Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.90: From Kapphina to Purna Shonaparanta

sa-kapphinaH kaashyapa auruvilvo
puurNash ca puurNash ca sa puurNakash ca
shonaaparaantash ca sa puurNa eva

Kapphina, Kashyapa of Uruvilva,

The great Maha-kashyapa, Tishya, Nanda,

Purna and Purna as well as Purnaka

And Purna Shonaparanta,

These nine individuals are the 42nd through 50th names on the list, including the one of the three Purnas listed here who appears, along with Maha-kasyapa, in the list of the ten major disciples of the Buddha.

Maha-kasyapa means Big Kasyapa, or Kasyapa the Great, so mahaa-mahaa-kaashyapa means the great Kasyapa the Great.

This designation, including the extra great, reflects the fact that in the lineage of ancestors linking the Buddha with Ashvaghosha as number 12, linking the Buddha with Bodhidharma as number 28, and linking the Buddha with Dogen as number 51, Maha-kasyapa is, in each of these lineages, ancestor number one.

With the 28th ancestor in India, Bodhidharma, the lineage passed from India to China; and the Japanese monk Dogen, having visited China and experienced what seemed to him to be the lifeblood of Bodhidharma, recorded his confidence as follows in Shobogenzo chapter 72, The Samadhi that is King of Samadhis:

The founding ancestor, the Venerable Bodhidharma, after arriving from the west, went to the Shaolin temple on the Shaoshi peak of Mount Song and, facing the wall in the dhyana of lotus-sitting, passed nine years. From that time through to the present, China has bulged with brains and eyes. The lifeblood of the founding ancestor is nothing but full lotus sitting. Before the founding ancestor came from the west, living beings in eastern lands had never known full lotus sitting. Since the founding ancestor came from the west they have known it. So, through one life and ten thousand lives, from bottom to top and top to bottom, not leaving the forest, day and night, just to practise lotus sitting and be otherwise jobless -- this is the samadhi that is king of samadhis.

Over many generations in Japan, between Dogen's death in 1253 and the end of the 19th century, certain aspects of the teaching were retained in Japan but in certain respects the teaching degenerated. Many people, me included, revere Kodo Sawaki as having been instrumental in reviving the lifeblood itself. For several years I believed that my teacher, Gudo Nishijima, had been a disciple of Kodo Sawaki. This turned out to have been a misunderstanding on my part. My teacher deeply revered Kodo Sawaki, and attended the talks and sitting retreats of Kodo Sawaki, but Kodo Sawaki did not accept him formally as a student. That must have been a difficult stimulus to deal with.

On the one hand, something very unsatisfactory and too complicated, all tied up with personality traits and culture-centric habits, has adulterated Bodhidharma's lifeblood, and I am part of that mess.

On the other hand, I have a cassette recording of a talk by Kodo Sawaki on the final chapter of Shobogenzo, The Eightfold Awakening of a Great Human Being, in which, in a voice of 80-odd years that is vibrant with life, Kodo cuts through all complications:

"Hito to hikaku shinakute mo, ore wa ore da. Jibun ga tsukai furushita kotoba de aru ga, jibun ga jibun o jibun de jibun suru koto de aru. Sore wa doo suru koto yatte, ashi kunde suwatte oitara ii. Jibun ga jibun o jibun de jibun shi te suwatte oitara ii."

"Without comparing myself with other people, I am who I am. I have said it so often the phrase is worn out, but it is me by myself realising myself for my own sake. In other words, just cross the legs and sit. By yourself realize yourself for yourself by sitting as yourself."

EH Johnston:
Kapphina, Kasyapa of Uruvilva, Mahamahakasyapa the Great, Tisya, Nanda, Purna, Purna, Purnaka and Purna Sonaparanta,

Linda Covill:
Kapphina, Kashyapa of Uruvilva, Maha-kashyapa the Great, Tishya, Nanda, the two Purnas as well as Purnaka and Purna Shonaparanta,


Linda Covill said...

Hi Mike and your readers,

The Saundarananda is a wonderful text, and I'm glad it's receiving such a thorough airing through your blog. You might be interested to know that Motilal Banarsidass in India have just published my study of the Buddhist metaphors that underpin the Saundarananda (the liberated mind as refined gold, for example). It's called "A Metaphorical Study of the Saundarananda", and can be ordered online for around £9 plus postage from

Best wishes,
Linda Covill

Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Linda.

That sounds very interesting. I have ordered a copy for myself and put a link up.

Very glad to have your blessing for these clumsy efforts.

Thanks again,


Harry said...

Thanks for this and the Kodo quote, Mike.

I quoted it on my blog with a link back here... hope you don't mind.

All the best,


Mike Cross said...

You are welcome, Harry.