Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.6: Denouncing the Conceit of Personal Strength

idaM hi rog'-aayatanaM jar"-aavashaM
nadii-taT'-aanokahavac cal'-aa-calaM
na vetsi dehaM jala-phena-durbalaM
bala-stha-taam aatmani yena manyase

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For this body which is a domicile for disease,
standing helpless before senility,

Teetering like a tree with its roots on a riverbank,

You do not know to be as fragile as froth on water,

Wherefore you feel there to be abiding strength in you.

The three elements of strength (bala), good looks (ruupa) and youth (yauvana) which were mentioned in 9.4 and repeated in 9.5 will now be examined one by one. From this verse through to 9.23, the striver chastises Nanda for the tendency to think himself strong (bala). In 9.24 to 9.26 he chastises Nanda for thinking himself good-looking and recaps the argument against seeing any human body in terms of its beauty (ruupa). In 9.27 to 9.29 he targets the youthful presumption of enduring youth (yauvana). Then through to 9.34 the striver considers old age as the universal destroyer of strength, beauty and youth. From 9.35 to the end of his monologue in 9.49, the striver sounds somewhat like the Buddha, and at the same time somewhat like men of religion everywhere, in his denial of egoism with regard to ownership of one's own body, and in his denial of attachment to pleasures of the flesh. In the final two verses of the Canto, Ashvaghosha informs us that though the striver was so great in hearing what is heard, his chastising of Nanda had no salutary effect whatsoever: Nanda like an elephant in full rut remained blinded by lust.

To bear the insignia of shaved head, robe and bowl is the Buddha's teaching, as is investigation of impermanence. But as is evident from the striver's example, to wear a Buddhist uniform and parrot Buddhist cliches about impermanence is not it.

The Buddha's teaching, as is evident from what the Buddha personally transmits to his younger brother, is to devote oneself wholeheartedly and in solitude, when time and place are right, to the true practice of yoga.

On the basis of the first nine cantos of the eighteen cantos of Saundara-nanda, if we are fortunate enough to find ourselves again at that happy time and place, we can at least be very clear about one thing: the true practice of yoga, as the Buddha taught is, is not tainted by any trace or hint of ascetic striving.

EH Johnston:
You deem your strength to be permanent ; for you do not realise that the body is the abode of disease, subject to old age, frail as the foam on the river and insecure as a tree on the bank of a stream.

Linda Covill:
You think bodily strength will endure in you because you do not comprehend that the body is the living quarters of disease, helpless before old age, as loose as a tree on a riverbank, fragile as a water-bubble.

idam (acc. sg. n.): this
hi: for
rog'-aayatanam (acc. sg. n.): the abode of disease
roga: m. ( √ruj) " breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness
aayatana: n. resting-place , support , seat , place , home , house , abode
aa- √ yat: to arrive, enter ; abide ; rest on
jar"-aavasham (acc. sg. n.): powerless against aging
jaraa: f. the act of becoming old , old age
avasha: mfn. not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly

nadii-taT'-aanokahavat (acc. sg. n.): like a tree on a river bank
nadii: f. river
taTa: m. a slope, shore
an-oka-ha: m. " not quitting his home or his place " , a tree
oka: m. house, refuge
vat: (affix indicating resemblance) like
cal'-aa-calam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. movable and immovable , locomotive and stationary ; ever-moving (the wheel of saMsaara) ; moving to and fro , movable , tremulous , unfixed , loose ; unsteady , changeable

na: not
vetsi = 2nd pers. sg. vid: to know , understand , perceive , learn , become or be acquainted with , be conscious of , have a correct notion of
deham (acc. sg. n.): mn. the body
jala-phena-durbalam (acc. sg. n.): fragile as froth on water
jala-phena: m. " water-froth " , os Sepiae
jala: water
phena: m. foam , froth , scum
durbala: mfn. of little strength , weak , feeble

bala-stha-taam (acc. sg. f.): staying strong ; abiding strength
bala-stha: mfn. " being in strength or power " , strong , powerful , vigorous
bala: n. strength, power
stha: mfn. (only ifc.) standing , staying , abiding , being situated in
-taa: (abstract noun suffix)
aatmani (loc. sg.): m. the individual soul , self , abstract individual (used as reflexive pronoun)
yena (inst. sg. n.): on account of which
manyase = 2nd pers. sg. man: to think , believe , imagine , suppose ; to perceive , observe , learn , know , understand , comprehend

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