Friday, July 30, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.51: Wealth & Dharma

taM vinirdidishuH shrutvaa
svapnaM svapna-vido dvijaaH
tasya janma kumaarasya

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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)

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