Thursday, August 5, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.57: It Don't Take a Lot, When the Firestick's Hot

devyaam api yaviiyasyaam
araNyaam iva paavakaH
nando naama suto jajNe
nity'-aananda-karaH kule

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

To his younger queen, also,

Like fire in the notch of a fire-board,

A son was born named Nanda, Joy,

A bringer of constant joy to his family.

The younger queen in line 1 means the Buddha's mother's younger sister, whose name (according to this Wikipedia article) was Mahapajapati Gotami.

Apart from conveying the historical facts of Nanda's birth and his being named Nanda (Joy), this verse, as I read it, conveys in line 2 turning words related to the practice of non-doing.

That is to say, contained in the words araNyaam iva paavakaH, lit. "like fire in the turning round [of a firestick in the notch of an already-hot-fireboard]," may be the principle, physical and mental effort having been made already, of allowing body and mind to drop off.

When a woman who has struggled to conceive, for example, adopts a baby and then promptly gets pregnant, the principle of non-doing is at play -- as also when a person who has been trying too hard to sit upright stops trying so hard and seems to go up spontaneously.

The firestick is a recurring metaphor in Saundarananda and what it has to do with, as I understand it, is the effort that is needed to break down what chemists call "activation energy barriers" -- chemical bonds that have to be broken before a process like combustion can get going.

The suggestion in this verse is that it was difficult for King Shuddhodhana to get either of the two queens pregnant -- most likely because of trying too hard -- but when the king finally managed to get the older queen pregnant, the psycho-physical barriers were removed that had prevented her younger sister from getting pregnant... and so, after many years of the royal sisters not being able to provide the king with a son, two sons, like long-awaited buses, finally came along one after another.

Apropos of this, when Marjory Barlow reported to her uncle FM Alexander that an Alexander pupil of hers had credited her Alexander lessons with her finally managing to get pregnant after a long time trying, FM Alexander's reply was: "It never fails."

By "it" I think FM meant primarily the practice and principle of non-doing -- "it" allowing It to work.

EH Johnston:
As the fire-sticks give birth to fire, so too the younger queen gave birth to a son, Nanda by name, the cause of everlasting joy to his family.

Linda Covill:
As kindling gives rise to fire, so the younger queen too gave birth to a son named Nanda, a bringer of constant joy to his family.

devyaam = loc. sg. devii: f. the queen
api: also, too
yaviiyasyaam = loc. sg. yaviiyas: mfn. (compar. of yuvan) younger

araNyaam = loc. sg. araNi: f. " being fitted into " or " turning round " , the piece of wood (taken from the Ficus Religiosa or Premna Spinosa) used for kindling fire by attrition (generally distinction is made between the lower one and the upper one , adharaaraNi and uttaraaraNi , the former may also be meant by araNi alone without adhara)
iva: like
paavakaH (nom. sg.): m. fire ; m. a kind of RShi , a saint , a person purified by religious abstraction or one who purified from sin

nandaH (nom. sg.): m. Nanda; m. joy , delight , happiness ; n. of a step-brother and disciple of gautama buddha
naama: ind. by name
sutaH (nom. sg.): m. a son
jajNe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect jan: to be born

nity'-aaananda-karaH (nom. sg.): maker of perpetual joy
nitya: mfn. continual , perpetual , eternal
aananda: m. happiness , joy , enjoyment , sensual pleasure
kara: a doer , maker , causer , doing , making , causing , producing (esp. ifc. ; duHkha-kara, causing pain)
kule (loc. sg.): to/in the family

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