November 24, 2010
Mistranslation of Vedas – comments
Comment by Krishna Mohan on Facebook (here)
Sanjeev Ji, I know quite a bit of Sanskrit and I have myself noticed so many mistranslations not only of the Vedas but also of Gita. The reason being that Sanskrit and modern languages have a huge difference in their semantic structure.
For example, 'go' in Sanskrit means "anything that moves about freely"
Depending on context it can refer to different things. 'go' when used in context of agriculture means 'cow', when used in context of controlling oneself it means 'sense organs', when used in context of vision it means 'light' and in different contexts 'go' means different objects.
This is a property of every Sanskrit word.
Another example, 'Yog' means "combination". In chemistry it would mean 'a compound', in spirituality it would mean 'experiencing or combining in God', in the context of health it means 'yoga' where in-going and out-going breaths combine.
This property of Sanskrit in which a word represents "an idea" and not "an object" makes translating Sanskrit accurately very difficult for a person who did not study Sanskrit Vyakaran and Nirukti.
Hence we see in British translations of Vedas that "the so-called Aryans used to kill Cows". Max muller and other Indologists assumed that 'go' means "cow" even if it was used in the context of 'sense organs'. The actual context in Vedas probably was "Control your Sense organs" which was mistranslated to "Kill Cows". This is just one example. I have found so many English mistranslations in Bhagawad Gita itself, let alone Vedas which have more complex Sanskrit.
Dear Sanjeev ji,
The purported evidence given above is based on rather amateurish "translations" of Sanskrit sources. As Krishna Mohan ji's comment above indicates, there is latitude for interpretation, and in any context, the analytically optimal candidate should be taken. The Vedic evidence for beef eating provided above is pretty bogus.
For instance, when the words "get 'saindhava'" are used during meals, it means "get 'salt'". However, when the same words are uttered when one is going to one's village, it means "get a horse"! There are rules to the interpretation of Vedic sentences. The rules enumerated by the analytical sciences explain the meaning of the Vedic mantras in the most appropriate manner.
Bad and even socially and psychologically harmful translations are possible due to either ignorance, or malicious intent. There is nothing benign or even honest about slaughtering a helpless animal, supposedly to please some sort of god (demon?). Rather, the main Vedic context for sacrifice of animals is in the forest atmosphere. It is only in the forest, after hunting or while living at risk of attack from wild animals in the lap of mother nature, that the sacrifice of a hunted animal or even a domesticated animal may be permitted.
Remember, what is appropriate for the forest is not appropriate in a village, and may even be perverse in a city, and vice versa. Therefore, one needs to be careful while taking up political cudgels against "Hindutva" or whatever, and misusing tendentious "translations" of Hindu philosophical and gnostic texts. God bless.
I absolutely agree with Mr.Krishna.
There is deliberate attempt from external sources to drag vedas down and make it comparable against other scripts of smiliar nature.
This kind of sad justification of cruelty has become the new tool of the non believers to wipe their souls of any sins and encourage others to indulge as well as confuse those with feeble faith.
One must at all point be in connection with his own conscience before being knowledgeable in vedas. The murder of an animal the size of a human is equivalent to a human murder.
I agree with the above. Some translators admit that in the same text eg. Rig veda they have written that beef is unacceptable and the translator is confused as to why. For example some drugs may be included in medicines but does it mean everyone should have them all the time? No. they are to be eaten only when very sick in emergencies only. There are numerous herbal medicines that cure numerous ailments and when animals parts are included it is only when the animal has died a natural death. For example I have heard a story when Mahatma Gandhi's daughter-in-law was ill the doctor recommended non-veg soup and they had a family quarrel. We all know in our community of vegetarians that a soup made of bajra(millet) and jaggery with certain spices and herbs works just as well! Thank You.