Monday, November 8, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.24: Full-Blown Grief

shrutvaa tato bhartari taaM pravRttiM
sa-vepathuH saa sahas" otpapaata
pragRhya baahuu viruraava c' occair
hRd' iiva digdh'-aabhihataa kareNuH

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On hearing then what had happened to her husband

She immediately leapt up, shaking;

She clasped her arms and screamed out loud

Like a she-elephant
shot in the heart by a poisoned arrow.

Here it is: full blow grief, just as if a baby had been dropped -- in which case the hands and arms, having flown upward and outward on a sharply taken in-breath, manifest an inward clasping response, accompanied by a loud cry on the out-breath.

The full awareness and indifference of the 4th dhyana can be understood as total freedom from the influence of this infantile fear reaction, which is at the root of the deepest grief and all other emotional states.

Going directly for this full awareness and indifference, however, by trying to take one's bombshells like a man -- in short by suppressing one's grief through trying to be right, is a kind of end-gaining whereby grief is liable to be bottled up to the detriment of internal organs.

So it comes back to what one really wants, what one really desires, and what is an effective principle, plan, or means by which to get there...

What do I want? If the answer is peace, then end-gaining is not going to get me there.

But the end-gaining habit -- particularly in a person in whom a Moro reflex remains more or less uninhibited -- tends to run very deep.

shreyas, which I translate as "higher good," is thought to derive either from the comparative of shrii, which means radiance, splendour, beauty, grace, welfare, success, riches; or from prashasya, which means eminent, praiseworthy.

So as an adjective form shreyas is given first in the dictionary as "more splendid or beautiful, more excellent or distinguished, superior, preferable, better"; and as a noun shreyas is given as "the better state."

So yes, higher, better, more excellent, but also, it occurs to me, reflecting on this verse, deeper.

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

Expression of grief is not necessarily the wrong thing -- though too often one acts as if it was. The wrong thing might be the suppression, the deeply ingrained habit, deeply rooted in fear, that prevents the grief from expressing itself.

So is Sundari right or wrong to express her grief like this? I don't know. What strikes me is that she seems conspicuously free of the tangled net of conceptions and compensatory habits that prevent some of us from emoting as freely as might be good for our health.

EH Johnston:
Then on hearing what had happened to her husband, she jumped up straightaway trembling, and, throwing her arms into the air, screamed loudly like a cow-elephant stricken to the heart with a poisoned dart.

Linda Covill:
Hearing this news of her husband she immediately leaped up, shaking; she clutched at her arms and screamed piercingly, like a she-elephant struck in the heart with a poisoned arrow.

shrutvaa (abs.): on hearing
tataH: ind. then
bhartari (loc.): to her husband
taam (acc. sg. f.): that
pravRttim (acc. sg.): f. moving onwards , advance , progress ; active life (as opp. to ni-vRtti, non-doing) ; fate , lot , destiny ; news , tidings

sa-vepathuH (nom. sg. f.): mfn. having tremor , tremulous
vepathu: m. quivering , trembling , tremor
saa (nom. sg. f.): she
sahasaa: ind. (= instr. sahas) forcibly , vehemently , suddenly , quickly , precipitately , immediately , at once , unexpectedly , at random , fortuitously , in an unpremeditated manner
utpapaata = 3rd pers. sg. perfect ut- √ pat: to fly or jump up

pragRhya = abs. pra- √ grah: to seize , grasp , take hold of , take
baahuu = acc. dual. baahu: m. arm
viruraava = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √ ru: to roar aloud , cry , buzz , hum , yell , sing , lament , &c
ca: and
uccaiH: ind. high, loud, accentuated

hRdi (loc. sg.): into the heart
iva: like
digdh'-aabhihataa (nom. sg. f.): shot by a poisoned arrow
digdha: m. a poisoned arrow
abhihata: mfn. struck , smitten , killed
kareNuH (nom. sg. f.): a female elephant

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