Monday, September 5, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.42: The Wheel -- Anecdotal Evidence

shyenaaya praaNi-vaatsalyaat
sva-maaMsaany api dattavaan
shibhiH svargaat pari-bhraShtas
taadRk kRtv" aapi duShkaraM

= = = = - = = =
- = = - - = - =
- = = = - = = =
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Through tender love for living creatures

Shibi gave his own flesh to a hawk.

He fell back from heaven,

Even after doing such a difficult deed.

"Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?"

What do you want? Delivered by my French neighbour with a Gallic shrug it seems to be a rhetorical expression of exasperated resignation -- The price of petrol! Qu'est-ce que vous voulez? -- but taking the phrase out of the original context in which I heard it, I have sometimes used it in my solitary practice in France as an aid to waking myself up.

"Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?"

What do you want? What are you up to now?

The question is, in other words, to be or not to be.

"Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?": to get off the wheel of samsara, or to strive for some position on it?

Ananda's point is that if Nanda wished for what he ought to wish for, he would wish to get off the wheel of samsara. He might not wish for any experience on the wheel of samsara, even in heaven, backsliding from there being inevitable in the end. He might wish instead for the end of all backsliding.

As examples to corroborate this point, Ananda now proceeds to cite a number of notable ancients, beginning with King Shibi, whose story, Wikipedia informs us, appears in both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana:

The Gods, wanting to test the compassionate nature of King Shibi, took the form of a hawk and a pigeon. The pigeon chased by the hawk fell on King Shibi's lap seeking his protection. The hawk argued that the pigeon is its food. Shibi offered to compensate with his own flesh. Finally he offered himself to be eaten and the Gods showed him their true form and blessed him.

Since I fell off my bike about three months ago, I can't sit still in lotus for more than about ten or fifteen minutes. So there is some sense of having gone backwards in my practice, not in a good way. At the same time, as I sit dangling my legs off the end of the sitting platform, in between sitting in lotus, I don't stop wishing for my head to go forward and up. So there is also some sense of continuing to go in the right direction, of not backsliding, of never being in danger of backsliding into samsara as long as those directions are not neglected.

Head forward and up, to breathe out...
Head forward and up, to breathe in...
Head forward and up, to breathe out...

This is what I mean to myself by "the wheel of yoga" -- another current phrase that I like to take out of context and usurp for my own purposes.

Head forward and up, to breathe out...
Head forward and up, to breathe in...
Head forward and up, to breathe out...

"Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?"

I wish to allow the head to go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away.

"Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?"

FM Alexander said in his teaching: "The experience you want is in the process of getting it. If you have something, give it up. Getting it, not having it, is what you want."

EH Johnston:
Though Sibi did such a marvellous deed as to give his own flesh to a hawk out of affection for everything that draws breath, yet he fell from heaven.

Linda Covill:
In his tenderness for all living things Shibi even gave his own flesh to a hawk, but he fell from heaven even after so difficult a deed.

shyenaaya (dat. sg.): m. a hawk , falcon , eagle , any bird of prey
praaNi-vaatsalyaat (abl. sg.): through love for living creatures
praaNin: mfn. breathing , living , alive; m. a living or sentient being , living creature , animal or man
vaatsalya: n. (fr. vatsala) affection or tenderness (esp. towards offspring) , fondness or love for (gen. loc. or comp.)
vatsa: m. a calf , the young of any animal , offspring , child
vatsala: mfn. child-loving , affectionate towards offspring ; kind

sva-maaMsaani (acc. pl. n.): his own flesh
maaMsa: n. sg. and pl. flesh , meat
api: even, though
dattavaan = nom. sg. m. past active participle daa: to give

shibhiH (nom. sg.): m. N. of a king (renowned for his liberality and unselfishness , and said to have saved agni [transformed into a dove] from indra [transformed into a hawk] by offering an equal quantity of his own flesh weighed in a balance)
svargaat (abl. sg.): m. heaven
pari-bhraShtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fallen or dropped off; sunk, degraded

taadRk: ind. in such a manner
kRtvaa = abs. kR: to do
api: even, though
duShkaram (acc. sg.): n. difficult act

1 comment:

an3drew said...

shibi fell from heaven , “degraded” from according your notes on the sanskrit !

i really think this verse is saying , like some of the others that heaven and survival are two different matters and feeding hawks with one's own flesh is not the way to go about it, similarly with nanda's erotic distractions

feeding hawks with our own flesh is how we go about life, tho it's hard to see but we all do this !