Friday, December 31, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.27: "No, I can't" (ctd.)

strii-kaaraNaM vaira-viShakta-buddhyor
vaivasvat'-aagnyosh calit'-aatma-dhRtyoH
bahuuni varShaaNi babhuuva yuddhaM
kaH strii-nimittaM na caled ih' aanyaH

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

When the minds of Sun's son Vaivasvata
and fire-god Agni turned to enmity,

When their grip on themselves was shaken,

There was war between them for many years,
over a woman.

What lesser being, here on earth,
would not be shaken off course by a woman?

Vaivasvata is either another name for the sun-god Surya just mentioned in 7.26, or else a name for any son of the sun; and the Hiranya-retas mentioned in 7.25 is another name for the fire-god Agni.

EHJ helpfully notes that he cannot trace any story with the remotest resemblance to this verse -- which saves me the bother of trying.

The point, in any event, is that Nanda is referring again to the love-lives of the gods in the effort to convince himself that he might as well go home to Sundari. From the next verse he turns his thoughts from gods to ascetic sages, seers and the like.

In the present series of verses Ashvaghosha is focusing on a particular line of thought in Nanda which is "I can't get by without my woman." But there may be a wider lesson for us all, whether we are separated from our beloved or not, which has to do with the unreliability of our sense of what we can and cannot do.

Sometimes "I cannot do it," is a statement of fact, or a realization of reality. I cannot turn back the clock, for example, and rectify past mistakes. I cannot do an undoing. I cannot make the head go in the direction I want it to go (the direction Alexander called "forward and up") by stiffening my neck. I cannot, in the Buddha's words from Canto 16, get milk by trying to milk a cow that has never calved, or by trying to milk a cow by the horn.

But often "I cannot do it" is an expression of a feeling or thought which is not true. Teaching nervous swimmers, in the first instance, just to be in the water, gives my wife and brother plentiful opportunities to see that people can in fact quite easily do what they felt and thought they could not do.

A couple of years ago my brother himself told me that he felt he didn't have the necessary co-ordination to learn to paddle a canoe. "Of course you do," I told him, or words to that effect. And of course, as someone who is at home in the water, he did, and quickly understood how simple paddling is, so that nowadays he even takes his swimming clients on canoeing/swimming trips.

"No, I can't," upon investigation, is often an expression not of the truth, but of a thought that is rooted in faulty sensory appreciation. It is liable in many cases to be a symptom of a kind of low self-esteem, which in turn may be regarded as a secondary psychological symptom of an imperfectly integrated Moro reflex.

EH Johnston:
For the sake of a woman Vaivasvata and Agni, abandoning self-control and informing their minds with enmity, waged war on each other for many years. Who else then in this world would not go astray over a woman?

Linda Covill:
Vaivasvata and Agni were shaken from self-control because of women, and with their minds fixed on enmity fought each other for many years. What other man on earth would not be moved by a woman?

strii-kaaraNam (nom./acc. sg. n.): women as the cause
strii: f. woman
kaaraNa: n. cause , reason , the cause of anything
vaira-viShakta-buddhyoH (gen. dual m.): their minds turned to enmity
vaira: n. enmity , hostility , animosity , grudge , quarrel or feud with
viShakta: mfn. turned or directed towards (loc. or comp.); (ifc.) dependent on
buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement ; intention, purpose, design

vaivasvat'-aagnyoH (gen. dual. m.): of Vaivasvata and Agni
vaivasvata: mfn. (fr. vivasvat) coming from or belonging to the sun ; m. name of a manu
vivas-vat: m. " the Brilliant one " , N. of the Sun
agni: m. fire; the god of fire
calit'-aatma-dhRtyoH (gen. dual. m.): being shaken from their usual state of self-command
calita: mfn. shaking , tremulous , unfixed ; moved from one's usual course , disturbed , disordered (the mind , senses , fortune , &c )
aatman: self
dhRti: f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting , firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command

bahuuni (nom./acc. pl. n.): many
varShaaNi (nom./acc. pl.): n. the rains; a year
babhuuva (3rd pers. sg. perfect bhuu): it was, there was
yuddham (nom./acc. sg.): n. battle , fight , war

kaH (nom. sg. m.): who? what man?
strii-nimittam (acc. sg. n.): because of a woman
nimitta: n. cause
na: not
calet = 3rd pers. sg. optative cal: to be moved, to be moved from one's usual course , be disturbed , become confused or disordered , go astray
iha: ind. here, in this world
anyaH (nom. sg. m.): a man who is different [from a god]

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