[Advaita-l] Recommended Vedanta-bhashya?
Siva Senani Nori
sivasenani at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 7 03:42:15 CDT 2006
I guess by Vedanta-bhashya, you refer to the Vedanta-sutra- (also called Brahmasutras, bAdarAyaNasUtras, SArIrika sutras / SAstra)-bhashya.
The Ramakrishan Math's edition with English translation by Swami Gambhirananda is a very good book. Though it does not contain the original bhashya in Sanskrit, it gives the full translation with some occasional explanation by the respected
Swamiji. It is available at http://www.amazon.com/Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya/dp/8175051051/sr=1-11/qid=1157615106/ref=sr_1_11/103-4524720-1102210?ie=UTF8&s=books and http://www.sriramakrishnamath.org/books/elist.asp?ProductType=MA11. At least one moderator of this list, Sri Vidya Sankar, holds the translation in high esteem. I have not heard any learned person - advaitin or not - say that the Swamiji's book had defects such as establishing one's own flavour of advaita, incompetence in translation, skipping over of inconvenient or difficult portions, and not containing cross-references to the Acharya's other writings. The only accusation that could hold water is that the translation is not lucid. My personal experience is that after starting with the book, I shifted to translations in Indian languages, because reading in English was doubly laborious with uncommon words like nescience (avidya) and mediate (as opposed to immediate) being used too regularly for comfort.
Then we have George Thibaut's translation of Sri Sankaracharya's commentary on the Vedanta Sutras, originally published by the Oxford University Press. The translation is critical in the sense that Thibaut does not hesitate to criticize the Acharya (wrongly, it seemed to me in the few places that I consulted the book) and seems to be influenced by some Visishtadvaitins of Benares. Still, the translation is faithful, if not 100% sympathetic.This is available at http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe34/index.htm in the electronic format. Compared to Swami Gambhirananda's translation, the translation is less turgid, but lacks in depth (as came out in this list's discussion on the meaning of 'itihasa' in Sri Sankaracharya's bhashya).
Here one point may be noted. The Westerners of the nineteenth century, learned as they were in Sanskrit, had an alarming disconnect with the practice of the belief / faith / religion / system. For instance, Monier Williams is one of the most respected lexicographers (his 'Chair' was sponsored in Oxford in order to build an English-Sanskrit dictionary so as to enable the missionaries to translate the Bible and other Christian scriptures into Sanskrit better. In the India of that period, anything in Sanskrit would have much more weight than the same in the vernacular language - the vulgar tongue of the masses) and his Sanskrit-English dictionary is still one of the best in the business, but he did not have any touch with the India that practices. He thought prANa-pratishTha was a dead word (to be fair, he later corrected his view and mentioned the instance - that is how we come to know of it) whereas it still is a commonly used word - even in Telugu. I mean, look at this
way: my aunt dropped out of school in eighth class, does not know Sanskrit, but knows the word; how can a Sanskrit lexicographer not know the nuances of its usage?
Then we have Max Muller, the celebrated Indologist, who never once visited India.
In a similar vein, we find that the questions which Swami Gambhirananda takes great pains to explain are cursorily dealt with by Thibaut and vice-versa.
Sri Sarvepalli Radhakrishna's (second President of The Republic of India) achieves a balance between the two approaches, with copious references to western philosophers, but to my knowledge he has not translated the Brahmasutras.
Finally, if you want only the text of the Acharya's bhashya, it is available in Devanagari and Roman scripts at http://www.sankara.iitk.ac.in/bsutraindex.htm
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