duShkaraM saadhv an-aaryeNa
maaninaa c' aiva maardavaM
ati-sargash ca lubdhena
brahmacaryaM ca raagiNaa
= - = = - = = -
= - = = - = - =
- - = = - = = =
- - = = - = - =
Good is hard for an ignoble man to do,
Meekness is hard for an arrogant man,
Giving is hard for a greedy man,
And devout practice is hard for a man of passion.
The previous verse begins with dur-haraH, hard or difficult to remove, and this verse begins with duSh-karam, hard or difficult to do.
In both cases, the real degree of difficulty might be as expressed by a Japanese estate agent when a foreigner enters his shop seeking to rent a property and the estate agent sucks his teeth and says CHOTTO MUZUKASHI.... "it is a bit difficult..." by which he really means there is not a cat in hell's chance.
If an ignoble man does good, just in the moment of doing good, is he an ignoble man?
If an arrogant man peaceably backs away from a fight, just in the moment of meekly backing away, is he an arrogant man?
If a greedy man makes a gift, just in the moment of giving, is he a greedy man?
If a passionate man lies down on his back and completely gives up all idea of gaining any end, just in the moment of giving up his desire to go directly for any end, is he a passionate man?
In each case, I think that the answer is No. So the real meaning of duShkaram, lit. "hard to do," might be "totally impossible to do."
And so Ananda's true intention, which seems on the surface to be to praise Nanda for having done what was difficult for Nanda to do, might in fact be to highlight the fact that Nanda's ascetic practice, motivated by the prospect of celestial sex, has not for a moment been devout at all.
If brahma-caryam means a life of devout or religious or celibate practice, then what such a life is, I do not know. If brahma-caryam means only a moment of devout practice, I still do not know what it is.
I only know that when some strong desire to go directly for an end triggers in me a reaction that is coloured by the red taint of an infantile panic/grasp reflex, that is not it.
Or else it is.
Or else, just in the moment of being mindful of the reaction that I wish to be free of, some seed of devout practice -- even if only for a moment -- exists.
I once described myself to Marjory Barlow as an end-gainer, but Marjory wasn't having any of that. "Listen," she said. "You can end-gain. Or you can follow the means-whereby. It is your choice. It is up to you."
So here and now what am I: a man of passion? Or a man of small desire?
The Buddha said, "You beggars should know that people of big desire and abundant wants abundantly seek gain, and so their cares also are abundant. A person of small desire and few wants, being free of seeking and free of wanting, does not have this trouble. Small desire, wanting little, you should practise just for itself. Still more, wanting little can produce all kinds of benefits: People of small desire and few wants have no tendency to curry favour and bend in order to gain the minds of others. Again, they are not led as if they were enslaved by the senses. Those who practise wanting little are level in mind; they are without worries and fears; when they come into contact with things they have latitude; and they are constantly free from dissatisfaction. Those who have small desire and few wants just have nirvana. This is called 'wanting little.' "
Insofar as the Buddha talks of people of big desire, I am afraid I might be one of those. Insofar as the Buddha talks of a person of small desire, I am afraid I might never be one of those. But insofar as the Buddha talks of small desire or wanting little as a practice, then, yes, I am confident I can practise that practice. Even if it is only for a moment, I can practise that practice of small desire, or wanting little.
For example, even though my knee is taking a long time to heal, I wouldn't even dream of resorting to a so-called seiza bench as an alternative to sitting cross-legged. I prefer to sit in full lotus, even if I can't keep still for more than 20 minutes at a time. And if I can't sit still in lotus for more than 10 minutes, then I will settle for 10 minutes. Or if the limit is 5 minutes, then I will sit cross-legged for 5 minutes, then stretch a bit, then sit for 5 minutes again. This, for me, is one way of practising the Buddha's teaching of small desire, even if the practice time is only short. But sitting on a so-called seiza-bench, in my opinion, is not the Buddha's teaching but some other teaching.
Sitting in full lotus is always going to be rather difficult, one might say, for a man who prefers to rely on a so-called seiza-bench.
Hard it is for an irreligious man to do good, for a proud man to be humble, for a covetous man to be greatly generous and for a man full of passion to carry out the observance of chastity.
Goodness is hard for the ignoble, flexibility for the opinionated, liberality for the avaricious, and celibacy for the lustful.
duShkaram (nom. sg. n.): mfn. hard to be done or borne , difficult
saadhu (nom. sg. n.): mfn. straight , right ; leading straight to a goal , hitting the mark , unerring (as an arrow or thunderbolt); good
an-aaryeNa (inst. sg.): mfn. ignoble
maaninaa (inst. sg.): mfn. (fr. √ man or fr. maana) thinking , being of opinion; high-minded , haughty , proud
maardavam (nom. sg. n.): n. softness, pliancy , weakness , gentleness , kindness , leniency
ati-sargaH (nom. sg.): m. act of parting with , dismissal , giving away
lubdhena (inst. sg.): mfn. bewildered , confused ; greedy , covetous , avaricious , desirous ; n. a lustful man
brahma-caryam (nom. sg.): n. study of the veda , the state of an unmarried religious student , a state of continence and chastity (see 11.4)
raagiNaa (inst. sg.): mfn. red ; impassioned , affectionate , enamoured ; m. a lover , libertine