In the late 1800s, fifty volumes of the Sacred Books of the East series were published in English. These whetted the appetite of the English-speaking world for the wisdom of the East. Since then, hundreds upon hundreds of English translations of Eastern sacred texts have been published.

We who study the Ancient and Ageless Wisdom today have many times more Eastern sacred texts available to us in English than were available to those who lived and worked in the 1800s. In order to help us take advantage of them, it is proposed to post many of the best and most important of these English translations here.

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The Eka-śloka-śāstra by Nāgārjuna is now posted here in an English translation from the Chinese by H. R. Rangaswamy Iyengar. It is a vastly improved translation from the one made in 1857 by Rev. Joseph Edkins and published in his 1880 book, Chinese Buddhism. It is this early and faulty translation that was quoted by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine in order to help explain the term "svabhāva" used in the fifth śloka or verse of the second Stanza of Dzyan (vol. 1, pp. 60-61). At that time, no other actual text pertaining to svabhāva was available in English translation. Today, things are different.

If we want to explain svabhāva using Mahāyāna Buddhist texts, we would indeed turn to the writings of Nāgārjuna. He is regarded as the founding father of the Madhyamaka or "Middle Way" school, which is the major school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. In Tibet, his writings are most often studied by way of the commentaries of Chandrakīrti. What is perhaps the best and most
accurate study of svabhāva in these texts is the 1982 article by William L. Ames titled, "The Notion of Svabhāva in the Thought of Candrakīrti" (Journal of Indian Philosophy, vol. 10). This article is here attached. It includes accurate and reliable translations from Nāgārjuna and Chandrakīrti on svabhāva.
It is generally understood that svabhāva is denied by Nāgārjuna. Just how far this denial is taken varies somewhat in the different schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism. But all agree that he denied svabhāva in existing things, bhāvas, by his teaching that these are empty (śūnya) of an inherent nature (svabhāva) or inherent existence (svabhāva). For Gelugpas, this denial of svabhāva extends to all dharmas whatsoever, including even ultimates. Thus, Gelugpas would not accept the teachings of the Stanzas of Dzyan, which speak of svabhāva a number of times. The exception to this in Tibet are the Jonangpas, who accept an ultimate that is not empty of svabhāva.
Gaudapada was one of the greatest spiritual teachers who ever lived. His genius is well known in India, and was soon recognized by the early Theosophists. His great work is the Mandukya-karika, also known as the Gaudapada-karika or the Agama-sastra. This is a short text, consisting of only 215 verses or karikas. But like the brief Mandukya Upanisad that it explains, it is loaded with meaning. He is also known as the author of a commentary on the Samkhya-karika. This is being posted in English, verse by verse, here on the Sanskrit Language Study forum. 

The first ever translation of the Mandukya-karika into English was made by Manilal N. Dvivedi, and was commissioned by Theosophists. He writes in the preface to his 1894 translation:

"Early in 1890, Col. H. S. Olcott, President of the Theosophical Society and Mr. Bertram Keightley, General Secretary of the Indian Section of the Theosophical Society, requested me to undertake the following translation of the Mandukya and the several commentaries accompanying the same. Dewan Bahadur S. Subramania Iyer of the Madras High Court had offered a handsome amount towards meeting the expenses of this work, and as I found that this gentleman as well as my friends Col. Olcott and Mr. Keightley were desirous that I should undertake the translation, I closed with the offer."

This translation was then published by Tookaram Tatya, for the Bombay Theosophical Publication Fund. The English-speaking world was thus given access to this great spiritual classic.

The Mandukya-karika is not a spiritual classic in the same way the Bhagavad-gita is. It is not for everyone. The Bhagavad-gita speaks to everyone. If your disposition is toward action, then the Gita teaches karma-yoga, the yoga of action. If your disposition is toward devotion, then the Gita teaches bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotion. If your disposition is toward knowledge, then the Gita teaches jnana-yoga, the yoga of knowledge. The Mandukya-karika teaches only knowledge, pure knowledge. It is the highest knowledge reachable by humans, so it is not easy to understand.

Dvivedi's 1894 translation included the Mandukya Upanisad itself, in 12 paragraph-style verses, Gaudapada's 215 karika-style verses, and Shankaracharya's commentary thereon. This book has recently been reprinted in the U.S.A. by Jain Publishing Company, so only Gaudapada's verses from it are here posted. In Dvivedi's time, translation was freer than what has become expected today, and a certain amount of paraphrase was normal. Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya gave us the first close translation in his 1943 edition. This was followed in 1953 by an even more literal translation by Raghunath Damodar Karmarkar.

These latter two translations, however, followed different modes of interpretation. Bhattacharya understood many of the less usual terms and phrases according to how they are used in Buddhist texts that had recently become available. This understanding had been unknown to Sanskrit pandits in India for several centuries, because the Buddhist texts had long ago disappeared there. Karmarkar, like Dvivedi earlier, followed the standard Vedanta interpretation given in Sankaracarya's commentary.

In A. P. Sinnett's 1883 Theosophical classic, Esoteric Buddhism, the term Adi-Buddha was used and explained, and its antiquity was defended by reference to its occurrence in Gaudapada's Mandukya-karika. Sinnett writes in chapter 9, from the 1885 fifth edition:

"The Dhyani Buddhas, or Dhyan Chohans, are the perfected humanity of previous manwantaric epochs, and their collective intelligence is described by the name 'Addi Buddha,' which Mr. Rhys Davids is mistaken in treating as a comparatively recent invention of the Northern Buddhists. Addi-Buddha means primordial wisdom, and is mentioned in the oldest Sanscrit books. For example, in the philosophical dissertation on the 'Mandukya Upanishad,' by Gowdapatha, a Sanscrit author contemporary with Buddha himself, the expression is freely used and expounded in exact accordance with the present statement. A friend of mine in India, a Brahmin pundit of first-rate attainments as a Sanscrit scholar, has shown me a copy of this book, which has never yet, that he knows of, been translated into English, and has pointed out a sentence bearing on the present question, giving me the following translation: 'Prakriti itself, in fact, is Addi-Buddha, and all the Dharmas have been existing from eternity.' Gowdapatha is a philosophical writer respected by all Hindoo and Buddhist sects alike, and widely known. He was the guru, or spiritual teacher, of the first Sankaracharya, of whom I shall have to speak more at length very shortly."
As would be expected in a pioneering work like this, there are errors in this paragraph. The term Adi-Buddha is not "freely used" in Gaudpada's Mandukya-karika, but is found there only once, in verse 92 of chapter 4. Nor is Gaudapada "respected by all Hindoo and Buddhist sects alike," since he is regarded as a Hindu writer, and has been unknown to Buddhists for the last thousand years. Then, T. Subba Row later corrected Sinnett's statement that Gaudapada was the guru of the first Sankaracharya, pointing out that he was his parama-guru, his teacher's teacher. But we would not expect the translation of Gaudapada's verse, made by "a Brahmin pundit of first-rate attainments as a Sanscrit scholar," (T. Subba Row?) to be faulty. Let us look at this verse, 4.92, as translated in the three translations now posted here. Note that only the first line of this verse is given in Sinnett's book.
Manilal Dvivedi, 1894: "All attributes are by their very nature all thought, from the first, and are perfectly defined; he who thus reconciles himself attains immortality."
Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya, 1943: "By the very nature all elements of existence are well ascertained as originally knowledge. One who has such acquiescence is fit for immortality."
Raghunath Damodar Karmarkar, 1953: "All entities by nature itself are well ascertained as Adi-buddhas [enlightened from the very beginning]; one who has self-sufficiency in this way, is capable of [securing] immortality."
In Sinnett's book we find the first half of this verse translated, in an erroneous manner:
"Prakriti itself, in fact, is Addi-Buddha, and all the Dharmas have been existing from eternity."

Prakriti is not, and cannot be, the subject. It is in the instrumental or third case, "by nature." There is nothing in the second part of this line of the verse about "existing from all eternity." All three of the published translations agree in taking the dharmas to be adi-buddha (plural); and indeed, this is the only way grammatically possible. Whether we understand the dharmas to be "attributes" (Dvivedi), or "elements of existence" (Bhattacharya), or "entities" (Karmarkar), and however we understand adi-buddha, as "all-thought" (Dvivedi), or "originally knowledge" (Bhattacharya), or untranslated (Karmarkar), these two terms define each other in this verse. We students of Theosophy have to get our facts right before we are in a position to say that a particular text supports or does not support the Theosophical teachings that have been given out. Gaudapada's text may well support them, but not in the way stated in the Theosophical book, Esoteric Buddhism.
Gaudapada was called by me "one of the greatest spiritual teachers who ever lived," and I regard his great work, the Mandukya-karika, as a major sourcebook of the Wisdom Tradition. Besides the 1943 translation by Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya, and the 1953 translation by Raghunath Damodar Karmarkar, both posted here, another good English translation is that by Swami Gambhirananda. It was first published in 1958, and is still in print. Like Dvivedi's translation, it includes the commentary by Shankaracharya. These, of course, follow the standard Advaita Vedanta interpretation.
How the Mandukya-karika should be understood has been a matter of debate ever since some of its unusual terminology was seen to be the same as terminology found in Buddhist texts. This happened near the beginning of the 1900s. Since then, many articles have been written on Gaudapada and what he meant in his Mandukya-karika. Over the years I have tried to track these down, go to the libraries that hold them, and make the best quality photocopies of them that I could make. The intention was to make them available someday. Someday is here.
These articles were gathered before the days of the internet; and in any case, I would be surprised if more than a few of them can be found on the internet at present. There is so much on the internet, that we easily get the impression that everything is on the internet. But this is not so. Here to be posted are 57 English articles on Gaudapada, in small groups not exceeding 7 megabytes per file. They are given in chronological order by date of publication.

1. La Vallee Poussin, Louis de. "Buddhist Notes: Vedanta and Buddhism." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1910, pp. 129-140. [gives quotations from Gaudapada’s Mandukya-karika and parallel quotations from Buddhist works]

2. Jacobi, Hermann. "On Mayavada." Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 33, 1913, pp. 51-54. [on Gaudapada as the first formulator of mayavada, its difference from the Brahma-sutra teaching, and its similarity with the Buddhist sunyavada]

3. Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara. "The Gaudapada-Karika on the Mandukya Upanisad." Proceedings and Transactions of the Second [All-India] Oriental Conference, Calcutta, January 28th to February 1st, 1922, Calcutta: 1923, pp. 439-461.

4. Bhattacharya, Vidhusekhara. "Sankara’s Commentaries on the Upanisads." In Sir Asutosh Mookerjee Silver Jubilee Volumes, vol. 3, pp. 101-110. Calcutta: Calcutta University, 1925. [rejects Sankara’s authorship of the commentary attributed to him on the Mandukya Upanisad and Gaudapada’s Karika]


5. Chintamani, T. R. "Sankara--The Commentator on the Mandukya Karikas." Proceedings and Transactions of the Third [All-India] Oriental Conference, Madras, December 22nd to 24th, 1924, Madras: 1925, pp. 419-425.

6. Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara. "The Mandukya Upanisad and the Gaudapada Karikas." Indian Historical Quarterly, vol. 1, 1925, pp. 119-125, 295-302.

7. Hiriyanna, M. "The First Commentary on the Mahabhasya." Indian Historical Quarterly, vol. 2, 1926, pp. 415-416. [gives a verse from Sadasivendra’s Guru-ratna-mala on Gaudapada as teacher of Apollonius]

8. Atreya, B. L. "Gaudapada and Vasistha: A Comparative Survey of Their Philosophy." Proceedings of the Indian Philosophical Congress, vol. 3, 1927, held at Bombay [we lack]; also in Darshana International, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan. 1973, pp. 1-10. [presumably this is a reprint of the same article, since the title is the same, although no information about it is given there; the General Editor of this journal in 1973 was B. L. Atreya]


9. Sarma, B. N. Krishnamurti. "New Light on the Gaudapada Karikas." Review of Philosophy and Religion, Poona, vol. 2, no. 1, 1931, pp. 35-56.

10. Sarma, B. N. Krishnamurti. "Further Light on the Gaudapada Karikas." Review of Philosophy and Religion, Poona, vol. 3, no. 1, 1932, pp. 45-55.

11. Sarma, B. N. Krishnamurti. "Still Further Light on the Gaudapada Karikas." Review of Philosophy and Religion, Poona, vol. 4, 1933, pp. 174-195.


12. Sarma, Y. Subrahmanya. "The Upanisadic Theory of the Gaudapada-Karikas." Review of Philosophy and Religion, Poona, vol. 4, 1933, pp. 196-204.

13. Venkatasubbiah, A. "The Mandukyopanisad and Gaudapada." Indian Antiquary, vol. 62, Oct. 1933, pp. 181-193.

14. Venkatasubbiah, A. "On Gaudapada’s Agamasastra." Indian Historical Quarterly, vol. 11, 1935, pp. 783-790.


15. Venkatasubbiah, A. "Are the Gaudapada-karikas Sruti?" Poona Orientalist, vol. 1, no. 1, Apr. 1936, pp. 7-18; no. 2, July 1936, pp. 2-12.

16. Sarma, B. N. Krishnamurti. "The Upanisadic Theory of the Gaudapada Karikas--A Rejoinder." Poona Orientalist, vol. 1,
no. 2, July 1936, pp. 27-38.

17. Sarma, B. N. Krishnamurti. "Are the Gaudapada Karikas Sruti? A Rejoinder." Poona Orientalist, vol. 2, no. 1, Apr. 1937, pp. 20-30.


18. Purohit, N. B. "The Gaudapadakarikas and Buddhism." Proceedings and Transactions of the Eighth All-India Oriental Conference, Mysore, December 1935, Bangalore: 1937, pp. 353-382.

19. Ray, Amarnath. "Bhagavata Purana and the Karikas of Gaudapada." Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, vol. 8,
1935-37, pp. 107-111.

20. Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara. "Gaudapada." Indian Historical Quarterly, vol. 14, 1938, pp. 392-397.

21. Gadgil, V. A. "The Mandukyopanisad and the Gaudapada-karikas." Journal of the University of Bombay, vol. 6, part 6, May 1938, pp. 66-79.


22. Ray, Amarnath. "The Mandukya Upanisad and the Karikas of Gaudapada." Indian Historical Quarterly, vol. 14, 1938, pp. 564-569.

23. Sastri, S. S. Suryanarayana. "Some Observations on the Mandukya Karikas." Journal of Oriental Research, Madras, vol. 13, 1939, pp. 99-109. Reprinted in Collected Papers of Professor S. S. Suryanarayana Sastri, ed. T. M. P. Mahadevan, pp. 262-271. Madras: University of Madras, 1961.

24. Divanji, P. C. "Gaudapada’s Asparsayoga and Sankara’s Jnanavada." Poona Orientalist, vol. 4, no. 4, Jan. 1940, pp. 149-158.

25. Mahadevan, T. M. P. "Some Problems of the Mandukya-karika." Journal of the Madras University, vol. 15, no. 2, Jan. 1944, pp. 130-146; the same article was also published in Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 1, Apr. 1944, pp. 18-34.


25. Mahadevan, T. M. P. "Some Problems of the Mandukya-karika." Journal of the Madras University, vol. 15, no. 2, Jan. 1944, pp. 130-146; the same article was also published in Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 1, Apr. 1944, pp. 18-34. [here is the second printing]

26. Mahadevan, T. M. P. "The Ajativada of Gaudapada." In B. C. Law Volume, ed. D. R. Bhandarkar, et al., Part I, pp. 308-320. Calcutta: The Indian Research Institute, 1945.

27. Raju, P. T. "An Unnoticed Aspect of Gaudapada’s Mandukya Karikas." Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, vol. 26, parts 3-4, 1945, pp. 192-200. [re: spanda]

28. Majumdar, Jnanendralal. "The Philosophy of Gaudapada (In Mahayana Technology)." Indian Historical Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 1, Mar. 1947, pp. 1-16.


29. Majumdar, Jnanendra Lal. "Gaudapada’s Karika (Alatasanti)." (With English translation, notes and Exposition). Journal of the Ganganatha Jha Research Institute, vol. 5, pt. 3, May 1948, pp. 203-226; pt. 4, Aug. 1948, pp. 347-378; vol. 6, pt. 1, Nov. 1948, pp. 65-85. [annotated primarily from the Lankavatara-sutra, and also from The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana]



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