Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.18: Replaying a Scene from the Past

ady' aapi tan me hRdi vartate ca
yad darpaNe vyaakulite mayaa saa
kRt'-aanRta-krodhakam abraviin maaM
kathaM kRto 's' iiti shaThaM hasantii

= = - = = - - = - = -
= = - = = - - = - = =
- = - = = - - = - = =
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Even now it keeps running through my mind

How when I clouded the mirror

She feigned anger and said to me,

Laughing wickedly, 'What are you doing!'

In light of this verse, I need to go back and change my translation of 4.19 which at present reads "What are you like!" she giggled from above.

jahaasa c' occaiH in 4.19, clearly, was not so much a coquettish giggle from above as a wicked (shaTham) laugh; and kathaM kRto 'si is better and more literally translated, as per EHJ and LC as "What are you doing?" My mistake.

What Ashvaghosha is examining here is a side of suffering that can't easily be reduced to, say, the action of vestibular reflexes or the working of the autonomic nervous system. Nanda is describing something like a scene being replayed in the cinema of his mind -- a phenomenon, notwithstanding psycho-physical unity, that we would naturally tend to describe as mental.

Dogen instructed that when an image occurs in the mind, we should wake up, and just in the act of waking up to whatever it is that has been running through the mind, the scene or image or thought evaporates at once. But what does it mean to wake up? What I was taught in Japan was to bring my attention back to my sitting posture -- and, in particular, to "keeping the spine straight vertically." What this meant in practice, at least as I practised it, was replacing one kind of unconsciousness with another kind of unconsciousness. But this as I see it now, was another mistake.

Realizations of mistakes such as the above cause me to have my doubts about how many mistakes I might be making without realizing it. Still, irrespective of my faults as a translator, some people out there are sufficiently interested in Ashvaghosha's message to visit this blog -- and the flag counter on the right is an interesting indicator of who they are. The UK and US account for 73% of visitors, split at time of writing almost down the middle, with new visitors totalling 3,966 from the UK and 3,960 from the US. But what seems to be more telling than overall numbers (which are in any case prone to be inflated by one person reading from different locations -- viz. the increase in visitors from Greece whenever George goes home) is how the number of new visitors from the US has been catching up the UK number. As I sat this morning, I found myself asking what was the meaning of this trend. Then I woke up and discontinued the train of thought. But then as I folded up my kashaya and unfolded my legs, the answer came to me that "Saundarananda is a tale of redemption, and American ears are more open to it."

If our rent on earth is service to others, I appear to be paying my rent to an increasingly American audience. Anyway, wherever you are from, thank you for listening.

EH Johnston:
And now too my thoughts run on what, when I clouded the mirror, she said to me, pretending to be angry but laughing roguishly, 'What a sight you are!'

Linda Covill:
Even now that incident keeps churning in my mind, when I blew on her mirror, and she, making a show of anger, laughed roguishly and said to me 'What are you doing?'

adya: ind. today, now
api: also, even
tat (nom. sg. n.): that
me (gen. sg.) my, of/for me
hRdi (loc. sg.): n. the heart (as the seat of feelings and emotions) , soul , mind (as seat of thought and intellectual operations
vartate = 3rd pers. sg. pres. vRt: to turn , turn round ; with manasi or hRdaye , " to dwell or be turned or thought over in the mind " ; to continue, to hold good , continue in force
ca: and

yat (nom. sg. n.): which
darpaNe (loc. abs.): the mirror
vyaakulite (loc. abs.): mfn. filled with , full of; confused , disarranged , disturbed , corrupted
mayaa (inst. sg.): by me
saa (nom. sg. f.): she

kRt'-aanRta-krodhakam (acc. sg. n.): affecting anger, pretending to be angry
kRta: mfn. done, made
anRta: mfn. not true, false
krodha: m. anger
-ka: adjectival affix
abraviit = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect bruu: to speak , say
maam (acc. sg.): to me

kathaM-kRto 'si: "What are you doing?" (see 4.19)
katham: ind. how? what? (interrogative particle implying amazement)
kRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. done
asi = 2nd pers. sg. as: (copula verb) to be
iti: "...," thus
shaTham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. false , deceitful , fraudulent , malignant , wicked ; m. a cheat , rogue (esp. a false husband or lover , who pretends affection for one female while his heart is fixed on another ; one of the four classes into which husbands are divided)
hasantii = nom. sg. f. pres. part. has: to laugh , smile

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