Forefront of research Toshifumi Goto

Lessons taught to mankind by ancient Indian literature
Translation of the “Rigveda”

In the fall of 2007, a new translation of the Rigveda (Books I-II) into German was completed

At the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2007, a press conference was held on publication of the “Rig-Veda. Das heilige Wissen. Erster und zweiter Liederkreis” (a new translation of the Rigveda into German (Books I-II), which was endorsed by an influential German publishing group. This book was jointly edited and translated with Professor M. Witzel of Harvard University and they both gave a speech at this event.

The “Veda” is a general term used to describe the oldest religious literature (Brahmanism Buddhist scripture) in India written in Sanskrit, which is a standardized dialect of Old-Indo-Aryan. It became the foundation for all Indian religion, philosophy, and literature. The oldest Veda is “Rigveda,” which is a collection of songs of praise preserved and held by the Aryan tribes who moved into northwest India. The “Rigveda” takes the form of songs in praise of gods and contains all the knowledge for “Understanding the World” at the time. Subsequent Vedas for Yajur, Sama, and Atharva were compiled and collectively called the “Four Vedas.”

Old Indo-Aryan languages, which were used in ancient India, had the same origin as many of the European languages and were formed during the the period of the Indo-Iranian language. This ancient but sophisticated style of language constitutes the base for comparative linguistics, and provides experts in language research with first-class data and methods.

Since Dr. Hakuju Ui started a course in “Indology” in 1923 (see “Booklet” of first issue pp 17-21), the Faculty of Arts and Letters at Tohoku University has continued a long tradition in the study of Indology. Publications include works on philology such as “Tibet Tripitaka Inventory” and “Tibet Buddhist scriptures Inventory Compilation” by Dr. Ensho Kanekura, Dr. Ryujo Yamada, Dr. Tokan Tada, and Dr. Hakuyu Hatano, including the “Kawaguchi Collection,” an impressive collection of Tibetan scriptures and folk materials which was collected by Zen monk Kawaguchi Ekai. Professor Goto is carrying on the tradition of Indology at Tohoku University and has taken this role to a new level, becoming one of the most prominent scholars in the world of Indology.

The publishing house Suhrkamp/Insel has established a new publishing house for world religions “Verlag der Weltreligionen” [see Note] and their first publication was this German translation project of “Rigveda.” This project that involves translation of volumes one to four of the “Rigveda” was heralded as a major work in the understanding of the family of Indo-European languages.

Professor Goto translated almost half of Vol. 1 of the “Rigveda” (99 songs among 191 songs) as well as the vocabulary terms. He is presently translating his assigned portion in Vol. 2. Another Japanese scholar, Mr. Eijiro Doyama, a Lecturer at Osaka University, is participating in this translation project and has translated 51 songs. He studied under Professor Goto and graduated from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Arts and Letters.

[Note] In 2007, Verlag der Weltreligionen also published “Bhagavad Gita. Der Gesang des Erhabenen,” “Vom rechten Leben. Buddhistishe Lehren aus Indien und Tibet,” “Die Mishna. Festzeiten.Seder Mo’ed,” and “al-Nawawi.”