Sunday, November 8, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.15: The Utmost Pain

duHkhitebhyo hi martyebhyo
aaryaH ko duHkham aparaM
sa-ghRNo dhaatum arhati

= - = = - = = =
= - = - - = - =
= = = = - - - =
- - = = - = - -

Upon mortal beings who are pained

By sickness, dying, aging, and the rest,

What noble person would,

With human warmth, lay the utmost pain?

This verse seems to ask a rhetorical question, to which a reader might be expected to answer glibly: "Nobody. No noble man of compassion would deliberately lay further pain upon mortal beings who are already in pain."

But this kind of unexamined idea, the idea that a noble man with a warm heart could never choose to inflict further suffering on people who are already suffering, might be precisely the idea that is referred to in the title of this canto vitarka-prahaaNa, "Giving Up an Idea."

If I say that I have glimpsed the ultimate aim/purpose/meaning of my life in moments when I somehow stopped doing the wrong thing, and thereby allowed the right thing to do itself, "ultimate aim/purpose/meaning" would be in Sanskrit param-artham.

Para means beyond; it also means supreme or ultimate. So param-artham means ultimate meaning.

The negative of para is a-para. A-para means having nothing beyond; and in this sense it too means supreme or ultimate. So the ultimate aim of life could equally be expressed as a-param-artham.

To make matters still more ambiguous, as an indeclinable form, aparam also means "again," "moreover" or "further."

So in this verse duHkham aparam can be interpreted as:
(1) the pain/suffering which is supreme, unsurpassed, unrivalled, of the highest order.
(2) further pain/suffering.

If we go with the former interpretation, what kind of pain might be pain of the highest order?

I think that duHkham aparam, "pain of the highest order," might be the pain that inevitably seems to accompany a person's endeavor to realize the truth expressed in 15.14 as nivRttam dauHshiilyam, "wrong-doing not being done."

And it is very difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to experience this supreme pain without the skilled guidance of a noble and compassionate teacher whose job, in the first instance, is to show us by skilfull means where we go wrong.

Is this not exactly how noble and warm-hearted Gautama the Buddha has guided Nanda through the first eleven cantos of this epic tale, bringing Nanda to the point at the beginning of canto 12 where he stands trembling and tearful, suffering acute shame?

Here is a passage that is totally relevant to this verse, as I read it, written by the Alexander teacher Patrick Macdonald, on the subject of "Alexander's Gloom":

As one's co-ordination improves there is usually a heightened awareness of what one is doing with oneself. In particular one notices, much more often, how frequently one is going wrong. This is disconcerting at first and brings about the condition known as "Alexander's gloom." Unpleasant as this is at first, it is a step in the right direction and, as such, is one to be welcomed.

EH Johnston:
For what religious man, instinct with compassion, would cause further suffering to mortals already suffering from disease, death, old age, etc.?

Linda Covill:
For what noble and compassionate person would lay further suffering on humanity already suffering from sickness, death, aging and more?

duHkhitebhyaH = dative pl. duHkhita: mfn. pained , distressed ; afflicted , unhappy
hi: for
martyebhyaH = dative. pl. martya: m. a mortal , man , person

vyaadhi: sickness, disease
mRtyu: death
jaraa: f. old age
aadibhiH = inst. pl. aadi: ifc. beginning with , et cetera

aaryaH (nom. sg. m.): a respectable or honourable or faithful man ; (with Buddhists) a man who has thought on the four chief truths of Buddhism and lives accordingly ,
kaH (nom. sg. m.): who?
duHkham (acc. sg.): n. suffering, pain, distress
aparam = acc. sg. n apara: mfn. having nothing beyond or after , having no rival or superior
aparam: ind. again , moreover

sa-ghRNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. full of pity , compassionate
ghRNa: m. heat , ardour , sunshine ; f. a warm feeling towards others , compassion , tenderness
ghR: to shine , burn
dhaatum = infinitive dhaa: to put , place , set , lay in or on (loc.)
arhati = 3rd pers. sg. arh: to be allowed to do anything (Inf.)

No comments: