Wednesday, February 4, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.50: The Third Realisation

priter viraagaat sukham aarya-juSHTam
kaayena vindann atha samprajaanan
upekSHakaH sa smRtimaan vyahaarSHiid
dhyaanaM tRtiiyam pratilabhya dhiiraH

The ease enjoyed by the noble ones,
from non-attachment to joy,

He then knew fully, through experience, with his body.

Going well, he remained indifferent, mindful,

And, having gained the third realisation, steady.

Line 1 describes a condition of MIND.

Line 2 describes learning through experience with the BODY.

Line 3 features the verb vihR, which featured often in Canto 3, where Ashvoghasha gave us a sense of observance of the precepts not as something gloomily restrictive but as an aid to roaming freely, to faring or going well. FM Alexander spent his life investigating how a person who habitually went badly might improve his use of himself so that he would gradually fare better. And the key to such improvement was stopping the wrong thing so that the right thing could do itself. The key, in short, was inhibition. So true INHIBITION, and FREEDOM IN ACTION, can be seen as two faces of the same coin.

In Line 4, as I read it, Ashvaghosha is hinting that the third realisation is not necessarily heralded by trumpets. The sense of A PATH continued quietly and with determination, as opposed to a thunderbolt heralded by trumpets, is conveyed both by the word dhiiraH, constancy or steadiness, and also (I think) grammatically by the gerundive (or 'future passive participle') ending -ya in pratilabhya. The gerundive ending -ya, if I understand correctly, conveys a wide, characterizing sense of what will duly happen to something in a natural course of events.

This verse, then, also reflects a four-phased progression, which is easily linkable to the fourfold noble truth of suffering, if one accepts the argument of the person who introduced me to the fourfold system, Gudo Nishijima, that (1) suffering is the philosophy of subjectivism, idealism, mind; and (2) effort to identify the cause of suffering arises from the standpoint of objectivism, materialism, body.

priiteH (ablative/genitive): from/of/to joy
viraagaat (ablative): through/from/because of dispassion, indifference,non-attachment, loss of colour, absence of redness
Lit. "because of absence of redness from joy" (?)
sukham (accusative): ease, happiness
aarya: a respectable or honourable or faithful man, an inhabitant of Aryavarta; name of the race which immigrated from Central Asia into Aaryaavarta; (with Buddhists) a man who has thought on the four chief truths of Buddhism and lives accordingly; behaving like an Aryan, honourable, respectable, noble
juSHTa: pleased, loved, agreeable, usual, practised, possessed of (in compounds)
aarya-juSHTa: enjoyed by noble ones

kaayena (instrumental): with/through the body
vindan (present participle of vid) finding, discovering, feeling, experiencing
atha: then
samprajaana: full consciousness [MW 1174]
samprajaanan = present participle (?) of sam + pra + jNa: distinguish, discern, know accurately or perfectly

upekSHakaH (nominative, singular): overlooking, indifferent, disregarding
sa: he
smRti: remembering, mindfulness, awareness, attention
-mant: possessive suffix
smRtimaan (nominative, singular): having mindfulness, being mindful
vyahaarSHiid = from vi + hR: to fare or fare well, rove or walk, spend or pass time, roam, wander; walk or roam for pleasure

dhyaanam (accusative): realisation, stage or level of Zen
tRtiiyam: the third
pratilabh: obtain, get back; (with accusative) partake of
pratilabhya = gerundive (expressing obligation, necessity, inevitability etc.) of prati + labh
dhiiraH: steady, constant, firm, resolute, brave, energetic, courageous, self-possessed, composed, calm

EH Johnston:
Then experiencing with his body through freedom from ecstasy that bliss which the Saints feel, and fully aware of all things, he remained indifferent and attentive and gained the third trance.

Linda Covill:
Through his non-attachment to joy he then discovered the physical bliss enjoyed by the noble ones, and with full comprehension he passed the time in equanimity, attentive and steady; and he attained the third level of meditation.


jiblet said...


Thanks for publishing your work.

As a not too sure-footed sanskrit intermediant, I was caught by your thoughts on the word "pratilabhya".

As I'm sure you know, in addition to being one form of gerundive ending, "...ya" is also the gerund ending for prefixed words (here, "prati..."). This seems the more likely reading to me. So: "having obtained/partaken of the third (dhyaanaM), he went well/passed the time..."?

A different sense altogether?

Mike Cross said...

Many thanks, jiblet, for your negative feedback. For an open system it is more valuable than gold!

I was aware that the suffix -ya, a explained in chapter 5 of Teach Yourself Sanskrit, is also the gerund (or 'absolutive') ending for prefixed words. And I pondered that option for the translation of pratilabhya, but it was not until your intervention that this reading made sense to me, so thank you again.

I have amended the translation accordingly.

In general my understanding of Sanskrit verb inflections is still very shaky -- I tend to simply follow EH Johnston and Linda Covill's reading. But in this instance, since their translations didn't indicate whether gerund or gerundive, I followed my own nose... and went wrong. But I am glad I did, as I have learned something in the process.

So thank you again!

And if you notice any further errors, I would be very grateful if you din't hold back.