Wednesday, November 3, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.19: Grief and Confidence

n' ecchanti yaaH shokam avaaptum evaM
shraddhaatum arhanti na taa naraaNaam
kva c' aanuvRttir mayi s" aasya puurvaM
tyaagaH kva c' aayaM janavat kShaNena

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

Women who do not wish to suffer grief like this

Should never trust men.

How could he treat me before with such regard

And the next moment leave me this way, like anybody?"

Two words in this verse that are turning words in Saundarananda as a whole are shokam (grief) and shraddhaa (confidence/trust).

As Sundari gradually realizes what she has lost, her anxiety is turning to grief (shokam), and her cry from the heart is echoing what the Buddha taught Nanda in 5.44: I do not see any pleasure which might not, / By turning into something else, become pain. / Therefore no attachment bears scrutiny -- / Unless the grief is bearable that arises from the absence of its object.

If we analyze Sundari's grief in a bit more depth, what kind of pain or suffering is it? What has turned into something else? Exactly what object is she attached to?

Sundari is suffering a kind of bereavement, but what has Sundari been deprived of? The simple answer is that she has been deprived of Nanda, and she herself has recognized (in 6.16) that what she is attached to is him. But on a deeper level it might be truer to say that Sundari is attached to an idea she has about who Nanda is and how he relates to her.

Nanda himself has neither died nor come to serious harm. The thing that seems to have changed, and what Sundari is lamenting in this verse, is that before Nanda treated her truly like a princess, whereas now suddenly he evidently does not.

So there is a lesson in here about bereavement and grief -- namely, that nobody has to die in order for us to suffer a bereavement, but we grieve the loss of an idea that we were attached to. And this lesson will be delivered to Nanda in detail in Canto 15, Giving Up an Idea.

shraddhaatum arhanti na taa naraaNaam, says Sundari, women should not put their trust in men.

Now, shraddhaa, trust or confidence, is the very virtue that the Buddha praises so highly in Canto 12, Gaining Hold. But the confidence that the Buddha praises is by no means confidence in other men, even including the Buddha himself. No, what the Buddha praises is confidence in higher good. Hence: "Aha! This gaining of a foothold / Is the harbinger of higher good in you, / As, when a firestick is rubbed, / Rising smoke is the harbinger of fire. (12.19) And this indeed befits / A soul whose essence is simplicity: / That in the supreme and subtle / Higher good you should have confidence. (12.30)

So apart from the truth which Sundari is expressing in allowing herself to emote so freely, her words here also might be expressing a kind of wisdom -- namely the wisdom of not placing one's trust in objects, such as people, which are inherently unreliable.

If not people, what is there to have confidence in?
What can I say on the basis of my own actual experience?

When I come to France and do simple stuff, interspersed with just sitting in the solitude of nature, not doing anything wrong, after a while it becomes completely obvious that the right thing tends to do itself.

When I return to England and give an Alexander lesson, the more successful I am in inhibiting my own deep inner patterns of misuse, the more effective I am as a teacher and the more beneficial the lesson is to my pupil. Again, this kind of lesson reminds me that nothing happened for me to be proud of. "Shouldn't have been in the way in the first place!" If anything good happened, it certainly wasn't me who did it.

So what the Buddha expresses as shreyas, higher good, to me, is intimately related with, or exactly the same as, what FM Alexander expressed as the right thing, which does itself.

"Stop doing the wrong thing," FM Alexander said, "And the right thing does itself."

This is the principle, it seems to me, that each person, for himself or herself, can find their own real confidence in.

I think the reason I sometimes use foul and abusive language on this blog, is that I definitely do not want people putting their trust in me, unskillful griever and vestibular basket-case that I am. No, I definitely do not want that. It's like Marjory Barlow said, "I can't be responsible for my pupils. It's bad enough being responsible for myself!"

But if my translation work can help others towards their own confidence in the truth of stopping doing the wrong thing and allowing the right thing to do itself, then all well and good.

EH Johnston:
Women who do not wish to endure such grief should never trust men. How can one reconcile his former complaissance for me and his present desertion of me in an instant like any low fellow ? '

Linda Covill:
Women who don't want to suffer such grief should not put their faith in men. Look at his former regard for me, and look at how he now deserts me in a trice as if I were just anybody!"

na: not
icchanti = 3rd pers. pl. pres. iSh: to desire, wish, want
yaaH (nom. pl. f.): [those women] who
shokam (acc. sg.): m. sorrow, grief
avaaptum = inf. avaap: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get ; to suffer
evam: ind. such

shraddhaatum = inf. shrad- √ dhaa: to have faith or faithfulness , have belief or confidence , believe , be true or trustful (with na , " to disbelieve " )
arhanti (3rd pers. pl. pres. arh): they should
na: not
taaH (nom. pl. f): (correlative of yaaH) those women
naraaNaam (gen. pl.): m. man

kva: ind. where ; kva - kva or kutra-kva (implying excessive incongruity) where is this? where is that? how distant is this from that? how little does this agree with that? (e.g. kva suurya-prabhavo vaMshaH kva c'aalpa-viShayaa matiH , how can my limited intellect describe the solar race?)
ca: and
anuvRttiH (nom. sg.): f. following , acting suitably to , having regard or respect to , complying with
mayi (loc. sg.): to me
saa (nom. sg. f.): that [former regard]
asya (gen. sg. m.): of him
puurvam: ind. previously, former

tyaagaH (nom. sg.): m. leaving , abandoning , forsaking
kva: ind. where
ca: and
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
janavat: (ind.) 'like a person'; as if he were a stranger ; as if I were just anybody
jana: m. person ; a common person , one of the people
- vat: added to words to imply likeness or resemblance , and generally translatable by " as " , " like "
kShaNena (inst. sg.): m. any instantaneous point of time , instant , twinkling of an eye , moment

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