Wednesday, July 13, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.53: Nanda's Plea for Inhibition

vaag-vaariNaa maaM pariShiNca tasmaad
yaavan na dahye sa iv' aabja-shatruH
raag'-aagnir ady' aiva hi maaM didhakShuH
kakShaM sa-vRkSh'-aagram iv' otthito 'gniH

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Therefore pour on me the water of your voice,

Before I am burned, as was The Fishes' Foe;

For a fire of passion is going now to burn me up,

Like a fire rising up
to burn both undergrowth and treetops.

The person to whom is Nanda comparing himself in line 2, as I read it, is Mina-ripu, Foe of Fishes, called here abja-shatruH, "the enemy of the water-born."

In other words, I think Ashvaghosha is alluding to the tale of Kumud-vati and Mina-ripu which the striver referred to in Canto 8:

The daughter of Sena-jit the Conqueror, so they say, coupled with a dog cooker; Kumud-vati, 'Lilly Pool,' paired up with Mina-ripu, 'Foe of Fishes'; / And 'Burly Heroine' Brhad-ratha loved a lion: There is nothing women will not do. // [8.44]

A google search for background information leads to the History of Indian theatre, Volume 3 By Manohar Laxman Varadpande, which describes a drama in which princess Kumud-vati feels for a fisherman called Shurpaka (= Mina-ripu) a very strong love, which the fisherman at first does not reciprocate. But in the end the god of love, Kaama-deva, creates passion for Kumudvati in the fisherman's heart.

A more explanatory translation of line 2, then, would be:

Before I am burned, as The Fishes' Foe was burned by Love.

For alternative interpretations of line 2, see notes by EHJ and LC, which I have relegated to below the vocabulary section, for fear of boring less scholarly readers to death.

Any way up, today's verse as I read it includes recognition of the inhibitory power of a human voice.

Because the human ear is at the center of regulation of energy and tone through the whole organism, one human voice can have a powerful effect on another human system, whether the effect be excitatory, as in the case of a lover's voice or a war cry, or whether the effect be inhibitory, as in the case of soothing noises made by a parent or teacher.

So one way of reading this verse is that Nanda, at the height of emotional suffering, is asking the Buddha to help, through the medium of his voice, with a bit of inhibition.

And one way of understanding the Buddha's response, in light of the Alexander principle that direction is the truest form of inhibition, is that the Buddha met Nanda's request by showing the donkey the image of a carrot, so that at least the donkey would have a target towards which to direct his energies, even if the target was an ultimately unattainable moving target.

EH Johnston:
Cast on me therefore the water of Thy voice lest I be burnt up like the god of the fish-banner. For the fire of passion is about to consume me to-day just as a forest fire arises to consume the dry grass with the tree-tops.

Linda Covill:
Therefore sprinkle on me the water of your voice, before I am burned up like the enemy of the water-born, for passion's fire threatens to consume me right now, like a fire mounting in the underwood to the trees above.

vaag-vaariNaa (inst. sg.): the water of your voice ; vocal rain
vaac: f. speech, voice
vaarin: (ifc.) = vaari: n. rain, water
maam (acc. sg.): me
pariShiNca = 2nd pers. sg. imperative pari - √sic: to pour out or in (esp. from one vessel into another) , to pour or scatter about , sprinkle , diffuse;
tasmaad: ind. therefore

yaavan na: ind. as long as not , before
dahye = 1st pers. sg. passive dah: to be burnt , burn , be in flames ; to be consumed by fire or destroyed ; to be inflamed (a wound) ; to be consumed by internal heat or grief , suffer pain , be distressed or vexed
sa (nom. sg. m.): he [the enemy...]
iva: like
abja-shatru (nom. sg. m.): enemy of the water-born
abja: mfn. (fr. ap and √ jan) born in water; m. the moon; m. N. of dhanvantari (physician of the gods , produced at the churning of the ocean) ; n. a lotus
shatru: m. " overthrower " , an enemy , foe , rival

raag'-aagniH (nom. sg. m.): a fire of passion
adya: ind. today, now
eva: (emphatic)
hi: for
maam (acc. sg.): me
didhakShuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. desid. √ dah) desirous of burning

kakSham (acc. sg.): m. lurking-place , hiding-place ; a wood , large wood ; a forest of dead trees , a dry wood , underwood (often the lair of wild beasts)
sa-: (possessive prefix) along with
vRkSh'-aagram (acc. sg.): n. the top of a tree
iva: like
utthitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. risen or rising
agniH (nom. sg.): m. fire

EHJ's original note to his Sanskrit text reads:
Abja-shatru ('enemy of the sun') is taken to refer to Raahu by Shastri who does not explain the point of the reference. Can it be to Kaama's being burnt by the glance of Shiva? Or abja-shatru may equal miinaripu, i.e. shuurpaka [m. N. of a demon (an enemy of kāmadeva)]

When he later came to produce his English translation, EHJ noted further:
I translate iv'-aabja-ketuH in b as I cannot make anything out of iv'-aabja-shatruH

LC notes:
Abja is also the day lotus, whose enemy is the moon which distils cooling liquid. Another possibility is to follow Johnston's reading of abja-ketuH, he whose banner is the fish, the god Kama.

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