Juan Mascaró

Joan Mascaró (December 8, 1897 – March 19, 1987) was a Spanish translator born in Majorca to a farming family. He is responsible for one of the most popular English translations of the Hindu text Bhagavad Gita (1962), and of some of the major Upanishads (1965). He also translated, from Pāli into English, a key Buddhist text, Dhammapada (1973). His first work, Lamps of Fire (1958), was a collection of religious and spiritual wisdom from across the world; a selection from the book inspired the Beatles song "The Inner Light" (1968). Though his native tongue was Catalan, he translated into English. His obituary in The New York Times said he had, "achieved the unique feat of translation from languages not his own (Sanskrit and Pali) into another language not at first his own (English)."[1]

His interest in religion started from the age of 13 when he studied a book on occultism. After finding this spiritually misleading, he discovered an older English translation of the Bhagavad Gita. This inspired him to study Sanskrit in order to gain a better understanding of the text, as the available translation was quite poor.

He studied modern and oriental languages at Cambridge University and spent some time lecturing on the Spanish Mystics. He then went to Ceylon where he was Vice-Principal of Parameshwara College at Jaffna. Later, he became Professor of English at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He settled in England after the Spanish Civil War and there made his translations of the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, as well as returning to Cambridge University, where he was a supervisor of English and lectured on "Literary and Spiritual Values in the Authorized Version of the Bible".

He married Kathleen Ellis in 1951 and had a twin son and daughter. He died in 1987 at his home in Comberton, Cambridge.[2]

He used a Spanish name (Juan) because the spelling of his Catalan name (Joan) is the same as that of the female English name Joan. When writing in Catalan, his mother tongue, he had always signed as Joan, which was his real name.

He was made doctor honoris causa by the University of Balearic Islands.