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

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