Sanskrit Reading Group
For the past year, students have had a chance to participate in a Sanskrit reading group in order to practice and improve their Sanskrit. This interview is with August Sundin, who agreed to share a little bit about the group.
Could you introduce the group and the kinds of texts you are reading?
The first semester that this group met online Jasmijn (Olk) invited a lot of different professors. The idea was to have a different teacher lead every session to have a grasp at different kinds of Sanskrit literature and to have an introduction to a variety of texts. I did a class where we went through the Aśokāvadāna. Joseph LaRose led one class on the Koṭikarṇāvadāna from the Divyāvadāna. We also went through some tantra readings with Ryan Damron. The idea was to go through as broad a range of texts as possible. How we approached it varied from person to person, in some cases the idea behind it was that the people in the group prepare different sections and then they read out their translation. We would talk about the different ways to interpret it, and then the teacher would give their interpretation of the passage. Sometimes the teacher would just go over the text and in the end leave it open for questions. What was particularly interesting was looking at non-standardized Sanskrit texts. In a lot of introductory Sanskrit classes, the language looks highly standardized. When you look at texts it’s a lot more fluid than you would think.
At the end of the 1st semester, Julian Schott led one session, and we managed to get through a small section of a text. We decided for the following semester, we would just go through the same text with him, repeatedly, whenever we would meet as a group. It was a text by Tilopa, with a corresponding commentary in Sanskrit.
How do you think the online platform has affected this group and how would it be different if it was in a normal setting on campus?
I think the online platform was good for getting a large diversity of people, so there was a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to normally attend RYI in Nepal. We were also able to get a lot of professors and teachers who wouldn’t normally be able to lead the group. If the group had been going on physically, the set up would have been different. In an actual physical group there is a much more direct engagement with the teacher. In the online setting people can be a bit more shy, not as prone to asking questions. So in a physical setting it would not be in the same format. We wouldn’t have the same variety of teachers, and probably less people overall, but probably it would be a bit more personal.
When is the next meeting and how can I join?
Plans are still in the works. If we do restart, we’ll send an email. We do the group by using the student society on teams, so as a student of RYI it’s quite easy to join the group.
I’d like to thank you all, it worked out really well, it was really great to have all these teachers to lead the groups. It was really nice to have a lot of up and coming Sanskrit students as well.
If you are interested in joining the group, contact August via firstname.lastname@example.org.