Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.10: Desires that Come to Nothing

tRptiM vitta-prakarSheNa
svarg'-aavaaptyaa kRt'-aarthataam
kaamebhyash ca sukh'-otpattiM
yaH pashyati sa nashyati

= = = = - = = =
= = = = - = - =
= = = - - = = =
= = - - - = - -

Satisfaction through extra-ordinary wealth,

Success through the gaining of paradise,

And happiness born from desires:

He who sees these things comes to nothing.

The real essence of this verse, as I read it, is that a person who realises by any means true satisfaction, true success and true happiness is naturally a person who will tend to be drawn to the ultimate satisfaction, success and happiness of just sitting in lotus, dropping off body and mind.

In the first line, what is the meaning of extra-ordinary wealth (vitta-prakarSha)? Are the 95 chapters of Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, for example, an extra-ordinary treasure, or are they just sackcloth and ashes? When, after a long time practising the ineffable, the jewel-treasury opens, so that the practitioner may accept and use its treasure as he pleases, is this the enjoyment of extra-ordinary wealth, or not?

In the second line, what is the meaning of the gaining of paradise (svarg'-aavaapta)? Might sitting under a great ash tree in spring, in a rain of fragrant blossoms, be a kind of gaining of paradise? Might to sit under the same tree in autumn, in a rain of falling leaves, be to achieve a kind of success? When a nervous swimmer who has struggled against the water all her life stops doing the wrong thing so that the sea supports her, and she reports that it feels like heaven, is it a kind of success (kRt'-aarthataa) or is it not?

In the third line, what is the real relation between the arising of happiness/ease (sukha), and desires (kaamaa)? The Buddhist idea that everybody knows is that unhappiness is rooted in unconscious desire to get something. But actually, when happiness and ease is investigated in detail, do desires have any role to play in happiness and ease, or not?

To answer my own question, Alexander's truth "Stop doing the wrong thing and the right thing does itself," might be restated "Truly desire to stop doing the wrong thing and other right desires emerge by themselves." Such desires, desires from which happiness/ease is born, are not necessarily desires to become or to get or to get rid of something. Rather than desires to achieve a thing, they might be desires to allow a process. They might be desires that come to nothing -- to forget oneself, for example, in the desire to give, or to discover, or to clarify, or to teach; or to go for a walk as if holding up a mirror to the autumnal earth; or to work in the garden and nurture growth of vegetables and flowers, or to work in a home or in a school or in a hospital to nurture growth of human beings. Or it might simply be the desire, totally forgetting about self and others, to take the backward step. These, as I see it, are the kind of desires (kaamaa) from which happiness/ease (sukha) is born.

So in the fourth line, as I read it, the Buddha might be telling Nanda that to be the loser, to come to nothing, (nash) is just what he should desire.

The meaning of he sees (pashyati), then, might not only be that he recognises something with his eyes and his top two inches. It might mean he realises something through his whole body and mind. It might mean he realises a moment or two of body and mind dropping off, a little bit of nothing.

EH Johnston:
He is lost who considers satisfaction to lie in great wealth, success to consist in reaching Paradise and pleasure to be born from the passions.

Linda Covill:
It is ruinous to perceive contentment in enormous wealth, success in the winning of heaven, or the source of happiness in the passions.

tRptim (acc. sg.): f. satisfaction , contentment
vitta: n. acquisition , wealth , property , goods , substance , money , power
prakarSheNa = inst. prakarSha: m. pre-eminence , excellence , superiority , excess , intensity , high degree (often ifc. e.g. adhva-prakarSha , a great distance ; kaala-prakarSha , a long time Sus3r. ; guNa-prakarSha , extraordinary qualities)

svarga: m. heaven , the abode of light and of the gods , heavenly bliss , (esp.) indra's heaven or paradise
avaaptyaa = inst. avaapti: f. obtaining , getting
kRt'-aarthataam = acc. kRt-aartha-taa: f. success
kRtaartha: mfn. one who has attained an end or object or has accomplished a purpose or desire , successful , satisfied , contented
-taa: abstract noun suffix

kaamebhyaH = abl. pl. of kaama: m. wish, desire, ambition etc.
ca: and
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
utpattim = acc. utpatti: f. arising , birth , production , origin

yaH (correlative of saH): [he] who
pashyati: he sees
saH: he
nashyati = 3rd person sg. nash: to be lost , perish , disappear , be gone , run away ; to come to nothing , be frustrated or unsuccessful

No comments: