Monday, June 14, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.5: Energizing & Allowing

aakShiptaH shatrubhiH saMkhye
suhRdbhish ca vyapaashritaH
abhavad yo na vimukhaH
tejasaa ditsay" aiva ca

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

Challenged by enemies in the battle,

And petitioned by friends,

Not backward was he in responding

With an intense energy, and a willingness to give.

What this verse seems to be saying, in the first instance, is that sometimes the king cuts others no slack; sometimes the king cuts others plenty of slack.

But the real point of Ashvaghosha's portrayal of the king of Kapilavastu, as I read it, is to hold up a mirror that presages the enlightened teaching of the king of Dharma.

That being so, I don't read the verse as necessarily being about others. Enemies might be interpreted not only as others but also as wrong tendencies within the self, such as greedy end-gaining or doubt about cause and effect, that challenge a practitioner to do battle; and friends might similarly be interpreted as wrong tendencies within the self, such as greedy end-gaining or doubt about cause and effect, that call for sympathetic attention.

What is this verse saying then, about how one should respond in practice to one's wrong tendencies? The point might be sometimes to cut those tendencies no slack; and sometimes to give oneself a break, remembering, as an antidote to grim determination, that "Being wrong is the best friend we have got in this work."

Having written the above comment yesterday and slept on it and sat on it, I realize that it is necessary, as always, to go further and dig deeper for what Ashvaghosha really meant by tejas and ditsaa.

For example, is it really a case of either cutting slack in the one case or not cutting slack in the other case? Is there a sense in which a true king uses tejas and ditsaa in tandem with each other, or even as one enlightened response?

As the veteran Alexander teacher Nelly Ben-Or once said, "Direction is the truest form of inhibition."

Digging out the real meaning of tejas and ditsaa is truly a work in progress -- at least it is for veteran Alexander teachers, and it might be for Zen masters too, at least for those ones who are not like fake elephants trumpeting around their views and opinions... (mirror principle alert?).

For the present what can be said is that tejas has to do with energy, and ditsaa has to do with willingness to allow.

EH Johnston:
Whether challenged by his enemies in battle or solicited by his friends, he was not backward in courage in the one case or in liberality in the other.

Linda Covill:
When his enemies challenged him in battle, he did not shy from fierceness, nor from generosity when his friends approached as supplicants.

aakShiptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. cast , thrown down ; caught, seized ; hung out or exposed to view (as flags &c ); insulted , reviled , abused , challenged , called to a dispute (dat.)
shatrubhiH = inst. pl. shatru: m. " overthrower " , an enemy , foe , rival , a hostile king (esp. a neighbouring king as a natural enemy)
saMkhye = loc. sg. saMkhya: n. conflict , battle , war (only in loc.)

suhRdbhish = inst. pl. su-hRd: m. " good-hearted " , " kindhearted " , " well-disposed " , a friend , ally
ca: and
vyapaashritaH (nom. sg. m.): turned to for help, solicited
vi: prefix used to intensify or for euphony
apaa- √ shri: to resort to , to use , practise

abhavat (3rd pers. sg. imperfect bhuu): he was
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
na: not
vimukhaH (nom. sg. m.): mf(aa)n. having the face averted , turned backwards; averse to

tejasaa = inst. sg. tejas: n. sharp edge ; fiery energy , ardour , vital power
ditsayaa = inst. sg. ditsaa: f. (from desiderative of √ daa) desire or intention of giving
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

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