Saturday, December 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.14: A Romantic View on Bonds

taavad dRDhaM bandhanam asti loke
na daaravaM taantavam aayasaM vaa
yaavad dRDhaM bandhanam etad eva
mukhaM cal'-aakSham lalitaM ca vaakyaM

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

There is no strong bond in the world,

Whether of wood, rope or iron,

As strong as this bond:

An amorous voice and a face with darting eyes.

This romantic view of Nanda's in his present state of feeling sorry for himself can be contrasted with the teaching of the Buddha in Canto 15: In this originally shattered world / Nobody is the beloved of anybody. / Held together by cause and effect, / Humankind is like sand in a clenched fist. (15.35)

Speaking of romantic views on bonds, a few years ago it seemed unthinkable that a western European country might default on its sovereign debt. But in the history of financial markets, the unthinkable has a habit of turning into the inevitable, thereby completely falsifying generally held views.

Just as people are prone to believe that governments of advanced industrialized nations will not go bankrupt, we are prone to want to believe in romantic fairy-tales, whereby two soul-mates fall in love and, after a requisite number of moats have been traversed and dragons slayed, live happily ever after.

An antidote to such romantic thinking is the kind of investigation of reality that Nanda himself carries out in Canto 17, as described in verses 17.14 through 17.21. Far from a situation in which soul-mates live happily ever after, Nanda observes reality to be soul-less, and marked by suffering and impermanence.

Such unromantic investigation of unromantic reality provides a solid basis for Nanda, as a wandering mendicant, to progress through the four stages of sitting-meditation and thereafter to win the worthy state of an arhat. It also provides a good basis for partnering up and bringing up a family -- a task in which the partners do not have to be perfect, but just good enough. Fortunately for me (presumably because of some good karma I must have instigated in a forgotten past life), it is a task in which my beloved has been more than just good enough.

EH Johnston:
There are no bonds in the world, whether made of wood, cord or iron, so strong as a bright-eyed face and a sweet voice.

Linda Covill:
There is no bond in the world, whether of wood, fibre or iron, as solid as this bond -- teasing words and a face with fluttering eyes!

taavat: ind. (correlative of yaavat) so much , so greatly , to such an extent dRDham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fixed , firm , hard , strong , solid , massive ; mfn. firmly fastened , shut fast , tight , close
bandhanam (nom. sg.): n. the act of binding , tying , fastening , fettering ; n. a bond , tie (also fig.) , rope , cord , tether
asti: there is
loke (loc. sg.): in the world

na: not
daaravam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. wooden , made of wood or coming from wood
taantavam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. made of threads (tantu)
tantu: m. a thread , cord , string , line , wire , warp (of a web) , filament , fibre
aayasam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. ayas) of iron , made of iron or metal
ayas: n. iron , metal
vaa: or

yaavat: ind. (correlative of taavat) as great
dRDham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fixed , firm , hard , strong , solid bandhanam: n. bond
etat (nom. sg. n.): mfn. this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker)
eva: (emphatic)

mukham (nom. sg.): n. face
cal'-aakSham (nom. sg. n.): with moving eyes
cala: mfn. moving , trembling , fluctuating
akSha: n. [only ifc.] the eye
lalitam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. sported , played , playing , wanton , amorous , voluptuous ; artless , innocent , soft , gentle , charming , lovely
ca: and
vaakyam (nom. sg.): n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words

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