Monday, June 7, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.61: Attaching to What Is Primary

yo jyaayaan atha vayasaa guNaish ca teShaaM
bhraatRRNaaM vRShabha iv' aujasaa vRShaaNaaM
te tatra priya-guravas tam abhyaShiNcann
aadityaa dasha-shata-locanaM div' iiva

= = = - - - - = - = - = =
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= = = - - - - = - = - = =
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So the senior among those brothers, in age and in merits,

Like the bull which is chief among bulls in bodily power,

They anointed there, attaching to the important,

Like the Adityas in heaven
anointing thousand-eyed Indra.

How is this verse related with the one great matter?

The relation, as I see it, has to do with the hierarchical order in which things tend naturally to be organized.

Thus, from a herd, without recourse to the ballot box, one bull naturally emerges as the chief.

And as it is on earth, so the human imagination has supposed, so might it be in heaven. Thus the ancient Indian legend had it that Indra, who was considered to be regent of the east quarter and one of the twelve Adityas, was anointed by his Aditya buddies as Aditya number one.

The relation with sitting-dhyana, as I see it, is that sitting still involves a continuous flow of direction in an upward direction, and this movement, if one can call it a movement, is naturally led by the head.

So, as a crude approximation of the truth of the right thing doing itself in sitting, "The head leads and the body follows."

At the same time, on a good day, there is a sense of the body, and especially the pelvis, as if spontaneously pushing the head up and out, like a fountain of water supporting a ping-pong ball.

These are crude descriptions of what FM Alexander tried to express in such terms as "the correct employment of the primary control of the manner of use of the self." FM had something (or a bit of nothing) clearly in mind, but he struggled through his life to convey in words what it was. But the way he conveyed this bit of nothing with his hands was legendary.

The turning word in this verse, then, might be priya-guru, attaching to the important, assigning weight to the weighty, being primarily interested in what is primary.

In order to understand this verse, and in order to understand the whole work of Saundarananda, it is necessary to understand that Ashvaghosha's life, as a buddha-ancestor, was devoted to the one great matter.

Linda Covill has written a beautifully concise and elegant introduction to her beautifully elegant translation of Saundarananda. In that introduction, LC writes: "To comprehend the poem, it is vital that the reader accept it on its own terms, giving at least temporary credence to the Buddhist values that permeate it."

"Temporary credence to Buddhist values"?
I would say that to comprehend Ashvaghosha's poem the vital thing is ten, thirty or fifty years of devotion to the one great matter, which is sitting-dhyana.

So, what Ashvaghosha is praising in this verse, as I read it, is not devotion to elders, and still less affection for a family member, but devotion to what is primary.

EH Johnston:
So in their devotion to their elders the brothers consecrated there, like the Adityas the Thousand-eyed One in Heaven, that one of them who was their chief in age and virtues, just as the herd-bull is chief among the bulls by right of his might.

Linda Covill:
Now just as the leader of a herd of bulls is marked out by his strength, so was the eldest of the brothers marked out by his seniority and good qualities; and with affection for this eldest brother they consecrated him king, as the Adityas did thousand-eyed Indra in heaven.

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
jyaayaan = nom. sg. m. jyaayas: mfn. superior , more excellent , greater , larger , stronger ; elder ; most excellent
atha: ind. now, so, etc.
vayasaa = inst. sg. vayas: n. energy (both bodily and mental) , strength , health , vigour , power , might; vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
guNaiH = inst. pl. guNa: good quality , virtue , merit
ca: and
teShaam (gen. pl.): of those [brothers]

bhraatRRNaaM = gen. pl. bhraatR: m. brother
vRShabhaH = nom. sg. vRShabha: mfn. manly , mighty , vigorous , strong; m. a bull ; m. the chief , most excellent or eminent ; lord or best among
iva: like
ojasaa = inst. sg. ojas: n. bodily strength , vigour , energy , ability , power ; vitality (the principle of vital warmth and action throughout the body)
vRShaaNaam = gen. pl. vRsha: m. a man , male , husband ; the male of any animal ; a bull (in older language only ifc.) ; the zodiacal sign Taurus ; a strong or potent man (one of the four classes into which men are divided in erotic works.) ; the chief of a class or anything the most excellent or preeminent or best of its kind

te (nom. pl.): they
tatra: ind. in that
priya-guravaH (nom. pl.): assigning weight to the weighty, attaching to the important, being devoted to what is primary
priya: mfn. beloved , dear to ; fond of attached or devoted to (loc.)
guru: mfn. heavy , weighty ; important , serious , momentous ; m. any venerable or respectable person
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
abhyaShiNcan = 3rd pers. pl. imperfect abhi-Shic: to sprinkle , water , wet ; to consecrate , anoint , appoint by consecration
√sic: to pour out; to scatter in small drops , sprinkle , besprinkle or moisten with (instr.)

aadityaaH (nom. pl.): mfn. belonging to or coming from aditi ; m. pl. N. of seven deities of the heavenly sphere (the chief is varuNa , to whom the N. aaditya is especially applicable ; sometimes their number is supposed to be eight ; and in the period of the braahmaNas twelve , as representing the sun in the twelve months of the year )
aditi: f. boundlessness , immensity , inexhaustible abundance , unimpaired condition , perfection , creative power , N. of one of the most ancient of the Indian goddesses (" Infinity " or the " Eternal and Infinite Expanse " , often mentioned in RV. , daughter of dakSha and wife of kashyapa , mother of the aadityas and of the gods)
dasha-shata-locanam (acc. sg.): the thousand-eyed one, Indra (regent of the east quarter , and considered one of the twelve aadityas)
dasha: ten
shata: hundred
locana: n. " organ of sight " , the eye
divi = loc. sg. div: mf. heaven , the sky
iva: like

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