Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.43: A Groovy Kind of Ease

kaam'-agni-daahena sa vipramukto
hlaadaM paraM dhyaana-sukhaad avaapa
sukhaM vigaahy' aapsv iva gharma-khinnaH
praapy' eva c'aarthaM vipulaM daridraH

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

Released from the burning of the bonfire of desires,

He derived great gladness
from ease in the act of meditating --

Ease like a heat-exhausted man diving into water.

Or like a pauper coming into great wealth.

The repetition of sukha in line 2 and line 3 -- following on from sukha in line 3 of the previous verse -- sets up a description of the four stages of sitting-dhyana, through to verse 17.54, in terms of ease.

I think that in today's verse Ashvaghosha is describing the ease with which the first dhyana is endowed as a not-so-subtle form of ease, but more like a great endorphin rush, as obtained by hordes of holidaying Brits on the beaches of Costa Brava, or as obtained more rarely by winners of Britain's weekly National Lottery.

Chapter 8 of Coulson's Teach Yourself Sanskrit explains that -ana is a suffix frequently added to verbal roots to provide neuter action nouns. So from dRsh 'see', darshana 'act of seeing'; from agam 'come', aagamana 'act of coming, arrival,' and so on. Dhyaana is a neuter action noun from the root dhyai, to think of, imagine, contemplate, meditate on, call to mind, recollect. So literally dhyaana means "the act of meditating," or meditating as an act -- and the act in question is the act of sitting.

At the crudest level of such an act of meditating, if one just sits cross-legged with arse on cushion and knees supported, not even intending to let go of ideas and thoughts but rather allowing oneself to indulge in whatever ideas and thoughts emerge, there is a great deal of ease to be had from that act -- be it an act of meditation or non-meditation.

This grosser kind of ease is succeeded, as ideas and thoughts are gradually dropped off, by a second level of joy and ease, born of balance, stillness, integration (born of samaadhi; 17.47); and this in turn is succeeded in the third dhyana by the ease enjoyed by the noble ones, who have weaned themselves off endorphins (through non-attachment to joy; 17.50). Beyond even this, beyond all discomfort and ease, is the lucidity, endowed with equanimity/indifference and mindfulness/full awareness, which is the fourth dhyana (17.54).

So Ashvaghosha is going to describe progress (or regress) through the four stages of sitting-meditation in terms of three levels of ease, and a fourth level in which ease and discomfort are transcended -- each stage representing a negation of what went before.

EH Johnston:
Released from the burning fire of love, he experienced supreme joy from the bliss of the trance, entering into bliss, like one oppressed by heat on entering the water or like a poor man on obtaining great wealth.

Linda Covill:
Saved from the burns of passion's fire, he experienced great rapture through the bliss of meditation, like the pleasure of a heat-exhausted man when he dives into water, or like the delight of a pauper finding fabulous wealth.

kaama: desire, longing, love
agni: m. fire
daahena = inst. sg. daaha: m. burning, heat
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
vipramuktaH (nom. sg. m.): loosened, released, set free; delivered or freed from (instr. or comp.)

hlaadam (acc. sg.): m. refreshment , pleasure , gladness , joy , delight
√ hlraad: to be glad or refreshed , rejoice
param (acc. sg. m.): far, on the far side, extreme ; ascendant, excellent, supreme
dhyaana-sukhaad = abl. dhyaana-sukha
dhyaana: the act of thinking, meditating, zen
sukha: n. ease
avaapa = 3rd pers. perfect of aap: to reach, meet with; obtain, gain, take possession off

sukham (acc. sg.): n. pleasure, ease
vigaahya = abs. of vi + gaah: to plunge or dive into
aapsu = loc. sg. ap: water
iva: like
gharma: heat
khinnaH (nom. sg. m.): depressed, distressed, exhausted; the/an exhausted man

praapya = abs. of praap: to attain to, obtain, come into
iva: like
ca: and, again
artham (acc. sg): n. purpose, use, utility; substance, wealth, property, opulence, money; thing, object (said of the membrum virile)
vipula (acc. sg. n.): large, great, thick, long, abundant
daridraH (nom. sg. m.): poor, needy, deprived (from the root draa: to run hither and thither; to be in need or poor)

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