Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language too has contributed many words to English. This week we will look at five such words that are now part of English but have Sanskrit origins.
In some cases, they are closer to the meaning of their root word; in others, they might also cover modern English usage.
Meaning: noun: Karma or karam, action, deed.
ਇਹੁ ਤਨੁ ਧਰਤੀ ਬੀਜੁ ਕਰਮਾ ਕਰੋ ਸਲਿਲ ਆਪਾਉ ਸਾਰਿੰਗਪਾਣੀ॥
ih tan dhartee beej karmaa karo salil aapaau saariňg-paaṇee
Make this body the field, karma (good actions) the seed, and irrigate it with the water of the Divine
Guru Nanak Sahib, Guru Granth Sahib, 23
You have surely encountered the term karma, meaning if you do something good, you will be rewarded or if you do something wrong, you will be punished down the road.
Some Sikh scholars are of the view that this hymn was addressed to a Hindu priest (pandit) who was a farmer. He performed all kinds of religious rituals and rites for a living.
Guru Nanak, in his typically effective style, instructs the priest (and us) through a language related to the priest’s work as a farmer.
Like a good farmer, let’s make this body of ours the farm, our good deeds the seed, and water them with divinity. We should make our mind the farmer to grow crops of divine wealth.
By planting the seed of divinity in our lives and regularly weeding out our evil passions, we would achieve a state of spiritual freedom from misery and worries. Our heart will blossom with spiritual joy.
Etymology: From Sanskrit karma or karman (act, deed, work).
Notes: Karma refers to a person’s action (good or bad) that determines his or her destiny; hence the word also means: destiny, fate; an aura or atmosphere generated by someone or something. This is also used in Gurbani:
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਾ ਕੇ ਪੂਰਨ ਕਰਮਾ॥ ਸੋ ਜਨੁ ਆਇਆ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਸਰਨਾ॥
Nanak says, one whose karma is perfect that person comes to the sanctuary of the Divine. -Guru Arjan Sahib, Guru Granth Sahib, 1150
In Gurbani, the word karam is also used in its Persian sense (divine beneficence or grace), which comes from Persian/Arabic karam (generosity, bounty, etc.)