Saturday, January 3, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 3.20: An Earthlord Charges Out

atha paarthivaH samupalabhya
sutam upagataM Tathaagatam
tuurNam a-bahu-turag'aanugataH

And so the king, ear to the ground, learned

That his son had arrived, a realised man,

And out he galloped,
a horse or two straggling behind him.

In his eagerness to see his son he charged ahead.

This verse says something about how successful kings, businessmen, and other men of the world behaved in the past, behave in the present, and will behave in the future.

Line 1 concerns the king's mind. It echoes the story that Gautama's royal father was a man born of the earth, whose mind was primarily devoted to earthly matters, not philosophical problems. Such successful men of the world invariably have their ears to the ground, seeking the information on which to base their political and business decisions. They know from experience that if they jump to an important decision on the basis of insufficient information, that decision is liable to be disastrous.

Following on from the previous verse, I think Line 2 is again saying something about how the Buddha was able to touch people's hearts -- not primarily through philosophical argument, but through the physical presence, the stature, the bearing, and the lion's roar of a realised man, walking his own path with heart.

For the translation of Tathagata in Line 2, as "realised man," I am indebted to Linda Covill. I think she hit the target there.

Line 3, as I read it, paints a comical picture of the king in vigorous action.

Line 4 sums up how worldly kings, as opposed to buddhas, really are. The former, once an idea forms in their mind, tend to go directly for the target.

The trouble is with this direct approach, which FM Alexander called "end-gaining," is that it tends to produce undesirable side effects. Achievement of political objectives generally involves some variation on the theme of ruthless slaughter of opponents. In the same way, making a big physical, non-mindful effort to sit in what one deludedly feels to be "the correct posture" tends to result in head-aches, stiff necks, frozen shoulders, restricted breathing, build-up of harmful toxins, and general rigidity of outlook. The end-gaining approach to sitting in the correct posture brings a person into a condition that my Alexander head of training Ray Evans used to describe as "tight and right."

atha: so, then
paarthivaH: earthen, coming from the earth, a lord of the earth, king
samupalabhya: having taken in fully, having acquired by experience, having learned

sutam: son
upagatam: reached, arrived
Tathaagatam: thus-come, one who has arrived at reality, a realised man; epithet of the Buddha

tuurnam = from tur: hurry, press forward
a-bahu: not many, few
turaga: (also from tur) 'going quickly'; horse
anugataH: followed by, having anything (as a skin) hanging behind

suta: son
darshan: to see, to meet
utsukatayaa: (instrumental) with restlessness, zeal, uneasiness, attachment
abhiniryayau: marched out

EH Johnston:
Then the lord of the earth, hearing that his Son had returned as a Tathagata, went forth with such haste in his yearning to see Him that but few horses followed him.

Linda Covill:
Hearing that his son had become a realised man, the king was so eager to see him that he set out hurriedly attended by few horses.

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