Thursday, August 18, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.24: Restraint as Heavy Baggage

yath" aasan'-aarthaM skandhena
kash cid gurviiM shilaaM vahet
tadvat tvam api kaam'-aarthaM
niyamaM voDhum udyataH

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

Just as, for the purpose of sitting,

Somebody might carry around on his shoulder
a heavy rock;

That is how you also, for the purpose of sensuality,

Are labouring to bear restraint.

Feeling unbearably wrong in sitting, because of sensual over-indulgence last night, because of a wounded left knee, because of bad karma produced in the dim and distant past, I say No to the whole idea of sitting, direct the head to go forward and up and the back to lengthen and widen, and go into movement, letting it come out in the wash, and come back to sitting again -- all for the purpose of sitting.

In today's verse, because he sees restraint as a tethering post, rather than a quickening of the conscious mind, Nanda is missing the essential point, which might be this:

For the purpose of sitting,
To enjoy practising restraint.

EH Johnston:
You are striving to assume self-control for the sake of passion; it is as if a man were to carry about a heavy stone on his shoulder to sit down on.

Linda Covill:
Just as someone would carry a heavy rock on his shoulder to use as a seat, likewise you are laboring to uphold the rules of restraint for the sake of sensual indulgence!

yathaa: ind. just as
aasan'-aartham (ind.): for the purpose of sitting, to use as a seat
aasana: n. sitting, seat
artha: m. aim, purpose
skandhena (inst. sg.): m. the shoulder

kash cid (nom. sg. m.): somebody
gurviim (acc. sg. f.): mfn. heavy
shilaam (acc. sg.): f. a stone, rock, crack
vahet = 3rd pers. sg. optative vah: to carry, bear ; to bear , suffer , endure ; to undergo ; to exhibit

tadvat: ind. so, in like manner
tvam (nom. sg.): you
api: also, even
kaam'-aartham (ind.): for the sake of sensuality
kaama: love , affection , object of desire or of love or of pleasure ; love, especially sexual love or sensuality

niyamam (acc. sg.): m. restraining, limitation , restriction, any fixed rule
voDhum = inf. vah: to carry, bear ; to bear , suffer , endure ; to undergo ; to exhibit
udyataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. raised , held up , elevated; active , persevering , labouring diligently and incessantly (with dat. or loc. or inf. or without any object)


Ray G. said...

Wow, this verse is interesting. I can't quite get the analogy but it's compelling. It seems ridiculous to carry around a rock on my shoulders so that when I am ready to sit the rock will push me down. Gravity already does this. This half of the analogy seems to be about doing absurd things to control an outcome that naturally occurs on it's own, when the controlling mind releases control. The second half has me stuck. For the purpose of sensuality... since that is parallel to 'the purpose of sitting' it must mean, 'when I desire sense enjoyment'. So the second half must be something I am doing to enhance sense enjoyment when it occurs. That would mean restraining from sense enjoyment so that when I get it, I'll enjoy it.

This would seem to indicate a wrong understanding of restraint. It's missing renunciation.

Can you comment a bit more about this one Mike? I'm not sure I'm getting it but it has me very interested... I probably have a lot in common with Nanda :(

Mike Cross said...

Hi Ray,

Nanda is wrongly understanding restraint as an imposition, a heavy burden, by bearing which he will be rewarded by sensual enjoyment, or sexual love (kaama).

On one level the verse exposes the absurdity of Nanda's expectation that carrying this burden of restraint is a means that will lead him to his goal of sexual enjoyment of nymphs.

But more fundamentally the verse as I read it exposes Nanda's misunderstanding of what the Buddha meant by restraint (niyama).

The Buddha instructed Nanda to enjoy restraint, being attentive and up for action. Restraint like that has nothing heavy about it. It corresponds to Alexander's practise of inhibition, when truly practised.

But if we misunderstand the true meaning of restraint or inhibition, it tends to become a heavy burden.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

Yes, it does, thanks.