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

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

7.43
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.


COMMENT:
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.


VOCABULARY:
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

5 comments:

Happi said...

In my understanding, 'free' doesn't mean that desires etc are absent, but rather that we're no longer reflexively shackled or driven by them. Does 'separated from' convey this better? Possibly. Although to me, it can be misunderstood as meaning something more ascetic. That's just my two cents this morning...

Hey have you noticed that the US now holds a reasonable lead over the UK in your flag counter?

Mike Cross said...

I certainly have noticed.

I hope it is because, whereas Brits tend to esteem most highly a decent chap who knows his place and loses gallantly, Americans tend to be more focused on that which genuinely kicks ass.

And Ashvaghosha's teaching, I do not doubt, totally kicks ass. The problem is whether my translation can do it justice.

The American John Dewey is thought of as a pragmatist, but he called his philosophy "instrumentalism."

And in the background, the truth behind this -ism, was the truly kick-ass teaching of FM Alexander, which is never an -ism.

Alexander wrote of end-gaining and his 'means-whereby' principle as "two different, nay, opposite conceptions and for two different procedures."

viviktam relates to that difference, nay, opposition.

Now, Gisela,on this subject, please keep your two cents to yourself. Because opinions about Alexander's work held by people who have never thrown themselves whole-heartedly into it, are not worth even two cents.

I suspect you will not be able to withhold your desire to add another two cents.

So, please, prove me wrong, and demonstrate in practice a bit of not doing -- not by expressing your understanding of what "not doing" is, but by reading this and actually, in response, not doing anything...

Happi said...

Dear Mike.

Don’t worry. I can honestly say that today I am leaving my compassion and equanimity at the door.

Here’s some mirror principle for you:

During our go-rounds on this blog, you have repeatedly challenged me to drop off or loose my views and I have made every effort to do so, though my efforts are far from perfect I admit. In contrast, I have yet to see you drop off a thing. You may have lost Buddhism, but what you seem to have replaced it with Anti-ism which may be the worst –ism of all.

I keep reading your blog because I continue to sense something of value in Ashvaghosha’s words, in Alexander Theory, and even in your efforts in translation. It beats me though how these have made much improvement in your life or your practice (whatever that may be). Of course, I’ll give you that I haven’t been around that long, so I’m willing to concede I may be wrong as far as that’s concerned.

As far as Alexander Theory, I wouldn’t venture to offer an opinion. How am I supposed throw myself whole-heartedly into it? By reading some boring book on the subject I suppose. Ha! As far as that’s concerned I’d rather watch lectures on the Diamond Sutra on Youtube.

I’ll have you know during my sitting this morning, I am positive Nishijima would have commended me on the straightness of my spine -- not that I have any entrails left.

Now, YOU show me.

- - - - -

P.S., You have me writing the most vicious words I’ve ever written in my life. I shall undoubtedly feel tremendously awful about them once I’ve sent them. Don’t think I like it. But that’s what it is. And here’s another irony for you – if I hadn’t experienced the agony of sesshins I probably wouldn’t be able to deal with you.

And you don’t have to publish this. It is obviously up to you.

Happi said...

Dear Mike.

Don’t worry. I can honestly say that today I am leaving my compassion and equanimity at the door.

Here’s some mirror principle for you:

During our go-rounds on this blog, you have repeatedly challenged me to drop off or loose my views and I have made every effort to do so, though my efforts are far from perfect I admit. In contrast, I have yet to see you drop off a thing. You may have lost Buddhism, but what you seem to have replaced it with Anti-ism which may be the worst –ism of all.

I keep reading your blog because I continue to sense something of value in Ashvaghosha’s words, in Alexander Theory, and even in your efforts in translation. It beats me though how these have made much improvement in your life or your practice (whatever that may be). Of course, I’ll give you that I haven’t been around that long, so I’m willing to concede I may be wrong as far as that’s concerned.

As far as Alexander Theory, I wouldn’t venture to offer an opinion. How am I supposed throw myself whole-heartedly into it? By reading some boring book on the subject I suppose. Ha! As far as that’s concerned I’d rather watch lectures on the Diamond Sutra on Youtube.

I’ll have you know during my sitting this morning, I am positive Nishijima would have commended me on the straightness of my spine -- not that I have any entrails left.

Now, YOU show me.

- - - - -

P.S., You have me writing the most vicious words I’ve ever written in my life. I shall undoubtedly feel tremendously awful about them once I’ve sent them. Don’t think I like it. But that’s what it is. And here’s another irony for you – if I hadn’t experienced the agony of sesshins I probably wouldn’t be able to deal with you.

And you don’t have to publish this. It is obviously up to you.

Happi said...

Mike -

I'm hoping you're alright. Peace,

Gisela