For this Brit, Sanskrit is like his mother tongue

via http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/For-this-Brit-Sanskrit-is-like-his-mother-tongue/articleshow/7238975.cms published on January 8, 2011

 BANGALORE: For Michael Williams (25), from Manchester, UK, Sanskrit is like his own language. He speaks fluent Sanskrit, like any child born in Mattur, the village renowned for the revival of the language. Michael, who is taking part at the World Sanskrit Book festival, looks a little out of place in the Indian milieu. ”Yes, I speak Sanskrit, I love this culture,” he says.

He was the only student of Oxford University to have taken up a course on Indian languages and religion in 2006. He went on to do MPhil in classical Indian religion.

Despite his studies on religion, Michael remains an atheist. ”I am not a Christian or Hindu. I am a ‘nastik’, but a humanist. I have complete support of my family for whatever I do. My father inspired me to take up Buddhist studies. I am passionate about Madhwa philosophy,” he said.

”I have studied the Upanishads and Madhwa Vedantha. But I love Shankaracharya,” he says. Michael has a fine knowledge about different Bhakti panths prevalent in India. For his PhD, Michael is working on Nyaya Amrutha, a Sanskrit text. ”The word ‘nyaya’ means not just ‘justice’. It means a system, a way of life. Nyaya Amrutha can mean a system that gives endless nectar. I am struggling to translate the title itself. Every word in Sanskrit has several specific meanings and it cannot be boiled down to one single synonym. But I would not give up, because it is a learning exercise,” says Michael.

He teaches Sanskrit at Manchester University. His dream is to become an ‘Upadhyaya’ in a ‘vishwavidyalaya’ (university)! This is his third trip to India. On his previous visits, he was busy looking for manuscripts while working on a ”critical edition on Krishna devotion.” Michael has also learnt to speak Tamil, Kannada and Hindi.

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