Friday, June 17, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.27: Endless Adapting

kRShTe tapaH-shiila-halair akhinnais
tripiShTapa-kShetra-tale prasuutaaH
evaMvidhaa yatra sad" aanuvRttaa
divaukasaaM bhoga-vidhaana-vRkShaaH

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

Growing there, on soil tilled in Indra's heaven

By unwearying ploughs of austerity and discipline,

Are such trees as these, which are always adapting

To provide for sky-dwellers' enjoyment.

In this verse trees are not the subjects who cultivate heaven through practice of austerities. In Ashvaghosha's world, ascetic practice of austerities is invariably practised by ascetics.

"The great ascetics practised asceticism." [1.14]

So trees, in Ashvaghosha's vision, in heaven as it is on earth, do not till the soil. Rather, it is ascetics who cultivate heaven; and it is trees who, in heaven as it is on earth, grow in soil by adapting to circumstances.

Today's verse, then, as I read it, contains a suggestion of that teaching which the Buddha called the cause of nirvana, namely, small desire.

The verse seems to me to say that the real players in heaven are not necessarily the pushy celestial superstars and ambitious prima donnas who play the roles of ascetic leading men and nymph-like leading ladies; rather the real action might be with the ones who play more modest supporting roles and who, in that endless adaptive following, are able to keep growing.

When this verse is read in conjunction with the previous verse, the point might be that the one great matter has to do with growth in the direction of being fully oneself -- but that does not mean simply doing one's own thing.

In the teaching of buddha-ancestors, a favourable situation down here on earth is to be able to serve buddhas. In Ashvaghosha's vision of heaven, in the absence of buddhas, it seems that trees are able to grow by adapting to the demands of sky-dwellers. Growing (prasuutaH), in Ashvaghosha's vision of heaven, takes place not through political struggle or assertion of one's rights under the banner of some -ism or other, but rather through the kind of adaptive attitude which is expressed by the words "thy will be done."

In heaven, as it is on earth, thy will be done.

This completes a series of nine verses that began with 10.19 on the subject of trees in heaven. A few weeks ago I was daunted by the prospect of translating such poetic flights of fancy. But as a result of working on these nine verses, I think I see at least one important point that I didn't see before, which is this: In Ashvagosha's vision of heaven the heroes are neither the God or gods who are imagined to abide there eternally, nor the ascetic human achievers who enjoy temporary union there with celestial nymphs. The real heroes are the trees who adapt and keep growing.

EH Johnston:
Such are the trees that grow there, ever attentive to provide enjoyment for the dwellers in heaven, where the soil of the celestial fields is cultivated by the unwearying ploughs of asceticism and discipline.

Linda Covill:
There, in the topsoil of heaven's fields which is tilled by the unwearying plows of asceticism and moral self-restraint, grow these kinds of trees, in compliance always with the provision of enjoyment for the denizens of heaven.

kRShTe (loc. sg.): mfn. ploughed or tilled
tapaH-shiila-halaiH (inst. pl.): by the ploughs of austerity and pure conduct
tapas: n. pain; ascetic practice, austerities
shiila: n. moral conduct , integrity
hala: mn. plough
akhinnaiH (inst. pl.): mfn. unwearied
khinna: mfn. depressed , distressed , suffering pain or uneasiness; wearied , exhausted

tripiShTapa-kShetra-tale (loc. sg.): on the topsoil of indra's heaven
tri-piShTapa: n. indra's heaven (= tri-diva)
tri-diva: n. the 3rd or most sacred heaven , heaven (in general)
piShTapa = viShTapa: f. top , summit , surface , highest part , height (esp. of heaven)
kShetra: n. landed property , land , soil; a field
tala: n. surface
prasuutaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. procreated, produced, grown

evaMvidhaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. of such a kind , such
yatra: ind. wherein
sadaa: ind. always , ever , every time , continually , perpetually
anuvRttaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. following , obeying , complying

divaukasaam (gen. pl.): m. " sky-dweller " , a deity ; a bee
diva: n. heaven, sky
okas: n. house , dwelling , place of abiding , abode , home
bhoga-vidhaana-vRkShaaH (nom. pl. m.): enjoyment-arranging trees
bhoga: m. enjoyment , eating , feeding ; sexual enjoyment ; enjoyment of the earth or of a country i.e. rule , sway ; profit , utility , advantage , pleasure , delight ; any object of enjoyment (as food , a festival &c ) ; hire , wages (esp. of prostitution)
vidhaana: mfn. disposing , arranging , regulating; n. order , measure , disposition , arrangement
vi- √ dhā: to distribute , apportion , grant , bestow ; to furnish , supply , procure ; to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready
vRkSha: m. tree

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