Saturday, March 27, 2010
Canto 17: Obtaining the Nectar of Immortality
Thus was the path to reality pointed out.
Then Nanda, a path of release receiving him in,
Bowed with his whole being before the guru
And, for the letting go of afflictions,
he made for the forest.
There he saw a clearing,
A quiet glade, of soft deep-green grass,
Kept secret by a silent stream
Bearing water blue as beryl.
Having washed his feet in that water,
He then, by a clean, auspicious, and splendid tree-root,
Girded on the intention to come undone,
And sat with legs fully crossed.
By first directing the whole body up,
And thus keeping mindfulness turned towards the body,
And thus integrating in his person all the senses,
There he threw himself all-out into practice.
Wishing to practise, on that basis,
the truth that has no gaps,
And wanting to do practices favourable to release,
He moved, using common sense, and stillness,
Into the stage of readying of consciousness.
By holding firm, keeping direction of energy to the fore,
By cutting out clinging and garnering his energy,
His consciousness calmed and contained,
He came back to himself
and was not concerned about ends.
Though his judgement had been tempered
and his soul inspired,
Now a vestige of desire, arising out of habit,
Made his mind turbid --
Like lightning striking water in a monsoon.
Being instantly aware of incompatibilities,
He saw off that authoress of the dharma's downfall,
As a man whose mind is seized by anger
Shoos away a loved but excitable woman,
when he is trying to concentrate.
He re-directed his energy so as to still his mind,
But in his doing so
an unconstructive conception reasserted itself,
As when, in a man intent on curing an illness,
An acute symptom suddenly reappears.
In order to fend against that
he went to an alternate starting point,
One constructive and favourable to practice,
Like an enfeebled prince
who seeks out a powerful protector
When being overthrown by a mighty rival.
For just as, by laying out fortifications
and laying down the rod of the law,
By banding with friends and disbanding foes,
A king gains hitherto ungained land,
That is the very policy towards practice
of one who desires release.
Because, for a practitioner whose desire is release,
The mind is his fortress,
the protocol on knowing his rod,
The virtues his friends, the faults his foes;
And liberation is the territory for which he strives.
Desiring release from the great net of suffering,
Desiring to enter into possession
of the pathways of release,
Desiring to experience the supreme noble path,
He got a bit of the Eye, and came to quiet.
Heedless would be the unhoused man who,
Despite hearing the truth, housed darkness;
But since Nanda was a man of the bowl,
a receptacle for liberation,
He had collected his mind into himself.
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.
Desiring to experience
its total material and immaterial substance,
He examined the body,
And as impure, as suffering, as impermanent,
as without an owner,
And again as devoid of self, he perceived the body.
For, on those grounds,
on the grounds of impermanence and emptiness,
On the grounds of absence of self, and of suffering,
He, by the most discerning empirical path,
Caused the tree of afflictions to shake.
Since everything, after not existing, now exists,
And after existing it never exists again;
And since the world is causal,
and has disappearance as a cause,
Therefore he understood that the world is impermanent.
And since the yoke of a creature's karma
Is bond-making or bond-breaking impulse
Which is dependent on a prescription,
named "pleasure," for counteracting pain,
He saw that, on that account, existence is suffering.
And since separateness is a construct,
There being no-one who creates or who is made known,
But doing arises out of a totality,
He realised, on that basis, that this world is empty.
Since the throng of humanity is passive,
And no one exercises direct control
over the workings of the body,
But states of being arise dependent on this and that,
He found, in that sense, that the world is devoid of self.
Then, like air in the hot season, got from fanning,
Like fire latent in wood, got from rubbing,
Like water under the ground, got from digging,
That world-beating path which is hard to get, he got:
As a bow of true knowledge,
clad in the armour of mindfulness,
Standing up in a chariot of pure practice of integrity,
While his enemies, the afflictions,
stood up in the battlefield of the mind,
He took his stance for victory,
ready to engage them in battle.
Then, unsheathing a sword
that the limbs of awakening had honed,
Standing in the supreme chariot of true motivation,
With an army
containing the elephants of the branches of the path,
He gradually penetrated the ranks of the afflictions.
With arrows made from the presence of mindfulness,
Instantly he shot those enemies
whose substance is upside-down-ness:
He split apart four enemies, four causes of suffering,
With four arrows, each having its own range.
With the five incomparable noble powers,
He broke five uncultivated areas of mental ground;
And with the eight true elephants
which are the branches of the path,
He drove away eight elephants of fakery.
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.
By glimpsing the noble foursome,
And by being released from one portion of the afflictions;
By realising for himself what was specific to him
As well as by witnessing the ease of the sages;
Through the stability of his stillness
and the constancy of his steadiness,
Through 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.
Released from the net of shabby views,
Seeing the world as it really is,
He attained a joy pregnant with knowing
And his quiet certainty in the guru
deepened all the more.
For he who understands that the doing in this world
Is determined neither by any outside cause
nor by no cause,
Who appreciates everything depending on everything:
He sees the ultimate noble Dharma.
And he who sees as the greatest good the Dharma
That is peaceful, salutary, ageless, and free of redness,
And who sees its teacher as the noblest of the noble:
He, as one who has got the Eye, is meeting Buddha.
When a healthy man has been freed from illness
by salutary instruction,
And he is aware of his debt of gratitude,
Just as he sees his healer in his mind's eye,
Gratefully acknowledging his benevolence
and knowledge of his subject,
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
Sprung free from pernicious theories,
Seeing an end to becoming,
And feeling horror for the consequences of affliction,
Nanda trembled not at death or hellish realms.
As full of skin, sinew, fat, blood, bone, and flesh,
And hair and a mass of other such unholy stuff,
He then observed the body to be;
He looked into its essential reality,
and found not even an atom.
He, firm in himself,
minimised the duality of love and hate
By the yoke of the same old practice:
Being himself big across the chest,
he made those two small,
And so obtained the second fruit in the noble Dharma.
A small vestige of the great enemy, red passion,
Whose straining bow is impatient desire
and whose arrow is fixity,
He destroyed using weapons
procured from the body as it naturally is --
Using the darts of the disagreeable,
weapons from the armoury of practice.
That gestating love-rival, malice,
Whose weapon is hatred
and whose errant arrow is anger,
He slayed with the arrows of kindness,
which are contained in a quiver of constancy
And released from the bow-string of patience.
And so the hero cut the three roots of shameful conduct
Using three seats of release,
As if three rival princes,
bearing bows in the van of their armies,
Had been cut down by one prince using three iron points.
In order to go entirely beyond the sphere of desire,
He overpowered those enemies that grab the heel,
So that he attained, because of practice,
the fruit of not returning,
And stood as if at the gateway to the citadel of Nirvana.
Free from desires and tainted things,
Containing ideas and containing thoughts,
Born of solitude and possessed of joy and ease,
Is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered.
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.
Even in that, he realised, ideas about aforesaid things,
And thoughts about what is or is not good,
Are something not quieted,
causing disturbance in the mind,
And so he decided to let them go.
For, just as waves produce disturbance
In a river bearing a steady flow of tranquil water,
So ideas, like waves of thought,
Disturb the water of the one-pointed mind.
Just as, to one who is weary,
and fallen fast asleep,
Noises are a source of bother,
So, to one indulging in his original state
of unitary awareness,
Ideas become bothersome.
And so gradually bereft of idea and thought,
His mind tranquil from one-pointedness,
He realised the joy and ease born of balanced stillness --
That inner wellbeing
which is the second stage of meditation.
And on reaching that stage,
in which the mind is silent,
He experienced an intense joy
that he had never experienced before.
But here too he found a fault, in joy,
Just as he had in ideas.
For when a man finds intense joy in anything,
Paradoxically, suffering for him is right there.
Hence, seeing the faults there in joy,
He kept going up, into practice that goes beyond joy.
And so experiencing the ease enjoyed by the noble ones,
from non-attachment to joy,
Knowing it totally, with his body,
He remained indifferent, fully aware,
And, having realised the third stage of meditation, steady.
Since the ease here is beyond any ease,
And there is no progression of ease beyond it,
Therefore, as a knower of higher and lower,
he realised it as a condition of resplendent wholeness
Which, with loving kindness, he deemed superlative.
Then, even in that stage of meditation, he found a fault:
He saw it as better to be quiet, not excited,
Whereas his mind was fluctuating tirelessly
Because of ease circulating.
In excitement there is interference,
And where there is interference there is suffering,
Which is why, insofar as ease is excitatory,
Strivers desirous of quiet give up that ease.
Then, because he had let go of ease and suffering,
And of working on the mind, already,
He realised the lucidity
in which there is indifference and full awareness:
Thus, beyond suffering and ease,
is the fourth stage of meditation.
Since in this there is neither ease nor suffering,
And the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,
Therefore utter lucidity
through indifference and awareness
Is specified in the protocol
for the fourth stage of meditation.
Consequently, relying on the fourth stage of meditation,
He made up his mind to win the worthy state,
Like a king joining forces with a strong and noble ally
And then aspiring to conquer unconquered lands.
Then he cut the five upper fetters:
With the sword of intuitive wisdom,
wielded by directed thought,
He completely severed the five aspirational fetters,
Which are bound up with superiority,
and tied to the first person.
Again, with the seven elephants
of the limbs of awakening
He crushed the seven dormant tendencies of the mind,
Like Time, when their destruction is due,
Crushing the seven continents
by means of the seven planets.
The action which on fire, trees, ghee and water
Is exerted by rainclouds, wind, a flame and the sun,
Nanda exerted that action on the faults,
Quenching, uprooting, burning, and drying them up.
Thus he overcame three surges,
three sharks, three swells,
The unity of water, five currents, two shores,
And two crocodiles: in his eight-piece raft,
He crossed a hard-to-cross flood of suffering.
Having attained to the seat of arhathood,
he was worthy of being served:
Without ambition, without partiality,
Without fear, sorrow, pride, or passion;
Being nothing but himself,
he seemed in his constancy to be different.
And so Nanda, who,
through the instruction of his brother and teacher
And through his own valiant effort,
Had quieted his mind and fulfilled his task,
Spoke to himself these words:
"Praise be to him, the One Gone Well,
Through whose compassionate striving for my benefit,
Great agonies were turned away
And greater comforts conferred.
For while being dragged, by ignoble physicality,
Down a path pregnant with suffering,
I was turned back by the hook of his words,
Like an elephant in musk by a driver's hook.
For through the instruction
of the compassionate teacher
Who extracted a dart of passion
that was lodged in my heart,
Now such abundant ease is mine --
Oh! how happy I am in the loss of everything!
For, by putting out the burning fire of desires,
Using the water of constancy,
as if using water to put out a blaze,
I have now come to a state of supreme refreshment
Like a hot person descending into a cool pool.
Nothing is dear to me, nor offensive to me.
There is no liking in me, much less disliking.
In the absence of those two,
I am enjoying the moment
Like one immune to cold and heat.
Like gaining safety after great danger,
Like gaining release after long imprisonment,
Like being boatless yet gaining the far shore,
after a mighty deluge,
And like gaining clarity, after fearful darkness;
Like gaining health out of incurable illness,
Relief from immeasurable debt,
Or escape from an enemy presence;
Or like gaining, after famine, plentiful food:
Thus have I come to utmost quiet,
Through the quieting influence of the teacher.
Again and repeatedly I do homage to him:
Homage, homage to the worthy one, the Realised One!
By him I was taken to the golden-peaked mountain,
And to heaven, where,
with the example of the she-monkey,
And by means of
the women who wander the triple heaven,
I who was a slave to love,
sunk in girl-filled strife, was extricated.
And from that extreme predicament,
from that worthless mire,
Up he dragged me,
like a feeble-footed elephant from the mud,
To be released
into this quieted, untainted, feverless, sorrowless,
Ultimate true reality, which is free from darkness.
I salute the great supremely compassionate seer,
Bowing my head to him,
the knower of types, the knower of hearts,
The fully awakened one, the holder of ten powers,
the best of healers,
The deliverer: again, I bow to him.
The 17th Canto of the Epic Poem Handsome Nanda,
titled Obtaining the Nectar of Immortality