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Bearing the insignia, then, whose form was fixed by his teacher -- bearing it with his body but not with his mind -- /

And being constantly carried off by thoughts of his wife, he whose name was joy was not joyful. // 7.1 //


Amid the wealth of flowers of the month of flowers, assailed on every side by the flower-bannered god of love,1 /

And with feelings that are familiar to the young, he stayed in a vihāra but found no peace. // 7.2 //


Standing, distraught, by a row of mango trees amid the numbing hum of hovering insects, /

He with his lengthy arms and yoke-like shoulders, thought of his beloved and forcibly stretched himself open, as if drawing a bow. // 7.3 //


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-captured elephant in a cage. // 7.4 //


He had been, for those who came to him seeking refuge, an abater of sorrow, and, for the conceited, a creator of sorrow, /

Now he leant against 'the tree of freedom from sorrow,' the a-śoka tree,2 and he became a sorrower: he sorrowed for a lover of a-śoka groves, his beloved wife. // 7.5 //


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. // 7.6 //


Seeing a cuckoo resting on the flower-covered crest of a tilaka tree,3 /

He imagined4 his lover leaning against the watchtower, her curls and tresses resting on her white upper garment. // 7.7 //


A vine with 'flowers whiter than pearls,' the ati-muktaka, having attached itself to the side of a mango tree, was thriving: /

Nanda eyed the blossoming creeper and fretted "When will Sundarī cling to me like that?" // 7.8 //


The budding teeth of yawning nāga trees5 erupted there like ivory caskets filled with gold, /

But they drew his anguished eye no better than desert scrub. // 7.9 //


The gandha-parṇa trees emitted their fragrance like a gandharva's girlfriend, brimming with perfume,6 /

But for him whose mind was elsewhere, and who was sorrowful to the core, they did not win the nose: they pained the heart. // 7.10 //


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 encroached upon his mind. // 7.11 //


As there he burned with a fire arisen from the fire board of his wife, a fire with fancies 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: // 7.12 //


"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. // 7.13 //


There is no bond in the world, whether of wood or rope or iron, /

As strong as this bond: an amorous voice and a face with darting eyes. // 7.14 //


For having been cut or broken -- by one's own initiative or by the strength of friends -- those bonds cease to exist; /

Whereas the fetter made of love, except through wisdom and toughness, cannot be undone. // 7.15 //


That wisdom is not in me which might make for peace, and since I am of a kindly nature, toughness also is lacking. /

I am sensual by nature and yet the Buddha is my guru: I am stuck as if inside a moving wheel. // 7.16 //


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. // 7.17 //


Even now it continues to run through my mind how after I clouded the mirror /

She pretended to be angry and said to me, as she wickedly laughed, 'What are you doing!' // 7.18 //


Again, the words she spoke to me, while her girlish eyes were swimming with tears, /

'Before this paint on my face is dry, come back': those words, even now, block my mind. // 7.19 //


This beggar meditating at ease, who has crossed his legs in the traditional manner, and is of the waterfall, arising out of the foot [of the hill]7: /

Surely he is not as attached as I am to anybody, since he sits so calmly, with an aura of contentment. // 7.20 //


Deaf to the cuckoos' chorus, his eyebulls never grazing upon the riches of spring, /

This fellow concentrates so intently upon the teaching, that I suspect no lover is tugging at his heart. // 7.21 //


Credit to him who is firm in his resolve, who has retreated from curiosity and pride, /

Who is at peace in himself, whose mind is turned inward, who does not strive for anything, as he walks up and down... // 7.22 //


And beholds the lotus-covered water and the flowering forest where cuckoos come calling! /

What man in the prime of youth could keep such constancy in those months of spring which are, as it were, the rival of dharma? // 7.23 //


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 captivated hosts of gods and kings and seers: how then could they fail to bewilder a bloke like me? // 7.24 //


Overcome by desire, the fire god Hiraṇya-retas, 'Golden Sperm,'8 succumbed to sex with his wife 'Oblation,' Svāhā,9 as did 'The Bountiful' Indra10 with nymph Ahalyā; /

How much easier to be overwhelmed by a woman am I, a man, who lacks the strength and resolve of the gods. // 7.25 //


Our tradition has it that the sun god Sūrya, roused to passion for the dawn goddess Saraṇyū, let himself be diminished for the sake of pleasure with her; /

He became a stallion so as to cover her as a mare, whereby she conceived the two charioteers.11 // 7.26 //


When the mind of Vaivasvata, son of the Sun, and the mind of the fire god Agni turned to enmity, when their grip on themselves was shaken, /

There was war between them for many years, because of a woman. What lesser being, here on earth, would not be caused to stray by a woman? // 7.27 //


And through desire the sage Vasiṣṭha,12 who even among the upstanding was eminent, had his way with an outcaste,13 Akṣa-mālā, 'String of Beads,'14 /

To whom was born his son Kapiñjalāda, an eater of earth and water to rival the Sun. // 7.28 //


So too did the seer Parāśara, user of curses as arrows, have intercourse with Kālī,15 who was born from the womb of a fish; /

The son he conceived in her was the illustrious Dvaipāyana,16 classifier of the Vedas. // 7.29 //


Dvaipāyana, equally, while having dharma as his primary object, enjoyed a woman at a brothel in Kāśi;17 /

Struck by her foot, with its trembling ankle bracelet, he was like a cloud being struck by a twist of lightning. // 7.30 //


So too did brahma-begotten Aṅgiras,18 when his mind was seized by passion, have sex with Sarasvatī;19 /

To her was born his son Sarasvata, who gave voice again to missing Vedas. // 7.31 //


Likewise Kāśyapa, at a sacrifice under the aegis of the royal seer Dilipa, while fixated on a celestial nymph, /

Took the ceremonial ladle and cast into the fire his own streaming semen, whence was conceived Asita.20 // 7.32 //


Aṅgada,21 equally, though he had gone to the ends of ascetic practice, went overwhelmed by desire to Yamunā22 /

And in her he begat the super-bright Rathītara, 'The Super Charioteer,' and friend of the spotted deer. // 7.33 //


Again, on catching sight of the princess Śāntā, 'Tranquillity,' though he had been living in tranquillity in the forest, /

The sage Ṛṣya-śṛṅga, 'Antelope Horn,' was moved from steadfastness, like a high-horned mountain in an earthquake. // 7.34 //


And the son of Gādhin who, in order to become 'the Brahman Seer,'23 renounced his kingdom and retired to the forest, having become indifferent to sensual objects: /

He was captivated by the nymph Ghṛtācī,24 reckoning a decade with her as a single day. // 7.35 //


So too, when hit by an arrow fired by Love, did Sthūla-śiras, 'Thick Head,' lose his senses over Rambhā.25 /

He with his libidinous and wrathful nature was reckless: when she refused him he cursed her. // 7.36 //


And Ruru, after his beloved Pramadvarā had been robbed of her senses by a snake, /

Exterminated snakes wherever he saw them: he failed, in his fury, to maintain his reserve or his ascetic practice. // 7.37 //


As grandson of the hare-marked moon, as son of 'The Learned' Budha and the goddess Iḍā, and as one marked by personal honour and virtue, [Purū-ravas] had the special powers of the lunar and the very learned;26 /

But thinking of the apsaras Urvaśī, this royal seer also went mad. // 7.38 //


And when 'Long Shanks' Tāla-jaṅgha, on top of a mountain, was reddened, in his libidinous state, with passion for the apsaras Menakā,

From the foot of 'All-Beneficent' Viśvā-vasu he got an angry kick, like a thunderbolt striking a hin-tāla palm.27 // 7.39 //


When his favourite female drowned in the waters of the Ganges, King Jahnu, his mind possessed by disembodied Love,28 /

Blocked the flow of the Ganges with his arms, as if he were Mount Maināka, the paragon of non-movement.29 // 7.40 //


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.30 // 7.41 //


Again, when the avatar Saunandakin31 took away his Urvaśī, "She of the Wide Expanse," the wife whom, like the wide earth, Soma-varman32 had made his own, /

'Moon-Armoured' Soma-varman whose armour, so they say, had been virtuous conduct, roamed about grieving, his armour pierced by mind-existent Love.33 // 7.42 //


A king who followed his departed wife in death was 'The Dreaded' Bhīmika -- he who was dread power on earth; /

He who was famed, because of his military might, as Senāka, 'The Missile of War'; he who was, with his war machine, like a God of War.34 // 7.43 //


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 accepted death from him, rather than relinquish his love for her.35 // 7.44 //


And Pāṇḍu 'The Pale One' having been cursed by Passion to die on coupling with a woman, /

Went nonetheless with Mādrī: he heeded not the death that would result from the great seer's curse, when he tasted what he was forbidden to taste.36 // 7.45 //


Hordes of gods and 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 cannot see my beloved, am I. // 7.46 //


Therefore I shall go back home again and properly make love, 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. // 7.47 //


When a man has taken the bowl in his hand, has shaved his head, and, putting pride aside, has donned the patched-together robe, /

And yet he is given to pleasure and lacking in firmness and tranquillity, then like a lamp in a picture, he is there and yet he is not. // 7.48 //


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. // 7.49 //


I had thought it improper for a man with noble connections, having adopted the insignia, to discard them again: /

But even such a scruple fades away, when I think about those royal heroes who abandoned an ascetic grove and went home. // 7.50


For the Śālva king,37 along with his son; and likewise Ambarīṣa and Rāma and Andha,38 and Rantideva, son of Sāṅkṛti39 /

Cast off their rags and clothed themselves again in finest fabrics; they cut their twisted dreadlocks off and put their crowns back on. // 7.51 //


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 unsound judgement, stammering mind and weakened resolve, no ulterior purpose might exist, nor even the present world of living beings." // 7.52 //



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







1 “Flower-bannered one” is an epithet of Kāma, god of love.

2 The Aśoka tree, which is indigenous to India, Burma and Malaya, flowers throughout the year but is especially famed for the beauty of the orange and scarlet clusters which it produces in January and February. It has some romantic connotations with female beauty, for example, the traditions that it will only flower in places where a woman's foot has trodden, and that a tree will bloom more vigorously if kicked by a beautiful young woman. Aśoka, meaning “without sorrow,” is also the name of the celebrated King Aśoka.

3 The tilaka tree, aka Clerodendrum phlomoides (Symplocos racemosa), as may be guessed from the context, produces clusters of white flowers.

4 Saṁkalpa here evidently means imagine. The verbal root klṛp originally means to produce, to arrange, to fix, or to frame; and hence to produce or frame in the mind, to invent, to imagine. See 13.49-53.

5 The nāga tree is the same ornamental tree referred to in 4.18.

6 Gandha means perfume or smell, as in the name of the tree gandha-parṇa (“fragrant leaved”). In Sanskrit epic poetry the gandharvas are the celestial musicians who form the orchestra at the banquets of the gods; they belong, together with the apsarases, to Indra's heaven.

7 A play may be intended on the word pāda, which means a human foot (as placed upon the opposite thigh when assuming the traditional sitting posture under discussion) and also means a hill at the foot of a mountain.

8 An epithet of the fire-god Agni.

9 Svāhā means an oblation or offering to the gods. As a proper noun, Oblation personified, Svāhā is the wife of the fire-god Agni, and is thought to preside over burnt-offerings; her body is said to consist of the four Vedas, and her limbs are the six aṇgas or limbs of the Vedas.

10 Maghavat, “the Bountiful,” is an epithet of Indra.

11 The Ṛg-veda tells the tale of how the sun god and dawn goddess, taking the form of a stallion and a mare, brought into being “the two charioteers" who appear in the sky before the dawn in a golden carriage drawn by horses or birds.

12 Legendary owner of the cow of plenty. See 1.3.

13 Śva-pakī: lit. “a woman who cooks dogs.”

14 Akṣa-mālā, a name of Vasiṣṭha's wife Arundhatī, so called because she wore a rosary.

15 Kālī, “Black Colour,” is a name of Satyavatī. According to the Mahā-bhārata, she and Parāśara were the mother and father of Vyāsa, author of the Vedas.

16 Dvaipāyana, “island-born,” is a name of Vyāsa, author or compiler of the Vedas, who was so-called because his birthplace was a small island in the Ganges.

17 Kaśi broadly corresponds to modern-day Varanasi. See also 3.15.

18 Aṅgiras is celebrated as the inspired bard/seer who authored the hymns of the Ṛg Veda. “Brahma-begotten" refers to the legend that Angiras was born from Brahma's mouth.

19 Sarasvatī, “abounding in ponds,” was the name of a river, and of a goddess associated with that river.

20 Kāśyapa is regarded as another of the authors of the Ṛg Veda, and Asita (also known as Asita Devala) is known as one of his male progeny.

21 Aṇgada was a brother of Rāma.

22 Yamunā also was originally the name of a river.

23 Refers to Viśva-mitra “Friend of All,” who was born into the warrior caste of kṣatriyas but after a requisite number of years of ascetic self-denial eventually gained the epithet “Brahman Seer,” signifying a purported elevation from the kṣatriya into the brahmin caste.

24 Ghṛtācī, “abounding in ghee,” is the name of another notable nymph.

25 Rambhā was reputed to be the most beautiful of all the beautiful nymphs in Indra's paradise; she is the nymph referred to at the end of Canto 6.

26 Refers to Purū-ravas, a royal seer of the lunar race whose love affair with the nymph Urvaśī is much celebrated in Indian art and literature – most notably in Kālidāsa's drama Vikramorvaśī (“Urvaśī [Won] by Valour”). The story of the love between Purū-ravas and Urvaśī is as old as the Ṛg Veda, one hymn of which consists of a dialogue between the earthly king Purū-ravas and his heavenly lover Urvaśī.

27 Tāla-jaṅgha literally means "Having Legs as Long as a Palm Tree," and so the metaphor of lightning striking a palm tree is a play on Tāla-jaṅgha's name.

28 The first yuga-pāda includes an alliterative play on the word aṇga, which means a limb of the body or the body itself, and sounds like gaṇga, "Swift Goer," the name of the river we call the Ganges. "Favourite female" is literally "chief [woman] of well-rounded limbs" (paramāṇgana); and "disembodied Love" is an-aṇga, the Bodiless One, i.e. the god of love Kāma whom Śiva angrily disembodied when Śiva's love for Pārvatī came into conflict with his ascetic practice.

29 Many Indian legends link the royal sage Jahnu with the River Ganges; one legend says that Jahnu drank up the waters of the Ganges. This version as described by Aśvaghoṣa seems to have more of a connotation of the kind of blocked flow, or fixity, that is liable to accompany ascetic practice.

30 Despite his devastation when when the goddess Gaṇga left him to return to the Ganges whence she came, King Śan-tanu was able to perk up again when he set eyes on Satyavatī the fisherwoman, also known as Kālī (see 7.44).

31 Saunandakin means “Bearer of the Saunanda,” the latter being the name of the club born by Bala-rāma, who was the elder brother of Kṛṣṇa and said to be the 8th avatar of Viṣṇu.

32 Soma-varman, “Moon-Armoured” is another epithet of the protagonist of 7.39, Purū-ravas; the epithet reflects his provenance as founder of the lunar dynasty.

33 Cittodbhava, "He whose Existence Is Mind," again means Kāma, god of Love, who was rendered bodiless as a punishment for bothering Śiva.

34 Senā-pati, "Army Leader" or "Lord of the Lance," is an epithet of Kārttikeya. Senā-pati-deva, “army-leading god,” therefore means Kārttikeya, the ancient Indian god of war, the son of Śiva and Pārvatī, who directs the fight against demons.

35 Bhiṁṣa was the son of King Śan-tanu and his first wife Gaṇga (see 7.41). When Śan-tanu remarried the fisherwoman known as Kālī (or Satyavatī), the latter therefore became Bhiṁṣa's step-mother, and Bhiṁṣa evidently did not take kindly to Jana-mejaya's designs on her. Jana-mejaya, incidentally, like the Ruru mentioned in 7.37, had it in for snakes and set about exterminating them en masse.

36 Pāṇḍu's mother Ambālikā, the story goes, was instructed by the Satyavatī/Kālī of the previous verse, to keep her eyes open in childbirth so as not to bear a blind son. When Ambālikā eventually opened her eyes and saw the formidable form of her offspring, she became pale. That is how Pāṇḍu got his name, "the Pale,” or, more exactly, “the One [whose mother] was Pale.” When he became a king, Pāṇḍu married the princess Mādrī along with another princess named Kuntī. While out hunting in the woods Pāṇḍu had the misfortune to shoot the sage Kindama while the latter had taken the form of a deer and was mating with a doe. The wounded sage Kindama placed a curse on Pāṇḍu. Aśvaghoṣa says that the curse was placed madanena, which could mean "by [the sage, one of whose names was] Madana, 'Passion' " or could mean "by [the god of] Passion," or possibly could mean "because of passion." Since Pāṇḍu had killed the pair in flagrante, the curse was that if Pāṇḍu himself had sex with any woman, he would die. Pāṇḍu then remorsefully renounced his kingdom and lived with his wives as a celibate ascetic. After 15 years of ascetic celibacy, however, when his second wife Kuntī was away, Pāṇḍu was irresistibly drawn to his first wife Mādrī. As soon as Pāṇḍu set about enjoying what he was not to enjoy, he fulfilled the sage's curse and died. Mādrī, out of repentance and grief, committed so-called 'sati,' burning herself alive on her husband's funeral pyre.

37 The Śālva king was a noted enemy of Viṣṇu, whose pseudonyms include "Śālva's Enemy."

38 Ambarīṣa was a royal seer, as presumably were Rāma and Andha.

39 Rantideva – another ancient Indian hero who was not necessarily a good role model for devotees of the Buddha – was a king of the lunar dynasty famed for spending his riches in performing grand sacrifices; the blood which issued from the bodies of the slaughtered victims was changed into a river called Charmaṇ-vatī “containing hides." It is the modern River Chambal.






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