Translating this four hundred year-old abhanga of Tukaram is a unique challenge — it is a spiritual experience tersely packed in an archaic tongue.
Abhanga means unbroken, and Tukaram’s songs express the infrangibility of his realizations. Here it is of a bliss that is all.
The word Ananda, used repeatedly here, ranges in meaning from simple joy to the triune, even the only, basis of creation as Sat-Chit-Ananda or Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
His experience has struck him dumb and still. His being is seized by the secret joy that compells fulfillment, just as the unborn child’s desire drives by love the mother’s cravings.
You can listen to this song here:
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b7yJsmlE3s (with English subtitles)
Let us look at the literal translation first:
On the pool of bliss, the ripples are bliss
Bliss itself is the body of bliss
What to say what happened, something strange outside
No forward movement is of interest
What the child in the womb likes, the mother craves
Of that deep affection there is the glow
Tuka says thus is poured the stamp
Of that experience from my lips
We get a poetic rendering that is still close to the original by making a few changes:
The pool is bliss, the ripple is bliss
The body of bliss itself is bliss
There are no words to say what happened
No charm is left in any path or end
An urge in the womb is the pang of the mother
For glows there the deep love for the other
Tuka says thus the stamp is poured
Of true experience, the unbroken word
What if we translate more freely? Can we make it more natural in English and still have the freshness and depth of the original? Here’s an attempt:
All is delight!
The wave, the sea —
The body of joy
Is only ecstasy.
Words fail this awe,
The paths are all stilled:
The secret urge in things
With a rapture is filled.
Tuka says the pouring
Force that I feel
Is the word on my lips,
A song of the real.
Please read the comments below for an organic discussion of this translation, or read the “finished” version of these translations here: (pdf).