THE VACHANAMRUT

Preface to the Vachanāmrut

Introduction

This English version of the Vachanāmrut is a completely new, revised translation made by a team of sādhus working directly from the original Gujarāti text published by Swāminārāyan Aksharpith, which itself is a letter-to-letter, printed version of the original, authentic manuscript published in 1928 under the auspices of Āchārya Shripatiprasādji of Vartāl. The work of translation began in September 1996 with initial meetings to discuss methods and conventions, and concluded in September 2001 with blessings from His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swāmi Mahārāj, who continually supplied invaluable inspiration to complete the monumental task.

Of course, the Vachanāmrut has already been translated and published by the BAPS Swāminārāyan Sansthā. Continually inspired and guided by Yogiji Mahārāj, Shri H. T. Dave had worked diligently and meticulously to produce the first translation into English. However, through the years a need for a revised edition became apparent. A new edition could improve authenticity by correcting omissions, inconsistencies and misinterpretations. Also, readability could be improved by using less difficult words, simplifying sentence structures and correcting errors of usage. The reader could be provided better facilities by creating a richer glossary, giving meanings of shlokas and by including meaningful appendices. For these and other reasons, the entire Vachanāmrut was retranslated by a team of sādhus with a systematic approach.

The reader will find that before beginning the text, understanding the approach and the conventions adopted in the translation will undoubtedly provide a deeper insight into the text, as well as a clearer understanding of why it has been translated as it has.

The Challenges

Unlike other books, translating the Vachanāmrut into English posed many challenges. The first challenge was its mere size – the original Gujarāti scripture was colossal – it contained 657 printed pages! Most importantly, though, it was to be treated as a holy scripture. Unlike other descriptive books and novels where certain imaginative aspects could be superimposed, in the case of this translation, nothing was to be added and nothing was to be removed. After all, the act of creation was already complete; it was to be merely translated.

However, unlike translating text from German to English or from French to English, the task at hand required translating Gujarāti to English – two very distant languages, both syntactically and culturally! How does one do justice to phrases and concepts such as “સ્ત્રીને વિષે બેઠ્યા ઉઠ્યાની વાસના” (Strine vishe bethyā-uthyāni vāsanā)? or “મોળી વાત” (Moli vāt)? or “રીસની આંટી” (Risni āti)? or “લલોચપો રાખે નહિ” (Lalochapo rākhe nahi)? Of course, the grammatical rules of the English language also raised issues that do not arise in Gujarāti. For example, capitalisation is not an issue in Gujarāti. Now, in English, should ‘Satsang’ be capitalised or not? Should pronouns referring to entities other than God be capitalised or not? Assuming they should not, a more fundamental question was that do they really refer to God, or do they refer to a demigod? Many such decisions had to be made.

Then there was the question of spelling. Should ‘Krishna’ be spelled as ‘Krishna’ or ‘Krushna’, or ‘Krashna’ as it is generally pronounced in Gujarāti? ‘Satsang’ or ‘Satsanga’? ‘gnān’ or ‘jnān’? ‘swabhāw’, ‘swabhāv’, ‘svabhāw’ or ‘svabhāv’? Should diacritical marks be used, or should a simpler method be employed to spell Gujarāti and Sanskrit words? More decisions.

Due to the sheer size of the task, teamwork was essential. But this raised an additional issue of accounting for the various styles and vocabularies of the different translators. How to maintain a uniform, consistent style throughout the work?

Of course, as with any philosophical scripture being translated by humans, there was the obvious issue of simply not being clear about what the original text intended to say. For example, how can ordinary mortals ever visualise the following: “પુરુષોત્તમ ભગવાન જે તે વૈરાજ પુરુષના મસ્તકને વિષે રહ્યું જે સહસ્રદળનું કમળ તેને વિષે પ્રવેશ કરીને અક્ષરબ્રહ્માત્મક એવો જે નાદ તેને કરતા હવા...” (Purushottam Bhagwān je te Vairāj Purushnā mastakne vishe rahyu je sahasradalnu kamal tene vishe pravesh karine Aksharbrahmātmak eavo je nād tene kartā havā...) in Sārangpur-6? Yet, since nothing in the scripture was to be omitted, even such complex and intangible concepts had to be translated.

Countless such decisions – major and minor – had to be made throughout the duration of the project. Despite the challenges faced by the translators in rendering the scripture into English, their job was never to re-write the original words. They had to remain merely translators – not editors – reproducing the message of the original into its closest, equivalent English.

A Systematic Approach

Despite the challenges involved, the team of translators decided that with God’s grace and a systematic approach, the task, though formidable, was nevertheless possible. Developing a systematic procedure was the key to success. So, before initiating the work of translation, the translators worked meticulously to devise an overall plan. Furthermore, in order to overcome minor problems and to help share each other’s experiences, the translators met regularly and discussed potential complications and confusions. The regular meetings also served to fine-tune and clarify the conventions that were established as the need arose.

The following, then, is a summary of the approach adopted in the translation process.

Aims and Conventions

From the outset, the translators fixed certain aims and decided on conventions to be adhered to during the translation process to fulfill those aims.

Accuracy

First, and of primary concern, was maintaining the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the original text. After all, the words were not ordinary – they were the words of God. This was certainly a very formidable task. Since speech patterns and syntax differ from language to language, accurate communication of the meaning of the original script demanded careful consideration of sentence structures and contextual meanings of words. For example, ‘prakruti’ does not always refer to the philosophical term; it also means ‘a person’s innate nature.’ Even small words, such as ‘જ’ that stress ‘only’, were not to be ignored. In fact, every effort was made to maintain even the tone of the original text. For example, the use of ‘તો’ in the very last sentence of Gadhadā I-45 adds a lot more emphasis on the topic discussed in the passage; that is why it has been translated as “…those who do believe [God] to be nirākār just do not understand”, and not simply “…those who do believe [God] to be nirākār do not understand.”

In deciding the correct methodology, the translators also opted for a sentence-by-sentence approach; that is, unless change was absolutely necessary, each sentence in the original was to be sequentially rendered into English, of course adding any necessary linking words for better flow. Although this sentence-by-sentence method may sound simplistic or crude, its prime benefit was that it assured accuracy. After all, years from now, people should not say, “This was not in the original!” or “This has been omitted for some reason!” Also, a helpful by-product of this methodology was that it could tremendously help those who are referring to the original Gujarāti Vachanāmrut. With this method, most extracted quotations from the original Gujarāti text that are used in other books could immediately be correlated to corresponding sentences in the English translation.

Another issue in maintaining accuracy was retaining certain Gujarāti or Sanskrit words in their original form. It is a well-known and accepted fact that certain concepts in the Vachanāmrut simply have no equivalent English words. For example, ‘anvay’ and ‘vyatirek’ have no exact, simple, English equivalent words or phrases. ‘Manushyabhāv’ can only be rendered into English by using a phrase – a single word simply does not suffice. In these cases, instead of repeatedly using a lengthy English phrase or an inaccurate approximation, the original Gujarāti or Sanskrit word was kept with the appropriate English spelling. In general, these words fall into three categories:

1) Words that cannot be translated – mostly proper nouns and technical, philosophical terms such as ‘anvay,’ ‘vyatirek,’ ‘ekāntik,’ ‘Prakruti,’ ‘Aksharbrahma,’ etc.

2) Words that can be translated but have many subtle shades in Gujarāti that are lost in English. For example, ‘darshan’ could be translated as ‘to see, or to look at’, but in reality to do ‘darshan’ has much more meaning than just looking at someone; it incorporates an attitude and devotional intentions that are much more than simply looking at someone, or even looking at someone with reverence.

3) Words that can be translated into English fairly accurately but which the reader should learn in Gujarāti nonetheless. For example, ‘gnān’ could be translated to ‘knowledge’; but, the word ‘gnān’ merits a place in the reader’s vocabulary because it is so vital a concept in the Vachanāmrut.

Throughout the translation process, the translators continually fine-tuned this list by adding and removing words.

Spelling Conventions

A major decision that had to be made regarding this list of Gujarāti and Sanskrit words was the convention to be used for spelling. Ideally, diacritical marks provide an exact rendering of such words to English; but, to make the words more easily readable to a wider audience, a simpler scheme was chosen. Overall, the general criteria for determining spellings of Gujarāti words was pronunciation – words were spelled as pronounced (e.g., ‘Arjun’, not ‘Arjuna’). Many times Sanskrit spellings of words differ from the pronunciation of words (e.g., ‘jnān’ vs. ‘gnān’). Even in such cases, pronunciation was the primary criteria. Of course, in cases that could have caused confusion (e.g., using ‘gun’ for ‘guna’ could cause confusion), or if a different spelling was already well-established (e.g., ‘Gitā’ is in use everywhere, not the technically correct ‘Geetā’), the general rule of using pronunciation as the key was overridden. Also, if a particular word was already in the English dictionary and if the definition therein matched the connotation of that word in the Vachanāmrut (e.g., puja, guru, etc.) then the English spelling of that word was used, and the word was not italicised. One problem with making pronunciation the basis for the spelling of Gujarāti words was that some sounds in the Gujarāti language could not be accurately represented by the English alphabet. For this reason, one diacritical mark was eventually used in the spelling conventions for Gujarāti words. To differentiate between the ‘a’ sound in words like ‘about’ and the Sanskrit-Gujarāti prolonged ‘a’ sound – as in ‘vaasanaa,’ ‘sevaa,’ or father – the letter ‘ā’ was used (‘vāsanā’ and ‘sevā’), pronounced as in ‘art’ or ‘car’.

Although this spelling scheme does have drawbacks, such as its inability to differentiate between letters such as ‘ઠ’ and ‘થ’, both of which are transliterated as ‘tha’, and between letters such as ‘શ’ and ‘ષ’, transliterated as ‘sha’, in most cases words can be pronounced relatively easily. The scheme avoids forcing the reader to learn a complex system of diacritical marks, and in most cases, the words are pronounced exactly as they are spelled.

Furthermore, the spellings of all English words follow the U.K. English spelling conventions – thus the spelling ‘colour’ instead of ‘color’.

Readability

Within the framework of accuracy, literary style and readability were secondary concerns. Sentences should flow, and words should be meaningful and suitable. Of course, as with all translations, literal, word-to-word renderings can be tragically misleading in many instances and can do great injustice to the meaning of the original text. So, the context of the original words had to be understood in order to provide a translation that did not mislead by being too literal.

With regards to readability, the translators were faced with two difficulties: firstly, all too often, readability must be sacrificed for authenticity. Ideal examples of this are the descriptive paragraphs included by the paramhansas at the beginning of each individual Vachanāmrut. In some instances, they have provided full detail of Shriji Mahārāj’s dress, as well as the location and time of the assembly. But in certain instances, only scant information is available. Translating such passages into English all too often leads to choppy paragraphs. Adding a few extra words of description to create a better flow would be desirable, but since authenticity took priority over readability, no such additions were made.

The second difficulty was how to ensure that the translation’s linguistic style catered equally to the differing linguistic backgrounds and preferences of the various audiences that would use the translation – now and in the future. Differences in the knowledge of Gujarāti among the different intended audiences shaped many of the decisions regarding the number of words to keep from the original Gujarāti text. Moreover, regarding the level of English difficulty, youths, in general, would prefer simple, straightforward sentences without complex philosophical terminology. Scholars, accustomed to such terminology, would prefer a more classical approach wherein words such as ‘sentient,’ ‘concomitance’, ‘indomitable’ and ‘ubiquitous’ are common and easily understood. Keeping these issues in mind, all efforts were made to strike a balance between readability for private reading, academic study and usefulness for memorising. To help achieve that balance, the final text was given to various types of people – young and old, well-educated and not so educated, sādhus and householders – for scrutiny. To allow the translation to be more easily accessible to a larger audience, common English with simple sentence structures was used. English words were kept simple enough so as not to require a dictionary as a constant companion. Yet, to appeal to a more scholarly audience, idiomatic phrases and a purely spoken-English tone were avoided except where absolutely necessary.

To aid memory and comprehension, paragraph breaks were added or moved to locations that were more logical. This did not violate the criteria of authenticity since the original manuscripts of the Vachanāmrut did not have paragraph breaks at all. In fact, to conserve valuable page-space, even spaces between words were omitted in those manuscripts! Due to the more structured appearance of each Vachanāmrut, readers will undoubtedly find that concepts are easier to grasp, and in a certain sense, are also much more suited for memorisation.

Of course, one of the most difficult aspects of translating a text written in a different era is dealing with the terms used for social practices and customs of the times. Here, an effort has been made to maintain those aspects of the original, and footnotes have been added where explanation may be required. For example, in Gadhadā II-66, “…he proves his innocence by holding a red-hot iron ball.” may not mean much to modern audiences, but a footnote clarifies concisely. Many words dealing with food items (e.g., lādu, rotlo, etc.), musical instruments (e.g., dukad, pakhwāj, tāl, etc.), dress styles (e.g., pāgh, khes, dagli, etc.), measurements of space (e.g., yojan, etc.), etc., have not been translated since there are no corresponding English words for them. Of course, a detailed Glossary has been created to provide a deeper explanation of those words.

Printing Conventions

Certain printing conventions were also used in order to enhance the utility of the scripture and to facilitate easy referencing. Specifically, all common nouns that were not translated into English have been italicised and defined in the Glossary. Thus, anytime the reader encounters an italicised word, he can immediately refer to the Glossary to find an appropriate definition. Furthermore, with the exception of specific places and specific people, definitions of most proper nouns – which are always capitalised – can also be found in the Glossary. Certain Gujarāti-Sanskrit words that have already been defined in the text itself are in single quotes and not italicised. For such words, no definition has been given in the Glossary since the textual explanation suffices.

Furthermore, the transliterations of all Sanskrit shlokas have been italicised. Hyphens have been added in these shlokas in order to aid in the reading of long, compound Sanskrit words. To further aid the reader, all shlokas have been translated in a footnote with a reference to its original location in the scriptures. However, the shlokas that have already been defined in the text have not been translated.

Paragraph numbers have been added to aid in referencing. So, according to the referencing scheme, one can refer to something in the third paragraph of Vachanāmrut Gadhadā I-54 by the following notation: Gadhadā I-54.3. Another example: One can refer to the eighth paragraph of Loyā-12 by using Loyā-12.8.

Wherever added explanation or a clarifying interpretation is required, footnotes have also been included. Sanskrit shlokas have also been transliterated and explained in footnotes. Footnotes are referenced by roman numerals in the text and the footnote itself is included at the bottom of the page. In addition to footnotes, endnotes have been used to elaborate on concepts that recur throughout the Vachanāmrut and need explanation. The endnotes are referenced by superscripted numbers in the text and the endnote itself is given in Appendix A.

The reader should keep in mind that dates referred to in the Vachanāmrut are according to the Āshādhi Samvat calendar just as they are in the original Gujarāti version, with each new year beginning with the month of Āshādh. Moreover, as further information for the reader, corresponding English dates have been included in the text.

Proof-checking and Editing

As with any work of writing, proof-checking is probably just as vital as it is tedious and time-consuming. This particular translation of the Vachanāmrut went through a 6-step process before arriving at the end product.

First of all, the original Gujarāti text was translated by the team of translators. Then, the work was edited by one editor, thus ironing out any inconsistencies that may have resulted due to several people working independently. Thereafter, the resulting work was re-checked by the original translator, thus pinpointing anything overlooked by the editor. This edited version then systematically passed through a panel of proof-checkers – comprising the original team of translators themselves – wherein each proof-checker was assigned a specific aspect of scrutiny. Only thereafter did the work move on to the editor again for final re-editing. This ‘final’ version was then also checked by scholars and other learned sādhus, thus helping to clarify any sources of misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Thereafter, the translation was checked by proof-checkers who were relatively new to the concepts of the Vachanāmrut to ensure that, from the viewpoint of a first-time reader, clarity and readability has been maintained. The entire process, though time-consuming, undoubtedly helped to create a more consistent, accurate and faithful translation.

Additional Sections

Readers should note that in addition to these introductory sections and the actual translated text, two very important sections are included at the end of the book.

First is the Glossary, which provides detailed definitions of all italicised words. Many of the Gujarāti and Sanskrit words that have been accepted into the English language (e.g., guru, puja, etc.) have been kept in English, in their non-italicised form. Thus, their definitions have not been included in the Glossary. However, if the dictionary definition does not suit the context in which that word has been used in the text, then it has been italicised and included in the Glossary. Proper nouns that are not the names of specific places and people, and thus may require a definition for clarity, have been included in the Glossary. Also, if a glossary word has many different definitions in different contexts, entries have been provided in the Glossary for each definition. Undoubtedly, readers will find the Glossary an invaluable aid in attempting to understand the complex concepts discussed in the text.

Second are the Appendices, which give details of many of the important concepts that require supporting explanations. Appendix A, entitled ‘Endnotes’, elaborates on many of the concepts in the Vachanāmrut that need more detailed explanation (e.g., the three bodies, the five religious vows, etc.). Since the text contains too many occurrences to clarify with footnotes, explanations are given in the Endnotes. Readers will find that a specific endnote is marked by superscripted digits in the text. The corresponding endnote is numbered and explained accordingly in Appendix A. Appendix B, entitled ‘The Hindu Calendar & Time Scales’ elaborates on the dating system that is used throughout the Vachanāmrut, as well as the words used to measure time. Appendix C, entitled ‘Cosmogony’ shows a chart of the process of creation according to Bhagwān Swāminārāyan’s philosophy. Appendix D, entitled ‘Classification of Hindu Scriptures’ contains a chart that clarifies the classification of the Hindu scriptures mentioned in the Vachanāmrut.

Afterwards

From commencement to completion, the translators were deeply committed to the authority and the infallibility of the words of God in their written, scriptural form. They firmly believed that those words shed unique light on our path to that very God, and that those words also contain divine answers to the deepest needs of humanity. Despite the efforts, though, a certain sense of dissatisfaction lingered even after completion because, in a sense, no work of translation is ever finished. There are always more meaningful choices of words, as well as better styles and structures. So, like all translations of such sacred and profound wisdom rendered by imperfect humans, this translation undoubtedly falls short of its true goal. Yet, the translators are grateful to Bhagwān Swāminārāyan and to His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swāmi Mahārāj for their blessings, which enabled the realisation of the original goals to the extent they have been realised. Thus, this new translation is humbly offered to them both, by whose glory and grace it has been possible. The translators pray: May it lead all who read it to a better understanding of this sacred scripture and of its source – Bhagwān Swāminārāyan. May it also lead all closer to the Satpurush, Pramukh Swami Mahārāj, the gateway to ultimate liberation, to which the Vachanāmrut itself so faithfully testifies.

The Translators

SELECTION
પ્રકરણ ગઢડા પ્રથમ (૭૮) સારંગપુર (૧૮) કરિયાણી (૧૨) લોયા (૧૮) પંચાળા (૭) ગઢડા મધ્ય (૬૭) વરતાલ (૨૦) અમદાવાદ (૩) ગઢડા અંત્ય (૩૯) ભૂગોળ-ખગોળનું વચનામૃત વધારાનાં (૧૧) વિશેષ વચનામૃત અભ્યાસ આશિર્વાદ પત્રો નિવેદન વચનામૃતના સિદ્ધાંતોનો સારસંક્ષેપ પરથારો પરિશિષ્ટ