“When I was teaching Sanskrit at the University of Toronto in the 1970s, I came across a phrase that stopped me dead: ashrayaparavrtti-a sudden moment of life-changing insight. Paravrtti is like a somersault, and ashraya is one’s home base, so it means letting go of everything you have always believed or understood for a leap into the unknown.”
–Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, The Face on Your Plate, p.13
I found that quote in a book about food, and when I found it, I knew immediately that I must write it down somewhere because it’s one of those pieces of information that I may never come across again. How can so much be encapsulated in one phrase? That is truly amazing!
You could say that the English equivalents of this Sanskrit are learning or enlightenment, but those words are so tainted. They in no way bring up the image, at least for me, of somersaulting or leaping into the unknown. That could well be part of the problem. You can easily say that you’ve “learned” to write a 5 paragraph essay (ho hum, pass the potatoes), or that you were enlightened when you discovered the Wendy’s drive through was open past midnight (how could I have been so blind!), and no one would look at you strangely. They would think: of course, that makes sense, nothing out of the ordinary there.
So, maybe what we really need is a whole new vocabulary for education, one that isn’t so tainted, with words that bring the images of ashrayaparavrtti to mind when we use them. After all, there’s no way ashrayaparavrtti could be crammed into any standardized test, just the thought of it is silly.