Monday, December 8, 2008


kaaSHTHaM hi mathnan labhate hut'aasham,
bhuumiM khanan vindati c'aapi toyam:
nirbandhinaH kiM cana n'asty'asaadhyam,
nyaayena yuktaM ca kRtaM ca sarvam.

For he obtains the sacrificial fire
who keeps on twirling the firestick,

And he gets to water
who keeps on digging down into the earth:

Constancy of effort makes nothing impossible,

And everything doable,
when linked to the means-whereby principle.

The first line can be seen as having a spiritual or religious connotation, with the allusion to the sacrificial fire, as opposed to water. Master Dogen uses water as a symbol of that which -- whether or not it is regarded as holy -- is, in its materiality, vital to all real life. "Do the buddha-ancestors have water in their practice-places?", Master Dogen asks in The Sutra of Mountains and Water. Answer: Yes, they do, in one hundred cases out of one hundred.

For the meaning of the third and fourth lines, you could ask a US marine -- I am thinking in particular of one who shaves his head, is zealous about sitting in lotus, and has at least scratched the surface of FM Alexander's egg; he goes by the number USMC 0681.


kaaSHTHa: wood, log
hi: for
mathna: whirl round, rub a firestick
labhate = 3rd person singular of LABH: obtains, gains
huta: sacrifice
asha: enjoy, consume
hut'aasham: lit. 'consumer of the sacrifice' = fire

bhuumi: earth, ground
khana: dig up or into
vindati = 3rd person singular of VID: finds, gains.
ca: and
api: also
toya: water

nirbandha: persistence, perseverance
nirbandhin: with perserverance, being persistent
nirbandhinaH: ablative case, from being persistent; or genitive case, to one who has perseverance, for the man who is persistent
kiM cana: [with negative] by no means, in no way
na: not
asti: there is, it is
asaadhyam: not achieved

nyaayena = instrumental case of nyaaya: the [noble] principle, the [noble] plan, the proper manner of action, the proper method
yukta: [with a word in the instrumental case] yoked or harnessed to, being in conjunction with and also, and besides, and indeed
kRta: done, made
sarva: all, everything

For by rubbing wood long enough a man obtains fire, and by digging the earth deep enough he obtains water; nothing is impossible of achievement to the man of perserverance. Everything that is undertaken by the proper method is thereby necessarily carried out with success.

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.


Jordan said...

Hi Mike,

Obtaining to sacrificial fire also sounds a bit like obtaining a will to the truth. I think after that the effort begins building momentum, and makes it seem to do itself in a way.

0681 is a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) designator, there is an effective breakdown here.

Enjoying the fire!

Mike Cross said...

OK, thanks, Jordan.

So 0681 means Information Security Technician. I thought it was a kind of personal ID number.

I got the wrong end of the stick, again. I jumped to the wrong conclusion. I thought I understood what I hadn't in fact understood.

It was yet another case of: No, Mike, you blundering buffoon, Not that!

Maybe what Ashvaghosha meant by linking our effort to the means-whereby principle has to do with getting hold of the firestick the right way round, not the wrong way round.

Pulling in the chin in order to "circumscribe thought" is a another example of getting the wrong end of the stick, I think. To get it the right way round, we need to investigate the extent to which thinking can, and cannot, help us to release undue tension in the neck, head, jaw, et cetera.

BTW, can you tell me how to make a link, as you have just done, within a comment box that doesn't have a link icon? (As you may have noticed, since you taught me how to make a link in posts, I have been practising it ad nauseam.)

Jordan said...

Hey Mike,
No worries here. I hope you typed that out with a smile!

The easy way to make a link is to do as you have done before and just cut and paste from the blogger template, just don't publish that post.

The hard way (not to hard) is explained here .

Happy linking!

Mike Cross said...

Thanks, Jordan. Let's see if it works as a route to my secret storehouse....

Mike Cross said...

Yes, it works.

Proof again that all things are possible, so long as one's efforts are guided by a true principle... the criterion for truth being whether it actually works in practice.

Thanks again, Jordan. And if you have got any more practical tips,I would be grateful to receive them.

Jordan said...


I just sent you an e-mail to your middle way address.

I appreciate that criterion!

Mike Cross said...

Sorry, Jordan. Didn't receive the email -- there may be a problem with the email link on my webpage. The email address is

Jordan said...

Thanks, I found the error on my end, and re-sent the e-mail.