Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SAUNDARANANDA 3.9; Water Out Of Emptiness

sa-nagaa ca bhuuH pravicacaala
huta-vaha-sakhaH shivo vavau
nedur api ca sura-dundubhayaH
pravavarSHa c'aambu-dhara-varjitaM nabhaH

The earth with its mountains shook,

That which feeds the fire blew auspiciously,

The drums of the gods sounded,

And rain fell from the cloudless sky.

In line (1) Ashvaghosha covers the whole planet, paints the whole picture, all together.
In line (2) he anticipates the discovery of oxygen by the best part of two thousand years.
In line (3) Ashvaghosha, who was celebrated as an accomplished musician, touches on the phenomenon of sound. There are Zen musicians of the present day who sit and investigate the rhythm of the Universe, and who speak of drum playing "in the pocket." Whose pocket, I wonder? If it were not for the gods of theatre, and sport, and music, how would it be possible for drummers today to speak of playing in the pocket?
In line (4) I think Ashvaghosha suggests the kind of miracle that we all experience happening every day. Rain, drops of water falling from the sky, is always a miracle. And the sky is always free of clouds. So the sky of which Ashvaghosha speaks is not necessarily a cloudless blue sky on a special, distant, legendary day; it might be the cloudless grey sky on this miraculous winter's day.

sa-nagaa: with mountains, mountain-ed
ca: and
bhuuH: earth
pravicacaala: shook, quaked

huta-vaha-sakhaH: 'friend of the conductor of the sacrifice,' i.e. that which supplies the sacrificial fire with oxygen -- the wind, a breeze.
huta: sacrifice
vaha: conductor
sakha: friend
shiva: auspicious
vavau: blew

nedur = perfect tense of nad: sound, cry out, resound
api: also
ca: and
sura: gods (as opposed to a-sura, anti-gods, demons)
dundubhayaH: drums, kettle drums

pravavarSHa: rain
ca: and
ambu-dhara: 'water-holder', cloud
varja: free from, devoid of
nabhas: sky

EH Johnston:
The earth with its mountains shook, an auspicious breeze blew, the drums of the gods sounded and rain fell from a cloudless sky.

Linda Covill:
The earth with its mountains quaked, an auspicious wind blew, the drums of the gods reverberated, and it began to rain from a cloudless sky.

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