Sunday, June 12, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.22: Wearing Simplicity

naanaa-viraagaaNy atha paaNDaraaNi
a-taantavaany eka-ghanaani yatra
suukShmaaNi vaasaaMsi phalanti vRkShaaH

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

In various colourless hues, or else white;

Beautifully illuminated with golden dividing lines;

Beyond the weaving together of strands,
being nothing but a unity;

Are the exquisite robes that trees there bear as fruit.

What we are reading here is a buddha-ancestor's vision of heaven. Sadly, since no buddha-ancestor, in reality, has ever seen heaven, there is nothing to learn here about heaven. But there might be something to learn about the workings of a buddha-ancestor's mind.

When Asvhaghosha envisioned heaven, his imaginings -- one imagines -- were squarely based on his real experiences down here on earth. For that reason, I think Ashvaghosha in this verse is projecting into his vision of heaven something here on earth that struck him as worthy of consideration: namely a traditionally-sewn robe, including both the robe of the wandering mendicant which was dyed ochre, or yellow, or yellow-red, or saffron, or grey, or black or blue-black (but generally not, say, flourescent pink or lime green) and the white robe traditionally worn by a lay follower of the Buddha.

So this verse, as I read it, expresses a representation of a robe as perceived by a buddha-ancestor, as a sum of sewn-together parts and at the same time as a whole -- a simple rectangular sheet -- which is greater than the sum of its parts.

Being nothing but a unity, as a simple rectangular sheet, a traditional robe represents the kind of simplicity that Dogen described in the four Chinese characters he chose, as a young man, to express the essence of sitting-dhyana as he saw it:
naturally/spontaneously becoming one piece.

成一片, becoming one piece, is not a skill that is learned: it happens 自, naturally or spontaneously, as long as the wrong thing is prevented from happening. The primary principle then, in listening to the teaching of buddhas, or sitting in lotus, or wearing the buddha-dharma-robe, is 諸悪莫作, the not doing of any wrong -- which is a very different thing from trying to be right, or trying to be cool, or trying to be true, or trying to be real.

Being clothed in the teaching of the realized one,
Saves all living beings everywhere.

EH Johnston:
There trees bear as fruit diaphorous clothes, without thread or interstices, shot with many colours, or white illumined with lines of gold.

Linda Covill:
Multi-hued or white, shimmering with gold thread, unwoven and seamless are the delicate garments that trees there bear as fruit

naanaa-viraagaaNi (acc. pl. n.): in various shades of colourlessness; naanaa: ind. differently , variously , distinctly , separately
viraaga: mfn. passionless , without feeling , dispassionate , indifferent; m. change or loss of colour ; excitement , irritation ; aversion , dislike or indifference to (loc. abl. , or comp.); indifference to external things or worldly objects
atha: ind. and, then, moreover, else
paaNDaraaNi (acc. pl. n.): mfn. whitish-yellow , pale , white; n. a jasmine blossom
paaNDara-bhikShu: m. " a white-robed mendicant "
paaNDara-vaasas: mfn. white-robed

suvarNa-bhakti-vyavabhaasitaani (acc. pl. n.): with conspicuous dividing lines shining forth
su-varNa: mfn. of a good or beautiful colour , brilliant in hue , bright , golden , yellow; gold
su: good
varNa: m. covering; outward appearance, colour; colour , tint , dye , pigment
bhakti: f. distribution , partition , separation; a division; division by streaks or lines; a streak , line , variegated decoration; a row , series , succession , order ; (ifc.) the being a part of; attachment, devotion to
vyavabhaasita: mfn. brightly illuminated
vy-ava- √ bhaas: Caus. -bhaasayati , to cause to shine out brightly , to illuminate beautifully
ava- √ bhās: to shine forth, be brilliant

a-taantavaani (acc. pl. n.): not made of threads, unwoven
a: (negative prefix)
taantava: mfn. made of threads ; n. a woven cloth; weaving
tantu: m. a thread , cord , string , line , wire , warp (of a web) , filament , fibre
eka-ghanaani (acc. pl. n.): being one single sheet; being nothing but unity; being simplicity itself
eka: one, single
ghana: m. any compact mass or substance (generally ifc.) ; m. a collection , multitude , mass , quantity; m. ifc. mere , nothing but
yatra: ind. wherein

suukShmaaNi (acc. pl. n.): mfn. minute , small , fine , thin
vaasaaMsi = acc. pl. vaasas: n. cloth , clothes , dress , a garment
phalanti = 3rd pers. pl. phal: to bear or produce fruit
vRkShaaH (nom. pl.): m. tree

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