Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 4.46: Entering a Kind of Stream

atha sa pathi dadarsha mukta-maanaM
pitR-nagare 'pi tathaa-gat'-aabhimaanaM
dasha-balam abhito vilambamaanaM
dhvajam anuyaana iv' aindram arcyamaanaM

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

saudaranande mahaa-kaavye bhaaryaa-yaacitako naama caturthaH sargaH

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

And so on the road he saw, free of pride,

And, even in the city of his fathers,
haughtiness similarly absent,

The Possessor of the Ten Powers,
stopping and being honoured on all sides,

So that it was as if Nanda were following Indra's flag.

The 4th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "What He Begged His Wife For."

In 3.21, Ashvaghosha writes of the Buddha seeing the king "coming like this" (tathaagatam). Line 2 seem to contain another play on the word tathaagata, which in this case means "similarly gone."

These alternate uses of tathaagata as a descriptive compound give us a sense of multiple possible meanings of Tathagata when it used as an epithet of the Buddha.

The Thus-Come, or the One Who Arrived Like This, or the One Who Arrived at Reality, or the Realised One, are translations that suggest in the Buddha the presence of something ineffable.

The use of tathaagata in today's verse, on the contrary, seems to point to a bit of nothing -- the One in Whom Absence Was Like This.

The title of this Canto, bhaaryaa-yaacitakaH, might also be intended to be ambiguous. bhaaryaa means wife. yaacitakaH is from the root yaac, which means to ask, beg, solicit, entreat, require, implore. The dictionary adds as a further possible/questionable definition: to promise(?). In 4.32, gamanaM yayaace means he begged her to be allowed to go.

EHJ chose as the title for this Canto "The Wife's Bargain"; LC went with "His Wife's Request."

My sense is that the essence of this Canto is to highlight Nanda's dilemma as one in possession not only a gorgeous wife but also an enlightened older brother. Accordingly it may be that the Canto title is intended to draw our attention to the fact that Nanda essentially wanted two contradictory things from his wife: he wanted her to embrace him, and he wanted her to let him go. To put it another way, something in him begged her for permission to leave, and at the same time something in him begged her for sex.

Until both of him want the same thing, Nanda cannot be Nanda. So as we leave Nanda at the end of this Canto, we leave him still in two minds but at the same time about to be swept up, whether all of him wishes it or not, in a stream leading inexorably to Nanda's undivided realisation of Nanda.

EH Johnston:
Then he saw on the road the Dashabala, Who was revered as the Tathagata and was free from arrogance even in His father's city, stopping and being saluted on all sides like the flag of Indra when it flies in a procession and is worshipped.

Linda Covill:
Then on the road he saw him of the ten powers, free from pride even in his father's city, and with all arrogance similarly gone, stopping everywhere and being worshipped like Indra's banner in a procession.

atha: ind. now, then, so
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
pathi = loc. sg. pathin: m. a way , path , road , course
dadarsha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect dRsh: to see
mukta-maanam (acc. sg. m.): free from pride
mukta: mfn. set free ; abandoned , relinquished
maana: m. ( v man) opinion , notion , conception , idea ; purpose , wish , design ; self-conceit , arrogance , pride

pitR-nagare (loc. sg.): in city of his fathers
pitR: m. a father ; m. pl. the fathers , forefathers , ancestors
nagara: n. a town, city
api: even
tathaa-gat'-aabhimaanam (acc. sg. m.): over-conceit likewise gone
tathaa: thus, likewise
gata: gone
abhi-maana: m. intention to injure , insidiousness ; high opinion of one's self , self-conceit , pride , haughtiness ; conception (especially an erroneous one regarding one's self)
abhi: (prefix) ind. over, upon

dasha-balam (acc sg. m.): " possessing 10 powers "
abhitaH: ind. (with acc.) on all sides , everywhere , about , round
vilambamaanam = acc. sg. m. pres. part vi- v lamb : to continue hanging , linger , delay , tarry

dhvajam (acc. sg.): m. a banner , flag , standard
anuyaanaH = nom. sg. m. pres. part. anu- v yaa : to go after, follow
iva: like
aindram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. indra) , belonging to or sacred to indra
arcyamaanam = acc. sg. m. pres. passive part. arc: to shine ; to praise , sing ; to honour or treat with respect

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye (loc.): in the epic poem Handsome Nanda
bhaaryaa-yaacitakaH (nom. sg. m.): [leave] borrowed from his wife; what he begged his wife for
bhaaryaa: f. wife
yaacitaka: mfn. (from yaac) borrowed; n. anything borrowed
yaac: to ask , beg , solicit , entreat , require , implore ; to promise (?)
yaacita: mfn. asked , begged (borrowed) ; solicited or asked for (anything ,acc.) , entreated , importuned ; n. alms obtained by begging
naama: ind. by name
caturthaH sargaH (nom. sg. m.): 4th canto

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

In an article titled "Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundarananda IV–VI:A Study in the Poetic Structure of Buddhist Kāvya," published in the Indo-Iranian Journal 52 (2009) 179–196, Richard Solomon argues that there is a special relationship between the fourth sarga, "The Wife's Demand" and the sixth, "The Wife's Lament",and that these two chapters are in effect mirror images of each other, reflected by the turning point in the poem, namely the fifth sarga (in which Nanda is caused to go forth).

Having perused the article last night, I can't help feeling that "What He Begged His Wife For" is a clumsy translation effort, and it misses this mirror effect which Solomon highlights.

"A Wife's Appeal" might be closer to the mark.