Thursday, June 30, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.40: Subject Fixes Upon Object -- Mental Bond Formation

vapush ca divyaM lalitaash ca ceShTaas
tataH sa taasaaM manasaa jahaara
kautuuhal'-aavarjitayaa ca dRShTyaa
saMshleSha-tarShaad iva jaata-raagaH

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

Their heavenly form and playful gestures

He then mentally seized;

And, while his eye was appropriated by curiosity,

He became impassioned, as if from a thirst for union.

On first reading, saMshleSha-tarShaat in line 4 seems to mean "because of a thirst for their embrace," or "because of a thirst for [sexual] union with them."

But in light of yesterday's discussion of chemical bond formation it occurred to me that maybe the formation of a mental bond is being compared here to the kind of compulsion that exists in the material world, for example, between carbon molecules in wood and oxygen molecules in the air when a fire is raging -- in which case saMshleSha-tarShaad iva might better be translated as "as if from want of combination."

In any event, today's verse as I read it is focusing in on the very moment when a match is struck against the side of a matchbox, so that a flame may arise; that is, in other words, the moment when trembling subject and trembling object orient themselves to each other and lock onto each other, ready to combine.

One way of understanding smRti, mindfulness, or maintenance of awareness, is as a kind of conscious force-field that protects us against those unconscious reactions by which we as subjects get bound through our senses to objects. In that light, line 3 of today's verse, as I read it, suggests that Nanda's curiosity caused him to be unmindful, off guard, and vulnerable to the formation of a strong bond of attachment.

A blog I wrote previous to this one I titled "ERRATA: Who Turned Freedom into Its Opposite?" It is a mystery to me how, having turned my back on a budding career in accounting and financial management in order to live in Japan and serve a Zen teacher who preached freedom, I managed to get so bogged down in a lot of religious nonsense and Japanese nonsense and political nonsense. While my eye was appropriated by curiosity about Dogen's teaching, I became very deeply attached to a brand of interventionist doing that my teacher called "Zazen," manifesting itself in the guise of pursuit of freedom. More fool me. Who turned freedom into its opposite? Nobody but my own stupid and spiritually ambitious self.

So how bonds of attachment form is a mystery, and I for one evidently don't understand much about it. Q.E.D.

What I can say is that today's verse seems to me to be part of Ashvaghosha's consideration of how, at a most fundamental level, below the level of consciousness, bonds get formed.

And the study, at a fundamental level, of how bonds get formed is what continues to interest truly conscious chemists.

If you disagree that this part has got anything to do with chemistry, wait for 10.42, in which such skepticism may be washed away.

EH Johnston:
Then he followed their celestial forms and graceful movements with his mind and with eyes full of excitement as if thirst for their embrace had engendered passion in him.

Linda Covill:
His eyes intense with interest, he mentally seized on their divine bodies and teasing gestures as though his passion was aroused through thirsting for union with them.

vapuH (acc. sg.): n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty; n. the body
ca: and
divyam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. divine , heavenly , celestial
lalitaaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. sported , played , playing , wanton , amorous , voluptuous ; artless , innocent , soft , gentle , charming , lovely
lal: to play , sport , dally , frolic , behave loosely or freely
ca: and
ceShTaaH (acc. pl.): f. moving any limb , gesture

tataH: ind. thence, then
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
taasaam (gen. pl. f.): of them
manasaa (inst. sg.): n. mind
jahaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect hR: to take, seize

kautuuhal'-aavarjitayaa (inst. sg. f.): overcome by curiosity
kautuuhala: n. curiosity , interest in anything , vehement desire
aavarjita: mfn. inclined , bent down , prone ; overcome, humbled
ā- √ vṛj: to turn or bring into the possession of , procure for , bestow , give ; to turn or bring into one's own possession ; to appropriate Caus. ā- varjayati , to turn over , incline , bend ; to cause to yield, overcome
ca: and
dRShTyaa = inst. sg. dRShTi: f. seeing , viewing , beholding (also with the mental eye); sight, faculty of seeing; the mind's eye , wisdom , intelligence; eye ; the pupil of the eye

saMshleSha-tarShaat (abl. sg.): because of thirst for union
saMshleSha: m. junction , union , connection , close contact ; an embrace
saṁ- √ śliṣ: to stick or attach one's self to (acc.) ; to clasp , embrace ; to bring into close contact or immediate connection with
tarSha: m. thirst , wish , desire for (in comp.)
iva: like, as if
jaata-raagaH (nom. sg. m.): become impassioned
jaata: born , brought into existence by (loc.) , engendered by (instr. or abl.); grown , produced , arisen , caused , appeared; happened , become , present , apparent , manifes
raaga: m. the act of colouring or dyeing; red taint; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love , affection or sympathy for , vehement desire

1 comment:

an3drew said...

i have noticed that courting couples are about the only time people are more open to infinity, parking up by the sea at dusk here in ulverstone !

now if only they would turn the radio off and get out of the car!