Friday, March 26, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.73: Repeated Bows to a Strong Deliverer

taM vande param anukampakaM maha"-rShiM
muurdhn"-aahaM prakRti-guNa-jNam aashaya-jNaM
sambuddhaM dasha-balinaM bhiShak-pradhaanaM
traataaraM punar api c'aasmi saMnatas taM

mahaa kaavye saundara-nande'-mRt'aadhigamo naama saptadashaH sargaH

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

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

I salute the great supremely compassionate seer,

Bowing my head to him,
the knower of types, the knower of hearts,

The fully awakened one, the holder of ten powers,
the best of healers,

The deliverer: again, I bow to him.

The 17th Canto of the Epic Poem Handsome Nanda,
titled Obtaining the Nectar of Immortality

And so Nanda's quest for the nectar of immortality, the death of death, has ended triumphantly -- but with gratitude and humility rather than with any sense of triumphalism.

The epic themes of redemption and delivery are universal ones indeed, and most readers of this translation, like me, will have heard their praises sung first in a non-Buddhist context -- maybe in a school assembly...

Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
Be thou still my strength and shield.
Be thou still my strength and shield.

Death of death in Nanda's case, however, is not a global event in which God delivers a chosen group. Death of death in Nanda's case is an individual event in which Nanda realises the deathless for himself by himself as himself, as an individual buddha delivered by a buddha to the plane of conscious control on which a buddha resides.

This delivery has not been accomplished through the direct intervention of a hand of God, but indirectly, through the guidance of a human hand. That human hand belonged to a human being whose practice of upright human sitting was no longer in the grip of those vestibular reflexes which more or less determine the relationship between mother earth and a human baby. That human hand, on the contrary, belonged to a fully developed human being who not only possessed hands but also possessed the Eye -- a human being who was truly and fully awake (sambuddha).

May the Buddha's teaching deliver us all from the grip of primitive vestibular reflexes, and above all from Mara's grip, exercised primarily through the Moro reflex.

EH Johnston:
I bow the head to Him, the Supreme Seer, the Compassionate One, Who knows the natures, the qualities and the dispositions (of all beings), the Enlightened One, the Holder of the ten Powers, the Chief of physicians, the Saviour. Again I do Him obeisance.'

Linda Covill:
I bow my head to the supremely compassionate one, the great seer, knower of the qualities of nature, knower of the disposition of beings, the perfectly enlightened, holder of the ten powers, best of physicians, my rescuer. Again, I bow to him!

End of Canto 17: The Attainment of Deathlessness

tam (acc. sg. m. tad): to him, to it
vande = 1st pers. sg. vand: to praise , celebrate , laud , extol ;
to show honour , do homage , salute respectfully or deferentially , venerate , worship , adore
param (acc. sg. m.): supreme, highest, deepest
anukampakam (acc. sg. m.): compassionate
maha"-rShim (acc. sg.): m. a great RShi , any great sage or saint

muurdhnaa = inst. sg. muurdhan: m. the forehead , head in general , skull
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
prakRti-guNa-jNam (acc. sg. m.): knower of type of constitution
prakRti: f. " making or placing before or at first " , the original or natural form or condition of anything , original or primary substance ; cause, original source ; nature , character , constitution , temper , disposition
guNa: m. subdivision , species , kind ; a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property
jNa: knowing
aashaya-jNaM (acc. sg. m.): knower of disposition of mind
aashaya: m. resting-place , bed, seat; a receptacle ; the seat of feelings and thoughts , the mind , heart , soul ; thought , meaning , intention ; disposition of mind , mode of thinking

sambuddham (acc. sg. m.): mfn. wide awake , clever , wise , prudent ; well perceived , perfectly known or understood
dasha-balinam (acc. sg. m.): ten-powered
dashan: ten
balin: mfn. powerful , strong , mighty , stout , robust
bhiShak-pradhaanam (acc. sg. m.): chief of healers
bhiShaj: mfn. curing , healing; m. a healer , physician ; m. a remedy , medicine
pradhaana: n. a chief thing or person

traataaram (acc. sg. m.): protector, saviour
traa: m. ( √ trai) a protector , defender
taara: mfn. ( √ tRR) carrying across , a saviour , protector
punar: once more, again
api ca: as well as, moreover
asmi: I am
saMnataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bent together , curved , stooping or bowing to (gen.)
tam (acc. sg. m.): to him

mahaa-kaavye (loc. sg.): epic poem
saundara-nande (loc. sg.): "Handsome Nanda."
amRta: deathlessness, the nectar of immortality
aadhigamaH (nom. sg.): m. the act of attaining , acquisition ; acquirement, mastery
naama: by name
saptadashaH sargaH (nom. sg.): 17th canto


jiblet said...

Hi Mike,

Despite its etymology - indicating good fortune bestowed from on high - the phrase


when used colloquially by the Chosen People (and adjacent goyim who've picked it up) means 'Congratulations. Well done'.

Mike Cross said...

Many thanks, jiblet, for all your encouragement thus far...

And now comes a really difficult bit!

All the best,