Sunday, January 10, 2010

501 Fascinating Facts

The Sanskrit word for 'essence' is 'sattva'. That literally means 'is-ness' or 'being-ness', with 'sat' being the participle (noun-ified version of a verb) of 'as', 'to be'. Later connotations have taken on a meaning of 'goodness', via the idea that something is truly itself only when it is at its 'best'.

Curiously, the word 'essence' follows in the same way from the Latin verb for being, 'esse' :-)


Srikanth said...

Fascinating, certainly, but not surprising, is it, considering there are way too many similarities between samskritam and Latin. :-)

Good find, nevertheless! :-)

PS said...

Try tackling the Naasadiya Sukta as your next Sanskrit project.

Varun Narasimhachar said...

astitva, bhuutaartha, &c.

KVM said...

Thanks, I want to make this something of a series.

Yes, there are so many similarities that a common ancestor, PIE, is posited. My friends who have studied Greek find so many cognates in nearly every other line in the Sanskrit text we read! I can imagine it was a pleasant surprise for the 19th century indologists (Monier-Williams, Max Müller, , and they could have (and did) hit the ground running with work on Sanskrit :-)

KVM said...

Will try, sir! Surely, he who sits in the highest heaven knows when I can get myself to sit down to do it. Or maybe not ;-)

KVM said...

I'm sorry, I don't fully understand your point... astitva is on the same principles, but 'bhU' is a monster root that can mean anything on earth or heaven :)

Also, 'astitva' is commonly translated as 'existence'. Existence is a curious beast - ex + sistere "out + cause to stand" (sistere is the causative form of 'sta', "stand", which is identical to sanskrit 'Sthaa', from which comes tishthati). So for the Romans, existence was about 'making it stand forth' :-)

It's interesting how the meanings of sattva and astitva differ - sattva is from the present participle, while astitva is almost like a neologism, straight from the present 3rd sing.

Varun Narasimhachar said...

No, I was not trying to show that these are cognate with any European words, "existence" for instance, but just that they too come from the verb for being. In this context, bhuu is to manifest. bhuutaartha is kind of like "that which has come to pass".

Existence seems to reflect a typical European conqueror's philosophy --- being in itself does not amount even to our modern notion of "existence"; one has to "stand out" in order to be said to exist!