Tuesday, January 4, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.31: Another One Gone

tath" aaNgiraa raaga-pariita-cetaaH
sarasvatiiM brahma-sutaH siSheve
saarasvato yatra suto 'sya jajNe
naShTasya vedasya punaH pravaktaa

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

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.

Angiras is celebrated as the inspired bard/seer who authored the hymns of the Rg Veda. Here Nanda describes him as brahma-sutaH, "brahma-begotten," referring to the legend that Angiras was born from brahma's mouth.

If you believe in what the Monier Williams dictionary calls "the one self-existent impersonal Spirit, the one universal Soul (or one divine essence and source from which all created things emanate...)" then brahma, or Brahma if you prefer, might be the Sanskrit word for the object of such belief. But when a legendary bard is praised as being born from brahma's mouth, then brahma is surely better understood as something less spiritual and more real, such as sound itself -- which seems to be closer, etymologically, to the original meaning of brahma.

Speaking of sacred sound, sometimes I sit in lotus and listen to the slow movements of Vivaldi's bassoon concertos. The bassoon, they say, is apt to sound pompous or comical. In spite of that (or possible because of that?) I feel an affinity with the voice of the bassoon, or even a sense of belonging to it.

In sum, this verse as I hear it relates to what Paul Madaule (author of "When Listening Comes Alive") calls the Ear-Voice Connection -- in which arena this translation work is going on every day, as also the search for stillness is going on every day. Because stillness, no less than the letting in of sound and the letting out of voice, is very much a function of the ear. And the use of the ear, it seems, can be made gradually more conscious, less unconscious. As a person with deep-rooted ear problems, this is mainly what I am devoted to practising, not in intense bursts of trying, but primarily by sitting every day, four times a day, relentlessly.

When people strive to be right in their "sitting posture" the problem is primarily in their ear. Therefore dropping off of deluded concerns with "posture" might also be a matter not of the head or the neck or the back, and still less of the hands, but primarily of the ear.

EH Johnston:
So too Angiras, son of Brahman, with his mind overwhelmed by passion, cohabited with Sarasvati ; she bore him a son, Sarasvata, who promulgated again the lost Vedas.

Linda Covill:
Similarly Angiras, son of Brahma, had sex with Sarasvati when his mind was encompassed with desire. From her was born their son Sarasvata, who again proclaimed the lost Vedas.

tathaa: ind. in that manner , so , thus
aNgiraa (nom. sg.): m. N. of a RShi , author of the hymns of Rg Veda. ix, of a code of laws , and of a treatise on astronomy (he is said by some to have been born from brahmaa's mouth)
raaga-pariita-cetaaH (nom. sg. m.):
raaga: m. redness ; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love
pariita: mfn. surrounded , encompassed , filled , taken possession of , seized (with instr. or in comp.)
cetas: n. mind

sarasvatiim (acc. sg.): f. "abounding in ponds" ; N. of a river (celebrated in RV. and held to be a goddess whose identity is much disputed ; in later times becomes goddess of eloquence)
brahma-sutaH (nom. sg. m.): son of brahma
brahman: n. pious effusion or utterance , outpouring of the heart in worshipping the gods , prayer ; the sacred word (as opp. to vaach , the word of man) , the veda , a sacred text , a text or mantra used as a spell ; the sacred syllable Om ; n. (exceptionally treated as m.) the brahma or one self-existent impersonal Spirit , the one universal Soul (or one divine essence and source from which all created things emanate or with which they are identified and to which they return) , the Self-existent , the Absolute , the Eternal (not generally an object of worship but rather of meditation and-knowledge )
suta: mfn. begotten , brought forth ; m. son
siSheve = 3rd pers. sg. perfect sev: to serve ; to enjoy sexually , have sexual intercourse with (acc.)

saarasvataH (nom. sg.): m. N. of a RShi (fabled to have sprung from the personified sarasvatii river) MBh.
yatra: ind. in which place, wherein
sutaH (nom. sg.): m. a son
asya (gen. sg.): of him
jajNe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect (middle voice) jan: to be born

naShTasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. lost , disappeared
vedasya (gen. sg.): m. the vedas
punaH: ind. again, once more
pravaktaa = nom. sg. m. pravaktR: mfn. one who tells or imparts or relates ; a good speaker ; an announcer , expounder , teacher ; the first relater of a legend
pra- √ vac: to proclaim , announce


Jordan said...

Hi Mike,
As you are always on about the ear, I thought you might appreciate this passage from the Surangama Sutra:

Retributive effects of wrong hearing
When karma ripens at the time of death, the evil effects of wrong hearing cause one to see waves that submerge heaven and earth. His spirit then follows them to fall into the unremitting hell where he will experience both unbearable noises that confuse and disturb him and dead silence that make him dispirited. so these waves follow into the organ of hearing and transform it into rebuke and interrogation; into the organ of sight to turn it into thunder, roars (of animals) and jets of poisonous gas; into the organ of smell to change it into rain, fog and showers of venomous insects that cover his whole body; into the organ of taste to transform it into pus, blood, and all sorts of filth; into the organ of touch to turn it into animals, ghosts, excrement, and urine,; and into the organ of the intellect to change it into lightning and hail that strike and break up spirits.

Keeping on,

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Jordan.

My grandpa was a tough steel-worker from the slums of South Wales; when I was young he used to sing to me:

Felix kept on walking,
Kept on walking still.

With his hands behind him,
You would always find him.

Blow him up with dynamite,
But him you could not kill.

Felix kept on walking,
Kept on walking still...

The quote from the Sutra somehow doesn't ring true to me -- who knows what happens when karma ripens at the time of death?

What rings more true to my ears is your catchphrase "keeping on"....

Thanks for keeping on,