Author Topic: The problems of translatability - 2  (Read 1680 times)


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The problems of translatability - 2
« on: March 26, 2009, 01:37:45 PM »
While disucssing this aspect, we cannot but under-estimate the
translatablity of Tamil poetry.  How then great persons like Ulaganatha Swamigal, translated Vivekchoodamani in Tamil poems?
It should be through a divine gift.  He has almost kept one Tamil verse for one Sanskrit verse of Sri Sankara, barring a few excesses.  How did Bhagavan Ramana translated Atma Bodham, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Devi Kalottaram etc.,  He should have been divinely inspired!

The great American linguist B.L. Whorf brought to our attention the fallacy of the assumption of translatablity.  His work can be summarized in two principles:

1. Linguistic Relativity: states that we create the world according to
the lines ingrained in OUR LANGUAGE.

2. Linguistic Deteminism: states that our language conditions our

I consider these ideas at holding great hope for those of us who are struggling to fathom and practise Sri Ramana's Way.  When we
read books like Talks with Ramana Maharshi, we are all subjected
to a peculiar tension.  On the one hand, there is this strange sense
that what Sri Ramana is conveying is very simple and direct and
is completely devoid of sophistication and arcane learnedness. On the other, it is quite evident that his audience has great difficulty 'getting' what he is saying.

[I think the best way should be to learn the scriptures or great Jnani's words in the language it is written or spoken.  But this might not be possible for most of us.  I know a friend of mine in Mumbai, who spent two years in learning Russian, to read Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" in original Russian!  This is definitely a Himalayan task.  How many languages one can learn?  Mandarin and Japanese to understand Zen, Sanskrit to understand Sri Sankara and others,
Telugu to understand Saint Tyagaraja's hymns, Kannada to understand Purandara Dasa and Malayalam to understand Jnanapppanai of Poonthanam!  That is why the Self is beyond words,
absolute Silence!  Summa Iru!]

But translators job is absolutely unenviable.  How much difficulties
the English had in understanding Brahman, Thaan, Naan, and Swarupam!  That way, we should salute Max Mueller, Arthur Osborne, Michael James, Robert Butler and David Godman for their Herculean tasks.

(Source: From Vak Vichara to Atma Vichara. Mountain Path, Jan-March 2006. Jayanti Issue)

Arunachala Siva.