Monday, February 8, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.27: Attaining the First Fruit

ath' aatma-dRShTiM sakalaaM vidhuuya
caturShu satyeShv a-kathaMkathaaH san
dharmasya puurvaaM phala-bhuumim aapa

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

And so, having shaken off every vestige
of the personality view,

Being free of doubt in regard to the four truths,

And knowing the score
in regard to pure practice of integrity,

He attained the first fruit of the dharma.

The opening particle atha may indicate a connection to the previous verse in the sense that line 1 relates to the tranquillity (shama) of mindfulness and balance in sitting; line 2 to intuitive wisdom (prajNaa); and line 3 to integrity (shiila).

So the first three lines seem to express three criteria for attainment of the first fruit of the dharma, corresponding to the three-way classification of the eightfold noble path.

In line 1, to shake off every vestige of the personality view is not something that any of us can do directly. To target the personality view of self or others might be just to pander to the very conception being targeted. Rather, the personality view might be one of those tainted elements that gets rinsed off indirectly when we have dived into practice or when we have submerged ourselves in nature. The personality view might be something, in other words, that "comes out in the wash" -- as is fitting for one who has already entered the stream.

In line 2, that Nanda was free of doubt in regard to the four truths does not mean that he had made the four truths his own already. Ashvaghosha is talking here of Nanda's attainment of the first fruit, not his attainment of the ultimate fruit of arhathood, the state of one who is truly worthy of being served -- the state for example, at least in my eyes, of Ashvaghosha himself.

In line 3, "knowing the score" is a somewhat informal rendering of dRShTa-dharma lit. "seeing that which is established." But among several definitions of the word "score," Webster's includes this one, which seems to fit: the stark inescapable facts of a situation.

So "knowing the score," again, is not synonymous with full realisation of the fourth fruit, the worthy state of the arhat. Rather, if I relate it to my own not-so-arhatly experience, it might mean, when a painful shoulder keeps one awake at night, at least being able to accept this physical pain as a karmic consequence of behaviour committed in the past.

To take responsibility like this for one's own wrongness -- which means, in other words, to stop trying to be right -- is a prerequisite, it seems to me, for allowing things to flow.

Attaining the first fruit of the dharma, as expressed in line 4, is also known as entering the stream (srotaapatti). Not being in the stream, i.e, failing to get into the flow, in my experience, invariably goes hand in grasping hand with trying to be right.

And even though I have interpolated the comment that attaining the first fruit is also known as srotaapatti, entering the stream, Ashvaghosha here does not use that phrase at all. While sitting with painful shoulder, I wondered why not. And the answer that came to me was that Nanda's true entry into the stream might already have happened, as recorded in verses 17.3 and 17.4, when Nanda sat with legs fully crossed, directing the whole body up.

EH Johnston:
Then by shaking off entirely the theory of the existence of the self, by becoming free from doubt in the four Truths and by taking the true view of the discipline to be followed, he reached the stage of the first fruit of the Law.

Linda Covill:
Shaking off the theory of the self completely, entertaining no doubts about the Four Truths, clear in his duty with regard to the pure vows of moral self-restraint, he reached the stage of the first fruit of the dharma.

atha: ind. now, then
aatma-dRShTim (acc. sg.): the personality view
aatma = aatman: the individual soul , self , abstract individual
dRShTi: f. seeing , viewing ; view , notion ; (with Buddhists) a wrong view
sakalaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. possessing all its component parts , complete , entire , whole
vidhuuya = abs. vi-√dhuu: to shake off ; to shake off from one's self , relinquish , abandon , give up

caturShu (loc.): four
satyeShu = loc. pl. satya: n. truth , reality ; n. speaking the truth , sincerity , veracity
a-kathaMkathaH (nom. sg. m.): free of doubt
kathaM-kathika: mfn. one who is always asking questions
san (nom. sg. m.): being

vishuddha: mfn. clean, pure
shiila: n. moral conduct, integrity, discipline
vrata: n. vow, practice
dRShTa-dharmaH (nom. sg. m.): one who has seen that which is established
dRShTa: mfn. seen , looked at , beheld , perceived , noticed; appeared , manifested , occurring , existing , found , real; experienced
dharma: m. that which is established or firm , steadfast decree , statute , ordinance , law; the teaching

dharmasya = gen. sg. dharma: the law, the teaching
puurvaam (acc. sg. f.): first
phala-bhuumim (acc. sg. f.): fruit/stage
phala: n. fruit; fruit (met.) , consequence , effect , result
bhuumi: f. the earth , soil , ground; a place , situation; (metaph.) a step , degree , stage (with Buddhists there are 10 or 13 stages of existence or perfection)
aapa = 3rd pers. perf. aap: to reach, obtain, gain, get

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