na parasya kash cid apaghaatam
api ca sa-ghRNo vyacintayat
sa dadarsha tatra hi parasparaM janaH
Nobody showed any hostility towards the other,
In fact they looked on others with positive warmth,
As mother, father, child or friend:
For each person saw in the other himself.
Line 1: As in the previous verse, the first line suggests to me that what Ashvagohsa wants to discuss here goes deeper than physical conduct: it is about a mental tendency, synonymous with suffering; namely, hostility.
Line 2: Freedom from hostility is not only a bit of nothing, but it also manifests itself as a bit of something -- a kind of physical energy, a human warmth. The stereotypical example in the world today of this kind of human warmth is the poor old 14th Dalai Lama, who is required, with the weight of expectations of a nation in exile on his shoulders, to abandon his wish for the life of a solitary monk in order to trundle around from capital city to capital city manifesting his human warmth to all and sundry.
Line 3: The back cover of "Emotional Awareness," Paul Ekman's record of his conversation with the Dalai Lama, contains the following quote regarding the practice of compassion:
"One of the elements suggested is to cultivate a view, a perception, of all beings as someone very dear to you. One model that is used is to view all of them as your teachers, or as your mother... The point is that you can condition yourself to view other people in a different light -- in a positive, constructive light."
According to this teaching, I might endeavour to picture the pilots of the light aircraft and helicopters flying so noisily over my head, when I sit, when I write, when I go for a walk, as if they were my own sons. If I saw those pilots as my own sons, I certainly would not think, "I hope you crash, you noisy bastard." But could I actually feel human warmth for those selfish creators of needless pollution?
Whether that kind of shift is possible, in my own case, I don't know. If it is possible, it might require brain retraining on a level much deeper than I have managed so far. It might be like asking a miner to retrain as a nurse. In view of the genetic heritance of the legendary "Cross temper," it might be like asking a leopard to change its spots.
For the time being, to focus on this translation, verse by verse, in the spirit of a grumpy miner digging for gold, may be the best that I, as an angry man, can do in a positive, constructive vein.
It is not the role that I wanted in life. I wanted a grander role. I wanted to be recognized as great, important, heroic. But, as I guess the Dalai Lama might advise me if I ever met him: "Be careful what you wish for."
Line 4: When I went to bed last night, the translation of Line 4 was "For people there had regard for each other." How I arrived at the new translation is something of a mystery to me. I went for a walk yesterday knowing that in the fourth line Ashvaghosha would be wanting to express not only polite and civilized behaviour among people but also something more profound, something more deeply entangled in the solitary practice of sitting. I sort of sensed in my sleep what it might be. Then, when I checked the Sanskrit again just now, it seemed to fit. Tatra means not only 'there, in that place,' but also 'in himself.'
Literally, then: "For each saw in himself mutually the people."
So I think Line 4 is an expression of a kind of positive mirror principle.
Because of this principle, I take encouragement from the contributions to this blog of the likes of Jordan and Alex, because their struggle is my struggle. They are me. I also felt that very keenly with the dying Michael Thaler, as we struggled to take the backward step together.
All the armchair Zen masters out there, tapping away at their computer keyboard to express what they realised already, the ones to whom I express irritation, because of their naive optimism, or phoney pretensions, or absurd sense of self-importance: they too, needless to say, are also nobody other than me. To practise goodwill towards myself is to practise goodwill to them, and vice versa.
parasya (genitive): towards another, towards an outsider, towards a stranger
kash cit: anybody, anything
apaghaata: striking off, warding off
api ca: as well, but indeed
sa- (prefix): with
ghRnaH: sunshine, warmth, warmth towards others
vyacintayat: thought, considered, regarded
suta: son, child
sadRssha: similar to
dadarsha (perfect of dRs): saw, saw with the mind, regarded, understood,
noticed, cared for, looked into
tatra (locative of tad): in him, in that, in the other; in them, among them; there
paraspara: mutual, each other's, like each other
janaH (nominative, singular): person, the people (the singular being used collectively)
Everyone too was compassionate and never even thought of hurting others. For they regarded each other mutually as they would their parents or children or friends.
The people in their fellow-feeling never even dreamed of harming others, for they saw each other as mother, father, child, friend.