Saturday, February 14, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.2: One Most Magical and Four Lesser Powers of Knowing

Rddhi-pravekaM ca bahu-prakaaraM
parasya cetash-carit'-aavabodham
atiita-janma-smaraNam ca diirghaM
divye vishuddhe shruti-cakShuShii ca

The most magical feat of all, which is adaptability;

Then being awake to what others are thinking;

And remembering past lives from long ago;

And divine lucidity of ear; and of eye.

Line 1 might more literally be translated: "The chief magic power, taking many forms." The first of the five powers is sometimes understood (as per the Monier-Williams definition of abhijnaa) as the super-human power of taking any form at will -- like Arnold Schwarzenneger’s Terminator; but I would prefer to understand it, if the Sanskrit permits, as the distinctly human ability of being versatile or adaptable, which, some say, is the secret of the success of our species. If the Sanskrit does not permit "adaptability" as a literal translation of bahu-prakaara in Line 1, I would be grateful as ever for the input of any pandit who may be reading this.

A fourfold progression, which I would like to identify in each verse insofar as one exists, can then be observed in the remaining four powers:
(1) knowing what is going on in another person’s MIND;
(2) remembering the CAUSAL/HISTORICAL FACTS of past lives;
(3) unimpeded, untainted functioning of the central organ of INHIBITION,
(4) and of the instrument of SEEING THE PATH.

In Shobogenzo, the eye, or eyeball -- in expressions like “gouging out Bodhidharma’s eyeball” -- means the eye as the instrument of seeing. What Bodhidharma’s eyeball represents, as I understand it, is not a viewpoint but sitting as an instrument of realisation.

Rddhi: growth, success; accomplishment, feat, perfection, supernatural power; magic
pravekam = accusative of praveka (from √ vic): choicest, most excellent, principal, chief (always at the end of compounds).
vic: to sift, separate (esp. grain from chaff by winnowing); discern, discriminate
ca: and
bahu: much, many
prakaara (from pra +√kR): manner, kind, sort; a kind of (mostly at end of compounds; tri-prakAraH of three kinds; bahu-prakaaraH, of many kinds); similitude or difference
pra- √kR: to make, produce, accomplish, perform, achieve, effect; to enable to, make fit for
bahu-prakaaram = accusative of bahu-prakaara: of many kinds; taking many forms [hence, capable of taking many forms, adaptable, versatile (?)]

parasya (genitive): of others
cetaH (in compounds for cetas): consciousness, intelligence, thinking soul, heart, mind
carita: going, moving, course
avabodha: waking, being awake, knowing

atiita = ati + ita [gone beyond]: past
janma = in compouds for janman: birth, existence, life; production, origin; re-birth
smaraNam (accusative): remembering
ca: and
diirgha: long (in space and time)

divye = accusative, dual of divya: divine, heavenly, celestial; supernatural, wonderful, magical
vishuddhe = accusative, dual of vishuddha: completely cleansed or purified
shruti-cakSHuSHii = accusative, dual of shruti-cakSHus: hearing and seeing
shruti: hearing, listening, the ear
cakSHus: seeing, the eye
ca: and

EH Johnston:
To wit, the most excellent magic powers of many kinds, awareness of the motions of others' thoughts, remembrance of past births far back, pure and heavenly sight and hearing.

Linda Covill:
all manner of wonderful psychic powers, knowing the movements of the minds of other people, remembering past births from long ago, and divine, purified hearing and sight.

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