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

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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

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