Friday, January 14, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.41: Loss of Self-Control

nRpash ca gaNgaa-virahaaj jughuurNa
gaNg"-aambhasaa saala iv' aatta-muulaH
kula-pradiipaH pratipasya suunuH
shrimat-tanuH shantanur a-sva-tantraH

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

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.


Devastated though King Shan-tanu may have been, temporarily, when the goddess Ganga left him to return to the Ganges whence she came, the King somehow managed to perk up again when he set eyes on Satyavati the fisherwoman, as depicted here.

If emotional reaction to a view expressed by a Sanskrit scholar causes me to over-state the case, then I am at fault, but in this verse again, as I read it, Ashvaghosha is gently poking fun at Brahmanical obsession with ascetic celibacy -- which has, as its flip side, obsession with sexual love of goddesses, nymphs, et cetera.

Of course it is true that in leaving home to seek the truth through ascetic practice, as described at the beginning of Canto 3, the Buddha was following a Brahmanical tradition. But the ascetic practice which was at the centre of that tradition, Ashvaghosha describes the Buddha rejecting not only once but twice.

When Patrick Olivelle, Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at the University of Texas, opines that "Ashva-ghosa sought to present Buddhism as an integral part of Brahmanism," he is treating the Buddha's teaching as if it were an -ism of the kind which a clever person can get his or her head around, and thereby compare it with other -isms.

The original teaching of the Buddha is not "not doing wrong" as an -ism; it is the not doing of wrong.

But when clever people hear this, they are liable to understand that "Buddhism" is "the not doing of wrong."

People try to get their head around what people can never get their head around. And people believe they can do what people can never do, to change others.

This is essentially the problem that Ashvaghosha's descendant Bodhidharma faced when he arrived in China. And the cleverer people are, the more intractable the problem tends to be.

If Bodhidharma were to arrive today in the United States, I suspect he might find his way to Missouri, and spend a spell of time facing a suitable wall in that particular state.

To cause people to understand "what Buddhism is" was not Bodhidharma's task -- though this is how the task was framed for me by my teacher, Gudo Nishijima, in his ineffable stupidity, and in his own tendency to be unduly intellectual (a tendency which he was fond of projecting onto "intellectual foreigners"). The real task that faced Bodhidharma was to demonstrate what not doing is.

EH Johnston:
And king Shantanu, the son of Pratipa, the light of his family and glorious in body, lost all self-control when Ganga left him, and tossed about like a shala tree torn up by the roots by the waters of the Ganges.

Linda Covill:
And King Shantanu son of Pratipa, the light of his family and splendid in appearance, shook uncontrollably when separated from Ganga, like a shala tree whose roots are eroded by the waters of the Ganges.

nRpaH (nom. sg.): m. protector of men , prince , king
ca: and
gaNgaa-virahaat (abl. sg.): following separation from Ganga
gaNgaa: f. ( √ gam ) " swift-goer " , the river Ganges (personified and considered as the eldest daughter of himavat and menaa ; as the wife of shaantanu and mother of bhiiShma...)
viraha: m. abandonment , desertion , parting , separation (esp. of lovers)
jughuurNa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect ghuurN: to move to and fro , shake , be agitated , roll about

gaNg"-aambhasaa (inst. sg.): by the waters of the Ganges
gaNgaa: f. the river Ganges
ambhas: n. water
saalaH (nom. sg.): m. the Sal tree
iva: like
aatta-muulaH (nom. sg. m.): with its roots taken away
aatta: mfn. (from aa- √daa, give to oneself) taken away, carried off, reclaimed
muula: n. root

kula-pradiipaH (nom. sg.): m. the lamp or light or glory of a family
kula: n. a race, family
pradiipa: m. a light, lantern (often ifc. " the light i.e. the glory or ornament of " e.g. kula-pradiipa)
pratipasya (gen. sg.): m. Pratipa, N. of a prince L. (prob. w.r. for pratiipa)
Pratiipa: "against the stream," m. N. of a prince , the father of shaaMtanu and grandfather of bhiiShma
suunuH (nom. sg.): m. a son

shrimat-tanuH (nom. sg. m.): glorious in form, he of the body beautiful shrimat: mfn. beautiful , charming , lovely , pleasant , splendid , glorious
tanuu: f. the body , person , self (often used like a reflexive noun); m. form or manifestation
shantanuH (nom. sg.): m. (also written shaM-tanu, shaaM-tanu) 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)
shaM-tanu: mfm. wholesome for the body or the person
sham: ind. auspiciously , fortunately , happily , well
tanuu: f. the body , person
a-sva-tantraH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not self-willed , dependant , subject
a: (negative prefix)
sva-tantra: mfn. self-dependent , self-willed , independent , free , uncontrolled
sva: mfn. his own
tantra: n. a loom ; the warp ; the leading or principal or essential part , main point , characteristic feature , model , type , system , framework

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