Friday, June 4, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.58: Corroboration

kakandasya makandasya
kushaambasy' eva c' aashrame
puryo yathaa hi shruuyante
tath" aiva kapilasya tat

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

Just as cities sited on the ashrams

Of Kakanda, Makanda and Kushamba

Were called after them,

So that city was called after Kapila.

Ashvagosha's inclusion of this verse demonstrates something about the kind of reader he thought he was writing for, because the function of this verse is to offer corroboration.

The attitude Ashvagosha encourages in this verse, in other words, is opposed to the attitude of religious gullibility. Ashvagosha is not taking here a middle position between religion and scientific method. The verse, as I read it, is firmly on the side of effort to falsify or corroborate.

Sometimes the law of cause and effect is corroborated with a very short time-lag between, say, unselfish action and happy effect -- for example, helping a sheep with its neck stuck in a fence and a few minutes later meeting somebody who solves one's computer problem. At other times, however, due to a very long time-lag, one fails to notice cause and effect being corroborated everywhere at all times, and so one wonders how come one is so fortunate, or how come life has treated one so unfairly.

How come person B betrayed me, for example? What did I ever do to deserve that? The answer might be that a very long time ago I betrayed person A. Again, how come I am looking out through a big window onto a glorious scene of morning sunlight on big trees? What did I do to deserve being in such a good spot for sitting? I can't remember what -- though a lyric comes to mind from the Sound of Music (the score of which used to rest permanently on my grandmother's piano):
Nothing comes to nothing.
Nothing ever would.
But somewhere in my youth or childhood...
I must have done something good.

So, feeling crap this morning, and as if in need of strong coffee, is just corroboration of the law of cause and effect; and feeling grateful to be here in this presently very quiet place is also just corroboration of the law of cause and effect.

Saundarananda is the story of Nanda's redemption. But while on the subject of corroboration, I would like to point out that Saundarananda is also the story of Nanda's corroboration of the Buddha's teaching.

In Cantos 12 through 16, the Buddha lays out for Nanda the means-whereby Nanda is to attain nirvana. In Canto 17, Nanda corroborates the Buddha's teaching. And in Canto 18 the Buddha affirms that Nanda has indeed corroborated his teaching.

Nowadays there are many Zen masters who seem to believe, religiously, in Dogen's teaching of the oneness of practice and enlightenment. But when we believe Dogen's teaching in our heads, while arching and narrowing the back in an attempt to force the spine into a bolt upright position, then belief and corroboration are very different things. The gap might be like that between heaven and earth.

What practitioners ought to do when caught in such an impasse, is to visit a true teacher who understands the problem of faulty sensory appreciation. Sadly, religious belief tends to present a big obstacle to such a move. To drop off religious attitudes is not so easy.

A Zen Master I knew named Gudo Nishijima spent his life proclaiming that Buddhism is philosophy, not religion, and that Buddhism is not idealism. But I witnessed in him over many years the playing out of a very strong religious and idealistic tendency.

Even in the world of science there are so-called men of science, fake elephants, who manipulate their data, because what they are really interested in is not falsification or corroboration, but their own personal advancement. Even science is like that, to say nothing of the world of so-called Zen masters.

EH Johnston:
As the cities situate on the hermitages of Kakanda, Makanda and Kushamba are called after them, so it was called after Kapila.

Linda Covill:
Just as the cities built on the hermitage-sites of Kakanda, Makanda and Kushamba were named for them, so was it named for Kapila.

kakandasya = gen. sg. Kakanda: m. gold ; N. of a king
makandasya = gen. sg. Makanda:

kushaambasya = gen. sg. Kushamba: N. of a son of kusha (who was the founder of the town kaushaambii)
iva: like
ca: and
aashrame (loc. sg.): m. ashram, hermitage

puryaH = nom. pl. pur: f. a rampart , wall , stronghold , fortress , castle , city , town
yathaa: ind. just as
hi: for
shruuyante (3rd pers. pl. passive shru, to hear): are known as, are called (nom.)

tathaa: ind. likewise
eva: (emphatic)
kapilasya (gen. sg.): of/for Kapila
tat: that, it

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