Saturday, April 17, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.10: State of Grace or Waste of Space?

svasthaiH shaantair an-utsukaiH
aakiirNo 'pi tapo-bhRdbhiH
shuunya-shuunya iv' aabhavat

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

Ascetics satisfied with wild rice and fruit,

Self-abiding, inhibited, retiring,

Filled the ashram, and yet,

It was as if utterly empty.

Even though the ashram was crowded with ascetics practising austerities, the whole thing was shuunya-shuunya, empty, empty. Was it utterly devoid of noise and clutter? or utterly devoid of meaning?

Ashvaghosha's intention, as I read it, is again ironic, or at least ambiguous.

Thus the 2nd line, if it appeared at the end of Canto 17, could be a description of Nanda after his enlightenment -- well in himself (svastha), quieted (shaanta), not eagerly desirous of anything (anutsuka). Or it could be a description of ascetics who are self-obsessed / into themselves / up their own backside (svastha), inhibited in the Freudian sense (shaanta), and timid (anutsuka).

So again, on the surface, Ashvaghosha seems to praising everything about the ashram. But in reality Ashvaghosha is nodding and winking all the way. At least this is how I read the verse. Because, in order for practice in the ashram not be empty of true meaning, it would be necessary for somebody, far from being timid, to sit like a dragon that had found water, or to sit like a tiger before its mountain stronghold.

Since I find myself this fine April once more alone in France -- either fighting the good fight on solitary retreat or taking it easy on holiday, depending on how you look at it -- if this month, and if this comment, is to be anything other than utterly empty, the dragon or tiger in this particular ashram, even if it is only for one moment, had better be me.

State of grace or waste of space? In the end, I honestly don't know.

EH Johnston:
It seemed as if quite empty, though thronged with ascetics ; for they lived self-controlled and peaceful, free from yearnings and contented with a diet of wild rice and fruit.

Linda Covill:
The ashram seemed deserted, yet was crowded with ascetics, self-contained, calm and quite without avidity, content to live on wild rice and fruit.

niivaara-phala-saMtuShTaiH (inst. pl.): quite satisfied with wild rice and fruit
niivaara: m. wild rice
phala: fruit
saMtuShTa: mfn. quite satisfied or contented , well pleased or delighted with (instr. or comp.)

svasthaiH (inst. pl. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound, well , healthy
shaantaiH (inst. pl. m.): mfn. (fr. √sham) appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions , undisturbed
an-utsukaiH (inst. pl. m.): mfn. not eager , calm , retiring ; moderate
utsuka: restless , uneasy , unquiet , anxious ; anxiously desirous , zealously active , striving or making exertions for any object

aakiirNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. scattered ; overspread , filled , crowded , surrounded
api: though
tapo-bhRdbhiH (inst. pl.): m. ascetics
tapas: austerities
bhRt: mfn. bearing, undergoing (only ifc.)

shuunya-shuunyaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. thoroughly empty or vain (as a speech)
iva: like, as if
abhavat (3rd pers. imperfect bhuu): it was

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