Translation of Ideas and Concepts


The significance and use of translation of ideas from literature, social science, science and spirituality are presented. The sameness and difference of such translation to the usual literature translation is discussed. The idea-translation as creativity and criticism are advanced with examples from my experiences of idea-translations. The translation of ideas on time and Upanishadic contents and their revolutionary scientific applications are elaborated. The new insights they provided and their utility; compared to hitherto available views are compared and contrasted. And the varied way the idea of communism understood and its ideological implementation by various comrades from different nationalities and cultures is also presented.


Translation is a noble profession. Translation is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of the individuals engaged in translations. Some translations might not be good. But it is to the credit of most of the translations which are both faithful to the original and are creative that literature lovers have been able to read the works of many poets, writers, authors, philosophers, scientists in the language known to the reader. The complex nature of ideas, philosophies, concepts, ideologies that throw challenges to the translator when getting translated is the subject of this write-up.

The word translation is usually associated with the translation of literary write-ups. Thus - poetry, short-fiction, novels etc., - creations are translated from one language to another language. We are all aware of the many ways of translating the literature and each translator has one’s own method. In these translations we usually concentrate on the translation of the sense than literal translations. We all know that this type of translation gives good translation. In these translations the translator though stamps his creativity on the translation, he remains faithful to the original text.

We also translate ideas expressed in science and spirituality from one language to another language. This translation may also lead to innovative interpretations depending on the ability, scholarship, intuition, insight and depth of understanding of the translator. I herewith share my experiences in the translation of ideas from science and Indian spirituality on Time and Upanishadic insight.


In Sanskrit Language “soonyam” has three different meanings. They are (i) zero; (ii) vacuum; (iii) state of cessation of mental functions. I wrote an essay in Sanskrit on these three highlighting their use and significance for knowledge and titled “soonyaani” – plural for “soonyam”. I had difficulty in translating the title into English. Then I closely observed the three senses of “soonyam” and found one common thing in the three. In zero value is absent. In vacuum matter is absent. In state of cessation of mental functions mind is absent. So I took the sense “absence” common to all and translated the title as “The significance and use of absence”. This is how the ideas are translated.

Thus just sense - translation may not be sufficient in translation of certain texts which contain deep meanings and ideas. That aspect is now presented taking ideas on the nature of Time and Upanishadic Contents.


Thinkers have been attempting to understand the nature of time since the start of civilizations. Many intellectuals through generations have been expressing thoughts which aid us in the understanding of the nature and structure of time. Ancient Indians, the Chinese and the Greeks and many western and eastern scientists and philosophers have made substantial contributions in this regard. An attempt is made in this article to get an understanding of time and thought process using basic physics principles and ancient Indian wisdom as revealed in the Upanishads.

Our observation and experience recognize physical and psychological existences to time. Physical time is construed to be movement, change or becoming. These three insights of time, movement, change, becoming, as time essentially concern changes. Thus changes of place or phase of matter or change of form of energy can be construed as time. External monitoring of duration of these changes are measurements of time and passage of time. All these measurements concern physical existence of time. Thus physical existence of time consists of changes and measurement of duration of such changes. Simply, change is time Energy-form-change through matter or changes in or to matter by energy is time.

Insight about time:

  1. Matter or energy at rest or in motion or under transformation is the physical manifestation of time and constitutes physical time.
  2. The physical manifestation of flow of time or passage of time is ongoing of processes involving transformation of energy through matter or change of phase of matter by the aid of energy.
  3. Matter- or Energy-Presence is Time at Rest or Static Time or Time-Space or Durational aspect of time.
  4. Matter- or Energy-Transformation is Time in Motion or Dynamic Time or Time Created or Metrical aspect of time.
  5. Time-Space is defined, created, controlled and ceases to be depending on Energy-Presence and the energy/matter available and amenable for and cause of transformation.
  6. Time is not a physical quantity. Time is an awareness. Time is a sense. Passage of time is an observation and a mental experience in a particular conscious state of mind.
  7. Rise and fall of and flow of conscious states of mind and thoughts and other mental functions constitute psychological time.
  8. Psychological past is a record of happenings and psychological future is an apprehension about happenings caused by the egoistic mind during the passage of physical time.
  9. Both psychological past and psychological future are thought-forms in the physical present involving psychic energy transformations in the wakeful and dream conscious states of mind.
  10. Physical present is same everywhere in the universe and only observation and counting are at different instants.
  11. Counting of physical present is a function of geographical location.
  12. Continuous presence or continuous flow of matter or energy without transformation or change is Time-transcendence or Thought-transcendence or Timelessness. That means continuous state of rest or of uniform motion is Timelessness.
  13. Time flow signifies the speed of conversion of energy in a process.
  14. ime flow is a measure of Being (presence) and Becoming (transformation) of matter and energy in space.

Ideas about human mind and consciousness in the Upanishads:

Ancient Indian wisdom as revealed in the Upanishads has a lot to say about human consciousness and mental functions. The expressions of the Upanishads, when translated into the modern scientific terms will benefit the fields of physiological psychology; the natural language comprehension branch of artificial intelligence, and the modeling of human cognition, language communication and understanding processes.

Concept of mind as available in Ancient Indian thought:

Atman or Brahman is Sat-Chit-Ananda

AdiSankara: Brahma sat jagat mithyaa jivo brahma eva na apraha

What is present always (in dristi (consciousness/awareness) and responsible for formation of dristi) is Brahman and jagat (which is moving or transient) is adhyasa (veil), over sat (Brahman); and mithya (unreal or virtual); jiva (self-consciousness or egoistic state of mind as adhyasa over Brahman) is Brahman (pure consciousness or unoccupied awareness) Itself, not different or separate.

Inner mental world (idam) and mental functions (jagat):

Vedanta Panchadasi:
Asti bhaatipriyamnamamroopamchetiamsapanchakam
AAdyatrayam brahma roopamtatodwayamjagatroopam

is a famous expression of Vedanta Panchdasi by Vidyaranaya. This sloka says that prapancham (inner mental world-also known as viswam) is made up of five ingredients: asti (sat – consciousness aspect), bhaati (chit - awareness/knowledge aspect), priyam (ananda- experience aspect)-the aspects of Brahman or Atman, namam (name) and roopam (form or sight ordrusyam or vishaya), the aspects of prapancham or jagathi (inner mental world) or jiva (self-consciousness/ego). Addition or tagging of namam(name) and roopam form or sight or object-energy form) to Atman forms prapancham in jada (potential) form. Prapancham becomes jagat (kinetic/dynamic) when retrieved and appears in the dristi(awareness). These namamand roopam [object energy forms sensed through sense organs], also consist of words and forms we cognize and learn while learning languages, disciplines and skills and all kinds of knowledge

In jagat, Atman is in three parts as asti – the sat aspect; bhaati – the chit aspect and priyam – anandam aspect, together with the two parts namam (name) and roopam (form). Namam is given by language and form is what the vishaya(object-energy form) looks like or cognized like. It must be noted here that prapancham is created within as sensed by sense organs through the antahkaranamanas. So obviously the smells (by nose), tastes (by tongue) and touches and feelings of hotness and coldness (through skin) are also part of prapancham in addition to sounds heard by ears and forms seen by eyes. This prapancham will be in jada (potential) form and becomes jagat as kinetic form when retrieved and perceived by manasforming thoughts/feelings etc.

Consciousness is non-dual (advaita) awareness. It is experience as bliss/peace/silence when self-consciousness is absorbed or got absorbed in pure consciousness. Consciousness is also experience when no cognitions or cognition-related experiences are in the awareness of mind. Experienced awareness is consciousness. Awareness of nothing within or without the body is consciousness. It is peace, bliss and silence. Mind is dual (dvaita) awareness. Knowing, perception, thinking, doing intellectual operations, discrimination, feelings, having moods, urges, intuitions, understanding, getting and having insight, experiences are functions of mind.

Scheme of human mental acquisitions, functions and communications as envisaged above:

While mind is functioning, there will be a differentiated perception of knower-knowing-known or subject-verb-object, which will be missing and absent when non-dual (advaita) awareness or pure consciousness becomes unoccupied awareness. Experiencing or understanding or getting insight of verb is state of experience and then knower-known or subject-object are not attached to the verb. Verb will be in a present continuous form or infinite form depending on it is absorption of information or understanding cognition or experiencing cognition or urge (to express or do) or intuition (result of perception or instinct took form or genetic knowledge expressed through hormones or like them) or sense or meanings of utterances received or to be expressed.

We knowingly or unknowingly alternate between non-dual (advaita) and dual (dvaita) awareness while functioning mentally. Wakeful and dream conscious states of mind represent and account for the phase of mind when functioning and then we also are aware of and sense or perceive self-consciousness. Once mind ceases to function, we experience peace, bliss and silence within. If these are experienced our being aware them, the phase of mind then is known as wakeful sleep. If we are unaware, but are conscious of these, the phase of mind then is known as deep sleep. The phase of cessation of mental functions (also self-consciousness) is similar to zero in number system and vacuum in physical and biological sciences. Vacuum is inherent in matter and holds matter and is manifested when matter is missing or absent. Consciousness is awareness of mind when no mental functions are taking place. This idea is further elaborated below.

Simply put, according to Upanishads, human mental functions are the forward and backward transformations of chidabhasa or maya or pranavam - the carrier (in the sense of carrier radio wave in broadcasting and reception process) cognitive-energy pulse series, modulatedby energies sensed through sense organs or the stored information as potential energies retrieved (as vasanas - object-experiences, which include meanings of utterances, first and then jagat[inner world] as feelings/thoughts/perceptions) and demodulated to give humans knowledge, experiences etc. The transformation of maya, reverse transformation of maya and cessation of transformation of maya - the dvaita and advaita conscious states respectively - taking place simultaneously, consecutively and alternately is the structure, form, function, state and essence of human consciousness, mental functions and cognitive processes [8] Most of present attemptsaim at modeling machine cognition as an isolated process which is the result of sensing. But if human mental processes are observed, it becomes obvious that human perception is but an intermediary process which transfers sensing into sense (understanding/experience) and sense into expression. Human cognitive process can be stated sequentially as follows: (1) sensing: through sense organs (knowing), (2) perception (thinking, reasoning, decision making, etc.,), (3) understanding/experience, (4) purport- meaningful experience or experienced meaning.

Idea of Communism:

We are all aware of the idea of communism is proposed by Karl Marx. But while translating into action, the interpretations made and paths taken in their implementation by Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, Gorbzev, Mao-tse-Tung, Ho Chi min, Fidel Castro, are not the same. The North Korean and East European leaders the Indian, other Asian, Latin American, African and European political leaders and ideologists have their own interpretations in translating into action. Not only that the left intellectuals who translated the idea of communism into an ideology too have different “translations” of the idea of communism.


An idea or concept or insight or ideology or philosophy is very rarely or never translated and implemented in the original spirit of the idea by all the translators.. The insight, perception and other mental makeup and aspects of the individual translating the text or following and implementing the ideology play a vital part in its translation into both understanding and action. And many more such examples can be unearthed from all disciplines of all societies and nations.

While translating the ideas, concepts, insight, philosophies, ideologies, the translator must be well versed with the ideology, school of thought and technical terms which have special meanings in that system of though different from dictionary meanings.

Thus translation of ideas with a different view, understanding and contemplation gives raise to revolutionary outputs and new fields of research and also new schools of thought will be originating. Translation of ideas is an intellectual, intuitive and insightful affair and not merely translation of sense as in the case of literary translations. Translation of ideas is of different genre and translation of ideas is a combination of translation, creativity and criticism.


More by :  Dr. Varanasi Ramabrahmam

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