The Rigveda is the School’s field of expertise, and it is widely acknowledged as a difficult text to translate. There are a few English translations of the whole of the Rigveda and many translations of various hymns and verses. Max Muller asked H. H. Wilson to undertake the first English translation of it and he published it in six volumes between the years of 1849-1873. Mr. Muller was also the force behind the fifty-one volume Sacred Books of the East series published from 1878-1894. As a teenager, I read many of the books, but found them difficult to read and understand, much like the Rigveda.
In the literature, you will find that Muller is viewed both positively and negatively. Without his efforts, the Rigveda may not have seen the light of day. In that regard, the school is thankful for his work, but his efforts have directed seekers down a dead end road. The most famous Indologist and Sanskrit Scholar was of the Christian religion and an employee of the British Government that ruled India at the time, so one can image what might have happened. Muller felt that the ancient religion (of the Rigveda) was dead and for the people of India, their only salvation would come from Christianity. Some writers have said that his translations were purposely written to be horrendous, idiotic, and not be understandable, and if you read the translations, you will know that they are horrendous, idiotic, and not understandable. Muller wrote, “The Vedas are like the twaddles of idiots and the ravings of madmen…their downright absurdity can hardly be matched anywhere…the Vedas are intended from the beginning for an uncivilized race of mere heathens and savages.”
Whether or not the assertions of Muller purposely manipulating the Holy Text are correct is debatable, but what is not debatable is that the translation of the Rigveda is absurd. Mr. Muller, a Sanskrit Scholar, could not translate the ancient teachings composed in Sanskrit, but in that regard, he is not alone, as a plethora of others from India, the United States, Europe, and elsewhere have made the attempt and failed. What is curious is that H. H. Wilson is credited with translating the text that Muller published, but if you read the short biography of Wilson on the internet, no mention is made of him translating the text. Something is fishy, and I will take up that story in a future post.
Before I came to an understanding of the teaching of the Ancient Tradition, I read many books on the subject, and had a vast library readily available. A favorite writer on the subject was Sri Aurobindo and in The Secret of the Veda, he wrote how he agonized over his translations, and never felt comfortable with them. Even though his translations were not particularly accurate, his writing on the subject was extremely important in opening a new vista. He saw the Rigveda in a new light. He discovered that it was a text with psychological and spiritual insights, and he was right, because when the book is accurately translated supreme insights unfold.
Here is a mantra from the Veda for the Day with Brahma.
Being before or after brings a bind,
And being present with brings happiness on a day with a wind of Brahma,
To conduct one’s self with Grandfather to be a Guide
And to arise from the navel to serve.