Tuesday, June 7, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.17: A Bit of a Gap

ity evam uktaH sugatena nandaH
kRtvaa smitaM kiM cid idaM jagaada
kva c' ottama-strii bhagavan vadhuus te
mRgii naga-klesha-karii kva c' aiShaa

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

Addressed thus by the One Gone Well

Nanda said, with a slight smirk:

"How can a gap be measured, Glorious One!, between
that most excellent of women your sister-in-law,

And this tree-tormenting monkey?"

In this verse as I picture him, the smirking Nanda indicates that there is no basis for relative comparison, for he feels sure that his love for Sundari is absolutely true and real, while he evident feels no warmth at all (not even a bit of compassion?) towards the contemptible she-monkey. The situation, as Nanda would have it, is black and white. That is why smitaM kiM cid in line 2, as I read it, means a slight smirk -- because Nanda's smile includes a hint of intellectual conceit, together with a dash of arrogant contempt towards a fellow primate.

One can only speculate how the Buddha would have responded if Nanda had said to the Buddha, without any hint of arrogance or any kind of hesitation: "Of course I feel empathy with my fellow primate, but my feelings for your sister-in-law are a lot stronger than what I feel for the old monkey, and I have decided to go back home to be with her, right now!"

But Nanda did not say that. He left a gap open, and the Buddha didn't fail to notice the gap and didn't fail to exploit the gap. One might say that, by causing Nanda to practise dharma with the totally tainted agenda of earning sex with celestial nymphs as his reward, the Buddha caused Nanda's gap to be as wide as wide could be.

At the beginning of his instructions for sitting-dhyana, Dogen quotes the Chinese Zen master who said that "If there is the slightest bit of a gap, heaven and earth are far apart," and there are many ways of describing what this gap is. It is a gap of many dimensions. In Nanda's case in this verse, it seems to me, the gap is a gap between how things are in his mind, that is to say cut and dried, black and white; and how things are in reality, that is to say indefinite, ambiguous, with many intermediate shades of grey.

EH Johnston:
Thus addressed by the Blessed One, Nanda smiled a little and said, "What comparison can there be, Lord, between Thy sister-in-law, the finest of women, and this tree-tormenting monkey."

Linda Covill:
When the Sugata said this to him, Nanda gave a small smile and replied, "What comparison can there be, Lord, between your sister-in-law, the most excellent of women, and this mischief-making monkey in the trees?"

ity evam uktaH (nom. sg. m.): addressed thus
sugatena (inst. sg.): by the One Gone Well
nandaH (nom. sg.): m. Nanda

kRtvaa = abs. kR: to do, make
smitam n. a smile , gentle laugh (smitaM- √kR , " to smile ")
kiM cid: ind. somewhat, a little
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
jagaada = 3rd pers. sg. perfect gad: to speak articulately , speak , say

kva: where? (kva - kva [implying excessive incongruity] where is this? where is that? how distant is this from that? how little does this agree with that?)
ca: and
uttama-strii (nom. sg. f.): the most excellent of women
uttama: mfn. uppermost; most excellent; m. an excellent woman (one who is handsome , healthy , and affectionate)
strii: f. woman
bhagavan (voc.): mfn. possessing fortune , fortunate , prosperous , happy; glorious , illustrious , divine , adorable , venerable ; holy (applied to gods , demigods , and saints as a term of address)
vadhuuH (nom. sg.): f. a bride or newly-married woman; any younger female relation
te (gen. sg.): your

mRgii (nom. sg.): f. female beast
naga-klesha-karii (nom. sg. f.): bringer of distress to trees
naga: m. " not moving " , a mountain ; any tree or plant
klesha: m. pain , affliction , distress
karin: mfn. doing , effecting &c
kva: where
ca: and
eShaa (nom. sg. f.): this one, this here monkey

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