Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 3.30: Precept One - Not Inflicting Suffering

na jihiMsa suukSHmam api jantum
api para-vadh'-opajiivanaH
kiM bata vipula-gunaH kula-jaH
sadayaH sadaa kim u muner upaasakaH

No person inflicted suffering on any creature,
no matter how small --

Not even a person who killed for a living.

How full of good was the man of good family!

And of a compassion still greater, always,
was a servant of the sage.

Line 1 introduces precept one of ten -- never needlessly to inflict suffering.
Line 2, as I read it, is a typical Line 2. It represents Ashvaghosha's objective, non-simplistic consideration of his prospective audience, which might include not only the crusading vegan but also the butcher or soldier (or US marine). I don't think Ashvaghosha was saying that every butcher or soldier in Kapilavastu gave up his job -- if that had suddenly happened, Kapilavastu might no longer have been such a safe city to live in. No, I think Ashvaghosha was emphasizing the point that, even in slaughtering an animal for food, or even in one-on-one combat with a member of an enemy army, the precept should be observed not to inflict suffering on other living beings.
Line 3 describes the altruism that actually exists in this world -- for example, in teaching rooms and in swimming pools, in (some) dentists' surgeries, in offices, on ships and in shops, in coal mines and in gold mines.
Line 4 describes altruism that is in but not of the world -- the altruism not only of doing, nine to five, but also of being, twenty-four seven. Once we have gulped down the bitter pill, even by accident, this life has already become a life sentence, without parole, in servitude. It is not that a person who has kick-started the bodhi-mind is necessarily more compassionate than others (am I more compassionate than others? -- I don't think so); but as long as his or her will to the Buddha's enlightenment is sincere, then he or she belongs, without parole, to a benevolence which is truly great.

na: not
jihiMsa (past of han): injured, harmed
suuKSHmam: tiny, insignificant, minute
api: even
jantum (accusative): creature

api: also, even
para: others
vadha: one who kills; act of slaughter, act of killing
upajiivanaH: livelihood

kiM bata: interjection of astonishment
vipula: abundant, enormous, great
gunaH: good, good quality, merit, good work
kula-jaH (nominative, singular): born to a good family, well-bred person

saadayaH (agreeing with kula-jaH? or with upaasakaH? I decided the latter): merciful, compassionate, kind, gentle
sadaa: always, ever
kim u: still more, even more so
muneH (genitive): of the sage, the sage's
upaasakaH (nominative, singular): servant, worshipper, follower, Buddhist lay worshipper

EH Johnston:
Even those who were accustomed to live by killing others, desisted from hurting any living creature at all, even the most insignificant one; how much more then did the man of good family, great virtue and pity ever do so? Still more so he who served the Sage.

Linda Covill:
Those who had made their living through butchery no longer injured any living creature, even tiny ones. And oh, how gentle always was the man of noble family, with his abundant good qualities, and even more so the lay disciples of the sage!

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

Original text has upāsayā, inst. sg. of upāsā: f. homage , adoration , worship.