Thursday, April 7, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.8: A Problem with Pride

yad"-aapy an-arthair upaniiyate jagat
jalaM shucau maasa iv' aarka-rashmibhiH
kShayaM vrajan kiM bala-dRpta manyase

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Cold, heat, disease, old age, hunger:

While the living are being reduced by such adversities

Like water in the hot season by the sun's rays,

What are you thinking,
taker of pride in strength!
as you wander towards your end?

Again, the striver chooses words that sound similar to words spoken by the Buddha, for example in Canto 15:

Here cold, there heat, here disease, there danger / Oppresses humanity in the extreme. The world, therefore, has no place of refuge // [15.45]

That "I am young," or "I am strong," should not occur to you /

However, in light of the striver's accusation here that Nanda is unduly proud of his strength, it is instructive to re-read Canto 7.

On the evidence of Canto 7, Nanda if anything seems to regard himself as being too weak.

So whose conceit is really the issue? Nanda's? Or the ascetic striver's?

On the evidence of his own words who has got a problem with conceit? Nanda, the one who protests that he is weak (durbalaH aham; 7.46)? Or the ascetic striver, the one who says he knows (aham avabuddhaH; 9.5)?

As I sat this morning with the early morning spring sunshine outside stimulating various birds to tweet, including a pair of blue tits that flitted on the branches of the pear tree in the front garden, I found myself reflecting on the fact that, considering I sort of expected myself some years back to become "the most excellent Buddhist master in the world," I have made a right pig's ear of the whole thing. This kind of mind-wandering might be a very different state from the unitary awareness of the 2nd dhyana... but on some mornings I can't be bothered to make the right kind of effort.

In any case, what is more fundamental in the Buddha's teaching, as I understand it, is not to make the wrong kind of effort. And thanks to input from various sources, including the words of Ashvaghosha, I am grateful at least to be clear about one thing, which is that the practice of sitting on a round cushion as the Buddha taught it, is not any kind of ascetic striving. Ascetic striving is the wrong kind of effort, and not to make it is a really important point. If I have totally failed to clarify anything else, I would at least like to be clear about this point.

Ascetic striving is a kind of egoistic forcing of what needn't be forced, or what can't be forced. It is a misguided attempt to do an undoing, rooted in egotistical thinking. So it might be very natural that Ashvaghosha's striver has a problem with pride.

EH Johnston:
Seeing that the world is subject to attack from calamities such as cold, heat, disease, old age, hunger etc., like the water in the hot season from the rays of the sun, what are you thinking about, you who are so proud of your strength, as you pass to decay?

Linda Covill:
You, body-proud, what are you thinking as you travel towards ruin? The world is pulled in by misfortune -- cold, heat, sickness, old age and hunger -- just as water in the hot season is absorbed by the rays of the sun.

him'-aatapa-vyaadhi-jaraa-kShud-aadibhiH (inst. pl.): cold, heat, sickness, aging, hunger, and so on
hima: m. cold, frost ; the cold season , winter
aatapa: m. heat (especially of the sun)
vyaadhi: sickness
jaraa: aging
kShudh: f. hunger
aadi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on

yadaa: ind. when, at which time
api: also, even (emphatic)
an-arthaiH (inst. pl.): n. disappointing occurrence , reverse , evil
upaniiyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive upa- √ nii: to lead or drive near , bring near , bring ; to lead or draw towards one's self ; to bring to any state, reduce to ; to bring about , produce , cause
jagat (nom. sg.): n. the world

jalam (nom. sg.): n. water
shucau (loc. sg.): m. fire; m. the sun; m. a partic. hot month (accord. to some = aaShaaDha or jyeShTha , accord. to others " the hot season in general ")
maase (loc. sg.): m. month
iva: like
arka-rashmibhiH (inst. pl.): by rays of the sun
arka: m. the sun
rashmi: m. string ; a ray of light , beam , splendour

kShayam (acc. sg.): m. loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away ; end, termination (kShayaM √ gam , √yaa , √i , or upa √i , to become less , be diminished , go to destruction , come to an end , perish)
vrajan = nom. sg. n. pres. part. vraj: to go , walk , proceed , travel , wander , move
kim: ind. what?
bala-dRpta (voc.): O one who is proud of his strength!
bala: n. power , strength , might , vigour
dRpta: mfn. mad , wild , proud , arrogant
dRp: to be mad or foolish , to rave ; to be extravagant or wild , to be arrogant or proud , to be wildly delighted
manyase = 2nd pers. sg. man: to think

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