Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Guru Vachaka Kovai in Telugu

A couple of days ago I was presented with one of the first copies of a translation of Guru Vachaka Kovai in Telugu. It was the full text of the version prepared by T. V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and myself, minus the introduction and the end material. This is the cover:




I have been assured by a devotee in Hyderabad, who has translated Bhagavan's books into Telugu himself, that the translation is a good one.

I was gratified to discover that this edition, which has been brought out by Ramana Bhakta Mandali, Bangalore, has been initially published as a free offering to devotees. Only a hundred copies have been printed, and these are being distributed, free of charge, to Telugu devotees and to Ramana centres in Andhra Pradesh. If this initial offering is a success and meets with the approval of Telugu devotees, it is hoped that a second and more commercial printing can be made.

If any Telugu-speaking devotees want more information about this book, they should contact

C. L.Giridhar, General Secretary, Ramana Bhakta Mandali, Bangalore,
No 377, F- Block, 12th Cross, 16th Main,
Sahakara Nagar, Bangalore –560092
email: ramanabhaktamandali@gmail.com
Blog: http://www.ramana-bhakta.blogspot.in/


This is latest in a long line of books by Muruganar that have been subsidised by dedicated devotees. In the 1930s and 40s Ramanapadananda raised money to publish Muruganar's works in Tamil. I wrote about his efforts a few years ago on this blog: http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.in/2008/05/ramanapadananda.html

In the late 1970s Professor Swaminathan persuaded the New Delhi government to bring out all Muruganar's unpublished verses, which were being edited and compiled by Sadhu Om, in a subsidised series. The resulting nine Tamil volumes of Sri Ramana Jnana Bodham went on sale at a remarkable Rs 10 per volume. 

After Ramanapadananda handed on the responsibility of publishing Muruganar's Tamil books to Sri Ramanasramam, it reprinted several of Muruganar's titles, knowing that they were unlikely to cover their costs. T. V. Venkatasubramanian told me several years ago that he had edited one of these books for the ashram. When he asked about a year later how many copies had been sold, he was told 'About ten'. That wasn't the full extent of the distribution: many copies were given away to Tamil devotees who had the necessary literary skill and interest to go through the text.

When we (Venkatasubramanian, Robert and myself) brought out our own English version of the Guru Vachaka Kovai, two devotees heard about our project and offered to subsidise the book for readers in India who might not have been able to buy the book if it was sold at a commercially viable price. These large subsidies have enabled me to sell copies to the Ramanasramam bookstore at a price that, per copy, is less than the cost of printing the book.

Some of my other books have also found unexpected sponsors. Many years ago a Korean Zen monk, Daesung Sunim, came across a copy of Be As You Are and decided to translate it into Korean. When he had finished, he contacted Penguin in London and asked for the right to publish the book in South Korea. Penguin had already given the rights to a Korean publishing house, which was not interested in bringing out Daesung's translation. He consulted a lawyer who informed him that if he printed the book himself and gave it away free of charge, he would not be violating the rights of the South Korean publishing company. In South Korea monks are often sponsored by industrial companies. Daesung found a business house that was willing to pay for the printing, and he received a big enough donation to print 5,000 copies. Daesung then went on a tour of Zen monasteries and gave away a free copy of Be As You Are to every Zen monk in South Korea who wanted to read it. For several years afterwards I would occasionally be accosted and greeted by Korean Zen monks in Ramanasramam. They were immediately recognisable by their grey tunics. Most of them didn't know a word of English, but that hadn't stopped them from making a pilgrimage to Ramanasramam.

While I was finalising the first printing of Padamalai, I gave it to a devotee to proof read. 

She didn't find many errors, but when she returned it, she asked, 'How much will this cost to print?'

When I told her, she wrote me a cheque for the full amount. Reading Muruganar seems to affect some people that way.

Not all translation stories have such a happy ending. Most English books on Bhagavan manage to cover their costs, but translations into other languages often struggle to find customers and publishers. I have several friends who are sitting on manuscripts of Ramana books, which they have translated themselves, that no one wants to (or can afford to) print. If reading these stories has inspired any potential patrons, let me know, and I will put you in touch with devotees who need help with their projects.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I have several friends who are sitting on manuscripts of Ramana books, which they have translated themselves, that no one wants to (or can afford to) print." Are there any "french" project in them ? If there are, please specify.

(Another Anonymous) said...

These sponsor stories are so beautiful and inspiring. Thanks for sharing them.

Ravi said...

David/Friends,
Wonderful to read about the story of the Korean Monks travelling to Tiruvannamalai.
I always have a mixed feeling with regard to offering books free!I used to gift away books to friends,known and unknown and subsequently when i happen to check with them I found that they have not read it.I subsequently changed the strategy-I started lending it with a timeline(30 Days).Those who are truly interested and can find time, go through it and return it;those who are not interested would politely decline saying that they would pick it up another day.
The middle path of subsidizing the price of the book seems like the best thing to do.In this respect,the Ramakrishna Mutt does a wonderful job and most(if not all of its publications)are highly subsidized.They also have some abridged versions so that those who are only partially inclined may also try and read some excerpts and proceed to buy the unabridged version if they feel inclined.

I am reminded of this excerpt from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrshna:

"The feeling of 'I ' and 'mine' is ignorance. People say that Rani Rasmani
built the Kali temple; but nobody says it was the work of God. They say that such and such
a person established the Brahmo Samaj; but nobody says it was founded through the will of
God. This feeling, 'I am the doer', is ignorance. On the contrary, the idea, 'O God, Thou art
the Doer and I am only an instrument; Thou art the Operator and I am the machine', is
Knowledge. After attaining Knowledge a man says: 'O God, nothing belongs to me-neither
this house of worship nor this Kali temple nor this Brahmo Samaj. These are all Thine.
Wife, son, and family do not belong to me. They are all Thine.'

Namaskar.

Murali said...

Ravi quotes from Gospel:

"The feeling of 'I ' and 'mine' is ignorance. People say that Rani Rasmani
built the Kali temple; but nobody says it was the work of God."

How beautifully paths of all Self Realized masters concide!!

Somewhere in Gospel, I read Thakur saying "If you look for I inside, God will emerge out"

Regards Murali

David Godman said...

Anonymous

Apropos French projects, I have just emailed a friend on mine in Paris who has recently translated Padamalai into French. If you email me (david_godman@yahoo.co.uk)I can put the two of you together.

This woman also has plans to publish The Power of the Presence in French, but she is having trouble finding a translator who is willing to do it more or less for free since she can't afford the commercial rate.

Subramanian. R said...

Dear David,

Nice to note that GVK and Padamalai are translated not only in Telugu bu also in other foreign languages. It is all Sri Bhagavan's Grace and your valiant efforts (along with Dr. Venkatasubramanian and Robert Butler.) Let Sri Ramana's glory spread all over the world, with the help of people like you.

Subramanian. R

Abhishek S said...

Dear David
Why can’t online content in PDF format be substituted for printed version? Won’t e-format be much more convenient than hard copy?
Is there funding issue involved with converting into PDF format?
Can you list out manuscripts (& language) your friends hold that await contribution for printing?

Abhishek

David Godman said...

Abhishek

You should address your queries about the Telugu version of Guru Vachaka Kovai to the publisher, whose contact address is in the post.

A few days after I made this post a benefactor, who wants to remain anonymous, came forward and volunteered to fund some of the projects I referred to. I hope that several works on Bhagavan in Tamil, Telugu, German and Hebrew will come out as a result of his benevolence.

Abhishek S said...

Thanks David,
I was already in touch with Sundaram Swamigal of Annamalai trust through you, but was just wondering about usefulness of online content vs hard printed copies, thus my post/question?

Rosemary Osterhus said...

This is a beautiful cover. Good work. I wish I were in the financial position to be of help. I hope to come across this book in America someday. As always, great work, David, with deepest gratitude from myself.

Ujwal said...

Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bengaluru joyously invites the devotees of Arunachala Ramana to participate in the Ramananjali global online contest – 2014.
An Opportunity to soak yourself in Ramananjali Music, Meditate on Arunachala and Express the joyous creativity. A Unique and Vast Contest and Fest - cross Nationalities, In 8 languages, ‘Every Family-Every Talent-Every Age’ from 1 to 101 On ‘Arunachala – The magic Mountain’.
For details, log on to www.events.ramanacentre.com
Please do participate with family and spread the word to all your friends.

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Anonymous said...

David, anyone, what can you tell me about Ranjit Maharaj? I only became aware of him recently. Is he the real deal?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous, Is Ranjit Maharaj the real deal? Well unfortunately Ranjit passed away quite a few years ago. I have a good friend who went to visit him and she was suitably impressed. There's little else I can really add to this except to say Nisargadatta thought very highly of him which speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

I don't ever recall reading any comments by Nisargadatta about Ranjit Maharaj. Where can I find these comments?

sri said...

Sir,
I am in ready to sponsor for Rs 10,000/ for any project related to
Bhagavan.Please, contact me 09441481014,srinivasa rao v,khammam(A.P)

Zee said...

Sri,
I have this book GVK in English; hundreds of pages defining Truth.It seems as if the anti-climax is the intended climax.After reading a couple of hundred pages u wud be frustrated that it is same boring definition again and again and come to conclusion that Truth cannot be learnt from books and it is the same thing over and over again.So it is more of a Library Edition.

It is better to sponsor books that describe the Life of Bhagawan like Power of Presence.

Also I never believed in anything Free.Expensive Books that were given Free in a Monastery I binned them.Books on Plato and Socrates I am forcing myself to read because I paid for them.

Temples are anyway flooded with Money these days.I wud suggest use the same money to buy food or medicines to the poorest in ur local village or town.

David Godman said...

Sri

Email me at david_godman@yahoo.co.uk and we can discuss the matter. I will also call you and let you know that my email address is posted here.

David Godman

santhosh s said...

Dear Friends,

Can anyone please let me know any store in Hyderabad where i can purchase Padamalai,English Version?

Many Thanks!

Anonymous said...

In Hyderabad, I bought a copy of the English Padamalai a few years ago when it first came out in the Shri Ramana Kendram, which is on the Sivam Road, New Nallakunta (I beleive the area is called).

Hope this helps.

jordanloder said...

very cool:)

sri said...

Sir,
One of my relatives is in Translation Business.Any help from my side regarding English to French Translation.
My mail anusrinivas14@gmail.com

Merlyn said...

Hi David,

Firstly, thanks for writing this blog. It's a great source of information and I frequent it regularly.

I have a few questions you may be able to answer about Bhagavan that aren't directly linked to your last post, if that's all right.

I recently read in 'Ramana Periya Purunam' by V. Ganesan that Ramana learnt Malayalam from Palani Swami. I wonder if you could verify that? I also understand that Ramana spoke both Tamil and Telugu. Tamil was obviously his native tongue, but it would be interesting to know where and when he acquired Telugu?

Another thing I read in 'Ramana Periya Purunam' by V. Ganesan was that Ramana rarely referred to himself, but in the few cases he did reveal his name, he named himself Arunachula Ramanan as opposed to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Is this true? Is this his revealed name?

Thanks in advance for any answers.

All the best,

Merlyn

David Godman said...

Merlyn

Bhagavan learned Telugu from a Telugu-speaking relative before he came to Tiruvannalai. He learned Malayalam from Palaniswami during the Virupaksha Cave era. This is Kunju Swami's version:

'After returning to Virupaksha Cave Palaniswami would put the food aside and then read with great difficulty one chapter from the Malayalam version of Adhyatma Ramayana. He would only serve food to Sri Bhagavan after he had completed his reading. When Sri Bhagavan had eaten, he would eat whatever remained.

'This Adhyatma Ramayana, composed by Thunjath Ramanujan Ezhutassan, generally regarded as the father of Malayalam literature, is held in great veneration in Kerala, Palaniswami’s home state. Pious people there read a part of it every day before eating their food.

'As Sri Bhagavan became better known, devotees would come from town or further afield, and they too had to be fed. On such occasions, because of Palaniswami’s slow reading, they would be kept waiting for their food. Sri Bhagavan felt that it was not good to keep hungry people waiting.

'With the idea of avoiding this inconvenience, he called to Sri Palaniswami one day, "Palaniswami, must you read this chapter yourself? Or will you be satisfied if you hear it read by someone else?"

'Palaniswami replied, "It is enough if I hear it read".

'The next day Sri Bhagavan took the book and asked Palaniswami to explain the sounds of the letters to him and found that most of the Malayalam script was a combination of Tamil and granta [a modified form of Tamil used for transliterating Sanskrit texts] characters, both of which were already known to him from his schooldays at Madurai. He learned from Palaniswami the few letters that he did not know and then began daily readings from the Adhyatma Ramayana. He mastered the script quickly and was able to read out portions of the book very fluently within three days.

'His proficiency was not limited to reading. He mastered the language almost immediately, to the astonishment of everyone. Many natives of Kerala, when they came to the ashram, were taken aback on hearing him speak in faultless Malayalam. As his proficiency in reading Malayalam increased, Sri Bhagavan read other works in that language such as Yoga Vasishtam. He was so deeply moved by some passages in it, he often could not proceed with the reading. His identification with the characters was so complete, he forgot he was reading a book.'

Bhagavan identified himself as 'Arunachala Ramana' in a verse he composed at Virupaksha Cave. He had been asked by a devotee, Amritanatha Yati, if he was an avatar of various specified gods. He replied:

'In the recesses of the lotus-shaped hearts of all, beginning with Vishnu, there shines as absolute consciousness the Paramatman, who is the same as Arunachala Ramana. When the mind melts with love of him and reaches the inmost recess of the Heart wherein he dwells as the beloved, the subtle eye of pure intellect opens and he reveals himself as pure consciousness.'

I saw this verse in a manuscript of Bhagavan's works that had been translated by Major Chadwick. At the time it was headed 'Stray Verse'. Bhagavan (who had been checking the manuscript) crossed out the title and replaced it with 'Arunachala Ramana'. Since the original question of Amritanatha Yatendra was 'Who are you Ramana?' this is Bhagavan saying that he is 'Arunachala Ramana' and defining exactly what he meant by that label.

Merlyn said...

Excellent, thank you for that David.

I guess the letter 'n' at the end of Arunachula Ramanan in the introduction of 'Ramana Periya Purunam' was a typo then.

But it is a fitting name for Bhagavan. Feels so much more true with Arunachula incorporated in the name as well.

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi is a beautiful name, but filled with three out of four honorific titles, it feels very much more a name (as it is) attributed by devotees than by Ramana himself.

Merlyn said...

One other question regarding Ramana's names:

Is Ramana a common dimninutive of Venkataraman?

Also, interesting to read that the etymology of Venkataraman is Venkạteša, meaning Lord of Venkata hill; another holy hill although not beloved Arunachala.

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

I'm curious as to your opinion of the likelihood of an English translation of Sri Ramana Jnana Bodham appearing in the foreseeable future.

Thank you...

mehtab said...

David,
Can you please let us know how much does it cost in Indian Rupees to publish/print, say around 5000 copies of a book? Is that the same price for languages other than English? and What is the minimum quantity the printers expect us to order...

David Godman said...

Hi Mehtab

If you email me at david_godman@yahoo.co.uk I can give you a detailed reply on printing costs, and if you are interested in supporting various translations of Ramana texts, I can make suggestions.

David Godman

John Robertson said...

Hello David-James Swartz has said that the word "Ananda" has been improperly translated as Bliss, when it should have been translated as "Equanimity". He is saying that the Enlightened Sages, such as Sri Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi do not live in perpetual Bliss, but rather in a state of Equanimity. Is this true? And do you know if Bhagwan Nityananda ever met Sri Ramana Maharshi? Thank you. John Robertson

David Godman said...

Nityanananda never met Bhagavan, so far as I know.

Bhagavan generally characterised the exprience of the Self as 'peace' stillness' 'happiness' rather than a term such as bliss. However, this does not mean that the accepted definition of ananda is wrong.

gautam said...

Jai Ma.

Namaskar David,

Thank you very much for all that you do and do so very well with the blessings of the Holy Guru. Even down to the astonishingly beautiful garden and flowering orchids at your house, another visible sign of Grace!

May I be selfish and ask for your explanation of something my feeble mind finds difficult to understand? You have a handy knack for explaining difficult things, at least to my way of thinking. In the Guru Vachaka Kovai,under discussion here, there is a verse [142?] that dwells on TAT TVAM ASI, and Bhagavan's unique take on it.When I compare this with Verse 21 of UPADESHA SARAM, it appears that the TAT is being stressed in the latter and the TVAM in the former. Since I am not a sadhaka, lack inner illumination and any intellect, would you please offer some thoughts? I may have completely misunderstood the issue,in both texts,to begin with! With deep respect and gratitude, gautam.

gautam said...

Jai Ma.

Namaskar David,

It was very enjoyable learning how Bhagavan "became proficient" in Malayalam. One is always struck by how elegant and terse his Sanskrit compositions are, in the sutra style that is extremely difficult to generate. One hates to ever use the term "master" in connection witht eh Devabhasha. Since his Sanskrit compositions would be self-arisen, svayambhu, they are all the more precious. In this connection, one wonders where he picked up so much cooking expertise, e.g. the aubergine stems semi-charred in a cauldron, and the hundred other dishes! He left home very young and does not seem to have hung out with his mother or the older women in the kitchen as some boys do! Then came years spent in absorption, no kitchen in sight!!! The angelic Keerai Patti et.al. do not seem to have had much money or the resources to cook the range of dishes Bhagavan later excelled in, since he was climbing trees to get greens and she was collecting greens from the Hill. I have done exactly the same for my foster mother in my childhood in Bengal; the meals, while delicious, are frugal at best. Not much expertise is ever called for, with these materials, please trust me. As someone from Bengal, a region that has provided the famous eggplants for the Shivalli Brahmans of Guruvayoor, and as someone impoverished and now a plant scientist with a profound professional interest in eggplant with familiarity with over 3000 cultivars including the thorny types, I am a great fan of their cooking, including their stalks and receptacles. So I was quite bemused at the account of the charred preparation, because where on earth did he, a cave-dwelling sannyasi, discover something that I, obsessed with eggplants and their stalks, cannot even begin to imagine? This man has made me SO SAD! Beaten me at my own game! But seriously, where did he acquire the cooking skills. Sanskrit I understand, bodhija samjnana, but cooking itty-bitty stuff? I don't think even Lord Arunachala bothers with such!

Sincerely,
gautam.

David Godman said...

This is from Guru Vachaka Kovai, verses 506-508, with commentary:

506 The supreme reality is being-consciousness-bliss. For the most highly qualified amongst those who ardently seek that reality in order to free themselves from the searing heat of birth, it is only through enquiry into the real nature of the jiva, which is indicated by the word ‘thou’ [in ‘That thou art’], that the glory of liberation will be attained.

Sri Ramana says that, without [making] enquiry [into] the intended meaning of the term ‘That’ in the sentence, one should make a quest of the truth of the real Self, who is indicated by the term ‘Thou’.(Sri Ramanaparavidyopanishad, v. 501)

While speaking to Mr. K. L. Sarma of Pudukotah, Sri Bhagavan said: ‘Leaving out what is intimate and immediate, why should one seek the rest? The scriptures say “That Thou art”. In this statement “Thou” is directly experienced; but leaving it out they go on seeking ‘That’!

Question: In order to find the oneness of ‘That’ and of ‘Thou’.

Bhagavan: ‘Thou’ is the inner Self immanent in all; in order to find the same, he leaves himself out and sees the world objectively. What is the world? What is immanent in it? It is ‘That’. All such ideas arise only on forgetting one’s own Self. I never bothered myself with such matters. Only after a time it occurred to me that men had investigated such matters.(Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 639)

507 You should know that it is only for those others with weak minds that the Vedas gave out the other words ‘Tat’ [That] and ‘asi’ [are] in order to turn those minds inward and make them favourably inclined towards that enquiry.

508 The very nature of the enquiry into the import of the word ‘you’, conducted within oneself in an authentic way, is that it is the means for truly experiencing consciousness, which is understood through [scriptural] investigation to be the true significance of the other two words.

Gautam said...

Namaskar David.

I am always overwaed by the work you are doing or rather, SriBhagavan is getting done through you. But it takes an able instrument, all the same.

When you mentioned the felicity of the translations into Telegu, I felt deep gratitude for the excellent essays you have put out regarding Swami Ramanagiri, Sorupananda, Jnana Ammanai/Kumaradeva(?) and some others. Truly deep gratitude. The clarity of language is important.

With regard to the Bangla translations of Sri Bhagavan's major works that are free online, I have to say that the language therein is peculiarly inaccessible. I love Bangla, am particularly proficient in all its forms, archaic to modern, and allegedly fluent in many forms of Vedic and Sanskrit, but the language in which these particular tracts are composed defeat me by their sheer inanity and clumsiness. They fail to express any sense or clarity of Sri Bhagavan's teachings.

Had I the ability to correctly and succinctly phrase those teachings, I should have attempted a translation myself, but I dare not. Much nuance is missed and more is added, a process we term "ullanghana" when we attempt "anuvada". This is a clear and present danger, which led to the horrible consequences when Sanskrit Buddhist tracts were being translated and transliterated into Chinese at Khotan and similar central Asian sites.

I pray that some group of spiritually worthy Bangalis might be sent by Sri Bhagavan to prepare clear and supple redactions of the versions we now have available. Namaskar.

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