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

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