Friday, December 11, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.48: Location, Location, Location?

ramaNiiyo 'pi deshaH san
su-bhikShaH kShema eva ca
ku-desha iti vijNeyo
yatra kleshair vidahyate

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

Even an area that is pleasant,

Abundant in provisions and safe,

Should be regarded as a deprived area

Where burn the fires of affliction.

This verse brings to mind the old joke that France is the most beautiful country in the world, apart from the French.

Equally, the English county where I live, Buckinghamshire, is supposed to be one of the most desirable locations in the United Kingdom. Bucks is regarded as scoring relatively highly on the criteria of pleasantness, prosperity and safety. But I mostly seem to experience the Buckinghamshire village where I live -- through the filter of my faulty sensory appreciation -- as a backward place, over which people fly around in light aircraft just for fun, polluting the skies with fumes and noise. The noise in particular is a stimulus that regularly sparks (or fuels more likely), the fires of affliction in me.

So the point of this verse, as I read it, is that everywhere is a deprived area. If we think, on the contrary, that the nectar of non-deprivation might reside somewhere, such a thought is just a troublesome idea to drop off.

When the Buddha recommends Nanda to go to practise in the forest, then, it is not because the nectar of non-deprivation resides there, but rather because the solitude of the forest can be a good place to drop off a troublesome idea.

In obtaining the nectar of non-deprivation, or in letting the fires of affliction burn themselves out, the most difficult thing to get rid of might be that which does not exist: a troublesome idea.

Hence, before Nanda is ready, and before we are ready, to hear the Buddha's exposition of the four noble truths in Canto 16, the Buddha asks in this Canto for vitarka-prahaaNa, i.e. "Emptying the Mind" [EHJ], "Abandoning Notions" [LC], or "Giving Up an Idea."

EH Johnston:
A country in which the fires of the vices rage may be pleasant, prosperous and peaceful, but it must be recognised as a bad country.

Linda Covill:
Even a safe and delightful country where alms are given generously should be regarded as a flawed country, burned by defilements.

ramaNiiyaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. to be enjoyed , pleasant , agreeable , delightful , charming
api: even, also
deshaH (nom. sg.): m: a place, a country
san = nom. sg. m. sat: mfn. (pres. part. of √as) being , existing

su-bhikShaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having good food or an abundant supply of provisions
kShemaH (nom. sg. m.): habitable ; giving rest or ease or security ; at ease , prosperous , safe
eva ca

ku-deshaH (nom. sg.): m. a bad country (where it is difficult to obtain the necessaries of life); a country subject to oppression
ku: a prefix implying deterioration , depreciation , deficiency , want , littleness , hindrance , reproach , contempt , guilt
iti: thus
vijNeyaH (nom. sg. m. gerundive of vijNaa): to be known, to be regarded as

yatra: ind. (used for the loc. of the relative pron.) wherein, in which case
kleshaiH = inst. pl. klesha: m. pain , affliction , distress
vidahyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive vi- √ dah: to burn up, scorch, consume by fire

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