Mindful Swimming with Chie Cross
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Bearing the insignia, then, whose form was fixed by his teacher

-- Bearing it bodily but not mentally --

And being constantly carried off by thoughts of his wife,

Nanda whose name was joy was not joyful.

Amid the wealth of flowers of the month of flowers,

Assailed on all sides by the flower-bannered god of love,

And with feelings that are familiar to the young,

He stayed in a vihāra but found no peace.

Standing, distraught, by a row of mango trees

Amid the numbing hum of hovering insects,

He with his long yoke-like arms opened himself out forcefully,

As he thought of his beloved and stretched, as if to draw a bow.

Receiving from the mango trees

A rain of tiny flowers like saffron powder,

He thought of his wife and heaved long sighs,

Like a newly-caught elephant shut in.

He who had been, for those who came seeking refuge, an abater of sorrow,

And, for the conceited, a creator of sorrow,

Became, as he leant against a 'feel-no-sorrow' a-śoka tree, a sorrower:

He sorrowed for a lover of a-śoka groves, his beloved wife.

A slender priyaṅgu creeper, beloved of his beloved,

He noticed shying away, as if afraid,

And tearfully he remembered her,

His lover with her tearful face, as pale as a priyaṅgu flower.

Seeing a cuckoo hen perched

On the flower-covered crest of a tilaka tree,

He imagined his lover leaning against the watchtower,

Her tresses perching on her white blouse.

An ati-muktaka -- 'flowers whiter than pearls' --

Having attached itself to the side of a mango tree, was thriving:

He surveyed the blossoming creeper and fretted

"When will Sundarī cling to me like that?"

The yawning nāga trees, with flowerbuds for budding teeth

Erupting there like ivory caskets filled with gold,

Did not draw his anguished eye

Any more than if they had been desert scrub.

The gandha-parṇa trees gave off their fragrance constantly,

As if they were a gandharva's good-time girls, brimming with perfume,

But for one whose mind was elsewhere, and who was sorrowful to the core,

They did not win the nose: they pained the heart.

Resounding with the throaty cries of impassioned peacocks,

With the satisfied celebrating of cuckoos,

And with the relentless supping of nectar by bees,

The forest pressed in upon his mind.

As he burned there with a fire risen from the fire board of his wife,

With ideas for smoke and darkest hell for flames,

As he burned in his innermost heart with a fire of desire,

Fortitude failed him and he uttered various laments:

"Now I understand what a very difficult thing

Those men have done, will do, and are doing

Who have walked, will walk, and are walking the way of painful asceticism,

Leaving behind their tearful-faced lovers.

There is no strong bond in the world,

Whether of wood, rope or iron,

As strong as this bond:

An amorous voice and a face with darting eyes.

For once cut or broken -- by one's own strength or by the strength of friends --

Those bonds exist no more;

Whereas the fetter made of love, except through wisdom and callousness,

Cannot be undone.

That wisdom which might make for peace I do not have,

And being of a kindly nature I also lack toughness.

I am sensual by nature and yet the Buddha is my guru:

I am stuck as if inside a moving wheel.

For though I have adopted the beggar's insignia,

And am taught by one who is twice my guru, as elder brother and enlightened sage,

In every circumstance I find no peace --

Like a greylag gander separated from its mate.

Even now it keeps running through my mind

How when I clouded the mirror

She feigned anger and said to me,

Laughing wickedly, 'What are you doing!'

Again, the words the girl told me,

'Come back before my face-paint is dry,'

While her eyes were swimming with tears:

Those words even now block my mind.

This beggar who belongs to the waterfall,
springing from the foot [of the mountain],

Since he meditates at ease,
having crossed his legs in the traditional manner,

Surely is not as attached to anybody as I am;

For he sits so calmly, looking satisfied.

Since, deaf to the cuckoos' chorus,

His eye never grazing upon the riches of spring,

This man concentrates intently upon the teaching

I suspect that no lover is tugging at his heart.

All credit to him who is firm in his resolve,

Who has turned back from curiosity and pride,

Who is at peace in himself, whose mind is turned inward,

Who while walking up and down does not strive for anything...

... As he looks out over the lotus-festooned water

And the flowering forest where cuckoos come calling!

What man in the prime of youth could keep such constancy

In the spring months which are, as it were, dharma's rival?

With their way of being, their pride,
their way of moving, their grace;

With a smile or show of indignation,
with their exuberance, with their voices,

Women have carried off hosts of gods, kings, and seers:

How could they not throw a man like me?

For, overcome by desire,
the fire god Hiraṇya-retas, 'Golden Sperm,'

Succumbed to sex with his wife Svāhā,
as did Indra 'The Bountiful' with nymph Ahalyā;

All the more liable am I, a man,
lacking their strength and resolve,

To be overwhelmed by a woman!

Our tradition has it that the sun god Sūrya,
roused to passion for the dawn goddess Saraṇyū,

Let himself be diminished in order to enjoy her;

He became a stallion so as to cover her as a mare,

Whereby she conceived the two charioteers.

When the minds of the Sun's son Vaivasvata
and the fire god Agni turned to enmity,

When their grip on themselves was shaken,

There was war between them for many years, over a woman.

What lesser being, here on earth,
would not be shaken off course by a woman?

And through desire the sage Vasiṣṭha,
most eminent among the upstanding,

Had his way with an outcaste
of a dog-cooking tribe, Akṣa-mālā,

To whom was born his son Kapiñjalāda,

An eater of earth and water to rival the Sun.

So too did the seer Parāśara,
user of curses as arrows,

Enjoy sex with Kālī,
who was born from the womb of a fish;

The son he conceived in her

Was the illustrious Dvaipāyana,
classifier of the Vedas.

Dvaipāyana, again,
while having dharma as his chief object,

Similarly enjoyed a woman at a brothel in Kaśi;

When her foot struck him,
with its trembling ankle bracelet,

It was like a cloud being struck by a twist of lightning.

So too did brahma-begotten Aṅgiras,
when his mind was seized by passion,

Enjoy sex with Sarasvatī;

To her was born his son Sarasvata,

Who gave voice again to the lost Vedas.

Likewise Kāśyapa,
at a sacrifice under the aegis of king-seer Dilipa,

While fixated upon a celestial nymph,

Took the ceremonial ladle and cast into the fire
his own streaming semen,

Whence Asita came into being.

Aṅgada, similarly,
though he had gone to the ends of ascetic practice,

Went overwhelmed by desire to Yamunā

And in her he begat super-bright Rathītara,
'Super Charioteer,'

Friend of the spotted deer.

Again, on catching sight of the princess Śāntā, 'Tranquility,'

Though he had been living in tranquility in the forest,

The sage Ṛṣya-śṛṅga, 'Antelope Horn,' was moved from steadfastness

Like a mountain with high horns in an earthquake.

And the son of Gādhin who,
in order to become 'the Brahman Seer,'

Renounced his kingdom,
having lost interest in sensual objects,
and retired to the forest:

He was captivated by the nymph Ghṛtācī,

Reckoning ten years with her as a single day.

So too, when hit by Love's arrow,

Did Sthūla-śiras, 'Thick Head,' lose his senses over Rambha.

He with his libidinous and wrathful nature was reckless:

When she refused him he cursed her.

And Ruru, after his beloved Pramadvarā

Had been robbed of her senses by a snake,

Killed snakes wherever he saw them:

He failed, in his fury, to maintain his reserve or his ascetic practice.

As a grandson of the hare-marked moon,
and as one marked by his own honour and virtue,

The son of 'The Learned' Budha and goddess Iḍā
had the special powers of the lunar and the very learned;

But thinking of the apsaras Urvaśī,

This royal seer, similarly, went mad.

And when 'Long Shanks' Tāla-jaṅgha,
on top of a mountain,

Was reddened, in his libidinousness,
with passion for nymph Menakā,

From the foot of 'All Beneficent' Viśvā-vasu
he got an angry kick

Like a thunderbolt striking a hin-tāla palm.

When his favourite wife drowned
in the waters of the Ganges,

King Jahnu, his mind possessed by disembodied Love,

Stopped the Ganges with his arms,

Like Mount Maināka, paragon of non-movement.

And King 'Good Body' Śan-tanu,
when separated from goddess Gaṅgā,

Shook like a śāla tree
whose roots the Ganges was washing away:

The son of Pratipa and light of his family,

He of the body beautiful, became uncontrollable.

Again, when the avatar Saunandakin
took away his 'Wide Expanse' Urvaśī,

The wife whom, like the wide earth,
Soma-varman had made his own,

'Moon-Armoured' Soma-varman whose armour,
so they say, had been good conduct,

Roamed about grieving,
his armour pierced by mind-existent Love.

A king who followed his dead wife in death

Was 'Dreaded' Bhīmika
-- he who was dread power on earth;

He who was famed, because of his military might,
as Senāka, 'War Missile';

He who was, with his war machine, like the god of war.

Again, when Kālī's husband Śan-tanu had gone to heaven,

Jana-mejaya, 'Causer of Trembling among Men,'
in his desire to marry Kālī,

Came up against Bhīṣma 'the Terrible,'
and received death from him

Rather than give up his love for her.

And Pāṇḍu 'the Pale,' having been cursed by Passion

To die on coupling with a woman,

Still went with Mādrī:
he did not heed the death
that would result from the great seer's curse

When he tasted what he was forbidden to taste.

Hordes of gods, kings, and seers such as these

Have fallen by dint of desire into the thrall of women.

Being weak in understanding and inner strength,

All the more discouraged,
when I do not see my beloved, am I.

Therefore I shall go right back home again

And make love properly, as I please!

For the insignia do not sit well

Upon a backslider from the path of dharma,
whose senses are restless and whose mind is elsewhere.

When a man has taken the bowl in his hand, shaved his head,

And, putting aside pride, donned the patched-together robe,

And yet he is given to pleasure and lacking in firmness and tranquility,

Like a lamp in a picture, he is there and yet is not.

When a man has gone forth,
but the red taint of desire has not gone forth from him;

When he wears the earth-hued robe
but has not transcended dirt;

When he carries the bowl
but is not a vessel for the virtues;

Though he bears the insignia,
he is neither a householder nor a beggar.

I had thought it improper
for a man with noble connections,

Having adopted the insignia, to discard them again:

But that scruple also fades away,
when I think about those royal heroes

Who abandoned an ascetic grove and went home.

For the Śālva king, along with his son;
and likewise Ambarīṣa

And Rāma and Andha, and Rantideva son of Sāṅkṛti

Cast off their rags
and clothed themselves again in fine fabrics;

They cut off their twisted dreadlocks and put on crowns.

Therefore as soon my guru has gone from here to beg for alms

I will give up the ochre robe and go from here to my home;

Because, for a man who bears the honoured insignia
with stammering mind, impaired judgement and weakened resolve,

There might exist no ulterior purpose nor even this present world of living beings."

The 7th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Nanda's Lament."

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