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Though the beggar reproached him in such a manner, Nanda did not arrive at any kind of tranquillity with regard to his beloved; /

So much did he think about her that he failed, as if he were unconscious, to hear a word the other said. // 9.1 //


For, just as an invalid who wants to die does not accept the kind advice of a doctor who intends to do him good; /

So Nanda, bubbling with strength and looks and youth, did not accept that salutary advice of the striver. // 9.2 //


It is not surprising, in such a case, that one whose mind is shrouded in darkness should be overpowered by the wrongness that arises out of a tainted desire; /

For a person's wrongness ceases only when the darkness of ignorance, having reached its limit, begins to diminish. // 9.3 //


And so, observing Nanda to be caught up, as he was, in his own strength and looks and youth, /

Seeing him all set to go home, the striver chastised Nanda, in the name of tranquillity. // 9.4 //


"Your strength and looks and youthfulness I recognize as you do; /

But that these three are impermanent you do not realise as I do.1 // 9.5 //


For this body is a domicile for disease and in the face of senility it teeters helplessly, like a tree with its roots on a riverbank. /

Because you do not know it to be as fragile as froth on water, therefore you feel there to be abiding strength in you. // 9.6 //


When, through failure to eat and drink, or sit down, or move about, and also through over-indulgence in those acts, /

The body manifestly goes to ruin, what reason is there for you to have the conceit of physical strength? // 9.7 //


By cold and heat, by sickness and aging, and by hunger and other such adversities, the living are being reduced /

Like water in the hot season by the sun's rays. In these circumstances, what are you thinking, O taker of pride in strength! as you wander towards your end? // 9.8 //


When a body made of skin, bone, flesh and blood owes its very existence to the taking of food, /

When it is always ailing, needing continuous intervention, how can you labour under an illusion like 'I am inherently strong'? // 9.9 //


Like a man who aspires to cross the stormy ocean in an unbaked earthen pot, /

Is he who would assume the sapless accretion of his body to be strong as he carries it around, striving after an object. // 9.10 //


But even more fragile than an unbaked earthen pot, in my opinion, is this body; /

For a pot that is properly kept might survive for many ages whereas this accretion crumbles even if well maintained. // 9.11 //


When the elements of water, earth, wind and fire are in constant opposition, like antagonistic snakes, /

When they meet in a body only to make for calamity, how can you, in your propensity to sickness, be convinced of your strength? // 9.12 //


Snakes are lulled by charms, but the elements are not apt to be charmed. /

Snakes bite some people some of the time; the elements strike all people all of the time. // 9.13 //


For this body, though long tended with good habits of sleeping and sitting, and of eating and drinking, /

Does not forgive a single step too far -- at which it rears up in anger, like a great venomous snake. // 9.14 //


Pained by cold, one turns to fire; oppressed by heat, one longs for cold; /

When hungry, one longs for food; when thirsty, for water. Where then is strength? What is it? How is it? Whose is it? // 9.15 //


So see a body as ailing and do not think 'I am possessed of strength.' /

The world is insubstantial, inauspicious, and uncertain, and in an impermanent world, power is undependable. // 9.16 //


Where is the power of Kṛta-vīrya's son, the thousand-armed Arjuna, who fancied himself to be so strong?2 /

In battle, Bhārgava, 'The Scion of the Bhṛgus,' severed his arms like a thunderbolt lopping off the lofty horns of a mountain.3 // 9.17 //


Where is the strength of Hari Kṛṣṇa, 'The Kaṁsa-tormentor,'4 who broke the Horse-King's jaw?5 /

With one arrow from Jaras6 he was brought down, like utmost beauty brought down, in due order, by old age. // 9.18 //


Where is the strength of Namuci son of Diti, light of an army and provoker of the gods? /

He stood his ground in battle, furious as death, but Indra slew him with a spattering of foam.7 // 9.19 //


And where is the power once possessed by the Kurus who blazed in combat with speed and stamina /

And then lay in ashes, like sacrificial fires whose firewood has burned, their life-breath snuffed out? // 9.20 //


Know, therefore, that the strength of powerful men, who fancy themselves imbued with strength and drive, is ground down; /

And do not, as you survey a world in the sway of aging and death, take pride in strength. // 9.21 //


Whether or not you think your strength is great, just do battle against the senses! /

If you are victorious in this, your strength is great; if you are defeated, your strength is nothing. // 9.22 //


Less heroic are those men thought who conquer enemies armed with horses, chariots and elephants, /

Than those heroic thinkers are thought who conquer the restless six senses. // 9.23 //


Again, that you think 'I am good looking' is not astute. Let this be grasped: /

Where are the good looks, where the beautiful bodies, of Gada, Śāmba, and Sāraṇa? // 9.24 //


Just as a peacock, flashing the eye in its tail, naturally carries its excellent looks, /

That is how, without any distinction got from grooming the body, you must carry your looks -- if after all you are good-looking. // 9.25 //


If its unpleasantness were not covered with clothes, if it never touched water after excretion, /

Or if it never received a good washing, tell me, O handsome one! what might a body be like? // 9.26 //


Again, perceiving the prime of life to be a personal belonging, your mind looks forward to going home and gaining its sensual end: /

Curb that mind! for, like a river coursing down a rocky mountain, youth passes swiftly and does not return. // 9.27 //


A season that has passed comes around again, the moon wanes and waxes again, /

But gone, gone, never to return is the water of rivers, and the youth of men. // 9.28 //


When you are white whiskered and wrinkled, with broken teeth and sagging brows; when you are lacking in lustre; /

When, humbled by age, you see your face grown old, then you will sober up. // 9.29 //


Having wasted nights and greeted dawns drinking the most intoxicating liquor, one finally comes around, /

But drunk on strength, looks and youth, no man ever comes round – until he reaches old age. // 9.30 //


Just as sugar-cane, when all its juice has been squeezed out, is thrown on the ground to dry, ready for burning, /

So, pressed in the vice of aging and drained of energy, does the body wait to die. // 9.31 //


Just as a saw worked by two men cuts a tall tree into many pieces, /

So old age, pushed and pulled by day and night, topples people here and now who are high and mighty. // 9.32 //


Robber of memory; destroyer of looks; ender of pleasure; seizer of speech, hearing and sight; /

Birthplace of fatigue; slayer of strength and manly vigour: for those with a body, there is no enemy to rival aging. // 9.33 //


Knowing this great terror of the world named 'aging' to be a pointer on the way to death, /

Do not rise to the ignoble conceit of an 'I' that is beautiful, or young, or strong. // 9.34 //


With your mind tainted by 'I' and 'mine,' you are latching onto the strife called a body. /

Let go of that, if peace is to come about, for 'I' and 'mine' usher in danger. // 9.35 //


When no-one has dominion over a body that is ravaged by manifold misfortunes, /

How can it be right to recognize as 'I' or as 'mine' this house of calamities called a body? // 9.36 //


One who would delight in a flimsy snake-infested hovel that was always unclean and constantly needing repair:8 /

He is the man of perverted view who would delight in a body with its corrupted elements and unclean, unstable state. // 9.37 //


Just as a bad king takes forcibly from his subjects his full toll of taxes, and yet does not protect; /

So the body takes its full toll of provisions such as clothes and the like, and yet does not obey. // 9.38 //


Just as in soil, grass sprouts readily but rice is grown through sustained effort, /

So too does sorrow arise readily whereas happiness is produced with effort, if at all. // 9.39 //


For him who drags around a hurting, perishable body, there is no such thing, in the supreme sense, as happiness; /

For what he determines to be happiness, by taking counter-measures against suffering, is only a condition wherein suffering remains minimal. // 9.40 //


Just as the intrusion of even a slight discomfort spoils enjoyment of the greatest longed-for pleasure, /

In a similar way, nobody ever enjoys any happiness by disregarding suffering that is upon him. // 9.41 //


You fail to see the body as it is -- full of suffering and inconstant -- because of fondness for its effects: /

Let the mind that chases after effects, like a cow after corn, be restrained by the reins of steadfastness. // 9.42 //


For sensual enjoyments, like offerings fed into a blazing fire, do not make for satisfaction; /

The more one indulges in sensual pleasures, the more the desire for sensual objects grows. // 9.43 //


Again, just as a man suffering from the blight of leprosy does not obtain a cure by way of application of heat, /

Similarly, one who goes among sense objects with his senses unconquered does not tend towards peace by way of sensual enjoyments. // 9.44 //


For just as desire for pleasure from one's medicine might cause one to accept one's infirmity instead of taking proper measures against it, /

So, because of desire for one's object, might one ignorantly rejoice in that receptacle of much suffering which is a body. // 9.45 //


One who wishes adversity on a man is said, because of that action, to be his enemy. /

Should not sense objects, as the sole root of adversity,9 be shunned as dangerous enemies? // 9.46 //


Those who were his deadly enemies in this world can in time become a man's friend; /

But not benign for anybody, in this or other worlds, are the desires which are the causes of suffering. // 9.47 //


Just as eating a tasty, colourful and fragrant kiṁpāka fruit leads to death not nourishment, /

So an imbalanced person's devotion to objects makes for misfortune, and not for well-being. // 9.48 //


As an innocent, then, heed this good advice pertaining to liberation, dharma, and so forth; /

Affirm my opinion, with which the righteous concur. Or else speak up and state your agenda." // 9.49 //


Though reproached at length in this salutary fashion by a striver so great in hearing what is heard, /

Nanda neither found firmness nor took comfort: he was like a tusker in full rut, mind blinded by lust. // 9.50 //


Then, having assured himself that Nanda's being was not in the dharma but was turned unsteadily towards the comforts of home, /

That beggar reported back to the investigator of living creatures' dispositions, tendencies and ways of being, to the Buddha, knower of reality. // 9.51 //




The 9th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Negation of Vanity."









1 NB the title of this canto is “Negation of Vanity” or “Denunciation of Conceit.”

2 Arjuna (son of Kuntī; see note to 7.45) was an ambidextrous master-archer, renowned as the greatest warrior on earth. He is one of the Pāṇḍava heroes of the Mahābhārata. The Bhagavad Gita is addressed by Kṛṣṇa to Arjuna, on the eve of the great battle between the Pāṇḍavas and the Kurus.

3 Bhārgava, lit. 'Belonging to the Bhṛgus,' is a name of Paraśu-rāma "Rāma with the Axe," who according to one version of ancient history was Arjuna's nemesis.

4 Kaṁsa, a king of Mathurā, was a relation (uncle or cousin) of Kṛṣṇa, and became his implacable enemy; hence Kṛṣṇa's epithets include kaṃsa-vikarṣin (Kaṃsa-tormentor) and kaṃsa-jit (Kaṃsa-slayer). The Hari of Hari Kṛṣṇa is though to derive from the root √hṛ, “to take away [evil].”

5 EHJ notes that the story of how Kṛṣṇa broke the jaw of the horse Keshin is recorded in Canto 10 of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which focuses on devotion (bhakti) to various incarnations of Viṣṇu but especially to Kṛṣṇa.

6 Jaras (masculine) is the name of a hunter who wounded Kṛṣṇa. Jaras (feminine) means old age.

7 Ṛg Veda 8.14.13: "With waters' foam you tore off, Indra, the head of Namuci, subduing all contending hosts."

8 A typical example of the pessimistic, interventionist view of human health, posture, et cetera. See also 9.9.

9 The striver's words somehow sound like the Buddha's teaching – until we investigate the two in detail. For example, if in the Buddha's teaching there is a sole root of adversity, does it lie in the object, or in the tendency to thirst for that object? Aśvaghoṣa's intention may be to cause us to ask such questions and to conduct such investigations.







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