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A Taste for Honey

Monika Verma

By T.M.P. Mahadevan
Arnold-Heinemann, 35.00

By P. Lal
Writers Workshop, Kolkata ,Limited Handbound edition, 2014, 60.00

By P. Lal
Writers Workshop, Kolkata ,Flexiback edition , 2014, 15.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 1 January-February 1977

Dr. Mahadevan's translation and selection is a most useful reference work and reading the excerpts from the Minor Upanisads is fascinating. He has given short explanations with certain passages from nearly all the 108 Upanisads but, though the front-cover blurb claims these are ‘easy-to-read translations’, it is difficult to agree. It is very difficult to make sense of a passage that reads: ‘These ten subtle elements of being alone there are with reference of intelligence’. (Kausitaki Upanisad. Sec. 3, 8) However, to my way of thinking, the awful question comes up—what is the purpose of reading an Upanisad without understand­ing the underlying and hidden meanings? These can be understood only by read­ing the commentaries. Capsulated Upani­sads lose both impact and charm. The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad begins with stanzas of magnificent symbolism. To have cut them out completely, as has been done in this book, is like decapita­ting the Upanisad before it can come alive in the readers’ mind and eye. And in the contemporary world of letters the repeated, ‘so, it is indeed ... ‘ and ‘so enough, indeed, is this for under­standing’ is truly deplorable for some­one of Dr. Mahadevan's scholastic stature. In the introduction, Dr. Mahadevan has referred only to Max Muller and Paul Deussen, or says, ‘William James was forced to admit... ‘ etc. Why should not the names of eminent Indian writers, commentators and critics be mentioned? There are some very fine Indian writers on the subject of Indian Philosophy and on the Upanisads and while we admit our great debt to the western scholars, perhaps it is time some attention was paid to our own. Instead of quoting Charles Johnston comparing the Upani­sads to ‘mountain tarns’, which few people in India know about any more, perhaps a comparison by Sri Aurobindo might make a pleasant change. Rather than Keith, a quote from Radhakrishnan would be of great value. There is also the question whether writers on the Upanisads, while giving us a collection and explanation of the salient points in these Upanisads, should explain the ‘inner and secret meanings’. Sure­ly it is time that ‘angustha matrah purusah’ is correctly interpreted and not continued to be called, ‘The person the size of a thumb’.  Dr. Mahadevan could perhaps have let out the secret that this thumb-sized person is the symbol of the thumb of the left hand when it denotes Ten or Zero—the ...

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