Translation & quest for an English online reference

In a post of a certain online discussion group called Advaita-L, Ramesh Krishnamurthy found a reference for the following Sanskrit words:

"sā vidyā yā vimuktaye" (which I found translated as "knowledge is one that liberates", as a quote of a certain non-linguistic natural science publication).

  • Is "knowledge is one that liberates" the most literal translation possible?

The reference mentioned above is a 1910 edition (Bombay: Venkatesvara Steam Press) of the text called विष्णु पुराण (Viṣṇu Purāṇa), which is ascribed to पराशर ऋषि (Parāśara).

The text can be found in a document in the online GRETIL-register of the university of Göttingen, as inputted by members of the SANSKNET-project.

  • Does one perhaps know of a better (more reliable and/or better lay-outed) reference/online edition available of the Sanskrit source text, containing this shloka? Perhaps at DSpace.wbpublibnet.gov.in or at the Digital Library of India (DLI)?

The full shloka is as follows:

tatkarma yan na bandhāya sā vidyā yā vimuktaye |
āyāsāyāparaṃ karma vidyānyā śilpanaipuṇam || ViP_1,19.41 ||
  • Might I ask for your help to translate these surrounding sentences as well, i.e. the full shloka?
  • How would one write the full shloka without the transliteration, i.e. in the original Sanskrit alphabet?

I hoped to find the translation e.g. in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa at sacred-texts.com, archive.org, DSpace.wbpublibnet.gov.in or at Digital Library of India (DLI).

  • Can a free English translation of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, containing this shloka, be found online? Or perhaps, with a lot of luck: does a bilingual edition exists?

Location of the authorship

A final question is about the authorship of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa / Vishnu Purana, which Wikipedia ascribes to पराशर ऋषि (Parāśara / Parashara) as a first narrator. Is it known where the stories were first narrated by him / where this first was written? Would India in general be correct and is a more specific geographic location known?

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This is my first post in this forum. I am happy that I have stumbled upon it. Anyways, I was the one who replied in the Wordreference thread: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2962626

So, I'll simply copy my answer from there for easy reference:


I am sorry, I cannot help you with the references. Unfortunately, I am generally not familiar with Puranic literature. But I'll help you with a step by step translation of the verse your quoted, going from literal to idiomatic and also an attempt at a philosophical interpretation.


tat karma yan na bandhāya => That (tat) is 'work' (karma), which (yat) is not (na) for the bondage (bandhāya). The expression "is for something" is often used in Sanskrit idiomatically to mean "leads to something", "causes something" or "transforms into something". Thus, a more idiomatic reading here would be "(Only) that is (real) 'work', which does not lead to bondage." Philosophically, this invokes the doctrine of performing one's duties, remaining detached from its results, and for that matter from everything else. The idea is that 'work' (karman), or performance of one's duties, is worth only if it is done observing proper detachment, and thus does not lead to attachment (i.e. "bondage") to this world.

sā vidyā yā vimuktaye => That (sā) is 'knowledge' (vidyā), which (yā) is for the liberation (vimuktaye). Again, this uses the same idiom as before, and thus really means: "(Only) that is (real) knowledge, which leads to liberation." Philosophically speaking, the liberation (vimukti/mokṣa) here refers to, at the very basic, to the emancipation from the cycle of (re-)birth and death. Thus the idea is that only that kind of knowledge and skill are worth, which lead to liberation from the worldly cycles of birth and death.

āyāsāyāparaṃ karma => For hardship/effort (āyāsāya) is the 'other work' (aparaṃ karma). As familiar to us by now, this really means: "All other kinds of work lead to hardship," i.e. works and duties performed with attachment (i.e. hoping for a certain result, or for the love of someone/something) lead, in the long run, to sufferings. There is a little bit more to add about the choice of the word "apara-". I translate it here as "other", which is indeed one of this common meanings, and also a relevant reading as will be apparent from the next part of the verse, but it also has another usage especially in philosophical contexts where it serves as the antonym to "para-" (absolute, higher, etc.) Thus, a typical usage is "parā vidyā" = the "higher knowledge", which refers to the transcendental/spiritual knowledge (that leads to vimukti), and in contrast, "aparā vidyā" = the other/lower knowledge, which refers to our worldly knowledge (which often leads to "bondage"). Thus, in this context both readings - "other/worldly duties/works" will be appropriate for "aparaṃ karma", without any real difference in the philosophical interpretation.

vidyānyā śilpanaipuṇam => The other (anyā) knowledge (vidyā) is skills in art/craft/etc. (śilpa-naipuṇam), i.e. the other kinds of knowledge are mere worldly skills, and hence are probably not even worth being called knowledge/vidyā.


I am not the most philosophically inclined person. My knowledge of Hindu philosophy is mostly limited to normal cultural heritage knowledge, slightly augmented, maybe, by my relative acquaintance with the Sanskrit language, and to some limited extent with its literary works. My primary interest in Sanskrit is linguistic. So, please, don't consider my philosophical interpretations as the final words.

How would one write the complete shloka without the transliteration, i.e. in the original Sanskrit alphabet?

Just to be clear (forgive me if I sound preachy, I am not trying to chastise you for a "mistake", I just want to clarify this point), there is no "Sanskrit" alphabet. Sanskrit has traditionally been written in dozens of scripts in various places and periods... and that too only after having had a millenium or more of oral-only existence before that. However, most modern publications use Devanāgarī as the default script. In that script it would look:

तत्कर्म यन्न बन्धाय सा विद्या या विमुक्तये।
आयासायापरं कर्म विद्यान्या शिल्पनैपुणम्‌॥
  • Thank you, so then just the line sā vidyā yā vimuktaye would look be सा विद्या या विमुक्तये। in Devanāgarī. --- Would you have any clue on the authorship question that I've added; i.e.: where this story is assumed first to be told and what would be the location of the earliest written text of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa? – Vincent Mia Edie Verheyen Feb 3 '15 at 13:03
  • Also perhaps a last question: which version of the shloka is transcribed more correctly? The one referred to in OP's question (source: tatkarma yan na bandhāya sā vidyā …, or the slightly differing transcription mentioned below, in OP's answer (source: tatkarma yanna bandhāaya ...)? – Vincent Mia Edie Verheyen Feb 3 '15 at 13:30
  • Or are they exactly the same and both correct, but is their only difference that the first 1 (as does your translation) uses sandhi-free Devanāgarī, whereas the second one uses sandhi, which Radim Navyan mentioned (cf. OP's answer)? --- Is it correct to add first-letter capitalization , e.g. in Tatkarma yan na bandhāya sā vidyā? --- Last remark: the first line sais yan, but you translated "which" from yat? – Vincent Mia Edie Verheyen Feb 3 '15 at 14:13
  • I am sorry again, I cannot help you with the history and geography (so to say :p) of the text (i.e. the when and where questions). I pointed out one problem with the wordpress transcribed and Devanāgarī version before. I missed one transcription-only problem: *bandhāaya has to be bandhāya. Also, it uses the nonstandard character ṁ, while IAST prescribes ṃ (dot below m). OP's version is perfect. There exists some difference in using spaces (e.g. "yan na" vs. "yanna"), but both of them are acceptable. Both of them use "sandhi"-ed versions, which is the normal practice with traditional texts. – Dib Feb 3 '15 at 19:00
  • All in all, both the transcriptions try to represent the same sandhi-ed version of the text. OP does it perfectly, the wordpress post contains a couple of mistakes and one nonstandardism (from IAST point of view). About yan vs yat: "yat" is the "canonical" (i.e. pausal) form of the word (Vadim's sandhiless version also uses this form). Some may prefer "yad" as the "canonical" form though, and they also have good reason for that. Either way, "yan" is its sandhi-form before n/m (e.g. the word "na" in our verse). There is no difference in meaning. Also, IAST allows initial capitalization. – Dib Feb 3 '15 at 19:09

Online reference to a digital English translation of the source text Viṣṇu Purāṇacontaining the complete shloka:

Now, with all your help, I have managed to find the shloka translated in the 1840 translation of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa by Horace Hayman Wilson, which can be found at sacred-texts.com.

The text right before the shloka:

... The notion that ignorance is knowledge arises, father, from ignorance. Does not the child, king of the Asuras, imagine the fire-fly to be a spark of fire.

Shloka sā vidyā yā vimuktaye / "ViP 1,19.41"

That is active duty, which is not for our bondage; that is knowledge, which is for our liberation: all other duty is good only unto weariness; all other knowledge is only the cleverness of an artist.

The text right after the shloka:

Knowing this, I look upon all such acquirement as profitless. That which is really profitable hear me, oh mighty monarch, thus prostrate before thee, proclaim. He who cares not for dominion, he who cares not for wealth, shall assuredly obtain both in a life to come. ...

Some more translating help:

(from the reference post at Общество ревнителей санскрита, cf. my comment @Yellow Sky above):

  • Narayan Prasad referred to a post (from 11/2/2011) about this shloka on samskrtam.wordpress.com, which for starters has a slightly different transliterated shloka. Even though I have no clue of Sanskrit, I would trust this better than the GRETIL-version referred to above, since this latter source states irregularities might be present due to an automatic translation conversion. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to decipher the source edition of the book the following shloka comes from (even though it seems to have the same numbering 1-19-41:

tatkarma yanna bandhāaya sā vidyā yā vimuktaye| āyāsāyāparaṁ karma vidya’nyā śilpanaipuṇam||1-19-41|| —śrīviṣṇupurāṇe prathamaskandhe ekonaviṁśo’dhyāyaḥ

Corrections by user Dib:

  • The version there actually has a small mistake. I cannot comment on your post as I don't yet have enough "reputation". In the second line, it appears विद्यऽन्या and in transcription "vidya’nyā". It should be either विद्यान्या/vidyānyā like I used, or विद्याऽन्या/vidyā'nyā, apparently what the post in samskrtam.wordpress.com was going for. They are both equally right, the second version is actually more readable, but wordpress's version with a short a in vidya is incorrect.
  • bandhāaya has to be bandhāya.
  • Also, it uses the nonstandard character , while IAST prescribes (dot below m).

They offer the following Sanskrit text in "Devanāgarī"-script:

तत्कर्म यन्न बन्धाय सा विद्या या विमुक्तये।
आयासायापरं कर्म विद्यऽन्या शिल्पनैपुणम्॥१-१९-४१॥
—श्रीविष्णुपुराणे प्रथमस्कन्धे एकोनविंशोऽध्याय

Their English translation looks as follows:

That is action, which does not promote attachment; That is knowledge which liberates [one from bondage]. All other action is mere [pointless] effort/hardship; all other knowledge is merely another skill/craftsmanship.

  • Radim Navyan posted a similar Sanskrit translation (also "Devanāgarī"-scripted):

तत् कर्म यत् न बन्धाय, सा विद्या या विमुक्तये।आयासाय अपरं कर्म, विद्या अन्या शिल्प–नौपुणम्॥

Radim Navyan replied to my question about the script-type:

There's no "standard" for Devanagari writing. I've used sandhi-free type of writing, making your reading more comfort, whereas linked text is a "gentelman's agreement" now-a-day. In scriptures the latter one is customary, not mine.

to which he added a Russian translation:

Карма - то, что не спутывает, видья та, что выпутывает.
Прочая карма - чтоб тусоваться, прочая видья -  умелость артиста.

Regarding location :-

  1. India, in general is correct

  2. Rishis usually reside alongside the Ganga river or in the Himalayas or Kasi(Varanasi)

  3. Parasara met Satyavati who would carry their child, Sage Vyasa, on the banks of the Yamuna. So, it is conceivable that Parasara visited regions around Delhi at least once

  4. Puranas (which were passed on from Vyasa - who may have received them from Parasara) were expounded upon by Suta Maha Muni to Sounaka etc. rishis in Naimisaranya. In general, this is the starting point of the propagation of puranas into the world.

  • Thank you very much for this extensive help. I would like to add Wikipedia's views on Vyasa's birthplace: 1 of the views suggests that he was born in the Tanahun district in western Nepal, other view suggests that he was born on Island in Yamuna river near Kalpi, Uttar Pradesh, India. I would guess your claim about the carrying of Vyasa on the banks of the Yumana would be consistent with the second hypothesis; or is this carriage only applicable to Satyavati? – Vincent Mia Edie Verheyen Feb 3 '15 at 20:59
  • Also, perhaps for other scholars on this subject, it could be interesting to state the sources where you draw this information from, and perhaps to specify whether this information was drawn from (and should be seen as allegorical) mythological passages or from (rather) profane descriptions. --- Many thanks already for your information. – Vincent Mia Edie Verheyen Feb 3 '15 at 21:14

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