Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.34: When the Cat's Away...

tataH kadaa cit te viiraas
tasmin pratigate munau
babhramur yauvan'-oddaamaa
gajaa iva niraNkushaaH

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

Thereafter those lads,

When in time the sage passed away,

Roamed about in their unbridled youth

Like elephants unchecked by a driver's hook --

In other words, when the cat went away, the mice did play.

The habitual attitude of ascetics in Kapila's ashram, on one side of the middle way, has been portrayed by Ashvaghosha as I read him as stunted, suppressed, not natural, over-inhibited. Coming into the middle way, Kapila then showed a natural human concern for the well-being, education, and healthy development of the young princes. On the other side of the middle way, a series of verses starting here describes the princes' laddish behaviour, i.e., behaviour that was too natural, wild, under-inhibited.

This description comes to a humorous denouement in 1.37 and 1.38 when the ascetics remaining in Kapila's ashram up sticks and head for the Himalayas, leaving the indignant princes to take care of themselves.

The metaphor of the elephant, in and out of rut, occurs in several places in Saundarananda. The first such reference, in this verse, forms a kind of book-end with the last such reference in the 3rd verse from the end of Canto 18 (18.61), which describes Nanda thus:

At ease in himself, his heart at peace, his task ended,
He left the sage's side like an elephant free of rut.

The implication is that ultimate happiness for an elephant is to be free, both from external restraints like a driver's hook, and also from wild unconscious impulses from within.

Apopros of inhibition of wild impulses, the first chapter of FM Alexander's first book, Man's Supreme Inheritance (first published 1910), begins like this:

The long process of evolution still moves quietly to its unknown accomplishment. Struggle and starvation, the hard fight for existence, working with fine impartiality, remorselessly eliminate the weak and defective. New variations are developed and old types no further adaptable become extinct, and thus life fighting for life improves towards a sublimation we cannot foresee. But at some period of the world's history an offshoot of a dominant type began to develop new powers that were destined to change the face of the world.

Speculation as to what first influenced that strange and wonderful development does not come within the province of this treatise, but I should like in passing to point out that the theory and practice of my system are influenced by no particular religion nor school of philosophy, but in one sense may be said to embrace them all. For whatever name we give to the Great Origin of the Universe, in the words of a friend of mine, "we can all of us agree... that we mean the same thing, namely, that higher power within the soul of man which enables him to will or to act or to speak, NOT LOOSELY OR WILDLY, but in subjection to an all-wise and invisible Authority." The name that we give to that Authority will in no way affect the principles which I am about to state. In subscribing to them the mechanist may still retain his belief in a theory of chemical reactions no less than the Christian his faith in a Great Redeemer.

EH Johnston:
Then in course of time the seer passed away and those heroes roamed about in their unbridled youth, as unrestrained as elephants untamed by goads.

Linda Covill:
In the course of time the sage passed away, and then those heroes wandered with youthful unrestraint, like elephants without guiding hooks.

tataH: ind. thence
kadaa cit: at some time or other , sometimes , once
te (nom. pl.): those
viiraaH (nom. pl.): m. a man , (esp.) a brave or eminent man , hero , chief ; a husband ; a male child , son (collect. male progeny)

tasmin (loc. sg.): that
pratigate (loc. sg.): mfn. gone towards or back ; flying backwards and forwards , wheeling in flight ; lost from the memory
munau (loc. sg.): sage

babhramuH = 3rd pers. pl. bhram : to wander or roam about , rove
yauvan'-oddaamaaH (nom. pl. m.):
yauvana: n. (fr. yuvan) youth , youthfulness , adolescence , puberty , manhood (also pl. = juvenile deeds or indiscretions)
uddaama: mfn. unrestrained , unbound , set free ; self-willed ; unlimited , extraordinary ; violent , impetuous , fiery ; wanton ; proud , haughty

gajaaH (nom. pl.): m. an elephant
iva: like
niraNkushaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. unchecked (lit. not held by a hook) , uncontrolled , independent , free , unruly , extravagant
nir: without
aNkusha: mn. a hook , especially an elephant-driver's hook

No comments: