Tuesday, February 1, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.6: Secrets Whose Concealment is Complicated by Conceit

nikhilena ca satyam ucyataaM
yadi vaacyaM mayi saumya manyase
gatayo vividhaa hi cetasaaM
bahu-guhyaani mad"-aakulaani ca

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

Tell me the whole truth, my friend,

If you think it fit to be told;

For minds have many ways of working

And many secrets,
whose concealment is complicated by conceit."

This verse requires the translator to decide among many possible meanings in line 4 of mada (excitement, intoxication, ardent passion) or madaa (lust; pride, arrogance, presumption, conceit, vanity).

One way to understand the verse is that it is primarily about Nanda's intoxication, or his ardent passion for Sundari. But I think Ashvaghosha is playing with the mirror principle, so that the deeper meaning of this verse has to do with the striver's own conceit. In other words, while the striver's right index finger is pointing at Nanda, he doesn't realize that the three other fingers of his right hand are pointing straight back at himself.

Conceit or vanity is the theme of Canto 9, whose title mad"-aapavaadaH (or mad'-aapavaadaH) I provisionally understand to mean "Denunciation of Conceit/Vanity." The striver predicts in 9.29 that on finding himself beaten down by old age, with wrinkles and broken teeth, Nanda will be vi-madaH "free from conceit/vanity."

But in this striver's presumption that he knows the cure for mental ills, nobody is more conceited than he is. So this verse, as I read it, is another verse that is suffused with irony. The striver is saying something profound about the human condition, without understanding the half of what he is saying.

The secrets of the human condition, by definition, because they are secret, we cannot know. That is why FM Alexander observed that all we can ever know in this world is when we are wrong. But even this kind of realization is liable to be hidden from us, as we peer dimly through waters muddied by our own conceit.

So sitting in lotus as the dropping off of body and mind might include the dropping off of such conceit.

FM Alexander wrote of the desire of the 'end-gainer' (for which read 'striver') to feel right in the gaining of his end. That desire to feel right, when we look into it with the eye of practice, might be the essence of conceit.

What else is trying to be right, if not vanity?

What else is psycho-therapy if not vanity?

Dogen I think was alluding to the existence, or the absence, of such vanity when he wrote that

there is
sitting in lotus as body and mind dropping off
which is not the same as
sitting in lotus as body and mind dropping off.


Thus, to understand the real meaning of today's verse might not be difficult.

To understand the real meaning of today's verse might be very, very difficult.

EH Johnston:
If you think it fitting, my friend, to tell me, tell the entire truth ; for the movements of men's minds are manifold, there is much in them that is secret and highly involved.'

Linda Covill:
If you think you can confide in me, tell me the whole truth, dear friend, for the minds of men move in various ways, and contain many secrets that are stirred up by passion."

nikhilena: ind. completely , totally
ca: and
satyam (acc. sg.): n. truth
ucyataam (3rd pers. sg. passive vac): let it be told

yadi: if
vaacyam (acc. sg. n. causitive gerundive vac): needing to be told
mayi (loc. sg.): to me
saumya (voc. sg.): my friend
manyase = 2nd pers. sg. man: to think

gatayaH (nom. pl.): f. going , moving; movement ; way, path, course
vividhaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. of various sorts , manifold , diverse
hi: for
cetasaam (gen. pl.): n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

bahu-guhyaani (nom. pl. n.): the requiring to be concealed of many secrets
bahu: mfn. much , many , frequent , abundant , numerous , great or considerable in quantity
guhya: n. a secret , mystery ; mfn. to be covered or concealed or hidden or kept secret , concealable , private , secret , mysterious , mystical
mad"-aakulaani (nom. pl. n.): confused by conceit
mada: m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication ; ardent passion
madaa: f. sexual desire or enjoyment , wantonness , lust , ruttishness , rut (esp. of an elephant) ; f. , pride , arrogance , presumption , conceit
aakula: mfn. confounded , confused , agitated , flurried; filled , full , overburdened with (ifc.)
ca: and

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