Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.9: A True Antidote to Love

darpeṇa kandarpaviṣaṃ mayāsīt /
tanme hataṃ tvadvacanāgadena
viṣaṃ vināśīva mahāgadena //18.9 //

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

With senses ruled by relishing,

I madly drank the drug of love;

Its action was blocked in me
by the antidote of your words,

As a deadly poison is by a great remedy.

The first three pādas of today's verse are Indravajrā (I), and the last pāda is Upendravajrā (U). This IIIU scheme for a verse written in the 11-syllable Upajāti metre is called Bālā (young, not fully developed).

Sundari's love was Nanda's drug, and the antidote which inhibited the action of that drug was words like these, spoken by the Buddha in Canto 10:

"Look at these women who dwell in heaven and, having observed, truly tell the truth: / Do you think more of these women with their lovely form and excellent attributes or the one upon whom your mind has been set?" //10.48// ... If you desire these women, practise now the utmost asceticism to pay their price.//10.59//...So delight in restraint, being attentive and ready, if you desire to secure the apsarases, /And I guarantee that, insofar as you persist in your observance, you certainly shall be one with them."//10.63//

One way of thinking about the Buddha's guarantee is that it was a white lie. Another way is to understand that, as fulfillment of the Buddha's promise, Nanda has indeed experienced oneness with all living beings, without any distinction between heavenly and earthly, male and female -- and hence the greatness (mahā) of a truly great remedy (mahāgadena).

A remedy that is not truly great is an end-gaining remedy, that is, one that addresses specific symptoms but does not take into account side effects on the organism as a whole in its environment. To counteract addiction to the drug of sexual love, for example, injecting heroin might be effective in weakening sexual desire and dulling pain, but it is not a great remedy, because of the undesirable side effect which is heroin addiction.

Some Buddhists tend to see loving-kindness (Sanskrit: maitrī, Pali: metta) as if it were a great remedy, a cure for all ills, as if love were all we need. In the guidance which the Buddha gives Nanda in Canto 16, however, loving-kindness is advocated not as a universal remedy, but as a remedy with certain contra-indications:

Again, when the mind is filled with the red joys of passion, direction towards oneself of loving-kindness is not to be practised; / For a passionate type is stupefied by love, like a sufferer from phlegm taking oil. //16.59// Steadiness lies, when one's mind is stirred up by passion, in resorting to a disagreeable object; / For thus a passionate type obtains relief, like a phlegmatic type taking an astringent. //16.60// When the mind is wound up, however, with the fault of malice, one should not resort to a disagreeable object; / For unpleasantness is destructive to a hating type, as acid treatment is to a man of bilious nature.//16.61// When the mind is agitated by the fault of malice, loving-kindness should be practised, towards oneself; / For kindness is calming to a hate-afflicted soul, as cooling treatment is to the man of bilious nature.//16.62//

In this guidance, practice of loving-kindness is an antidote only to the fault of ill-will or malice. The antidote to the drug of love is a disagreeable target/object (aśubhaṃ nimittam; 16.60).

aśubhaṃ nimittam is understood in some quarters to mean "impurity meditation" -- trying to counteract sexual desire by taking as an object for meditation the inherent impurity of a woman's body. This, as I see it, is the kind of practice advocated by small-minded strivers like the striver Aśvaghoṣa portrays in Cantos 8 and 9. But it is not a tactic that the Buddha recommends to Nanda as an antidote to Nanda's lovesickness. On the contrary, the Buddha causes Nanda to see the devastating beauty of apsarases as a means of motivating himself to direct all his energy into utmost asceticism.

It may be that directing all one's energy into some demanding or disagreeable task -- like training for a marathon or a triathlon; or doing a tough cleaning job, cleaning up some great big mess somebody made; or practising some other form of utmost asceticism -- can be a true step towards experiencing oneness with all living beings.

It may be that directing ALL one's energy into some task -- unlike say, becoming physically addicted to heroin, or mentally hating women for their inherent impurity -- can be a true step towards experiencing oneness with all living beings.

Even though asceticism itself is not generally affirmed in Saundara-nanda as a great remedy, the point might be that, for Nanda, DIRECTING ALL HIS ENERGY into the disagreeable task of utmost asceticism was a true step towards experiencing oneness with all living beings.

As a tentative hypothesis, based on 30 years of digging for the truth of the practice of just sitting, I venture this:

A truly good way involves directing all one's energy towards some object. And an even better way than this might be to direct all one's energy just for the joy of directing all one's energy. And a still better way than this might be simply to direct all one's energy, not even for the joy of it, but just for the sake of it... getting out, to coin a phrase, on the road again...

EH Johnston:
The poison of love, which I had drunk in the wantonness due to my senses being in thraldom to gratification, has been driven out by the antidote of Thy words, as a deadly poison is driven out by a great remedy.

Linda Covill:
That love-poison that I drunk in my pride when my senses were ruled by relishing was eradicated by the antidote of your words, like a deadly poison eradicated by a powerful antidote.

yat (correlative of tad): [that] which
piitam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. drunk
aasvaada-vash'-endriyeNa (inst. sg.): with sense-power under the command of relishing
aasvaada: m. eating with a relish , tasting , enjoying (also metaphorically)
vasha: m. will , wish , desire ; authority, power, control (ifc. by command of , by force of)
indriya: power of the senses,

darpeNa = inst. sg. darpa: m. ( √dRp) pride , arrogance; musk (of elephant)
√dRp: to be mad or foolish , to rave ; to be wild
kandarpa-viSham (acc. sg. n.): love-poison
kandarpa: m. love, lust
viSha: n." anything active " , poison , venom , bane , anything actively pernicious
mayaa (inst.): by me
aasiit (3rd pers. sg. imperfect, as): it was

tad (correlative of yat): it, that
me (gen. sg.): in me
hatam (acc. sg. n.) : struck, killed , slain , destroyed , ended
tvad-vacan'-aagadena (inst. sg.) by the antidote of your voice
tvad: your
vacana: n. the act of speaking ; speech , sentence , word; advice , instruction , direction , order , command ; voice
agada: m. a medicine , drug , (especially) antidote

viSham (acc. sg. n): poison
vinaashi = acc. sg. n. vinashin: (mostly ifc.) destructive , destroying
vi- √nash : to be utterly lost , perish ; to destroy
iva: like
mah"-aagadena (inst. sg.): m. " great remedy " , a kind of drug

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