Friday, April 23, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.16: Ascetics Set about Asceticism

nir-apekShaaH shariireShu
dharme yatra sva-buddhayaH
saMhRShTaa iva yatnena
taapasaas tepire tapaH

- - = = - = = -
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There, not caring about their own bodies,

But each with his own belief in dharma,

Seemingly bristling with zeal,

The ascetics set about ascetic practice of asceticism.

Again, this verse as I read it is phrased so as to permit a superficial laudatory interpretation. But what Ashvaghosha is saying here might be beyond praise and criticism: it might be more akin to Dogen's observation that flowers, irrespective of being loved, droop; and weeds, irrespective of being hated, flourish.

This verse goes a step further than observations that mountains are mountains, or that ascetics are ascetics. In the last line not only subject (ascetic) and object (asceticism) but also verb (be set on fire, burn with the heat of, torment oneself) are all from the same root, √ tap, to give out intense heat.

The ascetics set about ascetic practice of asceticism.

That is what ascetics always have done, always do, and always will do. It is like saying a bear shits in the woods.

It might be like saying, if such a phrase were possible in English, that a sitters sits sitting. Or a listener listens out for listening. Or a digger digs digging.

EH Johnston:
There the ascetics, following their own opinions in the matter of religion and regardless of their bodies, practised austerities as if overjoyed with their toil.

Linda Covill:
Here the ascetics, disregarding their bodies and following their own understanding of dharma, distilled asceticism as though delighting in their labour.

nir-apekShaaH (nom. pl.): mf(A)n. regardless of. indifferent to , independent of (loc. or comp.) ; desireless , careless , indifferent , disinterested
shariireShu (loc. pl.): n. the body , bodily frame , solid parts of the body (pl. the bones) ; any solid body ; one's body i.e. one's own person

dharme (loc. sg.): dharma, law
yatra: ind. where
sva-buddhayaH (nom. pl.): own opinions
sva: own
buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement; understanding ; opinion, view, notion, idea

saMhRShTaaH (nom. pl.): mfn. bristling , shuddering ; one whose hair stands erect (with joy) ; thrilled , delighted , glad
iva: like, as if
yatnena (inst. yatna): " with effort " , " carefully " , " eagerly " , " strenuously "

taapasaaH (nom. pl.): m. an ascetic
tepire = 3rd pers. pl. perfect tap: to give out heat , be hot , shine (as the sun); to make hot or warm , heat , shine upon ; to consume or destroy by heat ; to suffer pain ; to torment one's self , undergo self-mortification , practise austerity (tapas)
tapaH (acc. sg.): n. heat, austerity, ascetic practice

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