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Truth is One - Sages call it by many names

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I want to talk about two quotes often used by many and have been used in

this forum umpteen times by our friends.


'Ekam sat vipraa bahuda vadanti' has been translated by some as 'Truth is

one, sages call it by various names'. This is often taken as a quotation to

say that there are many means to moksha. Even though there are thousands of

places where scriptures say that moksha is 'shastra eka gamyam' (knowable

only by shastra), reiterated at many places by great people like vyasa,

shankara etc., people pick up this one line as their support.


One has to understand that in sansrit sentences, sequence of words is not

what that determines the meaning of the sentence. It is the case endings,

number and gender which determine which words club together. For example

'lakshmanaha raamam anugachchathi', 'raamam lakshmanaha anugachchathi',

'lakshmanaha anugachchathi raamam', 'anugachchathi lakshmanaha raamam' etc.,

all mean the same, viz., lakshmana follows rama.


Looking at our sentence, there is one verb - vadanti meaning 'say'. There

are three nouns in saamaanaadhikaranam (first case, singular, neuter gender)

viz., ekam, sat and bahuda(bahuda is actually an avyaya - jaishankarji can

probably clarify on this). There is one noun in first case, plural,

masculine gender viz., vipraa(:). Thus rearranging the order of words (just

for convenience, though not a necessity), the sentence is 'Ekam sat bahuda

(iti) vipraa vadanti' which means 'It is the ONE reality which appears as

MANY - So say the sages'. In other words, this sentence is only giving out

the vedantic vision that though there appears to be MANY things, there is

only ONE reality which is non-dual.


By splitting the sentence as 'ekam sat' and 'vipraa bahuda vadanti' the

translator had only misrepresented the statement. Whether Swami Vivekananda

did the translation or picked it up from some other translator, we don't

know. But, please think of the immense damage this has done to the fabric

of seekers. Many thousands would have dismissed the 'valid means of

knowledge' assuming that even shastras support many 'MEANS' of knowledge.


Another one of this kind is the translation of 'aakaashaath pathitham thoyam

yathaa gachchathi saagaram | sarva deva namaskaaram keshavam prathi

gachchathi||'. The translation is presented as 'like all rivers reach ocean

at the end, so too all paths lead to same goal of moksha'. This is an

extrapolated translation and the sloka does not seem to be saying that. It

only says 'just as all waters reach ocean, so too all prayers reach keshava

though aimed at other gods'. This is in keeping with the vision of krishna

as sarvaathma presented in bhagavad gita. To justify many paths based on

this verse is silly and most damaging.


All sorts of people, from the Indian primeminister to a commonplace man seem

to pick up these two quotations while talking about hinduism and

spirituality. It is really very unfortunate that a wrong translation has

done so much of harm.

Gurucharana pankaha


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