Thursday, October 14, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.53: Going Forth, Despondent as a Captured Elephant

nandas tatas taru-kaShaaya-virakta-vaasaash
cint"-aavasho nava-gRhiita iva dvip'-endraH
puurNaH shashii bahula-pakSha-gataH kShap"-aante
baal'-aatapena pariShikta iv' aababhaase

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saundaranande mahaa-kaavye
nanda-pravraajano naama
paNcamaH sargaH

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Thence, in drab garb
with the dull yellow-red colour of tree bark,

And despondent as a newly-captured elephant,

Nanda resembled a waning full moon at night's end,

Sprinkled by the powdery rays of the early morning sun.

The 5th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "Nanda Is Caused to Go Forth."

kaShaya in the first line, which expresses the traditional dull yellow/red colour of a robe, is the origin of the Japanese word KESA by which Dogen referred to the robe -- for example in the title of Shobogenzo chap. 12, KESA-KUDOKU. In that chapter Dogen wrote that it was an ultimate secret of the Great Vehicle that not only wandering mendicants but also lay practitioners should receive and retain a robe. And in this teaching of Dogen, though my feeling is generally not to be trusted, I sense something in the transmission of the Buddha's teaching which is not fixed, but which has its direction. And I think the direction has to do with evolution of individual human consciousness.

When we observe on TV uneducated followers of Islaam with fire in their belly joining with like-minded automatons on the street for group activities like noisy chanting of slogans and flag-burning, such behaviour epitomizes to me unconscious group reaction to a religious idea. But when Christians get together in a quiet English village church to sing hymns, or Japanese Buddhists come together to chant, the same basic processes of group unconscious reaction are involved. In Saundarananda any account of such ceremonial or group religious activity is conspicuous by its total absence.

pra- √ vraj: in the title of this Canto means to go (√ vraj) forth (pra-).

And yet EHJ's choice of chapter title is "The Initiation of Nanda," while LC goes for "Nanda is Made to Ordain."

The words "initiation" and "ordain," as I read them, are religiously loaded words. They contain a religious connotation which is not originally there in pra- √ vraj, to go forth.

In the past few weeks while I have been working on this Canto, three things have stimulated me to speak out against the conventional notion that the Buddha's teaching, as recorded here by Ashvaghosha, might have something to do with religion.

First I was struck by the truth of what the Dalai Lama said on a you-tube video clip that I saw, about theistic religion, non-theistic religion, and a third more universal way which has "nothing to do with religion."

Second the Pope in his visit to my country got right up my nose, preaching that religion should play more of a role in public life. Oh yes, Holy Father? Has the Catholic church got something to teach us all, for example, about pastoral care of children?

Third I obtained a copy of Linda Covill's book A Metaphorical Study of Saundarandanda, which, though I haven't read it yet, is clearly a momentous piece of work. But Linda regards Saundaranda as about "spiritual reorientation" and its metaphors as "conversion metaphors." She calls Saundarananda a product of the literary and religious imagination. On this, I beg to differ. I fail to see why the Buddha's teaching in Saundarananda has anything to do with religion.

EH Johnston:
Then Nanda, dressed in clothes of the mournful colour of ochre-yellow tree-bark and despondent as a freshly captured elephant, appeared like the full moon entering the dark fortnight at night's close and bathed in the rays of the rising sun.

Linda Covill:
And later, wearing a faded garment of ochre tree-bark and depressed as a newly-captured elephant, Nanda resembled the full moon moving into the dark half of the month, at the end of the night, daubed with the light of the early morning sun.

End of Canto 3: Nanda is Made to Ordain

nandaH (nom. sg. m.): Nanda
tataH: ind. thence, then
taru-kaShaaya-virakta-vaasaaH (nom. sg. m.): in yellow-red exudation-from-a-tree-coloured drab garb
taru: m. a tree
kaShaaya: mfn. red , dull red , yellowish red (as the garment of a Buddhist bhikShu); mn. a yellowish red colour ; mn. exudation from a tree , juice , gum , resin ; mn. dirt , filth ; mn. stain or impurity or sin cleaving to the soul ; mn. defect , decay , degeneracy (of which , according to Buddhists , there are five marks)
virakta: mfn. discoloured , changed in colour ; changed in disposition , disaffected , estranged , averse , indifferent to i.e. having no interest in (abl. loc. acc. with prati , or comp.) ; become indifferent i.e. arousing no interest
vaasas: n. cloth , clothes , dress , a garment

cint"-aavashaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. lost in thought, thoughtful
cintaa: f. thought , care , anxiety , anxious thought about
avasha: mfn. unsubmissive to another's will , independent , unrestrained , free ; not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly
nava-gRhiitaH (nom. sg. m.): newly captured
nava: new
gRhiita: grasped , taken , seized , caught
iva: like
dvi-p'-endraH (nom. sg. m.): m. " prince of elephants " , a large elephant
dvi-pa: m. "drinking twice" (with his trunk and with his mouth); an elephant
indra: m. the god indra; a prince ; ifc. best , excellent , the first , the chief (of any class of objects)

puurNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. full
shashii = nom. sg. shashin: m. " containing a hare " , the moon
bahula-pakSha-gataH (nom. sg. m.): in the dark half of the month, waning
bahula: mfn. thick , dense, black. m. (or n. ?) the dark half of a month
pakSha: m. a wing, the flank or side or the half of anything; the half of a lunar month
gata: mfn. come to , approached , arrived at , being in
kShap"-aante (loc. sg.): at the end of the night
kShapaa: f. night
anta: m. end

baal'-aatapena (inst. sg.): m. early heat of the sun , heat of the morning sun
baala: mfn. young , childish , infantine , not full-grown or developed (of per. sons and things) ; newly risen , early (as the sun or its rays) ; new or waxing (as the moon) ; puerile ; pure (as an animal fit for sacrifice)
aatapa: mfn. causing pain or affliction ; heat (especially of the sun) , sunshine ; (also) moonshine
pariShikta: mfn. poured out , sprinkled about , diffused
iva: like
ababhaase = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhaas: to appear (" as " or " like " nom.)

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye (loc.): in the epic poem Handsome Nanda
nanda-pravraajanaH (nom. sg. m.): Nanda is Caused to Go Forth
pravraajana: n. (from causitive pra-√vraj) banishment , exile
pra- √ vraj: to go forth ; to leave home and wander forth as an ascetic mendicant
naama: ind. by name
paNcamaH sargaH (nom. sg. m.): 5th canto

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