Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.42: A Redeeming Feature?

pravishanty api hi striyash citaam
anubadhnanty api mukta-jiivitaaH
api bibhrati c' aiva yantraNaa
na tu bhaavena vahanti sauhRdaM

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

For though women ascend their husbands' funeral pyre,

Though they follow at the cost of their own lives,

Though they bear all kinds of pain,

They never truly show affection.

EHJ's original text has n' aiva in line 3 -- though EHJ considers c' aiva as an alternative, as proposed by the Polish pandit Andrzej Gawronski (1885 - 1927). Gawronski was the author of two Saundarananda-related texts to which EHJ referred: Studies about the Sanskrit Buddhist Literature, Cracow, 1919, and Notes on the Saundarananda, second series, Cracow, 1922. Both EHJ and LC in their translations go with n' aiva, but on this occasion I am daring to differ and going with Gawronski.

Here the striver magnanimously acknowledges the custom of sati or suttee (previously alluded to in 7.45) as if ascending a husband's funeral pyre were a redeeming feature of women.

How did Ashvaghosha manage to paint such a vivid picture of a zealous follower of the Buddha who somehow doesn't quite get it? From what source did he draw his inspiration?

My guess is that Ashvaghosha based the character of the striver on one or more Indian individuals, steeped in the bhramanical tradition, with whom he was acquainted.

At the same time, there might be a bit of the striver in all of us who tend in unenlightened moments to blame the stimulus that puts us wrong, instead of taking responsibility for our own faulty reactions. So it is not impossible that Ashvaghosha was also familiar with the striver as an old tendency in himself.

EH Johnston:
For women may mount their husbands' funeral pyre, they may follow them closely at the risk of their lives, they may be subjected to no restraint, but they never bear love wholeheartedly.

Linda Covill:
For though they enter their husbands' funeral fires, though they stick by their husbands even at the cost of their lives, women cannot bear pain and show no affection in their demeanor.

pravishanti = 3rd pers. pl. pra- √ vish: to enter , go into , resort to (acc. or loc.) RV. &c &c (with agnim , agnau , madhyam agneH , vahnau , or chitaayaam , " to ascend the funeral pyre ")
api: even, though
hi: for
striyaH (nom. pl.): f. women
citaam (acc. sg.): f. a layer , pile of wood , funeral pile

anubadhnanti = 3rd pers. pl. anu- √ bandh: to attach , tie ; to bind (by an obligation) ; to stick , adhere , follow , endure
api: even, though
mukta-jiivitaaH (nom. pl. f.): at the expense of their lives
mukta: mfn. gone , vanished , disappeared (esp. ibc.)
jiivita: n. n. life

api: even, though
bibhrati = 3rd pers. pl. bhR: to bear ; to endure , experience , suffer , undergo
ca: and
eva (emphatic)
yantraNaaH (acc. pl.): f. restriction , limitation , restraint , constraint , force , compulsion ; pain , anguish , affliction

na: not
tu: but , and
bhaavena = inst. sg. bhaava: m. true condition or state , truth , reality (ibc. and bhaavena ind. really , truly) ; manner of being ; manner of acting , conduct , behaviour ; love , affection , attachment
vahanti = 3rd pers. pl. vah: to carry , transport , convey (with instr. of vehicle) ; to exhibit , show , betray
sauhRdam (acc. sg.): n. affection , friendship

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