Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.55: Gods in Balance

tutuShus tuShitaash c' aiva
shuddhaavaasaash ca devataaH
sattvaanaaM c' aanukampayaa

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

Gods in Tusita Heaven became calm and content,

As did gods of the clear Shuddhavasa yonder,

Through thinking highly of true dharma

And through fellow feeling among sentient beings.

Something in me -- doubtless related to immaturity of that primitive reflex, called the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, which is demonstrated so conspicuously by asuras everywhere -- would like to exterminate all trace of the Tusita gods and gods of "the Pure Abode."

Asuras, like the one in this photo (taken by Dan Cross on a visit to Japan last summer), tend to be a bit on the serious side. They are not known for their sense of humour.

So if I inhibit for the moment the overly serious anti-god tendency of the asura and bring a bit of reason to bear on today's verse, or even allow for the presence of a certain humour at play in it, then the 3rd and 4th line might suggest the presence of a kind of balance even in gods between, on the one hand, the faculty of thought, esteem, valuation and, on the other hand, the faculty of feeling, sentience, emotion.

Wikipedia has got a very informative and detailed entry on "Buddhist cosmology."

But, an asura might ask, what the hell is meant by "Buddhist cosmology"? If the Buddha's true dharma is the abandonment of all views, what kind of thing can truly be called "Buddhist"? Grrrrr...

Anyway, in so-called "Buddhist cosmology," the Tushita gods belong to a heaven in the realm of desire, while the Shuddhavasa or Pure Abodes are worlds in the realm of form/matter. So a certain balance between the mental and the physical sides of reality might be observed not only in lines 3 and 4 but also in Ashvaghosha's juxtaposition in lines 1 and 2 of the Tushita and Shuddhavasa gods.

In conclusion, then, while on the surface today's verse is easily read as a fanciful description of why gods rejoiced, the verse can also be read as indirect instruction in the means-whereby all of us -- including any gods among us that have escaped asura aggression -- can move in the direction of balance.

EH Johnston:
The Tusita and the Suddhavasa dieties rejoiced in reverence for the holy Law and in sympathy with creation.

Linda Covill:
The gods of the Tushita and Shuddhavasa heavens rejoiced out of reverence for the true dharma and out of fellow feeling for all living things.

tutuShur = 3rd. pers. pl. perfect tuSh: to become calm , be satisfied or pleased with any one or any thing ; to satisfy , please , appease , gratify
tuShitaaH = nom. pl. tuShita: m. the Tusita gods; n. of a class of celestial beings
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

shuddhaavaasaaH = nom. pl. shuddhaa-vaasa: : m. " pure abode " , a partic. region of the sky
shuddha: mfn. pure; n. anything pure
vaasa: m. residence, abode ; ifc. = having one's abode in , dwelling or living in
ca: and
devataaH (nom. pl.): f. godhead , divinity (abstr. & concr.)

sad-dharma-bahumaanena (inst. sg.): because of high esteem for true dharma
sad-dharma: m. the good law , true justice ; true dharma
bahu-maana: m. high esteem or estimation , great respect or regard for
bahu: great, abundant
maana: m. ( √ man) opinion , notion , conception , idea; mn. consideration , regard , respect , honour ; n. ( √maa) measuring. meting out

sattvaanaam = gen. pl. sattva: m. n. a living or sentient being , creature , animal
ca: and
anukampayaa = inst. sg. anukampaa: f. sympathy, compassion
anu- √ kamp: to sympathize with
anu-: ind. after , along , alongside
√kamp: to tremble , shake

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