Thursday, December 11, 2008


eSHaa hi naabhir vasudhaa-talasya
kRtsnena yuktaa parameNa dhaamnaa;
bhuumer ato 'nyo 'sti hi na pradesho
vegaM samaadher viSHaheta yo 'sya.

For the navel of the earth's surface is right here,

Supplied in full with the most vital of energy.

There is no place on earth,
therefore, apart from here,

That can bear the impact
of the coming together of this person.

This verse is very pregnant with meaning. My image is of Ashvaghosha's hands being in contact with his belly, and his voice emanating from his belly, and his crossed legs being released out from their deeper muscular connections into his belly, as he sings out this verse. This verse has to do with where the vital centre is, and it poses the difficult challenge of how to translate into English the Sanskrit word samadhi.

EH Johnston says that the idea of the navel of the earth goes back to the very ancient Indian text called the Rigveda, which predated the Buddha by maybe a thousand years. But I think Ashvaghosha is suggesting that the navel of the earth exists right here, and right now, on this sitting-cushion. "This person" might be Gautama, or it might be you or me. Right here -- not necessarily on some remote, cloud-enshrouded Himalayan mountain -- is just the place where the stillness of samadhi can be allowed to thunder into being.

eSHa: this, this here [place]
hi: for
naabhii: navel, umbilical cord
vasudha: yielding wealth, bountiful
vasudhaa: earth, ground
talasya = genitive case of tala: surface, crust

kRtsa: whole, complete, entire, full
yuktaa: [with instrumental] possessed of; furnished or endowed or filled or supplied or provided with
parama: highest, paramount, supreme
dhaamnaa = instrumental case of dhaman: power, majesty; light, splendour.

bhuumeH = genitive case of bhuumi: earth
ataH: hence, from this, apart from here
anya: other
asti: there is
hi: for, therefore
na: not
pradeshaH: place, area

vega: shock; impact; flood, current; impetus, force.
samaadheH = genitive case of samaadhi: union; putting, joining or fixing together; composure; state of stillness [without fixity], settled state; state of physical balance; state of concentrated energy; complete union of all the parts of a person.
viSHah: to bear, withstand
yaH: [relative pronoun]
asya = genitive case of ayam: this one, he

For this is the navel of the earth's surface, entirely possessed of the highest power; for there is no other spot on earth which can bear the force of his concentrated thought.

For this is the navel of th' earth's surface,
filled with the highest force in its fullness;
There is no other place on earth, therefore,
that can bear the intensity of trance.

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