Sunday, May 30, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.53: Four Aspects -- of What or Who?

saMnidhaanam iv' aarthaanaaM
aadhaanam iva tejasaaM
niketam iva vidyaanaaM
saMketam iva saMpadaam

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

Like a place where goals converge,

Where vital energies are focused,

Where learning activities are housed,

And where achievements come together,

In this verse, as I read it, in terms of goals, energies, and learning activities; and as a coming together of disparate elements, Ashvaghosha not only portrays Kapilavastu as an ideal city that was; he also expresses the integrated condition in which he is -- the state of sitting-buddha.

In describing Kapilavastu as an ideal city, Ashvaghosha might be outlining the essential secrets of success of any enterprise. But what do I really know about that? A couple of weeks ago, I drew the attention of an old friend with whom I studied "Organisational Effectiveness" at university, to what I had written on this blog on the subject of a middle way between the goals and systems approaches. My friend intimated in response that he didn't have much time any more for such abstract consideration of what might make an organisation effective, having spent the last 30 years working with real organisations! (And very successfully, too.)

Having devoted my own last 30 years mainly to sitting, I may be on safer ground explaining why this verse, as I read it, is another covert expression of sitting-buddha.

From a goals approach, various aims of life -- health, for instance, or greater self-knowledge, or devotion to a Way, or enjoyment of a hobby -- are all catered to by the one act of sitting-dhyana. So in this sense sitting-dhyana is like a place where goals converge.

From a systems approach, a human being is energies. And in sitting upright well, those energies stop being dissipated. So in this sense sitting-dhyana is like a place where vital energies are concentrated or focused.

Thirdly, sitting-dhyana is, according to the Buddha-ancestors, the learning of a backward step -- a backward step to a simpler state of being, to an original state that existed, for example, before the dualism of goals vs energy/systems was ever considered. In endeavouring to take that backward step, we make many mistakes. Guided by faulty sensory appreciation, we take many wrong turns. But as a result of these missteps, we gradually learn what NOT TO DO. We make a friend of "No, not that!" And so we gradually learn what is the right direction -- not that we learn how to do the right thing, but we learn the wisdom of allowing the right thing to do itself. In this sense, sitting-dhyana is like a place where learning activities are housed.

Going back to Kapilavastu for a moment, the city as Ashvaghosha portrays it represented in its golden age the successful gaining of many and various ends in in the political, military, and economic spheres, as well as accomplishments and achievements in religion and the arts. The secret knowledge obtained by the Shakya princes, we are told in 1.40 was Sufficient for full enjoyment / Of dharma, wealth, and pleasure. But description of the ultimate coming together of all Kapilavastu's achievements, the real culmination of all accomplishments, awaits us in Canto 3, where Shakyamuni sits in the supreme manner under the bodhi tree. In this sense, the city of Kapilavastu is like a place where some achievements come together, but the practice of sitting-dhyana is just the place where all achievements come together.

On a technical point, the genitive plural of sampad (success, perfection) is given as sampaadaam, whereas EHJ's original text has sampadaam.

EH Johnston:
It was, so to speak, a 'thesaurus' of wealth, an abode of the sciences, a rendezvous of the perfections ; and the sacred fires of courage were tended there.

Linda Covill:
It was like a storehouse of wealth, like a repository of brilliance, like a temple of the sciences, like a meeting-place of the accomplishments.

saMnidhaanam (acc. sg.): n. (from saM-ni- √dhaa) juxtaposition , nearness , vicinity , presence ; placing down , depositing ; place of deposit , receptacle , gathering-place , rallying-point
saM-ni- √dhaa: to put or place down near together , put down near or into , deposit in (loc.) , place or put upon , direct towards; to place together , collect , pile up
iva: like
arthaanaam = gen. pl. artha: m. aim, purpose, meaning, value ; substance , wealth , property , opulence , money

aadhaanam (acc. sg.): n. . (from aa- √dhaa) putting near or upon , depositing , placing ; the place in which anything is deposited or rests
aa- √dhaa: to place on , put down , deposit , put ; to impregnate , instil
iva: like
tejasaam = gen. pl. tejas: n. (often pl.) the sharp edge (of a knife &c ) , point or top of a flame or ray , glow , glare , splendour , brilliance , light , fire ; clearness of the eyes ; the bright appearance of the human body (in health) , beauty ; fiery energy , ardour , vital power , spirit , efficacy , essence

niketam (acc. sg.): m. (from ni + √cit ? ) a mark , sign ; house, habitation ; seat of one of the constituent elements of the body; a bee-hive ; a stage in the religious life of a Brahman ; state of being
iva: like
vidyaanaam = gen. pl. vidyaa: f. knowledge , science , learning , scholarship , philosophy
saMketam (acc. sg.): m. (from saM- √cit) agreement , compact , stipulation , assignation with (gen. , esp. with a lover) , engagement , appointment ; (acc. with √ kR " to make an agreement or appointment " or " appoint a place of meeting with any person ")
saM- √chit: to observe together , survey , notice ; to agree together , be unanimous
iva: like
sampaadaam = gen. pl. sampad: f. success , accomplishment , completion , fulfilment , perfection

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