Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.48: Bodhisattva, Coming Down to Earth

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

= = = - - = = -
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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

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