Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.37: Desires and Thirsting

saMpattau vaa vipattau vaa
divaa vaa naktam eva vaa
kaameShu hi sa-tRShNasya
na shaantir upapadyate

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

In prosperity or in adversity,

By day or by night,

For the man who thirsts after desires,

Peace is not possible.

Phonetically, this verse has got plenty of vaa vaa voom.

With regard to its content, the point I take is that it is thirsting, and not desires, which makes peace impossible.

If a buddha, one who is truly awake, is a person without desires, then I have never met such a person, either in the world of Japanese Zen or in the world of Alexander work. None of the good teachers I have met were people of no desire. But on a good day, or indeed on a good night (naktam eva vaa), they were free from thirsting after those objects.

In line 3 I decided not to add "his" before "desires," but was tempted to do so, so as to clarify what I take to be Nanda's intention to criticize not the presence of desires per se, but rather the thirsting tendency.

In 17.42 Nanda, as if at the gateway to the citadel of Nirvana, is described as entering the first stage of sitting-meditation, which is kaamair viviktam, "distanced from desires." Literally, viviktam means separated, kept apart, free from, or clear of. It can't mean that desires are absent. It must express a kind of transcendence of desires.

What is this transcendence? I don't know. In the presence of the human desires which, I venture to suggest, we all have, it is very difficult to be clear in one's head about what the path to peace is. It is a lot easier to be clear about what it is not.

So for a start viviktam does not mean suppressing one's desires, like an ascetic; and neither, Ananda is telling us here, does it mean thirsting after those desires.

EH Johnston:
For in good fortune or ill, by day or by night, the man whose desires are set on love knows no peace.

Linda Covill:
in neither good times nor bad, by neither day nor night is peace possible for a man who thirsts after sensual pleasures.

sampattau (loc. sg.): f. prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , accomplishment , fulfilment , turning out well
vaa: or
vipattau (loc. sg.): f. going wrongly , adversity , misfortune , failure , disaster
vaa: or

divaa: ind. (inst. sg. div): by day
vaa: or
naktam: ind. by night (often opp. to divaa)
eva: (emphatic)
vaa: or

kaameShu (loc. pl.): m. desires, objects of desire, sensual pleasures
hi: for
sa-tRShNasya (gen. sg.): m. one who has thirst, a man of thirst

na: not
shaantiH (nom. sg.): f. peace, tranquillity
upapadyate = 3rd pers. sg. upa- √ pad: to take place , come forth , be produced , appear , occur , happen ; to be present, exist ; to be possible

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