Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.27: Exhortation to Suppress the Aspiring Mind

navaM vayash c' aatma-gataM nishaamya yad
gRh'-onmukham te viShay'-aaptaye manaH
niyaccha tac chaila-nad"-iiray'-opamaM
drutaM hi gacchaty a-nivarti yauvanaM

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Again, your mind,
seeing the prime of life as a personal belonging,

Looks forward to going home
and gaining its sensual end:

Curb that mind!
for, like a river coursing down a rocky mountain,

Youth passes swiftly and does not return.

With the imperative niyaccha tat, "Curb that [mind]," or in LC's translation "Stop it," is the striver expressing the 3rd noble truth, or not?

I think we know the striver well enough by now to know that his way is not truly a way of cessation of suffering, but is a variation on the theme of self-denying asceticism.

Still, to translate niyaccha tat as "suppress your mind!" might be going too far -- even though, according to the dictionary, ni- √yam does include the meaning of suppress.

Ashvaghosha, as I hear him, is manifesting less and less obviously the faults in the striver's thinking -- from the blatant misogyny of Canto 8 to words that sound increasingly like the Buddha's teaching,.

Thus, as in the practice of sitting-dhyana outlined by Ashvaghosha in Canto 17, the reader is encouraged to be awake first to gross faults (e.g. the tainted expectation that "if I practice hard I will be rewarded by the sexual favours of heavenly nymphs") and then subtler faults (e.g. attachment to ease in sitting).

The central fault expressed in this verse, as I read it, is a directness of approach that contrasts with the indirect approach employed by the Buddha in the next canto. Thus, the striver exhorts Nanda to curb, restrain, or suppress his aspiring mind. Whereas, by causing him to focus on the goal of union with nymphs in heaven, the Buddha gives Nanda something to which greatly to aspire.

EH Johnston:
Dam up your mind like the torrent of a mountain stream, since it turns to your home, in your perception of the fresh youth that is yours, to obtain the objects of the senses ; for youth goes swiftly never to return.

Linda Covill:
Imagining that green youth is integral to you, your mind turns homeward in the expectation of finding pleasurable sensations. Stop it, for youth, like a coursing mountain stream, flows swiftly and does not return.

navam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. new, fresh
vayaH (acc. sg.): n. energy ; vigorous age , youth , prime of life
ca: and
aatma-gatam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. being on itself
aatman: m. self ; the person or whole body considered as one
gata: mfn. come to, arrived at, being in
nishaamya = abs. ni- √ sham: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
yad (acc. sg. n.): that, [the mind] which

gRh'-onmukham (acc. sg. n.): looking forward to going home
gRha: home
unmukha: mfn. raising the face , looking up or at ; expecting
te (gen. sg.): your
viShay'-aaptaye (dat. sg.): for the gaining of sensual enjoyments
viShaya: m. anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
aapti: f. reaching , meeting with ; obtaining , gain , acquisition
manaH (acc. sg.): n. mind

niyaccha = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ni- √ yam : to stop (trans.) , hold back ; to hold in , keep down , restrain , control , govern , regulate (as breath , the voice , the organs of sense &c ); to suppress or conceal (one's nature)
tat (acc. sg. n.): it, that [mind]
shaila-nad"-iiray'-opamam (acc. sg. n.): like a river coursing down a mountain
shaila: m. a rock , crag , hill , mountain
nadii: f. flowing water , a river
iiraya = causative root √iir: to go, move, go away
upama: mfn. (ifc.) equal , similar , resembling , like

drutam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. quick , speedy , swift
hi: for
gacchati = 3rd pers. sg. gam: to go , move , go away ; to go or pass (as time)
a-nivarti = nom. sg. n. a-nivartin: mfn. not turning back , brave , not returning
yauvanam (nom. sg.): n. (fr. yuvan) youth , youthfulness

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