On Reading the Ramayana

May 16, 2011 at 4:51 am (Uncategorized)

Please don’t judge me when I tell you that I decided to read…drumroll….a prose version of the Ramayana

It was after much mulling, debating and comparative shopping that I finally purchased William Buck’s amazing translation/retelling of the Ramayana.  I am 60 pages into and it is so wonderful.  Just looking at the book literally makes me a happier Manda.  Holding this masterpiece in my hands and slowly contemplating each sentence brings me great inner peace.  I’d almost say it’s a religious experience, not to mention the experience of underlining great quotes and adding marginalia on nearly every page.  Well, that’s so satisfying, I pretty much have to count it as a sexual experience.  Just sayin’.

But tonight, my friends, I’m not going to tell you about Rama or Sita or even the mighty Hanuman.  I’m going to tell you about William Buck.  You see he was only 37 when he died.  He first came into contact Indian literature when he read the Bhagavad-Gita – which is an excellent place to start if I do say so myself – and before you know it, he was obsessed.  Imagine that.  During his brief  lifetime, he managed an epic feat:  complete retellings of both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.  As a woman who can barely type this blog, I am in awe of  Buck.

B. A. van Nooten wrote in his introduction to the Ramayana:

“William Buck’s adaptation is an extraordinary accomplishment.  He was neither a scholar nor a well-known author, and though he retells the Rama story with many variations of details, he has succeeded in capturing the most important characteristics of the Ramayana:  the simple religious tone that pervades the Indian original” (xix) .

For days, I’ve been reading that quote over and again and then tonight it hit me. “He was neither a scholar nor a well-known author…”.  He was just a man who loved a story.  How wonderful is that?



  1. Joseph said,


    Surely you jest! You mean to tell me this man didn’t have an advanced degree, yet he went on to do important things, regardless?

    What is this world coming to!?


  2. Liz said,

    Inspiring! An important reminder for us all to dig ourselves out of the nonsense and go hunting for the easiest and best thing: the story itself. Thank you for this. Now I’ll let you get back to having sex with the Ramayana. 😉

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