Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.57: Severing the Five Upper Fetters

ciccheda kaartsnyena tataH sa paNca
prajN"-aasinaa bhaavanay" eritena
uurdhvaM-gamaany uttama-bandhanaani
saMyojanaany uttama-bandhanaani

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

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.

The words paNca saMyojanaani in lines 1 & 4 lead us, via the Buddhist dictionary, to the terms paNc'-aavara-bhaagiiya-saMyojanaani (five-lower-connected-fetters), called in Chinese/Japanese go-gebun-ketsu, the five fetters of lower worlds; and paNcordhva-bhaagiiya-saMyojanaani (five-upper-connected-fetters), in Chinese/Japanese go-jobun-ketsu, the five fetters of upper worlds.

In the Japanese-English Buddhist Dictionary the five fetters of the lower world are given as (1) covetousness, (2) anger, (3) heretical belief in a real personality, (4) attachment to heretical practices, and (5) doubt.

The five fetters of the upper ethereal and spiritual worlds are given as (1) lust for the ethereal state, (2) lust for consciousness, (3) restlessness, (4) arrogance, and (5) ignorance.

So in this verse paNca saMyojanaani would seem to suggest these latter five fetters. But in what sense are they called uurdhvaM-gamaani "upward-going" and in what sense are they called, twice, uttama-bandhanaani "uppermost-bound"?

Bearing in mind that the basic mistake of the beggar of the fourth dhyana was a conceit described in Chinese characters as JO-JO MAN (upper-upper arrogance), might Ashvaghosha be pointing to the dangers of conceit, or overly lofty aspiration?

Aside from its adjectival meaning of "uppermost" or "most superior," another use of uttama that could be relevant is as the masculine noun, "the last person," which in Sanskrit grammar means what we call the first person -- the centre of I, me, mine.

It is certainly true that the aspirational intention to achieve, and the non-aspirational intention to allow, are very different things -- the desire to achieve invariably being connected with the first person.

In a similar way, there is the Buddhist intention to become Buddha, which might be a very different thing from a non-Buddhist intention to serve Buddha.

In the time of the Buddha, Nanda in one lifetime cut the five upper fetters. In this age of imitative Dharma, in contrast, how many lifetimes need an upwardly-aspiring Buddhist spend serving offerings to buddha, before he eventually succeeds in completely severing the five upper fetters?

The answer, as suggested in Shobogenzo chap. 87, Kuyo-shobutsu, might be as many lifetimes as it takes.

EH Johnston:
Then he cut entirely through the five upper fetters, the hindrances of the supreme good, the final bonds, with the sword of intuitive wisdom which he wielded through meditation.

Linda Covill:
With the sword of wisdom wielded through meditation, he completely severed the final five upper bonds, the last ties to rebirth.

ciccheda = 3rd pers. perfect chid: to cut off , amputate , cut through
kaartsnyena: ind. in full , entirely
tataH: ind. from that place , thence, after that
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
paNca (acc.): five

prajNaa: f. "pre-knowing." intuition, intuitive wisdom
pra: ind. before
jNaa: knowing
asinaa = inst. sg. asi: m. a sword
bhaavanayaa = inst. sg. bhaavanaa: f. the act of producing or effecting; f. forming in the mind , conception , apprehension , imagination , supposition , fancy , thought , meditation (°nayaa ind. in thought , in imagination); f. demonstration , argument , ascertainment; f. feeling of devotion , faith in (loc.); f. reflection , contemplation (5 kinds with Buddhists)
iiritena = inst. sg. iirita: mfn. wielded
iir: to go , move , rise; to agitate , elevate , raise

uurdhvaM-gamaani (acc. pl. n.): going upwards, aspirational
uurdhvam: ind. upwards; n. (uurdhvaM- √gam , to go upwards or into heaven , die)
gama: mfn. (ifc.) going
uttama-bandhanaani (acc. pl. n.): tied to superiority; tied to the first person
uttama: mfn. (superlative fr. ud, up) , uppermost , highest; most elevated, excellent; m. the last person (= in European grammars the first person)
bandhana: mfn. tying; (ifc.) dependent on; n. a bond , tie (also fig.) , rope , cord , tether (ifc. = bound to or fettered by); n. building , construction; n. joining , junction , connection

saMyojanaani = acc. pl. saMyojana: n. the act of joining or uniting with (instr. or loc.) ; all that binds to the world , cause of re-birth
saM- √ yuj: to join or attach together , conjoin , connect , combine , unite ; to bind , fetter ; to form an alliance , league together
uttama-bandhanaani (acc. pl. n.): tied to superiority; tied to the first person

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