Dew-drop Alarm

Some of the Pali in this verse from the Cariyāpiṭaka is pretty obscure, being beyond the reach of any of my English translation tools. So I turned to some Pali-Burmese resources (which are far more extensive than the ones available in English), and then used Google Translate to render the Burmese into English. Phew!

“Yadāhaṃ amitayaso, rājaputto yudhañjayo.
Ussāvabinduṃ sūriyātape, patitaṃ disvāna saṃvijiṃ.

“taññevādhipatiṃ katvā, saṃvegamanubrūhayiṃ.
Mātāpitū ca vanditvā, pabbajjamanuyācahaṃ…

“Mātāpitā na me dessā, napi me dessaṃ mahāyasaṃ.
Sabbaññutaṃ piyaṃ mayhaṃ, tasmā rajjaṃ pariccajin”ti.

 

When I was the world-renowned Prince Yudhañjayo,
I grew alarmed as I watched a dewdrop vanish in the heat of the sun.

Taking it as a portent of death, my anxiousness for wisdom grew.
Having paid homage to my mother and father, I asked them for permission to go forth as a sage…

It’s not that I disliked my parents; nor did I dislike having great fame,
But I wanted to be all-knowing, so I left the throne behind.

Yudhañjayacariyā, Cariyāpiṭaka 3.1

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2 comments

  1. Ahh, I envy your resourcefulness and rigor in making difficult translations like this read beautifully in English. Poetry in Pali is always incredibly difficult in my experience, and I often just give up. I need to get back into translating, even if poorly for a while.

    If I might start with a musing or two on your rendition here…

    First, I like the last line: Sabbaññutaṃ piyaṃ mayhaṃ… Literally: all-knowing beloved to me. Often we can insert ‘is’ or ‘being’ as understood, so it might be “all-knowing being beloved to me…” or, if you don’t mind the word, “Omniscience being beloved to me…”

    I think your rendition gets it well, but I do find myself somewhat picky around terms denoting desire/wanting/etc as there as so many and each seems to have its own nuance that is too often lost in English. So I’d try to stick as closely/literally with any rendition of piya even if it seems a bit clunky in English, and just note that this is English’s fault.

    1. Hi Justin —
      I agree that “Omniscience was dear to me” is probably the closest to the actual Pali, and I confess this is the line I toyed with the most — so gratifying to have a reader who detects such things! In fact, the whole “It’s not that…But…” construction of the last couplet is adding somewhat more to the Pali than is there.

      For me, one of the benefits of translating Pali as a spiritual practice — rather than an academic one — is that I can try out alternate renderings like this. I love the texts too much to stray too far from them, but sometimes an idiomatic English construction just feels more comfortable, and more meaningful. In this case, “Omniscience was dear to me” can hardly mean that the abdicating prince was indeed omniscient; rather, that was his goal in going-forth. So “I wanted to be all-knowing” is what is intended by the phrase. However, I also thought of rendering it “But being all-knowing was more dear to me,” getting at the implication that even though he liked parents and fame, the lure of wisdom was stronger. But again, this departs slightly from the literal Pali, in which the relationship of the first to the second line is not directly stated.

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