Friday, May 13, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.44: An Ascetic View of Sensual Enjoyments

yathaa ca kuShTha-vyasanena duHkhitaH
prataapanaan n' aiva shamaM nigacchati
tath" endriy'-aartheShv a-jit'-endriyash caran
na kaama-bhogair upashaantim Rcchati

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

Again, just as a man suffering from the blight of leprosy

Does not through application of heat obtain a cure,

One who goes among sense objects
with his senses unconquered

Does not tend through sensual enjoyments
towards peace.

Taken in isolation as a general statement, these words again might not always be true -- depending on whether one understands upashaantim √R as describing something final (to obtain peace) or as describing a work in progress (to tend towards tranquillity, or to obtain remission/relief).

I have understand √R as indicating work in progress, a tending towards tranquillity, in which case the striver's assertion in the second half of today's verse cannot be true.

For a man whose senses are unconquered, errant wobbling between sensual indulgence and grimly determined self-denial might be the only path to peace. It might be a case, in the words of Frederique the builder, of pas de choix.

Moreover, isn't the first stage of sitting-meditation as Ashvaghosha describes it in Canto 17 a kind of sensual enjoyment?

Released from the burning of the bonfire of desires, he derived great gladness from ease in the act of meditating -- / Ease like a heat-exhausted man diving into water. Or like a pauper coming into great wealth. // [17.43]

A central issue in this and the next four verses is what the striver means by his words a-jit'-endriyaH, "one whose senses are not conquered."

As an adjective jit'-endriya means calm, with senses subdued. The term is not necessarily used in connection with asceticism, although often it is: as discussed with reference to 9.23, where the striver exhorts Nanda to beat the six senses, jit'-endriya is given in the dictionary as a masculine noun that means an ascetic.

Apart from appearing in the title of Canto 13 in the Sanskrit text published by EHJ and in today's verse, the term jit'-endriya appears in three other verses of Saundara-nanda -- in Canto 2, in Ashvaghosha's description of the king; in Canto 8, used again by the striver; and in Canto 18, in the Buddha's congratulation of Nanda:

Some time thereafter that realm passed, through familial succession, / To a king named Shuddodhana who, being pure in his actions, had thwarted the power of the senses. // [2.1]

The man who would leave strife behind wishing only to return again to strife: / He is the fool who would leave behind and then return, with his senses unconquered, to the strife that is a wife. // [8.30]

Today, conquerer of yourself, you are truly gone forth, since by that means you have won sovereignty over yourself. / For going forth is effective for one who has conquered himself, but not for an impulsive soul whose power of the senses is unconquered. // [18.23]

So when the striver and the Buddha use the same term, a-jit'-endriya, is their understanding of that term the same, or not? I shall endeavor to clarify, on the evidence of the next four verses, that the striver's understanding of how the six senses are conquered through ascetic striving is not the same as the Buddha's understanding of how the power of the senses is thwarted through the practice of integrity.

In asceticism, denial of sensual enjoyments is principle number one. Whereas the core principle of the Buddha's teaching, as I understand it, is the giving up of those end-gaining ideas, such as ascetism and other kinds of trying to be right, that trigger the faults that cause suffering.

And in guiding Nanda in the direction of this core principle, the Buddha, as is evident from Canto 10, was not afraid on the way to tip-toe into the territory of sensual titillation.

For religious types like Ashvagosha's striver, the area of sensual enjoyment is a no-go area. I think this is why in Canto 10 Ashvaghosha paints such a vivid picture of the Buddha going there.

EH Johnston:
And as a man afflicted by leprosy does not obtain relief by applying heat, so too he who with uncontrolled senses follows after the objects of the senses does not obtain tranquillity by means of the enjoyments of the passions.

Linda Covill:
And just as a man suffering with leprosy gets no relief from heat, likewise a man of unruly senses who is preoccupied with sensory experience finds no peace in sensual enjoyment.

yathaa: ind. just as
ca: and
kuShTha-vyasanena (inst. sg.): the blight of leprosy
kuShTha: n. leprosy
vyasana: n. attachment or devotion or addiction to (loc. or comp.) ; evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune (vyasanaani pl. misfortunes) , ill-luck , distress
duHkhitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. pained , distressed, afflicted

pra-taapanaat (abl. sg.): n. warming , heating
na: not
eva: (emphatic)
shamam (acc. sg.): m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity ; peace ; alleviation or cure of disease , convalescence
nigacchati = 3rd pers. sg. ni- √ gam: to enter , resort to , undergo , incur , become (with acc. e.g. shaantim , to become pacified )

tathaa: ind. so, likewise
indriy'-aartheShu (loc. pl.): m. an object of sense (as sound , smell , &c ) , anything exciting the senses
ajit'-endriyaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having unsubdued passions; m. a man whose power of the senses is unconquered
ajita: unsubdued, unconquered
indriya: power of the senses
caran = nom. sg. pres. part. car : to move, wander ; to move or travel through , pervade , go along , follow ; to behave , conduct one's self , act , live , treat (with instr. or loc.)

na: not
kaama-bhogaiH (inst. pl.): by/with/in the presence of sensual enjoyments
kaama-bhoga: m. pl. gratification of desires , sensual gratification
upashaantim (acc. sg.): f. cessation , intermission , remission; tranquillity, calmness
Rcchati = 3rd pers. sg. √R: to go , move , rise , tend upwards ; to go towards , meet with , fall upon or into , reach , obtain

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