Sunday, April 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.11: Peacocks Screeching (No Lion's Roar)

agniinaaM huuyamaanaanaaM
shikhinaam kuujataam api
tiirthaanaaM c'aabhiShekeShu
shushruve yatra nisvanaH

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

The sound of the fires receiving offerings,

Of the peacocks with their crested heads
uttering their repetitive cry,

And of the sacred bathing places,
during ablutions,

Was all one heard there.

A peacock is a symbol of vanity -- of consciousness of how good I look in the eyes of others -- and of manifesting that consciousness in posing behaviour. Denunciation of vanity is the title of Saundarananda Canto 9.

In this verse, peacocks with crested heads seems to refer to peacocks both of the avian variety (as per LC's translation) and of the dreadlocked ascetic variety (as per EHJ's translation).

This youtube clip clearly shows the crested-head of a feathered peacock.

I was wrong in a previous post to refer to peacocks murmuring indistinctly. On further investigation, peacocks don't murmur indistinctly, they cry out loudly. Another youtube clip of a peacock is aptly titled "the most annoying sound in the world."

Ashvaghosha's description of the peacocks presages by a thousand years or so Dogen's description of the bullfrogs croaking all day:

"Those who chant endlessly are like frogs in a spring paddy field, croaking day and night. In the end it is all useless." (Shobogenzo chap. 1., Bendowa [27])

Sitting like a mountain, beyond vanity, his ear totally open, the Buddha who was called by Ashvaghosha the Best of Listeners must have had an unrivalled ear-voice connection. His voice in preaching the Dharma was known as the lion's roar. So crying of peacocks and croaking of bullfrogs are one thing. And the roaring of the lion who sat like a mountain is quite another thing. The implication of this verse, as I read it, is that the lion's roar at Kapila's ashram was notable for its absence.

EH Johnston:
The only sounds to be heard there were of oblations burning in the sacred fires, of muttering hermits with matted hair and of ablutions at the bathing-places.

Linda Covill:
Here one heard only the sound of fires receiving offerings, peacocks crying, and water splashing in the sacred bathing pools.

agniinaam (gen. pl.): f. fires
huuyamaanaanaam = gen. pl. pres. part. huu (to invoke) or hu (to sacrifice)
huu: (weak form of √hve) to call , call upon , summon , challenge , invoke
hu: to sacrifice (esp. pour butter into the fire) , offer or present an oblation (acc. or gen.) to (dat.) or in (loc.) , sacrifice to , worship or honour (acc.) with (instr.)

shikhinaam = gen. pl. shikhin: mfn. having a tuft or lock of hair on the top of the head; m. a peacock
kuujataam = gen. pl. pres. part. kuuj: to make any inarticulate or monotonous sound , utter a cry (as a bird) , coo (as a pigeon) , caw (as a crow) , warble , moan , groan , utter any indistinct sound
api: and, also, even, though

tiirthaanaaM (gen. pl.): sacred bathing-places [see 1.8]
ca: and
abhiShekeShu (loc. pl.): m. anointing , inaugurating or consecrating (by sprinkling water) , inauguration of a king , royal unction; the water or liquid used at an inauguration ; religious bathing , ablution
abhi: ind. (a prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) to , towards , into , over , upon
seka: m. (fr. √ sich) pouring out , emission , effusion (as of the seminal fluid ; also " the fluid itself ") ; sprinkling , besprinkling , moistening or watering with (comp.) ; a shower-bath ; a libation , offering
shushruve (3rd pers. perfect shru): there was heard
yatra: ind. at which place, where, in which case
nisvanaH (nom. sg.): m. sound , noise , voice

No comments: