Tuesday, June 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.6: Emulating the Ancients, through Conduct

yaH puurvai raajabhir yaataaM
yiyaasur dharma-paddhatiM
raajyaM diikShaam iva vahan
vRtten' aanvagamat pitRRn

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Wishing to tread the dutiful path of dharma

Trodden by previous kings,

Bearing his kingship like a call to total dedication,

He emulated the forefathers through his conduct.

The emphasis in this verse is very much on actual conduct, conduct itself, concrete conduct, a path trodden -- what in Shobogenzo is referred to as ANRI.

This verse also brings to mind another turning word in Shobogenzo, KEIKO, translated as "emulating the ancients." KEIKO is a word favoured by modern Japanese martial artists to express practice itself.

The turning word here in Sanskrit might be vRttena, the point being that a true king emulates the ancients not primarily by what he understands, and not primarily by what kind of a dash he cuts in the eyes of others, but primarily by how he conducts himself -- by what he does and by what he does not do, whether he is in the public eye or sitting in solitude.

The prime example of such kingly conduct cited by Ashvaghosha in 2.4 is to have a fine form -- in other words, what is commonly called "a good posture" -- without stiffness or rigidity.

By struggling with that balancing act, with left foot on right thigh and right foot on left thigh, it may be that we can all emulate in our conduct the ancient Dharma-kings.

EH Johnston:
Anxious to tread the path of righteousness taken by the kings of old, he imitated his ancestors in conduct, dedicating himself, as it were, to his kingdom.

Linda Covill:
In his wish to follow the footpath of dharma trodden by previous kings, he modeled his conduct on that of his ancestors, treating his kingship as a consecration.

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
puurvaiH (inst. pl.): mfn. former , prior , preceding, previous; ancient, old
raajabhir = inst. pl. raajan: m. king
yaataam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. (past part. √yaa) gone , proceeded , marched

yiyaasuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from desid. √yaa) wishing to go, proceed, march etc.
dharma-paddhatim (acc. sg. f.): path of dharma
dharma: m. dharma, practice, duty, etc.
paddhati: f. " foot-stroke " , a way , path , course , line

raajyam (acc. sg.): n. royalty , kingship , sovereignty , empire ; kingdom , country , realm
diikShaam (acc. sg.): f. preparation or consecration for a religious ceremony , undertaking religious observances for a partic. purpose and the observances themselves ; dedication , initiation ; any serious preparation (as for battle) ; self-devotion to a person or god , complete resignation or restriction to , exclusive occupation with
√diikSh: to consecrate or dedicate one's self (esp. for the performance of the soma-sacrifice) ; to dedicate one's self to a monastic order Buddh. : iva: like
vahan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vah: to carry ; to take or carry with or about one's self , have , possess ; to bear , suffer , endure ; to experience, feel

vRttena = inst. sg. vRtta: n. (also pl.) procedure , practice , action , mode of life , conduct , behaviour (esp. virtuous conduct , good behaviour)
[Line 4 of EHJ's original Sanskrit reads vRtteta -- presumably a misprint.]
anvagamat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist anu- √gam: to go after , follow , seek , approach , visit , arrive ; to practise , observe , obey , imitate
pitRRn (acc. pl. pitR): m. pl. the fathers , forefathers , ancestors

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