Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.20: Another Tale of Power

balaM kuruuNaaM kva ca tat tad" aabhavad
yudhi jvalitvaa taras" aujasaa ca ye
samit-samiddhaa jvalanaa iv' aadhvare
hat'-aasavo bhasmani paryavasthitaaH

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And where is the power once possessed by the Kurus

Who blazed in combat with speed and stamina

And then,
like sacrificial fires whose firewood has burned,

Lay in ashes, their life-breath snuffed out?

The setting of the Bhagavad Gita is a battlefield at the onset of an Indian civil war. The battle is between two factions of the royal family of the Kurus (the Kauravas and the Pandavas). According to the Wikipedia entry on the Kurus, they brought into this war almost all the rulers of ancient India. The colossal destruction of life and wealth in this war led ancient India into a socio-economic depression (otherwise known as the Kali Yuga or the Dark Age) that lasted for a long period.

Talking of strength or power (balam), the whole of Saundara-nanda might be a tale of power -- the power of the Buddha's wisdom, prajNaa; the power of the confidence, shraddhaa, that Nanda finds in a better way; the power of strongly directing one's energy, viirya, (but do not call it striving); and ultimately the power of true yoga, with its twofold division into mindfulness, smRti, and balance, samaadhi.

The striver, however, seems to be unduly concerned with a different sort of power. This might be a fault in the striver. Failing to see it as such, however, the striver is grimly projecting it onto poor old innocent Nanda who at present is not at all interested in power or strength, but only in his absent lover.

So the striver, it seems to me, in his repeated negation of Nanda's non-existent tendency to take pride in strength or power, is somehow missing the essential point of the Buddha's teaching. For some unconscious reason, he is pursing another agenda. In this the character of the striver rings true to real life and is an excellent mirror for us who, despite the most heroic of intentions, go wrong in our effort to follow the Buddha's way. The striver is doing what many of us do in fact do: in our effort to be like a dragon finding water, we manifest ourselves as fake elephants. When we strive to follow a better way, our striving just ties us to our old way.

In this situation, it might be desirable to come back to the fundamental teaching of the four noble truths, as outlined in Canto 16, and stop striving.

EH Johnston:
And where has the strength of the Kurus gone? They blazed in the fight with energy and fury, yet they lost their lives and were turned to ashes, like fires heaped up with fuel in a sacrifice.

Linda Covill:
Where is the strength of the Kurus at war, blazing with energy and vigor? Like sacrificial fires stoked with fuel, they turned to ashes, their life-breath ended

balam (nom. sg.): n. strength
kuruuNaam (gen. pl.): the Kurus ; N. of a people of India and of their country (it was probably a country beyond the most northern range of the himaalaya , often described as a country of everlasting happiness, and considered by some to be the ancient home of the Aryan race).
kva: where? (with √bhuu , √as) how is it with? what has become of?
ca: and
tat (nom. sg. n.): that
tadaa: ind. at that time
abhavat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect bhuu: to be, exist, be found, occur

yudhi (loc. sg.): f. war , fight , combat , struggle
jvalitvaa = abs. jval: to burn brightly , blaze , glow , shine
tarasaa (inst. sg.): n. rapid progress , velocity , strength , energy , efficacy
ojasaa (inst. sg.): n. bodily strength , vigour , energy , ability , power
ca: and
ye (nom. pl. m.): who

samit-samiddhaaH (nom. pl. m.): with their firewood set on fire
samit = in comp. for samidh: f. firewood , fuel , a log of wood , faggot , grass &c employed as fuel
samiddha: mfn. set alight or on fire , lighted , kindled , ignited , inflamed
jvalanaaH (nom. pl.): m. fire
iva: like
adhvare (loc. sg.): m. a sacrifice (especially the soma sacrifice)

hat'-aasavaH (nom. pl. m.): deprived of their life-breath
hata: mfn. struck , beaten (also said of a drum) , smitten , killed , slain , destroyed , ended , gone , lost (often ibc. = " destitute of " , " bereft of " , " -less ")
asu: m. ( √as, to be) breath , life
bhasmani (loc. sg.): n. "what is pulverized a or calcined by fire " , ashes
paryavasthitaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. standing , stationed ; (with loc.) contained in
pary-ava- √ sthaa: to become firm or steady ; to fill or pervade

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