Sanskrit for the Hoi Polloi

Are you a web “guru” uploading your “avatar”? Or are you a mere mortal bemoaning your “karma”? What makes you tick, what’s your secret “mantra”? Honestly, I am enchanted when Sanskrit words like avatar, guru, mantra and karma make it to the colloquial Internet world. An oh, I forgot to mention nirvana, which I’m yet to attain. Sanskrit was never for the masses and was used only by the educated elite, so it’s really heartening to see words from this ancient language make it to the mainstream vocabulary.

The Sanskrit language (संस्कृतं saṃskṛtam, संस्कृता वाक् saṃskṛtā vāk) is a classical language of India, a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and one of the 22 official languages of India.

It has a position in the cultures of South and Southeast Asia similar to that of Latin and Greek in Europe, and is a central part of Hindu tradition and Philosophy. However, it was never really spoken by the masses, although many other languages are derived from Sanskrit.

Avatar: Avatar is derived from the Sanskrit word Avatara and means “descent”, common legends include the ten avatars of Vishnu, the ” Preserver”,”a Hindu god. I am surprised that abbreviations for the already short word exist and include ava, avvie and avy but I’m yet to upload my avatar on this blog. Neal Stephenson is credited with using this word to connote online virtual bodies

Karma: Karma is an ancient word and concept referring to the cycle of cause and effect. See my earlier post on karma capitalism
Guru: Guru refers to a subject matter expert and is quite a popular world in regular parlance, especially in high-tech circles

I wonder what Sanskrit word will hit the hoi polloi next – moksha perhaps?


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