Thursday, March 31, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.1: Nanda's Parsnips Not Buttered (ctd.)

ath'-aivam ukto' pi sa tena bhikShunaa
jagaama n'aiv' opashamaM priyaaM prati
tathaa hi taam eva tadaa sa cintayan
na tasya sushrava visaMjNa-vad vacaH

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

Though the beggar reproached him thus,

Nanda in no way attained tranquillity
towards his beloved;

He still thought of her so much that he did not hear,

As if he were unconscious, a word the other said.

His fine words having buttered no parsnips in the previous canto, the striver tries again in this canto, whose title is mad"-aapavaadaH, "Denunciation of Vanity."

The second word in this compound, apavaada, means speaking ill of, denying, denouncing; apavaada also appears in the title of Canto 11 svarg'-aapavaadaH. In Canto 11 the denouncing is being done by Ananda, and the object of his denunciation is svarga, heaven. In this canto, the one doing the denouncing is the striver and the object of his denouncing could be mada or it could be madaa. With the short a, mada (m.) means intoxication, infatuation; with the long a, madaa (f.) means ruttishness; or pride, arrogance, presumption, conceit. Hence, as a translation of the chapter title, LC went with "The Denunciation of Infatuation," whereas EHJ went with "The Denunciation of Conceit."

My guess is that the ambiguity inherent in mada and madaa might have suited Ashvaghosha's purpose well, because on the surface what deserves to be denounced is Nanda's continuing infatuation with Sundari, and the striver is just the man to do the denouncing; but on a deeper level the mirror principle is at work whereby a denouncer tends to denounce the very fault -- in this case conceit or vanity -- with which he himself is struggling.

The dictionary defines both conceit and vanity as excessive pride, especially, in the case of conceit, unjustified pride in one's own qualities and abilities; and especially, in the case of vanity, pride in one's personal appearance.

Excessive pride, I think, is in essence a balance problem, or rather a problem of imbalance. My old teacher Gudo Nishijima would say that it is a problem of imbalance of the autonomic nervous system, to be remedied by keeping the spine straight vertically. More fundamentally, I would say, any problem of imbalance is at root a problem of vestibular-proprioceptive imbalance, which one cannot remedy by striving to keep the spine straight vertically -- any more than one can re-orient a faulty compass by means the faulty compass itself.

FM Alexander in his day thought long and hard about how to re-educate individuals whose feeling with regard to postural balance was faulty. Alexander died in 1954 and very few of the people he taught are still alive. I had some lessons with Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow who was ever afraid that the fundamental principles of Alexander's work could so easily get lost.

How can I, for one, help to uphold those principles? I don't know. But not by striving. And not by denouncing in others faults that I haven't eliminated in myself. That's for damn sure.

If from 30 years of stubborn effort I have gleaned any wisdom to bring to the round black cushion, it is not wisdom in regard to what to do. If I have gleaned any wisdom it is in regard to what not to do.... and yet, I still tend to do it. So there might be grounds for conceit in my faulty vestibular system, but in reality there are no grounds here for conceit.

EH Johnston:
But, although addressed in this fashion by the mendicant, Nanda failed to reach equanimity about his mistress ; for still obsessed with thoughts of her, he did not hear the other's speech, as if he were unconscious.

Linda Covill:
Though the monk spoke to him in this manner, Nanda found no peace as far as his sweetheart was concerned; he thought of her so much that, like an unconscious man, he didn't hear a word he said.

atha: ind. and, and so, but
evam: ind. thus
uktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. addressed, spoken to
vac: to speak , say , tell , utter , announce , declare , mention , proclaim; to reproach , revile (acc.)
api: though
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tena (inst. sg.): by him
bhikShunaa (inst. sg.): m. beggar

jagaama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect gam: to go, to enter a condition (acc.)
na: not
eva: (emphatic)
upashamam (acc. sg.): m. the becoming quiet , assuagement , alleviation , stopping , cessation ; tranquillity of mind , calmness , patience
priyaam (acc. sg.): f. wife, beloved
prati: ind. towards

tathaa: ind. in such a manner
hi: for
taam (acc. sg.): f. her
eva: (emphatic)
tadaa: ind. at that time
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
cintayan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. cint: to think of

na: not
tasya (gen. sg.): of him, of the [beggar]
sushrava = 3rd pers. sg. perfect shru: to hear, listen
visaMjNa-vat: ind. as if unconscious
visaMjNa: mfn. unconscious ; bereft of sense , lifeless
vacaH (acc. sg.): n. speech, words

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