Friday, November 5, 2021

Mandukya 7 Translation Fantasia

Reality is not a dreamlike thought. Reality is not a waking form. Nor is reality a thought-form. Reality is not the sleep of no-thought. Moreover, reality is not sentient nor insentient.

~Mandukya 7 part-a (tx-aumdada)

It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable, and indescribable.

~Mandukya 7 part-b (tr-Nikhilananda)

“Always experienced as the unbroken I-sense”, “in which all phenomena cease; and which is unchanging, auspicious, and non-dual.” “This is what is known as the fourth (Turiya). This is the Ātman, and this is to be realized.”

~Mandukya 7 part-c (tr-Swartz, Gambhirananda, Chinmayananda)


If the Upanishads are the well of truth, and the Mandukya is the essence of that truth, then its seventh verse is its distillation. It could be said the Mandukya 7 is 100✓.

Chinmayananda divides this verse in three and I agree with such a division. I have been using several translations in reading the Mandukya, and I wanted to take the best and build a more perfect seventh verse, which is the most important verse, in that it presents for the first time in this Upanishad the Fourth, Reality.

First, I wanted to create my own interpretation of the first part which clearly presents the negation of the three states presented in the first six verses. According to Sankara, the Mandukya 1-6 defines the snake of illusion as the waking state, dreaming state, and deep sleep state. And by negating these three states in Mandukya 7, the rope of the fourth stateless state, Turiya, or Reality, is revealed.

My transcreation is admittedly self-esoteric but I wanted to make the allusion to the three states very clear as well as equate them with thought and form while still emphasizing the negation. A more conventional translation by Gambhirananda reads: "that which is not conscious of the internal world, nor conscious of the external world, nor conscious of both the worlds, nor a mass of consciousness, nor conscious, nor unconscious." Since 'prajnam' is repeated in this part, G is more correct. I went with a little spiritual (or grammatical) incorrectness here instead.

For the rest of the seventh, I chose the parts of the translations of Nikhilananda, Gambhirananda, Chinmayananda, and Swartz, the four best translations of the Mandukya and Karika in my experience, ringing most true. 

In the second part, I chose Nikhilananda, who translates this section (adṛṣṭam-avyavahāryam-agrāhyam-alakṣaṇam acintyam-avyapadeśyam) with a succinct poetic clarity that follows the crisp Sanskrit faithfully.

For the first section of the third part, I chose Swartz who translates the all-important ekātma-pratyaya-sāraṁ in a most unique way, emphasizing that all this negation does not result in either nihilism or nirvikalpa samadhi but experiential self-awareness (as he has written, "Self knowledge takes place in the mind, but if the mind is non-existent how can it take place?").

Chinmayananda translates the phrase as "traceable through unbroken Self-awareness" which is great but for some reason in the actual translation changes it to "essentially of the Self alone" which is not as great, but still better than "whose valid proof consists in the single belief in the Self" by Gambhirananda. I feel the use of belief to be so wrong!

I chose Ghambhirananda for the second section of the third part though. It is a nice presentation of the positive aspect of the verse without taking it too far like the "all peace, all bliss" of Nikhilananda.

For the third section I chose Chinmayananda over Nikhilananda. They are almost identical, and since N came before C in time, one could make the argument for N. But where C goes "this is to be realized," N goes "this has to be realized," so I went with C instead. I choose is over has. Also, it works out nicely including all four of these fine translations here. So serendipitous in fact, harih aum!

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