Sunday, March 21, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.68: Being Boatless, Gaining Nothing

mahaa-bhayaat kShemam iv' opalabhya
mah"-aavarodhaad iva vipramokShaM
mah"-aarNavaat paaram iv' aa-plavaH san
bhiim'-aandhakaaraad iva ca prakaashaM

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Like gaining safety after great danger,

Like gaining release after long imprisonment,

Like being boatless yet gaining the far shore,
after a mighty deluge,

And like gaining clarity, after fearful darkness;

In these four lines Nanda uses four metaphors to convey a sense of what it is like to attain Nirvana.

There might be many kinds of great danger; many kinds of imprisonment, by self and by others; many ways to be shipwrecked or otherwise without a boat; and many variations on the theme of fearful darkness (only one of which is the unconscious habit of trying to be right).

In 17.60 the noble eightfold path is represented by an eight-piece raft (aShTaaNgavat plava). But in this verse Nanda compares the peace of Nirvana to being boatless (a-plava san) -- as if Nanda no longer has need of 'the eightfold raft' which brought him hither.

This tallies with whatever limited experience I have got of being peaceful. That is to say, it is not so much that peace follows from gaining or having something. It is rather that peace tends to follow, in a deflatory sort of way, from dropping the idea of being anything, or doing anything, or achieving anything, or having anything.

So even though "gaining the far shore" (paaram upalabhya) sounds like the gaining of something, it might be better understood as the absence of anything -- for example, absence of fear of danger, absence of imprisoning shackles, or absence of fearful darkness.

EH Johnston:
Like one who has obtained safety after a great danger or deliverance from great oppression or light in a great darkness or, when without a boat, the further shore of the great ocean,

Linda Covill:
Like finding safety from great danger; like release from imprisonment, like reaching the further shore of the great ocean without a boat, like light after terrible darkness,

mahaa-bhayaat (abl. sg.): after/from great danger
mahaa = mahat: mfn. great
bhaya: n. fear, danger, peril, terror
kShemam (acc. sg.): m. residing , resting , abiding at ease; safety , tranquillity , peace , rest , security , any secure or easy or comfortable state
iva: like
upalabhya = abs. upalabh: to seize , get possession of , acquire , receive , obtain , find

mah"-aavarodhaat (abl. sg.): after/from a long imprisonment
mahat: great (in space , time , quantity or degree) i.e. large , big , huge , ample , extensive , long
avaraodha: m. hindrance , obstruction , injury , harm ; seclusion , imprisonment ; an enclosure , confinement , besieging
iva: like
vipramokSham (acc. sg.): m. ( √ mokSh) loosening , release ; deliverance from (abl. or gen.)

mah"-aarNavaat (abl. sg.): from a great ocean; after a mighty deluge
mahat: great (in space , time , quantity or degree) i.e. large , big , huge , ample , extensive , long
arNava: m. a wave , flood ; m. the foaming sea
paaram (acc. sg.): n. (rarely m.) the further bank or shore or boundary , any bank or shore , the opposite side , the end or limit of anything , the utmost reach or fullest extent
iva: like
a-plavaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. without a ship ; not swimming
san = nom. sg. m. sat: being

bhiim'-aandhakaaraad (abl. sg.): after/from terrible darkness
bhiima: mfn. fearful , terrific , terrible, awful, formidable , tremendous (ibc. , fearfully &c )
andha-kaara: mn. darkness
andha: mfn. blind, dark; darkness
kaara: mfn. - maker (ifc.)
iva: like
ca: and
prakaasham (acc. sg.): m. clearness , brightness , splendour , lustre , light

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