Monday, November 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.31: Discontentedness

vicitra-mRdv-aastaraNe 'pi suptaa
vaiDuurya-vajra-pratimaNDite 'pi
rukm'-aaNga-paade shayane mah"-aarhe
na sharma lebhe pariceShTamaanaa

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

Though she lay down to sleep
in gorgeous soft bedclothes,

On a bed bedecked with beryl and diamonds,

She in her costly crib with its golden legs

Tossed and turned but obtained no respite.

During this summer I worked for a time in the role of builder's mate to a very demanding (in French: exigeant) builder. One of his favourite phrases, when faced with the option of doing something properly or cutting a little corner was, pas de choix, "no choice." For this artisan, whose appetite for hard work I found inspirational, cutting a little corner here and there was never an option.

In that spirit, seeing as the second half of Ashvagosha's other epic poem, Buddhacarita, has been lost in Sanskrit but retained in its Tibetan translation, I sense that if and when I get to the end of the translation of the first half of Buddhacarita as preserved in Sanskrit, there will be nothing else for it but to study the second half as preserved in Tibetan -- pas de choix.

The reason today's verse has stimulated the above reflection is that it brings to mind the Buddha's teaching of wanting little and being content, as recorded in the final chapter of the 95-chapter edition of Shobogenzo, The Eightfold Awakening of a Great Human Being. The chapter begins like this:

Every buddha is a great human being. That to which a great human being awakens is therefore called the eightfold awakening of a great human being. To awaken to this teaching is the cause of nirvana.

It was the last instruction of our Original Master, Sakyamuni Buddha, on the night that he entered nirvana.

1. Wanting little
The Buddha said, "You beggars should know that people of big desire and abundant wants abundantly seek gain, and so their cares also are abundant. A person of small desire and few wants, being free of seeking and free of wanting, does not have this trouble. Small desire, wanting little, you should practise just for itself. Still more, wanting little can produce all kinds of benefits: People of small desire and few wants have no tendency to curry favour and bend in order to gain the minds of others. Again, they are not led as if they were enslaved by the senses. Those who practise wanting little are level in mind; they are without worries and fears; when they come into contact with things they have latitude; and they are constantly free from dissatisfaction. Those who have small desire and few wants just have nirvana. This is called 'wanting little.' "

2. Being content
The Buddha said, "If you beggars desire to be rid of all cares, contemplate contentment. The teaching of knowing contentment is the very place of plenty, ease, and peace. A person who is content, who knows satisfaction, even when lying on the ground is still comfortable. Those who are not content, who do not know satisfaction, even when living in a heavenly palace are still not suited. Those who do not know satisfaction, even when rich, are poor. People who know satisfaction, even when poor, are rich. Those who do not know satisfaction are forever being pulled through the five desires, as if they were slaves; they are pitied by those who know satisfaction. This is called 'being content.' "

Today's verse as I read it, is an allusion to this the Buddha's ultimate teaching of wanting little / small desire (Chinese/Japanese: SHO-YOKU; Sanskrit alpecchu) and being content (Chinese/Japanese: CHI-SOKU; Sanskrit saMtuShTa), which Ashvaghosha himself records in Canto 26 of Buddhacarita.

Sadly Canto 26 of Buddhacarita is not extant in the original Sanskrit, but here is EH Johnston's translation from the Tibetan:


53. Since deceitfulness and the practice of the Law are incompatible, do not resort to crooked ways. Deceitfulness and false pretences are for the sake of cheating, but for those who are given to the Law, there is no such thing as cheating.

54. The suffering which comes to him whose desires are great does not come to him whose desires are small. Therefore smallness of desire should be practised, and especially so by those who seek for the perfection of all the virtues.

55. He who does not fear the rich at all is not afraid of the sight of stingy people; for he obtains salvation, whose desires are small and who is not cast down on hearing that there is nothing for him.


56. If you desire salvation, practise contentment; with contentment there is bliss here and it is the Law. The contented sleep peacefully even on the ground, the discontented are burnt up even in Paradise.

57. The discontented man, however rich is always poor, and the contented man, however poor, is always rich. The discontented man, seeking the beloved objects of sense, creates suffering for himself by toiling to obtain satiety.

EH Johnston:
Though lying on a costly couch, which was covered with soft many-coloured rugs and decorated with beryl and diamonds and had golden feet, she tossed about and could obtain no relief.

Linda Covill:
The couch she lay on, though decked in soft colored rugs, though decorated with cat's-eye gems and diamonds, though with feet of gold and extremely valuable, gave her no comfort in her restlessness.

vicitra-mRdv-aastaraNe (loc. sg.): on variegated soft coverings
vicitra: mfn. variegated , many-coloured , motley , brilliant ; manifold , various , diverse ; charming , lovely , beautiful ; painted , coloured
mRdu: mfn. soft , delicate , tender , pliant
aastaraNa: n. the act of spreading; n. a carpet , rug ; n. a cushion , quilt , bed-clothes ; n. an elephant's housings , a painted cloth or blanket worn on his back.
api: though
suptaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. asleep ; lain down to sleep (but not fallen asleep) ; resting , inactive

vaiDuurya-vajra-pratimaNDite (loc. sg.):
vaiDuurya: n. a cat's-eye gem ; beryl
vajra: mn. a diamond
pratimaNDita: mfn. ( √ maND) decorated , adorned
√ maND: to deck , adorn
api: though

rukm'-aaNga-paade (loc. sg.): with golden legs
rukma: gold
aNga: limb
paada: foot; the foot or leg of an inanimate object , column , pillar
shayane (loc. sg.): n. a bed , couch , sleeping-place
mah"-aarhe (loc. sg.): very costly
mahat: mfn. great
arha: mfn. worth (in money) , costing

na: not
sharma = acc. sg. sharman: n. shelter , protection , refuge , safety ; Joy , bliss , comfort , delight , happiness
lebhe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect labh: to take, meet with, find
pariceShTamaanaa = nom. sg. f. pres. part. pari-√cheShT
pari: ind. round , around
-√cheShT: to move the limbs , move , stir ; be active

1 comment:

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