Sunday, April 11, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.4: High-mindedness & Excellence in Religious Thought

maah'-aatmyaad diirgha-tapaso
yo dvitiiya iv' aabhavat
tRtiiya iva yash c'aabhuut
kaavy-aaNgirasayor dhiyaa

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In high-mindedness,

He was like a second Dirgha-tapas;

And he was like a third in the mould

Of Kavya and Angiras, in religious thought.

These opening verses of Saundarananda require much deeper digging than I realised they required on first reading them.

This verse might be read simply as praise of Kapila's magnanimity and wisdom, but I don't read it like that.

Dirgha-tapas means "Long Suffering of Asceticism." Kavya and Angirasa may be taken as representative examples of religious thinkers -- poem-writers, hymn-composers and the like.

Can religious thought be useful to a person suffering under the influence of an auditory Moro reflex which is being stimulated by a source of unremitting external noise -- like a chain saw, or like a gun firing artillery shells?

When soldiers in WWI were suffering from shell shock, how much use to them was a Christian chaplain? How far in relieving their suffering could "Thy will be done" go?

The essence of religious thought might be Thy will be done. Seeing these words written by the graves of young men at war cemeteries in Northern France, I tend to be moved to tears.

So maybe there is a place for magnanimity and religious thought, but I rather read Ashvaghosha's expressions of high-mindedness and striving to be excellent in religious thought as expressing tendencies that I despise, primarily in myself -- as tendencies to be opposed in the battle against Mara.

Mara is said to quake on seeing even the outline of someone sitting cross-legged in balanced stillness.

Does Mara quake in the face of some high-minded ascetic's excellence in religious thought? In conclusion, I think not.

EH Johnston:
Who was the peer of Dirghatapas in magnanimity, the equal of Kavya and the son of Angiras in sagacity.

Linda Covill:
He was like a second Dirgha-tapas in high-mindedness, a third to Kavya and the son of Angiras in wisdom.

maah'-aatmyaad (abl. sg.): n. (fr. mahaatman) magnanimity , highmindedness
mahaatman: " high-souled " , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble ; highly gifted , exceedingly wise ; eminent , mighty , powerful , distinguished
diirghatapasaH = gen. sg. m. diirghatapas: mfn. performing long penances ; m. N. of several RShis
diirgha: mfn. long (in space and time)
tapas: n. austerity, ascetic practice

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
dvitiiyaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. second; m. companion , fellow (friend or foe); m. the 2nd in a family (i.e. a son)
iva: like
abhavat: he was

tRtiiyaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. third
iva: like
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
ca: and
abhuut (3rd pers. sg. aorist bhu): he was

kaavy-aaNgirasayoH (gen. dual): of Kavya and Angirasa
kaavya: mfn. (fr. kavi) , endowed with the qualities of a sage or poet , descended or coming from a sage ; m. a patronymic of ushanas
Ushanas: N. of an ancient sage with the patronymic kaavya (in later times identified with shukra , the teacher of the asuras , who presides over the planet Venus)
aNgirasa: m. an enemy of viShNu in his incarnation of parashuraama (= aNgiras ?)
aNgiras: m. N. of a RShi , author of the hymns of the Rg Veda, of a code of laws , and of a treatise on astronomy (he is considered as one of the seven RShis of the first ; the Vedic hymns , the manes of haviShmat , and mankind itself are styled his offspring. In astronomy he is the planet Jupiter , and a star in Ursa Major)
aNgirasas: m. pl. descendants of aGgiras or of agni (mostly personifications of luminous objects)
dhiyaa = inst. sg. dhii: f. thought , (esp.) religious thought , reflection , meditation , devotion , prayer ; understanding , intelligence , wisdom ; knowledge , science , art

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