Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.15: Investigating Things

saMbhaarataH pratyayataH svabhaavaad
aasvaadato doSha-visheShatash ca
ath' aatmavaan niHsaraN'-aatmatash ca
dharmeShu cakre vidhivat pariikShaam

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

On the grounds of their being held together,
their causality, and their inherent nature,

Of their flavour and their concrete imperfection,

And of their tendency to spread out,
he who was now contained in himself,

Carried out a methodical investigation into things.

The key element in this verse, as I read it, is niHsaraN'-aatmataH, the tendency to spread out.

With this verse, the field of awareness changes from Nanda's own mind to things in the non-perfect world -- to temporary concentrations of energy, that is, whose tendency to spread out is described by the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

When I look at a stick of incense burning down in front of me, something is holding it together, and at the same time something is causing the energy that is concentrated in that smoking stick of incense to spread out. As a stick of incense is now, so was a stick of incense in Ashvaghosha's time. The whole of the material world is poised between being held together by molecular bonds, and energy's tendency to spread out. And so was it. And so will it ever be.

The dual use of aatma in line 3 seems to me to be a further pointer that Ashvaghosha had in mind this kind of opposition. Nanda is described as aatmavat, "self-possessed, contained in himself." Things are described as being niHsarana, "outward spreading," in their aatma, "essence or nature."

I think the duality that is being signalled, again, is that between the tendency that all energy has to disperse, unless prevented from doing so, and the state of concentration of energy that Nanda has won. Concentration in this sense does not mean trying to focus the mind on some trifle; rather, at the centre of this kind of concentration might be a person's direction of his whole body up (as per 17.4).

Having thus contained himself in himself, Nanda is going to examine real things in the world -- as impermanent, devoid of self, and so on.

EH Johnston:
Then in possession of his soul and devoted to escape from being, he duly examined the elements of existence according to their prerequisites, their causation, their nature, the sensations with which they are experienced and their individual defects.

Linda Covill:
Self-contained, he carried out the recommended investigation into all phenomena, with reference to their prerequisites, their causes, their inherent nature, how they are experienced, their particular faults, and their termination.

saMbhaara: m. bringing together , collecting ; preparation , equipment , provision , necessaries , materials , requisite , collection of things required for any purpose (with Buddhists twofold , viz. 1. puNya-s° , " meritorious acts " , and 2. jJaana-s° , " science ")
- taH: (ablative suffix) according to, with reference to
pratyaya: m. belief, firm conviction , trust ; proof , ascertainment ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea ; ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause
svabhaavaat = abl. svabhaava: m. native place ; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity ; (svabhaavaat: from natural disposition , by nature , naturally , by one's self , spontaneously)

aasvaada: m. eating with a relish , tasting , enjoying (also metaphorically); flavour , taste
aa- √ svad: to eat , consume
doSha: m. fault , vice , deficiency , want ; alteration , affection , morbid element , disease
visheSha: m. distinction ; characteristic difference , peculiar mark , special property , speciality , peculiarity
- taH: (ablative suffix) according to, with reference to
ca: and

atha: ind. then, now etc.
aatmavaan = nom. sg. m. aatmavat: mfn. having a soul ; self-possessed , composed , prudent
niHsaraN'aatmataH: in line with the character of going out
niHsaraNa: n. going forth or out ; issue , egress , gate ; means , expedient , remedy to get rid of (comp.); departure, death
aatma = aatman: essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karm'aatman, mfn. one whose character is action , endowed with principles of action , active , acting );
niH- √ sR: to go out , come forth , depart , withdraw
nis: (prefix) out, forth, away
√ sR: to run , flow , speed , glide , move , go
-taH: (ablative suffix): according to
ca: and

dharmeShu = loc. pl. dharma: m. that which is established or firm ; law, practice, duty; nature , character , peculiar condition or essential quality , property; a thing
cakre = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kR: to do, make
vidhivat: ind. according to rule , duly
pariikShaam (acc. sg.): f. inspection , investigation , examination , test

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

Both manuscripts have niḥsaraṇātmataś. Gawronski amended to niḥsaraṇātmakaś. EHJ initially omitted Gawronski's conjecture from the variants by mistake. At the translation stage, EHJ accepted Gawronski's conjecture and translated accordingly -- "devoted to escape from being" = niḥ-saraṇa (going out, escaping) + ātmakaḥ (having the character of).

LC retained niḥsaraṇātmataś (with reference to their termination).