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Then, while Nanda was looking forward, with unsteady eyes and the eagerest of expectations, to going home, /

A certain striver with a benevolent air approached him and said, in a friendly way: // 8.1 //


"Why this face so clouded with tears, that reveals a darkness in your heart? /

Come to constancy, restrain your emotion, for tears and tranquillity do not sit well together. // 8.2 //


Pain invariably arises in two ways: in the mind and in the body. /

And for those two kinds of pain, there are healers skilled in education and in medicine. // 8.3 //


So if this pain is physical be quick to tell a doctor all about it, /

For when a sick man conceals his illness it turns before long into something serious. // 8.4 //


But if this suffering is mental tell me, and I will tell you the cure for it; /

Because, for a mind enshrouded in gloom and darkness, the healer is a seeker who knows himself.1 // 8.5 //


Tell the whole truth, my friend, if you think it fit to be told, to me; /

For minds have many ways of working and many secrets, wherein concealment is complicated by conceit."2 // 8.6 //


Pressed in this way by the striver, while wanting to explain his own decision, /

Nanda clung to him, with hand in his hand, and went into another corner of the forest. // 8.7 //


And so there the two of them sat in a vibrant bower of flower-spewing creepers /

Whose soft young shoots, stirring in a soft breeze, seemed to be hiding them away. // 8.8 //


Then, in between the heavy sighs that intermittently gripped him, he expressed his intention, /

Which was a hard one for a man who has knowingly gone forth to express. He told it to the beggar who was so adept at hearing and talking.3 // 8.9 //


"Evidently, it befits a devotee of dharma who is always friendly towards any living being, /

That the benevolence inherent in your compassionate nature might be shown to me in my inconstancy! // 8.10 //


And that is why I would like especially to speak to you who preach propriety; /

For what I am feeling now I would not tell to a man who was out of balance in himself and who, though a good talker, was not a true person. // 8.11 //


Hear me then when I say, in short, that without my beloved I do not enjoy the practice of dharma; /

I am like a kiṁnara without his lover roaming about, his semen ready, over mountain peaks. // 8.12 //


I am averse to the happiness of the forest life, and simply want to go home; /

For without her I obtain no comfort, like a king without his sovereignty." // 8.13 //


When he heard those words of Nanda who, with his mind on his beloved wife, was burning with pain, /

The striver, softly, while allowing his head to shake, said to himself: // 8.14 //


"What a pity! In its longing for the herd, a rushing stag that has escaped the mortal danger of the hunter's arrow, /

Is about to enter the hunter's trap, deceived by a call that the hunter sang. // 8.15 //


Truly, a bird that was caught in a net and set free by a benevolent person, /

Desires, as it flits about the fruiting and blossoming forest, to fly of its own volition into a cage. // 8.16 //


A baby elephant, truly, after an adult elephant has pulled it up out of the deep mud of a dangerous riverbed, /

Is wishing, in its thirst for water, to enter again that crocodile-infested creek. // 8.17 //


In a shelter where slithers a snake, a sleeping boy, awoken by an elder who is already awake, /

Has become agitated and, truly, he is about to grab the horrible reptile himself. // 8.18 //


Truly, having flown up and away from a tree that is blazing in a great forest fire, /

A chick in its longing for the nest is wishing to fly there again, its former alarm forgotten.4 // 8.19 //


Truly, a pheasant separated from its mate through fear of a hawk, and so stupefied by desire as to be helpless, /

Is lacking in resolve and lacking in reserve: the pathetic little beggar5 is living a pitiful life. // 8.20 //


Greedy and untrained, devoid of decency and intelligence, /

Truly, a wretched dog is wishing to eat again some food that he himself has vomited." // 8.21 //


So saying, the striver contemplated Nanda for a while, beholding him tormented by the sorrows of love. /

Then in his eagerness to be of benefit, the striver spoke fine words, which were unpleasant to hear. // 8.22 //


"For you who draws no distinction between good and bad, whose mind is settled on objects of the senses, /

And who is without the eye of attainment, naturally, no delight could there be in being better.6 // 8.23 //


Again, to him whose thinking is not firmly fixed – in the matters of hearing, grasping, retaining and understanding the supreme truth, and in the matter of mental peace -- /

To him who easily changes his mind,7 joy in dharma is not apportioned. // 8.24 //


But that joy is certainly known8 to one who sees the faults in objects of the senses,9 who is contented, pure, and unassuming, /

Whose mind is versed in the religious acts that generate peace and whose understanding therein is formed. // 8.25 //


A covetous man delights in opulence; a fool delights in sensual pleasure; /

A true person delights in tranquillity, having transcended sensual enjoyments by virtue of his knowledge. // 8.26 //


What is more, when a man of good repute, a man of intelligence and breeding, bears the honoured insignia /

His consciousness inclines towards home no more than a mountain bends in the wind. // 8.27 //


Only a man who aspires to dependence on another, spurning autonomy and self-reliance, /

Would yearn, while he was on the auspicious path to peace, for life at home with all its faults. // 8.28 //


Just as a man released from prison might, when stricken by some calamity, betake himself back to prison, /

So might one who has retired to the forest seek out again that bondage called home. // 8.29 //


The man who has left his strife behind and yet would like nothing better than to go back again to his strife: /

He is the fool who would leave behind and then return, with his senses still unconquered, to the strife that is a wife. // 8.30 //


Like poisonous clinging creepers, like swept-out caves still harbouring snakes, /

Like uncovered blades being held in the hand, women are calamitous in the end. // 8.31 //


Sexy members of the female gender engender sexual desire, whereas unsexy ones are fearsome.10 /

Since they bring with them either a fault or fear, in what way do they merit attention? // 8.32 //


So that kinsman breaks with kinsman and friend with friend, /

Women, who are good at seeing faults in others,11 behave deceitfully and ignobly. // 8.33 //


When men of good families fall on hard times, when they rashly do unfitting deeds, /

When they recklessly enter the vanguard of an army, women in those instances are the cause. // 8.34 //


They beguile with lovely voices, and attack with sharpened minds: /

There is honey in women's speech, and lethal venom in their hearts. // 8.35 //


A burning fire can be held, the bodiless wind can be caught,12 /

An angry snake can be captured, but the mind of women cannot be grasped. // 8.36 //


Without pausing to consider looks or wealth, or intelligence or breeding or valour, /

Women attack no matter what, like a ragged assortment of crocodiles in a river. // 8.37 //


No charming speech, nor soothing caresses,13 nor any affection do women ever remember. /

The female, even when cajoled, is flighty: so rely on one no more than you would your enemies in this world. // 8.38 //


Women flirt with men who give them nothing; with generous men, they get restless. /

They look down with disdain on the humble, but towards the arrogant show simpering contentment. // 8.39 //


They lord it over men of merit, and submit like children to men who are devoid of merit. /

When men with money are around, they act rapaciously; men who are short of money they treat with contempt. // 8.40 //


Just as a cow, having gone from one pasture to another pasture, keeps right on grazing, however she's restrained, /

So a woman, without regard for any affection she felt before, moves on and takes her pleasure elsewhere. // 8.41 //


For though women ascend their husband's funeral pyre, though they follow at the cost of their own life, /

Though, the restraints placed upon them they can indeed bear, they are not truly capable of genuine friendship. // 8.42 //


Women who sometimes, in some small way please their husband, by treating him like a god, /

A thousand times more, in their fickle-mindedness, please their own heart. // 8.43 //


The daughter of Sena-jit the Conqueror, so they say, coupled with a cooker of dogs;14 Kumud-vatī, 'the Lilly Pool,' paired up with Mīna-ripu, 'the Foe of Fishes'; /

And Bṛhad-rathā, 'the Burly Heroine,' loved a lion: there is nothing women will not do.15 // 8.44 //


Scions of the Kurus, Haihayas and Vṛṣṇis, along with Śambara whose armour was mighty magic,16 /

And the sage Ugra-tapas Gautama – 'the Gautama of Grim Austerities' -- all incurred the dust of passion which a woman raises. // 8.45 //


Ungrateful, ignoble, unsteady: such is the mind of women. /

What man of wisdom could allow his heart to be fastened onto such fickle creatures? // 8.46 //


So you fail to see how pernicious, in their intense duplicity, are their little lightweight hearts? /

Do you not see, at least, that the bodies of women are impure, oozing houses of foulness? // 8.47 //


Day after day, by means of ablutions, garments, and jewels, they prettify an ugliness /

Which you, with eyes veiled by ignorance do not see as ugliness: you see it as beauty. // 8.48 //


Or else you do see that their bodies are foul but intelligence is lacking in you: /

For the fragrant task in which you are engaged is extinction of the impurity that originates in them.17 // 8.49 //


Cosmetic paste and powder, garlands, gems and pearls, gold and fine fabric: /

What have these fine things, if fine they are, got to do with women? Let us examine what inherently in women is so immaculate. // 8.50 //


Dirty and unclothed, with her nails and teeth and body-hair in their natural state: /

If she were like that, your Sundarī, whose name means 'Beautiful Woman,' surely wouldn't be such a beautiful woman to you now. // 8.51 //


What man who was capable of disgust would touch a woman, leaking and unclean like an old bucket, /

If she were not scantily clad in skin as thin as a flying insect's wing? // 8.52 //


If you see that women's bodies are bony skeletons wrapped around with skin /

And yet you are forcibly drawn by passion, truly then, Love is immune to disgust and lacking in all restraint. // 8.53 //


In nails and in teeth, in skin, and in hair, both long and short, which are not beautiful, you are inventing beauty. /

Dullard! Don't you see what women originally are made of and what they originally are? // 8.54 //


So then, reckon women, in mind and in body, to be singularly implicated with faults; /

And hold back, by the power of this reckoning, the mind which strains so impulsively for home. // 8.55 //


You are educated, intelligent, and well-bred -- a fitting vessel for supreme tranquillity; /

As such, you ought not in any way to break the contract into which you have entered. // 8.56 //


For the man of spirit and noble birth; for the man who cherishes honour and strives to earn respect; /

For the man of grit -- better death for him than life as a backslider. // 8.57 //


For just as he is blameworthy who, having girded his armour on and taken up a bow, then flees in his warrior's chariot away from the battle; /

So he too is blameworthy who, having accepted the insignia and taken to begging, then allows the stallion of his senses to be carted away by desire. // 8.58 //


And just as it would be ridiculous to go begging, while bedecked in the finest ornaments, clothes and garlands, while holding an archer's bow, and with a head full of passing fancies, /

So too is it ridiculous to subsist on offerings, having consented to shapelessness, while longing thirstily for the comforts of home. // 8.59 //


Just as a hog, though fed on the best of food and lain on the finest bedding, would, when set free, run back to his familiar filth; /

So, having tasted the excellent pleasure of cessation while learning the better way, would a man of thirsting libido abandon the tranquil forest and yearn for home. // 8.60 //


Just as a flaming torch, when fanned by the wind, burns the hand that holds it,

Just as a snake, being swift to anger, bites the foot that steps on it, /

Just as a tiger, though caught as a cub, mauls the one who took it in,

So too does association with women, in many ways, make for disaster. // 8.61 //


Therefore, know these faults to be mentally and physically bound up with women;

Understand how sensual pleasure, as it flows away like river water, makes for affliction and for sorrow; /

See the world, in the shadow of Death, to be fragile as an unbaked pot;

And make the peerless decision that leads to release -- instead of causing the neck to stiffen up through sorrowful yearning." // 8.62 //



The 8th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "A Tirade against Women."










1 Is Nanda's pain of separation from Sundarī only mental or also physical, or neither physical nor mental? And who in Saundarananda is the healer who truly knows himself? The striver? The Buddha? Both?

2 Who in Saundarananda might Aśvaghoṣa be using an exemplar of conceit?

3 Is Aśvaghoṣa praising the striver who one who both talks the talk and walks the walk, or is he damning the striver with faint praise?

4 The final word of the verse in Sanskrit is dvi-jaḥ, lit. “one twice born,” which means 1. a bird, which is twice born in the sense of being born first in an egg laid by the mother, and then born again on hatching from the egg; and 2. a person, and especially a brahmin, who has in some sense been reborn, for example in an initiation or confirmation ceremony in the Aryan tradition. So in placing dvi-jaḥ as the last word of this verse, the striver might be appealing again to Nanda's sense of what is proper for an Aryan man of noble birth. This would be in keeping with the striver's stance as a preacher of propriety (kṣama-vādin; 8.11).

5 va-jīvakaḥ means 1. a particular species of bird, a kind of pheasant, and 2. what the dictionary defines as "a Buddhist ascetic.”

6 Śreyas, as the Buddha uses the term, especially in Canto 13, is the thing that Nanda eventually comes to believe in: better, betterment, a better way -- a better way, that is, than hedonism, and also a better way than striving in pursuit of illusory targets. This verse, however, can be understood as full, from beginning to end, of Aśvaghoṣa's irony, so that, unbeknowns to himself, the striver is just expressing the enlightenment of sitting buddha, which is free of conceit, and so there is no delight in being better than others (na ratiḥ śreyasi).

7 Calātmanaḥ generally has a negative connotation: e.g. fickle-minded (1.20), out of balance in himself (8.11), but here Aśvaghoṣa's irony might be at play again.

8 The emphatic double negative, na ratir na vidyate, is here translated as positive

9 Does this include seeing a fault in women, for being objects of mens sexual desire?

10 The word used here for woman, pramadā, etymologically is already sexually charged (pra = before; madā = sexual desire), so that the dictionary gives pramadā as “a young and wanton woman, any woman.” The similar-sounding word pra-da means engendering. The first line then, is an alliterative play on these words, and at the same time a succint distillation of an absurd view.

11 Who is the one who is seeing the fault, not in himself, but in others?

12 For example, by means of a flaming torch, or a sail.

13 Alternative reading, based on EHJ's query of na cādaraṁ instead of Shastri's conjecture na lālanaṃ (as an amendment to the original na rādranaṁ): "No charming speech, nor showing of respect...”

14 Sva-paca: lit. “a dog-cooker,” means a member of a tribe who cooks dogs, an outcaste.

15 EHJ was unable to trace the sources of these tales of female bestiality, but thought that Mīna-rupu (also mentioned or alluded to in 10.53) might here have taken the form of a crocodile.

16 Śambara is the name of a demon formerly slain by Indra; in epic and later poetry he is an enemy of Kāma, the god of love.

17 Cf. the original teaching of the Buddha, not to do any evil, to practise all forms of good, to purify one's own mind.






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