Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.8: Intolerance of Anomalies

sa paryavasthaanam avetya sadyash
cikShepa taaM dharma-vighaata-kartriiM
priyaam api krodha-pariita-cetaa
naariim iv' odvRtta-guNaam manasvii

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

Being instantly aware of incompatibilities,

He saw off that authoress of the dharma's downfall,

As a man whose mind is seized by anger

Shoos away a loved but excitable woman,
when he is trying to concentrate.

Had Nanda cupped Sundari's breasts in his hands as he surveyed the wide and smooth expanse of her toned back? Had he watched those firm breasts jiggle up and down as she lay on her back before him? Had he kissed those breasts as Sundari's ear-rings jangled overhead?

We can only imagine what memories had been embedded in Nanda's mind by various aspects of the firm and full breasts of Sundari, jutting up like two lotus buds out of a pond. As one such memory re-surfaced in a blast from the past, on what basis was Nanda able to see it off?

Lest their be any doubt, Ashvaghosha supplies the answer in the metaphor of the angry man who shoos away his beloved, not because he does not desire her (for she, his beloved, is the very object of his desire), but because at that moment he is more interested in something else, and he wishes to give his attention not to her but to the other thing.

So Nanda did not see off the vestige of his old desire by trying to be a man of no desire. He did not try to become somebody's idea of Buddha. Rather he saw something: he saw the incompatibility of the old desire and the new desire that had awakened in him not to be a slave to desire, but to be free.

That Nanda no longer wanted Sundari, was not it. He did still want Sundari. But he saw that his old desire for Sundari was not compatible with the newly awakened desire -- namely, the desire to practise the truth that has no gaps, or, in other words, the desire to do practices favourable to release (17.5).

The problem one tends to come up against in desiring to do such practice is that evolution has already equipped us well to be slaves to instinctive desire, whereas the new desire, the desire to be free, needs to be nurtured again and again -- otherwise, it fades out and we are liable to backslide.

So it was not enough for Nanda to sit in the inspirational presence of his enlightened brother, the Buddha; and it was not even enough for Nanda to listen in person to the Buddha preaching the Dharma that Ashvaghosha has given us in writing in the past five cantos: Nanda had to go into the forest by himself, and work it out for himself. He had to see the incompatibilities for himself, and make the choice for himself. The Buddha, even with the best will in the world, could not make that choice for him.

EH Johnston:
He recognised the disturbance in his feelings and quickly threw off that idea so ruinous to the Law, like a man of spirit who with thoughts filled with wrath rejects an offending woman, however dear she be to him.

Linda Covill:
He discarded that thought, obstacle-maker to the dharma that it was, when he suddenly became aware of the impediment, as an excitable man throws off a loved but pushy woman when his mind is encompassed by anger.

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
paryavasthaanam = gen. pl. paryavasthaa: f. opposition , contradiction
pari: ind. against , opposite to
avasthaa: f. state , condition , situation, circumstance of age or position , stage , degree; f. pl. the female organs of generation
avetya = abs. ave: to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know
sadyas: ind. on the same day , in the very moment

cikShepa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kShip: to throw , cast , send , despatch taam = acc. sg. f. tad: it, that
dharma: dharma, the teaching, the law
vighaata: m. a stroke , blow with (comp.) ; breaking off or in pieces ; driving back , warding off ; destruction , ruin ; removal , prohibition , prevention , interruption , impediment , obstacle
kartriim = acc. sg. f. kartR: mfn. one who makes or does or acts or effects , a doer , maker , agent , author (ifc.)

priyaam (acc. sg. f.): beloved, dear
api: even, though
krodha-pariita-cetaaH (nom. sg. m): mind seized with anger
krodha: anger
pariita: mfn. surrounded , encompassed , filled , taken possession of , seized (with instr. or in comp.)
cetas: consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind etc.

naariim (acc. sg.): f. a woman, a wife
iva: like
udvRtta-guNaam (acc. sg. f.): an exuberant type [of woman]
udvRtta: mfn. swollen up , swelling ; prominent ; excited , agitated , waving; extravagant , ill-behaved , ill-mannered , proud , arrogant ; turned up
guNa: subdivision , species , kind ; a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property
manasvii = nom. sg. m. manasvin: mfn. full of mind or sense , intelligent , clever , wise ; in high spirits , cheerful , glad ; fixing the mind, attentive

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