Monday, August 2, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.54: Of Heaven & Gambling Dens, Of the Unthinkable & the Benign

divi dundubhayo nedur
diivyataaM marutaam iva
didiipe 'bhyadhikaM suuryaH
shivash ca pavano vavau

- - = - - = = =
= - = - - = - -
- = = - - = = =
- = - - - = - =

Drums sounded in heaven,

As if the storm-gods were rolling dice;

The sun blazed inestimably,

And the wind blew benignly.

The four-phased order of progression that I was taught to look out for in Dogen's Shobogenzo can be observed in these four lines, in the expression of, namely:
(1) a spiritual thought,
(2) a thought that is antithetical to spiritual thinking,
(3) something beyond thinking, and
(4) Dharma itself, which is something (or a bit of nothing) in movement and at the same time is the real Universe in its benevolence.

On one level, then, today's verse is a poetic celebration of a momentous religious event. But if we dig for deeper meaning, it is an expression of four dimensions of reality.

In that case, line 4, as I read it, is extremely difficult for me to understand.

"It's all good," my 19-year old son often says, brimming with youthful confidence. But aging, sickness and death -- necessary though they are to prevent severe global overcrowding -- are sometimes difficult for me to see as all part of a benign process.

More disconertingly still, if the Dharma that Gautama taught is the giving up of all views, how can people today who purport to be Zen Masters be so full of conceit -- not to mention deceit?

In Chinese, samaadhi ("balanced stillness") was represented by a character that expresses something definite or fixed. But in describing the 2nd stage of sitting-meditation, which is born of samaadhi, Ashvaghosha writes that thoughts like the ones I have just expressed are like waves which disturb a body of water that otherwise just moves on steadily and calmly, like the River Thames.

It is a very helpful metaphor, a very excellent metaphor. It suggests not something static or fixed but balanced stillness as a function of steady onward movement.

EH Johnston:
Drums thundered in the heavens as if the storm gods were at play, the sun shone with extreme brilliance and an auspicious breeze blew.

Linda Covill:
In the sky drums resounded as though the Maruts were gaming; the sun blazed beyond measure and a fair wind blew.

divi = loc. sg. div: the sky, heaven
dundubhayaH (nom. pl.): mf. a sort of large kettledrum
nedur = 3rd per. pl. perfect nad: to sound , thunder , roar

diivyataam = gen. pl. m. pres. part. diiv: to cast , throw , esp. dice i.e. play , gamble
marutaam (gen. pl. m.): the storm-gods, the Maruts
iva: like, as if

didiipe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect diip: to blaze , flare , shine , be luminous or illustrious
abhyadhikam: ind. exceedingly
abhyadhika: mfn. surpassing (in number , power , kind) ; exceeding the common measure , pre-eminent , extraordinary
suuryaH (nom. sg.): m. the sun

shivaH (nom. sg. m.): auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent
ca: and
pavanaH (nom. sg.) m. " purifier " , wind or the god of wind , breeze , air
vavau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vaa: to blow (as the wind)

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