Thursday, January 27, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.1: A Striver Approaches, with Goodwill to All Men

atha nandam adhiira-locanaM
gRha-yaan'-otsukam utsuk'-otsukaM
abhigamya shivena cakShuShaa
shramaNaH kash cid uvaaca maitrayaa

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while the unsteady-eyed Nanda was looking forward,

With the eagerest of eager expectations, to going home,

A certain striver with a benevolent air

Approached him and said, in a friendly way:


The striver who makes his appearance here is the protagonist of Cantos 8 and 9.

Dogen used "striver" (shramaNa) as a humble term to describe himself when he came back to Japan from China and wrote the original version of his rules of sitting-zen recommended to all (Fukan-zazengi). Dogen signed that work SHAMON DOGEN, the two Chinese characters SHA-MON being used to approximate the Sanskrit shramaNa.

It has become clear to us already that Ashvaghosha uses yogin (a practitioner, one who practises yoga) as a term of approbation -- as opposed to tapasvin (an ascetic, one who practises tapas). Whether Ashvaghosha is using shramaNa as a term of approbation, or not, will hopefully become clear over the course of attending to the next 113 verses.

On first reading of the 62 verses of the present Canto, the striver's views appear to be strikingly misogynistic. In 8.22, however, Ashvaghosha describes words spoken by this striver as gunavat, which the dictionary defines as "endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences, excellent, perfect."

Was Ashvaghosha affirming the words of the striver, saying that his words were excellent? Or was Ashvaghosha damning the striver with faint praise, saying that his words were well-intentioned; they contained (were not totally without) merit, (but...) ?

I raise the question, but do not yet have an answer one way or the other. There is nothing for it but to stagger blindly on into the unknown....

Having written this comment and slept on it, it occurs to me that whereas yogin, as Ashvaghosha uses it, is a term of approbation and tapasvin certainly is not, it may be Ashvaghosha's conscious intention to use shramaNa with a degree of ambiguity. This ambiguity, however, is not ambiguity of the order which accompanies the term tathaagata.

EH Johnston:
Then a certain disciple, going up benevolently with gracious mien to Nanda whose wavering look showed him to be so yearning to go home as to be all yearning, said to him :--

Linda Covill:
Then a certain ascetic with a gracious expression came up to Nanda, who with restless eyes was yearning with the very height of yearning to go home, and he said to him in a friendly way:

atha: ind. and so, then
nandam (acc. sg.): m. Nanda
a-dhiira-locanam (acc. sg. m.): with irresolute eye
dhiira: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
locana: n. " organ of sight " , the eye

gRha-yaan'-otsukam (acc. sg. m.): being eagerly desirous of going home
gRha: home
yaana: n. going
utsuka: mfn. anxiously desirous ; n. longing for , desire
utsuk'-otsukam (acc. sg. m.): being anxiously desirous in his anxious desire

abhigamya = abs. abhi- √ gam: to go near to , approach (with acc.)
shivena (inst. sg.): mfn. auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent , friendly , dear ; happy , fortunate
cakShuShaa (inst. sg.): n. the act of seeing ; n. aspect ; n. a look ; n. the eye

shramaNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. making effort or exertion ; m. one who performs acts of mortification or austerity , an ascetic , monk , devotee , religious mendicant ; m. a Buddhist monk or mendicant (also applied to buddha himself
kash cid: ind. someone, a certain
uvaaca = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vac: to speak
maitrayaa = inst. sg. f. maitra: mfn. coming from or given by or belonging to a friend , friendly , amicable , benevolent , affectionate , kind
maitrii: f. friendship , friendliness , benevolence , good will

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