Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Fun with Scripts

That's my name (Sheila) in Devanagari, the script used to write Hindi, Marathi, and Nepali. Today it's also the script most commonly used to write Sanskrit. I am very fortunate to have a name that is rather common in India. "Is that your real name?" I'm often asked. Sheela, as it is typically written on the Subcontinent, is translated variously as "cool" or "good moral conduct" (!). It even appears in alternate versions, like Susheela or Jayasheela.

The Panchashila (a different transliteration, but the same old sheela) are the Five Precepts of Buddhism, and I remember Gil Fronsdal explaining that in a hot place like India, "cool" has a connotation similar to that of "warm" in our Western climes.
The Precepts are personal commitments to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication
, and are not commandments from God. They are intended to help a Buddhist live a life free of remorse.

I can't remember consciously adding the Indian Script function to my blog, but that's not saying much (brain like a sieve and all). I even have the ability to write in Tamil,
ஷீலா, which is rather bizarre looking, or Kannada, which I can actually hand write thanks to much time spent in the fine State of Karnataka: ಶೀಲಾ

Once you know any one of the Indian scripts, it's not terribly difficult to learn another as they're all based on the same principles. It's said that the South Indian scripts, like Tamil and Kannada, are more rounded than those of the North (see above) because they were designed to be scratched upon leaves and the rolling, cursive characters were less likely to cause tears.