Sunday, September 19, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.3: The Royal Road of Here & Now

buddhas tatas tatra nar'-endra-maarge
sroto mahad-bhaktimato janasya
jagaama duHkhena vigaahamaano
jal'-aagame srota iv' aapagaayaaH

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The Buddha then, and there, on the royal road,

Struggled on

Into the gushing throng of the greatly devoted

As if entering the torrent of a river in the rains.

Ashvaghosha's use of tatra "at that moment / at that place" -- see particularly, for example, the final words of Canto 3 -- is closely analagous to the use in Chinese texts and in the writings of Zen Master Dogen of the ubiquitous Chinese character SOKU (sunawa[chi]). The character appears, for example, in the title of Shobogenzo chap. 6, SOKU-SHIN-ZE-BUTSU, "The Mind Here & Now is Buddha."

So while nar'-endra-maarge, "on the royal road," can be understood as a description of the state of one who has gone forth into the wandering life of the celibate beggar, equally, with the words tatas tatra, "then and there," Ashvaghosha might be pointing to this gone-forth state as the mind here and now which is just buddha.

The 3rd line of this verse mirrors the 3rd line of 4.44. Ashvaghosha uses the same words jagaama duHkhena ("he went with difficulty" ; "he struggled on") to describe both Nanda's struggle and the Buddha's struggle -- Nanda's struggle to separate himself from her of the arched eyebrows and bulging breasts, and the Buddha's struggle to move through the adoring throng.

Again, the intended effect might be to call into question the easy conception that whereas Nanda is easy for us to identify with, the reality of Buddha exists out there, somewhere over the rainbow. The suggestion might be that, in some sense, we are all in the same boat, struggling at the only time and place where the struggle can ever take place, which is not in the past, not in the future, and not someplace else.

By the way Jordan, if you are reading this, how is it going? Still struggling on?

EH Johnston:
Then the Buddha went along, cleaving the great stream of devout people there on the royal highway with as much difficulty as if He were entering the stream of a river at the onset of the rains.

Linda Covill:
Then the Buddha walked along the royal highway, making his way with difficulty through the stream of greatly devoted people there, as if through a streaming monsoon river.

buddhaH (nom. sg.): m. the Buddha, the Awakened One
tataH: ind. then
tatra: ind. there, on that
nar'-endra: m. " man-lord " , king , prince
maarga: m. the track of a wild animal , any track , road , path , way

srotaH = acc. sg. srotas: n. the current or bed of a river , a river , stream , torrent
mahad-bhaktimataH (gen. sg.): greatly devoted
mahat: great
bhaktimat: mfn. mfn. possessing true devotion , firmly attached or devoted to; accompanied by devotion or loyalty
janasya (gen. sg.): m. people

jagaama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect gam: to go
duHkhena (inst. sg.): with difficulty
vigaahamaanaH = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vi- √ gaah: to plunge or dive into , bathe in , enter , penetrate , pervade , betake one's self into (acc. or loc.)

jal'-aagame (loc. sg.): m. " water-approach " , rain
srotaH = acc. sg. srotas: n. the current or bed of a river , a river , stream , torrent
iva: like, as if
aapagaayaaH = gen. sg. aapagaa: f. a river , a stream

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