Monday, May 2, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.33: Knowing the Enemy

sMrteH pramoSho vapuShaH paraabhavo
rateH kShayo vaac-chruti-cakShuShaaM grahaH
shramasya yonir bala-viiryayor vadho
jaraa-samo n'-aasti shariiriNaaM ripuH

- = - = = - - = - = - =
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Robber of memory; destroyer of looks;

Ender of pleasure; seizer of speech, hearing and sight;

Birthplace of fatigue;
slayer of strength and manly vigour:

For those with a body, there is no enemy to rival aging.

Today is a good day to discuss the defeat of an enemy. I refer to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, a typical religious striver. Religious striving is everywhere the enemy of freedom -- not least within me.

On first reading what our Buddhist striver says in today's verse sounds reasonable.

Certainly there is no fault here as gross and obvious as the Buddhist striver's prejudiced view against women expressed in Canto 8.

But if we sift through the striver's words in the methodical manner of the diligent dirt-washer, as advocated at the end of Canto 15, then some subtle inaccuracies emerge.

First, in the Buddha's teaching aging generally is cited alongside two rivals, namely, sickness, and death:

Nothing takes away people's beauty like aging, there is no misfortune in the world like sickness, / And no terror on earth like death. Yet these three, inevitably, shall be obeyed. // [5.27]

Aging, sickness and death are the great terror of this world. / There is no place where that terror does not arise. // [15.46]

Second, whereas the Buddha describes aging, sickness and death as inevitable terrors which shall be obeyed, he compares to enemies those afflictions which he encourages us not to obey but rather -- through persistent and well-directed effort -- to defeat.

Upon transient whims which are akin to enemies, being eternally the causes of suffering, / Upon whims like love, the world fixes. It does not know the happiness that is immune to change.//

Therefore, knowing it to be darkness, you should not engulf sleep / While the faults remain unsubdued like sword-wielding enemies. //

When a man is like a gatekeeper at his gate, his mindfulness directed, / The faults do not venture to attack him, any more than enemies do a guarded city. // [14.36]

But he is a target for the faults who lacks the armour of mindfulness: / As for enemies is he who stands in battle with no suit of armour.// [14.38]

If he constantly abides as a unity, in an empty abode, if he is no fonder of arisings of affliction than he is of enemies, / And if, going rejoicing in the self, he drinks the water of joy, then greater than dominion over thirty gods is the happiness he enjoys. // [14.52]

As a bow of true knowledge, clad in the armour of mindfulness, standing up in a chariot of pure practice of integrity, / While his enemies, the afflictions, stood up in the battlefield of the mind, he took his stance for victory, ready to engage them in battle. // [17.23]

With arrows made from the presence of mindfulness, instantly he shot those enemies whose substance is upside-down-ness: / He split apart four enemies, four causes of suffering, with four arrows, each having its own range.// [17.25]

A small vestige of the great enemy, red passion, whose straining bow is impatient desire and whose arrow is fixity, / He destroyed using weapons procured from the body as it naturally is -- using the darts of the disagreeable, weapons from the armoury of practice. // [17.38]

In order to go entirely beyond the sphere of desire, he overpowered those enemies that grab the heel, / So that he attained, because of practice, the fruit of not returning, and stood as if at the gateway to the citadel of Nirvana.// [17.41]

If we follow the Buddha's teaching, then, we should see as our enemies greed, anger and other faults, and should see as our enemies the end-gaining desires (including especially the religious striver's desire to feel right) which trigger those faults.

The Buddha calls aging a terror; he does not call aging his enemy. Aging is inevitable. Moreover, though my aging may be a terror for me, from the standpoint of future generations it might be not only inevitable but also desirable that this body grows old and vacates this spot by the forest so that somebody else can enjoy the solitude.

A grain of dirt after all, however fine and however glittery it may be, is not quite a grain of gold.

EH Johnston:
There is no foe of corporeal beings to equal old age, the thief of memory, the conqueror of beauty, the destroyer of pleasure, the robber of speech, hearing and eyesight, the source of weariness, the slayer of might and heroism.

Linda Covill:
It steals memory, humiliates beauty, ruins sex, seizes speech, hearing and sight, produces fatigue and kills strength and vigor; old age is the matchless enemy of humankind.

smRteH (gen. sg.): f. remembrance , reminiscence , thinking of or upon (loc. or comp.) , calling to mind
pramoShaH (nom. sg.): m. stealing or taking away
pra- √muSh: to steal away , rob , carry off , take away
vapuShaH (gen. sg.): n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty
paraabhavaH (nom. sg.): m. vanishing , disappearance , dissolution , separation ; overthrow , defeat , humiliation , mortification , contempt , injury , destruction , ruin

rateH (gen. sg.): f. pleasure , enjoyment ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment
kShayaH (nom. sg.): m. loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away
vaac-chruti-cakShuShaam (gen. pl.): speech, hearing and sight
vaac: f. speech , voice
shruti: f. hearing , listening
cakShus: n. faculty of seeing , sight
grahaH (nom. sg.): m. seizer

shramasya (gen. sg.): m. fatigue , weariness , exhaustion
yoniH (nom. sg.): m. womb, place of birth, place of rest
bala-viiryayor (gen. sg. dual):
bala: n. strength
viirya: n. manliness , valour , strength , power , energy
vadhaH (nom. sg.): m. one who kills , a slayer , vanquisher , destroyer

jaraa-samaH (nom. sg. m.): the equal of old age
na: not
asti = 3rd pers. sg. as: to be
shariiriNaam = gen. pl. shariirin: m. an embodied being , creature , (esp.) a man
ripuH (nom. sg.): m. an enemy , adversary , foe

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