Friday, March 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.29: A Saved Person Attains Nothing But Extinction (4)

evaM kRtii nirvRtim abhyupeto
n' aaiv' aavaniM gacchati n'aantarikSham
dishaM na kaaM cid vidishaM na kaaM cit
klesha-kShayaat kevalam eti shaantim

In the same way,
a man of action who has found salvation

Reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky,

Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point:

From the ending of his afflictions
he attains nothing but extinction.

Nothing to attain but extinction.
We are here in diligent pursuit of a bit of nothing.

Up is nothing but up -- it is just a direction, not something that can be done. Back is nothing but back. The backward step is not a route to anything. The backward step is a route to a bit of nothing.

But a bit of nothing is a lot.
A bit of nothing is the lifeblood.
A bit of nothing is Ashvaghosha's gold.
A bit of nothing is the pot of gold at the end of this epic tale of Hansome Nanda's journey, which is, in the end, a success story, a story of redemption.

Should we reach outside of ourselves for this pot of gold? In the past, I have done that, repeatedly -- with an expectant mind, pregnant with suffering.
Should we reach out to others, like evangelists, in our desire to share with them what we believe in our minds to be the good news? In the past, I have done that too, travelling over the ocean from Japan to America, for example, weighed down with a heavy load of books.
Should we, even though we are not yet fully enlightened, and even though we have never truly met a person who was fully enlightened, take it upon ourselves to instruct others in what we have not yet mastered? I have done that, in spades, and am still tempted to do it.
Or should we simply devote ourselves, as simply and single-mindedly as we are able, to the backward step of turning light and shining? This is the preaching I have heard and have endeavored to live by, but all too often while preaching with one ear I have failed to listen with the other ear.

The above verse is Ashvaghosha's concluding expression on the 3rd noble truth, the truth of inhibition. From the next verse he turns our attention to the inhibitory eightfold path itself, on which we are truly to master, sooner or later, the backward step of turning light and shining.

evam: thus, in this way
kRtii (nominative, singular, masculine): one who acts, a man of action
nirVrtim = accusative, nirVrti: f. complete satisfaction or happiness , bliss , pleasure , delight; emancipation , final beatitude; attainment of rest; extinction (of a lamp)
abhyupeta: arrived at, attained

na: not
eva: at all
avani: the earth
gacchati (3rd person singular, gam): goes
na: not
antarikSha: the sky

disham = accusative, plural of dish: f. quarter or region pointed at, direction, cardinal point (E,W, S, N)
na kaaM cit: not any of them
vidisham = accusative, plural of vidish: f. an intermediate point of the compass (as south east)
na kaaM cit: not any of them

klesha: affliction
kShayaat = ablative of kShaya: loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away (often ifc.)
kevalam: only , merely , solely
eti: reaches, attains, enters, comes into
shaantim (accusative): peace; extinction (of fire &c )

EH Johnston:
So the Saint who has reached Nirvana does not depart to the earth or the sky or any of the quarters or intermediate quarters but from the exhaustion of the vices merely goes to peace.

Linda Covill:
so he who has reached nirvana travels not to the earth, not to the sky, nor to any of the directions or intermediate directions, but, because his defilements have ended, just attains peace.

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