on Wilson - he is a distinguished scientist and well-meaning gentleman. But I would wager that while he has cried his heart out for the ivory-billed woodpecker, he has shed not a single tear for the proud Apaches.

India has hundreds of such tribes, all of which will become extinct - like the Tasmanians - or assimilated and homogenized by ‘‘mainstream’’ Western lifestyles. I am not saying this to be politically correct; I have no interest in politics. I am saying it because cultural diversity is arguably the single most important trait that makes us human. Through it we have become Lamarckian rather than Darwinian creatures. We are actually hardwired to acquire culture.

The brain has become symbiotic with culture. Such is the power of cultural innovation and transmission that a single idea such as using zero in computation and as a place marker combined with the notion of place value can represent a turning point in human civilization. (The average Roman scholar or Englishman, an Ostrogoth or Visigoth during the 2nd century AD, would have required an entire wall and about half an hour, using Roman numbers, to multiply 329 by 219; an Indian peasant could have done it in 20 seconds.)

A child would become barely human if it is raised by wolves in a cave or in a culture-free environment like Texas. To be human is to be cultured, and nothing takes priority over that. It is not for moral reasons, but in the interest of our species that we need to preserve and celebrate the cultural diversity of humans.

It’s a sad thing that every Indian child learns of Shakespeare in school, yet not a single schoolboy at Eton or Winchester has even heard of Kalidasa’s Shakuntala, let alone read it in the Sanskrit original! (It may be recalled that Justice William Jones, the founder of linguistics and one of the few truly enlightened Englishmen, pointed out that Latin and Greek are effete offshoots of Sanskrit)

Consider what has happened to American Indians since cowboys took over their land. Many thousands died, but even worse, they were stripped of their culture, their identity, the very meaning of their existence. Corralled into reservations and stripped of their dignity, many became alcoholic - their lives had no meaning anymore. All this has nothing to do with their intellectual ability; they are of Mongoloid stock whose IQ is, if anything, 10 points higher than that of cowboys! The progressive erosion of their lifestyle and taking to drink was a direct consequence of marauding cowboy hordes with guns, yet many an American has had the gall to suggest to me - based on the flimsiest evidence - that they have ‘‘alcoholism genes’’..

My deepest fear is that there will come a time when the whole world succumbs to the inevitable onslaught of corporate homogenization - the modern equivalent of cowboys driving Indians close to extinction. We need a new word for cultural genocide - the word doesn't exist yet, but the phenomenon itself is extremely widespread. Everyone will be wearing Nike, playing Pokemon and consuming hamburgers.

What we now call ‘‘cultures’’ or even ‘‘countries’’ or ‘‘civilizations’’ will shrink progressively into little theme parks and museums for our children to gawk at. When I first came to the US, I was surprised that American Indians were kept in ‘‘reservations’’ and fed alcohol. (‘‘By their own choice,’’ one well-meaning American lady told me!) I thought reservations were for animals! I have yet to see a real live American Indian outside a reservation, although I have seen plenty of wooden statues of them in antique shops.

If you want to know what this brave new corporate world culture will be like 50 years from now, just look at Las Vegas today. It's a microcosm of America - the ultimate monument to corporate greed, vanity and sterility of the imagination. (Compare it, if you will, with Ellora or the Taj in India, or Venice in Europe.) They have a mock-up Disneyland version of Egypt and even one of Venice - and I am told there’s one on the Taj in progress. (And remember, these are for adult Americans, not children!) There is more beauty, more poetry and intrinsic value in a single Chola bronze or a Carnatic music concert than all the hotels of Las Vegas.

This complete lack of cultural sophistication was even more true of the British in Colonial India. While the small number of ‘‘first wave’’ of Englishmen were truly enlightened, most of those who came later were barely educated lower-crust tradesmen and aspiring ‘‘white nabobs’’ who looted India’s fabulous treasures and exploited her natural resources. They rationalized to themselves that they were ‘‘civilizing’’ the natives by building railway lines and bridges.

The much-admired Victorian statesman and orator Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay is said to have remarked that the goal of colonial expansion should be to ‘‘convert every Indian to an Englishman’’. Little did he realize that if Aryabhatta or Kalidasa had visited England in the early first millennium AD, they would have said the same thing about Macaulay’s ancestors, little realizing that the descendants of these very same albino savages would one day give birth to Shakespeare and Newton.

Actually, India did have a civilizing influence - on the whole of South-East Asia, Thailand, Burma and even China, starting from the time of Ashoka. Buddhism and Hinduism spread to all these countries and resulted in the ‘‘Indianization’’ of their artistic and cultural values. But all this was achieved through peaceful means by blending Indian and Far Eastern cultures. The result was the harmonious, many-splendoured, multi-cultural ethos that we now see in Indonesia, Thailand and Burma - not a homogenization or Disneyfication.

Are you saying that the West -- especially the US - has contributed nothing to civilization?

No, I’m not saying that. America had its halcyon days -. the golden age of Edison, Franklin and Tesla, when Yankee innovation was the envy of the world. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, American universities were the best in the world, with more Nobel laureates per capita than any other country except the UK. (The master of my college in Cambridge often pointed out that Trinity alone has had more Nobels than the whole of France!) My institution has had 11, Berkeley 15.

But those days are long gone, no more a part of the present reality of America thanthe Gupta period is of India. So in a sense my remarks should be seen as a clarion call to young Americans and Indians to revive the Golden Age. It is still entirely within their reach, so long as they escape the clutches of corporate interests which now govern the media.

My comments are also intended to set the record straight and put things in perspective in order to neutralize the Eurocentric bias of Western historians. Contrary to what American schoolchildren learn, curry, holy men, yoga and snake charmers are not the the only thing India gave the world.

In singing the glory of India, however, I have no desire to provide ammunition to ultra right-wing Hindutvas. Yes, to India we owe linguistics as a science, chess, and much of mathematics - including the number system , trigonometry and algebra. But they didn't invent everything. Geometry, for example, was mainly Greek. Even though the Indians ‘‘knew’’ the Pythagoras Theorem a millennium before Pythagoras, they did not bother to prove it. To Euclid, and Euclid alone, we owe the concept of proof - of deducing a whole edifice from a set of simple axioms.

Even more amazingly, neither Indians nor Greeks understood the concept of an experiment. We had to wait for an Italian, Galileo, for that. Until he came along, people simply didn’t understand that the only way to unravel Nature’s secrets is to vary only one thing at a time, keeping everything else constant. Both Indians and Greeks were arrogant; they considered themselves too smart to get their hands dirty. Why do experiments when you can figure it all out in your head?

Aristotle relied on ‘‘common sense’’ to claim that heavy objects fall faster to the ground than light ones. People accepted his view for two millennia even though anyone - even a schoolboy - could have disproved it in 10 minutes by dropping a heavy stone and a pea simultaneously from the top of a building. Yet no one, until Galileo, tried the experiment.

Indeed the very notion of an experiment is alien to the human mind, whether Greek, Indian, English or Chinese, and for that reason, Galileo is rightly regarded as one of the supreme geniuses of the human race. I realize that the ‘‘great man’’ theory of history is unfashionable among left-wing social scientists and historians, but I can assure them that without the likes of Euclid, Panini, Aryabhatta and Galileo, there would be no modern science. If Kanaka’s ship -which carried Aryabhatta’s treatise on board and sailed to Baghdad from India in the 6th century - had capsized in a storm, what would the world be like today?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

English its impact and importance for India and Indians

Let us respect facts over half- hearted and hypocritical ethnocentric affinities to language or culture or tradition and be pragmatic

Random Reflections on the English language in India

We may recall the momentous debate that took place in Calcutta on   in February 2, 1835, in which a thirty-five year old Englishman argued for introducing English as the medium of instruction in British-occupied India. The debate was about whether a substantial sum for opening new schools in India should be spent for education through Arabic and Sanskrit media, or through English. Thomas Babington Macaulay: scholar, historian, liberal, and very British, argued with great passion that the Indian people would benefit more in the long run  if they were initiated into English and to European thought and science than if they were trained in the languages and worldviews of Arabic and Sanskrit literatures. He was convinced that English would bring Indians to the modern world better than any other language. Also, the British could  "form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect."

Macaulay's opponents argued that with the awakening that would come from English and modern science, Indians would become intellectually so strong that the British could no longer have their hold on India. To this Macaulay replied, "It would be … far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures." Not many critics of Macaulay, some of whom shamelessly circulate spurious malicious quotes from him on the internet, care to refer to these words.

Macaulay won the debate. The die was cast. English became the medium of instruction in Indian schools. Within a generation a new class of Indians was formed. They were English in words and intellect, but not all were English in opinion and taste. Many became very patriotic. Versed in English and alerted to the notions of freedom, equality, and liberty through English books, they led a movement that overthrew British rule from India. All that is history that has flowed down the river of time.

Never before or since had  the convictions and eloquence of a single man affected the  course of a culture and history of a whole nation in so dramatic and irreversible a way. English is now an integral part of India's mind. It has brought together the educated classes from every region, such as India had never seen before.  The Sanskritic bonds of earlier times were largely for the upper castes. Mogul Persian influence was also only for the select cream of society. The vast majority of the people spoke and thought only in their local languages, as they still do, and seldom communicated with people from other regions. There was nothing unusual or bad in this situation. It was not unlike the situation in Europe such as it is even today.

It would be wrong to argue that English was indispensable for India to be unified as a political entity. Nor can one say that Indians needed English to be ushered into the modern world. Russians, Poles, Koreans and Japanese, to name a few, have all been modernized without English being imposed on them. What may be said positively about English is that many Indians have reaped valuable fruits from familiarity with English in many ways. Most of all: Aside from the fact that English is enormously rich in its literary treasures of great quality, no matter what subject you take, whether cultural, historical, scientific, informational, or whatever: you are likely to find a book or article on it in English such as in few other languages. French may be the only competitor of English in this regard.

Yet, English education has done some serious harm also: It has created a huge chasm between the English-knowing (perhaps 3% of the) population and the rest. More regrettably, these English-talkers tend to regard themselves as superior to the latter, exactly as the West, which English-speaking Indians rightly condemn, tends/tended to do about the non-West. When Indians are so mesmerized by English that they lose touch with their own culture, are unable to appreciate its finer elements and sensitivities, then they become what one derisively calls Macaulayites: Not just “Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect,”  but also  mindlessly adoring whatever comes from the West and contemptuous of whatever is culturally indigenous. But this need not be so. Some of the greatest pan-Indian cultural patriots in all of India’s long history were formed by English education in British-established universities: Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, S. Radhakrishnan, Prafulla Chandra Ray, Lokamanya Tilak, and C. Rajagopalachariar, to name only a few. Even the much maligned Jawaharlal Nehru was a greater enlightened patriot than many who are bad-mouthing him today.  Most movers and leaders in India are converts to English and English education.

As modern civilization is dependent on the computer, India (like many other nations) has become dependent on English for its survival as a modern nation. As of now, India cannot have her universities, IITs, banks and communication systems without English. This intellectual and cultural dependence may not be very healthy. Sad or not, this has become a fact.

Here again, English speaking Indians find it easier to get jobs in the world market, teach in universities all over the world, they are able to have pan-India meetings, they feel an oneness as citizens of the same country, and they participate more easily in international discussions. Some of them have also contributed to English literature.

There is no question but that English has played an important role in the rejuvenation of India. No, English has not destroyed the Indian mind. It merely awakened it to perspectives and values, knowledge and information of which the Hindu mind, and other ancient minds, did not have an inkling before.  In the nineteenth century, modern secular literature in every Indian language was created by authors who had read English/European literature. English translations of India’s sacred books have opened the eyes of countless Hindus and people all over the world to the treasures of Indic wisdom which few beyond a handful of Brahmin pundits, Sanskrit and Tamil, had ever heard of. Neither the Bhagavad Gita nor the Upanishads were as widely read and appreciated in classical India as they are today. It is equally true that a knowledge of English serves people well in opening their minds to new perspectives. As long as Indians use English as a useful and enriching instrument, for its beneficial rather than culture-destructive potential, the language can serve them well.

There are valid reasons for regretting the introduction of English into the Indian educational system. Anglo-indoctrination created a whole class of Hindus who lost touch with their own roots, between whom and the vast majority of their compatriots who have not been exposed to English and related thought modes, there is even today a gaping intellectual chasm. But this has happened before. Historically, people with command over a more sophisticated language (i.e. a language with more books on a greater range of subjects) invariably were at an advantage and considered themselves superior Greek-speaking Romans looked down upon their fellow citizens who did not know Greek. French-knowing Russians in the former centuries looked down upon fellow Russians. In medieval Europe Latin-knowing scholastics looked won upon those who were Latin-illiterate. Sanskrit knowing Tamils looked down upon Non-Sanskrit knowing worshipers of Murugan at one time.

I respect the concerns of Hindus who see more of their time-honoured culture slip away from India’s sacred soil. But this is not due to English. It is due the tornado of modernity that is sweeping across the world. The West was the first to see its Christian heritage challenged, modified, even overthrown by modernity. This has happened in China too. The alternative is stagnation with medieval worldviews and values.
This is the predicament of many English-educated Indians (indeed, English-educated citizens of other former British colonies as well) today: On the one hand, they want to kick out from the very core of their being the British (and the French and the Dutch, and the Portuguese, etc.) and everything these exploiting colonizers have left behind, lock, stock, and barrel. The massive body of literature that argues about, condemns, bashes, abuses, and verbally spits upon the West in books, articles, and internet postings is growing in magnitude in our own times.

Yet, these authors are more at ease in the world of discourse with fellow English-educated West-haters than with millions of their own Non-English-educated compatriots. For my part, though I detest the British from the bottom of my heart for all the terrible things they did to my forebears, I am glad their intervention saved me from having to pay obeisance to a descendant of Bahadhur Shah Zaffar or even of Shivaji, as my most exalted monarch, Mogul or Maratha. I am very grateful too for parliamentary democracy and the penal code in India. I know I am not speaking for many of my fellow Hindus, but perhaps I am also speaking for at least some of them, when I say I am glad my worldviews have been moulded by the thinkers of the Enlightenment, and I feel more fulfilled because I have derived aesthetic delights not only from Kamban and Kalidasa but also from Shakespeare and Shelley. My mind has also been immeasurably enriched by the physics of Galileo and Newton, and by the equations of Einstein and Schrödinger.

I know very well that we did not need humiliating British colonialism for all this and that the British did not have in mind my aesthetic, scientific or intellectual thrills when they inflicted their grammar and vocabulary on India. But, on balance, Hindus have benefited immensely from Macaulay’s victory in the 1835 debate. If his motives were malicious, so much the worse for him. Our road to heaven (cultural/linguistic richness) was paved with (his) bad intentions.

There has been enough of this carping on ancient alien demonic deeds, and pronouncing passionate curses on Western devils.  This accentuates historical rancour, but it is not going to alter the past in any way. Also, while the West plundered us economically for more than a century, we have been beneficiaries of the fruits of modern (Western) science, technology, and medicine in many ways. From the bicycle and the printing press to tap water and nuclear reactors, India has been enriched immeasurably on the material plane by the knowledge, discoveries, and inventions that came from the West. That must be enough quid pro quo for past exploitations. It should not be forgotten that Hindus suffered far greater cultural damage from the previous occupiers of Hindu India: a long range consequence of which has been that the land of the River Sindhu (Sind) and the lake of Sage Kashyapa (Kashmir) have been snatched away from Hindus.

Time has come for all cultures to join hands, recognize one another’s richness, and strive towards solving humanity’s many serious problems. Preaching separateness and insisting on our differences, especially in hateful and self-superior terms are not helpful in solving the myriad problems of the twenty-first century.

This does not mean that Hindus must not keep watchful eyes on similar machinations whether by Western mischief-makers or by India’s (currently no less  dangerous) neighbours across India’s borders. Nor should Hindus ignore and be ignorant of their traditional culture: music and art, language and literature, philosophy and spirituality.

I make no apologies for taking whatever is best from the East as well as from the West. Though I am at ease with English and French, German I relish Sanskrit poetry and the Tamil language, let alone ecstatic bhajan songs and morning meditations.  But I do revel in the standard model and have read  Milton and Molière, Goethe and Dante, and enjoy Bach and Beethoven also. If some   Hindus think this is distorting the Hindu mind, or intellectual enslavement, that is fine by me.

My point is that knowing English or tasting the fruits of other cultures need not necessarily instil disrespect for one’s own.

Also read my article which was published some 20+ years back in my blog

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father’s Day special

Father’s Day special - What lived and brought all of us was their [father’s and mother’s] relationship as a couple imbued with co- operation, commitment, compassionate, caring and complimenting activities.

Babuji, as my father was fondly called by everyone, had a rare combination of erudition, experience [too vast involving diligent, dirty and delicious etc], enthusiasm, over-flowing energy defying age and discomforts, an enlightenment which was never exhibited either through verbal arguments, didactic instructions, patronizing attitude etc but which silently manifested in his wisdom in handling any situation [good, bad, ugly etc] silently and sanely.

These qualities are a rare combination of  a sort of contagious self confidence which motives all those around, not necessarily leading to material success though that may accrue incidentally, but  they  give strength to take everything that providence offers with courage in a very positive mode.

This combination is in fact a unique gift which comes out of the inner strength and intuition [confirmed from the line leading to mercury mount in his palm]. It was this very same combination which my father has fortunately bequeathed to me and to all his children which helps us in many pursuits and problematic situations to perform with conviction with sensitivity to the time cherished culture and the time tested humane values of the society. The inherent strength of this combination is that it bestows immense pride of ancestry and thereby creates hope for the future of the society. It is more worthy than inheriting many millions of dollars.

Through these qualities that he manifested he made us realize without instructing the real duties of life which involve performing those deeds and pondering those thoughts that give either pleasure or contribute intrinsically to enhance the worthiness /betterment of the body ,mind and spirit [ for those who can feel it] and not bother about performing other activities be they traditionally required rituals, or culturally conditioned compulsions, socially sanctioned or solicited stipulations but at the same time do anything and everything not to hurt the sentiments of near and dear ones even if that  required temporarily compromising on some of our strongly held convictions, for, in such circumstances momentary hypocrisies are justifiable rather than hard hearted haughty and hurting refusals.

He was not a great believer of any tradition, belief system, nor had faith in any fervent sense but he firmly believed in humanitarianism, questioning everything with reason and helping others at all costs. Thus he had some very healthy justifiable contradictions which emanated from a very strong inner strength which allowed simultaneously the existence of very busy engagement of the body and mind in all duties and an inherent detachment [not aloofness]. These contradictions taught me to equally savor the serenity of silence and solitude and also to socialize with free abandon and without any inhibition.

So, whether we succeed really in profitable ventures or not. Our basic relationship with everyone and the environment  based on inherent and intrinsic values  blossom into a lifelong bond of friendship not necessary to be bonded by proximity, nor commitments nor cooperation but a sort of soulful music imbued with harmony of life and melody of living, not a heart to heart friendship but a heart to heartbeat relationship.

All of us, his children know well, if at all we have acquired the freedom to think freely, talk openly and allow as many ideas unblocked by any ideology or tradition, however lofty or laudable the ideology or tradition  may be and widen our horizon of view and perception it was because of him, our loving father.

He was calmness personified to a fault :- he was stoical [ calm and impassive]to any personal  suffering; philosophical [calm in face of ] to the pinpricks as well as the pulverizing impacts of providence; serene[ calm in a dignified manner]  in his sensibility; exhibited equanimity [ calm self –possession leading to even-temperedness] in any eventuality; imperturbable [calm and unexcitable in temper] in his own way; equitable [calm and even tempered] in entertaining silly disputes among the siblings; readily mollifying [ calm or pacify by offering concessions]the recalcitrant children usually with candies; phlegmatic [calmly indifferent] purposefully to petty  arguments in politics; most of the times very composed [exhibiting calm self –control] born out of clarity in the face of criticisms; allaying [calm or soothe] the fears of diffidence or defeatism  in any of his children reminding that the game of life is never over; carrying all mundane tasks with tranquility [calmness] while inwardly staid [calmly detached or sober] and voluntarily propitiating [calm or reconcile] the offended or wounded spirits with pleasant words.

He was subdued [calm and quiescent] when for better practical reasons he was willing to converse, cooperate and comply with the correct choices his elder sons made without insisting  on treating decision making as an exclusive parental prerogative out of merely age- related- advantage- based egoism to which most of us are susceptible as parents.

He lived mostly as the author Pema Chödrön observes, “Simply be present with your own shifting energies and with the unpredictability of life as it unfolds” and manifested patience and enlightenment. Again to quote Pema Chödrön, “Patience is the training in abiding with the restlessness of our energy and letting things evolve at their own speed”.  [THE PLACES THAT SCARE YOU: A GUIDE TO FEARLESSNESS IN DIFFICULT TIMES] Pema Chödrön on enlightenment, “When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment” [LIVING BEAUTIFULLY: WITH UNCERTAINITY AND CHANGE]

He could freely do all these because he had a wonderful woman, my mother whose greatness cannot be confined by words. She was a living example of silent love and sacrifice. In fact it would be a great mistake to praise him [my father] alone; they were in fact a single entity, the best unbeatable team forever as far as I know.

They had biologically individual lives  but what really lived and brought all of us was their relationship as a couple imbued with co- operation, commitment, compassionate, caring and complimenting activities devoid of any competition , comparison etc which unfortunately spoil modern relationships. Without discussion and debate they shared the task of feeding us physically, psychologically and soulfully [spiritually]. Their impact is undeniable and inerasable but since they ensured the inward flowering of our individual souls and psyches we used our freedom to liberally acquire some imperfections.  My dear parents your presence is always lively though you may not be present around me in flesh and blood.

Now that the tears have cleaned my eyes and dried up my heart I can switch from a subjective being submerged in sentiments into an objective person.

The purpose of all these Mother’s Day and Father’s Day other than the obviously commercial ones is to probably remind us, in our inevitable busy life, the importance of our parents.

Henry Miller once said, “One of the nine reasons why reincarnation happens is sex and all other eight reasons do not count”. Similarly one of the main reasons of your life is your parents, even if you happen to be the accidental by product of their biological urge. The fact is your life came into this world through them and because of them. So, do respect them and take care for them or at least enquire about their welfare once in a while when they are alive. If they are unfortunately no more with you act in a way which would make their souls and spirits proud of you.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ignorance -Being Honest About Ignorance

Being Honest About Ignorance
By William R. Brody
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Filed under: Big Ideas, Science & Technology

The temptation to deny scientific truths is timeless—and dangerous

Being Honest About Ignorance

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The temptation to deny scientific truths is timeless—and dangerous.
Today we reach an anniversary of sorts, unremarked, but remarkable nonetheless. It was 260 years ago this week that a young Scottish naval surgeon by the name of James Lind did something truly revolutionary.
In those days of English naval supremacy Britannia ruled the waves, but the royal navy itself was ruled by scurvy. Only a few years earlier, Commodore George Anson had attempted the royal navy's first circumnavigation of the globe. He left the Portsmouth naval yards in command of seven ships and 2,000 men. He returned two years later in one ship with just 188 men remaining. Some of his ships and crew had been forced to turn back, but of those original 2,000 sailors and marines, 1,400 men died during the voyage. Four were killed by enemy action. Almost all of the rest died of scurvy.
Scurvy killed thousands of sailors every year for four centuries. Caused by a severe deficiency of vitamin C, scurvy occurs when the body becomes unable to produce collagen, the connective tissue that binds the body's muscles and other structures together. For every sailor killed, often three or four more were severely incapacitated. Scurvy was perhaps the greatest challenge England faced as the world's preeminent maritime power.
Truth be told, we human beings are very good at refusing to accept facts or scientific evidence we do not want to hear. There is a long history of our doing so.
And so on May 20, 1747, James Lind did something quite extraordinary. He took 12 sailors under his care for scurvy, divided them into six groups, and gave each a different treatment. The first group was given a quart of cider a day; the second a dose of a royal navy patent medicine; the third were treated with vinegar, the fourth with nutmeg and the fifth with ordinary saltwater—these all being commonplace and recommended treatments for scurvy. The last group he gave a daily ration of two oranges and a lemon, another suggested cure.
At sea, in the midst of the War of Austrian Succession, James Lind had invented the clinical trial. And the results were nothing less than spectacular. After six days the two men receiving citrus fruits were both fit for duty and returned to service; none of the others showed any marked improvement.
James Lind had discovered conclusive evidence that scurvy could be treated and cured. He resigned his naval commission to write the era's definitive study of the disease, A Treatise of the Scurvy, which gave the history, clinical description and cure for the greatest single threat to British naval supremacy.
And here is what happened next: absolutely nothing.
The British Admiralty did not order up huge stores of citrus, even on an experimental basis. Some people accepted Lind's ideas. Some rejected them. Many—especially those in power—simply paid no attention. Sailors continued to die of scurvy. Citrus juice did not become standard fare in the royal navy until 1795—more than four decades after the publication of Lind's treatise and a year after his death.
This is yet another instance of scientific evidence being officially denied, suppressed or ignored when it conflicts with preferred belief. We can all name other examples, from Galileo's astronomical evidence that the earth revolves around the sun, to the suppression of the study of genetics in the Soviet Union under Stalin, to the claims made for years by tobacco companies that cigarette smoking and cancer could not be linked. Truth be told, we human beings are very good at refusing to accept facts or scientific evidence we do not want to hear. There is a long history of our doing so. It is a history that continues to this day.
Ignorance is a word we don't like to use today. It feels too much like a value judgment. But perhaps we should consider reclaiming it. We need to name this tendency, which seems to be ever more common in recent years, of ignoring facts we do not like. Call it willful ignorance. In this case, the value judgment is intended. By reclaiming the word ignorance, we reclaim also the 19th century sense that there is something inherently dangerous in not knowing.
Charles Dickens understood this. Remember Ebenezer Scrooge? When visited by the second of three spirits, Scrooge notices that the Ghost of Christmas Present seems to be hiding something under his cloak. "What is it?" he inquires.
"Oh, Man! Look here," the Spirit commands, and brings forth two children. They are wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. "This boy is Ignorance," says the Spirit. "This girl is Want. Beware them both... but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom."
Dickens and his contemporaries knew the dangers of ignorance, which they feared could bring about society's doom.
And so in that era began an organized effort—the first in history—to stamp out ignorance. Compulsory universal education was introduced, and literacy rates soared. Libraries were built and museums and galleries opened. Lecture halls were established and learned societies created.
We must all beware the very real and understandable human tendency to ignore or subvert facts, and findings of science, that discomfort us for reasons of ideology, politics, religion, or personal taste.
In the nineteenth century, the predominant theory of ignorance was grounded in the notion of information access. People were ignorant, went the belief, because they did not have access to information. They could not know what they needed to know. From that follows the natural supposition that simply by finding a way of providing access to information, ignorance will depart, and knowledge will emerge.
Here in Baltimore, the Peabody Institute, with its free library, art gallery and public lecture series, was a manifest reflection of this belief. So too was the public library movement of the 19th century, championed especially by Andrew Carnegie, who gave a fair share of his fortune to communities across the country and around the world to build public libraries. "A taste for reading drives out lower tastes," said Carnegie. "There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library."
Between 1883 and 1929 Carnegie built thousands of libraries in the United States and other countries. Behind these actions stood the optimistic belief that if learning was fostered and information in the form of books made widely available, ignorance would wither and disappear.
The same thinking prevailed a century later. In the 1990s government and philanthropists teamed up to make sure every school and classroom was wired to the Internet. There was, we were told, a 'digital divide' that separated the poor and disadvantaged from access to information. Bridge that divide with Internet access for all, and the achievement gaps that exist within our schools would soon dwindle and disappear. Today, thanks to those efforts, 99 percent of American schools have Internet access.
But does access for all bring knowledge to all? Does more information bring more understanding? The evidence suggests otherwise.
When asked to identify the three branches of government, one in five American adults responds with Republican, Democrat and Independent. Thirty- five percent of those polled think the United States Constitution makes English our official language. Nearly a third of Americans polled can't name the vice president of the United States.
But maybe these numbers are not quite as shocking as they first appear. In a free society, people can choose not to know. It is a luxury a wealthy and technologically advanced country affords its citizens. Yet we need to ask: how much 'not knowing' can the world afford?
This willful ignorance is not a simple matter of people just having the wrong facts
Consider for a moment the headlines and news stories of the past year alone. In December Iran held an "International Holocaust Conference" largely for the purpose of denying the Holocaust ever happened. In Japan the Prime Minister claimed there is "no evidence to prove coercion" of the women forced into sex slavery by the Japanese army during World War II. At the International AIDS conference in Toronto, South Africa's health minister questioned the science of AIDS treatment and promoted a diet of garlic, lemon and beetroot as a viable alternative to anti-retroviral drugs now in use. Here at home, the Environmental Protection Agency ignored the advice of its own scientists (and an expert advisory panel) that fine-particle soot in the air be reduced as a proven human health risk. In a few days, in Kentucky, the $25 million Creation Museum will open featuring a diorama of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.... happily co-existing with dinosaurs, whose fossil remains must be accounted for in some manner. Meanwhile, a recent Newsweek poll found 39 percent of those surveyed believed the theory of evolution is "not well- supported" by evidence.
We must all beware the very real and understandable human tendency to ignore or subvert facts, and findings of science, that discomfort us for reasons of ideology, politics, religion, or personal taste.
This willful ignorance is not a simple matter of people just having the wrong facts. Science constantly gets it wrong, as for instance when I was in medical school, and was taught that peptic ulcers were the result of stress and too much stomach acid. Then in 1982 two Australian scientists announced peptic ulcers were really caused through infection by spiral-shaped bacteria. It was many years before the medical establishment fully accepted this theory—and if you had a peptic ulcer during this time, I'm sorry, you probably suffered needlessly until someone thought to give you antibiotics.
No serious scientist says that everything we know today will still be correct tomorrow. Far from it. I teach a class in which I tell my students that half of what they learn here may one day be proved wrong. If we could only figure out which 50 percent is wrong, we could cut their schooling time in half.
We are often wrong. But when we refute accepted beliefs, we do so on the basis of new data and logical conclusions. That's not ignorance. That's science.
Unfortunately, ignorance is still with us—and more and more of it is willful ignorance. Beware: it is still the herald of society's doom. A fact, even if we do not like it, is still a fact. We must not ignore truths just because they make us uncomfortable.
But keep your eyes open. Don't expect the applause of others when you insist uncomfortable truths be acknowledged.
Here at Johns Hopkins we have a motto, veritas vos liberabit, the truth shall make you free. Yet the truth will not necessarily make you successful. The truth may not make you influential. And most assuredly, the truth will not always make you popular.
But that does not make it any less true. And I hope that you will not in any way lessen your commitment to it.
Adapted from the address of  William R. Brody, President of Johns Hopkins University, at the University's 131st commencement this past Thursday.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


They're an amazingly complex and fascinating group of creatures. Bacteria have been found that can live in temperatures above the boiling point and in cold that would freeze your blood. They "eat" everything from sugar and starch to sunlight, sulfur and iron. There's even a species of bacteria--Deinococcus radiodurans--that can withstand blasts of radiation 1,000 times greater than would kill a human being.
Bacteria fall into a category of life called the Prokaryotes (pro-carry-oats). Prokaryotes' genetic material, or DNA, is not enclosed in a cellular compartment called the nucleus. Bacteria do a lot of things. Bacteria aren't always bad. The definition of bacteria is any of the unicellular prokaryotic microorganisms of the class Schizomycetes. These are some characteristics of bacteria. Bacteria don't have a recognizable nucleus. Some bacteria have chlorophyll and are producers. Bacteria break down waste for energy. Those are some characteristics of bacteria.
These are the shapes of bacteria. One of the shapes is spheres which are called cocci. Another one of the shapes is rods which are called bacilli. One of the shapes is spirals which are called spirilla. Bacteria have been around for about 3.5 billion years. Like all cells, bacteria contain DNA, but the DNA in bacteria is different then other organisms, it's arranged in a single circular chromosome while most cells have several rod shaped chromosomes. Some bacteria also have flagella. This makes the bacteria move by beating in a propeller- motion. Bacteria can be classified in many different ways.
Bacteria can be found almost anywhere on the globe, even in the most remote places, bacteria can be found. Bacteria belong to the oldest group of organisms. A 3.5 billion-year-old fossil contains ancient bacteria (Johnson 339). The tiniest organisms can be filled with bacteria. You cannot see bacteria with out microscope. People can grow bacteria to find out different things. More bacteria will grow yogurt that has more milk fat.
There are three common shapes of bacteria: spiral, rod-shaped, and spherical. The spherical shaped bacteria are usually formed in long chains. Rod-shaped bacteria looks like abstract art and spiral bacteria looks like DNA strands (Johnson 339). Even though they may look interesting, they can have an awful effect. One type of spiral shaped bacteria sometimes causes kidney and liver damage. This spiral-shaped bacterium is called Leptospira. Staphylococcus aureus is a spherical bacteria that can cause skin infections (Johnson 339).Although there are three major shapes of bacteria, there is a certain general structure to all bacterial cells. There is no nucleus in a bacterium. All of the genes of the bacterium are located on one molecule of DNA in the middle of the bacterium.

Sanskrit: Was it the Original Language? By Stephen Knapp

Sanskrit: Was it the Original Language?
By Stephen Knapp

         There has always been a controversy regarding whether Sanskrit was the original language, as some feel, or whether there was what has been called a Proto-Indo-European (PIE)  language that was the start of all other languages. So let us take a look at this.
         First of all let us face the fact that Sanskrit is the language that composes what has been recognized as the earliest texts on the planet, such as the Rig Veda and the other Vedas. Secondly, it is also known that it was an oral tradition long before it became a written language. This was because the great sage Vysadeva, who compiled the main portions of the Vedic literature, could foretell that the memory of mankind would soon be greatly reduced, compared to what it had been. Thirdly, the sophistication of the language, its grammar, syntax, and so on, was highly developed. So it had to have been in existence for some time, long before most other languages, or even any other language that appeared later on, all of which were far less developed than Sanskrit. So, how could there have been a Proto-Indo-European language that was the basis of forming Sanskrit that had to have been almost as sophisticated as Sanskrit that is said to no longer exist?

         So how did the idea come about that there must be a Proto-Indo-European language that was the origin of Sanskrit, Greek and Latin? 
         It all started when certain researchers started to see similarities between the main languages, such as Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Presently, there are 439 languages and dialects, of which half is considered belonging to the Indo-Aryan subbranch. Twelve languages and their derivatives are considered to be Indo-European, including Spanish, English, Portuguese, Russian, German, French, Italian, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, and Urdu. And most of the languages in India are known derivatives of Sanskrit.
         It was as early as 1583 when Thomas Stephens, an English Jesuit missionary in Goa started to recognize similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Then in 1585, Filippo Sassetti, an Italian merchant who had traveled to India, also wrote about various similarities. Next was the Dutch scholar Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn, in 1647, who noted the similarities among these languages, including Dutch, Albanian, Greek, Latin, Persian, Slavic, Celtic and Baltic languages. He was the one who first proposed that they must all derive from a common source language, which he called Scythian. Then in the late 1760s Gaston Coeurdoux made observations of the same type, with a study of Sanskrit, Latin and Greek. There were others who had done the same thing. However, none of these men aroused much notice in their research.
         It was in 1786 when Sir William Jones started giving talks about the similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, along with Celtic, Gothic and Persian languages, and suggested that there was a relationship between them. That is when people started to take notice.
         It was in 1813 when Thomas Young first coined the phrase “Indo-European” to describe this relationship and family of languages, which then became the standard “scientific” term. Then it was Franz Bopp who produced a study of these languages, called Comparative Grammar between 1833 and 1852, that seemed to verify this relational theory. This was the beginning of the Indo-European studies as part of an academic curriculum. This went further to August Schleicher’s Compendium in 1861, and then Karl Brugmann’s Grundriss in the 1880s. From there it went further into what can be called modern Indo-European studies.
         We could explain how various languages are considered part of a family or group and subgroups, or branches and subbranches, through genetic identification, or what can be called shared innovations, or their structure and phonology, or what is called their evolutionary history. But we won’t indulge in all this analysis.
         In any case, we now have the “Indo-European Family” of languages, which is a study of the commonalities of numerous languages, moreover than the attempt to try to understand what was the original or “Proto-Indo-European” language, or the seed from which all other languages began, starting with Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. So this is the difference when you begin talking about Indo-European language: Are you talking about the “family,” in which case you could certainly be talking about many languages, or are you talking about what could be the original, or at least the search for the original seed language of all others? In the latter case, such a language still has not yet been identified, and maybe never will.


         So if there was to be a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language, which means the seed language of all others, it had to come from somewhere. So where and what people developed it, and how did it spread?
         It was speculated that the original Indo-European people go back to 5000 BCE. These were later called the Kurgan people, who lived northwest of the Caucasus and north of the Caspian Sea. These were considered to be semi-nomadic people. The word kurgan actually means “barrow” or “artificial mound” in Turkic and Russian. The Kurgan hypothesis was first formulated in the 1950s by Marija Gimbutas. In any case, it was figured that these people abandoned their homeland and started to migrate in different directions, taking their language with them, some arriving in Greece by 2000 BCE, and others to India in 1500 BCE. From there, the languages started to morph into varieties into what we find today as Greek, Sanskrit and Latin. This is known as the Kurgan hypothesis, which basically means it is all speculation, or more diplomatically called a “model.”
         Another theory is that the Proto-Indo-European language was spoken by a people who lived about 6000 years ago in the vicinity of the Pontic Steppe, north of the Black Sea and east of the Caspian, near where the Scythians were supposed to have lived. It is then suggested that this PIE language faded away before there was the invention of a writing system, and then the Indo-Europeans expanded from the homeland, thus causing the evolution of the language into various dialects and incomprehensible daughter languages. These languages also evolved, giving birth to each of their own family of languages.
         We also have the Anatolian Hypothesis. This theory, proposed by archaeologist Colin Renfrew at Cambridge University in 1987, holds that the Indo-European languages were spread not by marauding horsemen from the Caucuses but with the expansion of agriculture from Anatolia between 8000 and 9500 years ago. Radiocarbon analysis of the earliest Neolithic sites across Europe provides a fairly detailed chronology of agricultural dispersal. This archaeological evidence indicates that agriculture spread from Anatolia, arriving in Greece at some time during the seventh millennium BCE and reaching as far as the British Isles by 5500 years ago.
         Renfrew maintains that the linguistic argument for the Kurgan theory is based on only limited evidence for a few enigmatic early Indo-European word forms. He points out that parallel semantic shifts or widespread borrowing can produce similar word forms across different languages without requiring that an ancestral term was present in a proto-language. Renfrew also challenges the idea that Kurgan social structure and technology was sufficiently advanced to allow them to conquer whole continents in a time when even small cities did not exist. Far more credible, he argues, is that Proto-Indo-Europeans spread with the expansion of agriculture – a scenario that is also thought to have occurred across the Pacific, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
         So, as we can see, most of these ideas are but speculations that remain ever-changing, or, to put it plainly, inconclusive. Nonetheless, some people think that the original language has indeed already been identified, and has been around for thousands of years, if not longer, which is Sanskrit, which is the oldest of all languages and from which all other languages are but derivatives. Whatever factors for a Proto-Indo-European language the scholars are looking for can be found in Sanskrit. No other language has been identified to be older, or more influential in terms of texts written in Sanskrit, or how many other languages can be found that relate to it. So let us take a closer look at this.

         As we can see, the above theories are all hypothesis, or speculations which have not and cannot decisively identify who were the original bearers of the primeval language, or what that language really was. Even if these are considered the general consensus in academia, these theories are still too full of discrepancies to be taken seriously when analyzed in detail.
         However, we can offer other evidence that should be considered. Of course, we acknowledge the idea that there had to have been many kinds of minor languages scattered across the globe, but we also propose the idea that there was one major sophisticated language that had great influence around the world, and which spread in various forms throughout many civilizations, and which is the prime factor for the similarities that we find in many languages today.
         The problem with PIE is that they feel it was never a written language but only the seed for those languages that later did become written languages. So there is no and never will be any direct evidence for it. But they try to find words that can be identified as remnants of the Proto-Indo-European language. This is where all of the speculations begin.
         So, why is this important? Remember, it is a biased interpretation of this Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language issue that has helped continue the idea of the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). This is the idea, another hypothesis, that holds the premise that the Vedic Aryans came out of the Caucasus Mountain area only after they had already developed their language, writing, and the Vedic texts, thus bringing with them the Vedic culture and the early Vedas to the Indus-Sarasvati region of India. This promotes the view that India was not the homeland of the real Vedic culture, and that it was brought to them by outsiders, who some call invaders, who were more advanced. This has perpetuated a false history of India and its Vedic traditions for many years, ever since Max Muller came up with this theory, and this is what must be corrected. That is why there is also a need to correct this Proto-Indo-European issue. [For more information on the Aryan Invasion Theory, please see my article and Ebook entitled: The Aryan Invasion Theory: The Final Nail in its Coffin on my website at]

         There has always been questions about where the original script came from, and how did it originate. However, in this regard, famous archeologist and specialist in scripts, A. B. Walawalkar and scribe L. S. Wakankar have, through their research proved that the Indian script originated in India itself and said that on the basis of phonetics, the tradition of writing was present even in the Vedic times. 1
         The name Sanskrit actually refers to a language brought to formal perfection, aside from the common languages at the time, like Prakrit. The form of Sanskrit that has been used for the last 2500 years or more is commonly known as Classical Sanskrit, which had been established by the ancient grammarians, and most scholars accept that it was finalized by Panini in the 5th century BCE.  That is what became the standard for correct Sanskrit with such comprehensive authority that little has changed it down to the present day. However, even Panini mentions at least ten grammarians who preceded him. So he can not be the earliest of grammarians as some propose, which indicates that Sanskrit had been in use many years before him.
         Kamlesh Kapur provides further insight into Sanskrit writing in her book Portraits of a Nation: History of India: “Sanskrit language is composed of 50 sounds and letters in its alphabet. It has 11,000 roots from which to make words. The English language has 500,000 words. Sanskrit language has 1700 Dhatu (root verbs), 80 Upasargas (suffixes, prefixes), and 20 Pratyaya (declensions). It is believed that Sanskrit has roughly 74,000,000 words. In fact, using these rules and by adding prefixes and suffixes, Sanskrit can provide an infinite number of words whose meaning is completely determined by the grammatical process.
         “Several languages spoken and written today in India have been derivatives of Sanskrit. Bengali, Gurumukhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya and Hindi have been derived from Sanskrit. Languages of the South have been influenced by Sanskrit. Recently, Washoe County of Nevada (USA) proclaimed January 12, 2008 as Sanskrit Day. The proclamation says that, “As Hinduism expands in the West, it is important that to understand Hinduism, one should have a working knowledge of Sanskrit.” 2
         However, India also has a strong tradition in its Vedic culture that describes the possible or at least customary origin of its script. There are a few examples of this. One is that the text known as Yaju Taittariya Samhita tells the story of how the devas faced the problem that since sound vanishes once the words are spoken, what method could be applied to give it shape? So, they went to Indra and said, “Vachanvya kurvit,” which means “grant sound a shape.” Then Indra said that he would have to take the help of Vayu, the wind god. The other gods agreed and Indra gave a shape to sound in the form of the knowledge of writing or script. This is famous as Indra vayavya vyaakaran, or the grammar pertaining to the aerial Indra. 3
         Another example gives credit to Lord Shiva. This one describes that with the death of various sages, particular branches of Vedic knowledge started disappearing. So, with a prayer to save them, great sages like Sanaka went to Shiva in the south Indian place of Chidambaram. Hearing their prayers, Lord Shiva strummed his damru instrument nine and then five more times during the interval of his cosmic dance. Thus, fourteen sources of sound were born. These came to be known as the Maheshwar Sutra. 4
         Another story from the Vedic tradition is that when the great Vedavyas was thinking of writing the Mahabharata, he faced the problem of who would write it. To solve this problem he thought of Ganesh. When Ganesh came, Vedavyas said, “You be the writer of the Bharat Granth.” Ganesh agreed only if Vedavyas would not pause or stop, and Vedavyas agreed as long as Ganesh would not write anything unless he understood the meaning of everything that Vedavyas dictated. This was supposed to have happened shortly after the beginning of the age of Kali-yuga began, which is accepted to be in the year 3102 BCE. So there had to have been the knowledge of the Sanskrit script at that time, as well as the oral tradition that went back many thousands of years before this.
         Nonetheless, the archeologist Balawalkarji studied the scripts of the ancient coins and proved that it was mainly the Maheshwari script which was the Vedic script. According to him, it was only later that the Brahmi and the Nagari script developed from this. This is important as some people propose that Sanskrit came out of the preceding Brahmi script, which is not the case.

         No doubt one of the greatest contributions from Vedic culture is the script and language of Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the language of ancient India and of Vedic philosophy and its civilization. It is a perfect language, which also invokes the spiritual vibration of which it speaks. It is a refined language, but also most self-protective in the way it manages to maintain the original meaning that it presents, as long as a person properly understands Sanskrit grammar and syntax. In other words, when translated according to the rules of the Sanskrit language, you cannot take the interpretation far outside its firsthand intention without giving up all of the rules of Sanskrit.
         A. L. Basham, former professor of Asian Civilization in the Australian national University, Canberra, writes in his book The Wonder That Was India (page 390): “One of ancient India’s greatest achievements is her remarkable alphabet, commencing with the vowels and followed by the consonants, all classified very scientifically according to their mode of production, in sharp contrast to the haphazard and inadequate Roman alphabet, which has developed organically for three millennia. It was only on the discovery of Sanskrit by the West that a science of phonetics arose in Europe.”
         Basham goes on to say (page 509): “It will be seen that this alphabet is methodical and scientific, its elements classified first into vowels and consonants, and then, within each section, according to the manner in which the sound is formed. The gutturals are formed by the construction of the throat at the back of the tongue, the palatals by pressing the tongue flat against the palate, the retro-flexes by turning up the tip of the tongue to touch the hard palate, the dentals by touching the upper teeth with the tongue, and the labials by pursuing the lips.”
         Furthermore, Sanskrit or remnants of it can be found in so many other languages around the world, that a person can begin to say that it may have been the original language that the world first new. In almost all languages, like Greek, French, English, Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Indian, Mayan, Slavic, Russian, and the Sanskrit derivatives like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, or Malayalam, Sanskrit words are found everywhere. Either people speaking Sanskrit carried them all over the world, or Sanskrit was the one world or main language, traces of which linger in all languages around the planet.
         This is one of the reasons, however, why some people have felt that Sanskrit was one of several ancient languages that descended from another common ancestor. One of those people was the English poet, Jurist and scholar, Sir William Jones, who, in 1783, was appointed a justice of the High Court of Bengal. He began to study Sanskrit and wrote and published his high impression of Sanskrit: “The Sanskrit language, whatever may be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek; more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar; than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philosopher could examine them all three without believing them to have sprung from some common source which, perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanskrit.”
         Sir William Jones in Asiatic Researches, Vol. I (p. 423)  also asserted the means by which the similarities in many languages, especially of the Indo-European group, is supplied by Sanskrit: “Deonagri [devanagari] is the original source whence the alphabets of Western Asia were derived.”
         Mr. Pococke also relates: “The Greek language is a derivative from the Sanskrit.” 5 The learned Dr. Pritchard also says: “The affinity between the Greek language and the old Parsi and Sanskrit is certain and essential. The use of cognate idioms proves the nations who used them to have descended from one stock. That the religion of the Greeks emanated from an Eastern source no one will deny. We must therefore suppose the religion as well as the language of Greece to have been derived in great part immediately from the East.” 6
         In this way, the idea started that there was a previous language that was the seed of the others, namely Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. They named this imaginary ancestor as Proto-Indo-European, or Proto-Indo-Germanic language. However, they have failed to find this imaginary language for the last 150 years. Plus, they will never find it because there was no such language. Nonetheless, not everyone agreed with this idea that Sanskrit was merely a part of a Proto-Indo-European language.
         For example, even the British scholar Thomas Maurice, editor of the seven volumes of Indian Antiquities, mentions in Volume IV that Halhead, the first European Sanskrit scholar, “seems to hint that it (Sanskrit) was the original language of the earth. All Western scholars who readily apply their mind to the problem will find themselves concurring with Halhead that Sanskrit is the oldest language and that it was spoken all over the world. Other world languages are shattered and twisted bits of Sanskrit.”
         The Great Sanskrit scholar Franz Bopp wrote in his Edinborough Review (Volume 33, page 43): “At one time Sanskrit was the one language spoken all over the world.”
         As the study and interest in Sanskrit grew, there were many scholars and researchers who gave praise to it. In 1777, the French astronomer Bailly figured that the earliest humans had to have been located on the banks of the Ganges. Bailly also once stated, “The Brahmans are the teachers of Pythagoras, the instructors of Greece, and through her the whole of Europe.” 7
         Voltaire also opined, “In short, Sir, I am convinced that everything–astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc.–comes to us from the banks of the Ganges.” 8
         The French naturalist and traveler Pierre de Sonnerat (1782) also believed all knowledge came from India, which he considered the cradle of the human race. 9
         Then in 1807, Schelling, a metaphysician who was well-known in his day, wondered “what is Europe really but a sterile trunk which owes everything to Oriental grafts.” 10
         In 1808, Friedrich von Schlegel argued that “the Northwest of India must be considered the central point from which all of these nations had their origin.” 11  Schlegel, who also helped popularize German interest in Sanskrit, in his study of comparative grammar came to the conclusion that “the Indian language is older, the other younger and derived from it.”
         In 1845, Eichhoff boldly proclaimed that “all Europeans come from the Orient. This truth, which is confirmed by the evidence of physiology and linguistics, no longer needs special proof.” 12  And this, I might add, is before genetics confirmed the same thing.
 In 1828, Vans Kennedy related, “Sanscrit itself is the primitive language from which the Greek, Latin, and the mother of the Teutonic dialects were originally derived.” 13
         Then in 1855, Lord A. Curzon, the British governor-general of India and later chancellor of Oxford, was fully convinced that “the race of India branched out and multiplied into that of the great Indo-European family.... The Aryans, at a period as yet undetermined, advanced toward and invaded the countries to the west and north-west of India, conquered the various tribes who occupied the land.” 14
         Michelet was another that had the opinion that the Vedas “were undoubtedly the first monument of the world”,15 and that India “emanated a torrent of light and the flow of reason and Right.”16 
         Plus, Godfrey Higgins, in his book The Celtic Druids (page 61), writes: “There are many objections to the derivation of the Latin from the Greek. Latin exhibits many terms in a more rude form than Greek. Latin was derived from Sanskrit.”
         The roots of many languages are found in Sanskrit, which some called the mother of all languages, distinguished from the rest by its longevity, stability of form over the many millennia, and showed the status of a sacred language. The fact is that the farther back in time we trace the European languages, the more they begin to resemble Sanskrit. The farther we go back in time, the more we see that European and Vedic culture coalesce.
         Sri Aurobindo observed that Sanskrit is “one of the most magnificent, the most perfect and wonderfully sufficient literary instruments developed by human mind... at once majestic and sweet and flexible, strong and clearly formed and full and vibrant and subtle...” 17
         We can see many Sanskrit words in other languages, or continuations of them in Lithuanian, Russian, or English. In fact, there are many words in Lithuanian that are related to or a part of Sanskrit.  I have already spent a chapter or two of my book Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence comparing Sanskrit with numerous English words, so we will not go into it here.
         One of the reasons why remnants of Sanskrit appear in places around the world, since Sanskrit was the language of early India, or Bharatvarsha, was that people of the region spread or migrated to other parts of the world. Then they named oceans, rivers, mountains, and regions with Sanskrit names. Anybody can see this if they are simply a little educated in it. For example, we can see it in names like Indonesia, Indochina, West Indies, etc., or in other places we have Afghanistan, Baluchastan, Turkasthan, Kurdisthan, Kazaksthan, and Uzbekisthan, all which show the Sanskrit based sthan, and which gives a hint of the past influence of the global Vedic tradition. Looking further, there are also many Sanskrit names in the countries of the Far East and South Pacific.
         Unfortunately, the similarities in languages were used to help support the Aryan Invasion Theory, the idea that Sanskrit and the Vedic culture came into ancient India from outside. But more than anything, it was not that Sanskrit traveled into India, but that it traveled west and was then adopted to varying degrees by others, thus giving way to what had been called the Proto-Indo-European language that was supposed to have pre-dated Sanskrit. Of course, this has yet to be proved, and the idea came about mostly because of the Euro-centric way of looking at things. With new evidence that has come out, we can conclude that there was a westward movement or migration of people out of India that brought Sanskrit with them, which was absorbed into the existing languages of several central and west Asian regions.
         With the advanced nature of the Sanskrit language and alphabet, some feel that, like the traditional source of the Vedas, Sanskrit was given by Divinity to humanity. It could not have been developed by the slow process of a human agency. After all, in the time period in which Sanskrit appeared, mankind was considered by some to be barbarians. But how could such a people, if that is what they were, develop such a refined language like Sanskrit? For such a language to appear, it would have to come from an equally refined and advanced civilization. Otherwise, why, after thousands of years of our advanced scientific civilization, have we not seen a better or more sophisticated language?
         To help substantiate this, we can relate the following quote which appeared in the 1985 spring issue of AI (Artificial Intelligence) magazine, written by NASA researcher Rick Briggs: “In the past 20 years, much time, effort, and money have been expended on designing an unambiguous representation of natural languages to make them accessible to computer processing. These efforts have centered around creating schemata designed to parallel logical relations expressed by the syntax and semantics of natural languages, which are clearly cumbersome and ambiguous in their function as vehicles for the transmission of logical data. Understandably, there is a widespread belief that natural languages are unsuitable for the transmission of many ideas that artificial languages can render with great precision and mathematical rigor. But this dichotomy, which has served as a premise underlying much work in the areas of linguistics and artificial intelligence, is a false one.
         “There is at least one language, Sanskrit, which for the duration of almost 1000 years was a loving spoken language with a considerable literature of its own. Besides works of literary value, there was a long philosophical and grammatical tradition that has continued to exist with undiminished vigor until the present century. Among the accomplishments of the grammarians can be reckoned a method for paraphrasing Sanskrit in a manner that is identical not only in essence but in form with current work in Artificial Intelligence.”
         On another level, the ancients and rishis called Sanskrit the language of the gods, or devevani or devabhasha. The script was called devanagari, the script of the gods. And the fact is, the most spiritual of Vedic literature is in Sanskrit. In the Rig Veda, Sanskrit has been called vacho aggram, or the earliest language. It is no doubt the main language used by the great rishis or sages to disseminate the knowledge of enlightenment that had been received by them ever since the time of the universal creation. Sanskrit was able to invoke the spiritual energy of which it speaks, and the vibration for propelling the consciousness to the higher realms it depicts. The great epics and codes of knowledge are all in Sanskrit. Even the great acharyas, like Shankar, Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha, and other poets and philosophers wrote in Sanskrit. Sanskrit stood for at least three millennia, if not much longer, as the carrier of Vedic thought before its dominance gradually gave way to the vernacular dialects that eventually evolved from it as the modern languages of Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and so on. 
         There are officially 25 languages in India, along with 33 different languages and 2000 some dialects that are known to be used. In this regard Will Durant relates in Our Oriental Heritage (p. 406): “The Sanskrit of the Vedas and the epics has already earmarks of a classical and literary tongue, used only by scholars and priests; the very word Sanskrit means ‘prepared, pure, perfect, sacred.’ The language of the people in the Vedic age was not one but many; each tribe had its own Aryan dialect. India has never had one language.”

         The grammar of Sanskrit is also known to be without comparison. Sir William Wilson Hunter wrote in The Indian Empire: “The grammar of Panini stands supreme among the grammars of the world, alike for its precision of statement and for its thorough analysis of the roots of the language and of the formative principles of words. By applying an algebraical terminology, it attains a sharp succinctness unrivaled in brevity. It arranges in logical harmony the whole phenomenon which the Sanskrit language presents and stands forth as one of the most splendid achievements of human invention and industry. So elaborate is the structure that doubts have arisen whether its innumerable rules of formation and phonetic change, its polysyllabic derivatives, its ten conjugations with its multiform aorist and long array of tenses could even have been the spoken language of a people.” 19
         Though we give much credit to Panini for being one of the first if not the first grammarian of Sanskrit, we should still remember that in his writings, Panini himself mentions at least 10 grammarians who preceded him. 18
         Mrs. Manning also relates: “Sanskrit grammar is evidently far superior to the kind of grammar which for the most part has contented grammarians in Europe.” 20
         Mr. Elphinstone agrees in the same way: “His (Panini’s) works and those of his successors have established a system of grammar, the most complete that ever was employed in  arranging elements of humans speech.” 21
         Professor Sir Monier Williams says: “The grammar of Panini is one of the most remarkable literary works that the world has ever seen, and no other country can produce any grammatical system at all comparable to it, ether for originality or plan or analytical subtlety. . .  His Sastras are a perfect miracle of condensation.” 22
         Furthermore, it is known that Sanskrit was a vocal tradition long before it was put into written form. This tends to show that Sanskrit had been existing for many years before Panini, and that Panini may have also existed at a much earlier time period than many people think.
         The fact that Panini listed previous philologists indicates that there had to have been a fully existing language of Sanskrit in ancient India long before he formed his book on Sanskrit grammar. Otherwise, the complex literature could not have been passed down to future generations to continue in such a flawless manner in an oral tradition. Panini did not develop Sanskrit but only compiled the rules of Sanskrit.
         Dr. Cardona, a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, a known Panini grammarian, places Panini in the 6th century BCE, but believes that Panini could have been much earlier. In this regard, Count Bjornstjerna, even with what early evidence he could uncover, writes in his Theogony of Hindoos that Hindus possessed written texts of religion before 2800 BCE. So it is likely that it could have been long before then.
         The earliest of glossaries on Vedic words goes back to the Nighantu, written by the ancient etymologist Yaska. Yaska explained that he compiled this based on previous glossaries, the most important of which was the Nighantuka-Padakhyana, which is attributed to Kashyapa Prajapati. Yaksa himself described at least twelve previous etymologists before him. As listed in his Nirukta, it includes Aupamanyava (Nirukta 1.1), Audambarayana (1.1), Varshayayani (1.2), Gargya (1.3), Shakatayana (1.3), Agrayana (1.9), Shakapuni (2.8), Aurnavabha (2.26), Taitiki (4.3), Sthaulastivi (7.14), Kraustuki (8.2), and Kathakya (8.5). So his own commentary, the Nirukta, is based on a long tradition of Vedic Sanskrit, and was a compilation and codification of the etymological knowledge that went all the way back to the pre-historic time of Kashyapa Muni.
         Obviously, Sanskrit was the earliest of developed languages, and no country but ancient India, and no language except Sanskrit can boast of a possession so ancient or venerable. No people but the Hindus, the Vedic Aryans, can show such a sacred heirloom in its history, so high in its grandeur and glory when compared with other languages. The Vedas and Vedic literature, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, serve as a beacon of divine light for the onward progress for humanity.

         Sanskrit is the foundation of Vedic literature, which is the basis of the Vedic philosophy. The Vedic literature is a complete library for understanding life, the purpose of the creation, how the cosmos manifested, and what is the spiritual identity of the individual soul, Supersoul, and Supreme Being; plus, the relationship between them, and the pathways for directly realizing and perceiving these. This is what is called Sanatana-dharma, the eternal duty of life and the eternal state of being, meaning complete harmony and balance that we should all reach. This is the main purpose of the human form of life according to the Vedic system.
          The original compositions of many of the Vedic hymns were given credit to the early sages or seers, such as Brigu, Angirasa, Marichi, Atri, Vashistha and his brother Agastya, and Vishvamitra. It was Brigu, Angirasa, Marichi, and Atri from whom came the seven rishis (Saptarishis) who became the main lineages or gotras that we refer to today. These consist of: Jamadagni from Bhrigu; Bharadvaja from Angirasa; Gautama from Angirasa; Kashyapa; Vashistha from Marichi; Agastya from Marichi; Atri; and Vishvamitra from Atri. It is said that Bhrigu and his descendants lived in the western part of the Asian subcontinent and Vashistha and Vishvamitra lived in the Sarasvati region. Later, the great sage Vedavyasa compiled it all into written form. (A detailed analysis of the Vedic literature and its numerous books has been provided in a previous book of mine called The Heart of Hinduism. So I will not included that elaboration here.) 
         The point to remember is that the Vedic literature held universal spiritual knowledge. Even the Puranas, which are considered to be the interplanetary histories and elaborations of the spiritual knowledge of the Vedic samhitas, such as the Rig, Sama, Atharva, and Yajur Vedas, are said to be universal in nature. In other words, they were not exclusive to the region of India.
         One little story that can help point this out is how, with the use of the Vedic knowledge, the source of the Nile River was found. The British explorer John Hanning Speke, who in 1862 discovered the Nile in Lake Victoria, acknowledged that the Egyptians themselves did not have any idea of where the Nile’s source was located. However, it was from British Lt. Colonel Wilford’s description of the Hindus’ intimate awareness with ancient Egypt that led Speke to Ripon Falls, at the edge of Lake Victoria. This was outlined in Wilford’s essay on Egypt from the Puranas, called Ancient Book of the Hindus’ Asiatic Researches (Vol. III, 1792). What was also most helpful was that Lieutenant Speke constructed a map based on the information from the Puranas, as described in his book, Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile (1863). He explained, “All our previous information concerning the hydrography of these regions originated with the ancient Hindus who told it to the priests of the Nile; and all these busy Egyptian geographers who disseminated their knowledge with a view to be famous for their long-sightedness, in solving the mystery which enshrouded the source of their holy river, were so many hypothetical humbugs. The Hindu traders had a firm basis to stand upon through their intercourse with the Abyssinians.”
         Thus, the map coursed the river through Kushadvipa, from a great lake in Chandristhan, “Country of the Moon,” while it gave the correct position in relation to the Zanzibar islands. Speke wrote that some Hindu Pundits knew the Nile as Nila and Kaali. The word Nile means blue and Kali means dark, which were appropriate descriptions of the Nile River. Their names are mentioned in some Puranas, including the Bhavishya. This went against the idea of that time because Lake Victoria was unknown then.
         Sir Richard Burton, the leader of the Nile expedition had identified Lake Tangyanika as the source. Speke, however, following the advice of a Benares Pundit insisted that the real source was a much larger lake that lay to the north. By following this advice, Speke was able to discover Lake Victoria and the source of the Nile. The Pundit also told him that the real source were the twin peaks known as Somagiri. Soma in Sanskrit indicates the moon, and giri means hill or mountain. Thus, Somagiri indicated the fabled Mountains of the Moon in Central Africa.
         The wonderful inventive genius and high level of consciousness of the Vedic Aryans enabled them to produce or utilize a language which contributed materially in the creation of a literature that remains unparalleled for richness, sublimity and range. The particular beauty inherent in the language of such intellectual powers were greatly enhanced by the scientific upbringing that had developed into what is now such a model of perfection that it was known as devanagari, or the language of the gods.
         Professor Monier Williams was also highly impressed with the Ramayana. He had written: “Ramayana is undoubtedly one of the greatest treasures in Sanskrit literature.” However, later he went into more detail on his appreciation for it: “There is not in the whole range of Sanskrit literature a more charming poem than the Ramayana. The classical purity, clearness and simplicity of its style, the exquisite touches of true poetic feeling with which it abounds, its graphic descriptions of heroic incidents, nature’s grandest scenes, the deep acquaintance it displays with the conflicting workings and most refined emotions of the human heart, all entitle it to rank among the most beautiful compositions that have appeared at any period or in any country. It is like a spacious and delightful garden, here and there allowed to run wild, but teeming with fruits and flowers, watered by perennial streams, and even its most tangled jungle intersected with delightful pathways. The character of Rama is nobly portrayed... ” 23
         The Mahabharata also was not in want of its western admirers, even from years ago, such as Dr. F. A. Hassler of America, in his letter to P. C. Roy, dated July 21, 1888, which was published in P. C. Roy’s English translation of the Mahabharata: “In all my experience in life, I have not found a work that has interested me as much as that noble production of the wise, and I do not hesitate to say, inspired men of ancient India. In fact I have studied it more than any other work for a long time past, and have made at least 1,000 notes which I have arranged in alphabetical order for the purpose of study. The Mahabharata has opened to me, as it were, a new world, and I have been surprised beyond measure at the wisdom, truth, knowledge, and love of the right which I have found displayed in its pages. Not only so, but I have found many of the truths which my own heart has taught me in regard to the Supreme Being and His creations set forth in beautiful, clear language.”
         The early American ethnologist, Jeremiah Curtin, who also had written to Baba P. C. Roy about his edition of the Mahabharata, also had deep appreciation for what he found within it. He relates in his letter, which appeared in Part XXX of the book: “I have just finished reading carefully from beginning to end, 24 numbers of your translation of the Mahabharata, and can honestly say that I have never obtained more pleasure from reading any book in my life. The Mahabharata will open the eyes of the world to the true character and intellectual rank of the Aryans of India. You are certainly doing a great work... The Mahabharata is a real mine of wealth not entirely unknown, I suppose, at present to any man outside your country, but which will be known in time and valued in all civilized lands for the reason that it contains information of the highest import to all men who seek to know in singleness of heart, the history of our race upon the earth, and the relations of man with the Infinite Power above us, around us and in us.”
         This shows the power of Sanskrit and what it has retained through the years, and how it is certainly one of the most powerful and original if not the seed of all other languages. This also shows that it is not a matter of proselytizing, but only a matter of sharing the Vedic knowledge and wisdom with others that will attract numerous people to find that the deeper levels of spirituality that they are looking for is already existing and waiting for them within the texts of the Vedic literature.
[Most of this is taken from a chapter from Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture by Stephen Knapp]
1. Suresh Soni, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 199.
2. Kamlesh Kapur, Portraits of a Nations: History of India, Sterling Publishers, Private Limited, 2010, p. 401.
3. Suresh Soni, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 199.
4. Ibid., p. 200.
5. Pococke, India in Greece, p. 18. 
6. Pritchard, Dr. Pritchard’s Physical History of Man, Vol. I, p.  502. 
7. Jean-Sylvan Bailly, Lettres sur l’origine des sciences et sur celle des peuples de l’Asie, Paris, Freres Bebure, 1777, p. 51.
8. Ibid., 1777, p. 4.
9. Pierre Sonnerat, Voyages aux Indes Orientales et la Chine, Paris, 1782.
10. L. Poliakov, The Aryan Myth, Sussex University Press, London, 1971, p. 11.
11. Friedrich von Schlegel, Uber die Sprache und die Weisheit der Indier, Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and Hindistory of Linguistic Science, Amsterdam, Benjamins, 1977, p.  505
12. E. W. Eichhoff, Vergleichung der Sprachen von Europa und Indien, Schrey, Leipzig, 1845. 
13. Vans Kennedy, Researches into the Origin and Affinity of the Principal Languages of Asia and Europe, Longman, London, 1828, p. 196. 
14. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 16, 172-173.
15. J. Michelet, Bible de l’humanite, Paris, Chamerot, 1864, p. 26.
16. Ibid., p. 485.
17. Pride of India: A Glimpse into India’s Scientific Heritage, Samskriti Bharati, New Delhi, 2006, p. 130.
18. Nicholas Kazanas, Indo-Aryan Origins and Other Vedic Issues, by Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 2009, p. 199.
19. Imperial Gazetteer of India, Art, “India”, p. 214. 
20. Ancient and Medieval India, Vol. I, p. 381.
21. Elphinstone’s History of India, p. 146.
22. Monier Williams, Indian Wisdom, p. 172.
23. Indian Epic Poetry, p. 12.