Saturday, February 26, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.31: Some People Say There's a Woman to Blame...

sa-viShaa iva saMshritaa lataaH
parimRShTaa iva s'-oragaa guhaaH
vivRtaa iva c' aasayo dhRtaa
vyasan'-aantaa hi bhavanti yoShiTaH

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Like poisonous clinging creepers,

Like swept caves still harbouring snakes,

Like unsheathed blades held in the hand,

Women are calamitous in the end.

The word which the striver uses here to describe women is vyasana, "calamity." The Buddha uses the same word in 15.8 to describe kaamaaH, desires.

Desires (kaamaaH) which are fleeting, which are bringers of privation, / Which are flighty, the causes of calamity, (vyasana-hetavaH) // And which are common, / Are to be dealt with like poisonous snakes -- // The chasing of which leads to trouble, / The keeping of which does not conduce to peace, // And the losing of which makes for great anguish. / Securing them brings no contentment.// [15.8 - 15.9]

kaamaH can also mean objects of desire, in which category women might be included. Still, the striver's emphasis and the Buddha's emphasis, as I read them, are quite different. The striver is exhibiting the tendency to blame the stimulus that puts us wrong, instead of seeing the fault in our own reaction to the stimulus.

In the Buddha's teaching, as I hear it, the causes of calamity are not out there but in here -- in faulty sensory appreciation, in wrong ideas, and in the wrong inner patterns that are triggered by end-gaining desires.

One might say that sitting in lotus is a means of liberating oneself from these wrong inner patterns. But just in the moment of saying so, my vain desire to express in words what the essence of the Buddha's teaching is .... has already triggered the wrong inner patterns from which I profess to wish to be free.

It comes down in the end, as the Buddha saw but the striver didn't, to the problem of desires -- or what a person really wants. When a man's desire for a woman, or for words that hit the target, conflicts with his desire to devote his energy to sitting, or to serve the buddha-ancestors, the fault is not in a woman, and the fault is not in words.

In the Buddha's teaching, as I hear it, what is calamitous is doing rooted in faulty sensory appreciation, in wrong conceptions, and in wrong inner patterns of use.

EH Johnston:
For women lead to disaster in the end, like creepers which are poisonous when touched, like caves still full of snakes after being swept, like naked sword-blades held (in the hand).

Linda Covill:
Like creepers poisonous to the touch, like scoured caves still harbouring snakes, like unsheathed swords held in the hand, women are ruinous in the end.

sa-viShaaH (nom. pl. f): mfn. poisonous
iva: like
saMshritaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. joined or united with ; leaning against , clinging to (acc.) ; clung to , embraced
lataaH (nom. pl.): f. a creeper , any creeping or winding plant or twining tendril (the brows , arms , curls , a slender body , a sword-blade , lightning &c are often compared to the form of a creeper , to express their graceful curves and slimness of outline );

parimRShTaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. wiped off , smoothed , polished ; wiped or washed away , removed (2) touched; spread , pervaded , filled with
pari- √ mRsh: to touch , grasp , seize
pari- √ mRj: to wipe all round , wash , cleanse , purify ; to wipe off or away , remove , efface , get rid of (acc.)
iva: like
s'-oragaaH (nom. pl. f.): snake-infested
sa: (possessive prefix) containing
uraga: m. (fr. ura = uras and ga , " breast-going ") , a serpent , snake
guhaaH (nom. pl.): f. a hiding-place , cave , cavern

vivRtaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. uncovered , unconcealed , exposed , naked , bare
iva: like
ca: and
asayaH (nom. pl.): m. ( √as, to shoot at) , a sword , scimitar , knife (used for killing animals)
dhRtaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. held, borne

vyasan'-aantaaH (nom. pl. f.): calamitous in the end
vyasana: n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail); evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune
anta: m. end , limit
hi: for
bhavanti = 3rd pers. pl. bhuu: to be, become
yoShiTaH = nom. pl. yoShit: f. a girl , maiden , young woman , wife

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