BODHASARA: 79 Waves is a new commission from Chronology Arts (Sydney, Australia) that involves five Australian composers creating a contemporary realisation of the 18th Century Sanskrit text of the same name. The work premiered in November 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Leah Barclay’s setting Section 43: Seventy Nine Waves of Ganga Knowledge was composed for Tabla and live electronics.
“Seventy Nine Waves of Gaṅgā Knowledge is drawn from Bodhasara’s Section 43 of the same name. The work is a rhythmically driven electroacoustic composition that explores the text through abstract soundscapes. I believe this section of Bodhasara revolves around the propagation of sound and its relationship to nature. It particularly references bodies of water such as Gaṅgā, which is the Sanskrit word for rivers. The electronic source material in the composition is drawn from environmental field recordings I’ve collected across India over the last six years, particularly the rivers of South India. Rivers have always carried an important role in spirituality, religion and culture in India and are often referred to as the lifeblood of a community. This composition features field recordings from the Pamba, a large river that leads into the Keralan Backwaters, a unique ecosystem that is fed by 38 rivers and meets the tidal waters of the Arabian Sea. The percussive material in the electroacoustic parts features Subhash Kumar, my long-term collaborator from Kerala who is a disciple of Guru Karaikudi R. Mani. The composition also showcase the tabla virtuosity of Dheeraj Shrestha, one of Australia’s most acclaimed tabla artists.”
“Bodhasara by Narahari is a fine example of wisdom literature enlivened by the renaissance spirit evident in India during the pre-colonial eighteenth century. While honoring the ancient principles of Vedic, Tantric and Yogic traditions, Narahari speaks with a modern voice, full of confidence and intelligence. Bodhasara is a Sanskrit treasure and a fine example of the power of this language. Narahari’s aim is to convey the experience of jivanmukti, liberation while living. Long held to be too elusive for words to describe, Narahari employs a powerful and poetic command of Sanskrit to achieve his aim. Bodhasara is reasoned and poetic, learned and irreverent, sarcastic and playful, thoughtful and humorous. Eschewing didactic instruction, Narahari shows you the world through his eyes, via intertwined threads of personal understanding and poetic imagery. He is fearless about discarding worthless adherence to form and ever confident in the natural purity of existence. In Bodhasara you will not find a new teaching about jivanmukti. But read the whole work and you may find Narahari has taken you by the hand and led you to its very edge. This book contains the source Sanskrit text by Narahari in both Devanagiri and Roman scripts, along with the English translation. See www.bodhasara.com for more information.
Bodhasāra is poetry, not a philosophical treatise. The multiple layers in the text are essential to achieving Narahari’s purpose. He frequently warns that jīvanmukti is not achieved and cannot be explained through reasoned discourse. jīvanmukti can only be experienced and the role of a guru is to bring the pupil to a position where that experience is possible. The key is sahrdaya, being of one heart with the author and with the multivalent structures of Bodhasāra, so essential to its purpose. In many ways Bodhasāra is rather like music where multiple parts interact in harmony, syncopation, counterpoint and discord to produce an existential statement. The outcome is a higher order meaning which eludes simplistic statement.
The initial translation was undertaken in 2000 by Jennifer Cover and encouraged by Peter Oldmeadow, then Head of Sanskrit and Indological Studies at the University of Sydney. Being a first translation into English it was a confusing and often frustrating exercise, as the work contains so many intentional contradictions. Swami Dayananda Saraswati provided useful guidance during this early stage, revealing the real nature of the work. Kanchan Mande from Pune University, later provided much cultural insight and confidence, from a lifetime studying and absorbing Indian culture. With some familiarity with the text it became possible to ‘hear’ Narahari’s voice in the words, and the translation became less mechanical. Thus with some understanding of its content and intent, the entire work was translated a second time, this time with Grahame Cover working on the English expression.
While the translated text remains linguistically faithful to the original, the more we worked with the text the more it was possible to hear Narahari’s voice rising out of the words. It is in this voice that the real meaning lies. What we have attempted is to restate this voice in English. Only the reader can judge if this has been successfully done. To the reader we can offer one recommendation. It would be a mistake to read Bodhasāra as a sequence of instructive homilies. In fact the quotation of a single verse, no matter how pithy, as being representative of Narahari’s understanding would almost certainly be a mistake. When reading Bodhasāra it is always worthwhile to have a good sense of direction. Look back to see from where the text has come, look forward to see where it is leading. You may find Narahari delivers you to a place different to where you anticipated.
Readers who enjoy the translation and who have even a little command of Sanskrit are encouraged to delve into the original. Such an effort will be well rewarded. For this reason the original text has been included. – Jennifer Cover & Grahame Cover