Monday, June 28, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.19: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Taking Nourishment with Restraint

a-nivedy' aagram arhadbhyo
n' aalikShat kiM cid a-plutaH
gaam a-dharmeNa n'aadhukShat
kShiira-tarSheNa gaam iva

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

Without offering the first portion to revered beings,

And without bathing, he did not eat anything;

Neither did he milk the earth unjustly,

As a cow is milked by a man thirsting for milk.

This verse as I read it suggests that the king's behaviour was neither purely instinctive nor overdone, like the behaviour of a greedy pig at the trough, or like the behaviour of an ascetic practitioner devoted to ascetic practice in his thirst for a spiritual breakthrough.

The reference in the first half of the verse to not eating without first observing traditional forms may be seen as presaging the Buddha's instruction on how to take food, in the opening verses of Canto 14...

Just as two travellers

In order to cross a wilderness

Might feed upon the flesh of a child,

Though grievously pained to do so, as its mother and father,

So food should be eaten,


The second half of the verse may be seen as both referring back to the example of Kapila in his days of extreme asceticism...

For self-serving offerings

He milked a cow, like Vasistha;

While among the disciples he schooled in asceticism

He milked a cow, like Vasistha.

and also referring forward to the Buddha's observation that suffering starts with tarSha (thirsting)...

So my friend, with regard to the many forms of becoming,

Know their causes to be [the faults] that start with thirsting

And cut out those [faults], if you wish to be freed from suffering;

For ending of the effect follows from eradication of the cause.

Again, the ending of suffering follows from the disappearance of its cause.

Experience that reality for yourself as peace and well-being,

A place of rest, a cessation, an absence of the red taint of thirsting,

An eternal refuge which is irremovable and noble,

In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying,

No illnesses, no being touched by unpleasantness,

No disappointment, or separation from what is pleasant:

It is a step of restfulness, ultimate and indestructible.

The point of this verse then, as I read it, is that the king ate and appreciated his food, but not without a certain restraint, and the king exploited the resources of his territory, but -- unlike the ascetic Kapila driving his students in ascetic practice -- he did not overdo it.

In other words the behaviour of the non-Buddhist king did not, under the influence of instinctive reactions and unconscious guidance, veer to extremes. Rather, the king's behaviour was more or less conscious, in the middle way.

Understood like this, the real intention of the verse might not be too difficult to understand. Still, it might not be easy to realize.

EH Johnston:
He did not touch anything to eat till he had performed his ablutions and assigned the first portion to holy persons ; he did not milk the earth unrighteously, as one might a cow in thirst for milk.

Linda Covill:
He would not eat unless he had first bathed and made an offering to worthy persons; nor did he milk the earth unjustly, as a thirsty man might overmilk a cow.

a-nivedya (gerundive a- ni- √ vid): without [food] being offered
nivedya: mfn. to be communicated or related or presented or delivered ; n. an offering of food for an idol (for naivedya)
naivedya: n. an offering of eatables presented to a deity or idol
ni- √ vid: to tell , communicate , proclaim , report , relate ; caus. to offer , present , give
agram: ind. in front , before , ahead of
agra: n. foremost point or part
arhadbhyaH = dat. pl. m./n. arhat: mfn. worthy , venerable , respectable

na: not
alikShat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist lih: to lick , lap , lick at (loc.) , taste , sip , take any food by licking or lapping
kiM cid: ind. somewhat, a little
a-plutaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. mfn. floated , floating or swimming in (loc.) , bathed , overflowed , submerged

gaam (acc. sg.): f. cow, the earth
a: (negative prefix) not
dharmeNa: ind. according to right or rule , rightly , justly , according to the nature of anything
na: not
adhukShat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist duh: to milk (a cow or an udder) fig. take advantage of

kShiira-tarSheNa (inst. sg.): thirst for milk
kShiira: n. milk , thickened milk
tarSha: m. thirst
gaam (acc. sg.): f. cow, the earth
iva: like

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