caras' ity atha coditaH
aanandena tadaa nandaH
paraM vriiDam upaagamat.
For working like a hired labourer for the apsarases,
Going through the motions of practice,
Nanda had been chided by Ananda
And was deeply ashamed.
Cantos 12 through 16 are Ashvaghosha's record of the essence of the Buddha's teaching, in the Buddha's own words. So, starting here, we will work our way back towards the Buddha's exposition in Canto 16 of the four noble truths. When we arrive at Canto 16 again, inevitably, there will be more of this work in progress to correct.
The essence of the practice as explained in Canto 16, as I read it, has to do with dealing at the deepest level with one's faulty reactions to a stimulus. Any kind of practice other than this might be seen as a variation on the theme of going through the motions.
For anybody who would like to read the back story of how Nanda's infatuation with the gorgeous apsarases caused him to forget about his wife, and to go through the motions of practice with a view to getting to know (in a biblical sense) the apsarases better, I recommend Linda Covill's eminently readable translation.
Going through the motions means practice in which the heart and mind is not engaged; for example, just sitting with the body -- dumb sitting. I do declare... there were times I felt so lonesome I took some comfort there.
Then Nanda felt highly abashed at being upbraided by Ananda for following the Law in order to earn the Apsarases as his wages.
After Ananda had accused him of practicing dharma as a hired labourer for the apsarases, Nanda was deeply ashamed.
apsaras: " going in the waters or between the waters of the clouds " , a class of female divinities (sometimes called " nymphs " ; they inhabit the sky , but often visit the earth ; they are the wives of the gandharvas (q.v.) and have the faculty of changing their shapes at will ; they are fond of the water ; one of their number , rambhA , is said to have been produced at the churning of the ocean).
bhRtaka: m. a hired labourer , servant
dharmam (accusative): the law, the teaching, the practice
carasi = 2nd person singular of car: to undertake , set about , under go , observe , practise
iti: thus (quotation particle)
codita: caused to move ; driven , impelled , incited
aanandena (instrumental): by Ananda
tadaa: at that time , then , in that case (often used redundantly)
nandaH (nominative, singular): Nanda
param: in a high degree , excessively , greatly , completely, highly, deeply
upaagamat = past of upaa-√gam: to approach , come or enter into any state or condition , be subject to