Friday, November 21, 2008


For one obtains fire by rubbing the wood,
and one finds water by digging the earth;
There is nothing that is impossible
for the man who is persistent;
Everything can be accomplished,
when it is done the proper way.

Buddha-carita 13.60, trans. Patrick Olivelle

The final line in Sanskrit is:

In this passage, Patrick Olivelle has translated NYAAYENA YUKTAM as "when it is done the proper way."

NYAAYENA YUKTAM corresponds to the phrase discussed in the previous post, NYAAYENA YUKTAA, where it was used in relation to mindfulness or remembering.

So NYAAYENA YUKTAA... SMIRTIH might be translated "remembering practised the proper way."

What Ashvaghosha seems to be saying in the above passage is that everything is possible for the persistent man, as long as what he does is yoked to a method, as long as his effort is systematic, as long as his energy is directed in accordance with a conscious means-whereby principle -- and not scattered here and there by end-gaining in an unconscious, willy-nilly fashion.

(Why do I have a nagging sense that with the words "end-gaining in an unconscious, willy-nilly fashion," I have just exactly described my own blogging efforts over the past few years, charging here and there like a locomotive off the rails? Or like a blind donkey seeking a lost carrot.... yes, I am afraid it is the latter metaphor that hits the target with tragic accuracy.)

A further clue in Saundarananda to the meaning of NYAAYA is that Ashvaghosha seems to use the word as synonymous with UPAAYA, which definitely means "method" or "means-whereby" -- as in the title of the 2nd chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

"... for even diligence is destructive if it is accompanied by the wrong method [AN-UPAAYA]" In this way, the Sugata spoke to him concerning right method [NYAAYAM] and the retreat from the wrong method [A-NYAAYA].

Saundarananda 16.70, trans. Linda Covill

The Clay Sanskrit Library translations of Ashvaghosha provide a tremendous resource. Using them as a starting point, I now firmly intend to clarify for myself, by studying for myself Ashvaghosha's words in their original Sanskrit, what Ashvaghosha was really driving at.

Little by little I aim to continue progressing like this, in small degrees, from greater to lesser misunderstanding of Ashvaghosha's words, as if removing grosser then finer impurities from gold.

By manifesting myself groping in the dark like this, as a novice of Sanskrit, I am probably making even more of a fool of myself than I have already done to date. But as Ashvaghosha concluded, "serviceable gold necessarily comes from ore-born dust."

So, in the Ashvaghosha / SAS spirit of Who Dares Wins, I will try again:

Out and out remembering -- yoked, for the purpose of getting at the truth, to the means-whereby principle -- along with out and out stillness: this pair constitutes the two precepts on [body-mind] integration, whose purpose is mastery, seated in peace, of the practice of thinking.

Saundarananda 16.33


Jordan said...

I like William Blake who said:

The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.

I have heard that we are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again until we stop.

How ridiculous, how true!

Have a magnificent weekend, and please persevere brightly Mike!

Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Jordan.

Your comment makes me wonder what kind of fool you are.

You seem to be a fool who doggedly persists in following the blog of a fool who foolishly persisted in following a true, 24-carat, out & out fool...

Again, thanks.

Uku said...

Good post. Have a great weekend!

Take care,

Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Uku.

Same to you.