Friday, August 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.46: Guarding Against Longing

abhidhyaa priya-ruupena
hanti kaam'-aatmakaM jagat
arir mitra-mukhen' eva
priya-vaak kaluSh'-aashayaH

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Longing, using cherished forms,

Smites the sensual masses:

A foe who has a friendly face,

She's fair of speech and foul of heart.

Who would like to be a person of integrity? Everybody, surely. Then apart from wishing for it, what practical means are available for going in that direction?

In the passage I quoted yesterday, FM Alexander wrote of a condition of co-ordination of the entire psycho-physical mechanism being (a) restored and (b) maintained.

The restorative aspect has to do with setting time aside to pay attention to how one uses body and voice -- "working on the self."

In this verse, again, I see the Buddha laying down -- on broad, general lines -- the preventive principles by which Nanda is to maintain integrity, as a condition of co-ordination of the entire psycho-physical mechanism. The maintaining aspect has a lot to do with being mindful, being constantly on one's guard.

Like a father concerned for the welfare of his son going on a dangerous journey, or like a commander concerned for the welfare of a soldier going into battle, the Buddha seems here to be taking pains to point out to Nanda the broad dangers to guard against. One way in which a practitioner is liable to be smitten, hit, or slain is by falling prey to the allure of some cultural mirage of happiness. This is a danger for those who tend to long for their creature comforts, trappings of status, name in lights or on the front cover of a book, etc. The danger on the other side, for the more goal-driven type, as described in the following verse, might be the danger of giving in to disillusionment on failing to achieve a perceived objective.

The translation of this section ceases to be such hard going for me on stepping back and seeing the section in its broader context: The Buddha, as I hear him, is laying down the preventive principles by which Nanda is to maintain that condition of psycho-physical integrity which is going to be necessary in his coming confrontation with the grim truth of suffering. It somehow cheers me up to remember that this battle against faulty sensory appreciation is but one battle in a campaign whose ultimate prize is possession of the four noble truths. But even in being cheered up like this, it strikes me on reflection, I might be in danger of taking at least one eye off the ball.

If one is truly to be a person of integrity, then overcoming the powerful influence of faulty sensory appreciation has to be seen as an end in itself, a ball away from which one cannot afford to take one's eye -- even, as the Buddha reminds us in the concluding verse of this canto, for an instant (ksanam api).

EH Johnston:
The desire of possession destroys the passion-filled world by means of attractive forms, like an enemy with friendly face, having pleasant words on his lips and evil in his heart.

Linda Covill:
Like an enemy with a friendly face, fair of speech but foul at heart, attraction with its pleasing form destroys people of passionate nature.

abhidhyaa: f. wish , longing for , desire
priya (from √prii): mfn. beloved , dear to , liked , favourite , wanted
√prii: to please , gladden , delight, gratify , cheer , comfort , soothe ,
ruupena = instrumental of ruupa: n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure (ruupeNa ifc. in the form of); dreamy or phantom shapes (pl.)

hanti = 3rd pers. sg. of han: to smite , slay , hit , kill , mar , destroy
kaama: wish , desire , longing ; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
aatmakam (acc.): having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)
jagat (acc.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals ; n. the world , esp. this world ; n. people , mankind ;

ariH (nom.): m. an enemy
mitra-mukhena (inst.): with a friendly face
iva: like

priya: beloved , dear to (gen. loc. dat. or comp.) , liked , favourite , wanted
vaak = vaac: speech, voice
kaluSha: mfn. turbid , foul , muddy
aashayaH (nom. sg.): m. the seat of feelings and thoughts , the mind , heart , soul

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