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Re: [nsbb] Fare lonely as rhinoceros

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  • Robert Eddison
    Could someone enlighten me as to whether there is really any controversy about the translation of these verses? I was not aware that any modern authority had
    Message 1 of 7 , Oct 4, 2001
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      Could someone enlighten me as to whether there is really any controversy
      about the translation of these verses? I was not aware that any modern
      authority had seriously doubted that "wander alone like the horn of a
      rhinoceros" is the correct translation of "eko care khaggavisaa.nakappo",
      and that E.M. Hare's earlier rendering is just plain wrong, even if more
      poetically satisfying for a modern English speaker.

      (more below)

      Frank writes:

      > Somewhere I researched it mentioned that Anguttara
      >or that particular Rhino sutta is probably a
      >collection of verses spoken by the Buddha on many
      >occasions, so it seems plausible that he may be
      >referring to horn on a few of the verses, but to me
      >from the context of most of the verses it seems to
      >refer to the solitary lifestyle of the rhino.
      > Put it this way: Say the Buddha is giving a
      >discourse and he uses the simile with a rhinoceros.
      >What are the Bhikkhus going to think?
      >(a) "Ah yes, the blessed one is clearly referring to
      >the obvious fact that in our native India, the
      >indigenous Rhinoceros unicornis has only one horn,
      >whereas the Diceros bicornis from Africa, which I have
      >never visited before, heard about, seen directly or
      >indirectly, has two horns."
      >
      >(b) "My life as a monk is difficult sometimes. I miss
      >the wife, family, and friends that I left behind. The
      >elephants seem to be pretty social animals, traveling
      >in herds, yet the rhino, other than the mother and
      >calf, choose to live in solitude and they seem to be
      >content. Perhaps the blessed one is hinting at
      >something."
      >
      >-----------------
      >I'm inclined to think it's option (b)
      >:-)

      Of course it's improbable that anyone would have reasoned in the manner
      described in (a). This objection, however, would be irrelevant if it
      happened that the single horn of a rhino was a well-known stock simile in
      that culture. I think there is sufficient evidence that this was the case.
      In particular, one finds the rhinoceros horn simile making a regular
      appearance in Indian hagiographies and texts dealing with renunciation. A
      couple of examples:


      "....his senses were well protected like those of a tortoise; he was single
      and alone like the horn of a rhinoceros; he was free like a bird; he was
      always waking like the fabulous bird Bharundal, valorous like an elephant,
      strong like a bull, difficult to attack like a lion, steady and firm like
      Mount Mandara.....etc. etc.

      (description of Mahavira in the Kalpa Sutra 118, attributed to Sri
      Bhadrabahu, 433-357 BCE.)

      Though the above is a Jaina text, the section from which the extract is
      taken is actually strikingly similar to the Khaggavisaa.na Sutta, albeit
      presented in the form of a description rather than an exhortation.

      The same might be said for the following, this time a Hindu work:

      "Efficient in his undertakings, full of compassion is the saadhu; he gives
      pity to all, has enmity towards no one.

      "He bears patiently heat and cold, seeing the one Self enlightening all
      bodies. He walks solitary as the horn of a rhinoceros. He has become an
      ocean of Truth and is ever engaged in the work of mercy. Such is the
      Avadhut, free from birth and death."

      (Avadhut Giita ch. 7)


      Robert Eddison
    • frank kuan
      Hello Robert E., Thanks for posting the useful references. Can you say more about the stock simile with the horn as it was intended to be commonly understood
      Message 2 of 7 , Oct 4, 2001
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        Hello Robert E.,
        Thanks for posting the useful references. Can you
        say more about the stock simile with the horn as it
        was intended to be commonly understood in those
        buddhism, jainism, hinduism? Is it as Robert D. said,
        with the tip of the single horn sticking out of tall
        grassy area?
        Is it just coincidence that the rhinoceros horn was
        picked to represent the simile of solitude
        disregarding the lifestyle of the rhino? Or is it
        possible that the horn is just a bonus simile?

        -fk



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