Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.71: Grateful Extrication, by a Powerful Hand

yen' aahaM girim upaniiya rukma-shRNgaM
svargaM ca plavaga-vadhuu-nidarshanena
kaam'-aatmaa tri-diva-cariibhir aNganaabhir
niShkRShTo yuvati-maye kalau nimagnaH

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By him I was taken to the golden-peaked mountain,

And to heaven, where,
with the example of the she-monkey,

And by means of
the women who wander the triple heaven,

I who was a slave to love,
sunk in girl-filled strife, was extricated.

In this verse Nanda looks back with gratitude on events described in the earlier part of Saundarananda, and particularly in Canto 10, A Heavenly Vision, where pink-footed celestial nymphs seem so gorgeously attractive that Nanda feels the gap in attractiveness between the nymphs and Sundari to be greater than the gap between Sundari and a one-eyed monkey.

It is instructive to read this verse in conjunction with 17.62. In that verse Ashvaghosha, from the standpoint of the third person, sings a song of the middle way, crediting both the Buddha and Nanda himself for Nanda's fulfilment of his task. In this and the next verse, from the standpoint of the first person, Nanda expresses his gratitude that the Buddha extricated him from strife, as if forcibly dragging a helpless being out of the mire.

Somehow I am reminded of watching rugby matches at Cardiff Arms Park in the 1970s, being surrounded by tough steelworkers and the like with powerful male voices, singing Cwm Rhondda...

Guide me, O thou great redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:

From rugby in my teens I turned in my twenties to the more solitary way of traditional karate-do, at the base of which was a kata called SAN-CHIN, three battles. Morio Higaonna, a master of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-do under who I practised for a time, used to say that karate was not a battle with an opponent; it is a battle with yourself. That is also true of practice of sitting-dhyana, and it is also true of Alexander work. The three battles is no bed of roses -- especially for a man of congenital vestibular dysfunction. It is a battle for a self-control (albeit an indirect one) of head, torso, and limbs.

According to the Wiki entry on Cwm Rhondda, the hymn describes the experience of God's people in their travel through the wilderness from the escape from slavery in Egypt, being guided by a cloud by day and a fire by night, to their final arrival forty years later in the land of Canaan. During this time their needs were supplied by God, including the daily supply of manna (bread of heaven). The hymn text forms an allegory for the journey of a Christian throughout their life on earth requiring the Redeemer's guidance and ending at the gates of Heaven (the verge of Jordan) and end of time (death of death and hell's destruction).

The hymn continues to resonate with me as an allegory not only for a Christian's journey but also for a journey like that of Nanda, who sought death of death by non-Christian means...

Guide me, O thou great redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more.
Feed me till I want no more.

Open thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream shall flow;
Let the fiery, cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan's side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee.
I will ever give to thee.


(Or for a no less powerful-voiced but more glamorous version...)

EH Johnston:
When I was given over to love and plunged in the sin of passion for young women, it was He Who took me to the golden-peaked mountain and to Paradise and rescued me by the example of the she-monkey and through the women who frequent heaven,

Linda Covill:
By him I was taken to the golden-peaked mountain and to heaven, where, lustful for the women who wander the triple heaven, and sunk in the evil comprised of young women, I was dragged out of that condition by his example of the female monkey.

yena (inst. sg): by whom
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
girim (acc. sg.): m. a mountain
upaniiya = abs. upa- √ nii: to lead or drive near , bring near , bring
rukma: m. "what is bright or radiant ", an ornament of gold , golden chain or disc; n. gold
shRNgam (acc. sg.): n. the horn of an animal; the top or summit of a mountain , a peak , crag

svargam (acc. sg.): m. m. heaven , the abode of light and of the gods , heavenly bliss , (esp.) indra's heaven or paradise
ca: and
plavaga: m. " going by leaps or plunges " , a frog ; m. a monkey
vadhuu: f. the female of any animal
nidarshanena =inst. sg. nidarshana: n. pointing to , showing , indicating; n. proof , evidence ; n. instance , example , illustration

kaam'aatmaa = nom. sg. m. kaam'aatman: mfn. " whose very essence is desire " , consisting of desire , indulging one's desires , given to lust , sensual , licentious
kaama: desire, love
aatman: essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc.)
tri-diva-cariibhir (inst. pl. f.): frequenting/wandering the triple heaven
tri-diva: n. the 3rd or most sacred heaven , heaven (in general)
cara: ifc. going , walking , wandering , being , living
aNganaabhiH = inst. pl. aNganaa: f. " a woman with well-rounded limbs" , any woman or female
aNgana: n. walking, the act of walking

niShkRShTaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (past part. niSh √ kRSh, to extract) drawn or pulled out , extracted
yuvati-maye = loc. sg. m. yuvati-maya: full of girls
yuvati: f. a girl , young woman , any young female
maya: [Apte] an affix used to indicate 'made of', 'consisting or composed of', 'full of'
kalau = loc. sg. kali: m. m. ( √kal), name of the die or side of a die marked with one dot , the losing die; name of the last and worst of the four yugas or ages , the present age , age of vice ; strife , discord , quarrel , contention
√kal: to count
nimagnaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. sunk , fallen into (water &c ) ; submerged , plunged , or immersed in

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