Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.49: Think About It: There Must Be Higher Good

tad yaavad eva kShaNa-saMnipaato
na mRtyur aagacchati yaavad eva
yaavad vayo yoga-vidhau samarthaM
buddhiM kuru shreyashi taavad eva

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

Therefore, while you are meeting the present moment,

While death has yet to come,

So long as you have the energy for practice

Set your heart on higher good."

In 2.56 Ashvaghosha describes the Buddha as "a supreme bringer of the brightness of higher good," but this is the first mention by the Buddha himself of shreyas, higher good.

The Buddha, Ashvaghosha, Bodhidharma, and Dogen are four examples of buddha-ancestors who were evidently highly educated and highly intelligent, and also devoted to a higher good.

When we look around, is it possible to find examples of individuals who are highly educated and highly intelligent but who are conspicuously lacking in a sense of higher good? Those who have made millions from "casino-style" investment banking spring to mind as stereotypes of the highly intelligent but low-minded. It is easy to imagine hordes of them lurking darkly in the offices of Goldman Sachs. But it is difficult to name names on an individual basis. A bloke in the year above me at school named Paul Ruddock who left Goldman Sachs to become a successful hedge-fund manager has also become a major philanthropist: he is chairman of the V&A Museum. More famous money men such as George Soros and Warren Buffet come across on television like sage and benevolent uncles -- they can hardly be cited as epitomes of base vulgarity. Still, the point remains that intuitively we do not necessarily equate being highly educated and highly intelligent with devotion to higher good. And the classic historical example that can be cited in support of this intuition might be the buddha-ancestor Daikan Eno who was a celebrated champion of higher good in China but who had no higher education to speak of, being originally a lumberjack by trade.

We sort of think we know what "higher good" means, but what exactly does it mean?

Think about it.... Stevie Winwood sang it, nearly.

It might be good to think about it -- lest, though we have set our hearts on higher good, false conceptions and faulty sensory appreciation cause our good intentions to go awry.

EH Johnston:
Devote your mind then to the highest good, so long as this favourable moment endures, so long as Death does not come to you and so long as your youth permits you to carry out Yoga.'

Linda Covill:
Before this moment passes, before death comes, while your time of life is fit for disciplined practices, set your mind on Excellence."

tad: ind. so, then, therefore
yaavat: ind. as long as , whilst
eva: (emphatic)
kShaNa-saMnipaataH (nom. sg. m.): meeting the moment, being present
kShaNa: m. any instantaneous point of time , instant , twinkling of an eye , moment
saMnipaata: m. falling in or down together , collapse , meeting , encounter , contact or collision with
saM-ni- √ pat: to fall together ; to come together , meet

na: not
mRtyuH (nom. sg.): m. death
aagacchati = 3rd pers. sg. aa- √ gam: come, make one's appearance
yaavat: ind. as long as , whilst
eva: (emphatic)

yaavat: ind. as long as , whilst
vayaH (nom. sg. n.): energy (both bodily and mental) , strength , health , vigour , power , might ; vigorous age , youth , prime of life
yoga-vidhau (loc. sg.): practice
yoga: m. the act of yoking, practice
vidhi: m. any act or action , performance , accomplishment , contrivance , work , business (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)
samartham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. very strong or powerful , competent , capable of, able to , a match for (gen. dat. loc.)

buddhim kR: to make up one's mind , resolve , decide (with loc.)
kuru = 2nd pers. sg. imper. kR: to do, make
shreyashi = loc. sg. shreyas: n. the better state, a higher good
taavat: ind. (correlative of yaavat) so long
eva: (emphatic)

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