Sanskrit tatoo fail

George Thompson gthomgt at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 4 23:01:04 UTC 2011

Dear List,

I had written a brief reply to your discussion yesterday on the
tattoes that I have been asked to write out for eager students over
the years, to be inscribed on their bodies forever, but apparently I
deleted that message by mistake.  In frustration at having wasted some
time on such a trivial matter -- requests from students for devanagari
versions of thier favorite lines from the Buddha or the Upanshads, or
lines from Socrates or Sappho in Greek, or Aurelius or Augiustine --
and given my other woes, I did't have the energy to do it again.

Sorry for that,


On Sat, Sep 3, 2011 at 10:25 AM, Herman Tull <hwtull at> wrote:
> Yes. Of course. Reading it late at night I ignored the prefix on the root. Te widely reported translation is "go with the flow.".
> Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Robert Zydenbos <zydenbos at UNI-MUENCHEN.DE>
> Date: Sat, 3 Sep 2011 13:54:38
> To: <INDOLOGY at>
> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Sanskrit tatoo fail
> On 03.09.11 07:25, Herman Tull wrote:
>  > [...]  A better image, however shows that it is not pravaaha, but
>  > "pravaaham"-the tattoo artist used (improperly) the anusvara to
>  > indicate the final of the accusative.  The grammar is still creaky:
>  > "One must go to the river"???
>  The grammar is all right, since anu-gam "to follow" is construed with
>  the accusative (cf. Boehtlingk and Roth's dictionary for examples): thus
>  anugacchatu pravaha? translates as "let one follow the flow" (though I
>  think "pravahamanugaccha" comes closer to GWTF).
>  On 03.09.11 09:22, Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
>  > See, Sanskrit is important and useful.
>  Tathastu.
>  > What interests me most about all this is that they don't want to know
>  > something from the Sanskrit tradition. [...]
>  >
>  > Is it that putting it in Sanskrit gives it some charm, or even
>  > authority, that it wouldn't otherwise have?  Or do they want, rather,
>  > to suggest that "go with the flow" (henceforth GWTF) is really a
>  > Sanskrit saying?  Or that if Sanskrit is the Language of Truth, then
>  > something true (?) must have been said in Sanskrit, somewhere.
>  That seems to be what many of my students expect. They come to class
>  expecting to learn more about 'what is good', and if don't tell them
>  what is 'good' according to their wishful thinking, then I must be
>  'wrong'. (Fortunately they sometimes explicitly say so, which leads to
>  amusing discussions and gives me the opportunity to set things straight
>  and to be a greater guru than their gurus.)
>  In any case, Sanskrit is cool. My wife actually made a little bit of
>  money through a tattoo: a fellow wanted to have some rather
>  un-Sanskritic phrase tattooed on his arm, and he asked her to translate
>  the phrase and give the translation in "Sanskrit script" (sic). She
>  wrote back that she would do it only for a fee since, after all, she had
>  spent a good deal of time learning the language and wanted to see her
>  skill rewarded. He was decent and paid.
>  RZ
>  --
>  Prof. Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
>  Department fuer Asienstudien - Institut fuer Indologie und Tibetologie
>  Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen
>  Tel. (+49-89-) 2180-5782
>  Fax  (+49-89-) 2180-5827
>  Deutschland

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