Monday, January 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.6: Coming Back to Himself

saMdhaaya dhairyam praNidhaaya viiryaM
vyapohya saktiM parigRhya shaktiM
prashanta-cetaa niyama-stha-cetaaH
svasthas tato 'bhuud viShayeShv an-aasthaH

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

By holding firm, keeping direction of energy to the fore,

By cutting out clinging and garnering his energy,

His consciousness calmed and contained,

He came back to himself
and was not concerned about ends.

Poetic elements like double use of the root dhaa (put) in the 1st line, in saMdhaaya (putting together, holding) and praNidhaaya (putting in front); and the rhyming of saktim and shaktim in the 2nd line, are lost in translation.

One of the things about the Buddha's teaching written in the form of metric poetry, I suppose, is that it conveys a certain unhurried rhythm. The aim of getting the Buddha's message across is not so pressing that there is no time to observe the basic 11-syllable metre of 2 long + 1 short + 2 long + 2 short + 1 long + 1 short + 2 long = 11 syllables (as in the first line of this verse). But neither is the basic form always adhered to with undue rigidity (as in the use of a short syllable to begin the second and third lines).

A non-Buddhist hero of mine named FM Alexander, when it came to food, for example, was not a greedy man; according to his niece Marjory Barlow, he always ate and drank in moderation. But he was a man of refined taste: he liked good food, and a drop of red wine with it. I think I am right in saying that FM worked for a while as a tea-taster. So if the criterion Ashvaghosha is expressing in the fourth line were absence of liking for sensual objects (as per EHJ's translation), or indifference to sensory experience (as per LC), then FM might not have fit the bill. But FM Alexander knew a thing or two about being true to oneself in a process, and not being unduly concerned about ends.

This cartoon is from a birthday card I got from student-teachers at the Alexander training school where, on most Fridays, we work together on "staying back in the back" and giving up "end-gaining" ideas (wherein it is not always clear who is teaching who)....

EH Johnston:
By assuming steadfastness, applying effort, driving away attachment and mastering his capacity, he caused his thoughts to be tranquil and to abide in the rule of abstinence, and being then at ease, he lost all liking for sensual objects.

Linda Covill:
Fastened to firmness, applying endeavor, repelling clinging and embracing capability, his peaceful thoughts rested within the rules of restriction; and being now healthy, he became indifferent to sensory experience.

saMdhaaya = abs. saM-√ dhaa: , to place or hold or put or draw or join or fasten or fix or sew together , unite ;
dhairyam (acc. sg. ): n. firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
praNidhaaya = abs. pra-Ni- √ dhaa: to place in front, apply
viiryam (acc. sg.): n. manliness , valour , strength , power , energy

vyapohya = abs. vyapoh: to drive away , keep off , remove , destroy
saktim (acc. sg.): f. connexion , entwinement (of creepers) ; clinging or adhering to (loc. or comp.) , attachment , addiction (esp. to worldly objects)
parigRhya = abs. pari-√grah: to take hold of on both sides , embrace; to take possession of , master
shaktim (acc. sg.): f. power , ability , strength , might , effort , energy , capability

prashanta-cetaaH (nom. sg. m.): of tranquil mind
prashanta: mfn. tranquillized , calm , quiet , composed , indifferent ; extinguished , ceased , allayed
cetas: consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind etc.
niyama-stha-cetaaH (nom. sg. m.): mind being contained in limits
niyama: m. limitation , restriction
stha: mfn. standing , staying , abiding , being situated in
cetas: consciousness, etc.

svasthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy (in body and mind) , comfortable , at ease ; relying upon one's self , confident , resolute , composed ; self-sufficient , independent
tataH: ind. thence, from that, then (often superfluous after an indeclinable participle [ = absolutive; e.g. saMdhaaya etc.] )
abhuut (3rd pers. sg. aorist bhuu, to be): he was, he became
viShayeShu = loc. pl. viShaya: m. object
an-aasthaH = nom. sg. m. an-aastha: indifferent, unconcerned (??)
aa- √sthaa: to stand or remain on or by; to take care for , have regard for
an-aasthaa: f. disrespect ; want of consideration ; unconcern , indifference.

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