Saturday, November 5, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.40: Individual Particularity, As I See It

aho viśeṣeṇa viśeṣa-darśiṁs
tvayānukampā mayi darśiteyaṃ /
yat-kāma-paṅke bhagavan-nimagnas-
trāto 'smi saṃsāra-bhayād-akāmaḥ //18.40 //

- = - = / = - - / = - = = // - = - = / = - - / = - = =
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - / = = - / - = - = =
Upajāti (Mālā)

"Oh, how particular, O Seer of Particularities,

Is this compassion that you have shown to me!

Since I who was sunk, Glorious One, in the mire of love

Have been a reluctant refugee from the terror of saṁsāra.

The juxtaposition of kāma (love) in the 3rd line with akāmaḥ (reluctant) in the 4th line is lost in the above translation. In an effort to preserve the original opposition, kāma-paṅke could be translated as "the mire of willful desire," and akāmaḥ as "unwilling."

Similarly, mayi darśitā could be translated as "have let me see" (instead of "have shown to me"), in order to bring out the juxtaposition of darśitā ("shown") in the 2nd line with darśin ("Seer") in the 1st line.

Poetic juxtapositions aside, what Nanda is expressing in today's verse, as I read it, is his appreciation of the consideration that the Buddha, in extricating Nanda from the mire, has given to Nanda as a particular individual.

To draw a parallel with the approach of FM Alexander, it is said that somebody suggested to Alexander that the title of his second book "Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual" was a bit of a mouthful, and how about just calling it "Constructive Conscious Control" for a saving of three words? "But don't you see?" replied Alexander, "that would be to cut the most important part!"

A very good book on AT, by Patrick Macdonald, is titled "The Alexander Technique, As I See It." As regular readers of this blog will know, I like to use that phrase: as I see it. I tend to favour that phrase as a kind of preventive measure against any tendency in me towards dogmatic assertion.

An upcoming programme on BBC Radio 4 is about the many of the brightest and best-educated young Italians who are apparently leaving behind the patronage, nepotism and corruption of Italy and coming to look for work in London -- which sounds like bad news for Italy and good news for Britain. There's something I really do not like about patriarchal societies, especially ones in which religious patriarchies have a lot of influence. Italy and Thailand might be a couple of outstanding examples in the world today, along with Islamic countries too numerous to mention. Japan and Germany seem also to be rather patriarchal societies, though the patriarchies there might be more corporate than religious -- having just sold a Toyota that has given our family very excellent service for 14 years, and given that we now have a VW, maybe it is hypocritical of me to complain.

In Canto 17 Nanda shakes the tree of afflictions by sitting in lotus and seeing for himself that all things are (1) impermanent, (2) unsatisfactory, and (3) objectively existing, oblivious of me. But it is not that impermanence, suffering, and non-self, are a three-pronged Buddhist doctrine of whose truth I am duty bound to convince others, by going around knocking on people's doors, or looking for vulnerable people to train to be suicide bombers. The Buddha's teaching, as I understand it, is not something to be believed in, but something to be verified in one's own experience, by seeing for oneself.

So today's verse, as I read it, relates to this centrality of the individual in the Buddha's teaching which, by definition, might not be a characteristic of dogmatic religions.

EH Johnston:
'Ah! Especially hast Thou, Lord, Who knowest the special characteristics, shown this compassion to me, that I who was sinking in the slough of love have been rescued from the dangers of the cycle of existence and am free of the feeling of love.

Linda Covill:
"Oh you have shown me compassion with distinction, you who see distinctions! Because of it I have, against my will, been saved from the danger of samsara, O Lord, when I had been submerged in the slime of lust.

aho: ind. a particle (implying joyful or painful surprise) Ah! (of enjoyment or satisfaction) Oh! etc.
visheShena (inst. sg.): : m. distinction; characteristic difference , peculiar mark , special property , speciality , peculiarity; ind. exceedingly , especially , particularly
visheSha-darshin (voc. sg. m.): O seer of distinctions
visheSha: m. distinction; characteristic difference , peculiar mark , special property , speciality , peculiarity
darshin: mfn. ifc. seeing , looking at , observing , examining , finding; knowing, understanding

tvayaa (inst. sg.): by you
anukampaa (nom. sg.): f. compassion
mayi (loc. sg.): to me
darshitaa (nom. sg. f.) mfn. shown , displayed
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this

yad: (relative pronoun) that ; " that is to say " , " to wit "; yad also = " so that " , " in order that " , " wherefore " , " whence " , " as " , " in as much as " , " since " , " because "
kaama-paNke (loc. sg.): in the mire of love
kaama: m. wish , desire , longing, love
paNka: mn. mud , mire , dirt ; moral impurity, sin
bhagavan (voc. sg. m.): mfn. glorious , illustrious , divine , adorable , venerable ; holy (applied to gods , demigods , and saints as a term of address
nimagnaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. sunk , fallen into (water &c )

traataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from trai) protected
trai: to protect , preserve , cherish , defend , rescue from
asmi: I am
saMsaara-bhayaad (abl. sg.): from the terror of samsara
saMsaara: m. going or wandering through ; aimless wandering
bhaya: n. fear, terror, danger
a-kaamaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. without desire or wish ; unintentional , reluctant

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