Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.41: Silly Moos

viShayaad viShay'-aantaraM gataa
pracaraty eva yath" aahRt" aapi gauH
ramate' nyatra gataa tath" aaNganaa

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

Just as a cow,
having gone from one pasture to another,

Keeps right on grazing, however she is restrained,

So a woman,
without regard for any affection she felt before,

Moves on and takes her pleasure elsewhere.

The striver's logic seems to be that as a general rule the mind of a female mammal, supplied with a relative abundance of oestrogen and a relative dearth of testosterone, is liable to lack virile steadfastness. Thus, people who know dogs well say that a male dog is often a more fiercely loyal companion than a bitch is wont to be.

At the end of Canto 16 the Buddha sings the praises of the virtue which he calls viirya, whose primary meaning is virility, manliness, manly vigour, and by extension valour, strength, power, energy.

I have translated viirya as "directed energy," hence:

Directed energy is paramount: for, in doing what needs to be done, it is the foundation; / Without directed energy there is no accomplishment at all; //All success in this world arises from directed energy -- // And in the absence of directed energy wrongdoing is rampant.// [16.94]

So the words of the striver which paint women's minds in a disagreeable light sort of sound like the Buddha's teaching which praises manly vigour.

Again, the Buddha tells Nanda in Canto 15:

In this originally shattered world / Nobody is the beloved of anybody. //Held together by cause and effect, / Humankind is like sand in a clenched fist.//

Because the striver's words thus sound somehow similar to the Buddha's teaching, the challenge is to be clear in what sense the striver's words are different from the Buddha's teaching.

Firstly, on the philosophical level, I come back to the point that in his long list of individual exemplars of viirya, the Buddha includes the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda (16.89). So, just as one black swan falsifies the general statement that all swans are white, the Buddha's inclusion in his list of even one woman's name falsifies all the general hypotheses about women that the striver -- whether explicity or implicitly -- is striving to assert.

Secondly, on the anti-philosophical level, the Buddha's truth has nothing to do with making general statements about others; it has to do with individual work on the self, placing on a round cushion one's own backside.

Thirdly, on the practical level, the striver's words -- well-intentioned though they may be -- fail the pragmatic test of truth: they do not work; they do not do Nanda any good.

And ultimately, on the basis of the sitting practice which is the abandonment of all views, the difference between the striver and the Buddha is this: the striver is striving to sell to Nanda a preconception of women, whereas the Buddha points Nanda in the direction of losing all preconceptions.

EH Johnston:
Just as a cow if restrained from grazing on one object goes straight to another, so a woman, regardless of a former love, goes elsewhere to take her pleasure.

Linda Covill:
Just as a cow, even when herded, goes grazing from one field to another, so will a woman move on to take her pleasure elsewhere, disregarding any previous attachment.

viShayaat (abl. sg.): m. sphere (of influence or activity) , dominion , kingdom , territory; range ; object
viShay'-aantaram (acc. sg.): another sphere, another object
antara (ifc.) , different , other , another e.g. desh'aantaram , another country
gataa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. gone to, being in ; come , come forth from (in comp. or abl.) ; come to , approached , arrived at , being in , situated in , contained in (acc.)

pracarati = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ car: to proceed towards ; to roam , wander ; to be active or busy ; Caus. prachaarayati , to allow to roam , turn out to graze
eva: (emphatic)
yathaa: ind. just as
aahRtaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. brought near , fetched ; taken , seized , captivated
aa- √ hR: to fetch , bring , bring near ; to bring home (a bride)
api: and, also, even
gauH (nom. sg.): f. a cow

an-avekShita-puurva-sauhRdaa (nom. sg. f.): having no regard for previous affection
an: (negative prefix) without
ava + √iikSh: to look towards , look at , behold ; to have in view , have regard to , take into consideration
puurva: mfn. former , prior , preceding , previous
sauhRda: m. a friend ; n. affection , friendship

ramate = 3rd pers. sg. ram: to be glad or pleased , rejoice at , delight in , be fond of (loc.); to play or sport , dally , have sexual intercourse
anyatra: ind. elsewhere, to another
gataa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. gone to, being in
tathaa: ind. likewise, so
aNganaa (nom. sg.): f. a woman

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