Saturday, December 27, 2008

SAUNDARANANDA 3.13; The First Follower

abhidhaaya ca tri-parivartam
a-tulam anivartyam uttamam
dvaadasha-niyata-vikalpam RSHir
vininaaya kauNDina-sa-gotram aaditaH

He further enumerated the three divisions

Of the imponderable, most transcendent
one-way path,

And made the twelvefold statement of the inevitable;
after which the seer

Led away, to begin with,
him of the Kaundinas' cow-shed.

After the high tension of striving to find the right words to convey exactly and succinctly what the supreme Fourfold Truth of the Buddha is, this verse seems to bring the mood back down to earth.

The three divisions in line 1 are the three divisions of the eightfold path which is the fourth of the four noble truths.

So line 2, I think, includes some sense of ironic negation of fours, eights, and threes, suggesting that the actual path for treading with the feet is far removed from those divisions that are made for understanding with the mind.

And, to bring us still further down to earth, we are reminded in line 3 that this life we are living -- a temporary obstruction to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which began with our conception and birth -- will proceed absolutely inescapably (whether or not we ever succeed in penetrating the four noble truths), through to our death. The concentration of energy which is me will, before too long, spread out all over the place and I will be no more.

Five minutes after formulating the above comments, yesterday, I chewed a toffee and a crown fell out -- blast! Worse still, I blamed my wife for giving me the toffee. It was as if, following these insights on ironic negation, something had to happen ironically to negate these insights.

abhidhaaya: having said, having named; he named.... after which,
ca: and
tri-parivartam: the three divisions (of the noble eightfold path, to be detailed in Saundarananda Canto 16)

a: not, non-
tul: to lift up, to determine the weight of anything by lifting it up, weigh, compare by weighing and examining, ponder, examine with distrust
a-tulam: uequalled, imponderable, incomparable in the sense of not to be likened to anything else, being nothing other than what it is
anivartyam = gerundive of a + ni + vRt: not to be gone back on, on which one is required not to turn back (i.e. one-way)
uttamam: uppermost, highest, most elevated, furthest removed

dvaadasha: twelve (referring to the twelve links in the chain of what is generally known as "dependent origination")
niyata: held back, held in, tied to; restrained, restricted; limited in number, connecting, dependent on; constant, fixed, established, sure, invariable, inevitably.
vikalpam: alternation, option; variation, combination, diversity, manifoldness, difference of perception, distinction, statement, doubt; false notion, fancy
RSHiH: the seer

vinaaya = from vi + ni: lead away, take away; train, tame, guide; direct, instruct, give direction
KauNDina: name of a clan
sa: he
gotram: cow-shed, hurdle; family enclosed by the hurdle; family, race, clan
aadhitaH: to begin with

EH Johnston:
And explaining in detail with its three divisions and twelve separate statements the supreme fourfold truth, which is unequalled, pre-eminent and incontrovertible, namely, 'This is suffering, this is its origin which consists in the persistence of active being, this is its suppression and this the means,' He converted first of all him of the Kaundinya gotra.

Linda Covill:
"This is suffering, this is the network of causes producing it, this is its pacification, this is the means." Thus the seer separately set forth the highest fourfold truth which is unequaled, incontrovertible and supreme, with its three divisions and twelve connecting statements, and he guided to insight firstly a man from the Kaundina clan.


Jordan said...

The last line, what made you choose lead away instead of instruct and cow-shed instead of Clan.

I read somewhere that the Kaundina clan became the Cambodian people. (After their kings marriage to a water Naga, But first that king was visited by.... Buddha!) Allot of those stories get things jumbled up though.

Anyway I thought that might be important.

SE asian ancient history is really fascinating. Apparently most of it used to be underwater.

I'm Digressing,

So what about Shanti?

Keeping on,

Mike Cross said...

Hi Jordan,

The root of the word vinaya is vi + ni, which literally means to lead away. I think it has a sense of being guided away from the prison of reacting instinctively to stimuli which, let's face it, is what most of human life is about. "Instruct" has more of a sense of forcing something upon a captive audience at an instructional facility... like a military parade-ground, for example? Lead away sounds, to my ear, to be pointing more in the direction of freedom. An Alexander lesson is leading people away from the prison of end-gaining -- or at least it should be. I wouldn't call it instruction. Plus, I am guessing that the Buddha did literally lead his first follower away from the physical connection with his former cowshed/clan.

When I looked up the word gotra in the Sanskrit dictionary and found that it originally meant cow-shed, that made me laugh out loud. I could be wrong, but I sense Ashvaghosha's ironic sense of humour at play in this verse.

I think there is a greater sense of humour/irony in Linda Covill's translation than in Johnston's translation which reads in places like the New Testament. But I think there may be even more humour/irony in the original text.

With regard to translating Shanti as tranquility, my feeling is that you can tranquilize a hippopotamus by shooting a dart into its bum. But try teaching a hippo to understand and apply the truth of conscious inhibition!

All the best,