Monday, February 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.34: Seeing Buddha with the Eye of the Body

aaryeNa maargeNa tath" aiva muktas
tathaagatam tattva-vid aarya-tattvaH
anusmaran pashyati kaaya-saakShii
maitryaa ca sarva-jNatayaa ca tuShTaH

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

Exactly so is a finder of reality who,
set free by the noble path,

Is the reality of being noble:

His body being a seeing Eye,
he sees the Realised One,

Gratefully acknowledging his benevolence
and all-knowingness.

Though we have not yet arrived at the section of Canto 17 which is explicitly devoted to sitting-dhyaana, this verse is just about sitting-dhyana. This verse is about nothing but the lifeblood.

As I wrote yesterday, in this and the previous verse, Ashvaghosha is comparing the gratitude of one who has been set free by the Buddha's teaching to the gratitude of one whose life has been saved by the salutary instruction or direction of a healer. On what basis is Ashvaghosha making this comparison? The only possible basis, as I read it, is Ashvaghosha's own gratitude to the Buddha for having been set free by the Buddha's teaching.

So here Ashvaghosha is telling it like it is from his own experience in sitting. In this part he is telling us the truth neither through the device of putting words in the Buddha's mouth, nor through the device of describing Nanda's progressive (or regressive) discoveries. This verse, as I read it, is Ashvaghosha just telling us the truth straight, using his own figurative expressions, on the basis of his own experience in sitting.

Figurative expressions involving the Eye, which feature not only in the title of Master Dogen's Shobogenzo (Treasury of the Eye of True Dharma) but also throughout Dogen's writing in Shobogenzo, are generally not easy to translate.

Figurative expressions in general are not easy to translate with confidence -- so many possible translations would appear to fit. With a phrase like aarya-tattvaH ("the reality of being noble") in line 2, for example, I go to bed thinking I found a phrase that hit the target, but then wake up with another phrase, and while sitting in the morning another phrase emerges.

However I end up translating aarya-tattvaH, my understanding of the meaning of nobility is wholly dependent on the opening lines of Shobogenzo chap. 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai, in which Dogen tells us unequivocally what true nobility is.

To do justice to a figurative phrase like kaaya-saakShii ("his body being a seeing Eye") again, is never easy. But what is not in doubt, what one can have absolute confidence in, is that Ashvaghosha is pointing to a practice and experience which necessarily involves the body.

As with aarya-tattva, the reality of being a noble being, kaaya-saakShii, being a body as a seeing Eye, for the 12 ancestors in the line from Sakyamuni Buddha to Ashvaghosha, for the 16 ancestors in the line from Ashvaghosha to Bodhidharma, and for all the ancestors in China and Japan, primarily had to do with sitting in the full lotus posture and directing the whole body upward -- but not in a haughty way.

True nobility, without any vestige of haughtiness, but rather with humility and gratitude, is what is expressed in this verse, and that is what we are gradually working towards, as works in progress.

Or, to put it another way, it might be truly to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees out from the pelvis -- altogether, and one after the other.

EH Johnston:
So he who is freed by the noble Path, knowing reality, possessing the noble reality and experiencing it with his body, regards the Tathaagata in acknowledgement and is delighted with His benevolence and omniscience.

Linda Covill:
likewise a man liberated by the noble path, who knows reality and possesses the noble truth, is witness to the realized one, and in remembering him is delighted by his loving-kindness and omniscience.

aaryeNa = inst. sg. m. aarya: noble
maargeNa = inst. maarga: m. track, path
tath"aiva: just so, exactly so
muktaH (nom. sg m.): one who is loosened , let loose , set free , relaxed , slackened , opened , open

tathaagatam (acc. sg. m.): one who is in such a state or condition; "he who comes and goes in the same way [as the buddhas who preceded him]" , gautama buddha
tathaa: in that manner, thus
gata: gone; gone to any state or condition , fallen into
tattva-vit (nom. sg. m.): reality-realizing; one who has found reality
tattva: n. true or real state , truth , reality
vid: (1) knowing , understanding , a knower (mostly ifc.); (2) (ifc.) finding , acquiring , procuring
aarya-tattvaH (nom. sg. m.): a man of noble that-ness; a being that is the reality of being a noble being
aarya: a noble man ; a man highly esteemed , a respectable , honourable man
tattva: n. true or real state; the being that

anusmaran: remembering
pashyati: he sees
kaaya-saakShii (nom. sg. m.): being a body/eye-witness; as one who experiences as a physical realization; bodily bearing witness
kaaya: body
saakShin: mfn. seeing with the eyes , observing , witnessing ; an eye-witness , witness (in law) of or to (gen. loc. , or comp.)

maitryaa = inst. maitrii: f. friendship , friendliness , benevolence , good will
ca: and
sarva-jNatayaa = inst. sarva-jNataa: insight into all things
sarva: all, everything
jNataa: f. intelligence
ca: and
tuShTaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. satisfied , pleased

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