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Feb 6, 2006
This week's theme
Loanwords from Sanskrit

This week's words

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One of the hardest things in life isn't solving complex algebraic equations, it's not coming up with creative campaigns for a new client, it's not conquering a mountain peak. It's to sit still and do nothing.

I recently attended a ten-day meditation retreat. In this residential program one is secluded from the outside world for the first nine days: no email, no cellphones, no reading, no writing. And no talking.

When one sits still and tries to focus, the mind becomes turbulent. It mounts its horse and starts galloping in all directions, north and south, into past and future, to places real and imaginary, and who knows where else. Gradually, though, it does begin to be reined in. There were calmer moments too.

The silence is relieved on the last day. I was one of the last ones to come out of the meditation hall. When I entered the dining area I expected little talk, a gradual easing into the world.

What I encountered instead was a cacophony of talk. I felt I had returned to a world I didn't belong to. What was the normal conversation of a few dozen people sounded to me like the roar of a volcano.

Before the departure for home, I overheard someone in the bathroom area say, "No one had the flow. I know everyone was faking it." For a moment I felt like telling him, "Looks like the program really worked for you. You can already read everyone's state of mind," but I didn't. Maybe he really could. Who was I to say?

* * *

This week we'll see a few loanwords from Sanskrit -- words from this ancient Indian language that are now part of English.


(DHAR-muh) Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

1. Duty; right behavior.
2. Law, especially the eternal law of the cosmos.
3. Religion.

From Sanskrit dharma (law, custom, duty). Ultimately from Indo-European root dher- (to hold firmly or support) that is also the source of firm, affirm, confirm, farm, fermata, and firmament.

"The most important pedagogic dharma that should guide the teacher in such a situation is that he should not hastily jump to the conclusion that his learners are unfit, dull, stupid, lacking in motivation, can never be made to learn and so on."
Dr. Aruna Chalam Angappan; The Teacher's Handicap, the Learners' Advantage; Yemen Times; Jan 9, 2006.

See more usage examples of dharma in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


It does not require many words to speak the truth. -Chief Joseph, leader of the Nez Perce Nation (1840-1904)

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