Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.27: Call for a Stiff Upper Lip

api ca prathitasya dhiimataH
kula-jasy' aarcita-liNga-dhaariNaH
sadRshii na gRhaaya cetanaa
praNatir vaayu-vashaad girer iva

- - = - - = - = - =
- - = = - - = - = - =
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- - = = - - = - = - -

What is more, when a man of repute,

An intelligent man of good family,
bears the honoured insignia

His consciousness no more inclines homeward

Than a mountain bends in the wind.

In this verse, as I read it, the striver is again appealing to Nanda's sense of propriety, to his sense of how a royal prince should behave. A royal prince, the striver seems to be saying, should show to the world what has traditionally been called in Britain "a stiff upper lip."

Both the stiffness of a stiff upper lip and the stability of the Buddha sitting in lotus with an unshakeable will to awakening may be compared to the immovability of a mountain...

With his golden arms fully expanded and as if in a yoke,/ With lengthened eyes, and bull-like gait, // He came to a fig tree, growing up from the earth,/With the will to awakening that belongs to the supreme method of investigation. // Sitting there, mind made up,/ As unmovingly stable as the king of mountains,//He overcame the grim army of Mara /And awoke to the step which is happy, irremovable, and irreducible.//
[3.6 - 3.7]

... but to what extent are the non-movement of a stiff upper lip and the non-movement of sitting Buddha the same kind of non-movement, and to what extent are they totally different kinds of non-movement?

In the best leagues of professional sport, like basketball, baseball and american football in America, or like the Premier League of football in England, nobody (except for a small remnant of backward ignoramuses) cares any more what class you came from, or what colour you are, or what your religion and politics are. But, certainly in the English game, it has taken a lot of time for us to get this far -- to the point where we don't care what kind of family you came from, but just what you bring to the team and to the game.

If even football has transcended class snobbery, how could the true teaching of buddha-ancestors not have transcended class snobbery? So I think Ashvaghosha's intention is that we consider this verse not from a standpoint which is in any way sympathetic to Brahmanical conceptions of good breeding, but just from the standpoint of sitting.

For example:

Just in the moment of sitting, what is sitting? Is it non-movement like a mountain? Is it movement like the wind?

EH Johnston:
Further it is no more possible for the prudent man of good family and repute who wears the honoured badge to decide to return to his home than it is for a mountain to bend under the force of the wind.

Linda Covill:
What is more, when a well-born, wise and respected man wears the honored robes, his mind does not incline to life at home, any more than a mountain bends from the force of the wind.

api ca: ind. moreover
prathitasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. spread , extended , increased ; divulged , displayed , published , known , celebrated
prath: to spread abroad (as a name , rumour &c ) , become known or celebrated
dhiimataH (gen. sg. m.): mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible
dhii: f. thought; understanding , intelligence , wisdom

kula-jasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. born in a noble family , well-born , of good breed
arcita: mfn. honoured , worshipped , respected , saluted
arc: to shine , be brilliant; to praise , sing ; to honour or treat with respect
liNga: n. a mark , spot , sign , token , badge , emblem ; guise
dhaarin: mfn. bearing , wearing , holding , possessing

sadRshii (nom. sg. f.): mfn. like , resembling , similar to (gen.)
na: not
gRhaaya (dat. sg.): home
cetanaa (nom. sg.): f. consciousness , understanding , sense , intelligence

praNatiH (nom. sg.): f. bending , bowing , inclination , salutation , reverence , obeisance
vaayu-vashaat (abl. sg.): from the force of the wind
vaayu: m. wind
vasha: m. will, power, control (vashaat, by force of)
gireH (gen. sg.): m. mountain
iva: like, as

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