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General Are the available English Translations of Gurbani adequate?

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by aristotle, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. aristotle

    aristotle
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    The first complete translation of Guru Granth Sahib Maharaj into English was attempted by Dr. Gopal Singh; which was completed around 1960. Though this was not the first Gurbani translation into English, Max Arthur Macauliffe has tried his hand at some in his books on Sikh history.

    Notable translations (complete/incomplete) of Gurbani into English since then have been,

    * Manmohan Singh translation
    * Gurbachan Singh Talib translation
    * Pritam Singh Chahil translation
    * Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa translation
    * Selections from the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs (UNESCO, Orient Longman)
    (Perhaps I may have missed some, I don't know)

    Every rendition of Gurbani into English has had its own pluses and minuses, some are overtly literal while others attempt a bit more on the poetic rendition aspect. Which one is the best, well that's not a question I'm going to raise. I am however of the view that somewhere down the line, these translations haven't been able to register with the masses. The beauty and innate word power of the Granth, does not show very much in these translations. Gurbani has the use of beautiful metaphors, literary mechinations and poetic devices; but most of the translations sound much the same in all the Shabads, the diversity language employed in the Granth is not to be found in these translations.

    Not to forget, the translations have not been attempted by native English speakers(except Macauliffe and Sant Singh Khalsa) or academic scholars of English language. Another point worth considering is that most(if not all) of the translations have been the owrk of a single author at a time, no team work in the original sense was ever into play, hence the personal convictions and abvilities of the authors were only singularly utilised.(The Bible translations however, even the King James version were the work of a team).

    I may go on and on, and the post will keep getting bigger. But there are a few points on which I urge the SPNers to give their views,

    * What, if any you think, are the shortcomings of the available English translations of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji?
    * Who do you think is the best suited to attempt the translation?
    * Should Old Dictionary English be tried to render the Gurbani, as against the modern literal English in most of the translations?

    What are your views?
     
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  3. findingmyway

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    Aristotle ji, English translations are one of my bugbears. I think they are all inadequate. Prof Sahib Singh's interpretation in Panjabi is the best but also has bias which every personal work will have (including mine). This is why I think it is so important to, 1) read several interpretations to inform your understanding and 2) discuss with sangat as different viewpoints will help with a deeper understanding.

    Rawel Singh is translating Prof Sahib Singh's darpan into English on his blog http://www.sadhsangat.com/category/guru-granth-sahib/gurbani-translation/
    Nikki Guninder Kaur Singh has written some very interpretations in English.
    Ishna ji and Spnadmin ji have mentioned another English translation by a female before which seems very good from what they have said but I cannot remember the name and cannot find it at the moment.

    With Gurbani being in poetic form, the meanings are only part of the story!!

    The 2nd question you pose about language is an interesting one. I think archaic is absolutely ridiculous as it is not understandable and dioesn't fit in with the spirit of Gurbani. A lot of the language used by the Guru's was common everyday easily understood language. They wanted to demystify religious teachings and make them accessible to the common man. By using flowery language the message gets lost and it goes against the original writings! We should all be able to understand some Gurbani and be able to transcribe that into everyday life. Using normal language helps to connect with normal life which is the whole point.

    Here's another post which may be of interest http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/quest...nslations-word-word-translations-gurbani.html
     
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  4. dalsingh1zero1

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    People are increasingly realising that asides from the semantic meanings behind Gurbani, it also works in a more direct way through sound (naad) I think by touching emotional chords. This explains why Guru Arjan Dev ji arranged bani according to different metres in SGGS ji.

    So whilst a semantic grasp (arth) is very important (in my opinion) the other more emotional experience is also central. So ALL translations will be inadequate in the end.

    That being said, I'm not for one minute suggesting translations and translation efforts are not valuable or futile endeavours. Instead, they can be very useful stepping stones on the journey of immersion. Tools that will help build us up to the point where we can start to read Gurbani in Gurmukhi and have a direct experience ourselves as opposed to a mediated one.



    Interesting question!!

    Should it be the devout? Or linguistic specialists?

    I think sincere attempts using different approaches can each have their own merits. I found a recent modern style of translation by Christopher Shackle and Arvind Singh Mandair quite useful, but it is quite literal (which I prefer) but it did attempt to reflect the rhythms or grammatical structure of the source.


    Absolutely not. This a has the effect of both giving a Christian flavor to the teachings and giving the impression that it is archaic.

    We should also try and avoid using loaded terminology from other religions in translations as well (which I know is easier said than done), as this can subtly but significantly alter nuanced meanings.
     
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  5. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    It was Donald Trum that first said all that Aristotle ji has mentioned in his post...like."its all the SAME..repetition upon repetition..blah blah blah...and then he gave up...!!

    It all sounds the "same" because the Theme and foundation is the same...Gurbani is all about meeting HIM and How He can be met..so when the basic plot is the same..the story does look repetitive..just the places names differ in each shabad sort of....someone reading will sooner or later end up saying.."havent i already heard that before...?? just like Trump did.

    SGGS contains Namdev's life experiences, Bhagt kabir jis life time experiences, ravidass Jis life time experiences..Guru sahibs experiences...and these experiences are all about Meeting HIM. OBEYING HIM, his HUKM..and all that. So essentially all the shabads by these 30 over composers are going to be the same simply because the subject the plot the storyline of their shabads is the same..

    Anyone reading a copy of the Old Testament Bible Mahabharta Ramayan etc would be struck by the "boringness" of SGGS immediately. Ever wondered why there are NO "Childrens BED TIME VERSIONS..COMIC VERSIONS..etc of the SGGS...along the lines of the Bible..Mahabhrat Ramayan etc ?? A Bed time children's illustrated Bible, Comic Book version of Mahabharta, ramayan is POSSIBLE and i have seen various versions...in fact the BIBLE in a hundred versions is available..BUT there is NONE such SGGS verison...just like there cna be NO "illustrated version" of say the Philosophical works of Aristotle..or Illustarted works of Socrates...there can be no illustrated simplified version of the SGGS..

    The Dr Sant Singh Khalsa version has spread over the Internet simply because of the predominance of the 3HO Yogi Harbhajan and his NETWORK...NOW the late YOGI is being exposed for what he truly was..he was never a SIKH..always a YOGI as he claimed to be but sikhs refused to see the visible !! People like GS Tohra himslef a Comrade in Sikh clothes heaped honour upon honour upon the Yogi and helped elevate him to Self styled sri singh sahib etc..when as late as 1930's the SAHIB TITLE was RESERVED for only GURU SAHIBS and no one else.

    Now whats happening si even more insidious..Various translations of SGGS into Various "languages" are springing up like mushrooms after a rain shower...some are simply done by "Google Translate" or various internet methods...one being attempted into Tamil and sponsored by the DGMC at a cost of a few MILLION was doen by a Tamil man who saw all the SIHAREES and AUNKADDS etc in SGGS as SUPERFLOUS and Totally UNNECESSARY. His "reanslation: would have gone by un-noticed hasd he not put hsi stupidity into direct action by actually securing an original copy fo teh SGGS and using a BLADE to CUT OUT all the so called superflous siharees and aunkadds etc to make his translation work easier !!! This act of sacrilege was seen by someone..and the hue and cry led to his exposure !!

    SIKHS were caught NAPPING once again...its a moot question ?? are SIKHS ever awake or perpetually SLEEPING...:faujasingh:
     
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  6. aristotle

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    I saw the blog, and the translations in there are very good, literal as well as capturing the essence of the Shabad. I don't know why I didn't come across this one before. Thanks for suggesting.

    Rendering the whole Gurbani into archaic KJV style English would be too cumbersome and out-of-place, I agree to that. But certainly, the medieval English has the distinction of being the most suitable form of the language for rendering poetic forms into prose. Most of us perhaps have the blessing of having atleast a working knowledge of Punjabi, even if we can't interpret the meanings, we can still experience the poetic faculty of the Guru Granth Sahib Maharaj; but to the secular lay reader the prospect of learning the Gurmukhi alphabet would not seem so viable. They, as a result, grow up to believe that the Gurbani is nothing but prose, as these translations present it. The translation has to cater to every kind of audience, the ones who know Gurmukhi, the ones who don't, the devout, the secular readers, the casual readers etc. I am not a scholar at English or the mechanisms of translations, but what I feel is that a translation should be able to represent the original work of art, to the maximum extent as possible, and as far as I see, none of the translations that are popular represent the literal or poetic aspects of Gurbani fully. I know I am being too much harsh here, but I feel other SPNers too may have shared this concern at some point or the other.
     
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  7. aristotle

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    Gyaniji, sorry if I have offended you. I only meant that the translations present the Gurbani in a very repetitive and monotonous light, the Gurbani in its original Gurmukhi form does not seem at all repetitive to me. Of course the Gurbani shares the same heart of meaning throughout the text, but it is not at all repetitive. Every Shabad, Salok, Pauri ets is a beautifully unique rendering of Gurmat teachings and philosophy; it is exactly this thing that I feel is lacking in these translations, they fail to capture the innate beauty of this hidden uniqueness, if you were to read them just in the translated form, you would get to mistakenly assume that the Gurbani is full of repition and monotony, which in originality it is not. Again sorry if I have offended you or any SPNer on this count. Perhaps I don't know how to put it in words in a better way.

    I was thinking more on the lines of a study guide, or atleast a translation with enough footnotes to make the meanings clearer and put them into perspective. As I see, not even the names of Punjabi specific nouns like 'Alahniyaan', 'Ghoriaan', 'Laavaan' etc. are explained in most of the places, I wonder how do they expect the English reader to make out their meaning.
     
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  8. Gyani Jarnail Singh

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    aristotle ji,

    not offended at all jios..maybe i took it wrongly / or came across wrongly......i was simply saying that what you wrote had also been written before by Donald Trump...thats all. Lots of people - even educated ones like trump couldnt grasp the reason for the "repetitiveness" of Gurbani..Its perfectly normal..we are all learning..un-learninga nd re-learning..so no apology needed or necessary jios.

    What you have written so far is not only acceptable but most reasonable..we all look forward to the day when we will have good reliable translations/guides/ etc on SGGS to enable us to go further in understanding our Guru. So far Prof sahib singhs Darpan is considered the "Best" in Punjabi BUT there are many scholars now who are exposing where Sahib Singh went WRONG..and seriously wrong at that...This is natural because Sahib Singh is also human..and only the Creator is ABHULL...

    What the panth needs is a high level TEAM of people who are Masters in various fields, languages, sciences, etc...something like the Discovery Channel or NGC guys bring together when they embark on subjects like the Dead Sea scrolls or the Shroud of Jesus etc etc..The SGGS..is such a vast ocean...no single or double person teams can do much..for a scholarly work on SGGS..one needs to be a Master in farsee,Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, sanskrit, brij bhasha,Punjabi, Laandi, history, geography, ancient writings langauges and what not.. Guru nanak ji traveled to so many far away lands...one needs to be an expert in them too..

    You will also not fail to notice..that although all the "Sants/Mahapurashs" etc make so much hoo hah about anbhav..spiritual understanding of sggs etc etc:...none has ever written a TEEKA etc...each teeka translation is by academic scholars..manmohan singh was a legal eagle, sahib singh was a /school teacher/professor..as were each of the others..NONE of them was a SANT or baba ji...with a DERA. The SGPC and the DGMC with their VAST monetary resources failed us miserably. The SGPC shamelessly has been reaping the Royalties from manmohans singhs 8 volume work....a work he completed in 25 years of backbreaking 18 hour days and gave away to SGPC as he ahd no resources to publish his 8 volume works...In between the 25 years he had 2 severe HEART ATTACKS...but he persevered..thats how much dedication is required...

    Aplogies if misunderstood in any way.
     
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  9. spnadmin

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    There is a lot to say about the issue of translations, and the political undercurrents are without doubt an entire chapter if not more than one chapter in the saga of translations of SGGS.

    At this time, I want only to point out one thing. The cost of translating Professor Sahib Singh's Darpan by a high quality translation service, one that does back translations as well as the first take on the language, is not unreachable. It would be a start to have Professor Sahib's translation translated into English. I investigated estimates. Ten wealthy Sikhs could fund this endeavor without any wear and tear on their pockets.

    It would not be perfect. It would be a start. It would also become a political issue quickly. If there is a will, there is a way.
     
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  10. swarn bains

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    no translation can ever be perfect. firstly it is a poetry, which can be translated to the ability and devotion of the translator. secondly the spiritual poetry can only be translated correctly by the author what he or she meant. there is an example in history: the sikhs requested guru Hargobind jee to explain japu jee sahaib. he explained and at the end he said : i have explained it to best of my ability but the real explanation can only be done by baba Nanak who wrote it.
     
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  11. swarn bains

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    i have a suggestion to all honorable scholars to start their own translation from their own heart and soul, not copying from others and then at the end all should get together and make one translation of sggs by mutual agreement. it can be started by selecting chapters. the scholars can communicate and say that i want this part or that part. i want to see how many are sincere or how many are critique
     
  12. Admin Singh

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  13. swarn bains

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    can some one translate it for me please
    aan athare jaan satanve aur bhee uth se marad ka chela
    ਆਉਣ ਅਠੱਤਰੇ ਜਾਣ ਸਤਾਨਵੇ ਔਰ ਵੀ ਉਠ ਸੀ ਮਰਦ ਕਾ ਚੇਲਾ
     
  14. Ishna

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  15. Admin Singh

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  16. Ishna

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    I did see that tuk, Admin ji, but it doesn't look exactly the same so I thought it wasn't. But here we go:

    ਆਵਨਿ ਅਠਤਰੈ ਜਾਨਿ ਸਤਾਨਵੈ ਹੋਰੁ ਭੀ ਉਠਸੀ ਮਰਦ ਕਾ ਚੇਲਾ
    Āvan aṯẖ▫ṯarai jān saṯānvai hor bẖī uṯẖsī maraḏ kā cẖelā.
    Coming in seventy-eight (1521 A.D.), they will depart in ninety-seven (1540 A.D.), and then another disciple of man will rise up. (Dr Sant Singh Khalsa translation)
    Coming in seventy eight (Vikram), they (the Mughals) shall depart in ninety seven and then another disciple of brave Man shall arise. (Bhai Manmohan Singh translation)​
     
  17. japjisahib04

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    Before this line there is a pankti, 'ਕਾਇਆ ਕਪੜੁ ਟੁਕੁ ਟੁਕੁ ਹੋਸੀ ਹਿਦੁਸਤਾਨੁ ਸਮਾਲਸੀ ਬੋਲਾ ॥ Once ‘kaeya kapad’ the physical body is cut into pieces, then who cares or will remain to remember the words. Thus pankti does not relate to physical body. I humbly suggest that history is always tentative but Gurbani is not. It cannot be limited to one time only and Guru sahib cannot go against his own consciously awareness and make prophecy. Is guru nanak referring to some historical event or is telling me that historical incidence can happen on me when I ignore the truth.

    In japjisahib guru sahib says, ''nanak hukmi avoh jae once I imbibe His traits my deficiencies ends. Similarly to me ਆਵਨਿ ਅਠਤਰੈ ਜਾਨਿ ਸਤਾਨਵੈ ਹੋਰੁ ਭੀ ਉਠਸੀ ਮਰਦ ਕਾ ਚੇਲਾ ॥ unlike yogies who believed to fix their 'atha' (two legs, two thighs, two arms, skull, chest) through lom vilom, guru sahib says once our manh (thought process) is fixed by imbibing his virtues in the ocean of sat+aanvai - truth - ਗੁਰੁ ਦਰੀਆਉ ਸਦਾ ਜਲੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਹਰੈ GS 1329.1 , our mission is complete whereas those who ignore shall remain victim of duality. And by following this 'gur' - the technique 'hor bhi uthsi mard ka cheyla all other deficiencies goes and manh knows how to combat with evil ਹਉ ਗੋਸਾਈ ਦਾ ਪਹਿਲਵਾਨੜਾ ॥ 74-8
     
  18. swarn bains

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    nice way of putting it. that is how i am looking for, hat anyone thinks about it. i will also write my opinion later after some more remarks. it should not be referred to previous translations. then were is the thinking?
     
  19. swarn bains

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  20. swarn bains

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    ਇਕੁ ਫਿਕਾ ਨ ਗਾਲਾਇ ਸਭਨਾ ਮੈ ਸਚਾ ਧਣੀ ॥ . is this the answer to my tuk or does it mean something else. advise thanks
     
  21. swarn bains

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    I put this line for the individuals to answer with their own mind not from someone else's translation. please answer with your own thinking if u want to. thanks and there are not many have answered yet.
     
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