[INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations

Johannes Bronkhorst johannes.bronkhorst at unil.ch
Tue Jun 5 19:19:52 UTC 2018

I tend to agree with Alex. Much depends on what readers the translation is for. Since even professional Sanskritists may use translations to inform themselves about texts that are not the focus of their research, these texts better not misinform their readers.
A concrete example may clarify this. Cowell and Gough’s translation of the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha ends with the words:
“The system of Śaṅkara, which comes next in succession, and which is the crest-gem of all systems, has been explained by us elsewhere; it is therefore left untouched here.”
Editions of the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha that were made after this translation added a chapter on the “system of Śaṅkara” found in some manuscripts. Subsequently, and perhaps partly because of this translation, most scholars accepted that this final chapter had been composed by the same author.
However, the Sanskrit translated by Cowell and Gough has nothing corresponding to by us. It reads: itaḥ paraṃ sarvadarśanaśiromaṇibhūtaṃ śāṃkaradarśanam anyatra nirūpitam (or: likhitam) ity atropekṣitaṃ. And the question as to the authorship of this chapter remains open. Cowell and Gough might have done their readers, and scholarship, a favour by putting [by us] in brackets.

Johannes Bronkhorst

On 5 Jun 2018, at 20:16, Alex Watson via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

I found Dominik's list of reasons for using brackets incomplete / one-sided.
I would include at least the two following positive reasons.

1. While brackets may disrupt the flow for readers who are not also looking at the Sanskrit, they are helpful for those who are comparing your translation with the Sanskrit.  (Since translations of most Sanskrit philosophical texts, especially the more technical ones, are extremely difficult to understand without simultaneously looking at the Sanskrit, I find the use of brackets in the translation of philosophical texts more desirable than undesirable.)

2. Intellectual honesty.  Use of brackets signals what follows straightforwardly from the Sanskrit, and what is the result of addition or interpretation on your part – which English etc. words correspond to Sanskrit words, and what you have chosen to add in to complete the sense, to disambiguate, or to make explicit to the reader what would have remained obscure if you had just stuck to rendering the Sanskrit words.


Alex Watson
Professor of Indian Philosophy
Head of Philosophy Department
Ashoka University

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com<mailto:wujastyk at gmail.com>>
To: Harry Spier <hspier.muktabodha at gmail.com<mailto:hspier.muktabodha at gmail.com>>
Cc: Indology <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
Date: Sun, 3 Jun 2018 20:23:19 -0600
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Brackets in modern sanskrit translations
Your question presses a big red button for me :-)  My thoughts are here<https://cikitsa.blogspot.com/2016/04/on-use-of-parentheses-in-translation.html>.

Professor Dominik Wujastyk<http://ualberta.academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>

Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity

Department of History and Classics<http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
University of Alberta, Canada

South Asia at the U of A:


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