Friday, October 7, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.11: Proper Milking & the Merit of Thirst -- The End of a Cow's Tale

maitrīstanīṃ vyañjanacārusāsnāṃ
saddharmadugdhāṃ pratibhānaśṛṅgām /
tavāsmi gāṃ sādhu nipīya tṛptas
tṛṣeva gāmuttama vatsavarṇaḥ //18.11 //

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
- = - = / = - - / = - = = // - = - = / = - - / = - = =

Having drunk from the milk-cow of your voice,
whose udder is loving-kindness,
whose lovely dewlap is figures of speech,

Who is milked for true dharma,
and whose horns are boldness of expression,

I am properly satisfied, O Most Excellent One,

Like a little calf that, because of thirst, has drunk milk.

The metric scheme of this verse, IIUU, is known as Rāmā (dark, black, lovely).

What the heck is a dewlap? I asked myself on reading in the dictionary that sāsnā means the dewlap of an ox. A dewlap, it turns out, is a longitudinal flap of skin that hangs beneath the lower jaw or neck of many vertebrates, like this zebu for example or, less conspicuously, this 10-week old dog (which has become the main focus of my wife's loving-kindness, in the absence of our sons).

Since a dewlap may also be a fold of skin on a mature person's throat, and the meanings of vyañjana include irony, did the dewlap have a connotation of lack of innocence?

On googling "dewlap, Sanskrit literature," I didn't learn anything to corroborate this guess, but instead learned something about the word go or gauḥ, for which the dictionary lists several meanings, including cow, milk, the earth (as the milk-cow of kings), and voice. In The Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini with translation and explanatory notes by Shivram Dattatray Joshi, J. A. F. Roodbergen, and Sāhitya Akādemī, there is an explanation of the grammatical term ākṛti, which means "the common shape shared by members of a given class or species. For instance, the word gauḥ means an animal possessing a dewlap, tail, hump, hoof and horns. Accordingly by means of the word gauḥ we can refer to all animals belonging to this species."

So perhaps to ancient Indians the dewlap of a cow or an ox was simply regarded as something conspicuously decorative and lovely (cāru).

In any event, today's verse relates to the milking of a cow, as do three earlier verses:

For self-serving offerings he milked a cow, like Vasistha; / While among the disciples he schooled in asceticism he milked a cow, like Vasistha.//1.3//

Without offering the first portion to revered beings, and without bathing, he did not eat anything; / Neither did he milk the earth unjustly, as a cow is milked by a man thirsting for milk.//2.19//

If a cow is milked before her calf is born, milking at the wrong time will yield no milk. / Or even at the right time no milk will be got if, through ignorance, a cow is milked by the horn.//16.50//

There is a group of four verses, then, on the subject of milking a cow. As I read them they represent not only the negation of asceticism, Brahmanism, and impracticality but also in the final analysis the negation of Buddhism -- in the sense that in the Buddhist view thirst is what triggers the faults that are to be eliminated via the eightfold noble path, so thirst is the enemy; whereas in the metaphor in today's verse thirst is just a fact, thirst is just the desire to drink, which causes the thirsty agent in the end to become satisfied with something (as opposed to nothing).

Alfred Tomatis, "the Einstein of the Ear," would surely have approved of today's verse, as would Tomatis's protege Paul Madaule whose "Ear-Voice Connection" workshops I attended about ten years ago. For Tomatis the ear is a listening device and a whole lot more: Tomatis saw the ear as a primary route whereby the brain and nervous system receives nourishment from the environment. Paul Madaule spoke of the ear as being like a battery that energizes the brain. Taking this principle on board, I have spent a good portion of the last ten years dwelling by the forest in France, where, for many minutes in the day -- in between the revving up of car engines and of chain-saws and other power tools, not to mention the barking of dogs and latterly the aggressive crowing of cockerels -- the sound environment is so good that even a poor listener like me can feel that, in the burblings of the stream and the singing of birds in various directions, the voice of Buddha is speaking still.

Back now in the less idyllic surroundings of South-East England, I find myself sitting in the darkness before dawn (possibly as a result of eating too many chips last night), and asking myself in French: "Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?" What do you want? And the correct answer is that I wish to allow myself to lengthen in stature and to widen, so that the breathing can be free and full and energy can flow everywhere free and easy. In short, I am not after anything specific, but would rather wish for a bit of freedom from unconscious tightening, for a bit of nothing.

At the same time, if anybody is making one, I wouldn't mind a mug of what we call in England "builders' tea" -- no sugar for me, just a splash of milk.

EH Johnston:
Most Excellent One, I have drunk like a calf from the cow of Thy speech, with the teats of benevolence, the beautiful dewlap of clear expression, the milk of the good Law and the horn of imagination, and I have all my desires appeased, just as the calf's thirst is quenched.

Linda Covill:
I have drunk from the cow of your speech which has udders of loving-kindness, the lovely dewlap of substance, milk of the good dharma, and horns of inspiration. I am rightly contented, O excellent one, as a little calf drinks from a cow, due to thirst, and is satisfied.

maitrii-staniim (acc. sg. f.): with an udder of loving-kindness
maitrii: f. goodwill, benevolence, love, loving kindness
stanii: m. (ifc. aa or ii) , the female breast (either human or animal) , teat , dug , udder
vyaNjana-caaru-saasnaam (acc. sg. f.): with a lovely dewlap of allusion
vyaNjana: mfn. manifesting , indicating; m. a consonant; n. manifestation , indication; n. allusion , suggestion ; n. figurative expression , irony; n. a mark , badge , spot , sign , token ; n. a consonant ; n. a syllable
caaru: mfn. pleasing , lovely , beautiful , pretty
saasnaa: f. the dewlap of an ox

sad-dharma-dugdhaaM (acc. sg. f.): full of the milk of true Dharma
dugdhaa: mfn. ( √duh) milked , milked out , extracted; milked together , accumulated , filled , full; n. milk
√duh: to milk (a cow or an udder) fig. take advantage of
pratibhaana-shRNgaam (acc. sg. f.): with horns of bold expression
pratibhaana: n. becoming clear or visible , obviousness ; intelligence ; eloquence ; brilliancy ; boldness , audacity
prati: towards
bhaana: n. appearance , evidence , perception ; light , lustre
prati- √ bhā: to shine upon; to become clear or manifest
shRNga: n. (ifc. f. aa or ii) the horn of an animal

tava (gen. sg.): of you, your
asmi: I am
gaam (acc. sg.): f. cow; mf. " anything coming from or belonging to an ox or cow " , milk (generally pl.); f. voice
saadhu (acc. sg. n..): mfn. straight , right; leading straight to a goal , hitting the mark; ind. straight , aright , regularly ; n. well , rightly , skilfully , properly , agreeably
nipiiya = abs. ni-√ paa: to drink or suck in
tRptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. satiated , satisfied with (gen. instr. , or in comp.)

tRShaa (inst. sg.): f. thirst
iva: like
gaam = acc. sg. f. go: f. cow; mf. " anything coming from or belonging to an ox or cow " , milk (generally pl.); f. voice
uttama (voc. sg. m.): O highest one! O most excellent one!
vatsa-varNaH (nom. sg. m.): a calf
vatsa: m. a calf, the young of any animal
varNa: m. covering ; outward appearance , exterior , form , figure , shape , colour; colour = race , species , kind , sort , character , nature , quality , property (applied to persons and things)

No comments: