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In the late 1970s Professor Swaminathan persuaded the New Delhi government to bring out all Muruganar's unpublished verses, which were being edited and compiled by Sadhu Om, in a subsidised series.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.