sa tathā viṣayair-vilobhyamānaḥ paramarhair-api śākya-rāja-sūnuḥ |
na jagāma ratiṁ na śarma lebhe hdaye siṁha ivātidigdha-viddhaḥ || 5.1
Though enticed in this way by most costly sensual enjoyments
[or by most worthy objects]
The son of the Śākya king
Neither partook of pleasure nor obtained relief –
Like a lion pierced in its heart by a poisoned arrow.
In the first pāda, tathā, “in this way,” means as described in the previous Canto – which is to say, as I read Canto 4, in a relentlessly ambiguous and ironic manner.
Much of this irony centres on the ambiguity of viṣaya, whose plural meanings include 1. objects, broadly understood; and 2. sensual enjoyments.
Hence, in today's verse viṣayair-vilobhyamānaḥ paramarhaiḥ “being tempted by the most costly sensual enjoyments” on the face of it describes the prince as being tempted by the sex that the women in the park were offering him, which could have been costly on a number of levels – not least financially, since the training of those courtesans in the fine arts in which they were skilled, along with their upkeep, presumably cost the Śākya king Śuddhodana a pretty penny. Yielding to sex with the courtesans might have cost the prince in other ways too – emotionally, energetically and karmically, not to mention the potential cost to his health of picking up a sexually transmitted disease.
The hidden meaning of viṣayair-vilobhyamānaḥ paramarhaiḥ “being enticed by most worthy objects,” however, might point as a most worthy object to the shedding of diffidence described in BC4.26. Again, “Let the secret be revealed!” in BC4.31, and “Perform the act of devotion here!” in BC4.32 might be enticements to realize the worthiest of objects. The containers described in BC4.35 as resembling golden jars of the lifeblood might be understood as objects of supreme worth. Who is to say definitively that the girl who taunted the prince from above, as if to say, “Catch up with me, mister!” in BC4.39 was not dangling the carrot of that most worthy object which is a Zen master's enlightenment?
And the list of candidates to be seen as most worthy objects need not end there. The cuckoo calling from within a golden cage (BC4.44); the sorrowless state (BC4.45); the man who continues to wear a white robe (BC4.46); the action of bowing down, having yielded up every drop of one's red sap (BC4.47), or of just modestly standing there (BC4.48), or of stretching out like still water (BC4.49), or of submitting to one's partner like a slave (BC4.50), or of losing all one's inhibitions in echoing another's call (BC4.51) – all these can be read as descriptions of most worthy objects which the girls in the park presented to the truth-seeking prince, as if they were leading a thirsty horse to water.
In that case, if we understand the viṣayaiḥ in the 1st pāda as worthy objects, then who is the Śākya king mentioned in the 2nd pāda?
And who might be śākya-rāja-sūnuḥ, an offspring of the Śākya king, before whom most valuable objects have been presented in abundance, but who, in his or her immaturity and blindness fails to understand the Śākya king's ultimate teaching of small desire and contentment, and so instead of partaking at once of enjoyment of nirvāṇa, paces around suffering like a wounded lion in search of relief?
Read as above, today's verse brings to mind something Marjory Barlow said about going through hell in Alexander teacher training. Marjory was never the kind of person who would cause a pupil or student to suffer any more than could be helped. On the contrary, her rule number one was that Alexander work should be fun. And yet she acknowledged, as a fact born out of her considerable experience, that Alexander teacher training often seemed to involve the trainee going through hell.
The hidden meaning that I see in today's verse, then – the meaning that is not readily apparent but which has to be dug for – is that pleasure and relief were readily available to the prince, like delicious water is available to a thirsty horse who has been led to water. But instead of being like a thirsty horse who sees water as water and drinks it, the prince behaved like a thirsty horse spooked by reflections on the surface of the water, and therefore like a wounded lion who cannot obtain relief.
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tathā: ind. thus, in this manner
viṣayaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. object, object of sense ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
vilobhyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. passive vi- √ lubh: to lead astray , perplex , confuse ; to allure , entice , tempt ; to divert , amuse , delight
paramarhaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): most precious, of the highest worth
parama: mfn. chief , highest , primary , most prominent or conspicuous
arha: mfn. worthy ; worth (in money) , costing
para-mohaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): 'which infatuate others' [EBC]
paramparaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. one following the other , proceeding from one to another (as from father to son) , successive , repeated
śākya-rāja-sūnuḥ (nom. sg. m.): the son of the Śākya king
sūnu: m. a son , child , offspring
jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go to [any state] ; to go to or towards , approach ; to go to any state or condition , undergo , partake of , participate in , receive , obtain
ratim (acc. sg.): f. rest , repose; pleasure , enjoyment ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment
dhṛtim (acc. sg.): f. holding ; firmness , constancy ; satisfaction , content , joy ; dhṛtiṁ- √kṛ , to keep ground or stand still ; to find pleasure or satisfaction
śarma (acc. sg.): n. shelter , protection , refuge , safety ; Joy , bliss , comfort , delight , happiness
lebhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. labh: to take , seize , catch ; to gain possession of , obtain , receive , conceive , get
hṛdaye (loc. sg.): n. heart
siṁhaḥ (nom. sg.): m. lion
atidigdha-viddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): pierced by a poisoned arrow
ati: is often prefixed to nouns and adjectives , and rarely to verbs , in the sense excessive , extraordinary, Intens.
atidigdha: m. a poisoned arrow
digdha: mfn. ( √ dih) smeared , anointed ; poisoned ; m. a poisoned arrow
viddha: mfn. (p.p. of √ vyadh) pierced , perforated , penetrated , stabbed , struck , wounded , beaten , torn , hurt , injured