Thursday, April 8, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.1: An Ascetic Bearer of a Hindu Dharma

gautamaH kapilo naama
munir dharma-bhRtaaM varaH
babhuuva tapasi shraantaH
kaakShiivan iva gautamaH

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A sage named Kapila Gautama,

Most excellent among upholders of dharma,

Was as strenuous in ascetic practice

As was Kakshivat Gautama.

In Canto 17, Ashvaghosha has described not only how Nanda realised the full awareness and supreme indifference which is the fourth stage of sitting-dhyana, but also how he cut the five upper fetters, and thus experienced Nirvana, as a bit of nothing.

But the bit of nothing did not come out of nothing, from nowhere: it had its roots in the city of Kapila-vastu, built on the site where the ancient champion of asceticism Kapila had his ashram; and it had its origins in the royal ancestry of the Shakya clan, traceable back to King Ikshvaku. So the first two cantos of Saundarananda, heavy going though they may be for those of us who are not yet enthused by ancient Indian history, paint this backdrop for us -- the first canto is a depiction of Kapila-vastu, the second is a depiction of Nanda's father, the Shakya King.

In the mythology of ancient India, evidently, ascetic practice was held in high regard, and Kakshivat Gautama was known as an ancient exemplar of such practice.

Probably that is all we need to know about Kakshivat Gautama -- that he was an ancient exemplar of all-out ascetic practice. He is apparently mentioned in the the Maha-bharata (2.21), in a description of the Kingdom of Magadha:

It was here [in the hermitage of Gautama] that the illustrious Gautama of rigid vows begat on the Sudra woman Ausinari (the daughter of Usinara) Kakshivat and other celebrated sons...

EH Johnston:
There was a seer, supreme among the upholders of the religous Law, Kapila Gautama by name, strenuous in asceticism like Kakshivat Gautama.

Linda Covill:
The sage Kapila Gautama was a great upholder of dharma. As rigorously ascetic as Kakshivat Gautama,

gautamaH (nom. sg m.): Gautama
kapilaH (nom. sg. m.): Kapila; mfn. " monkey-coloured " , brown , tawny , reddish ; red-haired
naama: ind. (acc. of naaman) by name i.e. named , called

muniH (nom. sg.): m. a saint , sage , seer , ascetic , monk , devotee , hermit (esp. one who has taken the vow of silence)
dharma-bhRtaam = gen. pl. dharma-bhRt: m. " law-supporter " , N. of princes and other men
dharma: law, duty, practice, etc.
bhRt: mfn. bearing , carrying , bringing , procuring , possessing , wearing , having , nourishing , supporting , maintaining (only ifc.)
varaH (nom. sg.. m.): mfn. (v/ara) " select " , choicest , valuable , precious , best , most excellent or eminent among (gen. loc. abl. , or comp.) or for (gen.)

babhuuva (3rd pers. sg. perfect bhuu): he was
tapasi = loc. sg. tapas: n. warmth , heat ; pain , suffering ; religious austerity , bodily mortification , penance , severe meditation
shraantaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. wearied , fatigued , tired , exhausted ; hungry ; calmed , tranquil (= shaanta)

kaakShiivan (nom. sg. m.): Kakshivat
iva: like
gautamaH (nom. sg m.): Gautama

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