Monday, January 31, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.5: A Self-Professed Healer Speaks of Cure

atha duHkham idaM mano-mayaM
vada vakShyaami yad atra beShajaM
manaso hi rajas-tamasvino
bhiShajo 'dhyaatma-vidaH pariikShakaaH

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

But if this suffering is mental tell me,

And I will tell you the cure for it;

Because, for a mind shrouded in gloom and darkness,

The healer is a seeker who knows himself.

Ironically, again, the striver seems to be speaking profound truth of which he himself is ignorant.

Ashvaghosha's intention, as I suppose it, is that for a mind shrouded in gloom and darkness, truly, the healer may be a seeker who knows himself. But in that case the healer's name might be Gautama, for whom knowing himself was not only a question of understanding the psyche, but was a question of sitting in lotus day in and day out over many years, enjoying the samadhi of accepting and using the whole psychophysical self.

The striver, in contrast, seems to see himself, with no little self-conceit, as some kind of brilliant psycho-therapist who is able to tell others the cure for purely mental ills.

The title of Canto 9 is mad'-aapavaadaH, "Denunciation of Conceit," and the denouncer who does the denouncing is none other than the striver who is speaking in this verse. But when we look in Saundarananda for the character who best personifies conceit, who personifies conceit better than this striver, the very person who denounces it? Thus it ever was, in accordance with the eternal mirror principle.

If I add something from my own experience of seeking to know myself, all that I know, if I know anything, is that deep within myself I am wrong. And this wrongness is tied up with vestibular faults.

Sixteen years ago when I first came back to England with a view to training as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I visited an Alexander training school in southern England with a view to training there. At the end of the visit I was advised, very indirectly, that training as a teacher of the Alexander Technique was not for everybody, and for some people pyscho-therapy might be a good idea. My impression, rightly or wrongly, was that the heads of training at the school sensed that there was something wrong with me, as indeed there is, deeply, and that psycho-therapy might be part of the solution.

When I met FM Alexander's niece, Marjory Barlow, in contrast, her attitude towards me could not have been more different from the Alexander teachers who seemed to point me in the direction of psycho-therapy. Marjory's teaching was very much grounded in acceptance of being wrong. Marjory never advised me at all to seek the help of a psycho-therapist who might know the cure for a mental ill. Marjory constantly encouraged me to understand that being wrong is nothing to fear in Alexander work; rather "it is the best friend we have got."

Marjory, unlike the striver speaking in today's verse, could not have been less interested in finding a cure for mental suffering. "This technique is about prevention, that's all," she said. "We are not here to change anything, just to prevent what is happening that is unnecessary."

So much for Alexander's teaching. But what is the Buddha's teaching fundamentally about?

What do you think?

Is it about being right?

Or is it primarily about not doing wrong?

EH Johnston:
But if your suffering is mental, tell me and I shall expound its cure to you ; for the physician for minds which are the prey of the darkness of ignorance or of passion are those who know the soul from thorough investigation.

Linda Covill:
If it is mental suffering, tell me, and I will prescribe a remedy for it; for careful examiners who understand the psyche are doctors for minds filled with passion and dark ignorance.

atha: ind. now, then (an auspicious and inceptive particle, not easily expressed in English)
duHkham (nom. sg.): n. uneasiness , pain , sorrow , trouble , difficulty
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
mano-mayam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. consisting of spirit or mind , spiritual , mental

vada = 2nd pers. sg. imperative vad: to speak , say , utter , tell
vakShyaami = 1st pers. sg. future vac: to say, tell
yad (acc. sg. n.): that, which, what
atra: ind. in this matter
beShajam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. 1. bhiShaj) curing , healing , sanative ; n. a remedy , medicine , medicament , drug

manasaH (gen. sg.): n. mind
hi: for
rajas-tamas-vinaH (gen. sg. n.): characterized by cloudedness and darkness
rajas: n. " coloured or dim space " ; vapour , mist , clouds , gloom , dimness , darkness ; impurity , dirt , dust , any small particle of matter ; the " darkening " quality , passion , emotion
tamas: n. darkness , gloom
-vin: suffix meaning "characterized by"

bhiShajaH (nom. pl.): m. a healer , physician
adhyaatma-vidaH (nom. pl. m.): self-knowing
adhy-aatma: n. the Supreme Spirit ; mfn. own , belonging to self
adhy-aatmam: ind. concerning self or individual personality
vid: mfn. knowing , understanding , a knower (mostly ifc.)
pariikShakaaH (nom. pl.): m. a prover , examiner , judge
pari- √iikSh: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive

Sunday, January 30, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.4: The Sick Man Who Hides His Illness

tad iyaM yadi kaayikii rujaa
bhiShaje tuurNam anuunam ucyataaM
viniguhya hi rogam aaturo
naciraat tiivram an-artham Rcchati

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

So if this pain is physical

Be quick to tell a doctor all about it,

For when a sick man hides his illness

It turns before long into something serious.

Again the striver's view is, on the face of it, difficult to argue with. It seems perfectly reasonable.

Below the surface, however, the striver's unspoken (and possibly somewhat smug?) recognition is that Nanda's pain is mental, not physical. And Ashvaghosha's intention might be to invite us to examine whether this unspoken recognition is the whole truth, or not.

If we suspect that neither unthinking acceptance of dualism, nor repudiation of dualism, are the whole truth of the intention behind this verse, then we are required to dig deeper.

Marjory Barlow used to say, "We are all going round trying to be right."

Now if a person who was less experienced and less sincere than Marjory in the field of working on the self were to speak those words, my response might be: "Speak for your bloody self, mate!" But Marjory was indeed primarily speaking for herself. Because she saw it clearly in herself, she could see it in others.

When I dig deeper for the real meaning of today's verse, it relates to this problem that Marjory repeatedly came back to, the tendency of trying to be right. It is a tendency which, as I have many times observed in myself, is born of a deep-seated fear of being wrong. When I say "deep-seated" I mean deeply rooted not only in the unconscious ego but also in fear paralysis and the Moro reflex.

If we dig deep for the real meaning of today's verse, then, it may be that Ashvaghosha is inviting us to study, in the first person singular, the sick man who hides an illness which is not primarily psychological but which is rooted in vestibular faults.

And there might be other deeper levels of meaning too, whose surface (notwithstanding the sense that my Maserati does 185) I have not yet even scratched...

EH Johnston:
If therefore your disease is of the body, explain it promptly to a physician, holding nothing back ; for the sick man who conceals his illness falls into a worse calamity.

Linda Covill:
So if your illness is physical, tell a doctor all about it straightaway, because a sick man soon gets worse when he hides his illness.

tad: ind. then, so, therefore
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
yadi: if
kaayikii (nom. sg. f.): mfn. performed with the body , corporeal
rujaa (nom. sg.): f. breaking, fracture ; pain , sickness , disease

bhiShaje (dat. sg.): m. a healer , physician
tuurNam: ind. quickly , speedily
anuunam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. whole, entire
ucyataam (3rd. pers. sg. passive imperative vac): let him be told

viniguhya = abs. vi-ni- √ gu : to cover, conceal, hide
hi: for
rogam (acc. sg.): m. ( √1. ruj) " breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness
aaturaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. suffering , sick (in body or mind)

naciraat (abl. sg.): mfn. not long (in time)
tiivram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. strong , severe , violent , intense , hot , pervading , excessive , ardent , sharp , acute , pungent , horrible
an-artham (acc. sg.): m. non-value , a worthless or useless object ; disappointing occurrence , reverse , evil
Rcchati = 3rd pers. sg. R: to go , move , rise , tend upwards; to go towards , befall (with acc.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.3: My Maserati Does 185

dvi-vidhaa samudeti vedanaa
niyataM cetasi deha eva ca
dvi-vidhaa eva tayosh cikitsakaaH

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

Pain invariably arises in two ways:

In the mind and in the body.

And for those two kinds of pain,

There are healers skilled in education and in medicine.

The view expressed here might be seen as a reasonable statement of a self-evident truth -- for there are indeed still, in our modern civilization, those who specialize in the field of education (who we call "teachers") and those who specialize in the field of medicine (who we call "doctors"). And the pain that Nanda is presently suffering from is not the kind of physical pain -- from, say, testicular torsion or a flesh wound -- that requires prompt medical intervention.

A conception that is opposed to the striver's view, however, is as expressed here by FM Alexander (and quoted by me last month in my comment to 7.7):

"I must admit that when I began my investigation, I, in common with most people, conceived of 'body' and 'mind' as separate parts of the same organism, and consequently believed that human ills, difficulties, and shortcomings could be classified as either 'mental' or 'physical' and dealt with on specifically 'mental' or specifically 'physical' lines. My practical experiences, however, led me to abandon this point of view and readers of my books will be aware that the technique described in them is based on the opposite conception, namely, that it is impossible to separate 'mental' and 'physical' processes in any form of human activity."

So what, in the background to today's dualistic verse, was Ashvaghosha's own understanding and what was his practice?
Was it to sit in lotus with the body?
Or to sit in lotus with the mind?
Or was it to sit in lotus as abandonment of 'body' and 'mind'?

The reason I phrase this question like this now in English, about an ancient text written around 2000 years ago in Sanskrit, is that Dogen already answered the question 750 years ago in Japanese like this:

Sit in full lotus with the body.

Sit in full lotus with the mind.

Sit in full lotus as the dropping off of body and mind.

Using the Buddha's teaching to heal the mind is not (even if the striver in this verse thinks it is) the lifeblood of the buddha-ancestors. The lifeblood of the buddha-ancestors is just to sit in full lotus.

Because nothing need be added to the lifeblood, speaking for myself, I eschew membership of new-fangled samghas and Japanese sects, not to mention professional societies. Not belonging to any kind of "just sitting" club, I like when circumstances are favourable just to sit.

Gudo Nishijima taught me, very unskillfully, just to sit in lotus as "a kind of physical gymnastics."

FM Alexander, in contrast, described re-learning such simple acts as sitting and standing as "the most mental thing there is."

Just sitting, as Dogen as I understand him pointed to it, has to do with abandoning those opposing conceptions, the first of which is based on feeling, and the second of which is based on thinking.

"To abandon feeling and thinking" sounds like Gudo Nishijima's teaching but Gudo in fact maintained to the end a one-sided prejudice against thinking, and a blindness to the power of feeling. It is something of a bitter irony that my teacher devoted his life to promoting a teaching that, in practice, he was never able clearly to understand himself. When I tried, in my own unskillful and fearful way, to cause the old blighter to understand, he reacted to me as if I were his enemy.

The upshot of all this has been, on the bright side, circumstances that have been quite favourable for me to carry on doing my own thing.

I can't complain... but sometimes I still do...

EH Johnston:
Pain is defined as twofold according as it originates in the mind or in the body ; and so there are two kinds of physician for it, those skilled in the methods of the sacred lore and those expert in medical treatment.

Linda Covill:
Pain is of two kinds, arising either in the mind or in the body; and there are two kinds of physician, those learned in the prescription of their religious tradition and those skilled in medical practice.

dvi-vidhaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. two fold , of 2 kinds
dvi: two
vidhaa: f. division , part , portion (often ifc. = " fold ")
samudeti = 3rd pers. sg. sam-ud- √ i : to go upwards or rise up together , come together or prepare (for battle &c )
vedanaa (nom. sg.): f. pain , torture , agony

niyatam: ind. always , constantly , decidedly , inevitably , surely ; mfn. connected with , dependent on (loc.)
cetasi (loc. sg.): n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind
dehe (loc. sg.): m. the body
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

shruta-vidhy-upacaara-kovidaaH (nom. pl. m.): skilled in education and/or in medicine
shruta: mfn. heard , listened to , heard about or of , taught , mentioned , orally transmitted or communicated from age to age ; n. anything heard , that which has been heard (esp. from the beginning) , knowledge as heard by holy men and transmitted from generation to generation , oral tradition or revelation , sacred knowledge ; n. learning or teaching , instruction
vidhi: m. a rule , formula , injunction , ordinance , statute , precept , law , direction (esp. for the performance of a rite as given in the braahmaNa portion of the veda ); any act or action , performance , accomplishment , contrivance , work , business (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)
upacaara: m. approach , service , attendance ; mode of proceeding towards (gen.) , treatment ; attendance on a patient , medical practice , physicking
kovida: mfn. experienced , skilled , learned in

dvi-vidhaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. two fold , of 2 kinds
eva: (emphatic)
tayoH (gen. dual. m.): of/for those two
cikitsakaaH (nom. pl. m.); mfn. (fr. Desid. cit) a physician
cit: to attend to, to care for, to treat medically , cure

Friday, January 28, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.2: A Striver's Straight Talk

kim idaM mukham ashru-durdinaM
hRdaya-sthaM vivRNoti te tamaH
dhRtim ehi niyaccha vikriyaaM
na hi baaShpash ca shamash ca shobhate

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

"Why this tear-clouded face

That reveals a darkness in your heart?

Come back to constancy, restrain your emotion,

For tears and tranquillity do not go well together.

The ambiguity inherent in calling somebody "a striver" makes it difficult to decide, for the moment, whether Ashvaghosha is presenting these words as words of wisdom, or not.

Insofar as "a striver" means a diligent practitioner who knows constancy as the original state of practice, dhRtim ehi "come back to constancy," might be an encouragement to recognize what should be recognized.

Insofar as "a striver" means one who tends to try hard, to end-gain, rather than to calmly apply a means-whereby principle, dhRtim ehi, "get a grip!" might be a directive to do directly what cannot be done directly.

Leaving this ambiguity as it is for the moment, a parallel may at least be drawn between this striver and the august and eloquent lady-in-waiting who addressed Sundari from 6.38 (There was one there among them, however,/ The eldest in years, a highly regarded woman gifted with eloquence, / Who held Sundari from behind in a firm embrace / And, wiping away her tears, spoke these words: / "Grief ill becomes you, the wife of a royal seer, / When your husband has taken refuge in the dharma... Why at a time for rejoicing do you, in a state of consternation, weep?"). Both of these characters, however excellent and well-intentioned their words were, failed the pragmatic test of truth: their efforts didn't work. Even if they weren't afraid of cracking a few eggs, they ultimately failed to make an omelette.

The ambiguity inherent in the term shramaNa, "striver," thus brings the mind back to the wider question, which runs through Saundarananda, of ends and means.

The truth that one cannot make an omelette without cracking eggs is cited in support of the principle that "the end justifies the means" -- which might be called the end-gainer's charter. People say "you can't make an omelette without cracking a few eggs," when they think that a certain end which they wish to gain justifies means which might have undesirable side effects, or collateral damage.

Hearing on the radio a few days ago about a continuing debate in Britain regarding the merits of building of a memorial to the 55,573 men of Bomber Command who lost their lives in World War II, caused me to reflect that a doyen of Alexander work named Walter Carrington flew during WWII in bombing raids over Europe. It is difficult for us to imagine the mind-set that everybody, including eminent Alexander teachers, had at a time of total war.

The brand of end-gaining called tapas, painful ascetic practice, is like cracking eggs for the sake of it -- cracking eggs that cannot lead to the making of an omelette. That kind of end-gaining attitude, clearly, is not wise, since it does not lead to the realization of the purported end.

But is it fair to say that, when it came to separating Nanda from Sundari, and leading him away like a newly captured elephant, the Buddha himself was like an omelette-maker who was not afraid of cracking a few eggs?

EH Johnston:
'Surely the tear-clouds on your face reveal the darkness of ignorance in your heart. Master yourself, restrain your emotion, for tears and holy peace do not go together.

Linda Covill:
"Why this face clouded with tears, which reveal the dark ignorance abiding in your heart? Steady yourself, control your agitation, for tears and tranquillity do not sit well together.

kim: ind. what? how? whence? wherefore? why?
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
mukham (nom. sg.): n. face
ashru-durdinam (nom. sg. n.): clouded with tears
ashru: n. a tear
dur-dina: mfn. cloudy , rainy , dark
dur: badly , hardly ; slight , inferior &c
dina: a day

hRdaya-stham (acc. sg. n.): in your heart
hRdaya: n. the heart
stha: mfn. standing , staying , abiding , being situated in
vivRNoti = 3rd pers. sg. pres. vi- √ vR: to uncover , spread out , open , display , show , reveal , manifest
te (gen. sg.): in/of you
tamaH (acc. sg.): n. darkness, gloom ; mental darkness, ignorance

dhRtim (acc. sg.): f. holding; firmness , constancy
ehi = 2nd pers. imperative aa- √i: , to come near or towards , go near , approach ; (with and without punar) to come back , come again to ; to reach , attain , enter , come into (a state or position)
niyaccha = 2nd pers. imperative ni- √ yam: to stop (trans.) , hold back ; to hold in , keep down , restrain , control , govern , regulate (as breath , the voice , the organs of sense &c ) ; to suppress or conceal (one's nature)
vikriyaam (acc. sg.): f. transformation , change , modification , altered or unnatural condition ; change for the worse , deterioration , disfigurement , deformity ; ailment , indisposition , affection ; perturbation , agitation , perplexity

na: not
hi: for
baaShpaH (nom. sg.): m. a tear , tears
ca: and
shamaH (nom. sg.): m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity , quietude or quietism , absence of passion , abstraction from eternal objects through intense meditation ; peace
ca: and
shobhate = 3rd pers. sg. shubh: to beautify , embellish , adorn; (with na) to look bad , have a bad appearance , appear to disadvantage

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.1: A Striver Approaches, with Goodwill to All Men

atha nandam adhiira-locanaM
gRha-yaan'-otsukam utsuk'-otsukaM
abhigamya shivena cakShuShaa
shramaNaH kash cid uvaaca maitrayaa

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

while the unsteady-eyed Nanda was looking forward,

With the eagerest of eager expectations, to going home,

A certain striver with a benevolent air

Approached him and said, in a friendly way:


The striver who makes his appearance here is the protagonist of Cantos 8 and 9.

Dogen used "striver" (shramaNa) as a humble term to describe himself when he came back to Japan from China and wrote the original version of his rules of sitting-zen recommended to all (Fukan-zazengi). Dogen signed that work SHAMON DOGEN, the two Chinese characters SHA-MON being used to approximate the Sanskrit shramaNa.

It has become clear to us already that Ashvaghosha uses yogin (a practitioner, one who practises yoga) as a term of approbation -- as opposed to tapasvin (an ascetic, one who practises tapas). Whether Ashvaghosha is using shramaNa as a term of approbation, or not, will hopefully become clear over the course of attending to the next 113 verses.

On first reading of the 62 verses of the present Canto, the striver's views appear to be strikingly misogynistic. In 8.22, however, Ashvaghosha describes words spoken by this striver as gunavat, which the dictionary defines as "endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences, excellent, perfect."

Was Ashvaghosha affirming the words of the striver, saying that his words were excellent? Or was Ashvaghosha damning the striver with faint praise, saying that his words were well-intentioned; they contained (were not totally without) merit, (but...) ?

I raise the question, but do not yet have an answer one way or the other. There is nothing for it but to stagger blindly on into the unknown....

Having written this comment and slept on it, it occurs to me that whereas yogin, as Ashvaghosha uses it, is a term of approbation and tapasvin certainly is not, it may be Ashvaghosha's conscious intention to use shramaNa with a degree of ambiguity. This ambiguity, however, is not ambiguity of the order which accompanies the term tathaagata.

EH Johnston:
Then a certain disciple, going up benevolently with gracious mien to Nanda whose wavering look showed him to be so yearning to go home as to be all yearning, said to him :--

Linda Covill:
Then a certain ascetic with a gracious expression came up to Nanda, who with restless eyes was yearning with the very height of yearning to go home, and he said to him in a friendly way:

atha: ind. and so, then
nandam (acc. sg.): m. Nanda
a-dhiira-locanam (acc. sg. m.): with irresolute eye
dhiira: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
locana: n. " organ of sight " , the eye

gRha-yaan'-otsukam (acc. sg. m.): being eagerly desirous of going home
gRha: home
yaana: n. going
utsuka: mfn. anxiously desirous ; n. longing for , desire
utsuk'-otsukam (acc. sg. m.): being anxiously desirous in his anxious desire

abhigamya = abs. abhi- √ gam: to go near to , approach (with acc.)
shivena (inst. sg.): mfn. auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent , friendly , dear ; happy , fortunate
cakShuShaa (inst. sg.): n. the act of seeing ; n. aspect ; n. a look ; n. the eye

shramaNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. making effort or exertion ; m. one who performs acts of mortification or austerity , an ascetic , monk , devotee , religious mendicant ; m. a Buddhist monk or mendicant (also applied to buddha himself
kash cid: ind. someone, a certain
uvaaca = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vac: to speak
maitrayaa = inst. sg. f. maitra: mfn. coming from or given by or belonging to a friend , friendly , amicable , benevolent , affectionate , kind
maitrii: f. friendship , friendliness , benevolence , good will

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Canto 7: Nanda's Lament

Simple enjoyment of sitting-zen is by no means the end of Nanda's journey in Saundarananda, but it is an important stage on the way -- a station where many of us were able to make our first real connection with the Buddha's teaching. Ashvaghosha describes in Canto 17 how Nanda's sitting-meditation became joyful because desires and tainted things had ceased to impinge upon it. Now Canto 7 is titled "Nanda's Lament": ostensibly it is about Nanda. But what it mainly is, as I read it, is a demonstration of how the ascetic practice which was woven into the fabric of ancient Indian mythology is totally tied up with suppressed sexual desire and totally tainted by separation of means and end.

Bearing the insignia, then,
whose form was fixed by his teacher

-- Bearing it bodily but not mentally --

And being constantly carried off by thoughts of his wife,

Nanda whose name was joy was not joyful.

Amid the wealth of flowers of the month of flowers,

Assailed on all sides by the flower-bannered god of love,

And with feelings that are familiar to the young,

He stayed in a vihara but found no peace.

Standing, distraught, by a row of mango trees

Amid the numbing hum of hovering insects,

He with his long yoke-like arms
opened himself out forcefully,

As he thought of his beloved and stretched,
as if to draw a bow.

Receiving from the mango trees

A rain of tiny flowers like saffron powder,

He thought of his wife and heaved long sighs,

Like a newly-caught elephant shut in.

He who had been, for those who came seeking refuge,
an abater of sorrow,

And, for the conceited, a creator of sorrow,

Became, as he leant against a 'feel-no-sorrow' a-shoka tree, a sorrower:

He sorrowed for a lover of a-shoka groves,
his beloved wife.

A slender priyangu creeper, beloved by his beloved,

He noticed shying away, as if afraid,

And tearfully he remembered her,

His lover with her tearful face,
as pale as a priyangu flower.

Seeing a cuckoo hen perched

On the flower-covered crest of a tilaka tree,

He imagined his lover leaning against the watchtower,

Her tresses perching on her white blouse.

An ati-muktaka -- 'flowers whiter than pearls' --

Having attached itself to the side of a mango tree,
was thriving:

He surveyed the blossoming creeper and fretted

"When will Sundari cling to me like that?"

The yawning naga trees,
with flowerbuds for budding teeth

Erupting there like ivory caskets filled with gold,

Did not draw his anguished eye

Any more than if they had been desert scrub.

The gandha-parna trees
gave off their fragrance constantly,

As if they were a gandharva's good-time girls,
brimming with perfume,

But for one whose mind was elsewhere,
and who was sorrowful to the core,

They did not win the nose: they pained the heart.

Resounding with the throaty cries
of impassioned peacocks,

With the satisfied celebrating of cuckoos,

And with the relentless supping of nectar by bees,

The forest pressed in upon his mind.

As he burned there
with a fire risen from the fire board of his wife,

With ideas for smoke and darkest hell for flames,

As he burned in his innermost heart with a fire of desire,

Fortitude failed him and he uttered various laments:

"Now I understand what a very difficult thing

Those men have done, will do, and are doing

Who have walked, will walk, and are walking
the way of painful asceticism,

Leaving behind their tearful-faced lovers.

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.

For once cut or broken
-- by one's own strength or by the strength of friends --

Those bonds exist no more;

Whereas the fetter made of love,
except through wisdom and callousness,

Cannot be undone.

That wisdom which might make for peace
I do not have,

And being of a kindly nature I also lack toughness.

I am sensual by nature and yet the Buddha is my guru:

I am stuck as if inside a moving wheel.

For though I have adopted the beggar's insignia,

And am taught by one who is twice my guru,
as elder brother and enlightened sage,

In every circumstance I find no peace --

Like a ruddy sheldrake separated from its mate.

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!'

Again, the words the girl told me,

'Come back before my face-paint is dry,'

While her eyes were swimming with tears:

Those words even now block my mind.

This beggar by the mountain waterfall,

Since he meditates at ease,
having crossed his legs in the traditional manner,

Surely is not as attached to anybody as I am;

For he sits so calmly, looking satisfied.

Since, deaf to the cuckoos' chorus,

His eye never grazing upon the riches of spring,

This man concentrates intently upon the teaching

I suspect that no lover is tugging at his heart.

All credit to him who is firm in his resolve,

Who has turned back from curiosity and pride,

Who is at peace in himself, whose mind is turned inward,

Who while walking up and down
does not strive for anything...

... As he looks out over the lotus-festooned water

And the flowering forest where cuckoos come calling!

What man in the prime of youth
could keep such constancy

In the spring months which are, as it were,
dharma's rival?

With their way of being, their pride,
their way of moving, their grace;

With a smile or show of indignation,
with their exuberance, with their voices,

Women have carried off hosts of gods, kings, and seers:

How could they not throw a man like me?

For, overcome by desire,
the fire god Hiranya-retas, 'Golden Sperm,'

Succumbed to sex with his wife Svaha,
as did Indra 'The Bountiful' with nymph Ahalya;

All the more liable am I, a man,
lacking their strength and resolve,

To be overwhelmed by a woman!

Our tradition has it that the sun god Surya,
roused to passion for the dawn goddess Saranyu,

Let himself be diminished in order to enjoy her;

He became a stallion so as to cover her as a mare,

Whereby she conceived the two charioteers.

When the minds of the Sun's son Vaivasvata
and the 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?

And through desire the sage Vasistha,
most eminent among the upstanding,

Had his way with an outcaste
of a dog-cooking tribe, Aksha-mala,

To whom was born his son Kapinjalada,

An eater of earth and water to rival the Sun.

So too did the seer Parashara,
user of curses as arrows,

Enjoy sex with Kali,
who was born from the womb of a fish;

The son he conceived in her

Was the illustrious Dvaipayana,
classifier of the Vedas.

Dvaipayana, again,
while having dharma as his chief object,

Similarly enjoyed a woman at a brothel in Kashi;

When her foot struck him,
with its trembling ankle bracelet,

It was like a cloud being struck by a twist of lightning.

So too did brahma-begotten Angiras,
when his mind was seized by passion,

Enjoy sex with Sarasvati;

To her was born his son Sarasvata,

Who gave voice again to the lost Vedas.

Likewise Kashyapa,
at a sacrifice under the aegis of king-seer Dilipa,

While fixated upon a celestial nymph,

Took the ceremonial ladle and cast into the fire
his own streaming semen,

Whence Asita came into being.

Angada, similarly,
though he had gone to the ends of ascetic practice,

Went overwhelmed by desire to Yamuna

And in her he begat super-bright Rathitara,
'Super Charioteer,'

Friend of the spotted deer.

on catching sight of the princess Shanta, 'Tranquility,'

Though he had been living in tranquility in the forest,

The sage Rishya-shringa, 'Antelope Horn,'
was moved from steadfastness

Like a mountain with high horns in an earthquake.

And the son of Gadhin who,
in order to become 'the Brahman Seer,'

Renounced his kingdom,
having lost interest in sensual objects,
and retired to the forest:

He was captivated by the nymph Ghritachi,

Reckoning ten years with her as a single day.

So too, when hit by Love's arrow,

Did Sthula-shiras, 'Thick Head,'
lose his senses over Rambha.

He with his libidinous and wrathful nature was reckless:

When she refused him he cursed her.

And Ruru, after his beloved Pramadvara

Had been robbed of her senses by a snake,

Killed snakes wherever he saw them:

He failed, in his fury,
to maintain his reserve or his ascetic practice.

As a grandson of the hare-marked moon,
and as one marked by his own honour and virtue,

The son of 'The Learned' Budha and goddess Ida
had the special powers of the lunar and the very learned;

But thinking of the apsaras Urvashi,

This royal seer, similarly, went mad.

And when 'Long Shanks' Tala-jangha,
on top of a mountain,

Was reddened, in his libidinousness,
with passion for nymph Menaka,

From the foot of 'All Beneficent' Vishva-vasu
he got an angry kick

Like a thunderbolt striking a hin-tala palm.

When his favourite wife drowned
in the waters of the Ganges,

King Jahnu, his mind possessed by disembodied Love,

Stopped the Ganges with his arms,

Like Mount Mainaka, paragon of non-movement.

And King 'Good Body' Shan-tanu,
when separated from goddess Ganga,

Shook like a shala tree
whose roots the Ganges was washing away:

The son of Pratipa and light of his family,

He of the body beautiful, became uncontrollable.

Again, when the avatar Saunandakin
took away his 'Wide Expanse' Urvashi,

The wife whom, like the wide earth,
Soma-varman had made his own,

'Moon-Armoured' Soma-varman whose armour,
so they say, had been good conduct,

Roamed about grieving,
his armour pierced by mind-existent Love.

A king who followed his dead wife in death

Was 'Dreaded' Bhimika
-- he who was dread power on earth;

He who was famed, because of his military might,
as Senaka, 'War Missile';

He who was, with his war machine, like the god of war.

when Kali's husband Shan-tanu had gone to heaven,

Jana-mejaya, 'Causer of Trembling among Men,'
in his desire to marry Kali,

Came up against Bhishma 'the Terrible,'
and received death from him

Rather than give up his love for her.

And Pandu 'the Pale,' having been cursed by Passion

To die on coupling with a woman,

Still went with Madri:
he did not heed the death
that would result from the great seer's curse

When he tasted what he was forbidden to taste.

Hordes of gods, kings, and seers such as these

Have fallen by dint of desire into the thrall of women.

Being weak in understanding and inner strength,

All the more discouraged,
when I do not see my beloved, am I.

Therefore I shall go right back home again

And make love properly, as I please!

For the insignia do not sit well

Upon a backslider from the path of dharma,
whose senses are restless and whose mind is elsewhere.

When a man has taken the bowl in his hand,
shaved his head,

And, putting aside pride, donned the patched-together robe,

And yet he is given to pleasure
and lacking in firmness and tranquility,

Like a lamp in a picture, he is there and yet is not.

When a man has gone forth,
but the red taint of desire has not gone forth from him;

When he wears the earth-hued robe
but has not transcended dirt;

When he carries the bowl
but is not a vessel for the virtues;

Though he bears the insignia,
he is neither a householder nor a beggar.

I had thought it improper
for a man with noble connections,

Having adopted the insignia, to discard them again:

But that scruple also fades away,
when I think about those royal heroes

Who abandoned an ascetic grove and went home.

For the Shalva king, along with his son;
and likewise Ambarisha

And Rama and Andha, and Rantideva son of Samkriti

Cast off their rags
and clothed themselves again in fine fabrics;

They cut off their twisted dreadlocks and put on crowns.

Therefore as soon my guru has gone from here
to beg for alms

I will give up the ochre robe and go from here
to my home;

Because, for a man who bears the honoured insignia
with stammering mind, impaired judgement
and weakened resolve,

There might exist no ulterior purpose
nor even this present world of living beings."

The 7th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "Nanda's Lament."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.52: A Wish to Flee From Here

tasmaad bhikSh'-aarthaM mama-gurur ito yaavad eva prayaatas
tyaktvaa kaaShaayaM gRham aham itas taavad eva prayaasye
puujyaM liNgaM hi skhalita-manaso bibhrataH kliShTa-buddher
n' aamutr' aarthaH syaad upahata-mater n' aapy ayaM jiiva-lokaH

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

saundaranande mahaa-kaavye
nanda-vilaapo naama saptamaH sargaH

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

Therefore as soon my guru has gone from here
to beg for alms

I will give up the ochre robe and go from here
to my home;

Because, for a man who bears the honoured insignia
with stammering mind, impaired judgement
and weakened resolve,

There might exist no ulterior purpose
nor even this present world of living beings."

The 7th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "Nanda's Lament."

These words with which Nanda concludes this Canto have the form of a decision, but not the content of a decision. They are rather the expression of an idea, or a wish not to be here. As such, they seem to echo the doubt Nanda expressed in 7.48, when he compared himself to a lamp in a picture, being there and yet not really being there -- a truly lamentable condition which, in the first half of the 20th century, Jean-Paul Sartre was painfully aware of.

Meanwhile in England the non-philosopher FM Alexander, on his days off from his ulterior purpose of teaching, was enthusiastically enjoying his favourite past-time of days out at the races. As FM's niece Marjory Barlow reported, "FM certainly knew how to enjoy himself!"

My younger son, like his dad and his paternal grandfather in younger years, likes learning foreign languages and likes playing team sport -- football in my son's case, whereas it was rugby for me and my father. I mention this because my son is doing an A level in French and so is required to read The Plague by Albert Camus -- one of whose themes is the human solidarity which Camus purportedly learned about primarily on the sports field, playing in goal for Racing Universitaire d'Alger. Camus is quoted on Wikipedia as saying: "After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA."

What I observe in my son is that whereas he enjoys playing football with his mates, he finds having to read The Plague an absolute pain in the backside. So much for existentialism.

EH Johnston:
Therefore while my Guru is away begging, I will give up the mendicant's robe and go home at once from here ; for the man who bears the honoured symbols with wavering mind and sin-fuddled understanding and whose judgement is impaired has nothing to expect in the next existence and has no part even in the world of living beings.'

Linda Covill:
So while my guru is away on his alms-round, I will put aside the ochre robe and go home, for a man bearing the honoured marks of a monk while his thoughts are wavering, his reasoning impaired and his mind infatuated has no purpose in the next world, nor does he even have this world of living creatures.

End of Canto 7: Nanda's Lament

tasmaat: ind. from that, therefore
bhikSh'-aartham (acc. sg. n.): for the purpose of begging
bhikShaa: f. the act of begging or asking
artha: purpose, aim
mama-guruH (nom. sg. m.): my guru
itaH: ind. from here
yaavat: ind (correlative of taavat) whilst, as soon as
eva: (emphatic)
prayaataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. set out , gone , advanced

tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to give up, set aside
kaaShaayam (acc. sg.): n. a brown-red cloth or garment
gRham (acc. sg.): mn. house, home
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
itaH: ind. from here
taavat: ind. ind. so long , in that time; at once
eva: (emphatic)
prayaasye = 1st pers. sg. future pra- √ yaa: to go forth, set out ; go or repair to (acc.)

puujyam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. (= puujaniiya) to be revered or worshipped , venerable , honourable
liNgam (acc. sg.): n. a mark , spot , sign , token , badge , emblem ; guise
hi: for
skhalita-manasaH (gen. sg. m.): of stammering mind
skhalita: mfn. stumbling , tripping , unsteady (as a gait) ; intoxicated , drunk ; stammering , faltering (speech) ; stopped , checked , obstructed , impeded , interrupted , frustrated , baffled ;
skhal: to stumble , trip , totter , waver , fluctuate ; to stammer; to err
manas: n. mind
bibhrataH = gen. sg. m. pres. part. bhR: to bear
kliShTa-buddheH (gen. sg. m.):
kliShTa: mfn. molested , tormented , afflicted , distressed ; wearied , hurt , injured , being in bad condition , worn
klish: to torment , trouble , molest , cause pain , afflict
buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement

na: not
amutra: ind. there ; there above i.e. in the other world , in the life to come ; there i.e. in what precedes or has been said
arthaH (nom. sg.): m. aim , purpose; advantage , use , utility
syaat = 3rd pers. sg. optative as: to be
upahata-mateH (gen. sg. m.):
upahata: mfn. hit , hurt , damaged , injured , visited , afflicted , pained , infected ; affected , transported (with passion) ; seduced , misled ; distressed , weakened , discouraged
upa- √ han: to beat; to hit , hurt , damage , visit , afflict , impede , spoil
mati: f. devotion ; thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire ; the mind , perception , understanding , intelligence , sense , judgement
na: not
api: also
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker ; known , present
jiiva-lokaH (nom. sg. m.): the world of living beings (opposed to that of the deceased) , living beings , mankind
jiiva: m. any living being
loka: m. world

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye (loc.): in the epic poem Handsome Nanda
nanda-vilaapaH (nom. sg. m.): Nanda's lament
vilaapa: m. lament
vi- √ lap: to utter moaning sounds , wail , lament
naama: ind. by name
saptamaH sargaH (nom. sg. m.): 7th canto

Monday, January 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.51: No Wheat, Just Chaff

shaalv'-aadhipo hi sa-suto' pi tath" aambariiSho
raamo' ndha eva sa ca saaMkRti-rantidevaH
ciiraaNy apaasya dadhire punar aMshukaani
chittvaa jaTaash ca kutilaa mukaTaani babhruH

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

For the Shalva king, along with his son;
and likewise Ambarisha

And Rama and Andha, and Rantideva son of Samkriti

Cast off their rags
and clothed themselves again in fine fabrics;

They cut off their twisted dreadlocks and put on crowns.

In Canto 17 Ashvaghosha describes sitting-zen as characterized by indifference and full awareness. But before that it is characterized by supreme ease. And before that it is characterized by profound joy. But before all of this, there is freedom from desires and tainted things.

Before enjoyment of daily bread, in other words, there has to be grinding of flour, and before that there has to be sorting out of wheat from chaff. And this sorting out of chaff requires us to know what chaff is.

The Shalva king was a noted enemy of Vishnu, whose pseudonyms include "Shalva's enemy." Ambarisha was a royal seer (raajarShi), as presumably were Rama and Andha.

The salient point about Rantideva might be that he spent his riches in performing grand sacrifices and the blood which issued from the bodies of the slaughtered victims was changed into a river called charmaN-vatii "furnished with hides" or (according to Wikipedia) "the river on whose banks leather is dried." It is the modern River Chambal.

Ranti-deva might have been a right royal hero in the field of animal sacrifice, but as such he was hardly a sparkling role model for the true, untainted practice of yoga for the sake of yoga.

Nanda's mind at this stage of his journey seems to be filled with irrelevancies. What have either tattered rags or fine fabrics got to do with the Buddha-robe? What has the wearing either of dreadlocks or of royal diadems got to do with the practice of shaving the head?

Why has it been necessary for us in this Canto, for the sake of so little wheat, to sift through so much chaff?

One answer might be that, in bequeathing to us the words he bequeathed to us, and explicitly asking us (in the closing words of the poem), to sort the wheat from the chaff, Ashvaghosha was conscious that the Buddha's wheat is truly beyond our ability to know it. But ancient Indian chaff we can know. And in this Canto we have got to know it, through Nanda's eyes which are both sympathetic to 'the Brahmanical tradition' and as yet deluded with regard to the Buddha's teaching.

As one begins to understand what Ashvaghosha was really up to, one can only marvel at the skilfulness and indirectness of his approach -- so different from the provocative style of less enlightened latter day champions of non-end-gaining.

What is the method to practice the yoga that the Buddha describes to Nanda in Canto 16? I do not know. But one thing has emerged clearly from these opening cantos: the yoga of the Buddha is not the kind of ascetic practice that, in 'the Brahmanical tradition' was called tapas.

EH Johnston:
For instance, the king of the Shalvas with his son, Ambarisha, Rama Andha, and Antideva the Sankrti, putting off the hermits' apparel, resumed the ordinary garb of the world and, cutting off the twisted braids, wore the regal tiara again.

Linda Covill:
For the king of the Shalvas, and his son, likewise Ambarisha, Rama, Andha and Ranti-deva son of Sankriti discarded the bark cloth of an ascetic and put on fine muslim again, and cutting off their matted locks bore the diadem once more.

shaalv'-aadhipaH (nom. sg. m.): the king of the Shalvas
shaalva: m. pl. N. of a people ; m. sg. a king of the shaalvas (mentioned among the enemies of viShNu ; cf. shaalv'aari below)
shaalv'aari: m. " enemy of shaalva " , N. of viShNu
adhipa: m. a ruler , commander , regent , king
hi: for
sa-sutaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a son , together with sons or children
api: also
tathaa: ind. likewise
ambariiShaH (nom. sg. m.): m. a frying pan; m. the sun ; m. name of a raajarShi (son of the king Vrishagir , and composer of the hymns RV. i , 100 and ix , 98) RV. i , 100 , 17, of a descendant of manu vaivasvata and son of naabhaaga (celebrated for his devotion to viShNu) of a raajarShi (descendant of sagara and ancestor of dasharatha)

raamaH (nom. sg.): m. N. of various mythical personages
andhaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. blind; m. pl. N. of a people
eva (emphatic)
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
ca: and
saaMkRti-rantidevaH (nom. sg. m.): Rantideva, son of Sankriti
saaMkRti: m. (fr. saM-kRti) patr. of a sage (son of vishvaamitra and founder of the vaiyaaghrapadya family)
rantideva: m. name of a king of the lunar race (son of saMkRti ; he spent his riches in performing grand sacrifices and the blood which issued from the bodies of the slaughtered victims was changed into a river called charmaN-vatii)

ciiraaNi (acc. pl.): n. a strip , long narrow piece of bark or of cloth , rag , tatter , clothes ; the dress of a Buddhist monk
apaasya = abs. apa + √as: to fling away , throw away or off , discard ; to leave behind
dadhire = 3rd pers. pl. perfect dhaa: to put , place ; to wear, put on (clothes)
punar: ind. again
aMshukaani (acc. pl.): n. fine or white cloth , muslin

chittvaa = abs. chid: to cut off
jaTaaH (acc. pl.): f. the hair twisted together (as worn by ascetics , by shiva , and persons in mourning)
ca: and
kutilaaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. bent , crooked , curved , round , running in curved lines , crisped , curled
mukaTaani (acc. pl. n.): mn. a tiara , diadem , crown
babhruH = 3rd pers. pl. perfect bhR: to bear

Sunday, January 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.50: Snobbish Scruples

na nyaayyam anvayavataH parigRhya liNgaM
bhuuyo vimoktum iti yo 'pi hi me vicaaraH
so 'pi praNashyati vicintya nRpa-praviiraaMs
taan ye tapo-vanam apaasya gRhaaNy atiiyuH

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

I had thought it improper
for a man with noble connections,

Having adopted the insignia, to discard them again:

But that scruple also fades away,
when I think about those royal heroes

Who abandoned an ascetic grove and went home.

"Noble" in line 1 is understood -- Nanda does not refer directly to his own royal pedigree, he only talks generally about what is improper for a man with connections. Is Ashvaghosha thus portraying Nanda's manner of thinking as the kind of modesty which is conducive to the practice of true yoga? Or as the kind of unspoken snobbery which is not?

I think maybe the latter.

We are told at the beginning of Canto 11 that handsome Nanda became extremely ugly (vairuupyam agamat param; 11.6) as a result of worry about celestial nymphs, and protracted self-restraint. In this verse, as I read it, the seed of such ugliness is already evident in Nanda's manner of thinking.

A shaved head, robe and bowl have got absolutely nothing to do with aristocratic connections or with the kind of ascetic practice that royal heroes practised in their ascetic groves.

Equally, Nanda's snobbish scruples have got nothing to do with true yoga, which might be yoga practised purely for the sake of true yoga itself -- not yoga that is practised with a view to social propriety.

You may be a veteran Zazen practitioner who bears the insignia, but if your practice is tainted, by snobbish scruples and the like, then I can't hold you in very high regard -- even if you are the possessor of the shaven-headed mug looking back at me in the mirror.

Nanda in his present deluded state speaks of having [noble/royal] connections. The Buddha, in contrast, will later tell Nanda (in 15.35) that we are all like grains of sand in a clenched fist, held together only by cause and effect.

EH Johnston:
For my thought also that it would not be proper for a man of good family to give up the badges once put on carries no weight, when I think of the royal heroes who gave up the groves of asceticism and returned to their homes.

Linda Covill:
When I think of those royal heroes who left the ascetics' grove behind and went home, I also revise my opinion that it is not right for a nobly-born man to discard the signs of a monk once they have been adopted.

na: not
nyaayyam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. regular , customary , usual , correct , right , fit , proper (often with an infin. which then has a pass. sense)
anvayavataH (gen. sg. m.): mfn. having a connection ; belonging to a race or family
anvaya: m. following ; connection
-vat: (possessive suffix)
parigRhya = abs. pari- √ grah: to take hold of on both sides ; to put on , wear (as a dress or ornament) ; to take or carry along with one
liNgam (acc. sg.): the insignia, bhikShu's uniform

bhuuyaH: ind. still more , moreover, further on; once more, again
vimoktum = inf. vi- √ muc: to unloose , unharness ; to take off (clothes , ornaments &c )
iti: "....," thus
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
hi: for
me (gen. sg.): my
vicaaraH (nom. sg. m.): m. pondering , deliberation , consideration , reflection , examination , investigation ; doubt , hesitation; discussion
vi- √ car: to move in different directions; to move hither and thither (in the mind) , ponder , reflect , consider

saH (nom. sg. m.): it
api: also, even
praNashyati = 3rd pers. sg. pra-Nash: to be lost , disappear , vanish
vicintya = abs. vi- √ cint: to think of , reflect upon , ponder , consider ,
nRpa-praviiraan (acc. pl. m.): royal heroes
nRpa: m. protector of men , prince , king
pra-viira: mfn. preceding or surpassing heroes ; m. a hero , prince , chief among (gen. or comp.)

taan (acc. pl. m.): those
ye (nom. pl. m.): who
tapo-vanam (acc. sg. n.): a grove in which religious austerities are performed
apaasya = abs. apa √as: to fling away , throw away or off , discard ; to leave behind ;
gRhaaNi (acc. pl.): n. home
atiiyuH = 3rd pers. pl. perfect ati-√i: to pass by ; to enter

Saturday, January 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.49: Indulging in Self-Doubt

yo niHsRtash ca na ca niHsRta-kaama-raagaH
kaaShaayam udvahati yo na ca niShkaShaayaH
paatram bibharti ca guNair na ca paatra-bhuuto
liNgaM vahann api sa n'aiva gRhii na bhikShuH

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

When a man has gone forth,
but the red taint of desire has not gone forth from him;

When he wears the earth-hued robe
but has not transcended dirt;

When he carries the bowl
but is not a vessel for the virtues;

Though he bears the insignia,
he is neither a householder nor a beggar.

In line 1 going forth is synonymous with shaving the head and so the three elements of this verse, again, are the three "insignia" (liNgam); namely, shaved head, robe, and bowl.

What Nanda is doing here, in referring to the three insignia, is indulging himself in doubt.

Doing work such as translation work like this, is a way of transcending such doubt -- because the direction of it is inherently right, and so just in the doing of it, it doesn't matter who I am.

But if we reflect on what the original teaching of the Buddha was, there might be a still more fundamental way to transcend doubt, and that is by the not doing of wrong.

So if we are able, even if only for a moment of sitting in lotus, not to stiffen the neck unduly, not to pull the head back or down, not to restrict our breathing by shortening the spine and narrowing the back, while not pulling the pelvis and legs into each other -- then that might truly be a moment of realizing the Buddha's original teaching, irrespective of who we are.

So looking into the mirror of Nanda, I would like to tell him to man up, you big girl's blouse, and stop worrying about who you are. It's not about being something. If the idea of being something or not being something is causing you to fret, then give up the idea of being something, and get on with doing something, or not doing something.

EH Johnston:
He who has gone out (as a mendicant) but from whom the passions have not gone out, who wears the earth-coloured robe but has not taken off the robe of sin, who carries the beggar's vessel and yet has not become a vessel of virtue, is, despite the insignia he wears, neither a householder nor a mendicant.

Linda Covill:
And a man who has departed from the household life, but from whom desire and passion have not departed, who wears the earth-hued robe but is not dirt-free, who carries a bowl but has not become a vessel of goodness -- though he bears the marks of a monk, such a one is neither monk nor householder.

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
niHsRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone out or forth , departed
niH- √ sR: to go out , come forth , depart , withdraw
ca-na ca: though - yet not
niHsRta-kaama-raagaH (nom. sg. m.): the redness of desire being not gone out
niHsRta: gone out
kaama: m. desire; love , especially sexual love or sensuality,
raaga: m. dye , (esp.) red colour , redness ; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love

kaaShaayam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. kaShaaya) , brown-red , dyed of a reddish colour ; n. a brown-red cloth or garment
kaShaaya: mfn. astringent ; red , dull red , yellowish red (as the garment of a Buddhist bhikShu) ; mn. a yellowish red colour ; mn. dirt , filth ; mn. dulness , stupidity ; n. a dull or yellowish red garment or robe
udvahati = 3rd pers. sg. present ud- √ vah: to bear (a weight or burden) , wear (clothes &c )
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
na: not
ca: and
niSh-kaShaayaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. free from dirt or impure passions
niSh: ind. out , forth , away & (as a prefix it has the sense , " out of " , " away from " or that of a privative or negative adverb " without " , " destitute of " , " free from ")

paatram (acc. sg.): n. the bowl ; any vessel or receptacle; (met.) a capable or competent person , an adept in , master of (gen.) , any one worthy of or fit for or abounding in (gen. loc. , inf. or comp.)
bibharti = 3rd pers. sg. bhR: to bear , carry , hold
ca: and
guNaiH (inst. st.): m. good qualities, merits, virtues
na: not
ca: and
paatra-bhuutaH (nom. sg. m.): constituting a vessel
paatra: n. bowl, vessel
bhuuta: mfn. become ; (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of

liNgam (acc. sg.): n. a mark , spot , sign , token , badge , emblem; any assumed or false badge or mark , guise , disguise
vahan = nom. sg. m. pres. part vah: to carry, to wear
api: though
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
na: not
eva (emphatic)
gRhii (nom. sg. m.): mfn. possessing a house ; m. the master of a house , householder
na: not
bhikShuH (nom. sg. m.): m. a beggar , mendicant , religious mendicant (esp. a Brahman in the fourth aashrama or period of his life , when he subsists entirely on alms) ; a Buddhist mendicant or monk

Friday, January 21, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.48: Existentialist Angst

paaNau kapaalam avadhaaya vidhaaya mauNDyaM
maanaM nidhaaya vikRtaM paridhaaya vaasaH
yasy' oddhavo na dhRtir asti na shaantir asti
citra-pradiipa iva so' sti ca n' aasti c' aiva

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

When a man has taken the bowl in his hand,
shaved his head,

And, putting aside pride, donned the rag-patched robe,

And yet he is given to pleasure
and lacking in firmness and tranquillity,

Like a lamp in a picture, he is there and yet is not.

When mentioned is made, as it is several times in this and the next Canto, of the insignia (liNgam) what is being referred to is essentially these three elements: bowl, shaved head, and robe.

This verse has to do with a sense of inauthenticity in response to which one tendency is to want to feel more authentic and to try to be more authentic.

One might, for example, hurry over to Paris with a copy under one's arm of Sartre's Being & Nothingness and sit drinking coffee in some left-bank cafe. Or one could get on a plane to Japan and go to Kyoto and stand gawping with gaggles of other tourists in Zen rock gardens. Or book a lesson with an Alexander teacher of high repute. Or hurry off to practise a so-called sesshin with some supposed Zen master.

But if one is able to give up such trying for a moment, then another possibility emerges -- namely, instead of end-gaining to be present, just being present to one's own end-gaining.

EH Johnston:
He who, taking the beggar's bowl in his hand, shaving his head, laying aside his pride and wearing the sad-coloured robes, is prone to excitement and devoid of self-restraint, and tranquillity, is a mendicant in appearance only and not in reality, like a lamp in a picture.

Linda Covill:
He who has taken the alms-bowl in his hand, who has shaved his head, who has put aside pride and put on different clothing, but who is frivolous and lacking in earnestness and tranquillity -- he, like a lamp in a picture, is not really real.

paaNau (loc. sg.): m. the hand
kapaalam (acc. sg.): mn. ( √kamp, to shake), a cup , jar , dish ; the alms-bowl of a beggar
avadhaaya = abs. ava- √ dhaa: to place down, deposit
vidhaaya = abs. vi- √ dhaa: to furnish , supply; put in order, make ready
mauNDyam (acc. sg.): n. shaving the head , tonsure , baldness

maanam (acc. sg.): m. opinion , notion , conception , idea ; self-conceit , arrogance , pride
nidhaaya = abs. ni- √ dhaa: to put or lay down ; to keep down , restrain ; to end, close
vikRtam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. transformed , altered , changed &c ; (esp.) deformed , disfigured , mutilated , maimed , unnatural , strange , extraordinary
vi- √ kR: to make different , transform , change the shape (or the mind) , cause to alter or change (esp. for the worse) , deprave , pervert , spoil , impair
paridhaaya = abs. pari-√ dhaa: to put on , wear
vaasaH (acc. sg.): n. cloth , clothes , dress , a garment

yasya (gen. sg.): in/of who
uddhavaH (nom. sg.): m. ( √hu) , sacrificial fire ; holiday; joy , pleasure
na: not
dhRtiH (nom. sg.): f. firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command
asti (3rd pers. sg. as): there is; it/he exists
na: not
shaantiH (nom. sg.): f. tranquillity , peace , quiet
asti: there is

citra-pradiipaH (nom. sg. m.): a lamp in a picture
citra: n. a picture , sketch , delineation
pradiipa: m. a light , lamp , lantern
iva: like
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
asti: exists
ca-na ca: though - yet not
asti: exists
eva: (emphatic)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.47: Worrying about Worthiness to Wear the Insignia

yaasyaami tasmaad gRham eva bhuuyaH
kaamaM kariShye vidhivat sa-kaamaM
na hy anya-cittasya cal'-endriyasya
liNgaM kShamaM dharma-pathaac cyutasya

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Therefore I shall go right back home again

And make love properly, as I please!

For the insignia do not sit well

Upon a backslider from the path of dharma,
whose senses are restless and whose mind is elsewhere.

This kind of worrying about worthiness to wear the insignia might be the hallmark of being worthy to wear the insignia.

In her tireless effort to liberate her pupil from the tendency to try to be right, Marjory Barlow once said to me: "You are an inveterate worrier, aren't you." She paused and added, "I know, because I am too." The point I took from this is that it is OK to be a worrier. Don't worry about being a worrier.

"The insignia" is a translation of liNgam, which might otherwise be translated as "the uniform of a wandering mendicant who follows the Buddha's teaching." Its three essential elements are robe, bowl, and shaved head -- a not totally perfect example of one of which is shown left, courtesy of my wife who has just taken the pictures in our back garden.

However and wherever one ends up following the Buddha's teaching, there might be many merits in maintaining this insignia of a shaved head. In the mental sphere, one's mind is spared the stress of decisions about which hair-style, what barber, et cetera. In the material sphere, there is no need to spend money on hair-cuts as well as shampoo and other hair-care products. In the social sphere, by the absence of matted locks one shows oneself not to be a follower of Brahmanism, Rastafarianism, and the like. But above all to shave the head every few days is regular practice -- not tapas, but yoga, work in progress.

What we are studying is the difference between tapas, and yoga for the sake of yoga.

True practice of yoga for the sake of yoga depends on clear understanding of what end-gaining is, and on regular daily practice of not doing it.

That is what this blog is all about, as continuing work in progress.

EH Johnston:
I will therefore go home again and practise love at my will in due form ; for the mendicant's symbols are not suited to one who in the restlessness of his senses ever thinks of another and has lapsed from the path of the Law.

Linda Covill:
Therefore I will go home again, and make love legitimately, as I please. For the insignia of a monk are inappropriate for one of restless senses, whose mind is elsewhere, and who has slipped from the path of dharma.

yaasyaami = 1st. pers. sg. future yaa: to go
tasmaat: ind. from that, therefore
gRham (acc. sg.): mn. house, home
eva: (emphatic)
bhuuyaH: ind. again

kaamam (acc. sg.): m. desire; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
kariShye = 1st pers. sg. future kR: to do, make
vidhivat: ind. according to rule , duly
sa-kaamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. satisfying desires ; having one's wishes fulfilled , satisfied , contented ; acting on purpose or with free will ; full of love

na: not
hi: for
anya-cittasya (gen. sg.): mfn. whose mind is fixed on some one or something else.
cal'-endriyasya (gen. sg.): mfn. having unsteady organs
cala: mfn. moving, restless, unsteady
indirya: n. power of the senses

liNgam (nom. sg.): n. a mark , spot , sign , token , badge , emblem ; any assumed or false badge or mark , guise , disguise
kShamam (nom. sg. n.): fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen.)
dharma-pathaat (abl. sg.): from the path of dharma
cyutasya (gen. sg.): mfn. gone away from (abl.) ; deviated from

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.46: Being Discouraged by False Heroes

evaM-vidhaa deva-nRpa'-rShi-saNghaaH
striiNaaM vashaM kaama-vashena jagmuH
dhiyaa ca saarena ca dur-balaH san
priyaam a-pashyan kim u viklavo 'ham

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

Hordes of gods, kings, and seers such as these

Have fallen by dint of desire into the thrall of women.

Being weak in understanding and inner strength,

All the more discouraged,
when I do not see my beloved, am I.

Ashvaghosha wrote Saundarananda in such a way as to invite the view that, as a man of his own Indian culture and a man of an epoch that was less enlightened in regard to sexual equality, he was sympathetic to Brahmanism and antipathetic towards women.

The truth might be very different from this view.

Saundarananda as I read it, right from the opening verses of Canto 1, contains an implicit attack not on women but on Brahmanism. The attack, however, is skilfully disguised and very indirect, with ample utilization of irony.

It is because the attack on Brahmanism is so skilfully disguised, and so full of irony, that a professor of Sanskrit and Indian religions can make the totally absurd statement that "Ashvaghosha sought to present Buddhism as an integral part of Brahmanism."

Ashvaghosha's real intention, as I read it, is indicated by two long lists, like two sides of a giant dumbell. In the 21 verses from 7.25 to 7.45, Nanda has weighed in with his long list of ancient Indian gods, kings and seers, all of whom failed by dint of enemy number one of the ascetic end-gainer, namely, love of women. This list by which Nanda has discouraged himself is counter-balanced in Canto 16 by the Buddha's citing of numerous individual real human beings who found peace by working to a means-whereby principle. And the Buddha's encouraging list of heroes, it might be noted, contains "the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda" -- true heroes not of tapas but of yoga who were, to state the obvious, women.

These salubrious wilds that surround us

Are suited to practice and not thronged with people.

Furnishing the body with ample solitude,

Cut a path for abandoning the afflictions.

Kaundinya, Nanda, Krimila, Aniruddha,

Tishya, Upasena, Vimala and Radha,

Vashpa, Uttara, Dhautaki, Moha-raja,

Katyayana, Dravya, Pilinda-vatsa,

Bhaddali, Bhadrayana, Sarpa-dasa,

Subhuti, Go-datta, Sujata, Vatsa,

Sangramajit, Bhadrajit, and Ashvajit,

Shrona and Shona Kotikarna,

Kshema, Ajita, the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda,

Upali, Vagisha, Yashas, Yashoda,

Mahahvaya, Valkalin, Rashtra-pala,

Sudarshana, Svagata and Meghika,

Kapphina, Kashyapa of Uruvilva,

The great Maha-kashyapa, Tishya, Nanda,

Purna and Purna as well as Purnaka

And Purna Shonaparanta,

The son of Sharadvati, Subahu, Chunda,

Kondeya, Kapya, Bhrigu, Kuntha-dhana,

Plus Shaivala, Revata and Kaushthila,

And he of the Maudgalya clan and Gavam-pati --

The courage they have shown in their practice,

Be quick to show the same, working to principle.

Then you will assuredly realise the step that they took

And the splendour that adorns those ease-filled ones.

The word "practice" in 16.92, I would like to emphasize, is yoga. Not tapas, which means ascetic practice in which means and end are divided, but yoga, just practice.

EH Johnston:
Such numbers of divine and royal seers were dominated by women under the power of love ; how much more then should I, who am weak in intelligence and energy, be miserable when I do not see my mistress ?

Linda Covill:
Many such divine and royal seers fell to women's will under the force of lust. I am weak in wisdom and inner strength; how much more despairing am I when I can't see my darling?

evaM-vidhaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. of such a kind , in such a form or manner , such
evam: ind. such
vidha: kind
deva: mfn. divine ; m. deity, god
nRpa: m. protector of men , prince , king
RShi: m. seer
saNgha: m. (fr. sam + √ han) " close contact or combination " , any collection or assemblage , heap , multitude , quantity , crowd , host , number (generally with gen. pl. or ifc. , e.g. muni-saNgha, " a multitude of sages ")

striiNaam (gen. pl.): f. woman, wife
vasham (acc. sg.): m. will , wish , desire ; authority , power , control , dominion (acc. with verbs of going e.g. with √ i , anu- √i , √ gam " to fall into a person's [gen.] power , become subject or give way to") ; vashena ifc. , " by command of , by force of , on account of , by means of , according to "
kaama-vashena (inst. sg.): in thrall to their libido
jagmur = 3rd pers. pl. perfect gam: to go

dhiyaa (inst. sg.): f. thought , (esp.) religious thought , reflection , meditation , devotion , prayer ; understanding , intelligence , wisdom ; mind , disposition , intention , design
ca: and
saarena (inst. sg.): mn. the core or pith or solid interior of anything ; firmness , strength power , energy
ca: and
dur-balaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. of little strength , weak , feeble
san = nom. sg. m. pres. part. as: to be

priyaam (acc. sg.): f. wife, lover
a-pashyan (nom. sg. m.): not seeing
kim u: ind. how much more? how much less?
viklavaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. overcome with fear or agitation , confused , perplexed , bewildered , alarmed , distressed
vi- √klav: to become agitated or confused
√klav: to fear , be afraid
aham (nom. sg. m.): I

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.45: And Another One Bites the Dust

shaptash ca paaNDur madanena nuunaM
strii-saMgame mRtyum avaapsyas' iiti
jagaama maadriiM na maha"-rShi-shaapaad
asevya-sevii vimamarsha mRtyuM

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= = - = = - - = - = =
= = - = = - - = - = =
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And Pandu 'the Pale,' having been cursed by Passion

To die on coupling with a woman,

Still went with Madri:
he did not heed the death
that would result from the great seer's curse,

When he tasted what he was forbidden to taste.

Pandu's mother Ambilaka, the story goes, was instructed by the ex-fisherwoman Satyavati/Kali of the previous verse, to keep her eyes open in childbirth so as not to bear a blind son. When Ambilaka eventually opened her eyes and saw the formidable form of her offspring, she became pale. That is how Pandu got his name, which means "Pale."

Pandu became a king and married Madri, daughter of the King of Madra, along with another princess named Kunti. He was, so the story goes, an excellent archer -- but not so excellent as to prevent him mistaking the sage Kindama and his wife for deer and shooting the pair, in flagrante. The story goes that the dying sage Kindama placed a curse on Pandu. Ashvaghosha in today's verse says that the curse was placed madanena , which could mean "by [the sage, one of whose names was] Madana, 'Passion' " or could mean "by [the god of] Passion," or possibly could mean "because of passion."

Since Pandu had killed the pair in flagrante, the curse was that if Pandu himself had sex with any woman, he would die. Pandu then remorsefully renounced his kingdom and lived as an ascetic with his wives.

After 15 years of ascetic celibacy, when his other wife Kunti was away, Pandu was irresistibly drawn to his first wife Madri. One thing led to another, and Pandu set about enjoying what he was not to enjoy, whereupon he duly died. Madri, out of repentance and grief, committed so-called 'sati,' burning herself alive on her husband's funeral pyre.

This, then, is the last in the long list of verses in which the lamenting Nanda cites Brahman kings and so-called sages who were brought down by their attachment to women. And in the background to this final verse is the ancient custom that a wife climbed aboard her husband's funeral pyre.

Now what kind of practice was that? Practice for the sake of practice? Or something tainted by the stain of human ideology?

The strong sense I have got at the end of this trawl through Brahmanical legend is that the best things in life are free, and the best thing of all is practice for the sake of practice -- which evidently is not a feature of the Brahmanical tradition.

Ashvaghosha does not condemn the Brahmanical tradition called "sati" or "suttee", and neither does he affirm it. He does not even explicitly mention it. But in the background to this verse, there it is.

So each reader is left to make his or her own mind up. Some opine that Ashvaghosha's intention was to present the Buddha's teaching as the culmination of this kind of tradition. But I think maybe not.

If we want to know Ashvaghosha's real intention, being able to read his words, even in their original Sanskrit form, is never sufficient. A different kind of effort is also necessary. And it is, as I understand it, and as I repeatedly fail in practising it, primarily an effort not to do.

EH Johnston:
And though Pandu was cursed by Madana that he would die if he united himself with a woman, yet he had intercourse with Madri and recked nought of the death that would ensue out of the great seer's curse by doing what was forbidden.

Linda Covill:
And Pandu was cursed by Madana to die upon intercourse with a woman; but disregarding the death that would result from the seer's curse, he did what he shouldn't have done and slept with Madri.

shaptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. cursed
ca: and
paaNDuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. yellowish white , white , pale; m. N. of a son of vyaasa by the wife of vichitra-viirya and brother of dhRita-raaShTra and vidura (he was father of the five paaNDavas) ; m. name of a son of janamejaya and brother of dhRta-raaShTra
madanena = inst. sg. madana: m. passion , love or the god of love ; m. Madana, name of various men
nuunam: ind. now ; (esp. in later lang.) certainly , assuredly , indeed

strii-saMgame (loc. sg.): upon intercourse with a woman
strii: f. a woman
saMgama: m. coming together , meeting (in a friendly or hostile manner) , union , intercourse or association with (instr. with and without saha gen. , or comp.); sexual union

mRtyum (acc. sg.): m. death, dying
avaapsyasi = 2nd pers. sg. future avaap: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get ; to suffer
iti: "...," thus

jagaama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect gam: to go ; to approach carnally , have sexual intercourse with (acc.)
maadriim (acc. sg.): f. " princess of the Madras " , N. of the second wife of paaNDu and mother of the twins nakula and sahadeva (who were really the sons of the ashvins
madra: m. a country to the north-west of Hindustan proper , or a king (pl. the people) of this country
na: not
maha"-rShi-shaapaat (abl. sg.): from the great seer's curse
mahat: great
RShi: seer
shaapa: curse

asevya-sevii (nom. sg. m.): enjoying what he should not have enjoyed
asevya: mfn. not to be used or practised , not to be eaten , drunk , &c
sevin: mfn. (only ifc.) going or resorting to , frequenting , inhabiting; serving; having sexual intercourse with; enjoying, practising
vimamarsha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √ mRsh: to touch (with the hands) , stroke , feel ; to touch (mentally) , be sensible or aware of , perceive , consider , reflect on , deliberate about ; (with inf.) to hesitate about doing anything
mRtyum (acc. sg.): m. death, dying

Monday, January 17, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.44: And Another One Gone

svargaM gate bhartari shantanau ca
kaaliiM jihiirShaN jana-mejayaH saH
avaapa bhiiShmaat samavetya mRtyuM
na tad-gataM manmatham utsasarja

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

when Kali's husband Shan-tanu had gone to heaven,

Jana-mejaya, 'Causer of Trembling among Men,'
in his desire to marry Kali,

Came up against Bhishma 'the Terrible,'
and received death from him

Rather than give up his love for her.

As already mentioned in 7.41, King 'Good Body' Shan-tanu, after he lost his first wife Ganga, goddess of the Ganges, in his grief also lost all self-control.
He subsequently perked up, however, and married the fisherwoman Satyavati, also known as Kali. Here again is the portrayal of that happy couple.

The son of Shan-tanu and his first wife Ganga was Bhimsa, who evidently didn't take kindly to Jana-mejaya's designs on his step-mum.

Jana-mejaya is another ancient Indian hero, like the Ruru mentioned in 7.37, who bore a grudge against snakes and set about killing them en masse.

The references to ancient Indian myths may have been entertaining to readers and listeners of Ashvaghosha's day; for us, they are less so, or not so. Still, as a result of such study of ancient Indian mythology, heavy going though it is, we are better placed, when we read the view of an eminent professor in the field of Buddhist studies that "Ashvaghosha sought to present Buddhism as an integral part of Brahmanism," to make our own mind up about the relation between the Buddha's teaching and ancient Indian thought.

For example:

Is the Buddha's teaching of the middle way, as embodied by enjoyment of just sitting in lotus, and by effort to go on up beyond such enjoyment, an integral part of Brahmanism? Or is it maybe not an integral part of Brahmanism?

EH Johnston:
And Janamejaya, desiring to marry Kali when her husband Shantanu had gone to heaven, met death at the hands of Bhishma rather than give up his love for her.

Linda Covill:
Janam-ejaya wished to marry Kali when her husband Shantanu had gone to heaven. He received death from Bhishma on meeting him in battle, but he never gave up his love for her.

svargam (acc. sg.): m. heaven
gate (loc. sg.): mfn. gone
bhartari (loc. sg.): m. a preserver , protector , maintainer , chief , lord , master ; husband
shan-tanau (loc. sg. m.): mfn. wholesome for the body or the person; m. Shan-tanu (also written shaaMtanu) N. of an ancient king with the patr. kauravya (he was fourteenth descendant of kuru , son of pratiipa and younger brother of devaapi , and usurped the sovereignty whilst the latter became a hermit ; he married gaNgaa and satya-vatii ; by the former he had a son named bhiiShma , and by the latter chitraaNgada and vichitraviirya)
ca: and

kaaliim (acc. sg.): f. black colour; night ; N. of satyavatii , wife of king shaantanu and mother of vyaasa or kRShNa-dvaipaayana (after her marriage she had a son vichitra-viirya , whose widows were married by kRShNa-dvaipaayana , and bore to him dhRta-raaShTra and paaNDu ; according to other legends kaalii is the wife of bhiimasena and mother of sarvagata)
jihiirShan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. desiderative hR: to take, carry; to take to one's self , appropriate (in a legitimate way) , come into possession of (acc.) , receive (as an heir) , raise (tribute) , marry (a girl)
jana-m-ejayaH (nom. sg.): m. " causing men to tremble " , N. of a celebrated king to whom vaishampaayana recited the MBh. (great-grandson to arjuna , as being son and , successor to parikShit who was the son of arjuna's son abhimanyu)
jana: people, men
ej: to stir , move , tremble , shake
saH (nom. sg. m.): he

avaapa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect avaap (ava +√aap): to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get ; to suffer
bhiiShmaat (abl. sg. m.): mfn. terrible , dreadful ; m. bhiiShma, N. of a son of shaaMtanu and gaNgaa (in the great war of the bharatas he took the side of the sons of dhRtaraaShTra against the sons of paaNDu , and was renowned for his continence , wisdom , bravery , and fidelity to his word)
samavetya = abs. samave (sam + ava √i): to come or meet or mix or assemble together , be united in (acc.)
mRtyum (acc. sg.): m. death, dying

na: not
tad-gatam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. directed towards her
manmatham (acc. sg.): m. love or the god of love , amorous passion or desire
utsasarja = 3rd pers. sg. perfect ut- √ sRj: to let loose , let off or go ; to lay aside, quit, abandon

Sunday, January 16, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.43: How Are the Mighty Fallen

bhaaryaaM mRtaaM c' aanumamaara raajaa
bhiima-prabhaavo bhuvi bhiimakaH saH
balena senaaka iti prakaashaH
senaa-patir deva iv' aatta-senaH

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= = - = = - - = - = =
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A king who followed his dead wife in death

Was 'Dreaded' Bhimika
-- he who was dread power on earth;

He who was famed, because of his military might,
as Senaka, 'War Missile';

He who was, with his war machine, like the god of war.

Lines 3 and 4 could alternatively be translated:

He who was famed, because of his military might,
as Senaka, 'War Lance';

He who, lance in hand, was like the god 'Lord of the Lance.'

senaa-pati, "army leader" or "Lord of the Lance," is an epithet of Karttikeya, and so senaa-patir deva in line 4 means "the god Karttikeya." In addition to being the pen-name of a follower of, and occasional Sanskrit advisor to, this blog, Karttikeya is the ancient Indian god of war, a son of Shiva who directs the fight against demons. Here is Karttikeya depicted on an ancient coin, holding his weapon of war (senaa).

Today's verse brings to my mind ancient Jewish wisdom which -- one cannot deny it -- is as seminal to the culture I was brought up in as ancient Brahmanical wisdom was seminal to the culture that the Buddha was brought up in.

The particular Old Testament phrase that springs to mind (from the King James Bible) is:

How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

Another phrase that springs to mind, speaking of ancient wisdom, is that there is nothing new under the sun.

But having slept on this latter piece of ancient wisdom, and sat this morning as usual, it struck me afresh how very new under the sun the Buddha's teaching really is.

To sit in the full lotus posture is not such a recent innovation: ascetics had been practising it in ancient India for thousands of years before the Buddha's time as an ascetic practice (tapas). What the Buddha began to explore is sitting as something totally different from ascetic practice -- i.e. sitting as practice for the sake of practice itself (yoga) in which means and end, body and mind, inside and outside are all allowed to be part of one integrated whole.

What the Buddha began to explore for himself, and what he points Nanda towards in Saundarananda, is practice that is untainted by ascetic end-gaining, or by any other kind of end-gaining.

This truly is something new. If they understood it, it might be news to Zen masters of the so-called Soto Sect with their so-called sesshin and all the rest of it.

When Asvhaghosha in 17.42 describes the first stage of sitting-dhyana as "separated from desires and tainted things" (kaamair viviktaM malinaish ca dharmair), he is not describing something that evolved out of Brahmanistic ascetic practice. He is describing a kind of practice that represents a complete break with 'the Brahmanical tradition.'

My present translation of viviktam in 17.42 is "free from [desires and tainted things]." But the original meaning of viviktam is maybe stronger than "free from." viviktam means separated from, kept apart.

EH Johnston:
And King Bhimaka, whose power on earth was terrible and who was known as Senaka, because of his hosts like the divine lord of Sena when he received his army, followed his dead wife in death.

Linda Covill:
And King Bhimaka, of dread power on earth, was known as Senaka because with his troops he was like the gods' general, the receiver of armies. Yet when his wife died, he died too.

bhaaryaam (acc. sg.): f. wife
mRtaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. dead
ca: and
anumamaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect anu- √ mR: to follow in death
raajaa (nom. sg.): m. king

bhiima-prabhaavaH (nom. sg. m.): with fearsome power
bhiima: mfn. fearful , terrific , terrible, awful, formidable , tremendous
prabhaava: m. might , power
bhuvi (loc. sg.): on earth
bhiimakaH (nom. sg.): m. 'The Terrible'; N. of a demon
saH (nom. sg. m.): he

balena (inst. sg.): n. power, force ; military force , troops , an army
senaakaH (nom. sg.): m. Senaka
senaa: f. (fr. √ si) a missile , dart , spear, lance ; N. of indra's wife (or his thunderbolt so personified) ; an army , armament , battle-array , armed force
√ si: to hurl, cast
iti: "...," thus
prakaashaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. visible , shining , bright; universally noted , famous , celebrated for (instr. or comp.)

senaa-patiH (nom. sg. m.): m. the general of an army ; N. of kaarttikeya (popularly regarded as god of war)
senaa: f. missile, etc.; an army , armament , battle-array , armed force (also personified as wife of kaarttikeya)
kaarttikeya: m. N. of a son of shiva and paarvatii (popularly regarded as god of war , because he leads the gaNas or hosts of shiva against the demon hosts ; accord. to one legend he was son of shiva without the intervention of paarvatii , the generative energy of shiva being cast into the fire and then received by the Ganges , whence he is sometimes described as son of agni and gaNgaa ; when born he was fostered by the six kRittikaas, and these offering their six breasts to the child he became six-headed ; he is also called kumaara , skanda , and subrahmaNya ; his N. kaarttikeya may be derived from his foster mothers or from the month kaarttika as the best for warfare)
pati: m. a master , owner , possessor , lord , ruler , sovereign ; a husband (in comp.)
devaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. divine ; m. god, deity
iva: like
atta-senaH (nom. sg. m.): in receipt of armies
aatta: mfn. taken , obtained
aa- √daa: " to give to one's self " , take , accept , receive from ; to seize , take away , carry off , rob ; to take back , reclaim
senaa: f. an army