Monday, December 27, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.23: Dharma-Rivalling Dharma?

niriikShamaaNaaya jalaM sa-padmaM
vanaM ca phullaM parapuShTa-juShTaM
kasy' aasti dhairyaM nava-yauvanasya
maase madhau dharma-sapatna-bhuute

- = - = = - - = - = =
- = - = = - - = - = =
= = - = = - - = - = -
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... As he looks out over the lotus-festooned water

And the flowering forest where cuckoos come calling!

What man in the prime of youth
could keep such constancy

In the spring months which are, as it were,
dharma's rival?

Again, I think that Ashvaghosha here is putting words in Nanda's mouth which don't hold up to scrutiny. Ashvaghosha is inviting us to scrutinize for ourselves Nanda's words so as to see through the faulty view which those words express. In so doing, Ashvaghosha is preparing our mental ground for the true practice of sitting-dhyana; for this is what sitting-dhyana as Ashvaghosha describes it in Canto 17 is really all about -- progressive fault finding.

The basic fault in Nanda's view is too see the lotus pools and forest flowers, and to hear the cuckoos, as if they were something other than the Buddha-dharma.

This faulty view is, if anything, exaggerated in EHJ's translation in which dharma is translated as "the religious life." (But whether EHJ himself was conscious of the fault as a fault, I somehow doubt.)

In the faulty view of Nanda and scholars who study a supposed doctrine called "Buddhism," there is dharma, or religious life, which consists of such activities as concentrating on doctrines, and there are joys of spring which represent a distraction.

It is in essence the same kind of tunnel vision that teachers and parents exhibit when they opine that children who suffer from so-called attention deficit disorder (ADD) are not trying hard enough to concentrate. That view is truly cuckoo. The truth is that the poor little blighters who are diagnosed with ADD go through life trying too hard to concentrate (and it takes one to know one). What unenlightened people see as a problem of concentration is more truly understood -- as FM Alexander with unrivalled clarity understood it -- as a general problem of balance and coordination.

Q: In order to be less distractible, then, what should I do?

A: Don't ask me. If I have learnt anything, it is what not to do -- but to tell the truth I am still not good at not doing it.

EH Johnston:
Who would have such strength of mind in the first flush of youth as he saw in the month of Madhu, that enemy of the religious life, the water covered with lotuses and the flowering groves frequented by cuckoos ?

Linda Covill:
... when beholding the lotus-decked water and the flowering forest visited by cuckoos! Who, in the prime of his youth, could show such fortitude in the dharma-countering months of spring?

niriikShamaaNaaya = dat. sg. pres. part. nir-√iikSh: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe (also the stars) , perceive
jalam (acc. sg.): n. water
sa-padmam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. having a lotus

vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest
ca: and
phullam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. split or cleft open , expanded , blown (as a flower); abounding in flowers , flowery
parapuShTa-juShTam (acc. sg. n.): visited by cuckoos
parapuShTa: m. the Kokila or Indian cuckoo
juShTa: mfn. frequented , visited , inhabited ; swept over (by the wind); afflicted by (instr. or in comp.)

kasya (gen. sg.): (interrogative pronoun) who? which? what?
asti: there is
dhairyam (nom. sg.): n. (fr. dhiira) firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
dhiira: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
nava-yauvanasya (gen. sg.): of young youth, in the prime of youth
nava: mfn. new. young
yauvana: n. (fr. yuvan) youth , youthfulness , adolescence , puberty , manhood

maase (loc. sg.): m. the moon; a month
madhau (loc. sg.): mfn. sweet ; m. N. of the first month of the year (= chaitra , March-April) ; m. the season of spring
dharma-sapatna-bhuute (loc. sg.): as if dharma's rival
dharma: dharma, practice
sapatna: m. a rival , adversary , enemy
bhuuta: (ifc.) being or being like anything

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