Pronunciation and Phonetics

Learning proper pronunciation can be done without much knowledge of phonetics, actually. A basic knowledge, however, helps to make pronunciation clearer and thus facilitates the process of learning how to speak a foreign language properly.

eAmbalam introduces a phonetic chart which is based on Dhevanagari script. The sounds of vowels and consonants and other speech sounds in Sanskrit and the languages which have completely or mostly borrowed from it can be covered with the help of the chart. A few other sounds common to some languages in this group and outside are also put in. Unique sounds of some languages are specified too.

Diacritical marks are used to aid perfect pronunciation. World over, these marks have been created and propagated by scholars to make understanding of the differences in speech sounds in different languages better. Team eAmbalam also has created a phonetic chart which helps even first timers to pronounce words accurately.

Our Phonetic chart is unique, comprehensive, learner friendly and is divided into four columns wherein:
  • In the first column, the letter is written with the associated diacritical mark.
  • In the second column, an example is given in Dhevanagari language containing the letter.
  • In the third column, an example is given in English, which contains the sound closes to the letter or instructions in few cases, to facilitate better understanding.
  • In the fourth column, an audio button is placed with the help of which you can hear the actual pronunciation of the letter.
An open minded approach with the above introduction and guidelines will definitely enable the user to understand the speech sounds of any language and pronounce it like a native, which is eAmbalam’s aim in this exercise.

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
A or a Aḍavu Arise
Ā or ā Ānanda Vast
I or i Indhira Sing
Ī or ī Īśha Meal
U or u U ṣhā Good
Ū or ū Ū rdhhva Boost
R or r Riṣh i Try
Ṛ or ṛ Ni ṛ uti Grr!
Lr or lr   Pronounce L and R together.
E or e Eka Ate
AI or ai Aikya Sight
O or o Ojas Robe
AU or au Audh ā rya Now
A M or am Śhiva m Drum
A HA or aha R ā ma ha Aha!
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
KA or ka Kavi Car
KHA or kha Khalu Mark -Him
GA or ga Gamana Gut
GHA or gha Ghata Ugh!
Ṅ A or ṅa Tura ṅ ga Ring
CHA or ca Chakra Chart
CHHA or cha Chhandas Branch
JA or ja Jagath Jug
JHA or jha Jhallari Fudge
NYA or nya Gnyana Knew
Ṭ A or ṭ Ṭ anka Top
ṬHA or ṭha Pāṭha Pothole
ḌA or da Ḍ amaruka Dog
Ḍ HA or ḍ ha Mūḍ ha Madhouse
Ṇ A or ṇ a Ga ṇ a Wander
THA or tha Thanu Health
THHA or thha Athha Theater
DHA or dha Dha śha This
DHHA or dhha Dhhana m Dha with an additional H sound
NA or na Namask ā raha Nut
PA or pa   Path ā ka Past
PHA or pha Phala m P with a H sound
BA or ba Bandhhu Ball
BHA or bha Bhadra Abhor
MA or ma Manas Money
YA or ya Yama Yummy
RA or ra Rajas Rub
LA or la Lath ā Lust
VA or WA, va /wa A śh va or A śhwa Water/Valour
ŚHA or śha Śhakthi Shutter
ṢHA or ṣ ha Ṣh a ṇ mukha Shunt
SA or sa Sarasvatī Sun
HA or ha Hari Hum
Ḷ A or ḷ a Ar āḷ a Bold
KṢHA or k ṣ ha Ak ṣh i Try to pronounce Ka, Sa & Ha – all at one time.
Extra Vowels in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada & Malayalam Scripts    
É or é Éṇi Angel
Ō or ō Ō m Ō M
ZHA Exclusive to Tamil & Malayalam Fold the tip of your tongue backwards and try to pronounce it with the aid of the audio button.
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Suthra 2

 Sūthra – 2 “yogah chitthavrutthinirodhaha”

  1. Pathanjali’s definition of Yoga is given in the above sūthra chitthavrutthinirodhaha. This is a ‘lakṣhana’ sūthra meaning a ‘definitive’ sūthra. The words translate as ‘mind activity channel’ (where channel is a verb). In other words, yoga is to channel mind’s activity so as to attain a defined goal as we have seen before in the definition ‘aprāpthasya prāpthihi yogaha!
  2. There is no exact equivalent in English for the word ‘chittha’. It is that something in us that gives us a sense of being the boss or being in command. Chittha can also be loosely translated as the mind.
  3. Sānkhya says that the mind has three ‘guṇas’ or characteristics namely ‘satthva, ‘rajas’ and ‘thamas’ and it is said that this concept is a unique contribution to the collective wisdom of the world in understanding the mind. Rajas pushes one to action, thamas to indolence and satthva is a that light or clarity which tells one when to act and when to refrain from action. Thamas also means darkness or ignorance. Sānkhya explains the mind can never be predicted by analyzing the nature of the mind!
  4. Every individual has the three guṇas in a certain broad proportion, but at any point of time, there may be a preponderance of one or the other. The way we react to a situation depends on which guṇa is dominant at that point of time. That is why it is very difficult to predict how we may react to a given situation. If agitated we may be in rajas and when we do not act, we may be in thamas.

  5. We do not know why or how one or more guṇas are dominant at any point of time. The so called mood of a person is determined by which guṇa is in dominance then.
  6. While, each guṇa seems in opposition of the other two, at the same time they cooperate in the execution of tasks. An example cited is that of the oil lamp consisting of the wick and the oil. While the flame and the oil can be destructive of each other, we have a steady light instead and when the wick is lit! The illustration in Sānkhya is that of two persons prostrating before each other in a kneeling posture whilst a third stands on their shoulders. Each of the persons represents a guṇa and they can take turns kneeling in support, or, standing on two other supporting shoulders!
  7. A given entity can give rise to conflicting guṇas. For instance a beautiful woman can be create a sense of great satisfaction and happiness to her husband, jealousy to fellow cohorts and envy in other men. And, each of these reactions can trigger the different guṇas.
  8. We have no direct access to satthva, rajas or thamas so as to be able to switch from one to another at will. We also do not know if the guṇa-mix of a person arises from past samskāra or prārabdha karma. But definitely it is not genetic inheritance.
  9. Hot and spicy food with masala can influence rājasic behaviour whilst heavy to digest food can lead to thamas.
  10. There is also a belief that the mix of guṇas are inherent in a person and despite local conditioning to alter the mix, the intrinsic mix will manifest in due course. The story of Bhūmādhevi illustrates this as below:

When Bhūmādhevi (Goddess Earth) gave birth to a son, astrologers predicted that he would be demonic in nature.

To insulate him from harmful worldly influences that might instill a spirit of violence, Bhūmādhevi has the child brought up in a forest devoid of contact with humans and other living beings. Indeed, the boy grows up to afraid of a cow and even a flower! He grows up without playing games and is physically and mentally weak.

As the boy reaches adulthood, Śhukrāchārya, the high priest of the asuras, decides to have the by fetched from the forest so as to crown him king of the asuras.

His emissaries are unable to make contact as the boy runs away in fear on seeing them. A minister sent meets the same fate and he comes back suggesting that it would be pointless to make such a weak and meek fellow king. Śhukrāchārya then sends a set of three strongmen to have the boy beaten up and brought to the court but on seeing the youth they melt in pity and compassion and return empty-handed.

Finally, Sukracharya sends a set of six other strongmen with the instruction that they should under no circumstances take pity on the boy but that they should beat him up enough to fetch him. On being assaulted, the boy becomes uncharacteristically enraged and acquires so much strength as to inflict serious injury on all six of his attackers.

It is then that Śhukrāchārya decides to go the forest himself and meets with boy, unfolds his destiny and persuades him to take on the mantle as ruler of the asuras. The boy agrees, to become eventually, a feared asura king wreaking destruction everywhere.

He also does penance to acquire a boon that he shall not be destroyed by anyone except his mother.

Eventually, he engages in a duel with Kriṣhṇa. Kriṣhṇa has for this duel, Bhāmā, as his charioteer. Kriṣhṇa feigns illness and slumps in his chariot while Bhāmā takes battle to protect Kriṣhṇa. She destroys the asura not realizing then she was in fact a reincarnation of Bhūmādhevi and that the asura she had destroyed was none other than her son. The asura king in question was Narakāsura.

1. This sūthra “yogah chitthavrutthinirodhaha” is called the ‘lakṣhaṇa sūthra’ or a sūthra that postulates, or a sūthra that contains a definition.

2. Let us now try to understand chittha:

  • First, chittha has three qualities or attributes namely, sathva (or prakāśham or light), rajas (or activity) and thamas (inactivity).
  • Chittha can be graphically represented as below:
    • ‘Manas’ is the leader of the senses. All senses or the ‘indhriyas ’ report to the manas i.e. all information from the object world report to the manas. Manas is supposed to control the senses but senses can often control the manas! (For instance, sitting in a yoga class and while listening to the teacher, we instinctively turn to look at someone leaving the class midway. Here the eye (i.e. one of the senses) spots movement and the mind automatically turns the head towards the new object to enable the eye to get a full view. And, other senses also participate in observing the person leave even as the ear is listening to the teacher and the mind is trying to register the meaning of the words being spoken by the teacher).
    • ‘Ahamkāra’ establishes the ‘self’ identity or the sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine’. It may be considered the equivalent of ego. When born, ahamkāra is not there. A new born has no sense of identity or the self. Likewise, a fully mentally retarded person has no ahamkāra. As the child grows up, ahamkāra or self-identity develops. This development can be good or bad.
    • ‘Buddhhi’ is the ability to discriminate and may be identified with the intellect. It is also the ultimate decision maker or executor of decisions. Buddhhi acts on info but by the time info reaches Buddhhi, it would have acquired colorations from the object world, the senses, manas and ahamkāra.

Looking deeper into chittha, we have the following representation with the addition of ‘dhruṣṭa’.

Dhruṣṭa is the ‘observer’ or the watcher. Dhruṣṭa is also the owner or karthā. Also, may be considered equivalent to āthma puruśha, jīva, the soul or chittha. Prāṇa or life force may be considered a manifestation of dhruṣṭa. Dhruṣṭa may also be considered that inner voice that tells right from wrong, or one’s sense of values or dharma. But values are again not absolute and dharma is always with reference to a context like ‘swadharma’ or personal dharma versus the general dharma. And since context can be variable, values can be subjective as well! Would this imply that the inner voice and therefore dhruṣṭa is also not absolute? Or, is it that the dhruṣṭa is above values and inner voice as well and is merely that which observes all including shifting values? If this were so, dhruṣṭa has the quality of the absolute and is totally independent of a frame of reference?

3. Buddhhi passes info to the dhruṣṭa and the dhruṣṭa provides a feedback to the buddhhi. It is considered desirable to shift decision making from manas to the āthma or dhruṣṭa because the dhruṣṭa would evaluate form a value based perspective. The situation is similar to a business organization, where dhruṣṭa may be considered equivalent to the very top functionary be this be a Chairman, or be it the Board, while the manas is the CEO or the implementer. Hopefully, the dhruṣṭa evaluates a situation and gives guidance based on the info available to it and its senses of values.

4. Impulsive decisions are those decisions taken without involvement of the dhruṣṭa. Ultimately, a decision depends on which factors are dominant – dhharma or swadhharma, the senses or the manas, the ahamkāra or the buddhhi, or the buddhhi or dhruṣṭa.

5. All fruits of action, be it happiness or sorrow (sukha or dhukha) dwell in the dhruṣṭa.

There’s a difference between how we perceive in art and science.

  • In science, the right answer is identical regardless of space and time dimensions. A scientific truth is the same whether in India or the US or Russia . It is also possible to reduce scientific truths to fixed formulae that stand the test of time atleast for reasonable time until new truths get uncovered.
  • In art, perception and conclusions have a great variability depending on the perceiver, time and place. To deal with art we need to open a large canvas and whatever we see or experience, we should put away on some part of the canvas. Over time but eventually, in a stroke of great clarity, a meaningful picture emerges. In trying to understand yoga, we must view it as an art and not so much a science.

It is also believed that yoga draws inspiration from the Vedhas and specifically from the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣhad and the Chāndhogya Upaniṣhad:

  • According to the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣhad, the Āthma or soul is like an arrow. The target is Brahman. The mantra ‘ Om ’ (which represents the essence of Vedhic teaching) is the bow that is used to shoot the arrow. In other words use ‘ Om ’ to propel your life to Brahman. We need an archer to complete the set up and he verily represents the mind for focus. Thus, with a focused archer the Āthman will reach Brahman.
  • The illustration in the Chāndhogya Upaniṣhad is that of a chariot. Life is like driving a chariot, where the horses are the five senses, the reins the manas, the chariot the body, the charioteer the buddhhi and the owner of the chariot is the dhruṣṭa. The road we travel depends on a combination of the above and obviously the charioteer (or the buddhhi) has to play a very key role in ensuring that the chariot (the body) is in good (road worthy) condition and that it is steered effectively (under the aegis of the dhruṣṭa).
  1. The Bhagavad Gīthā says (Chapter 6/5) that in each one of us dwells a good friend (bandhhu) and a dangerous foe (śhathru)! And, both the bandhhu and śhathru refer to the mind. And, depending on who we cultivate, we may go up in life or down.
  2. Chittha vrutthi nirodha - All unhappiness or dhukham comes from the mind (though its ultimate repository is the dhruṣṭa). The opposite of dukham is sukham, and therefore, happiness is the absence of unhappiness! Patanjali does not give much importance to Sukham and therefore there is a serious criticism of Pathanjali that he was rather negative in ignoring happiness and focusing only on the absence of unhappiness. (Where, for instance, is the place for the joy of life or the expression that life is a celebration)?
  3. Dhukham comes from comparison. We do not indulge in comparison as a child … like I am short, you are tall … I am dark but you are fair, my father is poor but yours is rich etc.). These comparisons and the dhukham that they entail come much later when the identity of the self or ahamkāra emerges a dominant force and ‘kleśha’ or coloration of the mind from experiences take hold. Kleśha like ‘my family’, ‘my religion’, ‘my children’, my wife as opposed to a friend’s wife etc. begins to cloud perception. When born, our mind is like a clean slate but then life’s experiences add layer after layer of color and shade and distort the way we perceive. What we see of the outside world is different because of the colors added. Besides, kleśha makes it difficult to focus the mind.
  4. In yoga, we work on the colorations and not the mind per se!
  5. ‘Nirodhha’ means to completely cover or completely envelop. It is a state where one is in total unison with what is perceived like a person infatuated.

Again chitthavrutthinirodhaha is:

1. chittha is mind; vrutthi means activities and nirodha is to be completely engulfed in.

2. Vyāsa says that the mind’s disposition can be classified five ways:

  • ‘Kṣhiptha’ where the mind is jumping around - like an inebriated monkey jumping about aimlessly and without direction.
  • ‘Mūḍha’ where the mind is dull as if in stupor, static and not working - like, say, a buffalo.
  • ‘Vikṣhiptha’ where the mind tries to be in a state of concentration but darts back and forth between that state and myriad distractions. This may be described as the state that most of us are in!
  • ‘Ekāgra’ is the state of single minded focus or one-pointedness, where, despite distractions and tendencies to stray, the mind moves back to focus. ‘Agra’ is the tip of the flame and whatever way we hold a candle – right side up, or upside down, or sideways, the flame always points up! This may be described as a state where the mind is principally in focus.
  • ‘Nirodha’ where ‘rudh’ means to engulf. Nirodha means to be engulfed in one direction. Nirodha implies a focus, a desire to do something specific or to be at a chosen place. Nirodha has an object and focus such that the mind is nowhere else.

3. The illustration below shows the interaction between dhruṣṭa, the mind and the object world.

Note that the arrows of the lines from the indhriyas to the mind and thereon to dhruṣṭa are pointing inward into the mind and dhruṣṭa but the arrows between the indhriyas and the object world are two sided. This implies that while the object world merely engages the mind and the dhruṣṭa, the indhriyas are, on the contrary, constantly interacting with the object world!

Example is, say, watching a commercial on the TV that makes you feel thirsty and you rush to the fridge to take a coke! This state is called viksipta where the mind is bombarded by signals from the object world.

4.Nirodhha also means absent. In fact, according Buddhist thinking, emptiness of mind is defined as yoga However, Pathanjali does not expect that one completely eliminates thoughts, for, in that case, he would have said ‘yogah sarva chitta vrutthi nirodhha’, where sarva means every!

Pathanjali held that thoughts will always be in the mind but that the mind must choose or dwell on something that does not promote distraction. He however does not say what it is that the mind must focus on but that, as the mind gets progressively refined with time and practice, the object of focus would emerge on its own.

The process is compared to climbing higher and higher over a flight of steps that has no final landing!

However, at each higher step, one sees more and further beyond and definitely different from what one saw at the preceding lower step. Yet, one does not see beyond what can be seen from that step! Further, from that step, one does not see what may be seen from the final and last step!

In this process, if one slips and falls, one may fall one step or a few steps at most. In contrast, if one were to ignore the steps and walk up an inclined ramp, a slip will send the climber tumbling to the start of the ramp and perhaps even lower!

Further, climbing one step at a time gives opportunity to modify goals or do mid course correction in keeping with what one sees at each step. However, this opportunity is not open to one climbing a ramp!

We are led by events outside and yoga helps accelerate change and mid course corrections.

Yoga is ‘sādhhanā’ and ‘siddhhi’ or - effort and results.

5. Yoga sutra can be looked as prescribing four steps:

  • Understanding our mind – the positives and the negatives.
  • Refining the mind – increasing the positives and reducing the negatives.
  • Using the mind (for whatever purpose), and
  • Going beyond the mind.

6. Sādhhanā and siddhhi are the two goals of yoga of which sadhhanā is far more important. Siddhhi only serves a limited purpose and that is to know whether one is proceeding in the right direction. Pathanjali likens siddhhis to weeds in a field and that one should beware not to let the weeds destroy the main crop! Siddhhis cannot be the goal!

7. We have seen many definitions of yoga starting at the physical level and leading up to attaining great spiritual heights.

In the book ‘Haṭha Yoga Pradhipikā’ by Svāthmārāma, haṭha yoga is offered as staircase to Pathanjali’s rāja yoga that is the ultimate.

Chittha vrutthi nirodhha is easily said but the state of nirodha is not easy at all. One must transcend much to attain this. As an example consider sitting in padhmāsana. To do so, one must be able to overcome the resistance offered by the ankle, calf muscles, knee and spine. But, once the limbs, joints and the spine are orchestrated to achieve the posture, one reaches a different state.

8. To reach the nirodhha state, one must take care of body, breath, relationships, guṇas, buddhhi, ahamkāra, manas, samskāras, vāsanas, kleśhas etc.

    1. Samskāra is like an auto pilot or skill that that the mind develops to accomplish tasks like, for instance, driving a car. Yes, initially, we make effort to learn to handle a car but once the skill is acquired, we drive without thinking of the many intricate and interlinked tasks required to drive. Another example is of automatically reaching the class room after the initial effort of reaching it the first time.

      The advantage of samskāra is that it makes tasks easier but the disadvantage is that it makes one go in the same direction and prevents one from thinking.

      Habits are part of samskāra or samskāra ⇒ HABIT. And, habits are difficult to overcome. But, work hard to remove the ‘H’ and what is left is ‘ABIT’. Work harder and still ‘IT’ remains. It is only when the ‘I’ is removed that nothing remains or the samskāra disappears!
    2. Vāsana is cousin of samskāra and means smell. For example, keep jasmines in a box and take the flowers out, yet the fragrance remains! Vāsanas are qualities or attributes in a latent or dormant form not manifested but can well be triggered to the fore. The story of Riṣhyaśhruṅga illustrates this:

      Riṣhyaśhruṅga is brought up in a remote ashram totally out of sight of women. In fact, he is unaware that there is such a being as a woman. He is aloof and attains great piety as a sage.

      Dhaśharathha, to have progeny, needs the sage to perform a yagnya.

      He sends five professional courtesans to Riṣhyaśhruṅga and they merely touch his person. Riṣhyaśhruṅga becomes aware that there is also a female aspect of the human species. He is aroused and he is disturbed with this new awakening.

      The next morning, the courtesans appear before him again and walk towards Dhaśharathha’s palace. Distraught and unable to contain himself, Riṣhyaśhruṅga follows. He arrives at Dhaśharathha’s court eventually to perform the yagnya.

      Vāsanas that were inherent and with no opportunity for expression, were kindled and brought to action.

      (Question: why is so much fuss made of sex? How does it impede attaining anything? All natural processes are self-limiting and eventually equilibrium is reached; and, an equilibrium that is dynamic, stable and in consonance with the elements that constitute life).

Vāsana manifested is samskāra and can be positive or negative.

9. For chittha vrutthi nirodhha we need to create conditions favourable for sādhhanā and siddhih and refrain from actions that hamper.

10. We need lakṣhaṇa (or definition), bhedham (or an expanded definition), upāyam (or means or technique). Phalam is the fruit of the effort. The 3 rd sūthra is what this is all about and is called the phalam sutra that states the benefit of yoga.

11. When we close our eyes and try to concentrate, there are many reasons why we do not achieve concentration. Some of these are:

    1. ‘Relationships’ - especially if we do not have good relationships with spouse and people around.
    2. ‘The self’ - whether one feels positive or negative.
    3. ‘The body’ – whether it is in good shape to cooperate with the mind, and
    4. ‘The mind’ – its prodigious, disconnected, in cohesive and multifarious output.

We need upāyams to deal with the above and yoga practice prescribes a long a list of things to do to help get into the right state.



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