Posts Tagged ‘meaning of Shanti’

That surpasseth all my understanding!

December 9, 2007

Baroque in Hackney finds Lessing’s Nobel lecture

… incredibly moving. In some ways it reminded me of my own desperation for books when I was growing up; it also made me grateful for my riches, reading about the man in Zimbabwe who, trying to start a library and sent a box of books from America, put them away wrapped in plastic saying, “but if they get dirty where will I get more?” whilst facing my own wall of books. It also shamed me as a parent. When did I get so lazy? I suddenly think I should put a password lock on the computer and ration out the MSN on the basis of chapters read. After all, her shelves are groaning with Jane Austen, To Kill a Mockingbird, I Capture the Castle, A Wrinkle in Time. Is it an insane idea?

Take a look!

Now, the rant: As I noted in this blog a couple of times earlier, I love Ms. Baroque’s writing style a lot; and hence, this footnote in her blog post was not only off-putting for me but a bit painful too:

“Shanti” means “the peace that surpasseth all understanding.” Call me a Westerner, but the older I get the more I think that “the peace that surpasseth all understanding” can only usefully be applied as a definition of death – and thus, in my book, is something I’m not very interested in. At the least it sounds pretty damn boring. In any case, there was no peace at all in that place, not even the kind most people would be able to understand, and even appreciate. But that too is another story… and it was the first time we ever heard Mama Baroque say the F word!

First thing: I do not know where from Ms. Baroque gets that meaning for that word. Wiki, for example says it can mean inner peace (among other things); and here is the Sanskrit dictionary entry for the word:

zAnti: f. tranquillity , peace , quiet , peace or calmness of mind , absence of passion , averting of pain (%{zAnti}! %{zAnti}! %{zAnti}! may the three kinds of pain be averted!) , indifference to objects of pleasure or pain Kat2hUp. MBh. &c. ; alleviation (of evil or pain) , cessation , abatement , extinction (of fire &c.) AV. &c. &c. ; a pause , breach , interruption Hcat. ; any expiatory or propitiatory rite for averting evil or calamity Br. &c. (cf. RTL. 346) ; peace , welfare , prosperity , good fortune , ease , comfort , happiness , bliss MBh. R. &c. ; destruction , end , eternal rest , death Ka1v. Katha1s. BhP. ; = %{zAnti-kalpa} BhP. ; Tranquillity &c. personified (as a daughter of S3raddha1 , as the wife of Atharvan , as the daughter of Daksha and wife of Dharma) Hariv. Prab. Pur. ; m. N. of a son of Indra MBh. ; of Indra in the tenth Manv-antara Pur. ; of a Tushita (son of Vishn2u and Dakshin2a1) ib. ; of a son of Kr2ishn2a and Ka1lindi1 ib. ; of a R2ishi MBh. ; of a son of An3giras ib. ; of a disciple of Bhu1ti Ma1rkP. ; of a son of Ni1la and father of Su-s3a1nti VP. ; (with Jainas) of an Arhat and Cakra-vartin L. ; of a teacher (also called %{ratnA7kara-z-}) Buddh.

What is more painful for me is Ms. Baroques invocation of “Westerner”, implying that “Easterners” are the ones who are interested in such boring things. So, here is a classic example of defining “the other” first the way you want or think or imagine the other to be, and then railing against them! To be fair to Ms. Baroque, may be that is what she was told — that Shanti means “the peace that surpasseth all understanding”; however, I would have been happier if she took the time to check before accepting the translation blindly.

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