Tuesday, December 9, 2008


baddhaaM dRDhaish cetasi moha-paashair
yasya prajaaM mokSHayitum maniiSHaa,
tasmin jighaaMsaa tava n'opapannaa
shraante jagad bandhana-mokSHa hetoH.

Bound fast by the fetter of mental delusion

Is that skein of creation
which he desires to disentangle;

It is not for you to try to put an end to him

Who, to undo the ties that bind the living,
is exhausting himself.

I see these four lines as about (1) mind that is not yet freed from the prison of uninhibited unconscious reaction; (2) the tangled skein of action and reaction, based on faulty sensory appreciation and fanciful notions, which constitutes the world; (3) negation of end-gaining; (4) effort in the direction of undoing.

So, yes, my translation may be denigrated, as my translation work has indeed been most hurtfully denigrated in the past as "based on Alexander theory." But the truth might just be that the above translation, based on 27 years in sitting-zen and 15 years in Alexander's work, expresses exactly what Ashvaghosha was driving at. What Ashvaghosha was driving at, it seems to me, was not straightening of the spine associated with physical rigidity in adherence to the viewpoint of "true Buddhism." What Ashvaghosha was driving at was lengthening of the spine associated with muscular release in dropping off all views.

baddha: bound
dRDhaih = instrumental case of dRDha: fast, tight
cetasi = locative case of cetas: consciousness, mind
moha: delusion, folly, infatuation
paashair = instrumental case of paasha: tether, snare, fetter

yasya = genitive case of yat: that which
prajaa: progeny, procreation, creation, creatures
mokSHaya: untie, undo, disentangle, deliver, emancipate
maniiSHaa: conception, prayer, desire

tasmin = locative case of sah: he
jighaaMsaa: intention to slay
tava: of you
na: not
upapanna: suitable or proper for, befitting, worthy of

shraanta: wearied, tired, exhausted
jagad: living, moving, animate; man, world, mankind
bandhana: binding, tying, fastening, entwining
mokSHa: release, freeing
hetoH = genitive case of hetu: motive, purpose

His purpose is to deliver creation which is bound fast in mind by the snares of delusion. It does not befit you to try to kill him who is exerting himself to deliver mankind from their bondage.

His intent is to free creatures, whose minds
are bound tight by the bonds of delusion;
It behooves you not to seek to kill him
who labors to free the world from its bonds.


Raymond said...


I have been enjoying your recent translation posts quite a bit. Thank you for your efforts.


Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Raymond.

Jordan said...


A frightened animal caught in a snare; will tend to snap at the one who tries to set it free.

Thank you for making this work so accessible.


Mike Cross said...

These words of yours are too true, Jordan. Your comment hit the bullseye.