abhitas tataH Kapilavaastu
sa dadarsha niH-spRhatayaa yathaa vanam
Surrounded, then, in Kapilavastu
By the loveliest of houses,
for which the city was famed;
By purity both material and mental;
and by welcoming gardens;
He looked without longing, as though at a forest.
Line 1 sets the scene, introducing the general idea.
Line 2 has a materialistic feel, being concerned with property, or real estate.
Line 3 touches on the principle of oneness of matter and mind -- taking a bath purifies the mind, and pure minds make the material world pure. A garden, again, can be seen as a place where nature and human artifice meet. So this line expresses a kind of philosophical insight in the middle way. What middle way? A real garden, with bowers of creepers and shady fig trees and water features and insects buzzing and butterflies, was... never that!
Line 4 points to how the Buddha really was, practising the path of detachment, in that real situation of returning as a realised man to his hometown.
Thus, even in a verse which seems purely descriptive, Ashvaghosha’s underlying intention, upon deeper investigation, reveals itself: Every single verse of Saundarananda is the manifestation of a noble fourfold plan. When Dogen wrote the chapter with which this blog began, extolling the virtue of sitting with body, with mind, and as body and mind dropping off, he was expressing nothing but the act of sitting as the culmination of the noble fourfold plan -- nothing but the lifeblood.
Standing in contrast to the noble fourfold plan is the habit of end-gaining. End-gaining is not noble: it produces too many errors, too much collateral damage.
"Collateral damage" means, in other words, a trail of broken hearts and disillusionment, or bombs falling on little children.
So, the point of the effort we are making now, both writer and reader, is to clarify what the four noble truths really are, and especially to clarify the noble principle of inhibition. My resolution, going into the New Year, will be to continue this effort.
abhitas: near, all around, on both sides
Kapilavaastu: Kapila-ville, Kapilavastu
vaastu: dwellings, houses, architecture, homestead
parama: exceedingly, the most
vaastu: (as in the name Kapila-vaastu) houses, properties, real estate
saMstutam: famed, celebrated
vastu: material thing, object, substance.
mati: thought, view, prayer, mental phenomenon
shiva: auspicious, kind, friendly, pleasant, happy
upavanaam: little woods, groves, gardens
niH: not, without
spRhatayaa: (instrmental) out of longing
yathaa: as, as though, as if
vanam: (accusative) at a forest
Then he saw all around Him Kapilavastu, celebrated for the exceeding loveliness of its dwellings, pure in wealth and thought and surrounded by auspicious groves, and yet was no more affected by longing for it than if He were looking at a forest.
Then he saw Kapila-vastu all around him, with its gracious gardens, famed for its beautiful architecture and pure in its financial and intellectual life, but he looked without longing, as though at a forest.