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Thread: Translations of the Upanishads

  1. #1

    Translations of the Upanishads

    Namaste.

    Ive recently begun to read the Upanishads with some seriousness and one of the considerations that has naturally come up is what translation(s) are best for my purposes.

    I have read through the Patrick Olivelle version and am currently reading Nikhilanandas one volume edition. I have mixed feelings about both. Olivelle is attractively clear and idiomatic in some places but overall rather bloodless and lacking in feeling for the profound import of the text. I much prefer Nikhilananda in his communication of the spiritual import, but Ive also noticed that he tends to interpolate his philosophical point of view; in particular, he often inserts non-dual and non-duality where Im fairly sure it doesnt actually exist in the orginal. Its not that Im uncomfortable with his interpretation I agree with it in general its just that Id prefer more fidelity to the text.

    Ive also seen the Radakrishnan version in library, and like the fact he includes the original (at least in transliteration) but Im a little put of by the presence of so much western style theologizing. Of course this may be a misimpression on my part.

    Anyway, it would be great to hear about other peoples impressions of these and other translations.

    Thanks in advance,
    Kshetra

  2. #2

    Re: Translations of the Upanishads

    Namaste Kshetra...

    As a project I “back translate” the major Upanishads… Great way of learning both Upanishads and Sanskrit…
    From a fast search this is what I came up with concerning Nikhilananda. I have no time to look into all but I could not find any illogical about his “non-dual” translation as shown below:

    Muṇḍaka 2.2.5 … non-dual [ekam] Atman [ātmānam]

    Māṇḍūkya 7. … all bliss [śivam] and non-dual [advaitaṃ]
    Māṇḍūkya 12. … It is all good [śivaḥ] and non-dual [advaitaḥ].

    Īśāvāsya 4…. That non-dual [ekam] Atman, though never stirring [anejat], is swifter [javīyaḥ] than the mind [manasaḥ].

    śvetāśvatara 1.3 … That non-dual [ekaḥ] Lord who [yaḥ] rules [adhitiṣṭhati] over all…
    śvetāśvatara 1.10 … The non-dual [ekaḥ] Supreme Self [deva] rules [īśate]

    ........

    If you can live with: one (eka) is same as non-dual (advaita)... its should not be a problem. However he might as well have translated eka as "one", "only" or "single"...
    ........

    Other than that you write "but I’ve also noticed that he tends to interpolate his philosophical point of view"... I would say yes, he fills out the text a little here and there, and he follow Adi shankara in interpretation of words. This is my impression since I cross check it with Adi shankaras comments.
    There is a Guru in each of us. It is the Atma principle. It is the Eternal Witness functioning as Conscience in everyone. With this Conscience as guide, let all actions be done. (sss20-15)

  3. #3

    Re: Translations of the Upanishads

    Thanks Ekanta. That was very helpful.

    Of course this all depends on what "eka" and "advaita" really were intended to mean in the original. The two translations I have are really polar opposites on this. Olivelle seems at pains to avoid any sectarian leaning. In Mandukya 7 he translates advaitam as "without a second"; in Mandukya 12 he translates it as "unique". He seems to me he carries his scruples way too far, unless he can somehow show that non-duality somehow distorts the original meaning of "advaita", which it doesn't seem to do.

    As for "eka", isn't that what Plotinus called it?

    Thanks again for your superior scholarship!

    Kshetra

  4. #4

    Re: Translations of the Upanishads

    From Monier Williams:

    advaita - अद्वैत

    • mfn. destitute of duality, having no duplicate, ŚBr. xiv, &c.
    • peerless.
    • sole, unique.
    • epithet of Viṣṇu.
    • (am), n. non-duality.
    • identity of Brahmā or of the Paramātman or supreme soul with the Jivātman or human soul.
    • identity of spirit and matter.
    • the ultimate truth.
    • title of an Upanishad.
    • (ena), ind. solely. [19,3]
    -------
    dvaita - द्वैत

    • see dvaita. [507,2]
    • n. (fr. 1. dvi-tā) duality, duplicity, dualism (cf. -vāda), doubt, ŚBr. Kap. Prab. BhP. &c. [507,2]
    ------------

    "non-dual" is often used by advaita writers, perhaps he want to avoid that FIXED association.

    ----

    Quote Originally Posted by Kshetra View Post
    Thanks again for your superior scholarship!
    Just a hobby. With the right tools its rather easy to check.
    There is a Guru in each of us. It is the Atma principle. It is the Eternal Witness functioning as Conscience in everyone. With this Conscience as guide, let all actions be done. (sss20-15)

  5. #5
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    Re: Translations of the Upanishads

    hari o
    ~~~~~~

    namasté Kshetra


    Perhaps this post will have some value for you if not aready viewed.
    http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=4617

    If you wish, I ahve some favorite authors and will list some of them if you care to consider them.

    praṇām
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

  6. #6

    Re: Translations of the Upanishads

    Quote Originally Posted by yajvan View Post
    hari o
    ~~~~~~

    namast Kshetra


    Perhaps this post will have some value for you if not aready viewed.
    http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=4617

    If you wish, I ahve some favorite authors and will list some of them if you care to consider them.

    praṇām
    Thanks yajvan. I did have a look at the other thread and found the discussion about comparing translations as opposed to facing the originel text alone interesting. I would come down on the side of comparison but at two levels. First, one has no choice but to compare translations when like me you can barely sound out the script and only know a few of the more common words. But second, it seems to me only humble to consult variant translations even if one is proficient in the language. It's perfectly possible and even likely that others noticed something you missed.

    And please do pass along the names of authors that may be of interest, though the one you do mention on the other thread didn't turn up on Google except on this forum.

    Thanks again,
    Kshetra

  7. #7

    Re: Translations of the Upanishads

    Quote Originally Posted by Ekanta View Post
    From Monier Williams:

    advaita - अद्वैत

    mfn. destitute of duality, having no duplicate, ŚBr. xiv, &c.
    peerless.
    sole, unique.
    epithet of Viṣṇu.
    (am), n. non-duality.
    identity of Brahmā or of the Paramātman or supreme soul with the Jivātman or human soul.
    identity of spirit and matter.
    the ultimate truth.
    title of an Upanishad.
    (ena), ind. solely. [19,3]
    -------
    dvaita - द्वैत

    see dvaita. [507,2]
    n. (fr. 1. dvi-tā) duality, duplicity, dualism (cf. -vāda), doubt, ŚBr. Kap. Prab. BhP. &c. [507,2]
    ------------

    "non-dual" is often used by advaita writers, perhaps he want to avoid that FIXED association.
    Point taken. But I still wonder if Olivelle doesnt overcompensate, particularly in the two examples from the Mandukya. We have here a group of overlapping signifiers one, unique, non-dual, etc., so its a question of the depth or strength of whats being signified in this context, i.e., there are stronger or weaker senses of advaita. In the context of the Mandukya, unique in particular seems to me just a little too weak.

  8. #8

    Re: Translations of the Upanishads

    I thought I share this as an example. Translations of Praśna Upaniṣad 1.8:

    viśva-rūpaṃ hariṇaṃ jāta-vedasaṃ
    parāyaṇaṃ jyotir-ekaṃ tapantam |
    sahasra-raśmiḥ śatadhā vartamānaḥ
    prāṇaḥ prajānām udayaty eṣa sūryaḥ ||

    As said earlier, its interesting to note how Nikhilananda manages to use non-dual where other translators dont.

    About jyotir-ekaṃ: one-light..
    According to Shankaras comment jyotir (light) here means eye of all beings. (the light in the eye is a synonym for Brahman, right?)

    Nikhilananda splits it into:
    non-dual [ekaṃ] & the eye of all beings [jyotiḥ]

    Sivananda translates it as:
    one light [ekaṃ jyotiḥ]

    Gambhirananda translates it as:
    single light [ekaṃ jyotiḥ]

    Full translations:

    Nikhilananda:
    1.8 The wise know him who is in all forms [viśva-rūpaṃ], full of rays [hariṇaṃ], all-knowing [jāta-vedasaṃ], non-dual [ekaṃ], the support of all life [parā-ayaṇaṃ], the eye of all beings [jyotiḥ], the giver of heat [tapantam]. There rises [udayati] the sun [eṣaḥ sūryaḥ], the thousand- rayed [sahasra-raśmiḥ], existing in a hundred forms [śatadhā vartamānaḥ], the life [prāṇaḥ] of all creatures [prajānām].

    Sivananda:
    1.8 Assuming all forms [viśva-rūpaṃ], resplendent [hariṇaṃ], omniscient [jāta-vedasaṃ], the highest goal [parā-ayaṇaṃ], the one light [ekaṃ jyotiḥ], the heat-giver [tapantam], the thousand-rayed [sahasra-raśmiḥ], existing in hundred forms [śatadhā vartamānaḥ], life [prāṇaḥ] of all creatures [prajānām], this sun [eṣaḥ sūryaḥ] rises [udayati].

    Gambhirananda:
    1.8 (The realizers of Brahman knew) the one that is possessed of all forms [viśva-rūpaṃ], full of rays [hariṇaṃ], endowed with illumination [jāta-vedasaṃ], the resort of all [parā-ayaṇaṃ], the single light [ekaṃ jyotiḥ] (of all), and the radiator of heat [tapantam]. It is the sun [eṣaḥ sūryaḥ] that rises [udayati] - the sun that possesses a thousand rays [sahasra-raśmiḥ], exists in a hundred forms [śatadhā vartamānaḥ] and is the life [prāṇaḥ] of all creatures [prajānām].
    There is a Guru in each of us. It is the Atma principle. It is the Eternal Witness functioning as Conscience in everyone. With this Conscience as guide, let all actions be done. (sss20-15)

  9. #9
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    Re: Translations of the Upanishads

    double post
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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