Tuesday, March 10, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.26: Reaching Extinction, Close to Home

duHkha-kShayo hetu-parikShayaac ca
shaantam shivaM saakShi-kuruShva dharmam
tRShNaa-viraagaM layanaM nirodhaM
sanaatanaM traaNam a-haaryam aaryam

Again, the ending of suffering
follows from the disappearance of its cause.

Experience that reality for yourself
as peace and well-being,

A place of rest, a cessation,
an absence of the red taint of thirsting,

An eternal refuge which is irremovable and noble,

This and the following three verses form a series of four verses in which the Buddha points Nanda to the ultimate goal of practice. This verse introduces the goal, as if it were something. 16.27 continues the description, with a negative emphasis that points to a bit of nothing. 16.28 uses the everyday metaphor of extinction of a lamp. 16.29 brings the strands of the previous three verses together, expressing a human being's experience of the ending of suffering as the reaching of extinction.

This series of four verses, then, can be understood as expressing our ultimate goal of "Nirvana." Except that, while discussing extinction in the everyday language of a lamp going out, Ashvaghosha does not use the word "Nirvana."

Having observed, and been part of, a process of the Buddha's teaching getting translated from Sanskrit into Chinese, then into Japanese, and thence into English -- a process in which the original boat tends to have got weighed down with a lot of supposedly untranslatable barnacles like "sesshin" and "satori", like "hossu" and "koan" and "zazen", like "nirvana" and "samadhi" -- I am struck more and more by the cleanness and purity of Ashvaghosha's language. It is conspicuously free of jargon. Ashvaghosha shows no fondness whatever for Buddhist buzz-words.

Maybe it is for this reason that Ashvaghosha's teaching, to my ear, is closer to home than anything I have come across in Japanese or Chinese.

Who am I? What am I? What is my position?
I do not know.
But a miner of Ashvaghosha's gold I am.
That much I know.

duHkha: suffering
kShayaH = nominative, singular of kShaya: destruction, end
hetu: cause
parikShayaat = ablative of parikShaya (from pari + √kShi): disappearing, ceasing, dissolution, decay, destruction, loss, ruin, end
pari: fully
√kShi: to be diminished, decrease, wane (as the moon), waste away, perish
ca: and

shaantam (acc. sg. m.): appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions , undisturbed; abated , subsided , ceased , stopped , extinguished; m. tranquillity , contentment
shivam (acc. sg. m.): auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent ; m. happiness , welfare
saakShi = in compounds for saakShin: seeing with the eyes , observing , witnessing
kuruShva (2nd pers. imperative √kR): please make
dharmam = accusative of dharma: m. the reality, teaching, method, work, practice

tRShNaa: thirsting, avid desire
viraagam (acc. sg.): m. loss of colour, indifference
layanam (acc. sg.): n. rest, repose; a place of rest
nirodham: restraint , check , control , suppression , destruction; (with Buddhists ) suppression or annihilation of pain (one of the 4 principles)

sanaatanam (acc. sg. n.): eternal , perpetual , permanent , everlasting , primeval , ancient
traaNam (acc. sg.): n. protecting , preserving , protection , defence , shelter
ahaaryam (acc. sg. n.): not to be stolen, not to be removed; unalterable
aarya (acc. sg. n.): aryan, noble

EH Johnston:
And the abolition of suffering proceeds from exhaustion of the cause. Therefore render present for yourself the holy, peaceful Element, the refuge which is free from the passion of desire and brings suppression (of all that makes for active being), the salvation which is eternal, unassailable and holy,

Linda Covill:
and the destruction of suffering follows from the destruction of its cause. Set dharma before your eyes, which is peaceful and benign, with no passion for desire, a resting place, a cessation, an eternal, irremovable, and noble protection,

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