Saturday, December 20, 2008

SAUNDARANANDA 3.6; The Bodhi Tree

sa suvarNa-piina-yuga-baahur
RSHabha-gatir aayat'ekSHaNaH
plakSHam avaniruham abhyagamat
paramasya nishcaya-vidher bubhutsayaa

He with upper limbs
that were golden and full,
fit for a yoke,

With bull-like gait
and far-seeing eyes,

Came to a fig tree,
growing up from the earth,

Going in that direction
-- towards consciousness --
which is inherent in
an ascendant method of inquiry.

In the first line, the words "golden and full" suggest perfection, as in describing the full moon.

The second line hints at the young Gautama’s physical power and excellent sensory make-up.

The growth of a tree, in every case, is a temporary obstruction by nature to what the 2nd law of thermodynamics predicts: that energy will spread out, unless the dispersal of energy is held in check through activation energy barriers.

The concentrated energy of the bodhi tree in this narrative has not dissipated yet; rather, for tens or maybe hundreds of years the bodhi tree has been using energy from the sun, in combination with carbon dioxide from the air and nutrients from the earth, to feed its own growth as a tree. Roots have been growing down and out into the earth. Branches have been growing outwards, and dropping figs down. But the primary direction of the fig tree's growth, from the first germination of the fig seed -- quite possibly in a monkey's crap -- has been upward. The bodhi tree is the embodiment of an ascendant process of energy transformation.

In order to catch the original meaning of the fourth line I think it is mainly necessary to be clear in one's own going in the same direction as Ashvaghosha was going -- not deeper down into Mara's grip, not deeper down into unconscious practice of the reptilian faults, but up and out towards consciousness.

sa: he
suvarNa: golden
piina: swelling, full, round, robust, muscular, lengthened-and-widened
yuga: yoke
baahuH: arm, upper limb, forepaw

RSHabha: bull
gatiH: gait, movement, course
aayata = from verb root yan: extended, elongated
iikSHaNaH: sight, eye
aayat'ekSHaNaH: far-seeing eyes; or wide-smiling eyes (?)

plakSHa: relating or belonging to the wavy-leaved fig-tree
avaniruha: 'grown from the earth'; a tree
abhyagamat: arrive near, come to

paramasya = genitive case (agreeing with vidheH) of parama: furthest, highest, chief, primary, supreme, ascendant, transcendent.
nishcaya: inquiry, determination, resolve, certainty, conviction -- from the root nish + ci: ascertain, investigate, decide, settle, determine, resolve
vidheH = genitive case of vidhi: method, means
bubhutsayaa = instrumental case of bubhutsaa: wish to know, desire for consciousness -- from the root budh: regain consciousness, be awake, become aware, notice, understand, learn.
bubhutsayaa (in the instrumental case) means with, through, or in, the desire for consciousness.
VidheH, the genitive of vidhi, method, indicates some sense of possession by, or inherence in, the method. My understanding of the grammar is that the wish to know, the inclination towards consciousness (bubhutsaa), belongs to, or is inherent in, the method of inquiry (nishcaya-vidhi).

EH Johnston:
With wide-stretching eyes, the gait of a bull, and stout, golden arms as long as a yoke, He betook himself to a pipal tree in His desire to grasp the supreme method of reaching conviction.

Linda Covill:
With his golden arms as thick as a yoke, his bull-like gait and elongated eyes, he came to a fig-tree intent on discovering the highest certain knowledge.

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