Sunday, April 3, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.4: In the Name of Tranquillity, the Striver Tries Again

tatas tath" aakShiptam avekShya taM tadaa
balena ruupeNa ca yauvanena ca
gRha-prayaaNaM prati ca vyavasthitaM
shashaasa nandaM shramaNaH sa shaantaye

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And so seeing him caught up as he was

By strength and by looks and by youth,

Seeing him all set to go home,

The striver chastised Nanda,
in the name of tranquillity.

The striver chastised Nanda, in the name of tranquillity.

"That human being is noisy, not at peace. Therefore, in the name of tranquillity, I shall shout at him, or better still I would like to whack him with a stick."

This kind of distorted thinking might be an instance of what Ashvaghosha was referring to in the previous verse as anta-gataM tamas, or thoroughly penetrating darkness -- not that I, for one, would claim to be immune to such darkness.

To be honest, doubtless due to congenital faults in the auditory-vestibular channel, I seem to be exceptionally prone to such dark end-gaining ignorance.

The three elements identified in the previous verse as desire (raaga), darkness (tamas) and wrongness (paapman) are all present in the behaviour of the striver as he tries again to influence Nanda.

In the Buddha's interaction with Nanda, the same desire is present -- which is a desire for tranquillity. But whereas the striver's approach goes wrong, it fails, in the Buddha's approach there is nothing wrong and it succeeds, so that Nanda is finally able to declare that, through the quieting influence of the teacher, "I have come to utmost quiet" (paraaM shaantim upaagato' ham; 17.70).

So the striver and the Buddha shared the same desire for tranquillity, but the outcome of their efforts was totally different in the two cases, there being something wrong in the striver's efforts but nothing wrong in the Buddha's efforts.

What is the difference between the striver and the Buddha?

The striver is in the dark, unenlightened, subconsciously controlled, aware of the end to be gained only as a concept and ignorant of a proper means whereby to gain the end. The Buddha is enlightened, conscious, truly aware of the tranquil end and a means whereby to gain the end.

The striver is a trier, an end-gainer. The Buddha encourages Nanda, and with Nanda us, to be confident in the existence of a better way.

EH Johnston:
Then seeing Nanda thus carried away by his strength, beauty and youth and determined to go home, the disciple reproved him to bring him to peace of mind :--

Linda Covill:
Then, observing him to be caught up with his own physical fitness, good looks and youthfulness, and preparing to go home, the ascetic rebuked Nanda in order to calm him down.

tataH: ind. then
tathaa: ind. thus, in this manner
aakShiptam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. cast , thrown down ; caught , seized , overcome (as the mind ) by beauty , curiosity , &c , charmed , transported
aa- √ kShip: to throw down; convulse , cause to tremble
avekShya = abs. avekSh: to perceive , observe
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
tadaa: ind. at that time

balena (inst. sg.): strength
ruupeNa (inst. sg.): good looks
ca: and
yauvanena (inst. sg.): youth
ca: and

gRha-prayaaNam (acc. sg. m.): heading for home
gRha: home, house
prayaaNa: n. setting out , starting , advancing ; departure
pra- √ yaa : to go forth , set out
prati: towards
ca: and
vyavasthitam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. placed in order , drawn up (in battle) ; intent upon (loc.)
vy-ava- √ sthaa: to halt , stop , stay ; to prepare or make ready for (dat.) ; to be settled ; to fix on , direct towards

shashaasa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect shaas: to chastise , correct , censure , punish
nandam (acc. sg.): m. Nanda
shramaNaH (nom. sg.): m. the striver
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
shaantaye = dat. sg. shaanti: f. tranquillity , peace , quiet , peace or calmness of mind


Happi said...

Hey Mike -

Something that amazes me, that you haven't commented on much, is Nanda's reaction (or lack thereof) to the striver's message. I, myself, would find it difficult to silently sit through the delivery of such thinly disguised ego-based whining. It seems that the striver has failed to listen and, as a result, has little understanding of Nanda, his circumstances, or his plight.

Therefore, when I ask myself "who is acting with the most integrity during this section of the poem?" my answer is Nanda..

In the name of tranquility,


Mike Cross said...

Thanks Gisela, good point. I tend to be more aware of -- or maybe to empathize with -- the striver's yang as opposed to Nanda's yin. And it may be a general principle that strivers are too busy striving to be good at listening.

In tomorrow's verse the striver says "I am the knower; I am enlightened," (aham avabuddhaH), but he doesn't sound convincing. His words sound, as you say, ego-based. When, in contrast, eventually Nanda says "I have come to utmost quiet" (paraaM shaantim upaagato' ham; 17.70) it sounds true and inspires confidence in us to keep working in the direction of tranquillity.

Thanks for listening,