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Sanskrit translation: the beginners mind. How to translate 'yoga'

IYA article 2023
Translating the word 'Yoga'. The Beginners Mind, again…
In a recent Sanskrit class with Rutger Kortenhorst the discussion was about refining the translation of Gita 10.7 for inclusion on is a wonderful resource. Our text is copied below with two well-known translations: followed by the verse taken from . Undoubtedly, translation is tricky.
Often a word that has no equivalent in English is left untranslated, like some paradigms for the mind, or the Ayurvedic terms for health, also where the word has become well established in Western understanding. In these versions of Gita 10.7 the word Yoga was not translated … I wondered…
In 2016 I heard a thought-provoking radio documentary on BBC Radio 4 that examined ideas commonly held about the ‘timeless Indian practice’ of Yoga and some of the extremely non-Indian influences. It seems likely that what can be understood by the word ‘yoga’, it has changed radically since the Gita was composed. Could a different word be more useful to convey the original intention more clearly?
Subsequently I sent the podcast to Rutger who found it informative, saying that: - “This has also been the view of the Shankaracharya we follow in the school. Yoga was mentioned in the Katha Upanishad before the Gita in the more philosophical sense. In the verse we studied, I thought ‘knowing’ may be the best translation for yoga… and then replaced that by ‘wisdom’.”
If you are interested in listening to the podcast, I suggest that you put “The Secret History of Yoga” into the search on the BBC Sounds App or on Google which will suggest that you are looking for “BBC radio 4 the secret history of yoga”. Keying in a long URL is so wearying. The narrative about the program is copied from the website.

The Secret History of Yoga

Released On: 17 Jun 2016
Available for over a year
As UN International Yoga Day approaches, Mukti Jain Campion sets out to explore the roots of modern yoga practice. Like millions of people across the world, Mukti attends regular yoga classes and enjoys its many physical and mental benefits while believing it to be the "timeless Indian discipline" so often described in yoga books. But recent research challenges this common assumption. Could modern yoga classes, as now taught all around the world, actually be the product of 19th century Scandinavian gymnastics as much as ancient Indian philosophy? Startled by this possibility, Mukti sets out to explore the roots of modern yoga practice and uncovers an extraordinary multicultural history in which early 20th century European ideas of health, fitness and the cult of the Body Beautiful became intertwined with Indian nationalism and the revival of Indian interest in its own traditions of physical culture. Out of this heady mix emerged a new generation of yoga innovators who transformed an obsolete and frowned-upon practice of Indian holy men into something that would appeal to masses of ordinary people. Contributors include Dr Mark Singleton, author of Yoga Body: The origins of modern posture practice, Dr Jim Mallinson, a Yoga historian from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Dr Manmath Gharote, Director of the Lonavla Yoga Institute in India and Dr Suzanne Newcombe from The London School of Economics who has studied the development of yoga in Britain.

Gita 10.7
Version 1: - He who knows in truth this glory and power of Mine is endowed with unshaken Yoga; there is no doubt of it.
Version 2: - He who knows in truth This, my manifested glory and power, is united with me by unwavering yoga; of this there is no doubt. tr Winthrop Sargeant
Version 3: - He who really knows this divine manifestation and power of Mine is endowed with unwavering wisdom. Of this there is no doubt. tr Rutger Kortenhorst

 Published in IYA Newsletter 2023


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