madhu-maasa iva praaptash
candro nava iv' oditaH
aMgavaan iva c' aan-aMgaH
sa babhau kaantayaa shriyaa
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Like a first month in spring having arrived,
Like a new moon having risen;
like the non-physical having taken a physical form,
He radiated sheer loveliness.
A first month in spring having arrived is not an abstraction like "spring coming." An actual month in spring having arrived is frogspawn in the pond and green shoots on lilac branches.
A new moon having risen, similarly, is sometimes a distinctive yellow crescent shining in the black night sky -- but not always. Sometimes it is a thin white crescent shining in a clear blue sky, reminding us that concrete moon reality invariably falsifies our stereotypical human assumptions, about the moon, and about other matters.
According to a certain view, when I stumbled on the discoveries of FM Alexander and saw the truth in those discoveries, my old Zen master stopped affirming me unquestioningly, and I reacted to this emotionally, and as a result of this emotional reaction I was not able in the end to be nominated as the Master's true successor. The concrete reality, however, was much more complicated.
Invariably concrete reality is different, and sometimes it is totally opposite, to what people think.
Against a concrete backdrop like this, the real meaning of today's verse hangs on the 3rd line, which seems to say that Nanda was "like No Body ( = Kamadeva, God of Love) having a body."
When we dig for more concrete and real meaning, however, the 3rd line might be read as a description of just what happens when one of us embodies the timeless truth of just sitting, by truly devoting ourselves to sitting upright with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh, and thereby abandoning all pesky views.
In 2.56, Ashvaghosha writes of the baby Gautama:
He shone with tranquil splendour/ Like dharma in a separate bodily form.
In today's verse Ashvaghosha writes of Nanda:
Like the non-physical taking a physical form, / He radiated sheer loveliness.
Is Ashvaghosha writing of two boys with contrasting natures, one of whom was born in a spiritual state of grace, the other with the physical attributes of a love-god? Or is he talking about two boys both of whom were born as perfect manifestations of the buddha-nature?
I think that Ashvaghosha's intention is that both of the king's sons were born in a state of grace, and this state of grace is not the embodiment of the truth of just sitting, aka "the Buddha-Dharma," but this state of grace is like the embodiment of the truth of just sitting, aka "the Buddha-Dharma."
If Ashvaghosha's intention is indeed like that, this verse prompts questions like these:
Can a youthful state of grace be like the truth of just sitting?
Can the truth of just sitting be some old guy's old view?
How can the real truth of just sitting not be like a spring month having arrived, or like a new moon having risen?
In conclusion, then, the meaning in today's verse of "the non-physical" (an-aMgaH) might be not only disembodied or Platonic Love but also the undecaying Buddha-Dharma that is realised when one of us truly just sits, or devoutly sews a robe, or freely gives even the smallest of gifts.
Apropos of that, here is a verse written in honour of a long-time follower of this blog named Harry Bradley:
Is my gift to you;
You needn't thank me
With a view.
He was resplendent with gracious beauty like the month of Madhu at its setting in, like the new moon rising or like the disembodied god reincarnate.
He was like the onset of springtime in his pleasing loveliness, like the rising of the new moon, or like the god of love in human form.
madhu-maasaH (nom. sg.): m. a spring month
madhu: mfn. sweet , delicious , pleasant , charming , delightful; m. N. of the first month of the year (= chaitra , March-April)
maasa: m. the moon, a month
praaptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. attained to , reached , arrived ; present
candraH (nom. sg.): m. the moon
navaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. new
uditaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. risen
aMgavaan (nom. sg. m.): having a body, embodied
aMga: n. a limb of the body, the body
vat: (possessive suffix) having, with
an-aMgaH (nom. sg.): m. "bodiless"; N. of kaama (god of love , so called because he was made bodiless by a flash from the eye of shiva , for having attempted to disturb his life of austerity by filling him with love for paarvatii)
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
babhau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhaa: to shine , be bright or luminous ; to shine forth , appear , show one's self ; to be splendid or beautiful or eminent ; to appear as , seem , look like , pass for (nom. with or without iva)
kaantayaa = inst. sg. f. kaanta: mfn. (fr. √kam) , desired , loved , dear , pleasing , agreeable , lovely , beautiful
shriyaa = inst. sg. shrii: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches , high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity