Monday, May 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.2: Juxtaposition of Opposites

taM praaptam apraapta-vimokSha-maargaM
papraccha citta-skhalitaM su-cittaH
sa hriimate hrii-vinato jagaada
svaM nishcayaM nishcaya-kovidaaya

= = - = = - - = - = =
= = - = = - - = - = =
= = - = = - - = - = =
= = - = = - - = - = -

When Nanda, not yet arrived at liberation's path, arrived,

He of the beautiful mind questioned him,
whose mind was faltering.

Bowed down by humiliation,
Nanda confessed to one full of humility;

He told his intention to a master intention-knower.

The style of Asvhaghosha's expression in this verse, i.e. his juxtaposition of opposites, causes us to think exactly what was juxtaposed with what, and thus helps to bring alive the interaction between Nanda and the Buddha at a particular stage in Nanda's progress:

Nanda arrived before the Buddha, but his feet had not yet arrived on solid ground; Nanda's mind was hesitant, whereas the Buddha's mind was good and sound, as clear as a human mind can be; Nanda's humility was a negative emotion that pulled him down, whereas the Buddha's humility was the absence of that which pulls a man down; and Nanda informed the Buddha of his intention, except that he did not inform the Buddha of anything, because the Buddha already knew where Nanda was coming from.

In this way Ashvaghosha paints a vivid picture for us of a scene that he imagined. But what he imagined he did not conjure out of nowhere: Ashvaghosha's description is based on a historical relationship, an interaction that really took place, between a Shakya prince named Nanda and his older brother.

Even if we try to conjure an imagined scene out of nowhere, it seems that we cannot. If we imagine beings in other worlds, for example, we tend to envisage aliens with small heads and large eyes arriving in spacecraft and speaking English, or, on the contrary, we picture glowing bleeping blobs without heads and eyes. Even our wildest imagining, it seems, has to be based on the exaggerated presence or the absence of something we already know.

Ultimate happiness for a buddha, so they say, is to find some secluded place on this earth in which to enjoy peace and quiet, knowing contentment through the practice of small desire. The opposite of this might be to live among throngs of gorgeous beings in heaven experiencing the constant slaking of massive sexual greed.

But is it possible to imagine what such a heaven might really be like?

Surely there is no harm in conducting such a thought experiment -- and some insight might even come of it, as when Albert Einstein dared to picture himself travelling at the speed of light.

Prepare for lift off.

EH Johnston:
Nanda arrived there, stumbling in mind and having failed to take the path of Salvation, and on the Noble-minded One's questioning him, he bent with shame and told his resolution to Him Who was full of self-respect and skilled in resolution.

Linda Covill:
Nanda arrived with faltering mind after failing to arrive at liberation's path, and was questioned by the noble-minded one. Bowed down with shame, he spoke of his decision to that decision-knowing modest man.

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
praaptam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. arrived
apraapta-vimokSha-maargam (acc. sg. m.): not having arrived at the path of release
apraapta: mfn. unobtained ; unarrived
vimokSha: m. the being loosened or undone ; release
maarga: m. the track of a wild animal , any track , road , path , way

papraccha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect prach: to ask , question , interrogate (acc.) ; to ask after, inquire about (acc.)
citta-skhalitam (acc. sg. m.): his mind faltering
citta: n. thought, thinking mind
skhalita: mfn. stumbling , tripping , unsteady (as a gait) ; stammering , faltering (speech)
su-cittaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. well-minded

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
hriimate = dat. sg. m. hrii-mat: mfn. bashful , modest , ashamed , embarrassed
hrii-vinataH (nom. sg. m.): bowed down with shame
hrii: f. shame , modesty , shyness , timidity
vinata: mfn. bent , curved , bent down , bowed , stooping , inclined , sunk down , depressed , deepened; humble , modest ; dejected , dispirited
jagaada = 3rd pers. sg. perfect gad: to speak articulately , speak , say , relate , tell anything to anyone

svam (acc. sg. m.): his own
nishcayam (acc. sg.): m. inquiry , ascertainment ; resolution, resolve fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
nishcaya-kovidaaya (dat. sg. m.): to him who understood intentions
nishcaya: m. resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
kovida: mfn. ( √vid) experienced , skilled , learned in

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