daarDhyaat prasaadasya dhRteH sthiratvaat
satyeShv a-saMmuuDhatayaa caturShu
shiilasya c' aa-cchidratay" ottamasya
niH-saMshayo dharma-vidhau babhuuva
= = - = = - - = - = =
= = - = = - - = - = -
= = - = = - - = - = -
= = - = = - - = - = -
Through the stability of his stillness
and the constancy of his steadiness,
Through his not being altogether bewildered
about the four truths
And not being full of holes
in the supreme practice of integrity,
He became free of doubt in the work of Dharma.
Ashavaghosha is describing Nanda in this verse, as I read it, as not yet the finished article but as a work still in progress.
In line 1 each of the four words seems to be a synonym for the other three, and what they are all expressing is -- but do not call it fixity -- the practice of stillness (shaama/samaadhi).
Line 2 describes Nanda's emerging wisdom (prajNaa).
Line 3 describes his practice of integrity (shiila) which is becoming less characterized by holes or gaps and more by congruence between practice and theory, walk and talk.
Line 4 describes Nanda's developing attitude, as a work in progress, to the Work itself, which is Dharma.
To sit with legs fully crossed directing the whole body up (as per verses 17.3 and 17.4) is a work of Dharma -- providing that the sitter's up is truly up, as opposed to down.
To continue with this translation into English in the service of Ashvaghosha might also be a work of Dharma -- depending on whether I go about it in an end-gaining way or not.
The work of Dharma (dharma-vidhi) is constructive work. Constructive work is not synonymous with creative work. The work of Dharma is constructive in the sense that it is primarily concerned with not doing harm, with letting go of the faults, beginning with thirsting, which are the cause of suffering in self and others.
If we really want to understand what the Buddha really meant by shiila, samaadhi, prajNaa, integrity, balance, wisdom, the only one way to get that understanding, it seems to me, is to work gradually towards the prevention of, defence against, and elimination of, the faults. What has emerged from work done on this translation so far, is that in his preaching of shiila, samaadhi, prajNaa, integrity, balance, wisdom, the Buddha's intention is entirely focused on prevention of, defence against, and elimination of, the faults. Hence...
Integrity no more propagates the shoots of affliction
Than a bygone spring propagates shoots from seeds.
The faults, as long as a man's integrity is untainted,
Venture only timidly to attack his mind.
But balance casts off afflictions
Like a mountain the mighty torrents of rivers.
As long as one remains in balance, the faults do not attack:
Like charmed snakes, they are spellbound.
And wisdom destroys the faults without trace,
As a mountain stream in the monsoon destroys the trees on its banks.
Faults consumed by it stand no chance,
Like trees struck and burnt by a thunderbolt.
From the next verse, the focus shifts from Dharma the Work to Buddha the Man.
He rid himself of hesitation in the practice of the Law .... by the firmness of his faith, by the constancy of his steadfastness, by freedom from confusion about the four Truths and by absence of defect in his own most excellent conduct.
from the strength of his tranquillity, from the constancy of his resolve, from his clarity regarding the Four Truths, and from his lack of blemish in his supreme moral self-restraint he freed himself from uncertainty in the prescription of dharma.
daarDhyaat = abl. daarDhya: a. (fr. dRDha) hardness , fixedness , stability , strength
dRDha: mfn. fixed , firm , hard , strong , solid , massive; mfn. firmly fastened , shut fast , tight ; whole , complete ; difficult to be bent (bow); mfn. steady , resolute , persevering; ind. steadily , perseveringly
prasaadasya = gen. prasaada: m. clearness, calmness, tranquillity, absence of excitement, serenity of disposition , good humour
dhRteH = gen. dhRti: f. holding, keeping ; firmness , constancy , resolution , will
sthiratvaat = abl. sthiratva: n. hardness ; immovableness ; stability , constancy
sthira: mfn. firm , hard , solid , compact , strong ; fixed , immovable , motionless , still , calm
satyeShu (loc. pl.): the truths
a-saMmuuDhatayaaH = abl. a-saMmuuDhataa:
a: (negative prefix) freedom from
saM: ind. altogether
muuDhataa: f. bewilderment , perplexity , confusion , simplicity , folly , ignorance
sammuuDhataa: f. stupefaction , infatuation , bewilderment , unconsciousness
caturShu (loc.): four
shiilasya = gen. sg. shiila: n. integrity
a-cchidratayaa = abl. a-cchidrataa: f. being without holes/gaps, non-perforatedness, non-leakiness
a-: (negative prefix)
chidra: mfn. containing holes , pierced, leaky
-taa: (abstract noun suffix)
uttamasya = gen. uttama: mfn. uppermost; of the highest order
niH-saMshayaH (nom. sg. m.): not doubtful , not doubting or suspecting
niH: ind. free from, without
saMshaya: uncertainty , irresolution , hesitation , doubt
dharma-vidhau = loc. dharma-vidhi: Dharma-practice
dharma: the law, the teaching
vidhi: m. rule, principle, method, means; any act or action, work (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)
babhuuva = 3rd pers. perfect. bhuu: he became