Thursday, December 25, 2008

SAUNDARANANDA 3.11; The Wheel Whose Hub Is Truthfulness

3.11
atha dharma-cakram Rta naabhi
dhRti-mati-samaadhi-nemimat
tatra vinaya-niyam'-aaram RSHir
jagato hitaaya pariSHady avartayat

Then the wheel of Dharma,
whose hub is truthfulness,

Whose rim is a constant veering
towards physical harmony,

And whose spokes are the guiding rules of practice:
[that wheel] there the seer [turned].

In that assembly, for the welfare of the world,
he rolled the wheel.


COMMENT:
(1) What is the hub? Truthfulness? Integrity? Honesty? Uprightness? Whatever word we use to express truthfulness, merely to study the truth it is not the path. The nub of the struggle is to be truly upright -- not just in one's outer form, in the style of those who are primarily concerned with face, and not just in one's inner world, but as the oneness of form and content.

(2) In veering towards physical harmony, constancy of effort would seem to be the key -- going round and round and round, asking helplessly for release out of Mara's grip, asking for the undoing that one cannot do -- for the whole body, for the neck, head, back, and limbs... neck, head, back, limbs.... neck, head, back, limbs. Altogether, one after another... neck, head, back, limbs.

Why does the word "mati," indicating mental direction or intention, appear in line 2, whose theme is samadhi, the physical state of balance, integration, harmony? Because, when we really look into it, working towards true physical harmony is the most mental thing there is.

(3) In emphasizing the primacy of sitting practice, Rinzai championed only one rule: "No rule is our rule." Although the word "spoke" (aaram) in line 3 does not appear to be in the plural, it is difficult to escape the suspicion -- in the context of this verse, and in view of the content of the second half of this Canto --that Ashvaghosha had in mind a wheel with more than one spoke. A Dharma-cakra with only one spoke, in the end, might not be much of a weapon.

Today is my 49th birthday. I hope that I have not wasted too many years hitherto fighting, with an ineffective weapon, a losing battle.

VOCABULARY:
atha: then
dharma-cakra: the dharma-wheel, the wheel of the Law
Rta: fitting, right; upright, honest, true.
naabhi: navel, hub

dhRti: constancy, steadfastness
mati: thought, design, intention, purpose, inclination, desire for
samaadhi: integration, physical balance, harmony
nemimat: rim, felly (the section of a wheel-rim between each spoke)

tatra: there
vinaya: guidance, discipline, instruction, the Vinaya
niyama: rules, precepts
aaram: spoke
RSHir: the seer

jagataH = genitive of jagat: the world
hitaaya: (dative) for the benefit
pariSHadi: (locative) in the assembly
avartayat: turned the wheel, set it in motion


EH Johnston:
Then for the benefit of the world the Seer turned in the assembly there the Wheel of the Law, whose hub is the truth, whose felloes are steadfastness, right views and mental concentration and whose spokes are the ordinances of the Rule.

Linda Covill:
And among the people assembled there, for the welfare of the world, the seer set in motion the wheel of dharma, whose hub is truth, whose rim is constancy, thought and meditation and whose spokes are the rules of the Vinaya.

5 comments:

Mike H said...

Happy Birthday Mike

Jordan said...

Happy Birthday!

Mike Cross said...

Thank you for the kind thoughts, but a birthday is nothing to be happy about. Saundarananda 3.12 is something to be happy about!

Dirk said...

Thank you for your birthday gifts Mike! Only wish I could return the favour :)

Mike Cross said...

Thanks for the appreciation, Dirk -- if there is joy in the receiving, then the joy in giving is all the more.