Saturday, May 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.38: Throwing A Right Royal Hissy Fit

tatas tad aashrama-sthaanaM
shuunyaM taiH shuunya-cetasaH
pashyanto manyunaa taptaa
vyaalaa iva nishashvasuH

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

Then seeing the ashram without ascetics, desolate,

The princes were desolate in their hearts.

In their indignation, red with anger,

They hissed like snakes.

The self-assertive, self-important attitude of the posh warriors is the dialectic opposite of the passive attitude of the wimpish ascetics. But both attitudes, when we look deeply into what fear is, when we look deeply into the two sides of fear, are rooted in fear.

So again in this verse as I read it, while ostensibly recounting the foundation myth of Kapilavastu as an ancient legend, Ashvaghosha is really expressing timeless truth about the Middle Way and about the human condition -- because throwing a hissy fit is very human behaviour. It might be shameful behaviour or it might be comical behaviour, but throwing a hissy fit, as an emotional reaction to a disappointed expectation or assumption, is distinctly human behaviour.

When I was at university in Sheffield at the end of the 1970s I became acutely aware of what seemed to be two people living in this one body -- Dick Thrust and Horace Wimp, I called them. As I dig now for Ashvaghosha's golden meaning I am reminded of those red and white imposters -- Dick all flushed and puffed up full of himself, and poor shy retiring Horace all pallid and wan.

It was against that background that I was attracted to traditional Goju-Ryu karate-do, with a hard-soft philosophy that was thought by some Goju-Ryu teachers to have been introduced into China by Master Bodhidharma. (Incidentally, I happened to be in Okinawa when the BBC were there filming for the TV series, The Way of the Warrior, from which this clip is taken.)

I am also reminded of a quote from FM Alexander that used to occupy pride of place on the webpage of the Middle Way Re-education Centre:

"It is owing to this habit of rushing from one extreme to another -- a habit which, as I have pointed out, seems to go hand in hand with subconscious guidance and direction -- to this tendency, that is, to take the narrow and treacherous sidetracks instead of the great, broad, midway path, that our plan of civilization has proved a comparative failure."

EH Johnston:
Then the princes, seeing that hermitage empty of ascetics and with their own minds empty (with grief), were overwhelmed with sorrow and sighed like serpents hissing with rage.

Linda Covill:
When the princes saw the ashram empty of ascetics, their hearts were empty too. In their warm grief they hissed like snakes.

tataH: ind. then, thence
tad: that
aashrama-sthaanam (acc. sg.): the site of the ashram ; the ashram's state
aashrama: ashram
sthaana: n. state , condition (ifc. = " being in the state of "); place of standing or staying , any place , spot , locality , abode , dwelling , house , site ; an open place in a town , plain , square ; a holy place

shuunyam (acc. sg.): mfn. empty, void, deserted ; void of , free from , destitute of (instr. or comp.)
taiH (inst. pl.): them, those [ascetics]
shuunya-cetasaH (nom. pl. m.): with their hearts empty
shuunya: empty
cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

pashyantaH = nom. pl. pres. part. pash: to see, behold , look at , observe , perceive , notice
manyunaa = inst. sg. manyu: m. spirit , mind , mood , mettle (as of horses) ; high spirit or temper , ardour , zeal , passion ; rage , fury , wrath , anger , indignation
taptaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. heated , inflamed , hot , made red-hot , refined (gold &c ) , fused , melted , molten ; inflamed with anger , incensed

vyaalaaH (nom. pl.): snakes
iva: like
nishashvasuH = 3rd pers. pl. ni- √ shvas : to draw in the breath , inspire ; to hiss , snort &c

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