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


Andrew said...

I don't feel I often understand everything you say in your writings, Mike. But you often say something completely fascinating which speaks directly to, and so seems to illuminate my experience of sitting.

Thanks you

Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Andrew. Sometimes I probably give a false impression in my writings of how clearly I understand things myself. Maybe it is a case of When the mind is enlightened, dog wags tail; and when the mind is deluded, tail wags dog. And because of faulty sensory appreciation, I might feel like the dog is wagging the tail when it is really the other way round... Anyway, thanks for the encouragement.