Though there have been stray translations of some of the Upanisadbhasyas belonging to the Ramanuja school of philosophy like those of the Kathopanisad etc., by the learned Prof. K. C. Varadachari, a translation of all the ten main Upanisads, which go by the name Dasopanisad, along with their bhasyas by Rangaramanuja is a long-felt desideratum. It is with a view to fill in this lacuna that the Academy has embarked upon the present ambitious project of bringing out the English versions of the Upanisadbhasysa of all the ten Upanisads which when completed, will go a long way in caterisg to the needs of scholars in general, and specially of those who are particularly interested in the philosophy or Ramanaja.
The general plan of the project is to give the mantras of the Upanisad first in Sanskrit, to be followed by a transliteration of it in English. Then there will be the meaning of the mantra in English. This will be followed by the bhasya of Rangaramanuja in Sanskrit, following which there will be an English rendering of it. Lastly there will be given the purport of that mantra, which will be in the form of an exposition. At the end, there will be an appendix, which will contain indices, glossary etc. However, in the case of the present work, the Brhadaaranyakopanisad, the bhasya of Rangaramanuja has not been translated considering the volume of the work. It may however be noted that the purports of the mantras have been given following the Rangaramanujabhasya.
Though every endeavour has been made to adhere to this plan, exigencies of particular sections or mantras in some Upanisads might have caused some deviations form this, for which we seek the indulgence of the readers.
It may be rather superfluous to state that a translation, however good it may be, cannot become a substitute for the original. And in the case of the Upanisads, it is all the more true, for even the nearest English equivalents of those Sanskrit words can scarcely convey the sublime and lofty ideas in their fullness and freshness as in the original. This happens because the connotations of a word in various contexts may be several, even though its meaning may be only one. Hence inspire of the best efforts to render the mantras and the bhasyas as close to the original as possible, we humbly feel that they can at best be only stepping stones or aids in understanding the originals.
If, by the grace of the Almighty, our project arouses interest among the learned and discerning public to learn the Upanisads in their originals, we would consider our efforts amply rewarded.
My foreword would be acutely wanting if I failed to mention that we are indeed indebted to Prof. A. Srinivasa Raghavan for having completed this mighty task on time inspire of his growing age. It had been his wish to see this book published during his lifetime. It was due to our mistake that the book has taken so long to come out in print. I deeply apologise for this lapse on our part. I also thank Sri N.K. Srinivasa Iyengar who has given the word to word meanings for the mantras. While thanking the Director and his crew for executing the publication of this book, I specially thank Dr. P. Narasimhan for providing a lucid introduction to the work after digesting the most abstruse thoughts presented in the Upanisad.
what are Upanisads?
There is observed a strange regularity, order and rhythm in the world. The succession of days and nights, of the seasons of the attendent phenomena, etc., have had a deep impact on man. Further, the typical traits of various living species starting from man down to the meanest creature, have startled men and has led them to believe that there should be a power that governs and controls all these phenomena. Birth and death, which are everyday features have been enigmas for people of all times. Besides these, the rstswere also concerned about more fundamental questions such as their own identities, their destinies and so on. In short, they were driven by a quest for knowledge about the entire universe starting from their own selves. Nevertheless their aim was not just that; they also wanted to attain emancipation and complete freedom from bodily existence.
The Upanisads have come into being as a result of the strenuous efforts of great rsis of ancient times to seek answers for several such searching questions that have stared in the face of mankind in general.
The rsis discovered that answers to their questions could not be found by living the life of an ordinary human being which is no better than that of an animal, the only difference being that the human being lives in a more extraordinary way having been endowed with greater physical and mental capabilities. The rsis knew that a life that starts and ends without any occasion for such thoughts is futile. They were convinced that the external world could not provide any answers to their queries.
The rsis thought it necessary to live in consonance with nature to find out the cause for the various natural phenomena. They also visualised that just as there is a giant external world, there is also a vast inner world that must be probed and investigated to find the answers they were seeking. Hence they retired to the wilderness of the forests, the uninhabited shores of the rivers, the lonely mountain tops and such other secluded spots in order to conduct their inquiries. They developed highly sophisticated meditational techniques and were richly rewarded in their quest for the answers. As they meditated more and more deeply, they had strange insights, wondrous experiences and startling revelations. Tradition holds that the process led to the immortal literature in the form of the Vedas and the Upanisads being revealed to them.