Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.56: A Strong & Noble Ally

dhyaanam sa nishritya tatash caturtham
arhattva-laabhaaya matim cakaara
saMdhaaya maitram balavantam aaryam
raaj” eva deshan a-jitaaN jigiSHuH

Consequently, with the backing of the fourth realisation,

He made up his mind to win the worthy state,

Like a king joining forces with a strong and noble ally

And then aspiring to conquer unconquered lands.

In Line 1, the fourth realisation is clarity in one's own mind, to do with SELF.

The worthy state in Line 2 is the state of the arhat, represented in Chinese characters as O-GU, which means "one who is worthy of being served by others." So Nanda's decision here has to do with a wish to be useful to OTHERS. That Ashvaghosha was one worthy of being served, for example, even after nearly two thousand years, has been proving extremley useful to me.

The principle of Line 3 is UNION of self and others.

In Line 4, it is by means of the union of self and others that REAL CHANGE IS DIRECTED.

There may be meaning also in the chronological sequence of the king’s joining forces with a mighty and noble ally first, and then finding the will to build his empire after that. The common-sense idea is that the will comes first, after which a way is sought. But Ashvaghosha seems here to be turning that notion around, describing how Nanda, step by step, came into possession of the wherewithal, and then found the will, or the confidence, to aspire to the ultimate end.

Thus, running through the whole of this section of 15 verses on the four realisations, as I read it, is the principle of means before end -- the fourth realisation is realised as a result of a progression of steps, each representing a negation of the one before; and when the fourth realisation has finally been realised that also is not the end of anything.

dhyaanam (accusative): realisation
sa: he
nishritya (absolutive): relying on, having relied on, with the backing of
tataH: from there, and so
caturtham: the fourth

arhat: deserving, worthy
-tva (suffix for abstract nouns): the state of; -ship, -ness, -hood
arhattva: arhatship, arhathood; the worthy state, the state of one who has realised the fourth fruit of the Dharma = buddhahood
laabhaaya = dative of laabha: to gain, win, get
matim: mind, direction
cakaara (perfect of kR): made up, set

saMdhaaya = absolutive of saM- √ dhA: to put together, combine, join with
maitram (accusative): ally, friend
balavantam = accusative of balavat: possessing power, powerful, mighty, strong
aarya: noble

raajaa (nominative, singular): king
iva: like
deshaan (accusative, plural): regions, places; provinces, countries, kingdoms, realms
a-jita: unconquered
jigiSHuH (desiderative/adjective from √ ji): wishing to win, wanting to conquer

EH Johnston:
Then relying on the fourth trance, he set his mind on attaining Arhatship, like a king, wishing to conquer hitherto unconquered provinces, who unites himself with a strong and noble ally.

Linda Covill:
With the support of the fourth level of meditation, he made up his mind to win the worthy state, as a king joins with a mighty and noble ally when he wishes to conquer unconquered territories.


Jordan said...

Like a king joining forces with a strong and noble ally

This is not backwards at all from my point of view. Bad move to go on a campaign without having support. I like my support in the form of a teacher, the teachings, and the community.

Thank you for all your efforts Mike.
Still keeping on,

Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Jordan -- for your continuing support.


Raymond said...


I've run into a problem. With all of the understanding in the world, I will still be utterly miserable if I am doing something that I am utterly miserable doing. Work, for example. The union of self and others is great: but have you met most others? They are intolerable. What then? I ask because I have no answers.


Mike Cross said...

Hi Raymond,

Your recognition of suffering is a timely one, since from tomorrow, straight from the horse's mouth, we will be getting the Buddha's detailed teaching on suffering.

Speaking for myself, I see more and more how my suffering is tangled up with infantile fear reflexes -- as if the arms would like to splay out in a gesture of "pick me up Mummy!"

In this rather pathetic situation, rather than throwing our toys out of the pram at our inability to live up to our own expectations of ourselves, I recommend not being too ambitious but at least aiming for the first realisation.

Or, if even that is aiming too high, sometimes I cross my legs, wrap a fleece around my shoulders, and just sit in a good old miserable slump, wallowing in self-pity! Have you tried that?

All the best,


Raymond said...


I am at the point where so much of my life is suffering that I don't want to experience any hope or joy because it will just make it harder to readjust to the inevitable suffering that resumes...as silence resumes when words cease.

I guess I have come to the point where I have to give up even the hope for spiritual consolation - I have to accept the words of Kosho Uchiyama: " my whole life, as it is, is suffering." That is the truth.

Non-suffering only capults me into more suffering when suffering inevitably resumes itself.

I think there are two options: either I should give up ever having anything other than suffering, or I should search for that which would relieve my suffering. I don't know which to choose. Sometimes there is self-pity, but mostly its wondering what to do moving forward. Does sitting itself lead to more suffering? It is so antithetical to modern society and culture. I don't know. I will await tomorrow's post.

Take care.

Raymond said...

I wanted to write back because it dawned on me when I was exercising this evening that perhaps my fundamental error is in the orientation of my own mind.

Often, we here that there is no duality between self and others, and we take this to mean "everything we encounter is our life."

Well, I think the other side of that is that we are porous to everything. No matter how many Zen mantras I accumulate, emptiness of self means I am completely open to the suffering that oozes out of those with whom I interact...

In everyday life, I am constantly thinking, "how can I be happy", thinking I can go out and grasp happiness, impose it on the outside world. But when I sit at my cubicle and am faced with perpetually dissatisfied individuals, I can't help but to feel that dissatisfaction.

So, on my drive to work in the early morning, instead of asking how can I attain happiness today, perhaps I should ask myself how much of the world's suffering am I willing to take on. How much can be porous to - how open can I be to the nonduality of self and others when dissatisfaction is pervasive.

Maybe my selfish perspective is my greatest cause of suffering. Is the meaning of the bodhisattva not how much good he/she can do, but how much suffering he/she can endure without subjecting others to his/her own?

All right, I have at least worn myself out on this one, and if nothing else, writing these posts will have been beneficial for this reason.