Friday, November 15, 2013

Witzel to publish translation of Rig veda - Is it possible to translate Vedas?


Dr S. Kalyanaraman  wrote:

Witzel's Home Page makes this claim: "First complete translation of the Rgveda into a western language since Geldner's of 1929/1951)." (See URL cited below). 


A stunner of a claim indeed.


This claim is contested by a Wikipedia article on Rigveda (See URL and excerpts cited below).


It is notable that the Witzel et al's translation into German is expected to be published on December 9, 2013, just a month before another milestone event, the workshop. Is the workshop likely to be a pow-wow celebrating the publication expected to be released on Dec. 9, 2013?


I have a double jeopardy because I neither know Vedic nor German. So, I request those knowledgeable to comment on the authenticity of and purpose served by the just announced translation.


It should be noted that the publication on December 9, 2013 will be followed by a Vedic Workshop to be held in Kerala.

6th International Vedic Workshop 2014 Kozhikode, Kerala State, India 7th – 10th, January, 2014 

"The International Vedic Workshop is the most prominent get-together of Indologists involved in the study of the Vedas the world over...The forthcoming workshop strictly focuses on Vedic texts and rituals, their scholarly interpretation, and their traditional performance and has only one track with no parallel sessions. The prospective audience constitutes bona fide scholars of the Vedas and Vedic traditions, traditional scholars (Vaidikas, ritualists, and also scholars of Mimamsa), practitioners of Veda, Sanskrit scholars, Veda enthusiasts, writers specialised in Veda etc. "

From among the authors of the forthcoming volume, the following are members of the Technical Program Committee of the Workshop :

Prof. Toshifumi Goto, Tohoku University, Japan
Prof. Mislav Jezic, Zagreb University, Croatia
Prof. Michael Witzel

For more details read here.


Dr Kalyanaraman continues:-



Meaning of 'na ingayanti' in Rigveda 1-164-45. Impossibility of 'translating'  full Rigveda samhita. Can someone enlighten: what is the central message of Rigveda?


I agree with Dr. Rajaram. Discretion is the better part of valor; let us defer to  those who are capable of paśyantī 'visible thought'.


Well, why do people climb the Mount Sāgarmātā? Because, she is there.


Let us take up just one pada: ingayanti. This seems to be central to understanding Vāk; vaikharī (as Arun Upadhyay notes) is the final step of spoken wordsas a part of the process of comprehending or seeing 'meaning' in the synchronised private languages of the chandas reciter's and the listener's brains. 


How to figure out what the ṛṣi, mantra draṣṭā seeks to convey to us, ordinary mortals?


My post on Witzel's Vedic workshop and recalling a breath-taking announcement making a tall claim that it is the first complete translation of Rigveda since Geldner has the following responses on another group.


Vinay Jha notes: A biased person like Witzel can never decipher a single Vedic verse. Even unbiased persons foreign to the Vedic tradition cannot understand the Vedas. 


S.R. Krishnamurthy notes: Every tom, dick and harry is enjoined to know the Veda; but the very Vedas assert that everyone cannot and does not understand the Vedas. I shall just quote the verse and leave it; because the explanation runs into pages.


Arun Upadhyay notes: There is another propaganda that Veda, brāhmaṇa texts, Upanishads and Purāṇa-s are of separate periods, places and are not related and may be opposed to each other. About 4 stages of Vāk related to 4 Antah-karana, every text tells the same. Mana is random fluctuations which are infinite. Buddhi is ordered sequence. Mana is Parā-vāk, buddhi is visible thought called paśyantī. After that it is translated into words as per store of language system in mind-called madhyamā-vāk. Final spoken or written words are vaikharī-vāk. Buddhi results in formation of Vākya (sentence) which describes an event (vākayā in Arabic). When we generalize, it becomes Kāvya (poem, creation). Buddhi analyses various alternatives, then it decides a course of action. Till analysis, it is avyavasāyī. After decision, it is vyavasāyātmikā. Quotes from texts are appended.


Wilson claims to follow Sāyaṇa  gives a wrong translation ("...indicate no meaning..." cf. below ; although Sāyaṇācārya gives the correct meaning. 


The verse uses the words "na ingayanti" which means "do not move / agitate" while Wilson mis-interprets it a "indicate no meaning" . 


Vinay Jha claims to have practical experience of these non-Vaikhari forms of Vāk used my some yogis, these forms of Vāk carry full meaning, but do not  move/agitate the physical organs of speech. 



Mr. R. Ramanathan wrote:

As per me, it is not possible for anyone to know the complete meanings of all the Vedas as there are supposed to be 3 levels of meanings 

1.      Aadhyaatmika 2. Adhibudhika 3. Adidaivika.  Usually most of the texts like Kalpa, Vyakarana & mimamsa etc were only constrained to the first 2 levels of meanings. The 3rd level would be incomprehensible for all of us. Only one person in one Yuga like say a Yajnavalkya can know the 3rd level of meaning. But traditionally what i have seen among present indigenous Vedic scholars who have not yet sold out to Westerners is that for daily use of Vedic teachings in their life they go by the 1st and 2nd levels.


This  is what my guru tells me:- Not to teach or talk about the Vedas with Mlecchas.  He used to say "Brahmanan pannivendiyadha pannama kettuponanan. Mlecchan pannakoodadha panni kettuponan kedutukondum irukkan".  As per my understanding,the entire Varna ashrama framework has not been considered. This is my opinion.


1. Among the 4 purusharthas as a general rule, The brahmana is allowed all the 4 with the important end aim of moksha, as a result the brahmana is entitled to the 4 Ashramas. Thus we see great brahma rishis like Yajnavalkya becoming parivrajakas(Sanyasis) in the Brihadaranyaka


2. The Kshatriya generally has a tendency for the first 3 purushartas. This is not to say he does have rights to Moksha, and there are jnanis like king Janaka.  The Dharma shastras discuss this based on the general tendency of kshatriyas commonly. They are not allowed the Sanyasa ashrama but the Vanaprastha ashrama. This is why we see many kings going to the forests with their wi(fe)(ves) wearing dear skin and eating Neevara(Black forest rice). Nowhere do we see either in the Veda or Puranas, examples of Kings becoming Sanyasis.


3. The Vaishyas were allowed the first 2 as a generality. They were allowed to enter the first 2 ashramas and never Vanaprasta or sanyasa. The example is the killing of a Vaishya by Rama because in Treta yuga, a Vaishya was not allowed tapas. Again the dharma shastra bases this on the overall guna karma tendencies of a Vaishya


4. A shudra is not restricted from artha and kama and moksha but there were obviously restrictions to his Vedic study. The puranas were obviously intended for this varna. We have examples like Vidura and Dharma vyaada who were great Jnanis and were superior to many contemporary Brahmanas. But they never entered proper vedic grihasta ashrama and performed rites or went as vanaprastis and sanyasis.


In a similar way non consideration of Varna ashrama dharma results in misuse of  many thing Vedas as follows.


1. During brahmacharya one studies the entire Samhita, brahmana and Aranyaka portions of one own shaaka. But does not practice everything enjoined in them.For example shrauta rituals(Intended for householders) and certain kind of penances(Intended for Vanaprastis) and pranava japa(Intended for Sanyasis alone). We see in the Taittriya Aranyaka in the famous Aruna prashna:- "Aranyeedheeyeta" "Do adhyayana of this portion in the forest". These are intended obviously for vanaprastis.


2. The entire gamut of shrauta yajnas mentioned in the Samhita and brahmana portions in each shaaka are intended for Dvija householders alone.  These can be performed by them when the maintain the 3 sacred fires and aupasana fires. Also they shud have complete knowledge of Kalpa(Ritual manuals) and jyotisha(Time calculations to decide when to do these rituals). Also among these  not every ritual can be performed by all dvija householders. The Rajasuya and ashvameda can be performed only by kshatriyas, the brihaspati sava only for brahmanas and the vaishya stoma for vaishyas. Nowadays the Ashvamedha is performed by some organizations. There is no deeksha, no letting the horse out for a year and so on. Also certain rituals can be performed only by vanaprastins like the kataka chayana and the aruna keetuka chayana as seen in the kataka and aruna prashnas of the Taittriya  Yajur Veda. 


3. Similarly the Upasanas in the Upanishads and Mahavakyas are explicitly intended for the Vanaprasta and sanyasa ashrama and were actually kept secret from others ashramis. The moment everybody started reading printed books of the Upanishads, people started mis-using statements like " Aham Brahmasmi" "Tat twam asi" as an excuse for non performance of their nitya and naimittika karmas. Actually these people have no basic sense control, food restrictions or for the matter of fact any basic aachara needed.  They cannot avoid eating "Chat" and other "Delicacies" in hotels like Saravana bhavan. But they say that it is the body that eats and they are not the body but the "Atma". This is kind of degradation is more common among Smarta brahmins  and is seen less in Vaishnava and Madhwa brahmins.. These people buy the upanishads from either the RK Mutt book stall in their place or from Higginbothams in Central Railway station and become extraordinary brahmavits and avadhutas in one overnight train journey!!!. No kidding i can give 3 examples among my relatives.


So looking at the Vedas without the varnaashrama framework as done by mlecha scholars and their Indian tails, leads to many anarthas like Witzel claiming to know the "Complete" meaning of the Rig Veda etc.



Maddy said...

Ma'am has translated all 4 vedas into English.Would you or someone who is well versed in both Sanskrit and English look into this.
From the above article what I understood is a verse can have more than one meaning,am I right?

jayasree said...

I have not read Agniveer's translation. It is not possible to translate Vedas nor anyone is authorized to translate them. Perhaps Agniveer brought out the translation as a reply to or to set right aberrations in the existing translations.

This topic is doing rounds in a private mailing list. Let me post here the explanation given Dr BVK Sastry. Before that a word on writing down the meaning of Vedas. All the sages of the Upanishad tradition have grasped the meaning of Vedas and transferred them as Updesa (in upanishad). None of them wrote down the meaning / translation. Even the Acharyas like Adhi Shankara and Ramanuja did not write meaning or commentaries of Vedas. They only quoted from Upanishads and puranas. It is because Vedas have no written form.

In Tamil they called Vedas as "ezhudhaa-k-kiLavi" (எழுதாக் கிளவி). The reciters of Vedas had their tongue abrased - so says some of the Sangam poems. The Parthivasekarapuram inscriptions also make a similar remark. I would say that with Sayanacharya, the degradation started when he wrote a commentary of Vedas. Even Ramanuja wrote "Vesartha sangraha", but it is not a commentary or translation. It is a gist of what Vedas convey which he realised through his own Abhyasa and from Prasthana traya (upanishad, Brahma sutra and Gita).


jayasree said...

Dr BVK sastry on why Vedas can not be translated:-

1. // On < Can someone enlighten: what is the central message of Rigveda? > I place below a broad translation of Rigveda mantra (RV 1.164.45) and Sāyaṇa's comments, image below.//

This understanding is the consolidation of traditional wisdom about the central message of Rigveda, where the pre-qualification to access-&-annotate Vedas is made. It also has the listing of main schools of Vedic interpretation. This understanding is available right at the time line of Panini –Patanajli anchors and continues as a tradition till Sayana ! i.e. A period of almost two millennia minimum shaping the Vedanta schools, darshana Shastras and yoga-tantra-agama traditions. In this passage, there is no pointer to interpret Veda as a historic social language document. There is a clarity on how the interpretations of each school needs to be kept clean and clear in practice.

This is the Standard of tradition in bringing out the central message of Rig-Veda: The literal word translation : Moving ( Dhatu : Ru gatau) Knowledge ( -Veda) :: Knowledge in motion.

2. The broad translation of the sayana passage is placed below:


The entire domain of Speech, in the creation is perceived and placed under four categories. The primary unit of speech is technically called 'Pada'. The knowledge of these 'padas' in their totality is known and understood only by Brahmanas, who are qualified with three specific features : (a) They are knowledgeable in Vedas (b) They are Masters of the Mind ( through Spiritual practices /yoga of Vak /tapas) (c ) Those who are intuitive in visioning.

Out of the four word categories, three of them are hidden inside deep layers, as in a cave. These hidden layers do not undergo any transformation or change, as they do not suffer any modifications.They do not shine outside. They are known inside. Humans expressly articulate the fourth layer of speech /Word for conducting interactive engagements.

What are the four categories ? The four categories are explained by different schools as suits their analysis.

The Vedic schools list the four categories as three vyahruti's (Bhooh, Bhvah, Svah) and one Pranava (Omkara). This is made in relation to the entirety of Vedic Words (Chandas). These four categories represent the quintessential summary of the vedic vocabulary. Within this group also, there are schools which recommend the use of three vyahruti's with a preceding Pranava as the final summation of four categories, to explore and analyze speech (Vak).


jayasree said...

The Grammarians, list the four categories as :Naama, Aakhyata, Nipata, Upasarga technicalities. Each of these have technical definitions , clear and crisp. The translations will not be able to map the meaning or bring out the clarity of thought here. In the technicalities of these four abstractions, all speech analysis is covered. This is based on the authority of the vedic passage -Taittiriya Samhita -6-4-7-3 speaking about Indras work in segmenting the speech domain.

The Yajnika school list the four categories as Mantra, Kalpa, Brahmana, and Laukika-Vyaavaharika types. Mantra is veda-segment, so marked technically by the yajnikas, intended for yajna -practice and deployment. The segments which guide on the practical deployment of Veda for yajna are called Kalpa. The veda-segment, so marked technically by the yajnikas as explaining the meaning of Veda mantra is called a Brahmana. Beyond this, other ordinary instructional communications, yet a part of Vedic yajna are called laukika-Vyaavaharika.

The Nirukta school lists the four categories as :Rik, Yajus, Saman and fourth as Laukika-Vyaavaarika.

The aithihasika school lists the four categories as : Sarpa -Speech, Birds-Speech, Kshudra-sareesrupa speech and fourth as Laukika speech. (The clarity on Sarpa, Vayas,Kshudra-sareesrupa is not clear to me).

The Atma-Vadin School lists the four categories as : Pashu Speech, Toonava( ?) speech, Animal Speech (?!) and Individuals speech.

Some other manuscripts ( = maatrukaa) explain the four categories as : Paraa, pashyantee, madhyamaa, vaikharee are four types according to one list. When Vak, manifesting as Naada raising from Moolaadahra is sensed and seen at this phase, it is called paraa. It is very subtle. It is sensed only when it raises to the level of 'Hrudaya' (Heart). Then it is called Pashyantee. At this point, Yogi's can see-sense this. Further raising, when this reaches the level of Buddhi, carrying the intention for expression out, it is called Madhyamaa. When this moves out of the border of throat and lips, as expressed audible speech, then it is called vaikharii.

The word 'Masters of Mind ' = maneeshinah = means one who ahs brought the mind (manas) under control by yoga practice. They are the Brahmanas, who are able to see-sense clearly the layered manifestation of the Shabda-Brahma. What stays below the throat, as inner processing of speech in the domains of heart till its roots in Naada, and beyond is the three caves, the hidden segments. Only the fourth , the Vaikharii is spoken-heard by the ordinary mortals. In other words, Only one fourth of speech is seen, and three fourths remain inside hidden.

In the school of gramarians, this process is explained as the Vak-Yoga process, known to Brahmana's who have mastered the mind. Only they will be able to see the prakruti -pratya -prakriyaa details of all word units. The worldly people get a sense of only one fourth part of the communication ( as what serves the practical usage). This is called meaningful communication, in contrast to 'Visioning-Seeing the Speech'. This mantra has been detailed in Nirukta. There is also a vedic segment marked as Brahmana which supports this analysis. The technical reference for these segments are called rathantara, vamadevya, Bruhatee. This is known to the Brahamns and they are capable of speaking both formats of speech: The format of speech of Devas and Format of speech of humans.

(Dr Sastry's comment concluded)

Check my Tamil article here:

jayasree said...

Typo error Correction :- Ramanuja wrote "Vedartha sangraha" and not "Vesartha sangraha".

Virendra said...

Hello Jayasree
It would be good if our people had their own workshops of this kind, well popularized and far reaching into the common people.
That will nullify whatever propaganda these mlechhas are playing.