Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.3: Wishing to Take Him Up (II) -- With Open Hand

nandam viditvaa sugatas tatas taM
bhaary"-aabhidhaane tamasi bhramantaM
paaNau gRhiitvaa viyad utpapaata
maNiM jale saadhur iv'-ojjihiirShuH

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

And so the One Gone Well, seeing Nanda

Wandering in the darkness called "wife,"

Took his hand and flew up into the sky

Wishing to take him up --
like an honest man in the water bearing up a pearl.

The Monier-Williams dictionary gives "jeweller" as a possible meaning of the word saadhu, which appears in line 4 of today's verse, but according to a footnote to EHJ's translation this reading seems impossible as Ashvaghosha predates the earliest occurrence of this usage. Uncertainty over the word saadhu apparently causes EHJ to consider the possibility of reading madguH (cormorant) instead of saadhuH, and miinam (fish) instead of maNim (pearl).

EHJ concludes, "As a stop-gap but with no deep belief in its correctness, I translate miinaM jale madgur as all the words in the sentence fit the comparison." Hence: like a cormorant which has caught a fish in the water and, wishing to bring it up, comes to the surface.

Along with LC, I have eschewed EHJ's stop-gap and stuck with his original text, which describes an honest man in water whose intention is to bear up a pearl.

The sense I take from the metaphor, based largely on my experience in Alexander work, is that the Buddha's hand was open -- not concealing any agenda like that of a dishonest man who wishes to keep a valuable pearl all to himself. With open heart and open hands, the Buddha simply wished to take Nanda up.

"Take him up," the Alexander teacher Patrick Macdonald used to say to trainee teachers. "Take the bugger up!"

A large part of training to be an Alexander teacher is learning how, with open hands, to take a person up. After 17 years in the work, however, the whole thing remains something of a mystery to me. Even when I seem to succeed in it, I don't know how.

The difficulty some of us have in trying to understand how it works relates to the fact that when teacher succeeds in taking pupil up, there is nothing partial about it. That said, the teacher's ability to keep the wrists free and the hands open, is part of it.

And one thing that can be known is that it is impossible for any teacher to make his hands truly open simply by extending his fingers. In order for the hands to be truly open, the person who is using those hands has to be free from any end-gaining agenda -- including, trickily, the agenda of being a good Alexander teacher.

This talk of Alexander may seem to be beside the point for Buddhists who are not necessarily interested in what a non-Buddhist named FM Alexander discovered. But judging from verses like 10.1 and 10.3 I don't think that what Alexander discovered about open-handedness and taking people up would have been news to Ashvaghosha. And what Ashvaghosha wrote about it would not have been news to FM Alexander.

On the other hand, there might be a lot of Buddhist scholars, like EHJ for example, and there might be a lot of Buddhist teachers, for whom the wish to take others up -- with open heart and with open hands -- would indeed be news.

EH Johnston:
Then the Blessed One, seeing Nanda to be wandering in the darkness which is called 'wife', grasped his hand and flew up into the sky to rescue him, like a cormorant which has caught a fish in the water and, wishing to bring it up, comes to the surface.

Linda Covill:
Aware that Nanda was lost in the darkness of ignorance known as "wife," the Sugata planned to extricate him and taking him by the hand flew up into the sky, like a good man lifts up a jewel in the water.

nandam (acc. sg.): m. Nanda
viditvaa = abs. vid: , to know , understand , perceive , learn , become or be acquainted with , be conscious of , have a correct notion
su-gataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. going well ; one who has fared well ; well-bestowed
tataH: ind. thence, from that, then
tam (acc. sg. m.): him

bhaary"-aabhidhaane (loc. sg. n.): called "wife"
bhaaryaa: f. wife
abhidhaana: n. telling, naming; a name , title , appellation , expression , word
tamasi (loc. sg.): n. darkness
bhramantam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. bhram: to wander or roam about , rove , ramble ; to waver , be perplexed , doubt , err

paaNau (loc. sg.): m. the hand
gRhiitvaa = abs. grah: to grasp, take, take (by the hand, paaNau)
viyat (acc. sg.): n. the sky , heaven , air , atmosphere (prob. as " that which parts asunder or forms the intermediate region between heaven and earth ")
vi-yat: mfn. (pr. p. of vi- √ i) going apart or asunder
utpapaata = 3rd pers. sg. perfect ut- √ pat: to fly or jump up , fly upwards ; to ascend, rise

maNim (acc. sg.): m. a jewel , gem , pearl (also fig.) , any ornament or amulet , globule , crystal
miinam (acc. sg.): m. a fish
jale (loc. sg.): n. water
saadhuH (nom. sg.): m. a good or virtuous or honest man; m. a holy man , saint , sage , seer ; m. a jeweller ; m. a merchant , money-lender , usurer
madguH (nom. sg.): m. a diver-bird (a kind of aquatic bird or cormorant)
iva: like
ujjihiirShuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. Desid. of ud + √hR) wishing to extricate or rescue
ud: upwards
hR: to bear, bring, carry

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