Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.46: More Soft Soap

aNke 'pi lakShmyaa na sa nirvRtaH syaat
tvaM tasya paarshve yadi tatra na syaaH
aapatsu kRcchraasv api c' aagataasu
tvaaM pashyatas tasya bhaven na duHkhaM

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

Even in the lap of luxury he couldn't be happy

Without you there by his side;

And even in dire straits,

Nothing could trouble him,
as long as he were looking at you.

The thought expressed here turns out, as a prediction, not to be true, since Ashvaghosha describes in Canto 17 how Nanda does in fact become happy without Sundari there by his side. (For through the instruction of the compassionate teacher / Who extracted a dart of passion that was lodged in my heart, / Now such abundant ease is mine -- / Oh! how happy I am in the loss of everything! [17.65])

As a thought that was suited to Sundari's mind and fitting the occasion, however, Ashvaghosha has in 6.44 already praised this thought. In a practical sense, then, this is a true thought. In terms of intellectual honesty it is not true, but karmically, in terms of its intention and its effect, the expression of this thought is a true action.

People, even Zen masters, are prone to opine that in sitting-dhyana no kind of thinking is suitable, that sitting-dhyana rather represents the negation of all kinds of thinking and all kinds of thought. This opinion, however, might not be the whole story.

There might be situations, and there might be stages of sitting-meditation, in which not only thinking but also even thoughts are suited to the sitter's mind and appropriate to the occasion. And in stating this case, I am always teetering on the brink of speaking the opposite of a white lie -- the black truth?

Pulling back from the brink, let us re-examine this word in line 1, nirvRta, happiness.

In 17.65 Nanda is happy (nirvRta) not as a result of getting Sundari by his side, or as a result of getting his way with an apsaras sex-bomb; he is happy as a result of the loss of everything (sarva-kShaya). And that loss of everything came as a result of being clearly instructed by the Buddha in how to work on himself, and as a result of being motivated by the Buddha to start work on himself. In the first instance, Nanda's motivation was far from pure; it was totally tainted by the prospect of sex with celestial nymphs, the expectation of which was rooted in a white lie that the Buddha told Nanda.

So one of the lessons of Saundarananda has to do with the relative importance of intellectual honesty, the lack of which a white lie represents, and finding happiness through working on oneself. And the lesson might be that intellectual honesty is not always important whereas finding happiness through working on oneself is vitally important.

This lesson seems to be presaged in the present series of verses, in which Ashvaghosha praises the use of a lie whose karma is white, because it causes Sundari to begin to come back to herself.

EH Johnston:
He would not be happy even in the lap of luxury if you were not there at his side, and whatever dire calamities fell on him, he would not feel distress so long as he could see you.

Linda Covill:
Even in the lap of luxury he wouldn't be happy without you there at his side; even in awful situations, he wouldn't suffer if you filled his gaze.

aNke (loc. sg.): m. a hook ; the curve in the human , especially the female , figure above the hip (where infants sitting , astride are carried by mothers hence often = " breast " or " lap ")
api: even
lakShmyaa (inst. sg.): f. wealth , riches ; beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre
na: not
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
nirvRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. satisfied , happy , tranquil , at ease , at rest ; extinguished , terminated , ceased
syaat = 3rd. pers. sg. optative as: to be

tvam (now. sg.): you
tasya (gen. sg. m.): of him
paarshve (loc. sg.): at the side
yadi: if
tatra: ind. there
na: not
syaaH = 2nd. pers. sg. optative as: to be

aapatsu = loc. pl. aapad: f. misfortune , calamity , distress
kRcchraasu (loc. pl. f.): mfn. causing trouble or pain , painful , attended with pain or labour ; being in a difficult or painful situation ; bad , evil , wicked
api: even, also
ca: and
aagataasu (loc.pl. f.): mfn. come , arrived

tvaam (acc. sg.): you
pashyataH = gen. sg. m. pres. part pash: to see
tasya (gen. sg.): in him
bhavet = 3rd. pers. sg. optative bhuu: to be, become
na: not
duHkham (nom. sg.): n. uneasiness , pain , sorrow , trouble , difficulty

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