On words:
     Bird flies across. Sky backdrops. Reflection pierces lake. Plumbline. Anchors the bird. Shadow vibrates, is it the vibrant water, the vibrant air, the wingedness, or the light? Anyway, the lake is changed.
     Text is gestural as well as textural. Meaning touches, cuts, resounds, lingers. Pretext context subtext. Orchestra. Expands to the nth.

     On translating an iceberg:
     When two words sit beside each other, they are besides themselves. You add them, but it is not a simple equation, or even a quadratic equation. Translating the surface of the Gita can only result in a collection of words, The Gita must be translated in depth. I have only wet my ankles yet. And the waters recede the moment I say that.

     On fidelity:
     Your partner is faithful to you, it is conventional, she is obedient, you can’t complain. Does she love you? What if she had the freedom to betray and nothing to lose?
     Your partner is unfaithful. Does she pity you, or think you so stupid you don’t know it? Her attention is elsewhere when you speak. Can you be with someone who is not with you?
     Love is problematic when faithless.
     Fidelity is a drag when loveless.
     Love as translation.
     After all these years my love, you dare tell me that you merely did what I said?

     On method:
1.1 ‘translated’ literally: In the field of righteousness, in the field of kuru, gathered, eager to fight – my sons, and Pandu’s sons, indeed, what did they do, Sanjaya?
Dharma can be translated as righteousness, virtue, truth, duty. Kshetra as field, region. Dharmakshetre is typically translated as “in the field of righteousness.” What? When I let kshetra speak to me, I gather: in the area of, in the realm of, in matters of, at, of, context. Dhrtarashtra's question equates dharma and kuru. The physical place kuru is not just the scene or setting, it is larger than life, context, situation. What is the situation? The Kauravas cheated in a dice game and ousted the Pandavas who want revenge, the Kauravas are in power, the Pandavas are in the right, and the only way to resolve the conflict is through a battle. In this verse, place and situation have converged into a point of no return. I translate this as when it came to that, placing pressure on that. Note the tension in yuyutsavaha. These warriors are keen to have it out. I have a mental image of two sides facing and about to unmask. I take in the words my sons and Pandu’s sons with their full weight of what has gone on in the Mahabharata up until that point : might vs. right. What did they do = who did what, what happened first/next.

dhrtrashtra to sanjaya:
and when it came to that
might    right    face-off
what happened who
did what?

     1.10 is debatable, whether aparyatam must be taken to mean limitless or inadequate. Well, what follows shows the Kaurava army is not adequate, so I favor the latter meaning, and I see Duryodhana taking a reality check. The translation includes what is said and what is suggested. I hear an accusation in 1.3, when Duryodhana makes a point of telling Duryodhana that the Pandava army chief is his ex-disciple. In 1.7, I hear defensiveness. The last & in 1.8 suggests there's more, but not really. In 1.9, my ordering of lines places both weapons and lives for Duryodhana's sake. In 1.12, Bhishma roars like a lion. Is this from pleasure at being valued, or from a wounded ego, because Duryodhana asks the troops to protect him? What follows shows that the roar produces joy in Duryodhana (tasya samjanayan harshan), so I take it as a leader's roar, meant to rouse the troops. I then apply the thought back to 1.11 and see Bhishma as the head, he is everyone's head (with the double-entendre of staying cool and sticking to allocated roles), and that's why he needs to be guarded. In 1.14 – 1.19 I call the sound unearthly rather than the tired word divine (divyau) to heighten the contrast and set the trigger for its terrifying effect. I equate unique sounds to unique personalities, i.e., each a warrior in his own right (since each was a Bhim and an Arjun). Relatives take me to family and then to familiars in 1.26. An abundance of pronouns in 1.28-1.30 shapes the translation’s emphasis on Arjuna's self-pity.

     On unity:
I follow the Gita verse by verse, but take the cognitive unit variably as it occurs at each instance in the Gita – in the line, couplet or verse, or sometimes, across a section of verses. I do not brandish a word for a word, I expand or condense depending on necessity. I combine 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6 because the comparison to Bhima and Arjuna applies to the entire list. In Chapter 1, I omit 25 and 27 because the ground has been adequately covered elsewhere. I italicize and explain terms the first time they occur, after which I treat them as a part of the vocabulary. As Arjuna, I address Krishna as Krishna, until the revelation in Chapter 11 when I find myself addressing Krishna as God. Krishna used the masculine pronoun to connect with Arjuna, but Arjuna is proxy for the reader –  in this translation, the addressee becomes s/he, and via myself, becomes “herself.” My permission comes from Bhartrhari’s sphota (about how meaning bursts), Anandavardhana’s dhvani (resonance … theory of suggestion), and from Tulsidas who wrote in the common tongue. I see the tradition of Gita commentaries in forums in India as attempts at unity, at including the parts that word-for-word translations can not touch. I am interested in uniting gestural with textural, ancient with contemporary, Arjuna with us.

 

     -- Mani Rao