Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.7: Nanda Stammers...

shanair vrajann eva sa gauraveNa
paT'-aavRt'-aaMso vinat'-aardha-kaayaH
adho nibaddh'-aaNjalir uurdhva-netraH
sa-gadgadaM vaakyam idaM babhaaShe

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Walking forward meekly, with respectful seriousness,

With cloak over one shoulder, body half-stooped,

Hands held down and eyes raised up,

He stuttered these words:

What kind of picture is Ashvaghosha painting here of the stammering Nanda? I think it might be intended to be a somewhat comical one.

In his book The Use of the Self, FM Alexander wrote a chapter titled "The Stutterer." It is about a bloke who keeps messing up his own co-ordination through his desire to be right and his inability to stop trying to be right (or "end-gaining").

In this verse and the following verse, as I read them, Nanda is displaying the classic symptoms of a religious believer who is trying to be right, and getting all fixed in the process.

First of all, he is too careful and serious. He seems not to have heard the teaching of Patrick Macdonald that "If you are careful you will never get anywhere in this work. If you are careless you might." Equally, Marjory Barlow's teaching seems to be lost on him that "This work is the most serious thing in the world, but you mustn't take it seriously."

Accepting as true EHJ's observation that Ashvaghosha never wastes words, one is forced to ask why we are told that Nanda spread his cloak over a shoulder. I think the point is that Nanda, in his desire to do the right thing, is imitating what he thinks the form of a follower of the Buddha should be. He seems to think that showing an appropriate form might have to do with keeping one shoulder covered while maintaining a servile posture.

Like a Japanese priest of the Soto Sect, putting on a good show for the paying spectators at a funeral ceremony, Nanda is behaving as if the most important thing was not what was happening on the inside but rather what was happening on the outside.

So at this stage, the best Nanda can do is to imitate what he sees. He does not know what or how to think. He wants to express his reverence for the Buddha, but if somebody asked him what the Buddha's teaching actually was, he might be as bewildered as a professional Soto Zen priest in the lucrative Japanese funeral ceremony business today might be bewildered, in the admittedly unlikely event that a Japanese customer should ask him such a question.

EH Johnston:
While walking along slowly and respectfully, with one shoulder covered by his shawl and his body half-bowed, with hands clasped downwards and eyes uplifted, he uttered this speech with sobs : --

Linda Covill:
Walking slowly and respectfully, with one shoulder covered by his garment and his body in a semi-stoop, Nanda joined his hands in a gesture of reverence, raised his eyes, and stammered out these words:

shanaiH: ind. (originally instr. pl. of shana) quietly , softly , gently , gradually , alternately
vrajan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vraj: to go, walk, move
eva: (emphatic)
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
gauraveNa (inst. sg.): n. weight , heaviness ; n. respect shown to a person

paT'-aavRt'-aaMsaH (nom. sg. m.): with his shoulder covered by a garment
paTa: m. woven cloth , cloth , a blanket , garment ; monastic habit
avRta: mfn. covered , concealed , hid ; spread , overspread
aMsa: shoulder
vinat'-aardha-kaayaH (nom. sg. m.): his body half-bowed
vinata: bent , curved , bent down , bowed , stooping
ardha: half
kaaya: body

adhaH: ind. below , down ; in the lower region ; beneath , under
nibaddh'-aaNjaliH (nom. sg. m.): hands joined
nibaddha: mfn. bound
aNjali: m. the open hands placed side by side and slightly hollowed (as if by a beggar to receive food ; hence when raised to the forehead , a mark of supplication)
uurdhva-netraH (nom. sg m.): eyes upraised
uurdhva: mfn. rising or tending upwards , raised
netra: n. leading , guiding ; the eye (as the guiding organ)

sa-gadgadam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. with stammering (voice)
gadgada: n. stammering , indistinct or convulsive utterance (as sobbing &c )
vaakyam (acc. sg.): n. speech , saying
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
babhaaShe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhaaSh: to speak , talk , say , tell ; to announce, declare

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