Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.14: A Striver Becomes a Bit Softer

atha tasya nishamya tad-vacaH
priya-bhaary"-aabhimukhasya shocataH
shramaNaH sa shiraH prakampayan
nijagaad' aatma-gataM shanair idaM

- - = - - = - = - =
- - = = - - = - = - =
- - = - - = - = - =
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When he heard those words of Nanda

Who, mind turned towards his beloved wife,
was burning with pain,

The striver as he shook his head,

Softly, said to himself:

As EH Johnston observes, Ashvaghosha does not waste words. So what of real importance might he be intending to say in this verse?

I think the key phrase might be shiraH prakampayan in line 3 which, on the face of it, just means shaking the head. But it might be relevant that pra- √kamp means not only to shake but also to relax or become loosened.

Is Ashvaghosha's intention that hearing Nanda's honest words, and seeing Nanda's real human suffering, somehow caused the striver to allow himself to be a little less tight and right, to allow his neck to release its grip on his head a bit?

Did Nanda's openness and truthfulness, in some sense, set the striver free?

If this was Ashvaghosha's secret intention, I can't see a way of bringing it out in translation -- other than hinting at it by bringing forward the word "softly."

The suggestion is, in other words, that shanais (quietly, softly, gently, delicately) might be intended to describe not only the striver's speech but also the movement of his head on top of his spinal column.

Whether or not this was Ashvaghosha's intention, one thing I can report from my own experience -- on the rugby pitch and weights room, in the karate dojo, and on a round black cushion -- as a striver, is this: the kind of movement I want -- whether running or lifting, or sliding and blocking or kicking and punching, or just sitting -- begins with a movement of the head being released out of the body. And this movement of the head is ineffably soft. When we try to do it, what results is some variation on the old theme of "tucking in the chin a little to keep the neck bones straight." It is in the not doing of it that the softness -- or what Marjorie Barstow
called "the delicacy of the movement" -- exists.

EH Johnston:
Then the disciple, hearing these words of his, as he lamented in his devotion to his beloved wife, shook his head and said softly to himself :--

Linda Covill:
When he heard these words from the grieving Nanda, who was focused on his beloved wife, the ascetic shook his head and softly said to himself:

atha: ind. then, and so
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
nishamya = abs. ni- √ sham: to hear
tad-vacaH (acc. sg. n.): those words

priya-bhaary"-aabhimukhasya (gen. sg. m.): turned towards his beloved wife
priya: mfn. beloved
bhaaryaa: f. wife
abhimukha: mfn. with the face directed towards , turned towards , facing

shocataH = gen. sg. m. pres. part. shuc: to shine , flame , gleam , glow , burn; to suffer violent heat or pain , be sorrowful or afflicted , grieve

shramaNaH (nom. sg.): m. the striver
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
shiraH (acc. sg.): n. head
prakampayan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. causative pra- √ kamp: to tremble , shake , quiver ; to become lax , be loosened ; to vibrate (said of sound) ; Causative: to cause to tremble ; to swing , wave , brandish , shake

nijagaada = 3rd pers. sg. perfect ni- √ gad: to recite , proclaim , announce , declare , tell , speak
aatma-gatam (acc. sg. n.): to himself
shanaiH: ind. quietly , softly , gently , gradually
idam (acc. sg. n.): this

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