Thursday, February 10, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.15: A Shravaka Speaks of Freedom

kRpaNaM bata yuutha-laalaso
mahato vyaadha-bhayaad viniHsRtaH
pravivikShati vaaguraaM mRgash
capalo giita-raveNa vaNcitaH

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"What a pity!
In its longing for the herd, a rushing stag

Having escaped the mortal danger of the hunter's arrow

Is about to enter his trap,

Deceived by a call that was sung.

In this and the next six verses, the striver compares Nanda to a stag that escaped a hunter, (8.15), a bird freed from a net (8.16), a young elephant freed from mud (8.17), a boy alerted to the presence of a snake (8.18), a bird that fled a forest fire (8.19), a stupid pheasant (8.20), and a wretched dog (8.21).

With each of the first five of these seven metaphors the striver is striving to portray Nanda as one who, having escaped danger, wishes to go right back into danger.

But thus far in Saundarananda how many individuals have we met who have truly escaped the terror of aging, sickness and death?

The Shakya princes of Canto 1? No, for we are told in 1.40 that they acquired treasures Sufficient for full enjoyment / Of dharma, wealth, and pleasure;// -- but not sufficient for enjoyment of freedom.
The King of Kapilavastu? No -- many though his virtues were, the ultimate freedom of just sitting in full lotus was not one of them.
Nanda himself? No, not yet.
Sundari and her ladies in waiting? No, not likely.
The ascetic practitioners who Nanda refers to in his long lament? Not on your Nelly.
The striver who is speaking? No, not as I hear him.

Again, who in this verse has been deceived by listening to the sound of a human voice?

Is the point simply that Nanda is being lured back to Sundari's side by an illusion of happiness?

Or might Ashvaghosha be intending to encourage us to dig deeper and investigate what kind of shraavaka (or "voice-hearer") the striver himself is?

EH Johnston:
' Alas ! A silly deer, after escaping from the great danger of the hunter, is deceived by the sound of singing in his longing for the herd and wishes to enter the trap !'

Linda Covill:
"How pitiful that the wayward deer has escaped from the great danger posed by the hunter, but now in his longing for the herd is about to leap into the net, fooled by the sound of singing!

kRpaNam (acc. sg. n.): mfn inclined to grieve , pitiable , miserable , poor , wretched , feeble
bata: ind. an interjection expressing astonishment or regret , generally = ah! oh! alas!
yuuha-laalasaH (nom. sg. m.): longing for the herd
yuutha: n. herd
laalasa: mfn. eagerly longing for , ardently desirous of

mahataH (abl. sg.): great
vyaadha-bhayaat (abl. sg.): from the danger of the hunter
vyaadha: m. " one who pierces or wounds " , a hunter , one who lives by killing deer (said to be the son of a kShatriya by a low-caste mother)
bhaya: n. fear , terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress
viniHsRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. escaped
vi-niH- √ sR: to spring from

pravivikShati = 3rd pers. sg. pres. desiderative pra- √ vish: to enter , go into
vaaguraam (acc. sg.): f. a net (for catching deer or wild animals) , trap , toils , snare , noose
mRgaH (nom. sg.): m. deer

capalaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering ; wanton , fickle , inconstant ; quick , swift , expeditious
giita-raveNa (inst. sg.): by a chanted call
giita: n. singing , song ; mfn. (√gai, to sing) sung , chanted , praised in songs
rava: m. ( √ru, to roar) a roar , yell , cry , howl (of animals , wild beasts &c )
vaNcitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. deceived , tricked

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