Sunday, February 22, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.10: The Suffering of Disappointments

jar"-aadayo n'aika-vidhaaH prajaanaaM
satyaaM pravRttau prabhavanty an-arthaaH
pravaatsu ghoreShv api maaruteShu,
na hy a-prasuutaas taravash calanti.

The many and various disappointments of men,
like old age,

Occur to them as disappointments
so long as their end-gaining goes on;

For even when violent winds blow,

Trees do not shake that never sprouted.

When we reflect on big disappointments, behind every one of them, if we are honest, was there not a strong and deep expectation of a different outcome?

If not for some end-gaining expectation, deeply buried though the expectation may have been, how could we ever have been disappointed?

Expectation of a desired outcome is the essence of end-gaining, and this is precisely what Ashvaghosha is describing in this verse, as I read it, with the word pravRtti.

Thus, in the Monier-Williams dictionary definition of pravRtti, the term is explained as: “active life, as opposed to contemplative devotion, and defined as consisting of the wish to act, knowledge of the means, and accomplishment of the object.”

What Ashvaghosha meant by pravRtti, which could be translated as “actively striving after ends” or “end-gaining” or simply as “doing,” should become gradually clearer as the term re-appears repeatedly in the verses of this canto.

In this particular verse, as I see it, Ashvaghosha is considering a very mental kind of suffering, which is disappointment. In the following verses, he will progress to psycho-physical suffering (16.11) suffering of body and mind (16.12; 16.13); past, present, and future suffering (16.14;16;15), and existential suffering here and now (16.16).

So, even though a fourfold progression within each verse is not easily discernible in the present section on suffering, a kind of fourfold progression can be observed through this and the next six verses, as follows:
(1) Suffering of MIND and body (16.10-11);
(2) Suffering of BODY and mind (16.12-13);
(3) Suffering in TIME (16.14-15).
(4) Suffering as REAL EXISTENCE itself (16.16)

jara: (from √ 1. jRR) " becoming old"; the act of wearing out , wasting
adayaH = nominative, plural of adi: beginning with, et cetera
naika: not one , more than one , various , manifold , numerous , many
vidhaaH: nominative, plural of vidhaa: form , manner , kind , sort [mani]-fold
prajaanaam = genitive, plural of prajaa: offspring, children, family, race, posterity, descendants, a creature, animal, man, mankind

satyaam (loc. sg. f. present participle as, to be): (locative absolute construction) [as long as it] persists, [insofar as it] continues
pravRttau = loc. sg. of pravRtti: f. moving onwards, advance, progress; coming forth, appearance, manifestation; activity, exertion, efficacy; active life (as opposed to ni-vRtti [q.v.] and to contemplative devotion, and defined as consisting of the wish to act, knowledge of the means, and accomplishment of the object)
nivRtti: ceasing from worldly acts, inactivity, rest, repose (opposed to pra-vRtti)
pravRtti is originally a verbal noun from pra- √ vRt: to roll or go onwards (as a carriage), be set in motion or going.
The root √ vRt literally means to turn.
prabhavanti = 3rd person plural of pra- √ bhU: to come forth, spring up, appear, become visible, happen, occur
an-arthaaH = nominative, plural of an-artha: non-value, a worthless or useless object, disappointing occurrence

pravaata: blown forward, agitated by the wind
ghoreShu = locative, plural of ghora: terrific , frightful , terrible , dreadful , violent , vehement
maaruteShu = locative, plural of mAruta: relating to or derived from the wind, windy; wind

na: not
hi: for
prasuutaaH = nominative, plural of prasUta: procreated, begotten, born, produced, sprung
a-prasuutaaaH: non-existent, not yet sprouted
taravaH = nominative, plural of taru: tree
calanti = 3rd person plural of cal: to be moved , stir , tremble , shake , quiver

EH Johnston:
So long as active being persists among creatures, calamities of many sorts, old age etc., are produced among them ; for trees that have not come into existence cannot be shaken, however fearful the winds that blow.

Linda Covill:
All kinds of troubles, old age for instance, will appear among mankind as long as life continues, for non-existent trees do not shake even when violent gales blow.

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