Language, like a magnet, becomes charged with what it was used for. If a language is used for expressing abstract concepts that uplift the mind, it becomes charged with that. If a language is used repeatedly for nature/love poetry and bhakti poetry that move the heart, it becomes charged with that.

English is a language specialized in materialism: reductionistic science, technology, pop culture, sound bites, marketing. In contrast, Tamil/Sanskrit family of languages have thousands of years of experiences in a holistic science and the resulting spiritual technology – such as the means of seeking and expressing higher states of consciousness.

This why even simple sentences always run as lengthy translations in English, often accompanied by lengthy explanations and metaphors desperately trying to recreate the same expression. English is inadequately equipped to express profound thoughts in the realm of spirituality. This is because for the most part of Western civilization, spirituality was restrained/hijacked by religion/the Church and divorced from mainstream thought and academics.

Western classical literature and Eastern classical literature represent two different world-views, like the differences between Western classical music and Indian classical music. Listening to the two types of music, one can see that the former (whether it be Mozart, Bach, or Beethoven) is about “man over nature (control/domination)” and sounds like an emotional roller coaster ride (regardless of whether it calms or excites you), while the later is about “man in harmony with nature”.

Word-by-word translation, allows the person to actually learn that language, to sink into the mode of that language, thereby appreciating the expressiveness and fluidity of the language – such as the curvilinear elegance and emotional intelligence of Tamil that operates on the heart, or the energy charged vibrational intelligence of Sanskrit that operates on the mind. I believe they are both complementary – if Tamil represents yin, Sanskrit represents yang. Regardless of which you start with, they approach each other, elevating the heart/mind into the lofty heights of the transcendental (start with bhakti, you get jnana; start with jnana, you get bhakti).

I’m not an expert in either, but I find Sanskrit a lot more easier to translate than classical Tamil. Even the word-by-word breakdown of classical Tamil was difficult. Like within a short time of learning Sanskrit, I can understand the Bhagavad Gita. But even with Tamil as my native language, I still find it difficult to read classical Tamil. I suppose it’s because most of classical Tamil literature is poetry (much of it is bhakti poetry) — as opposed to Sanskrit stotrams repackaged as bhakti poetry. Sanskrit stotrams and bhajans can induce bhakti no doubt, but they’re far from resembling any form of poetry. In contrast, poetry predominates Tamil classical literature. I wouldn’t be surprised if bhakti poetry in other Indian languages have similar difficulty in translation (like for instance the Bengali bhakti poetry of Ram Prasad). Getting back to my opening point: a language over several centuries of evolution, becomes charged, with what it was used for.

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