[Advaita-l] Book Review - PRASTHANATRAYA All translation by V.Panoli
brahmavadin at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 00:56:09 CDT 2012
All translation by V.Panoli
Vol. II. Isa, Kena, Katha, Mandukya Upanishads.
2006, hardback, Pp. 547 + L, Rs.260.
Vol. III. Prashna, Mundaka, Taittiriya, Aitareya
Upanishads. 2008, hardback, Pp.518 + xxiv,
Vol.IV, Chhandogya Upanishad.
2008, hardback, Pp. 925
+ xxiv, Rs.600.
Vol. V. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad,
2008, hardback, Pp.
1342 + xxiv, Rs.500.
Bhagavadgita and Brahmasutra Bhashya is also available.
All published by The Mathrubhumi
Printing & Publishing
Co.Ltd, M.J. Krishnamohan
Memorial Building, K.P.
Kesava Menon Road, Kozhikode
- 673 001.
books.mathrubhumi at gmail.com
Vedic scriptural literature
abounds in a multitude of texts
of diverse types and grades. Even a single lifetime
is not adequate to read all of them, let alone
understand them. However, only three texts have
been accepted down the ages by all sages and
scholars as the most authoritative. These canonical
texts are the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras, and
the Bhagavad Gita. All other texts are only valid so
long as they agree with these three texts, called
together Prasthana-traya or the Three Paths. They
form the foundation of Sanatana Dharma.
It has been the dream of several scholars to
write commentaries or explanatory notes on these
three texts. The first and probably the best-known
of them is the great Adi Shankaracharya, who
flourished in this country between 688 CE and 720
CE. He is famous not only for these commentaries,
but also for several other achievements such as the
establishment of monasteries in four corners of the
country (and according to some, in five). He also
composed many hymns, and wrote several books
explaining the salient features of his commentaries.
Most of all, he is recognized for firmly establishing
his interpretation of the Prasthantraya. His
interpretative commentaries are the key to understanding
It is incredible that he achieved all this in a
brief span of 32 years. He set the trail blazing which
has been followed by later Acharyas like Ramanuja,
Madhva and several others. His own commentaries
have been elaborately explained by a succession of
disciples. Unfortunately, in this process, several distortions
have cropped up, because of the intellectual
deficiency of the interpreters or contamination by
their own thoughts.
The only way out is a study of the original
text of the commentaries. But this poses a formidable
challenge. Very few possess the kind of knowledge
of Samskritam needed to understand the text.
Failing this, one has to take recourse to an authentic
translation. Every translator claims that his
translation comes closest to the original. Here again,
the opinions of scholars differ.
It is in this context that the latest translation
by Panoli comes as a relief. The qualifications of
Panoli for undertaking this stupendous task are,
indeed, impeccable. The deep study of the subject
undertaken by him for a long period, the approval
he got from his own teachers and scholarly friends
and critics, and his own dedication to his task, have
all of them contributed to the success of the venture,
in providing an authentic translation for the benefit
of the English-knowing public.
The four volumes under review are about the
ten Major Upanishads. Panoli has published the
translation of the Gita Bhashya in one volume, and
that of the Brahmasutra Bhashya in two volumes,
thus making it a monumental set of seven volumes.
The ten major Upanishads have been presented
in four groups. The first group consists of Isha,
Kena, Katha and Mandukya with the Karika of
Gaudapada. These constitute the most popular
Upanishads, with scintillating ideas. Without the
commentary of Shankara, it is very difficult to
understand the Isha and Kena, because they deal
with very esoteric ideas. The Kena even provides a
definition of Consciousness, unsurpassed in the
Upanishadic literature. The Katha abounds in
allegories and analogies, and has influenced the
philosophy of the Gita profoundly. The Mandukya
with the Karika introduces Omkara through the
different States of Consciousness.
The second volume in this series, which is
Vol. III of the whole series, contains translations of
the commentaries on Prashna, Mundaka, Taittiriya
and Aitareya Upanishads. Panoli has followed the
traditional practice of placing Mundaka after
Prashna, though Shankara himself would have
preferred the reverse order. These Upanishads are
somewhat difficult, and Shankara's commentaries
are very useful, especially the one on Taittiriya.
The third and the fourth volumes of this series
are devoted to Chandogya Upanishad and Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad respectively, two of the
largest and most difficult Upanishads. Shankara's
commentaries are indispensable for their understanding.
The commentary on the last, the Brihadaranyaka,
along with that on the Brahmasutras, is
considered by all scholars, Indian and Western, as
Panoli has followed a uniform format in all
the four volumes. The original text is split into short
segments, with the translation following immediately.
This helps the process of reading and understanding.
The English used in the translation is
simple, elegant and easy to understand. The accuracy
of the translation is impeccable. Wherever he
felt the need for an explanation, he has provided it,
but to the point. He has, fortunately, not cluttered
up the translation with too many footnotes, which
would have only confused an average reader. He
has left enough scope for the reader to do some
thinking on his own. The format used for the
passages in Samskritam is clear and easy on the
eyes. The English format too is quite adequate, but
would benefit by a better font.
Panoli must indeed have possessed a lion's
heart to launch out on such a project, and more importantly,
to complete it successfully. He attributes
this to the blessings he received from his teacher,
well-wishers, and especially the motivation from
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Among others who
influenced him were Swamis Vivekananda, Virajananda
The popularity of the books can be gauged
by the fact that they have already seen the third
edition. The Government of India also suitably
honoured him by procuring copies of the books for
one hundred University libraries of the country.
Lovers of Vedanta, especially of Shankara, should
be grateful to Sri V.Panoli for enriching Vedantic
NVC SWAMY, BANGALORE
Source: The Vedanta Kesari, July 11
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