Monday, November 1, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.17: Getting It Wrong

bhaktiM sa buddhaM prati yaam avocat
tasya prayaatuM mayi so 'padeshaH
munau prasaado yadi tasya hi syaan
mRtyor iv' ograad an-Rtaad bibhiiyaat

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

As for that devotion to the Buddha of which he spoke,

It was only a pretext to me for leaving;

For if he were clearly settled on the Sage

He would fear untruth no less than a grisly death.

In the present series of verses, Sundari seems to be putting two and two together and coming up -- in the form of the other-woman scenario which she maybe most fears -- with five.

This Canto is among other things a kind of study in fear, as neither a physiological nor a psychological phenomenon.

In terms of that aspect of fear which cannot be reduced to physiology, Sundari in this verse as I read it is projecting onto Nanda something unclear and unsettled in her own nervous system. EHJ and LC understand prasaadaH here as belief, which is reasonable enough in the context, but the root √sad in prasaadaH originally means to sit or to settle. So to my mind prasaadaH, which the dictionary defines as "clearness, calmness, tranquillity," brings to mind the metaphor of a liquid like beer clearing as dregs drop to the bottom -- in my younger years I used to make home-brew beer every couple of weeks, and in more recent years I have observed the same kind of clearing process in myself in sitting (on good days like now by the forest in the autumn sunshine).

So in this verse Sundari is neither clear nor settled in herself, due primarily to undue excitement of her fear reflexes; and at the same time in her attempts to reason out the answer to the questions why? and how? she is coming up with the wrong answer -- she is missing the target, getting it wrong.

And what occurs to me again, having slept on this verse while yesterday's verse continued to resonate, is that though Sundari is intellectually getting it wrong, in terms of allowing a grieving process to unfold, she is very much going in the right direction. In yesterday's verse for example, in her words, lagnaam satiim maam, "attached to him as I am," there is honest recognition of her own attachment. This might be a much sounder basis for healing than trying to convince self and others that one is a master of detachment ("Am I bovvered?") when in one's innermost heart one is nothing of the sort.

So reflecting on this verse leads me to ask prematurely a question that will be raised more explicitly at the end of this Canto: which is more important -- to arrive at the right answer, the correct view of reality? or to allow a grieving/healing process to unfold, so that a person can settle down, in the direction of peace or tranquillity (prasaadaH)?

EH Johnston:
As for his devotion to the Buddha which he talked about, that was merely an excuse for going away from me ; for, if he believed in the Sage, surely he would have been as afraid of falsity as of fearsome Death.

Linda Covill:
That devotion to the Buddha of which he spoke was just an excuse to me for leaving, since if he believed in the sage he would fear falsehood as he would a horrible death.

bhaktim (acc. sg.): f. devotion
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
buddham (acc. sg.): m. the Buddha, the Awakened One
prati: ind. towards
yaam (acc. sg. f.): [that devotion] which
avocat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vac: to speak

tasya (gen. sg.): his
prayaatum = inf. pra- √ yaa: to go forth , set out ; to wander ; to part
mayi (loc. sg.): to me
saa (nom. sg. f.): (correlative of yaam) that
upadeshaH (nom. sg.): m. pointing out to , reference to ; specification , instruction , teaching , information ; plea , pretext (= apa-desha)

munau (loc. sg. m.): to the Sage
prasaadaH (nom. sg.): m. clearness , brightness , pellucidness , purity ; calmness , tranquillity , absence of excitement ; graciousness , kindness , kind behaviour , favour , aid , mediation
pra- √ sad: to fall into the power of (acc.) ; to settle down , grow clear and bright , become placid or tranquil
yadi: if
tasya (gen. sg. m.): of/in him
hi: for
syaat = 3rd pers. sg. optative as: to be

mRtyoH (abl. sg.): m. death
iva: like
ugraat (abl. sg. m.): mfn. powerful , violent , mighty , impetuous , strong , huge , formidable , terrible
an-Rtaat (abl. sg.): m. untruth
bibhiiyaat = 3rd pers. sg. optative bhii: to fear , be afraid of (abl. or gen.)

No comments: