Sanskrit literature is vast, all comprising, varied and ancient. It is impossible to master all the Sanskrit works as it would take very many years whereas the human life is very short.
There are hundreds of scholars who willingly jumped into this vast sea of Sanskrit literature to explore the gems available.
Among the great scholars L.Sternbach stands tall by his wonderful and dedicated work. He was very much attracted by the Sanskrit Subhasita verses and dedicated his entire life in collecting them. The entire Sanskrit world admired him and he was awarded the title ‘Subhasitavidwan’.
His life aim was to publish all the Subhasitas with English translation with detailed notes. So he was in search of a suitable scholar and found Mr Bhaskaran Nair, Director-Professor of the Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute, Hoshiapur, India. So he requested in 1966 Head of the Sanskrit department Jagannath Agarwal to persuade Acharya Vishwa Bandhu to spare the scholar for this valuable cause. It is to be mentioned here that Acharya Vishwa Bandhu, during the days of partition, in 1947, came from Lahore, with huge Sanskrit literature, to conceal it in big gunny bags, taking a big risk. He founded the great Vishweshvaranand Vedic Research Institure at Hoshiapur.
Six years passed. In 1972 he wrote to the Acharya that the work Maha-Subhasita Samgraha was for him like a child and he intended to bequeath the whole of his fortune after his and his mother’s death to the Institute which will take up the publication of this work.
As promised he has given his all for this great cause leaving a small amount to take care of his aged mother. Perhaps this is a unique event of a foreign scholar to sacrifice his entire life and wealth for Subhasita verse publication.
Accordingly the team headed by Bhaskaran Nair has brought out eight volumes of the great work containing about 14000 verses.
Sternbach has written many books. One among them is, ‘Aphorisms and Proverbs in the Katha-Sarit-Sagara’. From Katha-Sarit Sagara, the Ocean of Streams of Stories, which contains nearly thousand such aphorisms and proverbs, he has selected about 697 wise sayings.
His English translation is always superb. He is also famous for his foot-notes and his friends would comment that his work contain often more footnotes than text!
For a sample, we may quote the following:
No one is able, even by doing the utmost.., to overcome the incalculable freaks of marvellously working Destiny.
No one can calculate the caprices of Fate or the waves of the sea.
Good and evil done by a man is made to return upon himself.
Think for a moment, an American by birth has given his everything for the sake of Sanskrit. At the same time he did not forget his duty towards his mother.
Sanskrit Lovers worldwide and Indians in particular will ever remember this great soul.
Let Us Salute the Great American, Sanskrit Scholar Ludwik Sternbach!