Nagesh Sonde has been studying Rig Veda for years and yet he is very modest when it comes to presenting a translation and a commentary on the forty Rig Vedic hymns. As he says in his Preface: “It is easy to communicate what one knows (but) it is difficult to communicate experience, awareness”. The hymns are not easy to translate and it is even harder to explain their contents. Sonde says: “Since the hymns had assumed spiritual and hallowed importance as cultural, spiritual and psychological ethos of the race, the meaning of hymns was concealed from…. imperfect mass of people, elect and qualified”.
The point is, as Sonde makes it plain, scriptures contain concealed meanings and therefore they should not be read for intellectual stimulation, but for spiritual insight. As Sonde put it: “One who is receptive, received the resonance concealed in the hymns and experiences the vibrations which they create. Only such one receives intuitive, exhilarating, luminous elucidation, even as one takes steps to reach the bills of spiritual advancement.”
Sonde, it is only fair to say, does not claim any spiritual superiority over any one, but expresses his immense satisfaction in finding solace in whatever form wisdom approaches, making that particular receptivity well-established. He has sought meanings to the words, listening with heart and intellectually re-appraising, revising and re-dedicating to broaden his perception of the true essence of the hymn. Sonde is a bit sceptical of western scholars. He wants one to source the meaning of hymns not from the intellect and the mind but from the heart because “then one would get meaning of the hymns as accepted traditionally over generations or as were conceived by western Indologists who could only source them from the background in which they were grown and impressions gathered in their minds”.
According to Sonde, in spite of their erudition and labour, western Indologists could scarcely source the meaning which the original seers had concealed in the hymns. As an example he quotes Winston L King who tried to explain the difficulty in translating eastern scriptures in their western languages, saying: “There is no word in English language covering the same grounds as dubkha does in Pali. Our modern minds are too specialised, too limited and usually too strong…. We are forced in translation to use half synonyms, not one of which is exact”. That is why Sonde’s translation and especially delving into the meaning of hymns commands special attention. As he points out, the seers were addressing their hymns (sutras) to the generations in which they lived and communicated and one must re-locate to those times for a better understanding of their efforts, a very difficult exercise but one worth pursuing if one wants truly to appreciate the sheer mind-boggling thoughts that are presented often in so few words. As Sonde stresses, a Truth is not realised by quoting Scriptures but by experiencing it. One who strips himself of beliefs and faiths without raising them to the level of dogmas is a man with a receptive mind.
(Nagesh D Sonde, 318, Raheja Crest-3, Link Road, Andheri West, Mumbai-400 053)