a-parigrahaH sa hi babhuuva
n'aaika-vidha-bhaya-kareshu kim u
For he had become free of belonging:
He was sure in his thinking, the master of himself.
How much less did he belong
to those causes of manifold worry --
Family, countrymen, friends and property?
Line 1 expresses the Buddha's attainment of the end, or the goal, which is freedom.
The dialectic opposite of the end or the goal is a means, a way of practice here and now. Distant though the end may be, we are very fortunate if we have to hand a reliable means.
The abstract noun mati in Line 2, comes from the verb man, to think. Mati means mind, or tendency of the mind, desire, purpose, wish, mental direction, and so on. But the root of the word is thinking. So I have translated niyata-matir as "sure in his thinking." Here is the background:
In the past 15 years my understanding of the role of thinking in pursuit of self-mastery has undergone a complete reversal -- from "Don't think, just do it!" to "Don't do, just think it!", and back again, and again, and again. Without having gone through this reversal, again and again, with my skin, flesh, bones and marrow, I would not have the understanding that I have now of Master Dogen's words in THIS CHAPTER, that there is mental sitting as opposed to physical sitting, and physical sitting as opposed to mental sitting. So, I believe that training as a teacher of the FM Alexander technique, from 1995 to 1998, and working as an Alexander teacher since then, has been a means that has enabled me to become clearer in understanding the centre of Master Dogen's teaching.
Alexander work helps a person to think straight; for example, like this: “When I sit, I wish to allow my spine to lengthen, in such a way that breathing is not restricted. What can I do to get my spine to lengthen in such a way? Nothing. I am helpless to bring about, by direct means, the lengthening of the spine that I want. What I want is release -- an undoing. And I cannot do an undoing, at least not directly. Of that I can be sure.”
Having got the above off my chest, the meaning of lines 3 and 4 should not present much of a problem. The question is clearly a simple rhetorical question praising the state of detachment of Gautama Buddha, is it not?
Lines 3 and 4 are about Gautama, aren't they? They are not about me, or you, or Nelson Mandela who struggled for years and years not to hate his jailers and abusers, or else he knew he would continue to belong to them. No, Ashvaghosha's question is simply part of a beautiful, inspiring, philosophical, poetic, sunshine-filled depiction of Gautama Buddha's life.
[The sound of gulping.]
Because Ashvaghosha is so cunningly non-preachy, because his question looks so sweet and innocuous, we readily swallow the bitter pill. The medicine starts working, and we wake up feeling awful, as the excretion is stimulated out of our system of lots of horrible toxins.
a: not, without
parigrahaH: possession, wrapping around, property, dependents, trammels, appurtenances
niyata: controlled, restrained, definite, sure
mati: (from the root man: to think) thinking, mind, wishing
n'aaika: not one, i.e. many, numerous, manifold
vidha: various, manifold
bhaya: fear, danger, peril, distress, anxiety
kareshu = locative, plural of kara: causing
kim u: how much more/less?
sva-jana: one's own people, family
sva-desha-jana: people of one's own country
vastuSHu = locative, plural of vastu: possessions, property
For he had become free of all trammels by being controlled in mind and master of Himself [ ]nd that too, though kinsfolk, fellow-countrymen, friends and possessions are full of dangers of many kinds (for the religious life).
For restrained in his thoughts and master of himself, he was without appurtenances, not even of family, countrymen, friends or property, which engender all sorts of anxieties.