Saturday, July 31, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.52: A Seismic Shift

tasya sattva-visheShasya
jaatau jaati-kShay'-aiShiNaH
s' aacalaa pracacaal' orvii
taraMg'-aabhihat" eva nauH

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

At the birth of this exceptional being

Whose mission was the end of re-birth

The earth with its immoveable mountains shook

Like a boat being battered by waves.

This is the first in a series of five verses which seem, on first reading, to be mainly celebratory and full of poetic license, rather than instructional and full of buried philosophical meaning.

Still, there might be digging to do.

In ancient India before the time of the Buddha the end of re-birth existed as an idea, but in order for nirvana to be realised -- the other side of the giving up all ideas -- as a reality, the Buddha had to be born. And this paradox of ending the cycle of births by means of a birth is distilled, in every practice of sitting-meditation, in the paradox of thinking into the state of not-thinking. It is the paradox of actively using the ideas and thoughts which characterize the first stage of sitting-meditation in order to stimulate movement into the second stage of sitting-meditation, born of balanced stillness, which is like a clueless river wordlessly and spontaneously bearing along a steady flow of tranquil water (17.45).

If one gets this point, then thinking in sitting-zen is not only something to be avoided but also something to be utilized.

EH Johnston:
At the birth of the Supreme Being, Whose aim it was to put an end to rebirth, the earth with its mountains quivered like a ship struck by the waves.

Linda Covill:
At the birth of this excellent being who sought the end of the cycle of birth, the wide earth with its mountains shook like a vessel tossed on the waves.

tasya (gen. sg. m.): of him
sattva-visheShasya (gen. sg.): of the excellent being
sattva: n. being
visheSha: m. distinction , peculiar merit , excellence , superiority (in comp. often = excellent , superior , choice , distinguished)

jaatau = loc. sg. jaati: f. birth, production ; re-birth
jaati-kShay'-aiShiNaH (gen. sg. m.): seeking the end of re-birth
jaati: f. birth, production ; re-birth
kShaya: m. loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away ; end, termination
eShin: mfn. (generally ifc.(fr. √3. iSh)) going after , seeking , striving for , desiring
√iSh: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for

s' aacalaaH (nom. sg. f.): having mountains, mountainous
sa-: (possessive prefix) with
acala: mfn. not moving , immovable ; m. a mountain , rock
pracacaala = 3rd pers. sg. perfect pra- √ cal: to be set in motion , tremble , quake
urvii (nom. sg.): f. (cf. uru) , " the wide one " , the wide earth , earth , soil
uru: mfn. wide , broad , spacious , extended , great

taraMg'-aabhihataa (nom. sg. f.): struck by a wave, battered by waves
taraMga: m. (fr. taram ind. √ tRR) " across-goer " , a wave , billow
abhihata: mfn. struck , smitten ; attacked ; beaten
iva: like
nauH (nom. sg.): f. a ship , boat , vessel

Friday, July 30, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.51: Wealth & Dharma

taM vinirdidishuH shrutvaa
svapnaM svapna-vido dvijaaH
tasya janma kumaarasya

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

When they heard this dream,

Brahmins who knew dreams predicted

The birth of a prince

Who would bring honour,
through wealth or through dharma.

The difficulty in translating this verse is understanding the relation between the first three of the four elements of the compound which makes up line 4.

EHJ understood that the prince would possess the glory (yashas) of two elements -- majesty (lakShmii) and righteousness (dharma).

LC understood that the prince would bear three elements -- honour (yashas), majesty (lakShmii) and dharma (dharma).

The legend as I heard it was that the brahmins predicted that the prince would do great things EITHER in the area of worldly accomplishment, wealth-creation, empire-building et cetera (lakShmii) OR in the area of philosophical discovery, pursuit of truth, religion, et cetera (dharma). So, provisionally, I have translated line 4 in accordance with this tradition, understanding that the prince would bring honour (yashas), either through wealth-creation/wordly success (lakShmii) or through dharma (dharma).

If we dig for relevance to Zen practice, the relevance might be in the relation between creating wealth and seeking truth, or, more specifically between making money and practising sitting-dhyana.

So how should we see this relation between wealth and dharma? Should we see the two kinds of pursuit as compatible or as mutually exclusive? Is the point to form and uphold a definitive view about it? Is the point to be like an empty mug into which some full jug can deposit all his views for posterity, thereby ensuring that his Buddhist idea survives him? Is the point to work as an individual towards one's own realisation of the Buddha-Dharma which is the dropping off of one's own views around wealth and dharma?

Canto 5 of Saundarananda, which describes how the Buddha causes Nanda reluctantly to go forth into the life of a beggar, should allow plenty of opportunity to consider these questions at length, rather than jumping to a conclusion on the basis of feelings that are liable to be faulty.

EH Johnston:
The Brahmans, skilled in the interpretation of dreams, hearing of this dream, explained it as foreshadowing the birth of the prince who would be possessed of the glory of majesty and righteousness.

Linda Covill:
When brahmins versed in dreams heard about this dream, they foretold the birth of a prince, a bearer of honour, majesty and dharma.

tam (acc. sg. m.): that [dream]
vinirdidishuH = 3rd pers. pl. perfect vi-nir- √ dish: to point out , indicate , state , declare ; to announce , proclaim ; to determine , resolve , fix upon
shrutvaa = abs. shru: to hear, learn of

svapnam (acc. sg.): m. sleep, dream
svapna-vidaH (nom. pl. m.): dream-knowers
svapna: dream
vid: mfn. knowing , understanding , a knower (mostly ifc.)
dvijaaH (nom. pl.): "twice-born"; m. a man of any one of the first 3 classes , any Aryan , (esp.) a Brahman (re-born through investiture with the sacred thread)

tasya (gen. sg.): of him, of the [prince]
janma = acc. sg. janman: n. birth
kumaarasya (gen. sg.): m. a child , boy , youth ;a prince , heir-apparent associated in the kingdom with the reigning monarch

lakShmii-dharma-yasho-bhRtaH (gen. sg. m.): a bringer of honour through wealth or dharma
lakShmii: f. a mark , sign , token ; a good sign , good fortune , prosperity , success , happiness ; wealth , riches ; beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre
dharma: m. dharma, duty, law, etc.
yashas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame , renown
bhRt: mfn. bearing , carrying , bringing , procuring , possessing , wearing , having , nourishing , supporting , maintaining (only ifc.; e.g. dharma-bhRt m. " law-supporter " , N. of princes and other men)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.50: When Sperm Met Egg, and Conception Coincided with Dream

svapne 'tha samaye garbham
aavishantaM dadarsha saa
ShaD-dantaM vaaraNaM shvetam
airaavatam iv' aujasaa

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

And so, in a concurrently-conceived dream,

She saw entering her womb

A white six-tusked elephant,

Mighty as Airavata.

The key word in this verse, as I read it, is samaye, which literally means "in a coming together," or "in the coincidence [of two factors]"; and by extension "at the proper time."

The relevance to those of us who sit is that just as the fundamental point of sitting is the union of two factors, namely, body and mind, so also samaye expresses the union or concurrence of two factors -- appropriate time in the queen's menstrual cycle and sex between queen and king; the physical fact of the Buddha's conception and the mental phenomena of the queen's dream; male sperm and female egg; giver and receiver.

Because the essence of sitting-dhyana is spontaneously to become one piece, we do not state in the sing-song manner of the holistic hairdresser that "body and mind are one."

But body and mind are, from the beginning, one. And for that reason, we understand that the physical fact of the Buddha's life and the mental phenomena of the queen's dream were conceived samaye, in a coming together, or concurrently.

For the same reason, the notion of an 'immaculate' conception, along with faith in life after death, we leave to the whacko religious fringe.

EH Johnston:
Then at the due season she saw in a dream a white six-tusked elephant, mighty as Airavata, enter her womb.

Linda Covill:
She in due course saw in her sleep a six-tusked white elephant, mighty as Airavata, entering her womb.

svapne (loc. sg.): m. sleep, sleeping; a dream, dreaming
atha: then
samaye (loc. sg./ ind.): at the appointed time or at the right moment or in good time for
samaya: m. coming together, meeting; intercourse with (instr.); appointed or proper time , right moment for doing anything, opportunity , occasion , time , season;
garbham (acc. sg.): m. the womb

aavishantam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. aa- √ vish: to go or drive in or towards ; to approach, enter ; to take possession of
dadarsha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect dRsh: to see
saa (nom. sg.): f. she

ShaD-dantam (acc. sg.): six-tusked
ShaSh: six
danta: m. an elephant's tusk
vaaraNam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. warding off , restraining , resisting ; m. an elephant (from its power of resistance)
shvetam (acc. sg. m.): white

airaavatam (acc. sg.): m. " produced from the ocean " , N. of indra's elephant (considered as the prototype of the elephant race and the supporter of the east quarter)

iva: like
ojasaa = inst. sg. ojas: n. bodily strength , vigour , energy , ability , power

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.49: Divine Virtues of the Non-Buddhist Queen -- A Bit of Nothing

tasya devii nR-devasya
maayaa naama tad aabhavat
maay" eva divi devataa

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

That man-god at that time had a goddess,

A queen whose name was Maya;

She was as devoid of anger, darkness
and the maya which is deceit

As was the Maya among gods in heaven.

How devoid of anger, darkness and deceit was the Maya among gods in heaven?

The first answer that springs to mind is: totally devoid -- either because of the virtue attributed to Goddess Maya, aka Durgaa, "the inaccessible goddess," wife of Shiva, famed for her ability not to become angry in spiritual battles; or because neither Maya as a goddess nor maya as deceit has ever really existed, among gods in heaven, at all.

Either way, this verse seems to be praising the Buddha's mother not for the presence of something in her but for the absence of something; namely, anger, darkness and deceit. So this seems to be one of many verses in Saundarananda that sings the praises of a bit of nothing.

That is the main way this verse, as I read it, is relevant to us who sit: because it reminds us that the fundamental point of just sitting is not to be like the monk of the fourth dhyana who, having successfully said no to the first, second, and third stages of sitting-meditation, neglected to progress (or regress) further and cut the upper fetter of pride. Today's verse reminds us that the ultimate point of sitting is not to get something we can be proud of, but to get rid of everything and experience a bit of nothing.

A secondary issue, raised by three appearances of god-related words, viz. devii (goddess, queen), nR-deva (man-god, king) and devataa (Goddess / among the gods), is the general question of how to deal with gods.

Ashvagosha's attitude to the Tushita gods is probably more liberal, tolerant, and permissive than my own attitude would tend to be.

But this verse causes me to reflect that no god in the history of humanity has ever done anybody any harm. It is the reactions of people like me to the idea of a god that do the harm.

Gods in heaven do not have faults, living beings down here on earth do. And that may be why being a bodhisattva (bodhisattvaH), and working to cross over living beings, inevitably entails, again and again and again, coming down to earth (kShitiM vrajan).

Human beings here on earth, out of self-conceit and self-deceit, are ever prone to make statements like "There is no me in me. There is only Dharma in me"; or like "That and that Alexander teacher had their blind spots. [Whereas I do not seem to have a blind spot]."

In the end, whether a goddess named Maya exists in heaven, or whether the deceit/illusion called maya exists in heaven, I do not know. I strongly suspect not. I strongly suspect that the whole idea of gods in heaven is nothing but a human deceit. In the end, what do any of us truly know about gods in heaven? But what is not in doubt is that human beings here on earth lie to ourselves.

If Ashvaghosha is, as he seems to be, portraying the Buddha's mother as free from that tendency, then he is portraying her as a very rare person indeed.

EH Johnston:
That godlike king had at that time a queen named Maya, who like the goddess Maya in Heaven was devoid of the vices of anger, ignorance and deceit.

Linda Covill:
The king had at that time a queen named Maya, free from anger, mental darkness and duplicity, like the goddess Maya in heaven.

tasya (gen. sg. m.): of him, of that [king]
devii (nom. sg.): f. a female deity , goddess ; queen , princess lady (the consecrated wife or daughter of a king , but also any woman of high rank)
nR-devasya = gen. sg. nR-deva: m. " man-god " , a king

maayaa (nom. sg.): f. art , wisdom , extraordinary or supernatural power (only in the earlier language); f. illusion , unreality , deception , fraud , trick , sorcery , witchcraft, magic; an unreal or illusory image , phantom , apparition ; N. of the mother of gautama buddha ; duplicity (with Buddhists one of the 24 minor evil passions)
naama: ind. by name
tad: ind. there, then, at that time
aabhavat = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhuu: to be, have

viita-krodha-tamo-maayaa (nom. sg. f.): free of anger, darkness and trickery
viita: mfn. gone away , departed , disappeared , vanished , lost (often ibc. = free or exempt from , without , -less)
krodha: m. anger , wrath , passion
tamas: n. darkness , gloom; mental darkness , ignorance
maayaa: f. illusion, deceit, trickery

maayaa (nom. sg.): f. Illusion personified (sometimes identified with durgaa -- daughter of himavat and wife of shiva)
iva: like
divi = loc. sg. div: f. heaven, the sky
devataa (nom. sg.): f. godhead , divinity (abstr. & concr.) ; image of a deity , idol ; ind. with divinity i.e. with a god (gods) or among the gods

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.48: Bodhisattva, Coming Down to Earth

devebhyas tuShitebhyo' tha
bodhisattvaH kShitiM vrajan
upapattiM praNidadhe
kule tasya mahii-pateH

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

Then rather than among Tushita gods

The bodhisattva, coming down to earth,

Put down birth-roots

In the family of that earth-lord.

Tushita gods do not really exist, have never really existed, and never will exist, except as an idea in people's minds. The reason we have the words "Tushita gods" is only that the idea of Tushita gods occured as an idea in the mind of some ancient Indian geezer.

bodhisattvaH kShitiM vrajan,
"being a bodhisattva, coming down to earth," invariably involves giving up such an idea.

Thus, in the same way that "dharma-essences, moving" in the previous verse can be understood as a kind of definition of what the essence of dharma is, "bodhisattva, coming down to earth" can be understood as a kind of definition of the fundamental direction of a bodhisattva, a "Bodhi being" or a "being-in-Bodhi" -- one who is a work in progress in the process of awakening.

At the beginning of practice every morning, having placed our backsides upon a round cushion and knees on the floor, our minds are invariably cluttered with thoughts, ideas, impressions, dreams, fantasies, reflections. To give these up in favour of the one-pointedness of attention to posture and breathing is, as I understand the phrase, the most fundamental meaning of kShitiM vrajan, "coming down to earth," or "becoming earth."

A point which I understood from my time in Japan, and which was explicitly confirmed by Alexander work, is that when I attend in sitting to posture and breathing, breathing cannot be primary; breathing must be secondary. What is primary is a kind of movement, a non-fixing. If, following the previous verse, we accept that the essence of Dharma is movement, then what is primary might be called the original Buddha-Dharma. Alexander in his early writings called it "the true and primary movement in every act."

EH Johnston:
Then the Bodhisattva, descending to earth from among the Tusita gods, decided to become incarnate in the family of that monarch.

Linda Covill:
The bodhisattva then proceeded from the Tushita gods to earth, resolving to take birth in the family of the king.

devebhyaH = abl. pl. deva: m. deity, god
tuShitebhyaH = abl. pl. tuShita: m. pl. a class of celestial beings
atha: ind. and so, then

bodhisattvaH (nom. sg.): m. " one whose essence is perfect knowledge " , one who is on the way to the attainment of perfect knowledge (i.e. a Buddhist saint when he has only one birth to undergo before obtaining the state of a supreme buddha and then nirvaaNa) ; N. of the principal buddha of the present era (before he became a buddha)
bodhi: m. the awakened mind of a buddha
sattva: n. being , existence , entity , reality ; true essence , nature , disposition of mind , character
kShitim (acc. sg.): f. dominion; an abode , dwelling , habitation , house ; the earth , soil of the earth ;
vrajan = nom. sg. m. pres. part vraj: to go , walk , proceed , travel , wander , move ; to undergo , go to any state or condition , obtain , attain to , become (esp. with acc. of an abstract noun)

upapattim (acc. sg.): f. happening , occurring , becoming visible , appearing , taking place , production , effecting , accomplishing ; (also) origin, birth ; use, employment,
praNidadhe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect pra-Ni- √ dhaa: to place in front , cause to precede ; to put down , deposit ; to put on , apply

kule (loc. sg.): in the family
tasya (gen. sg. m.): of him, of that
mahii-pateH (gen. sg.): m. " earth-lord " , a king , sovereign
mahii: f. " the great world " , the earth
pati: m. lord, ruler, sovereign

Monday, July 26, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.47: Essences of Dharma, Moving

dharm'-aatmaanash carantas te
dharma-jijNaasayaa jagat
dadRshus taM visheSheNa
dharm'-aatmaanaM nar'-aadhipaM

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

Those essences of dharma, moving,

With the desire to know dharma, over the earth,

Saw that leader of men

Whose essence was particularly given over to dharma.

"Change" FM Alexander said "is the ultimate reality."

FM Alexander also said: "You all fix."

I certainly do. And having been awakened at least partially by Alexander work to this fixing tendency, I know that FM Alexander really knew, in this area of changing and fixing, what he was talking about.

In this and the previous verse the word dharma appears five times, and words from the root car, to move, appear three times.

Starting from the prejudice that there are no lame verses in Saundarananda, and reflecting on what Ashvaghosha is really saying here on the basis of my own mainly stupidly unconscious, sometimes semi-conscious and very rarely conscious life, I think there is something in the juxtaposition of five dharmas and three movings. So I will change yesterday's verse accordingly, so as to retain the words "moved" and "movements," and I have translated the first line of today's verse so as to retain the sense that carantaH, "moving," is not only a description of the action of some supernatural beings in an ancient legend but also an expression of the essence of dharma here and now, in this ultimate reality, which is change....

... they whose essence is moving,
with the desire to know moving,
are moving...

Does it make sense? To FM Alexander I think it might have made sense.

EH Johnston:
As they whose very natures were informed with righteousness wandered over the world to enquire about its righteousness, they saw that king whose nature was righteous in such a high degree.

Linda Covill:
Moving over the earth with a wish to know its dharma, the dharma-beings saw this king whose nature was particularly given to dharma.

dharm'-aatmaanaH (nom. pl. m.): they whose essence was dharma
dharma: m. dharma, the law, etc.
aatmaan: m. breath, soul; essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karmaatman , one whose character is action , endowed with principles of action , active , acting)
carantaH = nom. pl. m. pres. participle car: to move one's self , go , walk , move , stir , roam about , wander
te (nom. pl. m.): they

dharma-jijNaasayaa (inst. sg. f.): with the desire of knowing/investigating dharma
dharma: m. dharma, the law, etc.
jijNaasaa: n. desire of knowing , investigation
jagat (acc. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive ; n. the world , esp. this world , earth

dadRshur = 3rd pers. pl. perfect dRsh: to see, behold, notice
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
visheSheNa (ind.): exceedingly , especially , particularly

dharm'-aatmaanam (acc. sg. m.): he whose essence was dharma
dharma: m. dharma, the law, etc.
aatmaan: m. breath, soul; essence , nature , character , peculiarity
nar'-aadhipam (acc. sg. m.): king
nara: m. man, hero
adhipa: m. a ruler , commander , regent , king.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.46: Scouting for Actual Dharma-Happenings

atha tasmin tathaa kaale
dharma-kaamaa divaukasaH
vicerur dishi lokasya
dharma-caryaa didRkShavaH

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

Now at that time

Dharma-loving denizens of the heavens

Moved into the orbit of the human world,

Wishing to investigate dharma movements.

Dharma-loving denizens of the heavens could mean beings that naturally belong to the sky, like birds and bees, or supernatural beings whose existence is imagined, on the firm basis of unshakeable belief in cause and effect. In the latter case the expression, as I read it, is not to be taken literally but as belonging to the poetic portrayal of a legend which posits a causal basis in the practice of dharma for the birth of the King of Dharma.

In line 4 EHJ queried the addition of M to dharma-caryaa, and LC added the M, so that the singular object is dharma in action, or actual practice of dharma. I have gone zith EHJ's original, which makes the object plural -- "dharma goings-on." Either way, the point might be that the dharma-loving denizens of the heavens were not interested in human views on dharma or human discussion about dharma: they were on the lookout for real instances of dharma, in movement or in non-movement.

EH Johnston:
Now at that time the inhabitants of Heaven, being lovers of righteousness and desirous of seeing its practice, passed over the regions of the world.

Linda Covill:
Now at that time the dharma-loving denizens of heaven, hoping to see dharma in action, traversed the world in all directions.

atha: (ind.) now, and so, etc.
tasmin (loc. sg.): that
tathaa: so, thus
kaale (loc. sg.): time

dharma-kaamaaH (nom. pl. m.): dharma-loving
divaukasaH = nom. pl. divaukas: m. " sky-dweller " , a deity ; a planet ; a bee ; an elephant

vicerur = 3rd pers. pl. vi- √ car : to move in different directions , spread , expand , be diffused ; to rove , ramble about or through , traverse , pervade ; to sally forth , march against , make an attack or assault ; to stand or be situated in (loc. ; applied to heavenly bodies)
dishi = loc. sg. dish: f. quarter or region pointed at , direction (dishi , dishi , in all directions , everywhere)
lokasya = gen. sg. loka: m. intermediate space ; a tract , region , district , country , province ; the wide space or world ; the earth or world of human beings

dharma-caryaaH (acc. pl. f.): dharma-goings-on; instances of dharma in motion
dharma: dharma
caryaa: f. going about , wandering , walking or roaming about , visiting , driving
carya: n. (often ifc.) proceeding , behaviour , conduct
didRkShavaH = nom. pl. m. didRkShu: mfn. wishing to examine or try ; desiring to see

Saturday, July 24, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.45: An Unshackled State of Grace

evam-aadibhir a-tyakto
babhuuv' aa-sulabhair guNaiH
shaakya-raajaH sa shakra-vat

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

Not eschewed by such

Uncommon virtues as these

Was he who on no side could be shackled --

The unshackleable Shakya King, like Shakra.

shakra-vat, "like Shakra," means like Indra, king of the gods in ancient Indian mythology.

But the primary function of this verse is to round off, in a poetically pleasing manner, the long list of the king's virtues.

Hence the euphonic combination of...
a-shakya: impossible
shakya: to be subdued, shackled
shaakya: Shakya
shakra: Indra

The style of expression of the verse, as I read it, suggests that virtues are not forced into being but rather that they grace a person.

EH Johnston:
This invincible king of the Shakyas, to whom the vassal princes were submissive, was endowed like Shakra with these and other rare virtues.

Linda Covill:
Never deficient in rare qualities such as these was that king of the Shakyas, who with his capable feudatories was as unconquerable as Indra.

evam: such
aadibhiH (inst. pl.): beginning with, etc., and so on
a-tyaktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not left , not abandoned , not parted from
tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to give up , surrender , resign , part from , renounce

babhuuva = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhuu: to be
a-sulabhaiH (inst. pl. m.): mfn. difficult of attainment , rare
su-labha: mfn. easy to be obtained or effected , easily accessible or attainable , feasible , easy , common , trivial
guNaiH (inst. pl.): m. virtue, good quality

a-shakya: mfn. impossible , impractible ; not to be overcome , invincible
shakya: mfn. able , possible , practicable , capable of being; to be conquered or subdued , liable to be compelled to
saamantaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. sam-anta) being on all sides ; bordering , limiting ; m. a neighbour ; m. a vassal , feudatory prince , the chief of a district (paying tribute to a lord paramount) ; m. a leader , general , captain , champion
sam: (expresses joining or union)
anta: limit, boundary

shaakya-raajaH (nom. sg. m.): the Shakya King
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
shakra-vat (adverbial comparative): like Shakra
shakra: mfn. strong , powerful , mighty (applied to various gods , but esp. to indra) ; m. N. of indra
-vat: (adverbial suffix) like

Friday, July 23, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.44: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- A Man of Balance, Mindful of A Non-Verbal Dharma

ten' aapaayi yathaa-kalpaM
somash ca yasha eva ca
vedash c' aamnaayi satataM
ved'-okto dharma eva ca

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

He drank and guarded, as prescribed,

The soma and his honour;

And he was constantly mindful of the vedas

As well as the dharma proclaimed in the vedas.

As the final verse in the long series of 44 verses ostensibly praising the virtues of the non-Buddhist king, this verse can be assumed to have buried in it centrally important meaning. Let us dig.

As a starting point, I think that in the first half of this verse, the pun on the root √paa, which means to drink when its object is the soma juice and to guard when its object is honour, might be intended to suggest something double-sided -- like the dual function of the autonomic nervous system, or like the functions of inhibition and excitation in the central nervous system.

Again, while yathaa-kalpam generally means "according to the rule," a second meaning of kalpa is "one of two sides of an argument." Is there a hint in yatha-kalpam that Ashvaghosha was playing with the idea of balancing opposites -- as opposites are balanced in a man who is able not only to enjoy a cool drink on a hot moonlit night, but also, when occasion demands, to mobilize energy vigorously?

The second half of the verse is the final link in a long chain of verses in this Canto that, in one way or another, have praised the king's dutiful devotion to a non-Buddhist dharma. The impression conveyed is that among many great virtues of the king, his being constantly mindful of his dharma itself -- and not only its verbal documentation in a book of knowledge -- is the virtue that deserves to have the last word accorded to it.

In his original Sanskrit text EHJ gives the third line as vedash c' aamn' aapi satataM, and in a footnote cites as an alternative vedash c' aamnaayi satataM. LC goes with the latter reading, which is from the paper manuscript, as opposed to the palm leaf manuscript upon which EHJ's text is primarily based.

Such technical issues of translation can't be avoided, but focusing on them too much, with a scholar's mind, carries with it the risk of getting bogged down in minutiae and forgetting that Ashvaghosha is a buddha-ancestor for whom the paramount thing is the Buddha's dharma of liberation. And what that means, for a start, is placing one's backside on a round black cushion.

So in this verse, as I read it, Ashvaghosha is indirectly reminding me, even in reading verses that are ostensibly about a non-Buddhist king serving his non-Buddhist dharma, to be mindful of my own non-buddha dharma.

It is 32 years since I first took a formal bow in a karate-do dojo, 28 years since I began daily practice of sitting-dhyana, and 16 years since I got into Alexander work. If I have learnt anything it is that the dharma worth pursuing is not the dharma of trying to be right, and it is not the dharma of getting the body out that is described in Fukan-zazengi: it is the dharma of getting the body out on my own round cushion.

I would like to emphasize, primarily for my own benefit, because I am easily prone to forget, the very large gulf that exists between the dharma of trying to be right and the dharma of getting the body out. There is no middle way between them. If a little bit of trying to be right creeps in, the dharma of getting the body out is well and truly ... erm... let's say scuppered.

So this, as I read it, is the real point of this verse -- to remind the reader or the listener, indirectly, perhaps below the level of his conscious mind, not only to mind the words about dharma but also to mind the dharma that the words are proclaiming. And what Ashvaghosha's words are proclaiming is not the religious dharma proclaimed in the vedas, not the regimented professional dharma of the Japanese Soto Sect and its foreign affiliates, not the philosophical dharma of true Buddhism proclaimed by Gudo Nishijima...

No, I sit on a zafu, and after a while begin to say "Not that!" and thus begins the dharma of getting this body out of the area bounded by the seriously faulty sensory appreciation of one real individual.

My tentative conclusion then, is that today's verse presages the very last verse of Saundarananda, which translates something like this:

Seeing, in general, that the world has as its paramount object
the enjoyment of sensual pleasures, and is repelled by liberation,

I, for whom liberation is paramount,
have here in the guise of poetry told the truth of what is.

Being aware of that,
take from this work that which pertains to peace,
and not to idle pleasure.

It is dust born from original elements, inevitably,
that yields serviceable gold.

EH Johnston:
He drank soma according to the ritual and guarded his fame as was fitting ; and he continually repeated the Vedas and observed the law laid down in them.

Linda Covill:
He drank soma juice in conformity with ritual and took care of his good name, with constant recall of the Vedas and also of the dharma as directed by the Vedas.

tena (inst. sg.): by him
apaayi = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive paa: (1) to drink; (2) to watch, keep, preserve
yathaa-kalpam: ind. in accordance with the sacred precept / prescription; as prescribed; as each of two opposing sides (?)
yathaa: ind. as ; according to what is right , properly , correctly
kalpa: m. a sacred precept , law , rule , ordinance (= vidhi , nyaaya) , manner of acting , proceeding , practice (esp. that prescribed by the vedas) ; m. one of two cases , one side of an argument , an alternative; m. (in medic.) treatment of the sick , manner of curing ; m. the art of preparing medicine , pharmacy ; m. the doctrine of poisons and antidotes

somaH (nom. sg.): m. the soma juice
ca: and
yashaH (nom. sg.): n. beautiful appearance ; honour , glory , fame , renown
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

vedaH (nom. sg. m.): m. (fr. √1. vid) knowledge , true or sacred knowledge or lore , knowledge of ritual ; the vedas
ca: and
aamnaayi = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive aa-√mnaa: to utter , mention , allege ; to cite , quote ; to commit to memory , hand down in sacred texts ; to celebrate
satatam: ind. constantly , always , ever

ved'-oktaH (nom. sg. m.): said in the vedas
veda: m. knowledge; the vedas
ukta: mfn. (p.p. of √ vac) , uttered , said , spoken
dharmaH (nom. sg.): m. dharma, what is laid down, the law, etc.
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

Thursday, July 22, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.43: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Stepping Into Action

na ten' aadarshi viShamaM
kaaryaM kva cana kiM cana
vipriya-priyayoH kRtye
na ten' aagaami nikriyaaH

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

He was never seen to do shoddily

Anything anywhere that was to be done;

When required by friend and non-friend to act

He, by these means, did not fall into inaction.

This verse, as I read it, is about action. Beneath the surface, the verse can be read as pointing to the action of just sitting as the manifestation of a bodhisattva's bodhi-mind; i.e. the will to lead others (whether friends or non-friends) across to the far shore of the Buddha's enlightenment.

In a note to his Sanskrit text, EHJ says that nikriyaaH means deceitfulness or baseness, and states that vikriyaaH (transformation, change) makes better sense.

In a subsequent note to his English translation EHJ adds, "If we read vikriyaaH, the meaning is 'he underwent no change of feeling (i.e. was not affected by personal feelings) in dealing with people he liked or disliked.'"

While the point about transcending personal feelings is clearly relevant, my sense is that, with the three words from the root kR (to do, make, or act -- viz. kaaryam, kRtye, and ni-kriyaaH), Ashvagosha is moving the discussion along, from non-emotion into the area of action itself.

This movement might be said to be a movement from the Theravada emphasis on maintaining the pure standards of a monk to the Mahayana emphasis on working for others in the world. If seen as such, I would compare it to the movement of a vehicle in space and time, and not to a movement from one vehicle to another. When scholars discuss this and that Buddhist school, they always seem to me to be speaking as if from outside the vehicle. But the only way to know what Ashvaghosha is talking about, if you ask me, is from inside the vehicle itself. The vehicle is the one-buddha-vehicle, and it is ridden only by people who sit, not by scholars.

Encouragement, beyond a certain point, to stop worrying and get the fuck on with it, is something I have received (though not in so many words) both as a Zen student in Japan and as an Alexander student in England.

For example: In the process of teaching me how as an Alexander teacher to work on myself, Marjory Barlow, as I described in this article, seemed to wish to see evidence of an exclusively mental activity whereby I gave up the idea of moving a leg, in order to thwart the power of my faulty sense of self. Marjory emphasized that Alexander work is the most mental thing there is, an exercise in finding out what thinking is. And yet she always seemed to withhold praise for whatever preparatory thinking I had been doing until I actually got round to the physical action of moving a leg.

Marjory quoted her husband and fellow protege of FM Alexander, Wilfred Barlow, who noted a tendency among some Alexander teachers to confuse the practice of non-doing with inaction, or what he called "nothing doing."

FM Alexander used to say "The secret is in the preparation"; but he also used to say "We get it in movement."

Thus, because in the Buddha's teaching also we get it in movement, the point of this verse as I read it, as also the title of Canto 14, is Stepping Into Action.

EH Johnston:
No unfitting action was observed in him on any occasion, nor did he stoop to any baseness in the affairs of either adversary or friend.

Linda Covill:
Under no circumstance was any kind of irregularity observed in him; and in his obligations to either friend or enemy he never resorted to deceit.

na: not
tena (inst. sg.): by him
adarshi = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive dRsh: to see, observe
viShamam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. vi + sama) uneven , rugged , rough ; unequal , irregular , dissimilar , different , inconstant ; hard to traverse , difficult , inconvenient , painful , dangerous , adverse , vexatious , disagreeable , terrible , bad , wicked ; unsuitable , wrong ; unfair , dishonest , partial

kaaryam (nom. sg.): n. work or business to be done , duty , affair ; occupation , matter , thing ; n. conduct , deportment
kva cana: anywhere
kiM cana: in any way, at all

vipriya-priyayoH (gen. dual): of non-friend and friend; of disliked and liked
vipriya: mfn. disaffected , estranged; disagreeable , unpleasant ; n. (also pl.) anything unpleasant or hateful , offence , transgression
priya: mfn. beloved , dear to (gen. loc. dat. or comp.) , liked; m. a friend
kRtye = loc. sg. kRtya: n. what ought to be done , what is proper or fit , duty , office ; n. action , business , performance , service ; n. purpose , end , object , motive , cause

na: not
tena (inst. sg.): by him
tena: ind. (inst. tad) by those means, in that manner
agaami = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive gam: to go; to go to any state or condition (passive gamyate , " to be understood or meant ")
nikriyaaH (nom./acc. pl.): f. deceitfulness, baseness [EHJ]
vikriyaa: f. transformation , change , modification , altered or unnatural condition ; change for the worse , deterioration , disfigurement , deformity ; ailment , indisposition , affection ; perturbation , agitation , perplexity ; hostile feeling , rebellion , defection , alienation ; injury , harm , failure , misadventure (acc. with √ yaa , to suffer injury , undergo failure)
kriyaa: f. doing , performing , performance , occupation with (in comp.) , business , act , action , undertaking , activity , work , labour
ni: ind. down , back , in , into , within (always prefixed either to verbs or to nouns ; in the latter case it has also the meaning of negation or privation [cf. " down-hearted " = heartless] ; sometimes wrong reading for nis)
niSh-kriya: n. " the actionless One " , the Supreme Spirit

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.42: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Freedom from Rules through Non-Enslavement to the Power of the Senses

na ten' aabhedi maryaadaa
kaamaad dveShaad bhayaad api
tena satsv api bhogeShu
n' aasev' iindriya-vRttitaa

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

No rule did he break,

Out of love, hate, or fear;

Thus, even while abiding in pleasurable circumstances,

He did not remain in thrall to the power of the senses.

The first half of this verse can be read as meaning that the king, because of having bamboo pipes for nostrils and black beads for eyeballs, never broke any rule.

An alternative reading, and one that fits well with the second half of the verse as I read it, is that the king never broke any rule out of love, hate or fear... but he might have broken the odd rule in the absence of love, hate or fear. In other words, insofar as he resided on the plane of conscious control the king was free, as buddha, to break any rule that he deemed fit to break.

When a person's sensory appreciation is faulty, as in most of us it is, then the idea that it is bad to break a rule ties us to that faulty sensory appreciation. In that case it is necessary to give up the idea that it is bad to break a rule in order to truly be free not to break the rule.

Truly to be free is to be released from the prison of unconscious emotional reactions to stimuli received through the dirty filter of faulty sensory appreciation. And the key to this release is the giving up of an end-gaining idea. Thus, because truly to be free means, primarily, being liberated from the power of the senses, the title of Canto 13 is Thwarting the Power of the Senses through the Practice of Integrity. And because everything depends on giving up an end-gaining idea, the title of Canto 15 is Giving Up an Idea.

EH Johnston:
He never offended against the rules of propriety from passion, hatred or fear, and did not indulge his senses, though possessed of the objects of enjoyment.

Linda Covill:
He transgressed no moral boundary, whether out of desire, hatred or fear, and though pleasures were available to him, he did not cultivate sensuality.

na: not
tena (inst. sg.): by him
abhedi = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive bhid: to split , cleave , break , cut or rend asunder , pierce , destroy ; to transgress , violate , (a compact or alliance)
maryaadaa (nom. sg.): f. " giving or containing clear marks or signs " , a frontier , limit , boundary , border , bank , shore , mark , end , extreme point , goal (in space and time); the bounds or limits of morality and propriety , rule or custom , distinct law or definition ; a covenant , agreement , bond , contract
maryaa: f. (perhaps orig. something clear or shining ; cf. mariici and marut) a mark , limit , boundary

kaamaat (abl. sg.): out of love
dveShaat (abl. sg.): out of hate
bhayaat (abl. sg.): out of fear
api: also

tena (inst. sg.): by him
tena: ind. (instr. of ta) in that manner , thus; on that account , for that reason , therefore
satsu = loc. pl. m. sat: mfn. (pr. p. of √as) being, actual, good ; abiding in (loc.)
api: even
bhogeShu: m. ( √3. bhuj) enjoyment , eating , feeding on ; use , application ; sexual enjoyment ; enjoyment of the earth or of a country i.e. rule , sway ; experiencing , feeling , perception (of pleasure or pain) ; profit , utility , advantage , pleasure , delight ; any object of enjoyment (as food , a festival &c )
√3. bhuj: to enjoy , use , possess , (esp.) enjoy a meal , eat

na: not
asevi = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive sev: to remain or stay at , live in , frequent , haunt , inhabit , resort to (acc.) ; to enjoy sexually ; to devote or apply one's self to , cultivate , study , practise , use , employ , perform , do
indriya-vRttitaa (nom. sg. f.): being occupied with the senses
indriya: n. power of the senses ; senses ; sense-organs
vRtti: f. rolling; mode of life or conduct , course of action , behaviour , (esp.) moral conduct ; practice , business , devotion or addiction to , occupation with (often ifc. " employed about " , " engaged in " , " practising ")
-taa: (abstract noun suffix)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.41: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Devotion to a Work in Progress

ten' aarir api duHkh' aarto
n' aatyaaji sharaN'-aagataH
jitvaa dRptaan api ripuun
na ten' aakaari vismayaH

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

He did not shun the pain-afflicted
even when there was hostility,

Once refuge had been taken;

And having conquered his enemies, the conceited,

He did not become proud on that account.

I have tried to translate duHkh' aartaH ("pain-afflicted") in the first line so that, in addition to conveying the overt meaning of a man afflicted by suffering, the translation might suggest the gist expressed by Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 50, Shoho-jisso; All Things Are Real Form. "All Things" includes our most painful experiences -- even those experiences accompanied by out and out hostility. So duHkh' aartaH "one beset by suffering" or "the pain-afflicted," as I understand the phrase, might mean not only a person who sought the king's protection but also an event in the life of a person who has taken refuge in the Buddha's teaching. duHkh' aartaH, "the pain-afflicted," then, might mean one moment of acute embarrassment, one angry outburst, a night of pain, an hour of shame, or a shameful tendency.

In that case "not shunning" in tena n' aatyaaji, lit. "[he/it] was not shunned by him," might correspond to what is sometimes called in modern psychological parlance "owning" -- i.e. not denying, not trying to brush under the carpet -- some unsatisfactory emotion or experience.

Speaking of a night of pain, there is a very good description by Marjory Barlow in her book "An Examined Life" of a night in which she decided to stop shunning pain, as a result of which a shoulder pain that had beleaguered her on and off for years became almost unbearable and then evaporated, and thereafter did not trouble her again. She concludes the section by commenting "And it doesn't have to be a pain in the shoulder. It can be a pain in the heart." (I have quoted the story elsewhere on the net, but I can't find it.)

In addition to the overt meaning of today's verse as a description of a dutiful royal protector of his people, both halves of the verse, as I read them, relate to non-endgaining; or, in other words, devotion to a process. The first half of the verse suggests the fact that once we have committed ourselves truly to the process, all is grist to the mill -- even to turn one's back on the truth, as Dogen put it, is just the truth. And the second half of the verse suggests the fact that if we ever think we have come to the end of the process, that thought is very likely to prove to have been a false thought, rooted in the end-gaining mind.

The classic example of such conceited end-gaining is the mistake of the monk who mistook the fourth dhyana for final enlightenment, as recounted by Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 90, Shizen-biku. And there are perhaps shades of that mistake in Nanda's aspirational attitude in 17.56: Consequently, relying on the fourth stage of meditation, / He made up his mind to win the worthy state, / Like a king joining forces with a strong and noble ally / And then aspiring to conquer unconquered lands. / [17.56] Then he cut the five upper fetters: / With the sword of intuitive wisdom, wielded by directed thought, / He completely severed the five aspirational fetters, / Which are bound up with superiority, and tied to the first person. [17.57]

EH Johnston:
He did not refuse help to anyone who was in trouble and came to him for refuge, not even if he was his enemy, nor did he become arrogant on conquering his foes, however insolent they might be.

Linda Covill:
Even an enemy in trouble who came to him for help would not be turned away; and he did not become proud, though he conquered arrogant enemies.

tena (inst. sg.): by him
ariH (nom. sg.): mfn. ( √ R) , attached to faithful ; m. a faithful or devoted or pious man ; mfn. not liberal , envious , hostile; m. an enemy
√ R : to go , move , rise , tend upwards

api: even
duHkh' aartaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. visited by pain , distressed
duHkha: n. pain, suffering, hardship, trouble, distress
aarta: mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed

na: not
atyaaji = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive tyaj: to give up, abandon, shun
sharaN'-aagataH (nom. sg. m.):
sharaNa: n. shelter , place of shelter or refuge or rest , hut , house , habitation , abode , lair (of an animal) , home , asylum ; refuge, protection ; n. refuge , protection , refuge with (sharaNaM √ gam or yaa &c , " to go to any one for protection , seek refuge with ")
aagataH: come to, into, or from (ifc.); occurred , happened , risen ; entered (into any state or condition of mind)

jitvaa = abs. ji: to conquer
dRptaan (acc. pl.): mfn. mad , wild , proud , arrogant
api: also, even
ripuun (acc. pl.): m. a deceiver , cheat , rogue ; m. an enemy , adversary , foe

na: not
tena (inst. sg.): by him
tena: ind. on that account , for that reason , therefore
akaari = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive kR: to do, make
vismayaH (nom. sg. m): m. wonder , surprise , amazement , bewilderment , perplexity; pride , arrogance ; doubt , uncertainty

Monday, July 19, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.40: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Giving & Giving Up

aa-nRshaMsyaan na yashase
ten' aadaayi sad" aarthine
dravyaM mahad api tyaktvaa
na c' aiv' aakiirti kiM cana

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

He gave out of non-cruelty,
not for his glorification,

And always to meet a need;

Giving up even a thing of great substance,

He mentioned nothing of it.

This seems to be about the charity of a non-Buddhist king towards needy subjects in his kingdom, but it might really be about the extreme difficulty of living well a true Zazen life.

In that case, aa-nRshaMsya "non-cruelty," might be exercised in the first instance towards oneself.

Gudo Nishijima used to say, "What we desire, we should have." In light of that truth, perhaps understanding of arthine, "to the desirous; to those who are [ / that which is] in need," should be extended to include, again, that in ourselves which is desirous. When we investigate giving to the desirous in detail, to carve out a chunk of relatively empty space and time in order to enjoy just sitting, might be a kind of giving to the desirous. Having a nap while listening on BBC Radtio 2 to the oldies' half-hour of Steve Wright in the afternoon, might be a kind of giving to the desirous.

To realize that kind of giving to oneself does not require one particularly to love oneself or feel enormous compassion for oneself. It is more a question of recognizing the truth of "What we desire, we should have," and inhibiting any tendency to be hard on oneself or cruel to oneself. Hence, if Ashvaghosha did indeed have giving to oneself in mind, he may have chosen advisedly the negative expression aan-RshaMsyaat "out of non-cruelty."

The first half of today's verse, then, as I read it, relates profoundly with the ultimate teaching that the Buddha bequeathed to the beggars that followed him: "Want little and know contentment." It is not a teaching that leads in the direction of great personal gain and glory, but neither is it advocacy of self-denial.

The practice of just sitting, by its very nature necessitates not only letting go or giving up, but also not mentioning anything. So the second half of the verse, as I read it, is a more explicit evocation of the practice of just sitting. At the same time, it can be read as presaging the content of Canto 15, whose theme is letting go of, or giving up, an idea.

So dravyaM mahad api tyaktvaa, "giving up even a thing of great substance," might mean giving up a car and a career, a home and a homeland... and it might mean giving up the idea that those things ever belonged to me in the first place. If I feel that I have got something momentous to give to the world, dravyaM mahad api tyaktvaa might include the meaning of giving up even that.

EH Johnston:
That he was ever charitable to the needy was due to generosity, not to a desire for renown, and, however great the substance of his gifts, he did not blazon them abroad.

Linda Covill:
He always gave to those in need, not for the sake of his reputation but from benevolence, and even when he had distributed great largesse he did not boast of it.

aanRshaMsyaat (abl. sg.): n. absence of cruelty or harm , kindness , mercy , compassion , benevolence
nRshaMsya: mfn. malicious , mischievous , vile
yashase (dat. sg.): n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame , renown

tena (inst. [indicating agent of passive construction]): by him
adaayi = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive daa: to give
sadaa: ind. always , ever , every time , continually
arthine (dat. sg.): mfn. active , industrious ; one who wants or desires anything (instr. or in comp.); longing for , libidinous; m. a beggar , petitioner , suitor ; m. one who supplicates with prayers ; a servant ; a follower

dravyam (acc. sg.): n. a substance , thing , object ; object of possession , wealth , goods , money ; gold
mahat (acc. sg. n.): mfn. great
api: even
tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to leave a place , go away from; to let go , dismiss , discharge; to give up , surrender , resign , part from , renounce

na: not
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
akiirti = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive kiirt: to mention , make mention of , tell , name , call , recite , repeat , relate , declare , communicate , commemorate , celebrate , praise , glorify
kiM cana: in any way, at all

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.39: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Letting Light Shine

tejasaa ca tviShaa c'aiva
ripuun dRptaan abiibhasat
yasho-diipena diiptena
pRthiviiM ca vyabiibhasat

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

With his intense energy and his light

He showed up his enemies, the conceited;

And with the blazing lantern of his brightness,

He caused the world to shine.

The first half of this verse, as I read it, does not describe a primary wish to show up enemies (neither in the sense of throwing one's own egoistic faults into stark relief, and still less in the sense of embarrassing or humiliating external enemies), for which purpose intense energy and light are instrumental. Rather, the primary thing is the one great matter which Dogen called the backward step of turning light and letting it shine. What happens to enemies is a secondary concern. The one great matter, in other words, is not a matter of trying to defeat enemies directly, which might be a case of tail wagging dog; it is rather a matter of letting dog wag tail, and in that light allowing all benefits to accrue, or not to accrue, indirectly.

Equally, I am fairly sure that Ashvaghosha intended the second half of today's verse to be read in light of what Dogen called the backward step and transmitted as the backward step.

So this verse can be read as presaging a description of sitting-dhyana which was to come about forty generations after Ashvaghosha, as well as presaging Ashvaghosha's own glowing portrayal of the Buddha which is to come in Canto 3:

He walked over water as if on dry land,
Dug through soil as though it were water,
Rained as a cloud in the sky,
And radiated light and warmth like the newly-risen sun.

All in harness, he glowed like a fire,
Passed water like a cloud,
And radiated light like molten gold.
He shone like a cloud set aglow,
by the breaking of day, or dusk.

EH Johnston:
With the heat of his courage he reduced proud foes to ashes and with his personal splendour he abashed them; and he illumined the earth with the blazing light of his fame.

Linda Covill:
He burned up his proud enemies with his luster and splendor, and he brightened the earth with the shining lamp of his fame.

tejasaa (inst. sg.): n. sharp edge, brilliance, fire; fiery energy
ca: and
tviShaa (inst. sg.): f. violent agitation , vehemence , violence , fury , perplexity ; light , brilliance , glitter , splendour , beauty , authority ; colour ; speech
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

ripuun (acc. pl. m.): mfn. deceitful , treacherous , false; m. a deceiver , cheat , rogue ; m. an enemy , adversary , foe
dRptaan (acc. pl. m.): mfn. (past part. dRp) mad , wild , proud , arrogant
dRp: to be mad or foolish , to rave ; to be extravagant or wild , to be arrogant or proud , to be wildly delighted. ; to light , kindle , inflame
abiibhasat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist bhaas: to make shine , illuminate ; to show , make evident , cause to appear (" by way of. " instr. of an abstract noun)
bhaas: to shine , be bright ; to appear , occur to the mind , be conceived or imagined , become clear or evident

yasho-diipena (inst. sg.): lantern of glory
yashas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth; honour , glory , fame , renown
diipa: m. a light , lamp , lantern
diiptena (inst. sg.): mfn. blazing , flaming , hot , shining , bright , brilliant , splendid

pRthiviiM (acc. sg.): f. (= f. of pRithu) the earth or wide world (" the broad and extended One " , personified as devii) ; land , ground , soil
pRthu: mfn. broad , wide , expansive , extensive , spacious , large
ca: and
vyabiibhasat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist vi- √ bhaas: to cause to shine , illuminate , brighten
vi- √ bhaas: to shine brightly or pleasantly , be bright

Saturday, July 17, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.38: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Not Sanctioning Unrighteousness or Incompetence

vyaktam apy artha-kRcchreShu
n'aadharmiShTam atiShThipat
priya ity eva c'aashaktaM
na saMraagaad aviivRdhat

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

Even the obvious course, in dire straits,

He did not institute if it went against dharma;

Nor, out of nothing more than fondness,

Did he dotingly promote incompetence.

On first reading, this verse seems to discuss the king's attitude to hiring and firing. So my first attempt to translate this verse went like this: Even an obvious candidate in difficult times / He did not appoint if he lacked a sense of dharma; / Nor, just because he liked him, / Did he dotingly advance one who lacked ability.

This translation, however, does not lend itself easily to interpretation on the basis of the one great matter. So I tried again, interpreting n'aadharmiShTam ("un-dharma-ly" ; "going against dharma" ; "lacking a sense of dharma") and ashaktam ("unable" ; "incompetent") as descriptions of courses of action or tendencies, rather than necessarily as descriptions of people. In that case, the verse seems to emerge as yet another admonition against unconscious end-gaining based only on what habitually feels good, right, or pleasurable.

In either event, the first half of this verse, as I read it, presages the Buddha's teaching in Canto 12 that If a man had no need of fire, / Nor confidence that fire was in a firestick, / He would never twirl the stick; / Those conditions being met, he twirls the stick. / Without the confidence that corn will grow / In the soil he tills, / Or without the need for corn; / The farmer would not sow seeds in the earth. / And so I call it the Hand, / Because it is this confidence, specifically, / That grasps the true Dharma / As a hand takes a gift, naturally. [12.34 - 36]

And the second half of today's verse presages 16.51:

Again, one who wants fire from damp wood,/ Try as he might, will not get fire. / And even if he lays down dry wood, / He won't get fire from that, with bad bushcraft.

In terms of the one great matter, then, Ashvaghosha seems to me to be making the rather dry observation that confidence in, or enthusiasm for, the Buddha-Dharma is a necessary but not sufficient condition for progress (or regress) in the practice of just sitting; it is also necessary to have a certain consciously acquired competence or skill.

As a general rule, when we are enthusiatic about just sitting but are not skilled in sitting, our tendency is to over-do. In that case, the kind of conscious not doing that can lead to the re-establishment of natural and spontaneous non-doing, has to be learned.

Relevant here, I think, is that in revising his original version of his rules of sitting-zen for everyone, Fukan-zazengi, Dogen changed his wording from "take the backward step" to "learn the backward step."

Thus, in his revised version of Fukan-zazengi, Dogen wrote:

"Learn the backward step of turning your light and letting it shine. Body and mind will spontaneously drop off, and your original face will appear."

EH Johnston:
He did not give appointments to any unrighteous man, however skilful he might be in emergencies, nor did partiality cause him to advance an incapable man just because he was a friend.

Linda Covill:
He would not employ an unrighteous man in difficult times, even one who seemed the obvious person; nor, out of affection, would he promote an incompetent friend.

vyaktam (acc. sg.): mfn. adorned , embellished , beautiful ; caused to appear , manifested , apparent , visible , evident (vyaktam: ind. apparently , evidently , certainly) ; m. a learned man ; m. " the manifested One " , N. of viShNu
api: even
artha-kRcchreShu (loc. pl.): in difficulties
artha: m. aim, purpose; matter, affair, concern
kRcchra: mn. difficulty , trouble , labour , hardship , calamity , pain , danger (often ifc. e.g. artha-kRcchreShu , in difficulties , in a miserable situation)

na: not
adharmiShTam (acc. sg. m. ): mfn. most wicked , impious
dharmiShTam: mfn. (superl.) very virtuous or righteous , completely lawful or legal
atiShThipat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist sthaa: to cause to stand , place , locate , set , lay , fix , station , establish , found , institute ; to set up , erect , raise , build ; to cause to continue , make durable , strengthen , confirm ; to prop up , support , maintain ; to affirm , assent ; to appoint (to any office loc.) ;

priyaH (nom. sg. m.): beloved , dear to (gen. loc. dat. or comp.) , liked , favourite , wanted , own ; fond of attached or devoted to (loc.)
iti: thus, because
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and
ashaktam (acc. sg.): mfn. unable , incompetent

na: not
saMraagaad (abl. sg.): m. redness ; passion , vehemence ; attachment to (loc.)
aviivRdhat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist vRdh: to cause to increase or grow , augment , increase , make larger or longer , heighten , strengthen , further , promote ; to rear , cherish , foster , bring up ; to elevate , raise to power , cause to prosper or thrive

Friday, July 16, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.37: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Serving the Non-Buddha Dharma (ctd.)

prajaaH parama-dharma-jNaH
suukShmaM dharmam aviivasat
darshanaac c'aiva dharmasya
kaale svargam aviivasat

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

As knower of primary and great dharma,

He caused his offshoots to abide
in peripheral and small dharma,

And, because of experiencing dharma,

To let heaven wait.

The challenge with these verses is to translate them in such a way that (1) Ashvaghosha sounds as if he is simply describing the non-Buddhist king doing his kingly duty (dharma), while at the same time (2) Ashvaghosha is allowed to convey what he might really be intending to convey about the King of Dharma teaching the one great matter -- the Buddha-Dharma, aka "just sitting."

On the surface, this verse seems to discuss two kinds of dharma -- the parama-dharma "paramount dharma" or "primary and great dharma" of a king, and a lesser suukShmaM dharmam "diminutive dharma" or "peripheral and small dharma" of lesser beings. Against this interpretation, the Dharma is often described in Chinese characters, as for example in the opening sentence of Shobogenzo chap. 1, Bendowa, as both MUJO, "supreme, paramount," and MIMYO, "fine, subtle" -- this subtlety having to do with a method involving MU-I, "spontaneity" or "non-doing."

So prajaaH suukShmaM dharmam aviivasat, in its overt meaning, might be translated "he caused his subjects to keep doing their lesser duty." But Ashvagosha's real intention, as I see it, has to do with the relation between what is primary in sitting (the head, neck and back) and what is peripheral (e.g. feelings, fantasies, fingers, and toes).

The real key to unlock this verse, as I read it, is the sense one gets while sitting in lotus of the dog wagging the tail instead of the tail wagging the dog. When dog wags tail instead of tail wagging dog, central agency causes peripheral offshoot to inhabit the subtle dharma. And this condition of dog wagging tail, to mix animal metaphors, might be a bird in the hand that is worth any number of heavens in the bush.

Hence kaale svargam aviivasat, as I read it, can be translated literally as "he caused heaven to abide in time," or "he caused [them] to let heaven abide in time."

EH Johnston:
He who knew the supreme Law impregnated his subjects with the subtle Law and caused them by perception of the Law to dwell in Paradise in due course.

Linda Covill:
Knower of the highest dharma, he ensured that his subjects lived within the subtleties of dharma; and because his subjects understood dharma, he ensured that they in due course would dwell in heaven.

prajaaH (acc. pl.): f. subjects
parama-dharma-jNaH (nom. sg. m.): knower of the highest dharma, he who knew his chief duty
parama: mfn. chief , highest , primary; best , most excellent
dharma: m. duty, dharma, etc.
jNa: mfn. knowing

suukShmam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. minute , small , fine , thin , narrow , short , feeble , trifling , insignificant , unimportant ; acute , subtle , keen ; nice , exact , precise ; subtle , atomic , intangible
dharmam (acc. sg.): m. duty, dharma, etc
aviivasat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist vas: to cause to halt or stay (overnight) , lodge , receive hospitably or as a guest ; to let anything stand overnight ; to cause to wait , keep in suspense ; to delay , retard ;
to cause to exist , preserve ; to cause to be inhabited , populate (a country)
vas: to dwell , live , stop (at a place) , stay (esp. "overnight ); to remain , abide with or in ; to remain or keep on or continue in any condition

darshanaat (abl. sg.): n. seeing , observing , looking , noticing , observation , perception ; ocular perception ; n. inspection , examination ; n. audience, meeting with ; n. experiencing
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
dharmasya (gen. sg.): duty, dharma, Law etc.

kaale: ind. loc. in time, in due course
svargam (acc. sg.): mfn. (or suvarga) going or leading to or being in light or heaven , heavenly , celestial (with lok/a m. or pl. = " the world of light , heavens "; m. heaven , the abode of light and of the gods , heavenly bliss , (esp.) indra's heaven or paradise (to which the souls of virtuous mortals are transferred until the time comes for their re-entering earthly bodies ; this temporary heaven is the only heaven of orthodox Brahmanism ; it is supposed to be situated on mount meru; acc. with √ gaa , aa- √sthaa , or aa- √pad , " to go to heaven " , " die "))
svar: the sun , sunshine , light , lustre ; bright space or sky , heaven (as distinguished from div , which is regarded as the vault above it ; often " heaven " as a paradise and as the abode of the gods and the Blest
aviivasat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist vas: to cause to stay

Thursday, July 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.36: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Inhibition & Direction

gurubhir vidhivat kaale
saumyaH somam amiimapat
tapasaa tejasaa c'aiva
dviShat-sainyam amiimapat

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

He caused the soma to be measured out on time,

In the presence of the gurus, and obeying the rule,
as a cool, mild man of soma;

And yet, with intense ardour, with fiery energy,

He caused the enemy army to atrophy.

saumyaH, "man of soma," has connotations that are diametrically opposed to the tapas, intense heat, and tejas, fiery energy, of line 3.

In later Cantos, the Buddha frequently addresses Nanda in the vocative case as saumya, which is generally translated "my friend!" but which literally means "man of the soma!" This is because the qualities attributed to the soma, and to the moon-god with whom sacrificial drinking of the soma was associated, are those of being in the first instance cool and moist; and by extension placid, gentle, mild, happy, pleasant, cheerful.

This verse seems to me to relate profoundly with the mutually antagonistic physiological functions that my old guru Gudo Nishijima described as balance of the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. Equally it seems to me to relate profoundly with the practical field of endeavour that FM Alexander described as inhibition and direction.

In general, this verse causes me to consider, the soma might be taken as symbolizing the function of a parasympathetic nervous system which, in a buddha, is healthy and strong, but at the same time opposed by the function of a sympathetic nervous system which is also healthy and strong. It is just a thought... but a thought, I know, that would delight my old guru.

In regard to the enemy (whose named might be "friend") which is anger, for example, how can fiery energy be brought to bear so as to cause the fiery energy which is anger to diminish or atrophy? The answer might lie in directing one's fiery energy consciously in the service of some constructive purpose.

EH Johnston:
Benignly at the due time with the due ceremony he caused his priests to measure out the soma; by his holiness he put down the army of internal foes, and by his courage his external foes.

Linda Covill:
This gentle king had the gurus mete out soma juice at the appropriate times according to injunction while by his austerity and brilliance he diminished the army of his enemies.

gurubhiH (inst. pl.): m. any venerable or respectable person ; m. a spiritual parent or preceptor (from whom a youth receives the initiatory mantra or prayer , who instructs him in the shaastras and conducts the necessary ceremonies up to that of investiture which is performed by the aachaarya) ; mfn. heavy
vidhivat: ind. according to rule , duly
kaale: ind. loc. in time , seasonably

saumyaH = nom. sg. saumya: mfn. relating or belonging to soma (the juice or the sacrifice or the moon-god) , connected or dealing with soma , having his nature or qualities &c ; cool and moist ; " resembling the moon " , placid , gentle , mild ; happy , pleasant , cheerful ; m. an adherent , worshipper; a Brahman
somam (acc. sg.): m. juice , extract , (esp.) the juice of the soma plant
amiimapat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist maa: to cause to be measured or built , measure , build , erect

tapasaa = inst. sg. tapas: n. warmth , heat ; pain , suffering ; religious austerity , bodily mortification , penance , severe meditation , special observance
tejasaa = inst. sg. tejas: n. the sharp edge (of a knife &c ) , point or top of a flame or ray , glow , glare , splendour , brilliance , light , fire ; fiery energy ; intensity
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

dviShat-sainyam (acc. sg.): hostile army ; the army of his foes
dviShat: mfn. hating or detesting , hostile , unfriendly , foe , enemy
sainya: mfn. belonging to or proceeding from an army ; m. a soldier ; m. an army ; m. a sentinel , guard ; n. a body of troops , army ; n. a camp
amiimapat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist mii: to lessen , diminish , destroy

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.35: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Building from the Ground Up

a-shraantaH samaye yajvaa
yajNa-bhuumim amiimapat
paalanaac ca dvijaan brahma
nir-udvignaan amiimapat

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

A man of tireless sacrifice when the time was right,

He caused sacrificial ground to be measured out;

And he caused twice-born men,
who were unperturbed under his protection,

To anchor the sacred word in the ground.

EHJ notes that amiimapat is from √ maa (measure/build/erect) in 35b; from √ mi (fix in the ground / know) in 35d; from √ maa (reap) in 36b; and from √ mii (diminish) in 36d. Again Ashvaghosha appears to be using the inherent ambiguity of words to signal the deliberate ambiguity of his own words.

Thus the overt point of today's verse is to describe the virtues displayed by a non-Buddhist king in enabling brahmin priests in his domain to do their brahminist thing. But below the surface Ashvaghosha is already preparing the ground of the reader's mind for his coming portrayal of the King of Dharma.

So samaye, "when the time was right," may be read as presaging the Buddha's teaching in 16.49: One set on giving up the afflictions, then, / Should attend to timing and method; / For even formal practice, done at the wrong time and relying on wrong means, / Makes for disappointment and not for the desired end.

The implicit point might be, in other words, that no good will come of tireless sacrifice if the time is not right. So, for example, if you have got the flu, even if people are depending on you, it may be wise to back out of the commitment.

yajNa-bhuumim amiimapat, "he caused sacrificial ground to be measured out," may similarly be read as presaging verses like 14.46, 16.52 and 17.1 - 17.3, in which attention is given to finding a suitable place for practice:

To a place suited for practice, free of people and free of noise, / To a place for lying down and sitting, my friend, repair in this manner; / For by first achieving solitude of the body / It is easy to obtain solitude of the mind. [14.46]

Having given due consideration to the time and place / As well as to the extent and method of one's practice, / One should, reflecting on one's own strength and weakness, / Persist in an effort that is not inconsistent with them. [16.52]

Thus was the path to reality pointed out. / Then Nanda, a path of release receiving him in, / Bowed with his whole being before the guru / And, for the letting go of afflictions, he made for the forest. / There he saw a clearing, / A quiet glade, of soft deep-green grass, / Kept secret by a silent stream / Bearing water blue as beryl. / Having washed his feet in that water, / He then, by a clean, auspicious, and splendid tree-root, / Girded on the intention to come undone, / And sat with legs fully crossed. [17.1 - 17.3]

Going further out on a limb, for an even more direct pointer to the non-brahminical practice of just sitting, yajNa-bhuumim amiimapat could be translated as "he caused the sacrificial posture to be erected."

, "twice born," often means a brahmin who is considered to be born again at his initiation ceremony, but Ashvaghosha might equally have in mind the kind of re-birth that Nanda manifests at the begining of Canto 12, when he begins to take responsibility for himself.

brahman, "the sacred word," or "the healing word," might be om, as in om namo buddhaaya; or it might be no; or it might be let; or it might be be; or it might be sit.

What does it mean to anchor the sacred word in the ground? I don't know. I only know that if the answer is easy and superficial, it is probably not true.

Ashvaghosha does not specify the means that twice-born men used to anchor the sacred word in the ground. Possibly a spade... ?

EH Johnston:
An unwearied worshipper in due season, he caused the sacrificial ground to be laid out and by his protection he enabled the Brahmans to meditate without impediment on the Absolute.

Linda Covill:
When occasion demanded, he was an untiring worshipper, arranging for the place of sacrifice to be measured out; and due to his protection, the twice-born could offer their prayers unhindered.

a-shraantaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unwearied
samaye ind. at the appointed time, at the right moment, in good time for , at the time of
samaya: m. coming together, meeting
yajvaa = nom. sg. yajvan: m. an offerer , bestower ; mfn. worshipping , a worshipper , sacrificer
√ yaj: to worship , adore , honour (esp. with sacrifice or oblations) ; to consecrate , hallow , offer

yajNa-bhuumim (acc. sg.) sacrificial ground
yajNa: m. worship , devotion , prayer , praise ; act of worship or devotion , offering , oblation , sacrifice (the former meanings prevailing in veda , the latter in post-Vedic literature )
bhuumi: f. the earth , soil , ground ; place ; position , posture , attitude
amiimapat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist √ maa: to cause to be measured or built , measure , build , erect
√ maa: to measure , mete out , mark off

paalanaat (abl. sg.): n. (from √ paal) the act of guarding , protecting , nourishing , defending ; n. maintaining , keeping , observing ; n. the milk of a cow that has recently calved
√ paal: to watch , guard , protect , defend , rule , govern ; to keep , maintain , observe (a promise or vow)
ca: and
dvi-jaan (acc. pl. m.): mfn. "twice-born" ; m. a man of any one of the first 3 classes , any Aryan , (esp.) a Brahman (re-born through investiture with the sacred thread)
brahma = acc. sg. brahman: n. (lit. " growth " , " expansion " , " evolution " , " development " " swelling of the spirit or soul " , fr. √bRh, to grow great) pious effusion or utterance , outpouring of the heart in worshipping the gods , prayer ; the sacred word (as opp. to vaach , the word of man) , the veda , a sacred text , a text or mantra used as a spell ; the sacred syllable Om ; religious or spiritual knowledge (opp. to religious observances and bodily mortification such as tapas &c ) ; holy life (esp. continence , chastity) ; (exceptionally treated as m.) the brahma or one self-existent impersonal Spirit , the one universal Soul

nir-udvignaan (acc. pl. m.): mfn. unexcited , sedate , calm
udvigna: mfn. shuddering , starting , frightened , terrified ; sorrowful , anxious , grieving for (an absent lover)
amiimapat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist √ mi: to fix or fasten in the earth , set up , found , build , construct ; to mete out , measure ; to judge , observe , perceive , know ; to cast , throw , scatter

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.34: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Same Old, Same Old

svair ev' aadiidapac c' aapi
bhuuyo bhuuyo guNaiH kulaM
prajaa n' aadiidapac c' aiva

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

He also caused his house to be pure,

Again and again, using just his own virtues;

And neither did he cause his wider progeny to decay,

For all were established in all dharmas.

svair eva guNaiH, "using just his own virtues," is one of many of affirmations in Saundarananda of the principle of the individual -- of blowing one's own nose by oneself, to borrow a phrase from Shobogenzo.

kulam adiidapat, "he kept his house pure," might mean he kept his practice free of end-gaining. How? guNaiH, "by using virtues."

Is there a relation between guNaiH, "using virtues" in this verse and bhRtyaiH "using regulars" in the previous verse? The answer should always be expressed bhuuyo bhuuyaH, "again and again" (same old... same old....).

prajaa n' aadiidapat, "he did not cause his wider progeny to go bad," might include the meaning of "he did not cause any divisions to arise between any of his descendants" -- because all were established in sarva-dharma "all dharmas." At the same time prajaa n' aadiidapat, "he did not cause his offshoots to decay" might be another way of saying vRtten' aajihladat prajaaH, "he enlivened his offshoots" (2.30), i.e., he energized even the peripeheral parts of himself with the energy of thought-direction.

On the surface the 4th line suggests that nothing rotten arose in Kapalivastu, like water-borne epedimics, or like civil war, because all the king's subjects and all the king's descendants, whether plumbers or soldiers, knew his own duty and did his own duty.

A deeper intended meaning might be related with the central teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and indeed the central teaching of Dogen's Shobogenzo, known in Chinese/Japanese as SHOHO-JISSO, "all dharmas (sarva-dharma) are real form" (see Shobogenzo chap. 50, Shoho-jisso).

The two fundamental duties of a Buddhist monk, Gudo Nishijima used to say, are (1) to practise Zazen, and (2) to teach others. This verse, as I read it, though it is not immediately apparent, relates totally to that gist. At the same time, this verse as I read it relates to Dogen's teaching in Shobogenzo that the sole duty of a buddha-ancestor is to sit upright with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh -- for this, in the final analysis, is the best way for all the sitter's offshoots -- including grass, trees, and birds -- to be established in the teaching of sarva-dharma "all dharmas." For a buddha-ancestor, Dogen emphasized quite shockingly in Shobogenzo chap. 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai, the only duty is to sit, and there is no other duty at all.

In the end, what can I say? What should I say?

Over the past few days I have been reviewing the translation of Canto 3 with which I began this translation effort 18 months ago, and I find much of the translation (not to mention many of the comments) thoroughly embarrassing. Only an utter fool would embark on a translation like I did while lacking even a rudimentary understanding of Sanskrit grammar. In 18 months time, all being well, I will feel the same about what I am writing today.

So in the end, remembering that being wrong is the best friend I have got in this work, I will venture to write this:

Every verse, when studied deeply enough, seems to be about inhibition of end-gaining and direction of energy. Every verse seems to be about sitting-dhyana. And every verse, on some level, is a manifestation of the teaching that all dharmas are real form -- or, as FM Alexander put it, "I believe in everything.... and I believe in nothing."

EH Johnston:
He caused his virtues ever more and more to purify his race and by his delimitation of the duties of all classes he did not let his subjects come to harm.

Linda Covill:
More and more did his family shine through his own good qualities; and he had no need to compel his subjects, since they were all established in dharma.

svaiH (inst. pl.): his own
eva: (emphatic)
adiidapat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist √5. daa (= √dai): to cause to be pure ; or √2 dii to shine , be bright ; to shine forth , excel , please , be admired
ca: and
api: also

bhuuyo bhuuyaH: ind. more and more, again and again
guNaiH (inst. pl.): m. merits, virtues, good qualities
kulam (acc. sg.): n. a race , family , community , tribe , caste , set ; house ; noble or eminent family or race

prajaaH (acc. pl.): f. procreation; descendants; after-growth; subjects, people
na: not
adiidapat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist √3 dii: to cause to decay, perish
√3 dii: to decay, perish
ca: and
eva (emphatic)

sarva-dharma-vyavasthayaa (inst. sg.): because of all being established in dharma; because of establishment in all dharmas
sarva: all
dharma: m. dharma; law; duty; virtue , morality , religion , religious merit , good works; nature , character , peculiar condition or essential quality; (in comp. for dharman)
dharman: n. support , prop , hold ; n. established order of things , steadfast decree (of a god ) , any arrangement or disposition ; n. law , rule , duty ; n. practice , custom , mode , manner ; n. (esp. ifc.) nature , quality , characteristic mark or attribute
vyavasthaa: f. respective difference ; abiding in one place , steadiness ; fixity , perseverance , constancy ; a fixed limit ; settlement , establishment , decision , statute , law , rule (vyavasthayaa, instr. according to a fixed rule)
vy-ava- √ sthaa: to halt , stop , stay ; to be settled ; to establish

Monday, July 12, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.33: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Defeating Pride by Regular Means

raaShTram anyatra ca baler
na sa kiM cid adiidapat
bhRtyair eva ca sodyogaM
dviShad-darpam adiidapat

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

No special tribute

Did he cause the kingdom to pay him;

But with sustained endeavour, and using only regulars,

He caused enemy pride to be cut down.

In this and the next verse, partly in the interests of poetry but also I think to keep alerting the reader to the existence of layers of meaning below the surface, the same causative aorist adiidapat is formed from multiple roots. In today's verse adiidapat is formed firstly from √1. daa, to give or pay, and secondly from √3. daa (= √do), to cut or mow down.

On the surface, today's verse seems to be about the amount of tax that was imposed by his majesty's government upon the tax-paying public for the upkeep of armed forces that were effective in keeping insolent enemies at bay. Thus, EHJ notes that the first line presumably means that he took only his one-sixth share of the crops without the additional cesses which are shown by the inscriptions to have been prevalent from an early date (see U.N. Ghoshal, Hindu Revenue System, Calcutta 1929).

But the real point of this verse, as I read it, is to presage the admonition to come in future cantos, and especially in Canto 9 (whose title is Denunciation of Vanity), against the vanity of thinking oneself to be special, against the expectation of special recognition -- in short, against pride.

Today's verse, then, belongs to a thread which also includes 2.2, 2.4, 2.16, 2.20, 2.39, and 2.41, in which the enemy called pride is singled out for particular attention.

The king caused that enemy to be cut down, Ashvaghosha tells us, bhRtyaiH, "using regulars." BhRtya means a servant (as in 2.27) or a dependent; it is related to the term bhRtaka, hired hand or hired labourer (as in 13.1, when Nanda is compared to a hired labourer working for a sexual pay-off from the legendary pink-footed nymphs). BhRtya is used here (as in 1.45) in the sense of a regular soldier. The implicit point, I think, is that a servant, hired hand, or regular soldier is one who is not regarded as anything special -- but rather as just another regular in the trenches.

So on the surface bhrtyaiH seems to mean using regular or ordinary soldiers, but Ashvagosha's real intention may be that washing the dishes, digging the vegetable patch, and sorting out the compost are all examples of using the regular or using the ordinary to bring about, indirectly, the downfall of an enemy.

Besides wishing to mirror the form of the two uses of adiidapat, I have translated adiidapat in line 4 as "he caused to be cut down" rather than simply "he cut down," because I think Ashvaghohsa is suggesting that some enemies are not susceptible to direct attack. But they may be conquered, eventually (as in 2.41), by indirect means. This point can be seen as implicit in a major thread of verses in this Canto in which the king deals with enemies, including 2.5, 2.10, 2.16, 2.21, 2.27, 2.29, 2.31, 2.39, and 2.41. These verses seem to presage the metaphor of a how, in the process of mining gold, a dirt-washer uses water to remove impurities from the gold.

Finally, when metaphors are set aside and mundane activities transcended, what might bhRtyaiH, "using regulars," really mean?

It might mean mindfulness of posture/breathing. It might mean going on hands and knees and bowing. It might mean investigating the process of getting back up to standing. It might mean lying on one's back and investigating the decision to move or not to move a leg. It might mean going for a walk, and while walking, knowing that one is walking. It might mean going, as reflective human beings have gone for thousands of years, to sit in the solitude of a forest where the only sounds heard are the timeless sounds of humming insects, singing birds and a babbling brook. In short, it might mean same old... same old... same old...

EH Johnston:
He did not make the land pay anything beyond the legal revenue, and it was only his soldiers whose efforts he needed to cut down the insolence of his enemies.

Linda Covill:
He did not oblige his people to pay anything other than rightful taxes; and he energetically excised the arrogance of enemies using just his regular troops.

raaShTram (acc. sg.): mn. a kingdom, realm , empire , dominion , district , country ; a people , nation , subjects
anyatra: ind. elsewhere, otherwise
ca: and
baleH = abl. sg. bali: m. tribute, offering, oblation ; tax , impost , royal revenue ; fragments of food at a meal

na: not
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
kiM cit: any
adiidapat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist √1. daa: to cause to give or be given , cause to bestow or present or give up , oblige to pay , make restore

bhRtyaiH (inst. pl.): m. one who is to be maintained , a dependent , servant (also the servant of a king , a minister); m. nursing , care of ; mfn. to be nourished or maintained
bhRti: hire , wages or service for wages
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and
sodyogam (acc. sg.): mfn. making active exertion, energetic , enterprising; violent , dangerous (as a disease)
sa: (possessive prefix)
udyoga: m. the act of undertaking anything , exertion , perseverance , strenuous and continuous endeavour ; active preparation

dviShad-darpam (acc. sg.): enemy arrogance
dviShat: mfn. hating or detesting , hostile , unfriendly , foe , enemy
darpa: m. ( √dRp) pride , arrogance , haughtiness , insolence , conceit
√dRp: to be mad or foolish , to rave ; to be arrogant or proud
adiidapat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist √3. daa (= √do): to cause to be cut out, to mow down
√do: to cut , divide , reap , mow