Saturday, July 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.63: The Buddha's Guarantee

tad a-pramatto niyame samudyato
ramasva yady apsaraso' bhilipsase
ahaM ca te 'tra pratibhuuH sthire vrate
yathaa tvam aabhir niyataM sameShyasi

- = - = = - - = - = - =
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So delight in restraint, being attentive and ready,

If you desire to secure the apsarases,

And I guarantee that,
insofar as you persist in your observance,

You certainly shall be one with them."

In general when somebody advises "If you strongly desire to gain end E, then follow course MW," we assume that they are recommending course MW as an effective means whereby of gaining end E.

So, for example, if you strongly desire the enlightenment that is called in Japanese satori, then engage whole-heartedly in sesshins, mondos, et cetera. If enlightenment is your E, and sesshins and mondos are your idea of the Middle Way, MW, then go for it. Good luck to you.

This is how Nanda understands what the Buddha is telling him in this verse, as Nanda demonstrates in Canto 12 when he releases the Buddha from what he wrongly understands the Buddha to have pledged:

For my gaining of the nymphs, Master, you stand as guarantor. / But I have no need of nymphs; I relinquish your guarantee. // [12.13]

In fact, what the Buddha is guaranteeing in today's verse is not Nanda's securing or gaining of the nymphs; the Buddha is guaranteeing that Nanda will be one with the nymphs insofar as he gives up end-gaining.

So when the Buddha as I hear him advises "If you strongly desire to gain end E, then follow course of restraint MW," we should understand the Buddha's advice in light of the ultimate means-whereby taught by the Buddha, on the night before he died, which begins with small desire. Understood in that light, the Buddha's advice in today's verse might best be understood as the recommendation of course MW not as a means of gaining strongly desired end E, but rather as a means of letting go of that strong desire and thereby gaining another better end, F.

In that case, the meaning of niyame, restraint, from the verb ni-√yam, to stop, hold in, restrain (see also 9.27), should be clearly understood. The Buddha is not talking about suppression. He is not talking about temporarily suppressing desire, like a boxer before a big fight. Neither is the Buddha talking about trying to snuff out desire permanently -- which would be a very ambitious aspiration indeed. With niyame the Buddha as I hear him is indicating not the elimination of desire but a more modest aspiration, namely, small desire.

The Buddha's universal guarantee might be that a person who practises the restraint of small desire already has freedom from suffering, F, and in that condition he is already one with all living beings, heavenly and earthly alike.

Which brings to mind the joke about the hungry Buddhist monk who asked a wise pizza chef, "Please would you make me one with everything?"

"If you want to be one with everything," the wise pizza chef replied, "practise small desire."

EH Johnston:
Therefore if you desire to obtain the Apsarases, abide diligently and zealously in the observances, and I stand surety that, should you hold firmly to your vow, union with them will certainly be yours.'

Linda Covill:
So if you wish to win the apsarases, undertake the disciplinary rules joyfully, attentively and eagerly, and I will stand guarantor that if you are steadfast in your observances you will definitely be united with them."

tad: ind. so, therefore
a-pramattaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not careless , careful , attentive , vigilant
pra- √ mad: to enjoy one's self , be joyous , sport , play ; to be careless or negligent , to be indifferent to or heedless ; to neglect duty for , idle away time in (loc.)
ni-yame (loc. sg.): m. restraining , checking , holding back , preventing , controlling; any fixed rule or law , necessity , obligation
ni- √ yam: to stop; to hold in , keep down , restrain , control , govern , regulate (as breath , the voice , the organs of sense &c ) ; to suppress or conceal (one's nature)
samudyataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. raised up , lifted up; ready or eager for action , prepared to or about to (inf. or dat.) , engaged in (loc.)
sam-ud- √ i: to go upwards or rise up together , come together or prepare (for battle &c )

ramasva = 2nd pers. sg. (middle voice) ram: to stop, stay, calm ; to delight , make happy , enjoy carnally ; to stand still , rest , abide , like to stay with (loc. or dat.) ; to be glad or pleased , rejoice at , delight in , be fond of (loc. instr. or inf.)
yadi: if
apsarasaH (acc. pl.): f. heavenly nymph, apsaras
abhilipsase = 2nd pers. sg. desiderative abhi- √ labh: to intend to catch or obtain

aham (nom. sg. m.): I
ca: and
te (gen. sg.): of/for you
atra: ind. in this matter
pratibhuuH (nom. sg.): m. a surety , security , bail
sthire (loc. sg.): firm , not wavering or tottering , steady ; constant , steadfast , resolute , persevering
vrate (loc. sg.): n. will , command , law , ordinance , rule ; sphere of action , function , mode or , manner of life (e.g. śuci-vr° , " pure manner of life "), conduct , manner , usage , custom ; a religious vow or practice , any pious observance , meritorious act of devotion or austerity , solemn vow , rule , holy practice (as fasting , continence &c)

yathaa: ind. according as, that
tvam (nom. sg.): you
aabhiH (inst. pl. f.): with them
niyatam: ind. always , constantly , decidedly , inevitably , surely
sameShyasi = 2nd pers. sg. future sam- √ i : to go or come together ; to come together in sexual union , cohabit

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