Tuesday, January 6, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 3.23: Nature-Buddha

salile KSHitaav iva cacaara
jalam iva vivesha mediniim
megha iva divi vavarSHa punaH
punar ajvalan nava iv' odito raviH

He walked over water as if on dry land,

Dug through soil as though it were water,

Rained as a cloud in the sky,

And radiated light and warmth like the newly-risen sun.

(1) Tradition has it that the realised one, even as an old man, retained a spring in his step that made him look, from a distance, like a young man. On his own chosen path, he walked freely: even if his path took him over streams and flooded land, he did not get bogged down. What a model of good use he must have been. What a true human being, who used himself well.

(2) If the enlightened Gautama had occasion to use a spade, he might have made sure before the event (knowing that the secret is in the preparation), that the spade had a sharp cutting edge, and he might have used it well. It could be that all four lines of this verse allude to the work of planting and growing vegetables. At the same time, it could be that people of that era sometimes dug soil in order to bury their own shit, and that Ashvaghosha had this in mind. This is only speculation. That the Buddha shat shit, however, is not speculation.

(3) In this line Buddha is Nature, and Nature is Buddha.

Not holy water,
Not only H2 O:
What Nature did for water
Was really let it flow.

(4) Like the newly-risen sun -- dispelling darkness and cold but without creating too much heat -- the Buddha's presence, wherever he went, was always a welcome one. Gautama was not a god, he was human energy concentrated to a high degree as a result of following a path that you and I can also follow -- a path of inhibition.

salile: (locative) on/over/through flowing water, waves, flood
KSHitau: (locative) on the earth, on dry land
iva: like, as if
cacaara: walked

jalam: (accusative) water
iva: like, as if
vivesha: (from vish) entered into, sunk into, went down into
mediniim: (accusative) 'having fatness or fertility'; the land; fertile soil

megha: cloud
iva: like
divi: (locative) in the sky
vavarSHa: rained
punar: and, again, at one time...

punar: and, again, ...at another time
ajvalan: (from jval) shone, burned brightly, blazed, glowed
nava: new
iva: like
udito: risen
raviH: the sun

EH Johnston:
He walked on water as if on dry land. He penetrated the earth as if it were water, then He shed rain like a cloud in the sky and then He blazed like the newly risen sun.

Linda Covill:
He walked on water as though on the earth, and he sank into the ground as though into water. He rained like a cloud in the sky, and he shone like the newly-risen sun.

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