a-kRsh'odyamaH kRsha-dhano 'pi
para-paribhav'-aa-saho 'pi san
n' aanya dhanam apajahaara tathaa
bhujagaad iv' aanya-vibhavaadd hi vivyathe
Even a man of scarce means,
despite abundant hard graft,
Who could not stand
the high-handed ways of superiors,
Did not, like them, rip others off:
For he shrank from others' riches
as from a snake.
Line 1 sets the scene: a hard grafter who was (in the memorable phrase of Linda Covill, which I was sorely tempted to pinch) "of unremitting labor poorly remitted."
Line 2 fills in some concrete detail -- the working class hero of this verse is not a god or a saint but a human being who, just like Nanda himeslf, was faced with trials and tribulations. Maybe it was because he could not tolerate high-handedness that the cosmic sense of humour furnished him with all the arrogant, exploitative superiors he needed to practise his intolerance on.
Line 3 is an indirect expression of the moral principle: Do not be tempted to steal, even if others have ripped you off. Two wrongs don't make a right.
Line 4 hints at the transcendent attitude, born of sitting-Zen, of a grizzled old drill who has followed the Buddha's final teaching of being content with not much.
Even in setting forth the precepts, Ashvaghosha is indirectness itself -- not preaching "This is THE way," but rather hinting at, and demonstrating by his own style, the existence of a way.
In Saundarananda 3.12, the Buddha says ayam upaaya, "This is a means."
Not, as I read it "THIS IS THE PATH!", shouting it out in the shrill tones of a religious fundamentalist, or a small-minded sectarian who is trying to convince himself; but rather, with the greater resonance of inner conviction, "this is a means."
This is really something that is taking me a lifetime to understand, observing the mistakes of self and others.
With a thing like mindfulness, example, I see people going for it directly, concentrating like fury on their breathing or some other thing. That is how I was, before I bumped into Alexander's teaching, with regard to "keeping the spine straight vertically." I went about it in a manner that Alexander called "end-gaining." To be frank, I was taught by my Japanese Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, to go about keeping the spine straight vertically in an end-gaining manner, just as he was taught by his Japanese Zen teacher Kodo Sawaki -- pulling in the chin and so on. But what I get from Saundarananda is Ashvaghosha hinting at the existence of a more indirect way to the equanimity and mindfulness of just sitting.
It is not that he preaches "indirectness" (which is probably just what I am doing right now, mainly for my own benefit). It is rather that every verse exudes a certain indirectness of approach.
a-KRsha: not emaciated, in no short supply, not scarce
udyamaH: exerting oneself; strenuous and continued effort; hard graft
kRsha: lean, emaciated, spare, poor
dhanaH: goods, means, wealth, resources
para: others, superiors
paribhava: being superior to, high-handedness, passing over, disrespect, slight, humiliation, contempt,
a-sahaH: not bearing, not enduring, intolerant, impatient
san (nominative singular masculine of sant) = present participle of as: to be
anya: other, somebody else
dhanam: goods, wealth, money
apajahaara (past apa + hRi) snatch away, carry off, plunder
tathaa: in like manner, tit for tat
bhujagaad (ablative): from a snake
iva: like, as
vibhavaad (ablative): from wealth, money, riches
vivyathe (perfect of vyath): trembled, wavered, went astray; (with ablative) swerved away from, shrank from.
The hardworking man, however poor, however impatient of the contempt of others, similarly did not steal the goods of others; for he shrank from others' wealth as from a snake.
Even the man of unremitting labor poorly remitted, not lightly tolerating humiliations from others, even he did not carry off the goods of others, for he shrank from others' wealth as from a snake.