The Most Helpful Translations

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian ramakris at EROLS.COM
Sat Mar 13 14:10:51 CST 1999

Parisi & Watson <niche at AMERITECH.NET> wrote:

>I know there are many translations into Engish available of the works
>Shankara, and I have some of them. But the quality of the
>notes, and commentary (if any) varies widely. What I'd really like to
>find is the major works of Shankara bound together in one or a few
>volumes, with the most clear translation, the most helpful notes, and
>would hope some insightful commentary about their general context.
>this exist, or are we forced to pick and choose from individual
>often in almost a pamphlet format? Note that such a publication would
>also provide implicit guidance on which works are the most important.
>This is my second engagement with the mailing list, and this time I'd
>like to do it right, so I'm looking for fundamentals. If the answer
>already in a FAQ somewhere, please direct me to it.

It is very heartening to see questions which are relevant to this
list. I think the best way is to learn Sanskrit and read for oneself.
However,  I suggest the following, which will also be useful in
learning Sanskrit (they have been for me):

1. upadeshasAhasrI:

a. The translation by JagadAnanda is quite good and he gives
references to the quotations being used along with notes from
RamatIrthas commentary. This is available from

b. Sengaku Mayeda, a Japanese scholar has translated this work and it
has been published by SUNY press. Mayeda complains that Jagadanandas
translation is more faithful to RamatIrthas commentary than the
original text. However even Mayeda, IMO, misinterprets some verses.
Eg., his interpretation of one verse is contradicted directly by one
of Sureshvara's works. The problem is that Mayeda does not use any of
the commentaries at all and prefers to rely on himself. But over all
it is pretty good. But, it does not have the Sanskrit text, unlike the
translation by Swami Jagadananda. It is available from

2. The translation of aparoxAnubhUti by Swami Vimuktanada is good.
This is also available from the site given above.

3. Eight Upanishads, translation by Swami Gambhirananda seems to be
very good.  I have compared some translations with the original
commentary by sha.nkara. They were rendered precisely and very
tightly. Also available from

4. The translation of the bR^ihadAraNyaka bhAshhya by Swami
Madhavananda is well regarded. However, I haven't had the chance to
read this thoroughly. Also available from

I have seen that Swami Nikhilananda's translations are not as good as
these other Swamijis. He has a habit of not directly translating and
inserting his own commentaries into the "translation".

IMO, the first and foremost text is the upadeshasAhasrI. It has to be
read very carefully. Before that the aporoxAnubhUti can be studied to
get the basic principles straight.


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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