Friday, November 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.27: An Ignoramus Abroad (2), Jewel vs Clod

tyaktvaa ratnaM yathaa loShTaM
ratna-dviipaac ca saMharet
tyaktvaa naiHshreyasaM dharmaM
cintayed a-shubhaM tathaa

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

Again, just as he might leave the jewel

And carry from the jewel-island a clod,

So would one leave the dharma that leads to happiness

And cherish a wretched idea.

The dharma that leads to happiness (naiHshreyasaM dharmam) can be understood on many levels, like a big onion of many layers. The process of going deeper towards the centre of it seems to involve a lot of saying "Not that!" to superficial layers. At the level I am at this morning, and in the context of the previous verse, what leads to happiness might be truly being a human being. (But please, do not call it "humanism.") Later, all being well, I will look back and think "No, that wasn't it."

To think or to have an idea (cint), that thought or idea being unlovely, evil, or inauspicious (a-shubha), can also be understood on at least three levels:

Thinking unlovely thoughts is as nothing -- just in the act of waking up to the thinking of those unlovely thoughts, one has already caused those thoughts to evaporate.

Cultivating evil thoughts is more deeply problematic, because bad habits require more time and effort to drop off -- a few minutes, at least, of using the brain.

But over the course of a lifetime or many lifetimes a wretched idea or wrong conception tends to be more deeply problematic than anything -- because the most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist.

In this verse, as I read it on the basis of my experience in life hitherto, carrying away a clod of earth is not a metaphor either for thinking unlovely thoughts or for cultivating evil thoughts: it is a metaphor for cherishing a lousy idea. "Humanism" along with "Realism" and "True Buddhism" are examples that spring readily to my mind. "Keeping the spine straight vertically" is another one, leading to stiffening, fixing, and stunted/frustrated growth as a human being.

EH Johnston:
And the man who, passing over the Law that leads to final beatitude, should cultivate evil thoughts is like the man who should pass over the jewels and take away lumps of earth from a jewel-island.

Linda Covill:
And the man who thinks unlovely thoughts while forsaking the unsurpassable dharma is like a man who takes away clods of earth from a jewel-island but leaves the jewel behind.

tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit
ratnam (acc. sg.) n. a jewel , gem , treasure , precious stone
yathaa: just as
loShTam (acc. sg.): mn. a lump of earth or clay , clod

ratna-dviipaat = abl. ratna-dviipa: a jewel-island
ca: and, again
saMharet = 3rd pers. sg. optative saM-√ hR: to take or fetch from (abl.)

tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit
naiHshreyasam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. leading to happiness or future beatitude
naiH (vRddhi form of niH in comp): out of, away from ; without ; thoroughly
shreyasa: n. welfare , happiness , bliss (mostly ifc)
dharmam (acc. sg.): m. law, practice, teaching

cintayet = 3rd pers. sg. optative: cint: to think , have a thought or idea , reflect , consider ; to think about , reflect upon , direct the thoughts towards , care for (acc.)
a-shubham (acc. sg. n. or acc. sg. m.): mfn. not beautiful or agreeable , disagreeable ; inauspicious ; bad , vicious (as thought or speech); m. misfortune , harm , mischief
shubha: n. splendid , bright , beautiful , handsome (often f. voc. , shubhe , " fair one! " in addressing a beautiful woman) ; pleasant , agreeable , suitable , fit , capable , useful , good (applied to persons and things)
tathaa: so, likewise

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