Friday, August 13, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.65: As the Goose Flies

udvegaad a-punar-bhave manaH praNidhaaya
sa yayau shayita-var'-aaMganaad [LC: aaMganaasv] anaasthaH
nishi nR-pati-nilayanaad vana-gamana-kRta-manaaH
sarasa iva mathita-nalinaat kalahaMsaH

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saundaranande mahaa-kaavye raaja-varNano naama dvitiiyaH sargaH
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Having focused his agitated mind
on the end of becoming,

He fled the king's palace,
to the most beautiful of women sleeping there;

Determined to go to the forest,
he fled in the night from the palace

Like a goose from a lake of ruined lotus flowers.

The 2nd canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled
"A Portrayal of the King."

In this verse Gautama is compared to a goose, going to the forest. Why a goose?

Maybe because when a goose flies, its head leads and its body follows. The same is conspicuously true for other birds with long necks, like swans: the head leads and the body follows. When geese and swans fly away from a lotus lake, they, unlike Nanda, never look back longingly at the lotus flowers they have left behind.

What the Buddha leaves behind him, without looking back, is compared to ruined lotus flowers. How had the sleeping beauties in the palace become for Gautama a matter of indifference, as attractive as ruined lotus flowers?

No special method is mentioned, no esoteric technique for quelling sexual desire. It is simply that Gautama knows exactly what he desires -- to go to the forest -- and he follows just that desire, like a flying goose, letting his head lead and his body follow.

Going further, the meaning of mathita-nalina ("ruined lotus flower") might extend beyond a wife who has lost her allure to certain falsified notions, romantic ideas, disappointed ideals, wilted flowers in the sky -- illusions which are revered in the unwitting world, but which Gautama has already seen through and become disgusted with.

Some false notions, however, Gautama does not yet leave behind but carries with him. And foremost among these false notions is asceticism. Ashvaghosha's description of how that particular flower also is discarded, awaits us in Canto 3.

But the final word in this canto must belong to the goose, which, in its clear desire to go in a definite direction, lets its head lead and its body follow.

People think Buddhism is about compassion, giving up desire, keeping precepts, enlightenment, balance of the autonomic nervous system, understanding a philosophy of action... and so on, and so on, and so on... but in the Buddha's teaching as I see it none of those things is primary. The primary thing is just the direction of the head. That is why the closing word of this Canto is kalahaMsaH, "goose." The goose, in following its desire, conspicuously demonstrates the primary matter of letting the head lead and the body follow.

I understood this point from going completely wrong in this primary matter, and from being put wrong by a teacher whose understanding was wrong. In the world of geese and swans there is no case of a geese or a swan who thinks it is enlightened teaching other geese and swans to fly with their heads pulled back, but in the human world such stupidity actually exists.

EH Johnston:
Fixing His mind in His agitation on escape from rebirth and unmoved by desire for even the best of women as He saw them lying asleep, He determined to go to the forest, and departed at night from the king's palace, like a swan from a lake whose lotuses have been rent in pieces.

Linda Covill:
Distressed, he set his mind on freedom from rebirth and decided to go to the forest. Like a goose leaving a lake of bruised lotuses, he left the king's palace at night, indifferent to the beautiful women sleeping in it.

udvegaat = abl. sg. udvega: m. trembling , waving , shaking ; agitation , anxiety; m. regret , fear , distress (occasioned by separation from a beloved object)
ud: ind. up, upwards
vega: m. (fr. √ vij) violent agitation , shock , jerk ; outbreak , outburst (of passion) , excitement , agitation , emotion
√ vij: to move with a quick darting motion , speed , heave (said of waves)
a-punar-bhave (loc. sg.): not again becoming
a-punar: ind. not again
bhava: coming into existence, becoming
manaH = acc. sg. manas: mind
praNidhaaya = abs. pra-Ni- √ dhaa: to place in front , cause to precede ; to turn or direct (the eyes or thoughts) upon (loc.); (with manas " to resolve upon " )

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect yaa: to go ; to go away , withdraw , retire, flee, escape ; with the acc. of an abstract noun = to go to any state or condition , become , be
shayita-var'-aaMganaad (abl. sg.): from the most beautiful woman who was asleep
shayita-var'-aaMganaasu (loc. pl.): to the most beautiful women who were asleep
shayita: mfn. reposed , lying , sleeping , asleep
vara: mfn. "select " , choicest , valuable , precious , best , most excellent or eminent among (gen. loc. abl. , or comp.)
aMgana: f. " a woman with well-rounded limbs " , any woman or female
anaasthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. indifferent

nishi (loc. sg.): at night
nR-pati-nilayanaad (abl. sg.): from the palace
nR-pati: m. "man-lord," king
nilaya: m. rest , resting-place ; house, residence
ni- √ lii: to settle down (esp. applied to the alighting of birds) , alight , descend ; to hide one's self
nilayana: n. settling down ; hiding-place &c
vana-gamana-kRta-manaaH (nom. sg. m.): with mind made up to go to the forest
vana: forest
gamana: going
manaH √ kR: to make up one's mind

sarasaH = abl. sg. saras: n. " anything flowing or fluid " , a lake , large sheet of water , pond
iva: like
mathita-nalinaat (abl. sg.): torn lotus
mathita: mfn. stirred round, churned; shaken , agitated , afflicted , hurt , destroyed ; dislocated , disjointed
math: to stir or whirl round ; to churn ; to stir up , shake , agitate , trouble, disturb , afflict , distress , hurt , destroy
nalina: n. (fr. nala because of its hollow stalk?) a lotus flower or water-lily
kalahaMsaH (nom. sg.): m. N. of several species of the haMsa bird or goose

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye (loc.): in the epic poem Handsome Nanda

raaja-varNanaH (nom. sg. m.): m. description of the king
raajan: king
varNanaH (nom. sg.): m. depiction, description
naama: ind. by name
dvitiiyaH sargaH (nom. sg. m.): 2nd canto

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