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

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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

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