Sanskrit is a complex language that can take years to master. Instruction in Sanskrit typically involves a lot of memorization. Memorizing forms of the various nouns and verbs etc. can take years, and even after all this effort, the language seems impenetrable. More than any inherent impenetrability of the language itself, my belief is that the methods employed by modern teachers of Sanskrit actually make things difficult.
Sanskrit is meant to be taught and learned through the use of sūtras. We saw the definition of a sūtra in a previous post. If sūtras are understood, the language becomes far less daunting. Unfortunately, teachers of sūtras are very rare.
Śrī Babaji has recently started teaching Harināmāmṛta vyākaraṇam (HNV), a Sanskrit grammar composed by Śrī Jīva Goswami. His lectures are available on Facebook. As I have learned the grammar from him steadily, I have felt the uncertainty surrounding Sanskrit steadily disappear from my mind. Further, learning grammar from Śrī Jīva Goswami’s HNV is an absolute pleasure. In this article, I will share some of my insights into HNV, and hope that readers can profit. If there is interest, I can continue adding articles that go more in depth into the grammar.
Śrī Jīva states that he compiled this grammar in order to allow the student to a) escape from the desert of other grammars, b) by staying connected with the nectar of the names of Hari.
I find the grammar much like a mathematical algorithm. In a typical algorithm, one begins by defining variables that store values which can be manipulated at will. For example, setting x = [0:1:100] stores numbers from 0 to 100 in x. Next, one could manipulate this variable as: 10*x, which would multiply every number in x by 10. Here, there is no need to specify each number individually for the multiplication; the program understands that the entire set of numbers in the ‘vector’ x must each be multipled by 10.
Śrī Jīva’s grammar has parallels to the above simple operation. The difference is that instead of ‘x’, his variables are specific names of Hari or Hari’s devotees. And instead of values like 0, 1, 2 and so on, the variables take on the values of letters or groups of letters. As an example, consider the following assignment:
दशावताराः = अ, आ, इ, ई, उ, ऊ, ऋ, ॠ, लृ, लृ
Here, the word दशावतार is a variable that stores the first ten vowels. Note that the word denotes the famous ten avataras of Hari. [I am not able to figure out how to render the second लृ in WordPress; it is a long form of लृ but it is hardly used so we won’t worry about it. ]
The point is that the variable दशावतार now can be used in operations. Such operations form the majority of HNV. Broadly speaking, most operations can be cast in the following form:
In the above, the word कार्यिणः is the genitive case of the word कार्यि्न् and literally means “of the letter that needs to be acted upon”. The word कार्यः is in Nominative case and indicates the action to be performed. The word परनिमित्ते is in locative case, and is to be understood as ‘when the nimitta  follows’ where  is the specific letter or group of letters that follow. The word प्राङनिमित्तात् is in ablative case, and means ‘after the nimitta  that precedes’. And then Śrī Jīva gives examples which we denote in the table by the word उदाहरण.
Now all this might sound a little intimidating, but it is actually quite simple. Below, I include a sūtra which is used in making the form कृष्णान् (Accusative plural) from कृष्ण .
दशावतारस्य त्रिविक्रमो शसि
In the above sūtra, we can recognize that the genitive case has been used for the word दशावतार. Therefore, it is the कार्यिन् to be changed. The word त्रिविक्रमः is in first case. So दशावतार must be replaced with its corresponding long form (named त्रिविक्रम as opposed to वामन for the short form). And the word शसि is the locative of the word शस्, indicating that the operation must be carried out when शस् follows. Then, the sūtra is to be understood as follows:
दशावतार must be made त्रिविक्रम when शस् follows.
We can apply this to the addition of the suffix शस् to make an accusative plural form of the word कृष्ण. So we have
But कृष्ण = क्+ऋ+ष्+ण्+अ, so ऋ and अ are two दशावतारs in the word. Which one is to be lengthened? To understand this, we make use of the rule that when a single letter is to be changed, then unless otherwise specified, the final letter is to be changed – एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते. That means,
कृष्ण+शस् = कृष्णा+शस्
Such rules are used to finally arrive at the form कृष्णान् and indeed forms of numerous words throughout HNV.
I give the reader a taste for how different sūtras are used to make the 24 forms of the word कृष्ण below. The sūtras are in parenthesis, and the operations are indicated with a plus sign and = sign. Some forms require multiple sūtras in one or multiple steps.
|कृष्ण+सु = कृष्ण+स्=कृष्णस् =कृष्णः (सररामयोर्विष्णुसर्गो विष्णुपदान्ते)||कृष्ण+औ=कृष्णौ (ओद्वये औ)||कृष्ण+जस्=कृष्ण+अस्=कृष्णास् (दशावतारा एकात्मके मिलित्वा त्रिविक्रमः) = कृष्णाः (सररामयोर्विष्णुसर्गो विष्णुपदान्ते)|
|कृष्ण+अम्=कृष्ण+म् (दशावतारादम्शसोररामहरः) =कृष्णम्||कृष्ण+औ=कृष्णौ (ओद्वये औ)||कृष्ण+शस्=कृष्ण+अस्=कृष्ण+स् (दशावतारादम्शसोररामहरः) = कृष्णा+स् (दशावतारस्य त्रिविक्रमः शसि) = कृष्णा+न् (तस्मात्सो नः पुंसि)=कृष्णान्|
|कृष्ण+टा=कृष्ण+इन (कृष्णात् टा इनः)=कृष्णेन (इद्वये ए)||कृष्ण+भ्याम्=कृष्णा+भ्याम् (कृष्णस्य त्रिविक्रमो गोपाले, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते)=कृष्णाभ्याम्||कृष्ण+भिस्=कृष्ण+ऐस् (कृष्णाद्भिस् ऐस्)=कृष्णैस्(एद्वये ऐ)=कृष्णैः (सररामयोर्विष्णुसर्गो विष्णुपदान्ते)|
|कृष्ण+ङे=कृष्ण+य (कृष्णात् ङेर्यः)=कृष्णा+य (कृष्णस्य त्रिविक्रमो गोपाले, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते) =कृष्णाय||कृष्ण+भ्याम्=कृष्णा+भ्याम् (कृष्णस्य त्रिविक्रमो गोपाले, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते)=कृष्णाभ्याम्||कृष्ण+भ्यस्=कृष्णे+भ्यस्(कृष्णस्य ए वैष्णवे बहुत्वे, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते) = कृष्णेभ्यस्=कृष्णेभ्यः (सररामयोर्विष्णुसर्गो विष्णुपदान्ते)|
|कृष्ण+ङसि=कृष्ण+आत् (कृष्णात्ङसेरात्)=कृष्णात् (दशावतारा एकात्मके मिलित्वा त्रिविक्रमः)||कृष्ण+भ्याम्=कृष्णा+भ्याम् (कृष्णस्य त्रिविक्रमो गोपाले, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते)=कृष्णाभ्याम्||कृष्ण+भ्यस्=कृष्णे+भ्यस्(कृष्णस्य ए वैष्णवे बहुत्वे, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते) = कृष्णेभ्यस्=कृष्णेभ्यः (सररामयोर्विष्णुसर्गो विष्णुपदान्ते)|
|कृष्ण+ङस्=कृष्ण+स्य(कृष्णात्ङसः स्य)=कृष्णस्य||कृष्ण+ओस्=कृष्णे+ओस्(कृष्णस्य ए ओसि, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते)=कृष्णय्+ओस्(ए अय्)=कृष्णयोस्=कृष्णयोः(सररामयोर्विष्णुसर्गो विष्णुपदान्ते)||कृष्ण+आम्=कृष्ण+नुट्+आम् (वामन-गोपीराधाभ्यो नुडामि)=कृष्णा+न्+आम् (वामनस्य त्रिविक्रमो नामि, नृशब्दस्य तु वा, न तिसृचतस्रोः) = कृष्णानाम्|
|कृष्ण+ङि=कृष्ण+इ=कृष्णे (इद्वये ए)||कृष्ण+ओस्=कृष्णे+ओस्(कृष्णस्य ए ओसि, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते)=कृष्णय्+ओस्(ए अय्)=कृष्णयोस्=कृष्णयोः(सररामयोर्विष्णुसर्गो विष्णुपदान्ते)||कृष्ण+सुप्=कृष्णे+सुप् (कृष्णस्य ए वैष्णवे बहुत्वे, एकवर्णो विधिरन्ते प्रवर्तते) = कृष्णेषु (इश्वरहरिमित्रकङ्गेभ्यः प्रत्ययविरिञ्चिसस्य षो, नुम्विष्णुसर्गव्यवधानेSपि न तु विष्णुपदाद्यन्तसातीनाम्)|
|कृष्ण+सु=कृष्ण (ए-ओ-वामनेभ्यो बुद्धस्यादर्शनम्, सम्बोधने सुर्बुद्ध संज्ञः)||कृष्ण+औ=कृष्णौ (ओद्वये औ)||कृष्ण+जस्=कृष्णास्(दशावतारा एकात्मके मिलित्वा त्रिविक्रमः)=कृष्णाः (सररामयोर्विष्णुसर्गो विष्णुपदान्ते)|
1. nārāyaṇādudbhūto’yaṃ varṇakramaḥ. Although previously he maintains that his work is a compilation (ācinmaḥ), Jīva Gosvāmī does not cite absolutely any scripture that support this first sūtra and its respective vṛtti. Indeed, it seems that there is no vyākaraṇa or purāṇa that explicitly claims that Nārāyaṇa is the source of the Sanskrit alphabet. So is it just an imaginative statement?
Letters are Krsna’s amsa or shakti. That’s the case with everything in existence. see aksaranam akaro’smi in tenth chapter of Bhagavad Gita.
It is indeed mentioned in Shāstras like Pancharatra agama. Please check out the chapter 19 of Lakshmi tantra(a Pancharatric text):