Saturday, February 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.24: Joy in Dharma is Not Allotted

shravaNe grahaNe 'tha dhaaraNe
param'aarth'aavagame manaH-shame
a-viShakta-matesh cal'-aatmano
na hi dharme 'bhiratir vidhiiyate

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

For joy in dharma is not allotted

To one who easily changes his mind,
to one whose thinking

-- In hearing, grasping, retaining
and understanding the supreme truth,
and in mental peace --

Is not firmly fixed.

Again the striver is speaking excellent words. But the excellence of his words might be lost on the striver himself.

cal'-aatman might be a turning word in this verse. The dictionary gives cal'-aatman as "fickle-minded" -- cala means "moving, unsteady," and aatman means "self, nature," or at the end of a compound "-minded." In 8.11, where Nanda uses the word, I translated cal'-aatman as "a man out of balance in himself." Clearly in that verse and in today's verse cal'-aatman is being used by the speaker to point to a fault not a virtue.

There is such a fault, however, as being stubborn. And there is such a thing as being loyal to a fault.

Was Ashvaghosha aware of this side of the equation or not? Was any irony intended?

Is Ashvaghosha suggesting that being cal'-aatman, or quick to change one's mind, is necessarily a bad thing? Or might he secretly be suggesting that flexibility of thought is a good thing, a virtue that a dogged striver am prone to lack?

To be honest this reader, for one, is not sure. And maybe that was Ashvaghosha's real intention -- to prod the reader who easily understands the overt meaning of the words to read again and dig deeper.

Digging not too far below the surface, the 4th line of today's verse can be understood as an expression of the truth in its own right:

na hi dharme 'bhiratir vidhiiyate

Joy in dharma is not allotted.

And the point might be that those who expect, consciously or unconsciously, to get their share are liable to be disappointed.

In no sutra is this point expressed better than the one quoted by Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 87, Serving Buddhas -- the content of which is a great antidote to any sense that one has failed to receive one's just rewards for services rendered to buddha-ancestors.

EH Johnston:
For delight in the Law does not fall to the man of unstable nature, whose thoughts are not fixed on peace of mind and on hearing, mastering, memorizing, and inwardly digesting the supreme truth.

Linda Covill:
For joy in dharma is not vouchsafed to a volatile man whose thoughts are not fastened to mental peace, nor to hearing, absorbing, retaining and understanding the supreme truth.

shravaNe (loc. sg.): n. the act of hearing ; acquiring knowledge by hearing , learning , study
grahaNe (loc. sg.): n. seizing , holding , taking ; n. gaining , obtaining , receiving , acceptance ; n. perceiving , understanding , comprehension , receiving instruction , acquirement of any science
atha: ind. now, then
dhaaraNe (loc. sg.): n. the act of holding , bearing, retaining etc; n. keeping in remembrance , memory

param'aarth'aavagame (loc. sg.): realizing the supreme truth
param'aartha: m. the highest or whole truth ,
parama: mfn. chief , highest , primary; best
artha: aim , purpose; use; thing ; meaning
avagama: m. understanding , comprehension , intelligence
ava- √ gam: to go down , descend to ; to hit upon , think of , conceive , learn , know , understand ,
manaH-shame (loc. sg.): mental peace
manas: n. mind
shama: m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity ; peace

aviShakta-mateH (gen. sg.): his thoughts not sticking to
a-viShakta: mfn. not clinging or sticking to
viShakta: mfn. hung to or on or upon , hung or suspended to , hanging or sticking on or in , firmly fixed or fastened or adhering to (loc.); turned or directed towards (loc. or comp.);
vi-√saNj: to hang on , hang to , attach ; to be attached or devoted to ; to be stuck to or clung to i.e. be followed at the heels by (instr.)
mati: f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire ; opinion , notion , idea , belief , conviction , view , creed
cal'-aatmanaH (gen. sg.): mfn. fickle-minded ; of changeable nature ; "a man out of balance in himself" (see 8.11)
cala: mfn. moving , trembling , shaking , loose ; unsteady , fluctuating , perishable ; disturbed, confused
aatman: m. self ; essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karm'aatman , &c )

na: not
hi: for
dharme (loc. sg.): dharma, the teaching
abhiratiH (nom. sg.): f. pleasure , delighting in (loc.)
vidhiiyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive vi- √ dhaa: to distribute , apportion , grant , bestow ; to furnish , supply ; to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready ; (passive) to be allotted or intended for (gen.)

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