Friday, December 26, 2008

SAUNDARANANDA 3.12; The Four Noble Truths

iti duHkham etad iyam asya
samudaya-lataa pravartikaa
shantir iyam ayam upaaya iti
pravibhaagashaH param idaM catuSHTayam

"This is suffering; and this, belonging to it,

Is the tangled mass of tendrils producing it;

This is inhibition; and this is a means."

He thus spelled out, one by one,
the ascendant set of four.

Here it is, straight from the horse's mouth. The word "lataa" in the second line, I think, is not a metaphor for anything. Ashvaghosha is describing the twining tendrils of individual neurones in the brain and nervous system.

iti: thus (open quotes)
duHKham: (masculine) suffering, unease, dissatisfaction
etad: (masculine) this is, here is [suffering]
iyam: (feminine, agreeing with lataa) this is, here is [the tangle]
asya: (genitive, masculine, agreeing with duHKha) of it, belonging to suffering

samudaya: combination, aggregate, mass; (with Buddhists) producing cause, instigating cause (of suffering)
lataa: (feminine) creeper, twining tendril
pravartikaa: setting in motion, causing to roll onward, causing, producing,

shanti: (feminine) peace, extinction, suppression, inhibition
iyam: (feminine) this
ayam: (masculine) this
upaaya: means, method, approach, the means-whereby
iti: thus (close quotes)

pravibhaagashaH: separately, singly, one by one
param: highest, ascendant, supreme
idam: (accusative neuter singular) this, thus, here
catuSHTayam: set of four, tetrad, foursome

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...

Hey Mike,

How did the other translations mention the Kaundinya with it not in the sanscrit? I don't understand.

Also Shanti can rather famously be translated as tranquility. A popular Hindu chant.

Thanks for your efforts, keep on keeping on!

Mike Cross said...

Thanks for your question, Jordan -- asking for clarification of things you don't yet understand is the very best kind of question, as far as I am concerned.

The point you actually raised is easily clarified: The word Kaundinya is not in verse 3.12; it appears in the next verse, verse 3.13.

But how the two verses got jumbled together in the other translations requires further explanation:

EH Johnston, a student at Oxford under his Sanskrit guru AA MacDonnell, did a tremendous service by laying the foundations for future translations of Buddhacarita and Saundarananda -- not only by his translation itself, but by his pedantic efforts to clarify the source text.

However, Johnston was very far from understanding the all-important meaning of this verse, by his own admission -- he wrote in a footnote "The point of lataa in 12b is not clear to me except as filling up the verse."

Also symptomatic of Johnston's lack of clarity in regard to the four truths, was his decision to lump verse 12 and 13 together, thereby losing the 4-phased progression of each verse even more completely than usual.

I think Linda Covill has a brilliant way with words and I love her translations. The significance of lataa was not lost on her, and she translated it very nicely as "network." But her translation is built on the foundations that Johnston laid. So she followed Johnston in lumping verses 12 and 13 together.

My translation is also being built on the foundations that Johnston laid, but I have the advantage of working not only on those scholarly foundations, but working also to the same fourfold plan (at least I hope I am not deluding myself here) that Ashvaghosha himself was working to.

Each verse in the original Sanskrit consists of two long lines, each with a break in the middle. So each verse consists of four distinct phases. Even at the expense of inelegant English, I am making sure that I preserve the original order of those four phases in each verse.

And yes, I will keep on keeping on. Same to you!