Thursday, August 25, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.31: Samsaric Sex -- Who Needs It Anyway?

saMsaare vartamaaNena
yadaa c' aapsarasas tvayaa
praaptaas tyaktaash ca shatashas
taabhyaH kim iti te spRhaa

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

Again, since in spiralling through samsara

You have gained celestial nymphs and left them

A hundred times over,

Why this yearning of yours for those women?

In the series of verses from 11.23 to 11.30, as I read them, Ananda has been outlining the folly and the dangers of Nanda's end-gaining -- that is, Nanda's attitude of going blindly for his goal of sex with celestial nymphs, without giving due consideration to whether his means are right for the task.

With this verse, Ananda seems slightly to change the angle of his attack by calling into question the wisdom of the end upon which Nanda has set his sights.

As a thought experiment, let us assume that it were possible, via ascetic practice or by other means, to enjoy romping with not one but a whole bevvy of sexy nymphs. What would be the point of that? If the point is enjoyment, Ananda seems to be asking in this and the next few verses, is there not a way of finding enjoyment that is better than one that involves being turned endlessly in the wheel of unconscious reaction?

The answer that Ananda intends for Nanda to come to, of course, is that there is a better way. Whether or not it permits of union with a sexy nymph depends on whether or not it is pursued in the traditional manner of a celibate wandering mendicant, or in the traditional manner of a lay practitioner. In either case, it is a better way than end-gaining in samsara. In either case, as one who has left home or as one who is still at home, the really difficult thing to abstain from is the end-gaining, or thirsting for objects, that triggers the many-tentacled monster of misuse whose revolving stage is called saMsaara -- the cycle of unconscious reaction.

EH Johnston:
And seeing that in the course of the cycle of existence you have obtained the Apsarases hundreds of times only to lose them again, why this yearning for them?

Linda Covill:
As you continue in the round of birth and death, you have won and lost the apsarases hundreds of times. Why then this longing for them?

saMsaare (loc. sg.): m. going or wandering through ; course , passage , passing through a succession of states , circuit of mundane existence
vartamaaNena = inst. sg. pres. part. vRt: to turn , turn round , revolve , roll ; to move or go on , get along , advance , proceed

yadaa: ind. when
ca: and
apsarasaH (acc. pl.): f. celestial nymph, apsaras
tvayaa (inst. sg.): by you

praaptaaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. attained to , reached , arrived at , met with , found , incurred , got , acquired , gained
tyaktaaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. left , abandoned
ca: and
shatashaH: ind. by or in hundred , a hundred times

taabhyaH (dat. pl. f.): for them, for those women
kim iti: why
te (gen. sg.): of you
spRhaa (nom. sg.): f. eager desire , desire , covetousness , envy , longing for , pleasure or delight in (dat. , gen. loc.)
√ spRh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for (dat. gen. , or acc.)

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