Wednesday, January 5, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.32: And Another One Gone

tathaa nRpa'-rSher dilipasya yajNe
svarga-striyaaM kaashyapa aagat'-aasthaH
srucaM gRhiitvaa sravad aatma-tejash
cikShepa vahnaav asito yato 'bhuut

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

Likewise Kashyapa,
at a sacrifice under the aegis of king-seer Dilipa,

While fixated upon a celestial nymph,

Took the ceremonial ladle and cast into the fire
his own streaming semen,

Whence Asita came into being.

This Kashyapa, like Angiras in the previous verse, was a legendary composer of the hymns of the Rg Veda.

What is the relevance of a verse like this to those of us who are mainly interested in just sitting?

The answer that occurs to me this morning, on asking myself this question, is that the Buddha whose teaching of just sitting we are following was not Japanese, not Chinese, and not English.

That being so, in the list of the seven ancient Buddhas of whom the 7th was Shakyamuni Buddha, the ancient Buddha who transmitted the Dharma to Shakyamuni Buddha is not recorded as being called Suzuki, or Li, or Smith. His name is recorded as Kashyapa. And the name of the ancestor who is recorded as succeeding Shakyamuni Buddha is another Kashyapa -- Maha-kashyapa, or Great Kashyapa.

In asking myself: what is the relevance of this verse? I am finding this part of Saundarananda hard going. When the going gets hard, on a project like this, I know from experience that the trick is to come as far as possible to a full stop. And then carry on again. Being relentless does not mean constant trying. It is more a question of repeated stopping and relentless keeping on again.

In a cooperative venture, one can be prevented from keeping on, for example, if one perceives that one's partner has betrayed the partnership. But in this translation project, which is entirely my own, nothing will stop me keeping on till I get to the end of it. And in my own life, similarly, I will keep on sitting right until the bitter end. I am not so afraid of "the retributive effects of wrong hearing," as documented by Jordan in his comment to yesterday's post. In Dogen's teaching, the only thing we need fear is failing to keep on establishing the bodhi-mind. What does it mean to keep on establishing the bodhi-mind? Mainly what it means to me is to keep on sitting four times a day.

If you like intense bursts in so-called sesshin, good luck to you. But I haven't got time for sesshin. To be frank, I wouldn't give the steam off my piss to a so-called sesshin, because even though sesshin is a Japanese word, in the teaching of our original Japanese ancestor, Dogen, there is not a single word that affirms anything resembling a so-called sesshin. The standard I follow is sitting four times a day, every day. And in between sittings it is important, if one can, to really stop.

Then carry on again.

EH Johnston:
Thus at the sacrifice of the royal seer Dilipa, Kashyapa, inflamed by a divine damsel, took a sacrificial ladle and threw his seed into the fire, whence Asita was born.

Linda Covill:
Kashyapa became obsessed with a celestial nymph, and at the sacrifice of the king-seer Dilipa he took the ceremonial ladle and poured his own streaming semen into the fire, from which Asita arose.

tathaa: in that manner , so , thus
nRpa'-rSheH (gen. sg.): of the king-seer
nRpa: m. protector of men , prince , king
RShi: seer
dilipasya (gen. sg.): Dilipa = (?) Diliipa: m. (fr. dilii = modern Delhi + pa protector?) N. of certain kings (esp. of an ancestor of raama , son of aMshumat and father of bhagii-ratha)
yajNe (loc. sg.): m. act of worship or devotion , offering , oblation , sacrifice

svarga-striyaam (loc. sg.): f. " celestial nymph " , an apsaras
svarga: m. heaven
strii: f. woman
kaashyapaH (nom. sg. n.): mfn. belonging to kashyapa; a patr. fr. kashyapa
kashyapa: m. name of an ancient sage (a descendant of mariichi and author of several hymns of the Rig-veda )
aagat'-aasthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. full of interest

srucam = acc. sg. sruc: f. a sort of large wooden ladle (used for pouring clarified butter on a sacrificial fire ; and properly made of palaasha or khadira wood and about as long as an arm , with a receptacle at the end of the size of a hand)
gRhiitvaa = abs. grah: to take, grasp, seize
sravat = acc. sg. n. pres. part. sru: to flow , stream , gush forth ; to leak, trickle
aatma-tejaH (acc. sg.): his own semen
aatman: self
tejas: n. fiery energy , ardour , vital power , spirit , efficacy , essence ; semen virile

cikShepa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kShip: to throw , cast
vahnau (loc. sg.): m. the conveyer or bearer of oblations to the gods (esp. said of agni , " fire " , or of the three sacrificial fires); fire
asitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. dark-coloured, black; m. name of a descendant of kashyapa (composer of RV. ix , 5-24), named also devala or asita devala
yataH: ind. from which or what , whence
abhuut = 3rd pers. sg. aorist bhuu: to become, be, arise , come into being , exist

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