Friday, September 30, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.4: Love & Devotion for Dharma

yasyārthakāmaprabhavā hi bhaktis
tato 'sya sā tiṣṭhati rūḍhamūlā /
dharmānvayo yasya tu bhaktirāgas
tasya prasādo hṛdayāvagāḍhaḥ //18.4//

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // - = - = / = - - / = - = =
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =

For when devotion springs from an agenda or desire,

There it remains rooted;

But when there is love and devotion for dharma,

In that person's heart tranquillity runs deep.

In today's verse the 2nd pāda, beginning with a light - heavy - light (- = -) combination, is in the Upendravajrā form of the Upajāti metre, while the other three pādas, beginning with two heavy syllables (= = -), are in the Indravajrā form of the Upajāti metre.

Translation of this final canto might be a massive stimulus to end-gaining, partly because a kind of finishing line seems to be in sight, and partly because it would be easy to understand that Aśvaghoṣa is now presenting Nanda as a kind of Finished Article, One Who Is Right. But if any such animal exists, I have never met one. So I shall continue to resist such understanding -- using foul and abusive language as I deem appropriate.

In this verse the words prasādo hṛdayāvagāḍhaḥ "clarity/tranquillity being heart-immersed" or "tranquillity running deep in the heart," as I understand those words, describe not something rooted or fixed, but something fluid, a momentary state.

What such a state is, don't ask me. I don't bloody well know.

The kind of devotion that springs from an agenda, or springs from desire, I know much better.  It is the kind of devotion to sitting in lotus that springs from the idea of becoming a true Zen master, or the kind of devotion to sitting in lotus that springs from the idea of suppressing sexual desire now with a view to being loved in future.  When one sits like that, the back is very unlikely to be all of one piece; there is very likely to be a disconnect between the head and the pelvis. Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

On the basis of this kind of recognition, based on what really happens in the relation between the head and the neck and the rest of the back, FM Alexander observed that "People with no fish to fry, they see it all right."

Today's verse as I read it, then, makes sense in the light of what is written in 17.42 - 17.43 about real enjoyment of sitting beginning when a practitioner distances himself from desires and tainted things:

Distanced from desires and tainted things, containing ideas and containing thoughts, / Born of solitude and possessed of joy and ease, is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered.//17.42// Released from the burning of the bonfire of desires, he derived great gladness from ease in the act of meditating -- / Ease like a heat-exhausted man diving into water. Or like a pauper coming into great wealth.//17.43//

EH Johnston:
For devotion which originates in love or wealth, exists with its roots growing from that source only, but when anyone's passionate devotion arises from following the Law, faith is implanted in his heart.

Linda Covill:
When a person's devotion springs from wealth or lust, its roots remain in those things. But when his passion for devotion follows dharma, then tranquillity enters his heart.

yasya (gen. sg.): in/of [one] who
artha-kaama-prabhavaa (nom. sg. f.): springing from motive and desire
artha-kaama: n. utility and desire , wealth and pleasure; mfn. desirous of wealth, desiring to be useful
artha: mn. cause, motive ;  advantage , use , utility ; object of the senses ; substance , wealth , property , opulence , money
kaama: desire, love
prabhava: m. production , source , origin , cause of existence (as father or mother , also " the Creator ") , birthplace (often ifc. , with f. prabhavaa, springing or rising or derived from , belonging to).
hi: for
bhaktiH (nom. sg.): f. devotion

tataH: ind. from that, on that basis, thereafter; in that place, there
asya (gen. sg. ayam): in/of this one
saa  (nom. sg. f.):  it, the [devotion]
tiShThati (3rd pers. sg. sthaa): it remains
ruuDha-muulaa (nom. sg. f.): firmly rooted
ruuDha: sprung up , grown , increased , developed , produced from (comp.)
muula: n. root
ruuDha-muulatva: n. having taken firm root, firmness

dharma: the law, the teaching
anvayaH (nom. sg.): m. following, connection , association , being linked to or concerned with
yasya (gen. sg.): for whom
tu: but
bhakti-raagaH (nom. sg.): m. affection or predilection for (loc.)
bhakti: f. devotion
raaga: m. the act of colouring or dyeing; colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness ; inflammation ; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love , affection or sympathy for , vehement desire of , interest or joy or delight in (loc. or comp.)

tasya (gen. sg.): for him
prasaadaH (nom. sg.): m. clearness , brightness, purity ; calmness , tranquillity , absence of excitement ; serenity of disposition ; graciousness
hRday'aavagaaDhaH (nom. sg. m.): heart-immersed
hRdaya: n. the heart
avagaaDha: mfn. immersed , bathed , plunged into

Thursday, September 29, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.3: Criteria of Nobility

yato hi yenādhigato viśeṣas
tasyottamāṅge 'rhati kartumiḍyām /
āryaḥ sarāgo 'pi kṛtajñabhāvāt
prakṣīṇamānaḥ kimu vītarāgaḥ//18.3//

- = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =

Thus is a noble person obliged to pay respect, to his face,

To the one through whom he has acquired distinction.

Even a noble person who retains the taint of redness
is so obliged, out of gratitude:

How much more is one with no red taint,
all pride having perished?

In today's verse the first pāda, beginning with a light - heavy - light (- = -) combination, is in the Upendravajrā form of the Upajāti metre, while the other three pādas, beginning with two heavy syllables (= = -), are in the Indravajrā form of the Upajāti metre.

EHJ notes that iḍyām is undoubtedly a corruption here for ijyām, which occurs occasionally in Buddhist works in the sense of pūjā (honour, worship, respect).

The Clay Sanskrit Library version goes with kartum ijyām.

The University of the West version differs in having viśeṣastasyottamāṃso for viśeṣastasyottamāṅge and kartumīḍyām for kartumiḍyām. The latter variant is probably a typo. The former variant is based on Shastri's attempted restoration of the 2nd pāda. EHJ rejects Shastri's attempt on the basis that uttamāṁ is weak and so is not required and makes nonsense.

As regards the meaning of today's verse, one assumes that the noble person in question means the student, Nanda, and the one through whom Nanda acquired distinction means the teacher, Buddha. But is there also a sense, conversely, in which the teacher acquires distinction through the success of the student?

Either way, implicit in this verse as I read it are Aśvaghoṣa's criteria of nobility. Reading between the lines, Aśvaghoṣa is saying that a noble person is not necessarily one in whom the powers of inhibition are perfectly developed, but a noble person is invariably grateful to another person through whom he or she has acquired distinction.

This is reminiscent of Dogen's teaching in Shobogenzo chap. 8, Raihai-tokuzui, which means "Prostrating to Whatever Has Got the Marrow."

In the same vein, one of the things which most impressed me when, in searching the internet for a transliterated text of Buddha-carita, I stumbled on the websites of Ānandajoti Bhikku, was his evident reverence for and gratitude towards a lay Sri Lankan meditation teacher by the name of Godwin.

People in Southeast Asia, as I know from a brief spell practising in a Thai monastery, tend to be very hung up on the merit of wearing the uniform of a male monk. But the original teaching of the Buddha is not like that. And Ānandajoti Bhikku, for one, despite himself wearing the uniform of a male bhikṣu in the Theravāda tradition, is evidently very well aware of that.

Merit is primarily acquired in the Buddha's teaching not by what uniform you wear or by what class you are classed in. Merit is acquired primarily by what you don't do and by what you do -- in that order.

This, I venture to suggest, is not Mahayana Buddhism and not Theravada Buddhism, nor is it Tibetan Buddhism or Thai or Sri Lankan or Chinese or Japanese Buddhism, nor is it Zen Buddhism, nor is it Eastern Buddhism, nor has it got anything to do with evolution of Buddhism in the west. Nor even do I believe in this teaching as the "One True Buddhism" of my own Zen teacher -- because, on the basis of experience, I refuse to believe a single word anybody says, and especially that deluded old bastard.

Even though I refuse to believe, as a working hypothesis that has yet to be falsified, I accept the following proposition:

Not doing any evil,
Allowing what is good,
Cleansing one's thinking,
This is the teaching of all the buddhas.

EH Johnston:
For when a religious man, though still full of passion, has attained any excellence through anyone else, he should render the latter the highest worship out of gratitude; how much more should the man do so whose conceit is abated and passion spent?

Linda Covill:
For a noble one, even when is passionate, should pay homage, bowing his head, out of gratitude to the person through whom he has gained something special. How much more should a man do so when he is without passion and his pride at an end?

yataH: ind. whence ; as , because , for , since (often connecting with a previous statement)
hi: for
yena (inst. sg.): through whom
adhigataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. found , obtained , acquired; learnt
visheShaH (nom. sg.): m. distinction; characteristic difference , peculiar mark , special property , speciality , peculiarity ; distinction , peculiar merit , excellence , superiority

tasya (gen. sg.): of/for him
uttamaaNge (loc. sg.): n. the highest or chief part of the body , the head
uttama: mfn. uppermost , highest
aNga: n. a limb of the body, the body; a subordinate division or department
arhati: he should
kartum = infinitive kR: to do, make
ijyaam (acc. sg.): f. (from √yaj) a sacrifice , making offerings
√ yaj: to worship , adore , honour (esp. with sacrifice or oblations)

aaryaH (nom. sg.): m. an aryan; a noble one; an honourable man
sa-raagaH (nom. sg. m.) mfn. having colour (sometimes = " not quite clean ") ; reddened ; enamoured , impassioned , passionate
api: even
kRtajNa: mfn. knowing what is right , correct in conduct ; acknowledging past services or benefits , mindful of former aid or favours , grateful
bhaavaat (abl. sg. bhaava): because of being

prakShiiNa-manaH (nom. sg. m): of perished pride
prakShiiNa: destroyed , perished ; vanished , disappeared ; decayed , wasted , diminished
maana: m. ( √ man) opinion , notion , conception , idea; purpose , wish , design ; self-conceit , arrogance , pride
kim u: how much more? how much less?
viita-raagaH (nom. sg.): m. a man without the red taint of passion

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.2: What the Buddha Desired

draṣṭuṃ sukhaṃ jñānasamāptikāle
gururhi śiṣyasya gurośca śiṣyaḥ/
pariśramaste saphalo mayīti
yato didṛkṣāsya munau babhūva//18.2//

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // - = - = / = - - / = - = =
- = - = / = - - / = - = = // - = - = / = - - / = - = -

For it is pleasant,
at a time when wisdom has been fully realized,

For teacher to see student, and for student to see teacher,

Each thinking, "Your toil has rewarded me";

For which same reason
the wish to see Nanda arose in the Sage.

In today's verse the first pāda, beginning with two heavy syllables (= = -), is in the Indravajrā form of the Upajāti metre, while the other three pādas, beginning with a light - heavy - light (- = -) combination, are in the Upendravajrā form of the Upajāti metre.

jñānasamāptikāle could be understood as meaning a moment like when a reader gets to the end of a book, or gets to the end of all the books in a Buddhist library; or it could be understood as meaning a moment like when a full moon is noticed shining in the sky -- at which time, it has been said since ancient times, the mind/moon is shining in the sky.

When the mind/moon is shining in the sky, in solitude and yet full of itself, it may show itself as a golden orb in a black night sky. Alternatively, surprisingly, it might show itself as a white disc in a blue winter sky. Again, the moon might show itself, fully, as a white crescent, or a white half-moon, in a blue autumn sky.

On the surface, or going by the dictionary, jñānasamāptikāle means at the time of complete acquisition of knowledge; but Ashvaghosha as I hear him is rather talking about full realization of wisdom, i.e, complete freedom from ignorance. Full realization of wisdom, then, might mean just sitting in full lotus without the encumbrance of any religious or cultural baggage, without stiffening up, and without pulling down. And a time when wisdom has been fully realized might mean, for example, tea-time.

With regard to the 4th line, assuming the Buddha practised what he preached, I think the desire to see Nanda that arose in the Buddha was not an unduly big or strong desire. And at a time when wisdom had been fully realized, the same might go for Nanda's desire to see his Guru.

EH Johnston:
Pleasant it is for the guru to see the pupil or the pupil the guru at the time knowledge has been acquired, each thinking, 'Your toil has been fruitful through me' ; so the Sage was desirous of seeing him too.

Linda Covill:
For at the time when knowledge has been perfected, it is pleasant for the teacher to see the student, and for the student to see the teacher, each with the thought "your striving has borne fruit through me"; and so he wished to see the sage.

draShTum = infinitive √drsh: to see
sukham (acc. sg. n.): pleasant, agreeable, happy
jNaana-samaapti-kaale (loc. sg.): at the time of complete acquisition of knowledge
jNaana: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge (derived from meditation on the one Universal Spirit)
samaapti: f. complete acquisition (as of knowledge or learning)
kaala: time

guruH (nom. sg. m.): the Guru
hi: for
shiShyasya (gen. sg. m.): the pupil
guroH (gen. sg. m.): the Guru
ca: and
shiShyaH (nom. sg. m.): the pupil

parishramaH (nom. sg.): m. fatigue , exertion , labour , fatiguing occupation , trouble , pain
te (gen. sg. tvam): of you
sa-phalaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having or bearing fruit or seed , fruitful (as a tree); having good results , productive , profitable , successful
mayi (loc. sg. aham): to me
mayaa (inst. sg. aham): through me
iti: thus; ".... "

yataH: ind. whence, for which reason, on which grounds
didRkShaa: f. (fr. desiderative of √ dRsh, to see.) desire of seeing
asya (gen. sg. ayam): of this one
munau = loc. sg. m. muni: m. the sage
babhuuva = 3rd pers. perf. bhuu: to be, arise, occur

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.1: Success (the Easy Bit)

atha dvijo bāla ivāptavedaḥ
kṣipraṃ vaṇik prāpta ivāptalābhaḥ /
jitvā ca rājanya ivārisainyaṃ
nandaḥ kṛtārtho gurumabhyagacchat //18.1//

- = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = -

And so like a young initiate who mastered the Vedas,

Like a trader who turned a quick profit,

Or like a royal warrior who conquered a hostile army,

Nanda, a success, approached the Guru.

The final canto begins with a verse in the Upajāti metre, each pāda having 11 syllables in a 4-3-4 formation, as described in the comments to 11.59. In today's verse the first pāda, beginning with a light - heavy - light (- = -) combination is in the Upendravajrā form of the Upajāti metre, while the other three pādas, beginning with two heavy syllables (= = -), are in the Indravajrā form of the Upajāti metre.

To understand what Ashvaghosha means here by describing Nanda as kṛtārthaH (a success, one who has gained his end, one who has accomplished his purpose), we can refer back and pick up the thread of the last 13 verses of the previous chapter, Canto 17, titled Obtaining the Deathless Nectar:

Having attained to the seat of arhathood, he was worthy of being served: without ambition, without partiality, without expectation;/ Without fear, sorrow, pride, or passion; being nothing but himself, he seemed in his constancy to be different.//17.61// And so Nanda, who, through the instruction of his brother and teacher and through his own valiant effort,/ Had quieted his mind and fulfilled his task, spoke to himself these words://17.62// "Praise be to him, the One Gone Well, through whose compassionate striving for my benefit, / Great agonies were turned away and greater comforts conferred.//17.63// For while being dragged, by ignoble physicality, down a path pregnant with suffering,/ I was turned back by the hook of his words, like an elephant in musk by a driver's hook.//17.64// For through the instruction of the compassionate teacher who extracted a dart of passion that was lodged in my heart, / Now such abundant ease is mine -- Oh! how happy I am in the loss of everything!//17.65// For, by putting out the burning fire of desires, using the water of constancy, as if using water to put out a blaze, / I have now come to a state of supreme refreshment like a hot person descending into a cool pool.//17.66// Nothing is dear to me, nor offensive to me. There is no liking in me, much less disliking./ In the absence of those two, I am enjoying the moment like one immune to cold and heat.//17.67// Like gaining safety after great danger, like gaining release after long imprisonment, / Like being boatless yet gaining the far shore, after a mighty deluge, and like gaining clarity, after fearful darkness; //17.68// Like gaining health out of incurable illness, relief from immeasurable debt, / or escape from an enemy presence; or like gaining, after famine, plentiful food: //17.69// Thus have I come to utmost quiet, through the quieting influence of the teacher. /Again and repeatedly I do homage to him: homage, homage to the worthy one, the Realised One! //17.70// By him I was taken to the golden-peaked mountain, and to heaven, where, with the example of the she-monkey, / and by means of the women who wander the triple heaven, I who was a slave to love, sunk in girl-filled strife, was extricated. //17.71// And from that extreme predicament, from that worthless mire, up he dragged me, like a feeble-footed elephant from the mud, /To be released into this quieted, untainted, feverless, sorrowless, ultimate true reality, which is free from darkness. //17.72// I salute the great supremely compassionate seer, bowing my head to him, the knower of types, the knower of hearts, / The fully awakened one, the holder of ten powers, the best of healers, the deliverer: again, I bow to him. //17.73//

I originally thought to translate kṛtārthaH as "having accomplished his purpose." But on reflection "accomplishing one's purpose" sounds rather final, whereas the kind of success represented by the three metaphors used in today's verse is not the end of those particular stories.

On the contrary, for a young initiate the memorization of the Vedas might be regarded as the beginning of learning -- as for a 17-year-old learner-driver who passed his driving test, passing the test is regarded as the beginning of really learning how to drive. Again, for an entrepreneur running a successful business, turning a quick profit on a one-off deal is likely to be relatively inconsequential in the larger scheme of things -- as compared, for example, with establishing a mutually advantageous long-term connection with a trusted partner. And to understand the military metaphor we don't have to delve too far back into history to find examples in which the initial defeat of a conventional army was the easy part.

In Nanda's case, similarly, success in obtaining for himself the nectar of immortality is far from the end of his story. The Buddha has in mind for Nanda a further purpose, which is to encourage others in the right direction, the direction of freedom.

Some commentators have opined that this final Canto marks Ashvaghosha out as a seminal figure in Mahayana Buddhism, which emphasizes helping others ahead of concern for oneself. Some scholars love to discriminate in this way between this Buddhism and that Buddhism, because they are not the slightest bit inclined to prioritize the backward step. They are much more interested in forward steps: in publication of their next book, or putting forward some brilliant new thesis, or attainment of their doctorate in Buddhist studies, or their next academic posting... But they do not practise the backward step and so they discuss the Buddha's teaching as if it were an -ism. But how can the original teaching of the Buddha be an -ism? How much less can it be fragmented into competing -isms?

The last three years, translating one verse of Saundara-nanda per day, have been like falling off a log. Now the finishing post looms and so this work in progress is moving towards what might be judged a successful conclusion. But then what? Then might follow more difficult bits, like giving the translation away, and letting go of it. Like letting people make of it what they will.

One thing I know about success (at least small victories) in Alexander work is that consciousness of having been successful is always liable to muck up the process. Whereas true success is nothing to be proud of -- "You shouldn't have been in the way in the first place!"

EH Johnston:
Then having reached his goal, like a young Brahman who has mastered the Vedas or a merchant who has quickly acquired gain or a Ksatriya who has conquered a hostile army, Nanda sought out the Guru.

Linda Covill:
Successful as a twice-born youth who has mastered the Vedas, as a businessman who has turned a quick profit, as a warrior king who has concquered an enemy army, Nanda then approached the Guru.

atha: ind then, now, and so, etc.
dvijaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. twice-born; m. a man of any one of the first 3 classes , any Aryan , (esp.) a Brahman (re-born through investiture with the sacred thread cf. upa-nayana)
upa-nayana: n. the act of leading near; introduction (into any science); leading or drawing towards one's self ; that ceremony in which a Guru draws a boy towards himself and initiates him into one of the three twice-born classes (one of the twelve saMskaaras or purificatory rites [prescribed in the dharma-suutras and explained in the gRhya-suutras] in which the boy is invested with the sacred thread [different for the three castes] and thus endowed with second or spiritual birth and qualified to learn the veda by heart ; a Brahman is initiated in the eighth, a kShatriya [military] in the eleventh , a vaishya [farmer/tradesman] in the twelfth)
baalaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. young; m. a boy, youth
iva: like
aapta-vedaH (nom. sg. m.): one who mastered the vedas
aapta: mfn. got , gained , obtained
veda: m. (fr. √vid, to know) knowledge , true or sacred knowledge or lore , knowledge of ritual ; name of certain celebrated works which constitute the basis of the first period of the Hindu religion (these works were primarily three , viz. 1. the Rg-veda , 2. the yajur-veda, 3. the saama-veda ; these three works are sometimes called collectively trayii , " the triple vidyaa " or " threefold knowledge " , but the Rg-veda is really the only original work of the three , and much the most ancient [the oldest of its hymns being assigned by some who rely on certain astronomical calculations to a period between 4000 and 2500 B.C. , before the settlement of the Aryans in India ; and by others who adopt a different reckoning to a period between 1400 and 1000 B.C. , when the Aryans had settled down in the Panjab])...

kShipram: mfn. quick; ind. quickly
vaNik = nom. sg. vaNij: m. a merchant, trader
praaptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. got , acquired , gained ; accomplished , complete , mature , full-grown
iva: like
aapta-laabhaH (nom. sg. m.): one who got profit
aapta: mfn. got , gained , obtained
laabha: m. acquisition , gain , profit

jitvaa = abs. ji: to conquer (in battle) , vanquish, defeat
ca: and
raajanyaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. kingly , princely , royal; m. a royal personage , man of the regal or military tribe (ancient name of the second or kShatriya caste)
iva: like
ari-sainyam (acc. sg. m.): a hostile army
ari: mfn. hostile; m. an enemy
sainya: mfn. belonging to or proceeding from an army; m. a soldier, an army

NandaH (nom. sg. m.): Nanda
kRt'-aarthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who has attained an end or object or has accomplished a purpose or desire , successful , satisfied , contented
gurum (acc. sg. m.): m. any venerable or respectable person (father , mother , or any relative older than one's self); m. a spiritual parent or preceptor (from whom a youth receives the initiatory mantra or prayer , who instructs him in the shaastras and conducts the necessary ceremonies up to that of investiture which is performed by the aacaarya)
abhyagacchat = 3rd pers. sg. impefect: abhi- √ gam: to go near to , approach (with acc.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Canto 11: Negation of Heaven

Ananda's teaching in this canto meets the pragmatic test of truth in the sense that, unlike the striver's preaching in cantos 8 & 9, it works: it leads Nanda in the direction of confidence in a better way. How to follow a better way than end-gaining in samsara is the central point of the teaching that the Buddha gives Nanda in cantos 12 to 16. Canto 17 describes how Nanda makes that teaching his own. And in Canto 18, to which we now turn, the Buddha affirms that Nanda is going irreversibly in the right direction and asks him, having redeemed himself, to start helping others.

Reviewing Canto 11 in the round, the opposition between wandering through the realms of saṁsāra, of which Ashvaghosha mentions five, and practising brahmacarya, or devout abstinence, is liable to stimulate in my mind a nagging doubt that I am required by the Buddha's teaching to give up things that I am reluctant to give up, things that I enjoy. Abstinence does not sound like much fun. Also in this canto, however, to lighten the mood, are verses like 11.33 - 11.35 that speak of the unequalled enjoyment of turning one's own light and letting it shine.

Above all, the one sentence that stands out in my mind is 11.52, ratir bhavati n' āsane "there is no enjoyment in sitting." Whether up in heaven or down here on earth, that is always a bad sign.

An injured knee, as I have at present, makes it more difficult to enjoy sitting. But this difficulty only makes me clearer in my own mind how important it is for sitting to be enjoyable, difficult or not. If sitting is not enjoyable, something needs attending to. For a self-regulating system, negative feedback is just about the most valuable thing there is, and we blot it out at our peril.

Finally, if there has been any merit in the translation of this canto, I would like to direct it towards my wife's mother, who died at the beginning of this month. She was regarded as something of a Sundari in her day, and was a tireless and self-sacrificing worker for her family.

And so, having gazed upon those women

Who wander in the Gardens of Nandana,

Nanda tethered to a post of restraint

The fickle and unruly mind.

Not relishing the taste of freedom from care,

Sapless as a wilting lotus,

He went through the motions of dharma-practice,

Having installed the apsarases in his heart.

Thus did one whose sense-power had been restless,

Whose senses had grazed on the pasture of his wife,

Come, by the very power of sense-objects,

To have his sense-power reined in.

Adept in the practices of love,

Confused about the practices of a beggar,

Set firm by the best of practice guides,

He did the devout practice of abstinence.

Stifling restraint

And ardent love,

Like water and fire in tandem,

Smothered him and burned him dry.

Though naturally good-looking,

He became extremely ugly,

Both from agonizing about the apsarases

And from protracted restraint.

Even when mention was made of his wife,

He who had been so devoted to his wife

Stood by, seemingly bereft of passion;

He neither bristled nor quavered.

Knowing him to be adamant,

Turned away from passion for his wife,

Ananda, having come that way,

Said to Nanda with affection:

"Ah! This is a beginning that befits

An educated and well-born man --

Since you are holding back the power of your senses

And, abiding in yourself, you are set on restraint!

In one entangled in desires,

In a man of passion, a sensualist,

That this consciousness has arisen --

This is by no small cause!

A mild illness is warded off

With little effort;

A serious illness is cured with serious efforts,

Or else it is not.

An illness of the mind is hard to remove,

And yours was a powerful one.

If you are rid of it,

You are in every way steadfast.

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 abstinence is hard for a man of passion.

But I have one doubt

Concerning this steadfastness of yours in restraint.

I would like assurance on this matter,

If you think fit to tell me.

Straight talk

Should not be taken amiss:

However harsh it is,
so long as its intention is pure,

A good man will not retain it as harsh.

For there is disagreeable good advice,
which is kind,

And agreeable bad advice,
which is not kind;

But agreeable good advice is hard to come by --

Like sweet and salutary medicine.

Trust, acting in the other's interest,

Sharing of joy and sorrow,

And tolerance, as well as affection:

Such, between good men, is the conduct of a friend.

So now I am going to speak to you

Out of affection, with no wish to hurt.

For my intention is to speak of a better way for you --

In regard to which I ought not to be indifferent.

For apsarases as wages,

So they say, you are practising dharma.

Is that so? Is it true?

Such a thing would be a joke!

If this really is true,

I will tell you a medicine for it;

Or if it is the impertinence of chatterers,

I shall speak out on the basis of fact."

Then -- though it was tenderly done --

Nanda was stricken in his heart.

After reflecting, he drew in a long breath,

And his face inclined slightly downward.

And so, knowing the signs

That betrayed the set of Nanda's mind,

Ananda spoke words

Which were disagreeable but sweet in consequence:

"From the look on your face I know

Your motive in practising dharma.

And knowing that, there arises in me towards you

Laughter and at the same time pity.

Just as, for the purpose of sitting,

Somebody might carry around on his shoulder
a heavy rock;

That is how you also, for the purpose of sensuality,

Are labouring to bear restraint.

Just as, in its desire to charge,

A wild ram draws back,

So, for the sake of non-abstinence,

Is this devout abstinence of yours!

Just as merchants buy merchandise

Moved by a desire to make profit,

That is how you are practising dharma,

As if it were a tradable commodity,
not for peace.

Just as, with a particular crop in view,

A ploughman scatters seed,

That is how, because of being desperate for an object,

You have renounced objects.

Again, just as a man might want to be ill

In his craving for a pleasurable remedy,

That is how you are seeking out suffering

In your thirst for an object.

Just as a man sees honey

And fails to notice a precipice,

That is how you are seeing the apsarases

And not seeing the fall that will come in the end.

Blazing with a fire of desire in your heart,

You carry out observances with your body:

What is this devout abstinence of yours,

Who does not practise abstinence with his mind?

Again, since in spiralling through samsara

You have gained celestial nymphs and left them

A hundred times over,

Why this yearning of yours for those women?

A fire is not satisfied by dry brushwood,

Nor the salty ocean by water,

Nor a man of thirst by his desires.

Desires, therefore, do not make for satisfaction.

Without satisfaction, whence peace?

Without peace, whence ease?

Without ease, whence joy?

Without joy, whence enjoyment?

Therefore if you want enjoyment,

Let your mind be directed within.

Tranquil and impeccable is enjoyment of the inner self

And there is no enjoyment to equal it.

In it, you have no need of musical instruments,

Or women, or ornaments;

On your own, wherever you are,

You can indulge in that enjoyment.

The mind suffers mightily

As long as thirst persists.

Eradicate that thirst; for suffering

Co-exists with thirst, or does not exist.

In prosperity or in adversity,

By day or by night,

For the man who thirsts after desires,

Peace is not possible.

The pursuit of desires is full of suffering,

The attainment is not where satisfaction lies,

The separation is inevitably sorrowful --

And separation is the celestial constant.

Even having done action that is hard to do,

And reached a heaven that is hard to reach,

A man comes right back to the world of men,

As if to his own house after a spell away.

The backslider

When his residual good runs out

Finds himself among the animals
or in the world of the departed,

Or else he goes to hell.

Having enjoyed in heaven

The utmost sensual objects,

He falls back, beset by suffering:

What has that enjoyment done for him?

Through tender love for living creatures

Shibi gave his own flesh to a hawk.

He fell back from heaven,

Even after doing such a difficult deed.

Having attained half of Indra's throne

As a veritable earth-lord of the old school,

Mandhatri when his time with the gods elapsed

Came back down again.

Though he ruled the gods,

Nahusha fell to earth;

He turned into a snake, so they say,

And even today has not wriggled free.

Likewise King Ilivila

Being perfect in kingly conduct,

Went to heaven and fell back down,

Becoming, so they say, a turtle in the ocean.

Bhuri-dyumna and Yayati

And other excellent kings,

Having bought heaven by their actions,

Gave it up again, after that karma ran out --

Whereas the asuras, who had been gods in heaven

When the suras robbed them of their rank,

Went bemoaning their lost glory

Down to their Patala lair.

But why such citing of royal seers,

Or of asuras, suras, and the like?

Mighty Indras have fallen in their hundreds!

Even the most exalted position is not secure.

Again, Indra's luminous sidekick,

He of the three strides, lit up Indra's court,

And yet when his karma waned

He fell to earth from the apsarases' midst, screaming.

"Oh, the grove of Citra-ratha! Oh, the pond!

Oh, the heavenly Ganges! Oh, my beloved!" --

Thus lament the distressed denizens of heaven

As they fall to earth.

For intense already is the pain that arises

In those facing death in this world

And how much worse is it for the pleasure-addicts

When they finally fall from heaven?

Their clothes gather dust,

Their glorious garlands wither,

Sweat appears on their limbs,

And in their sitting there is no enjoyment.

These are the first signs

Of the imminent fall from heaven of sky-dwellers,

Like the unwelcome but sure signs

Of the approaching death of those subject to dying.

Of the pleasure that arises

From enjoyment of desires in heaven

And the pain of falling,

The pain, assuredly, is greater.

Knowing heaven, therefore,

To be ill-fated, precarious,

Unreliable, unsatisfactory, and transitory,

Resolve to get off the merry-go-round.

For though he attained a peak experience

Of bodiless being, Sage Udraka,

At the expiration of his karma,

Will fall from that state into the womb of an animal.

Through seven years of loving kindness,

He went from here to Brahma's world,

But Sunetra span around again

And came back to live in a womb.

Since heaven-dwellers, even when all-powerful,

Are subject to decay,

What wise man would aspire

To a decadent sojourn in heaven?

For just as a bird tied to a string,

Though it has flown far, comes back again;

So too do people return
who are tied to the string of ignorance,

However far they have travelled.

Just as a man temporarily released from prison on bail

Enjoys home comforts and then, when his time is up,
must go back to prison,

So having got to heaven, as if on bail,
through restrictive practices beginning with meditation,

Is one eventually dragged --
after enjoying those objects
which were one's karmic reward --
back down to earth.

Just as fish in a pond who have swum into a net, unwarily,

Do not know the misfortune that results from capture
but contentedly move around in the water,

So meditators in heaven (who are really of this world of men),
thinking they have achieved their end,

Assume their own position
to be favourable, secure, settled --
as they whirl around again.

Therefore, see this world to be shot through
with the calamities of birth, sickness, and death

And -- whether in heaven, among men, in hell,
or among animals or the departed --
to be reeling through samsara.

For the sake of that fearless refuge,
for that sorrowless nectar of immortality
which is benign, and beyond death and decay,

Devoutly practice abstinence,
and abandon your fancy for a precarious heaven.

The 11th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "Negation of Heaven."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.62: Samsara vs Abstinence for the Sake of Abstinence

tajjanmavyādhimṛtyuvyasanaparigataṃ matvā jagadidaṃ
saṃsāre bhrāmyamāṇaṃ divi nṛṣu narake tiryakpitṛṣu ca /
yattrāṇaṃ nirbhayaṃ yacchivamamarajaraṃ niḥśokamamṛtaṃ
taddhetorbrahmacaryaṃ cara jahihi calaṃ svargaṃ prati rucim //11.62//

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

saundarananda mahākāvye svargāpavādo nāma aikādaśaḥ sargaḥ

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

Therefore, see this world to be shot through
with the calamities of birth, sickness, and death

And -- whether in heaven, among men, in hell,
or among animals or the departed --
to be reeling through samsara.

For the sake of that fearless refuge,
for that sorrowless nectar of immortality
which is benign, and beyond death and decay,

Devoutly practice abstinence,
and abandon your fancy for a precarious heaven.

The 11th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Negation of Heaven."

Canto 11 thus finishes with a prosodic flourish in which each pāda has 20 syllables.

This canto has given cause for thought on how best to translate brahmacaryam, and the English word that seems to me at present best to fit the bill is abstinence. The dictionary defines to abstain as "to refrain from something: to choose not to do something."

Understood like that, Ananda's exhortation is an exhortation to practise abstinence for the sake of a state of abstinence, or in other words to choose not to do for the sake of freedom from doing.

When we speak of abstinence, we mainly think of abstaining from drink, or from sex, and the latter connotation seems to be strong in the original meaning of brahmacaryam.

But if we bring the discussion back to the one great matter which is sitting in lotus, to sit in lotus simply as ascetic abstention from indulgences like alcohol and sex is hardly the one great matter.

The original teaching of the Buddha is to sit in lotus abstaining from what?

Little by little we are endeavoring to answer this question and, happily, today's verse seems a significant one towards completion of the jig-saw puzzle. For a start, I would venture to assert that, as a means of stepping off the merry-go-round of samsara, our primary wish in sitting is to refrain either from stiffening up like an over-excited sergeant major or from pulling down into a slump.

EH Johnston:
Therefore recognise this world to be encompassed about by the disasters of birth, disease and death and to be revolving still in the cycle of existence, whether in heaven, among men, in Hell, or among animals or Pretas ; and leading a holy life for the sake of that refuge which is happy and beyond all fears, delivered from old age and death ; sorrowless and immortal, give up your designs on this fleeting Paradise.'

Linda Covill:
Therefore be aware that this existence -- wandering in samsara, perhaps in heaven, or among men, or in hell, or in the animal or ancestor realm -- is permeated with the afflictions of birth, sickness and death. So practice abstinence for the sake of that sheltering state which is safe and benign, which is without danger, without aging and dying, sorrowless and deathless, and give up your appetite for that shifting heaven."

tad: ind. so, therefore
janma-vyaadhi-mRtyu-vyasana-parigatam (acc. sg. n.): filled with the predicaments of birth, sickness and death
janma-vyaadhi-mRtyu: birth, sickness, and death
vyasana: n. moving to and fro ; evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune
parigata: mfn gone through; filled , possessed of , visited by , afflicted with (comp.)
matvaa = abs. man: to think, to regard or consider any one or anything (acc.) as (acc.)
jagat (acc. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive ; the world, this world
idam (acc. sg. n.): this

saMsaare (loc. sg.): m. samsara; going or wandering through ; course , passage , passing through a succession of states , circuit of mundane existence
bhraamyamaanam = acc. sg. n. pres. part. bhram: to wander or roam about , rove , ramble ; to move to and fro or unsteadily , flicker , flutter , reel , totter
divi (loc. sg.): heaven
nRShu (loc. pl.): m. a man, hero ; mankind , people (mostly pl.)
narake (loc. sg.): mn. hell , place of torment
tiryak: ind. across , obliquely , transversely , horizontally , sideways
tiryaNc: mfn. going or lying crosswise or transversely or obliquely , oblique , transverse; m. n. " going horizontally " , an anima; ; the organic world
pitRShu (loc. pl.): m. father ; m. pl. the fathers , forefathers , ancestors , (esp.) the pitṛs or deceased ancestors
ca: and

yat (acc. sg. n.): [that] which
traaNam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. protected; n. protecting , preserving , protection , defence , shelter , help
nir-bhayam (acc. sg. n.): n. fearlessness , security ; mfn. fearless , not afraid ; mfn. free from danger , secure , tranquil
yat (acc. sg. n.): [that] which
shivam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign ; n. welfare , prosperity , bliss
a-mara-jaram (acc. sg. n.): not subject to death or aging
a-mara: mfn. undying , immortal , imperishable
a-jara: mfn. not subject to old age , undecaying , ever young
niH-shokam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. free from sorrow or care
a-mRtam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. free from sorrow or care ; n. immortality ; n. the nectar (conferring immortality , produced at the churning of the ocean)

tadd-hetor (gen. sg. m.): for the sake of that state
tad: that
hetu: m. " impulse " , motive , cause , cause of , reason for (gen. hetoH for a cause or reason ; on account of)
brahmacaryam (acc. sg.): brahma-carya: n. study of the veda , the state of an unmarried religious student , a state of continence and chastity (acc. with √ grah , char , vas , aa- √gam , upa- √i , to practise chastity ; cf. -chaarin)
brahma: holy life (esp. continence , chastity ; cf. brahma-charya) ; religious or spiritual knowledge (opp. to religious observances and bodily mortification such as tapas &c ); holy life (esp. continence , chastity ; cf. brahma-charya)
cara = 2nd pers. sg. imperative car: to move, continue performing, undergo , observe , practise
jahihi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative haa: to leave , abandon , desert , quit , forsake , relinquish
calam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. moving , trembling ; unsteady , fluctuating , perishable
svargam (acc. sg.): m. heaven
prati: ind. towards
rucim (acc. sg.): f. light, colour ; liking , taste , relish , pleasure , appetite , zest (ifc. taking pleasure in , desirous of, longing for ; with prati)

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye (loc.): in the epic poem Handsome Nanda
svarg'-aapavaadaH (nom. sg. m.): negation of heaven
svarga: m. heaven
apavaada: m. evil speaking , reviling , blaming , speaking ill of (gen.); denial , refutation , contradiction
naama: ind. by name
aikaadashaH sargaH (nom. sg. m.): 11th canto

Saturday, September 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.61: Blissfully Ignorant Meditators, Cruising for a Bruising

antarjālagatāḥ pramattamanaso mīnāstaḍāge yathā
jānanti vyasanaṃ na rodhajanitaṃ svasthāścarantyambhasi /
antarlokagatāḥ kṛtārthamatayastadvaddivi dhyāyino
manyante śivamacyutaṃ dhruvamiti svaṃ sthānamāvartakam //11.61//

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

Just as fish in a pond who have swum into a net, unwarily,

Do not know the misfortune that results from capture
but contentedly move around in the water,

So meditators in heaven who are of the world,
thinking they have achieved their end,

Assume their own position
to be favourable, secure, settled --
as they whirl around again.

Today's verse is written in exactly the same 19-syllable-per-pāda metre as as yesterday's verse.

Since it is such a long sentence, the meaning might become clearer if we identify the elements in the first half and second half that run most closely parallel to each other.

The subjects are fish (mīnāḥ) and meditators or Zen practitioners (dhyāyinaH), respectively. The fish actually are in a net (antarjālagatāḥ). The meditators actually are in and of the world (antarlokagatāḥ). The fish, however, are not conscious of being anywhere but in a pond (taḍāge); and the meditators are not conscious of being anywhere but in a higher realm, that is to say, in heaven (divi). The unwary fish, then, are blissfully ignorant of their real situation, and so are the meditators, as they continue to go round and round.

Pride comes before a fall, as the saying goes, and it might be that nobody is cruising for a bruising more surely than a smug or arrogant meditator.

A couple of apposite quotes from Alexander work are FM Alexander's observation that "If you want to meditate, this work is how," and Marjory Barlow's exhortation that "In this work humility has to be your middle name."

The reason humility has to be our middle name, as I understand it, is that there is no such thing as a right position. There is no such thing as a position that has dropped off body and mind -- even if in my comment to yesterday's verse, I tried to sound as if I was writing from such a position. Because dropping off body and mind is not a position.

Majory Barlow used to speak of the whole body being informed with thought, which sounds like affirmation of the principle of mind influencing body. In that case, it occured to me yesterday, it might be necessary also to speak of thought that is informed by the whole body. But above all, a better way might be one that is totally free from me trying to be right.

As a means of dropping off body and mind Dogen recommended just following other practitioners, following them into the Zazen Hall, following them out of the Zazen Hall, and so on. Probably because of the dangers of misguided groupthink, the Buddha's teaching as Ashvaghosha transmits it seems to me to be much more centred on individual practice. But doing one's own thing, as typified in Shobogenzo by the bhikṣu of the fourth dhyāna, has its own dangers, chief among which is deluding oneself out of pride that one has achieved something or arrived somewhere.

EH Johnston:
As heedless fishes in a pond, when enclosed by a net, do not realise the disaster that has befallen them from being penned in but swim about cheerfully, so those given to abstract meditation think they have gained their object in heaven, while in fact they are still in the world of existence, and they deem their stay there, which leads to return to this world to be safe, permanent and not subject to fall.

Linda Covill:
Just as fish in a pond carelessly swim into a net and, unaware of the tragedy that will result from their capture, continue to move around happily in the water, so do people in that world believe they have achieved their end. They are engrossed in heaven and believe their own position there to be benign, unfallen and certain, though it is reversible.

antar-jaala-gataaH (nom. pl. m.): gone inside a net
antar: ind. within , between , amongst , in the middle or interior.
jaala: n. a net (for catching birds , fish &c )
gata: mfn. gone, being in
pramatta-manasaH (nom. pl. m.): heedless-minded
pramatta: mfn. excited , wanton , lascivious , rutting; inattentive , careless , heedless , negligent
pra- √mad: to enjoy one's self , be joyous , sport , play ; to be careless or negligent , to be indifferent to or heedless
manasa: mind
miinaaH (nom. pl.): m. fish
taDaage (loc. sg.): mn. a tank , pool
yathaa: ind. just as

jaananti = 3rd pers. pl. jñā: to know
vyasanam (acc. sg.): n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail); evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune
na: not
rodha-janitam (acc. sg.): produced from the confinement
rodha: m. the act of stopping , checking , obstructing , impeding ; suppressing , preventing , confining , surrounding , investing , besieging , blockading
janita: mfn. born, produced
svasthaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self ; at ease ; relying upon one's self , confident , resolute , composed
caranti = 3rd pers. pl. car: to move around
ambhasi (loc. sg.): n. water

antar-loka-gataaH (nom. pl. m.): being inside the world
gata: mfn. gone; come , come forth from (in comp. or abl.); come to , approached , arrived at , being in , situated in , contained in ; relating to , referring to , connected with (e.g. putra-gata sneha , love directed towards the son ; tvad-gata , belonging to thee)
kRt'-aartha-matayaH (nom. pl. m.): believing themselves to have achieved their end
kRt'-aartha: mfn. one who has attained an end or object or has accomplished a purpose or desire , successful , satisfied , contented
kRta: mfn. done
artha: aim, object
mati: f. thought; opinion , notion , idea , belief , conviction , view
tadvat: ind. so, in like manner
divi (loc. sg.): heaven
dhyaayinaH = nom. pl. m. dhyaayin: mfn. absorbed in meditation
dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind

manyante = 3rd pers. pl. man: to think , believe , imagine , suppose ,
shivam (acc. sg. n.): auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent ; happy, fortunate
a-cyutam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. not fallen; firm, solid; imperishable , permanent
dhruvam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. fixed , firm , immovable , unchangeable , constant , lasting , permanent , eternal ; settled , certain , sure
iti: "...," thus
svam (acc. sg. n.): their own
sthaanam (acc. sg.): n. the act of standing ; position ; staying , abiding , being in ; state, condition ; continued existence ; station, rank
aavartakam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. bringing back, repeating
ā- √ vṛt: to turn round or back , return , revolve
aavartaka: m. whirlpool ; revolution ; excitement of the mind from the influence of the senses

Friday, September 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.60: Chiding a Stairway to Heaven

kṛtvā kāla-vilakṣaṇaṁ pratibhuvā mukto yathā bandhanād/
bhuktvā veshma-sukhāny atiitya samayaṁ bhuuyo vished bandhanaṁ/
tadvad dyāṁ pratibhuu-vad ātma-niyamair dhyān'-ādibhiḥ prāptavān/
kāle karmasu teṣu bhukta-viṣayeṣv ākṛṣyate gāṁ punaḥ //11.60//

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

Just as a man temporarily released from prison on bail

Enjoys home comforts and then, when his time is up,
must go back to prison,

So having got to heaven, as if on bail,
through restrictive practices beginning with meditation,

Is one eventually dragged --
after enjoying those objects
which were one's karmic reward --
back down to earth.

The 19-syllable metre used in today's verse is one of those relatively uncommon metres that Anandajoti Bhikku describes as "employed as a prosodic flourish to round off the Chapters."

For practice, with a view to preparing the whole transliterated text for posting on, I am starting to render the Sanskrit transliteration into Unicode using the Unicode Input Programme on that site.

Whether to continue in the Clay Sanskrit Library style, which makes it easier to identify and look up individual words, or whether to switch to the standard transliteration style, is a question to consider. In the latter format, today's verse would read like this:

kṛtvā kālavilakṣaṇaṃ pratibhuvā mukto yathā bandhanād
bhuktvā veśmasukhānyatītya samayaṃ bhūyo viśed bandhanaṃ /
tadvad dyāṃ pratibhūvadātmaniyamairdhyānādibhiḥ prāptavān
kāle karmasu teṣu bhuktaviṣayeṣvākṛṣyate gāṃ punaḥ //11.60 //

In any event, I will be happy if I can yoke my effort to that of Anandajoti who evidently also wishes to clarify Ashvaghosha's original teaching not merely as a scholar but as a devotee of that teaching.

To be devoted to Ashvaghosha's teaching, it seems to me, is primarily a matter of daily practice of sitting-meditation, aka dhyāna, aka Zen, aka Zazen, in the context of which understanding it is striking in today's verse that dhyāna is cited as a typical example of a practice by which those who are riding a stairway to heaven restrict themselves.

Reading the words of ancient buddha-ancestors generally causes me to think I know nothing, I have not understood anything yet. So I have nothing to add, nothing to say.

Then why do I persist in seeming to need every day to write one voluminous comment after another? Because when I look around me, and when I look back at my own career, it seems to me that I have a lot to say. What the truth of the buddha-ancestors is, I do not know. But the various -isms that pass for the truth of the buddha-ancestors, including the "One True Buddhism" of my own teacher, are all more or less false. That much I do not doubt, even if I doubt myself.

And so in writing this comment, not for the first time, I will be like the surrounded American soldier in the Vietnam war who called in an air strike on his own position.

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima , the buddha-ancestor who transmitted the Dharma to me, used to say that Zazen (sitting-dhyana; sitting-meditation) was a kind of physical gymnastics.

When I told Gudo about a friend of mine in Japan who was not interested in Zazen but who worked out every day in the gym, Gudo said that for my friend working out in the gym was his Zazen. Gudo correctly pointed out that in Dogen's writing, body invariably comes before mind, so that Zazen is described as dropping off body and mind, not as dropping off mind and body. My teacher conceived of sitting-meditation as primarily physical, putting sitting before meditation. This approach appealed very much to me, who came to Zazen as one who enjoyed physical pursuits like rugby, weight-training, running, and karate-do. But gradually over the years, as I wrote yesterday, I have come to see a lack of wisdom in it.

To see sitting-meditation as primarily mental, as a means of controlling the body with the mind, is not the Buddha's teaching.

To ride on the swing of samsara to the other extreme and to see sitting-meditation as primarily physical, as a means of quieting the autonomic nervous system through physical gymnastics, is also not the Buddha's teaching.

Thus, just because I practise sitting-meditation and you practise sitting-meditation doesn't automatically make us brothers. It depends on how you practise. People who belong to the Samgha which Gudo organized in his senilescence, calling it Dogen Samgha International, I do not see as my brothers.

Similarly in this verse, as I read it, Ananda does not see as his brothers those for whom meditation is a form of ascetic self-restraint practised with a view to future rewards in heaven.

Rather, Ananda might see as his brothers those for whom sitting-meditation is learning of a step whose direction is backward, opposite to the rolling on of the wheel of samsara.

EH Johnston:
As a man is released through a surety from prison for a definite period and, after enjoying the pleasures of home, returns to prison when his time has expired, so man reaches heaven by means of self-restraint, abstract meditation and the like, as through a surety, and in time is dragged back to earth again when his actions have produced their full meed of enjoyment.

Linda Covill:
A prisoner is released when bail has secured him a reprieve for a certain time. ḥe enjoys domestic pleasures, but when his time is up he must go to prison again. In the same way a man wins heaven through self-restraint, meditation and so on, as though on bail, but is eventually dragged back to earth again when the sensual pleasures resulting from his good actions have been enjoyed.

kRtvaa = abs. kR: to do, make
kaala-vilakShaṇam: ind. for a certain time
kaala: m. time
vilakShaṇa: n. any state or condition which is without distinctive mark
vi- √ lakṣ: , to distinguish , discern
pratibhuvaa = inst. sg. prati-bhuu: m. a surety , security , bail
muktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. released, set free, let out
yathaa: ind. just as
bandhanaat (abl. sg.): n. the act of binding , tying , fastening , fettering; n. catching , capturing , confining , detention , custody , imprisonment or a prison

bhuktvaa = abs. bhuj: to enjoy
veshma-sukhaani (acc. pl. n.): pleasures of home, home comforts
veshman: n. a house , dwelling , mansion , abode
sukha: n. pleasure, comforts
atiitya = abs. ati- √i: to pass by , elapse
samayam m. coming together ; appointed or proper time ; limit, boundary
bhuuyaḥ: ind. once again
vishet = 3rd pers. sg. optative vish: to enter
bandhanam (acc. sg.): n. detention , custody , imprisonment or a prison

tadvat: ind. so, in like manner
dyaam = acc. sg. div: mf. heaven, the sky
pratibhuu-vat: ind. as if on bail
aatma-niyamaiḥ (inst. pl.): by means of restrictions on himself
aatman: self
niyama: m. restraining, checking; limitation , restriction
dhyaan'-aadibhiḥ (inst. p[.): meditation and so on
dhyaana: n. meditation , thought , reflection , (esp.) profound and abstract religious meditation
aadi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on
praaptavaan = nom. sg. m. past part. pra- √āp: to attain to ; reach , arrive at

kaale: ind. (loc.) in time
karmasu = loc. pl. (abs.) karman: n. action, work, effect ; former act as leading to inevitable results , fate (as the certain consequence of acts in a previous life)
teShu (loc. pl.): those
bhukta-viShayeShu (loc. pl.): objects having been enjoyed
bhukta: mfn. enjoyed
viShaya: m. sense object ; (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
aakRShyate = 3rd pers. sg. ā- √ kṛṣ: to draw towards one's self , attract , draw away with one's self
gaam (acc. sg.): f. the earth
punaḥ: ind. back again

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.59: Wisdom Cuts It

suutreNa baddho hi yathaa vihaMgo /
vyaavartate duura-gato 'pi bhuuyaH
ajNaana-suutreNa tath" aavabaddho /
gato 'pi duuraM punar eti lokaH //11.59//

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // - = - = / = - - / = - = =

For just as a bird tied to a string,

Though it has flown far, comes back again;

So too do people return
who are tied to the string of ignorance,

However far they have travelled.

There are 11 syllables, lined up in a 4-3-4 formation, in each of the four pādas (feet) of this verse. The metre fits Anandajoti Bhikku's description of the Upajāti metre which predominates in Ashvaghosha's other epic poem Buddha-carita.

Specifically the first three pādas, beginning with two heavy syllables (= = -) are in the Indravajrā form of the Upajāti metre, and the fourth pāda, beginning with a light - heavy - light (- = -) combination is in the Upendravajrā form of the Upajāti metre.

The Upajāti lines found in Buddhacarita are far in excess of any other metre, Anandajoti informs us, and Aśvaghoṣa's handling of the metre is faultless.

As regards the meaning of today's verse, what ties us to the swing of samsara, Ananda seems to be saying, is not so much a lack of the kind of compassion described in 11.57, nor the kind of peak experience described in 11.56, but rather a lack of wisdom.

So what is the wisdom of Buddha? And how does one go about getting it?

I cannot claim to be an expert, but it is evident from the writings of buddha-ancestors like Dogen and Ashvagosha that the buddha-ancestors have considered the practice of sitting-dhyana to be vital.

A Japanese Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, taught me that what was particularly vital was balance of the autonomic nervous system -- a condition of the unconscious mind.

But how can one get off the roundabout of unconscious reaction relying on unconsciousness? I think Gudo's teaching was not true, or at best very inaccurate.

According to Gudo, a baby in its natural state has very excellent real wisdom -- as long as its autonomic nervous system is balanced, the baby's mind is like a mirror that reflects reality very well, moment by moment.

Ultimately, that teaching did not cut it for me. There is more wisdom, as I see it, in FM Alexander's teaching, which involves learning consciously to inhibit unconscious reactions, beginning with the tendency to pull the head back. But this learning is very far from easy, and it is all to easy to delude oneself -- by doing what one feels to be the right thing doing itself. Not a few Alexander teachers, in the view of Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow, are going around deluding themselves that they are teaching Alexander's fundamental principle of inhibition, when in fact they are practising a kind of bodywork, and failing to understand why Alexander described his work as the most mental thing there is.

I think wisdom, as opposed to ignorance, is not a state of innocence but is got from learning in experience. The wisdom of Buddha, in particular, seems to have to do with learning the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine -- learning what gets in the way, and learning not to do it, or not to think it.

What Ananda as I hear him is saying now is that nothing else cuts it. Peak experiences, like those of a mountain-climber or a triathlete or an advanced practitioner of yoga or karate, do not cut it. Repeated acts of loving-kindness, like those of a midwife or a good vicar or a loving grandmother, do not cut it. Only wisdom cuts it.

Furthermore, even though the font of the Buddha's wisdom is sitting-meditation, 30 or 50 or 60 or even 70 years of daily practice of sitting-meditation, are no guarantee of having the wisdom that cuts it.

EH Johnston:
For, just as a bird which is tied to a string, however far it goes, is brought back again, so people, tied to the string of ignorance, return again, however far they go.

Linda Covill:
For just as a bird bound by a string flies back again although it has flown far, so do people bound by the string of ignorance return again though they have traveled far.

suutreNa (inst. sg.): n. a thread , yarn , string , line , cord , wire
baddhaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bound, tied
hi: for
yathaa: ind. just as
vihaMgaH (nom. sg.): m. " sky-goer " , a bird

vyaavartate = 3rd pers. sg. vy-ā- √ vṛt: to become separated ; to go away , depart ; to come back , return ; to turn around, revolve
duura-gataH (nom. sg. m.): gone far away
duura: mfn. distant, far
api: even, though
bhuuyaH: ind. once more , again

ajNaana-suutreNa (inst. sg.): the string of ignorance
a-jñāna: n. non-cognizance ; ignorance
tathaa: ind. so, likewise
avabaddhaH (nom. sg. m.): fastened on , fixed ; captivated , attached to

gataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone
api: even, though
duuram: ind. far
punar: ind. back
eti = 3rd pers. sg. i: to go
lokaH (nom. sg.): m. the world ; the earth or world of human beings &c; the inhabitants of the world , mankind , folk , people

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.58: Towards Less Aspiration

yadaa c' aishvaryavanto 'pi / kShayiNaH svarga-vaasinaH /
ko naama svarga-vaasaaya / kSheShNave spRhayed budhaH //11.58//

- = = = / - = = = // - - = = / - = - =
= = = = / - = = = // = - = - / - = - =

Since heaven-dwellers, even when all-powerful,

Are subject to decay,

What wise man would aspire

To a decadent sojourn in heaven?

By far the most common form of the 8-syllable Śloka metre, Anandajoti Bikkhu informs us, is the pathyā. In the pathyā form of the Śloka metre, in the 2nd and 3rd positions of each pāda, two successive light syllables are not allowed.

Today's verse again confirms to the pathyā form of the Śloka metre. Two successive light syllables do not appear in the 2nd and 3rd positions. At the same time, the second half of the first pāda in each line begins with a light syllable then two heavy syallables (- = = ); and the second half of the second pāda in each line begins with a light syllable followed by a heavy syllable followed by another light syllable (- = -).

It is all described here for anybody who thinks it is worthy of attention -- which Ashvaghosha himself apparently did.

With regard to the meaning of today's verse, it seems to beg the question of what a wise man would aspire to, if not a decadent sojourn in heaven.

An obvious answer might be to aspire to the eternal peace of nirvana. But I don't know what the eternal peace of nirvana is -- in just the same way as I don't know what it means to let the neck be free to let the head go forward and up.

If I know anything from experience, I know what it means to stiffen the neck and pull the head back and down -- for example, through end-gaining for some desirable object, like nirvana.

If I have got any wisdom, in other words, it is not the wisdom of knowing what to aspire to. But there might be wisdom in knowing the dangers of aspiring.

A MAN WHO AIMS AT NOTHING SELDOM MISSES THE TARGET a billboard in a Sheffield church preached to me -- in an "Onward Christian Soldiers" tone of voice -- as I went passed it on the top deck of a bus, circa 1980. "A man who aims at nothing seldom misses the target" struck me then as an interesting statement. Over the past 30-odd years I have come to see it as false on many levels.

A target like for example understanding Sanskrit prosody is not so difficult to hit. If I carry on analyzing the metre of one verse of Ashvaghosha's Sanskrit every day for the next two or three years, I will gradually get the hang of it. But nothing is a much more elusive target. A bloke could spend his whole life aspiring to hit it, without even beginning to realize that aspiring is already something which is not nothing.

On Saturday I quoted the Four Immeasurables which are attributed to Vasubandhu, the Sanskrit recitation of which by Raji Ramanan we can listen to on Youtube.

sarve sattvaaH sukhaish c' aiva yuktaaH su-sukha-karaNair

bhavantu satataM muktaaH duHkhaish ca duHkha-karaNaiH

kadaa 'pi vaNcitaa n' aasur duHkha-hiina-mahaa-sukhaat

duuraa-duura-dvesha-raagaa mukt'-opekShaa-sthitaa hi tu

"May all beings be subject to happiness and to the causes of true happiness,

Being constantly free of suffering and the causes of suffering,

Never straying from the great happiness in which suffering is absent,

But abiding in an indifference which is liberated by a long way from hatred and passion."

Abiding in indifference can be understood as a state that a wise man aspires to. But it may be better to understand that abiding in indifference is the state of a man who is wise enough not to aspire -- at least not too high.

Aiming at nothing might be a bit ambitious. A wiser course might be to set the bar low and be content at least with that level of transcendence.

EH Johnston:
Seeing that the inhabitants of Paradise despite their dominion come to destruction, what wise man would desire an ephemeral stay there ?

Linda Covill:
When even the sovereign dwellers of heaven decay, what wise man would yearn for an ephemeral stay there?

yadaa: ind. when
ca: and
aishvarya-vantaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. possessing power or supremacy
aishvarya: n. the state of being a mighty lord , sovereignty , supremacy , power , sway; dominion
api: even

kShayiNaH = nom. pl. m. kShayin: mfn. wasting , decaying , waning ; perishable
svarga-vaasinaH (nom. pl. m.): heaven-dwellers
svarga: m. heaven
vaasin: mfn. staying , abiding , dwelling , living , inhabiting (often ifc. = living in)

kaH (nom. sg. m.): who?
naama: ind. by name, indeed, really; after an interr. = then , pray
svarga-vaasaaya (dat. sg. m.): towards an abode in heaven
vaasa: ifc. = having one's abode in , dwelling or living in

kSheShNave = dat. sg. m. kSheShNu: mfn. perishable >>√4. kṣi
√kṣi: to destroy , corrupt , ruin , make an end of (acc.) , kill , injure
spRhayet = 3rd pers. sg. optative spRh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for (dat. gen. , or acc.)
budhaH (nom. sg.): m. a wise or learned man , sage ; mfn. awaking ; intelligent , clever , wise

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.57: All You Need Is Love?

maitrayaa sapta-vaarShikyaa / brahma-lokam ito gataH/
sunetraH punar aavRtto / garbha-vaasam upeyivaan//11.57//

= - = = / - = = = // = - = - / - = - =
- = = - / - = = = // = - = - / - = - =

Through seven years of loving kindness,

He went from here to Brahma's world,

But Sunetra span around again

And came back to live in a womb.

I am very slowly working through Anandajoti Bhikku's elucidation of Sanskrit metres on his Ancient Buddhist Texts website, as a result of which I would like to venture the following observation:

Notwithstanding EHJ's suspicion that today's verse is spurious, the verse seems orthodox insofar as it follow the rules for the pathyaa form of the shloka metre.



EHJ notes that Su-netra ("Good Eyes") is the hero of a Jataka tale, though I haven't traced it.

Brahma's world, though I am not sure if I have ever been there, must be some religious place high up in samsara.

A retired Church of England vicar once told me that, as he saw it, compassion was at the centre of all religions. As a devotee of Alexander work over many years this was a man who was conspicuously not fixed, for a vicar, either in his views or in his posture.

Again, I think of my grandmother who told me just before she died, as I was walking out the door, "Remember you were loved."

Loving-kindness and compassion, like the kind of peak out-of-body experience mentioned in yesterday's verse, are virtues not to be sneezed at. And yet, as tools to get out of samsara, Ananda seems to be saying, they don't cut it.

Morever, there is always a danger of trying to be prematurely compassionate, prior to having any wisdom. This is certainly recognized on good Alexander teacher training courses, where the emphasis remains on working on oneself, rather than end-gaining to give others a good experience. In other words, don't stimulate suffering in yourself through misdirected effort to relieve the suffering of others. Alexander short-hand for this is "Stay back in your own back!"

In the story of Saundara-nanda, similarly, the Buddha urges Nanda first to make the four noble truths his own, through solitary practice of yoga, i.e. by working on himself. Only in the final canto, Canto 18, which we will be tackling shortly, does the Buddha point Nanda in the direction of attending to others.

A final observation, stimulated by watching a documentary last night on BBC2 which featured a Tibetan practitioner in Ruislip, concerns the reality of samsara and belief in re-incarnation. The Tibetan practitioner in Ruislip, through no apparent fault of his own, seems to be regarded by many Tibetans as the re-incarnation of some past great Buddhist teacher. Though these Tibetan devotees were encouraged in their practice to be skeptical, the documentary told us, this skepticism, evidently, wasn't supposed to be extended to belief in reincarnation, which seems to be at the core of Tibetan politics. Whereas if we go back to Ashvaghosha, Ashvaghosha as I read him is not affirming belief in anything. He is rather encouraging confidence in a better way than the whirl of unconscious reaction which samsara is.

The point, it seems to me, is not to argue in favour of this belief or against that particular belief. The point is to eschew all belief, in favour of confidence in a better way.

EH Johnston:
Sunetra, who went from here to Brahma's world by the exercise of benevolence for seven years, returned again and entered the abode of the womb.

Linda Covill:
By practicing loving-kindness for seven seasons Sunetra went from this world to Brahma's world, but he returned to dwell in a womb again.

maitrayaa = inst. sg. maitraa = (?) maitrii: f. friendship , friendliness , benevolence , good will (one of the 4 perfect states with Buddhists)
maitra: mfn. (fr. mitra , of , which it is also the vṛddhi form in comp.) coming from or given by or belonging to a friend , friendly , amicable , benevolent , affectionate , kind
sapta-vaarShikyaa (inst. sg): seven years
vaarShikya: n. the rainy season

brahma-lokam (acc. sg.): Brahma's world
itaH: ind. from here
gataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. went

sunetraH (nom. sg.): m. " fair-eyed " or " having a good leader "; Sunetra
punar: ind. back, again
aavRttaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. turned round , stirred , whirled; reverted , averted ; retreated , fled
ā- √ vṛt: to turn or draw round or back or near ; to return, revolve

garbha-vaasam (acc. sg.): womb-abode
upeyivaan = nom. sg. m. perfect part upa- √i: to go or come or step near , approach , betake one's self to , arrive at , meet with , turn towards

Monday, September 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.56: Quietness in Samsara Is Not It

a-shariiraM bhav'-aagraM hi gatv" aapi munir udrakaH /
karmaNo 'nte cyutas tasmaat tiryag-yoniM prapatsyate //11.56//

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

For though he attained a peak experience

Of bodiless being, Sage Udraka,

At the expiration of his karma,

Will fall from that state into the womb of an animal.

EHJ considered verses 11.56 and 11.57 to be "undoubtedly spurious." Consequently, he omitted them from his Sanskrit text proper, and included them only in transliterated form in his end notes. In his English translation, EHJ re-affirmed that he considered the two verses to be spurious, and relegated his translation of them to a footnote.

Udraka is mentioned briefly in Canto 3, as one of the two sages under whose guidance the young Gautama strove in pursuit of freedom and quiet: Then Arada, who spoke of freedom, and likewise Udraka, who inclined towards quietness, / He served, his heart set on truth, and he left. He who intuited the path intuited: "This also is not it."//3.3//

Whether today's verse is spurious or not, the historical fact is that Gautama decided that the kind of pursuit of quietness that Udraka was engaged in was not the path out of samsara that Gautama was seeking. It is this path out of samsara to which the Buddha will later point Nanda, via the teaching of the four noble truths. For by failing to wake up and come round to this four, whose substance is what is, / Mankind goes from existence to existence without finding peace, hoisted in the swing of samsara.//16.6//

Samsara is sometimes like a swing, sometimes like a roller-coaster, sometimes like a sledge-hammer, and sometimes like a merry-go-round. Whatever faiground ride one compares it to, the whirl of samsara -- whether one is passing through hell, the human realm, or the world of animals -- is always motivated by unconscious reaction. Whereas waking up to the four noble truths and making that teaching one's own requires consciously accepting and using oneself as an individual. It requries what FM Alexander called constructive conscious control of the individual.

A seven-week-old puppy, through learning by assocation, is readily amenable to be trained, via the granting and withholding of what it wants -- mainly food and love. But having been born from the womb of an animal, the puppy lacks and will always lack the ability to think for itself and thereby to make the four noble truths its own.

In the background to today's verse, as I read it, is the recognition that most revered sages, zen masters, Alexander teachers, life coaches, psychotherapists, consultant psychiatrists, masters of neuro-linguistic programming, spiritual counsellors, professors of neuro-physiology, and other experts in various fields are basically in the same boat as the seven-week-old puppy. If we have been trained well and if conditions are favourable, we may experience the utmost quiet... and yet, until we make the four noble truths into our own possession as individuals, we are only going from existence to existence without finding peace, hoisted in the swing of samsara.

EH Johnston:
For though the Sage Udraka reached the incorporeal apex of existence, he will fall therefrom when his merit expires, and be reborn as an animal.

Linda Covill:
The sage Udraka has attained a disembodied state at the zenith of existence, but when his good deeds expire he will fall from there to an animal womb.

a-shariiram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. bodiless , incorporeal
bhav'-aagram (acc. sg. n.): the uppermost part of existence
bhava: n. being , state of being , existence , life
agra: n. foremost point or part, tip; uppermost part , top , summit
hi: for

gatvaa = abs. gam: to go to, attain
api: though
muniH (nom. sg.): m. sage
udrakaH (nom. sg.): m. Udraka, N. of a ṛṣi

karmaNaH (gen. sg.): n. action, work, karma; former act as leading to inevitable results , fate (as the certain consequence of acts in a previous life)
ante (loc. sg.): m. end
cyutaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fallen down
tasmaat (abl. sg.): from that, from there

tiryag-yonim (acc. sg.): an animal womb, birth as an animal
tiryaNc: m. n. " going horizontally " , an animal
yoni: mf. womb; place of birth , source , origin , spring , fountain (ifc. = sprung or produced from); the form of existence or station fixed by birth (e.g. that of a man , Brahman , animal &c ; ifc. = belonging to the caste of)
prapatsyate = 3rd pers. sg. future pra- √ pat : to fly away or along , hasten towards (loc.) , to fall from , be deprived of , lose (abl.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.55: Peeling Off from the Ruck of Samsara

tasmaad a-sv-antam a-traaNaM a-vishvaasyam a-tarpakaM/
vijNaaya kShayiNaM svargaM apavarge matiM kuru//11.55/

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

Knowing heaven, therefore,

To be ill-fated, precarious,

Unreliable, unsatisfactory, and transitory,

Resolve to get off the merry-go-round.

An ironic play seems to be intended on svargam (from su + varga), "heaven," and apavarge (from apa + varga), "exemption, turning off" -- since su and apa are prefixes used to express something good, and something bad, respectively. From Ananda's viewpoint, paradoxically, su-varga is undesirable and apa-varga is good.

So Ananda is telling Nanda that, knowing one kind of varga (heaven) to be unreliable and transitory, he should set his mind on another kind of varga, namely, apa-varga (exemption, turning off).

apa-varga means exemption from or turning off of the cycle of samsara; it means getting off of the swing of samsara, or, in other words, getting on the vigorous road of getting the body out. For this purpose, Dogen recommends learning of the backward step of turning light.

Since the Rugby World Cup is in progress, a stray image that springs into my mind is a rugby player peeling off a rolling maul and galloping into open space.

In any event, a translation of apa-varga that retains a sense of peeling or turning off, of turning in the right direction, might be more honest than a translation that expresses finality. Because what finality is, I do not know. Finality for me is not in sight.

apavarge matiM kuru
Set your mind in the direction of a turning off/away.

Speaking for myself, Mike Cross, I don't know what EHJ means by "final release" or what LC means by "emancipation." Equally I don't know what the Monier Williams dictionary means by the "emancipation of the soul from bodily existence, exemption from further transmigration; final beatitude." All I can say is that I, Mike Cross, continue to park my backside on a black cushion and wish to allow the head (1) to release forward in such a way that the back lengthens and widens, and (2) to go up in such a way that the back lengthens and widens.

Reflecting thus, particularly in light of verses 16.87 to 16.91, I am no longer going to allow anonymous comments. May the force be with the true individual.

EH Johnston:
Therefore recognise Paradise to be transitory, ending in misfortune, without resource, not to be relied on and unsatisfying, and set your mind on final release.

Linda Covill:
Therefore recognize that heaven has no favorable outcome, and is vulnerable, unreliable, unsatisfactory, and perishable, and set your mind on emancipation.

tasmaat: ind. from that, therefore
a-sv-antam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. ending ill, not having a good outcome
a-traaNam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. not protected
traaNa: n. protecting , preserving , protection , defence , shelter , help (often ifc.)

a-vishvaasyam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. not to be trusted or confided in , untrustworthy
vi- √ śvas: to draw breath freely , be free from fear or apprehension , be trustful or confident , trust or confide in , rely or depend on
a-tarpakam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. not satiating , not satisfying

vijNaaya = abs. vi- √ jñā: to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand
kShayiNam = acc. sg. m. kShayin: mfn. wasting , decaying , waning ; persihable
svargam (acc. sg.): mfn. (or su-varga) going or leading to or being in light or heaven , heavenly , celestial ; m. heaven ; the abode of light and of the gods
varga: m. (fr. √vṛj) one who excludes or removes or averts ; a separate division , class , set , multitude of similar things (animate or inanimate) , group , company , family , party , side ; everything comprehended under any department or head , everything included under a category , province or sphere of
vṛj: to bend , turn ; to twist off , pull up , pluck , gather ; to avert , remove ; divert , withhold , exclude ; to select, appropriate

apa-varge (loc. sg.): m. completion , end ; the emancipation of the soul from bodily existence , exemption from further transmigration; final beatitude ; opp. to svarga (in phil.)
apa- √ vṛj: to turn off , drive off ; to tear off ; to leave off , determine , fulfil
apa: ind. (as a prefix to nouns and verbs , expresses) away , off , back (opposed to úpa , ánu , sam , pra); When prefixed to nouns , it may sometimes = the neg. particle a e.g. apa-bhī , fearless ; or may express deterioration , inferiority , &c
matim kuru = 2nd pers. sg. imperative matiṁ √ kṛ: to set the heart on , make up one's mind , resolve , determine

Saturday, September 17, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.54: Pleasure & Pain, Happiness & Suffering

sukham utpadyate yac ca divi kaamaan upaashnataam /
yac ca duHkhaM nipatataaM duHkham eva vishiShyate //

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

Of the pleasure that arises

From enjoyment of loves in heaven

And the pain of falling,

The pain, assuredly, is greater.

The point might be that rather than pleasure (sukha) from enjoyment of loves, which invariably carries with it the pain (duHkha) of ultimate separation, a better way is a way that leads to the great happiness (mahaa-sukha) which is free of suffering (duHkha-hiina).

This also seems to be the point of the Four Immeasurables, which are attributed to Vasubandhu.

Not with complete confidence have I yet been able to transcribe Raji Ramanan's Sanskrit recitation of the Four Immeasurables, posted here on youtube (with an unreliable transcription and a translation into Spanish). The original Sanskrit seems to read something like this:

sarve sattvaaH sukhaish c' aiva yuktaaH su-sukha-karaNair

bhavantu satataM muktaaH duHkhaish ca duHkha-karaNaiH

kadaa 'pi vaNcitaa n' aasur duHkha-hiina-mahaa-sukhaat

duuraa-duura-dvesha-raagaa mukt'-opekShaa-sthitaa hi tu

"May all beings be subject to happiness and to the causes of true happiness,

Being constantly free of suffering and the causes of suffering,

Never straying from the great happiness in which suffering is absent,

But abiding in an indifference far removed from hatred and passion."

If anybody can help confirm the original Sanskrit, by pointing to an original source, or by means of some informed negative feedback, it would be appreciated.

The Four Immeasurables as I read them are more than the idealistic expression of a goody-goody religious wish: they point to a concrete means-whereby, which might be, in the main, self-regulation through sitting.

That being so, the Four Immeasurables -- like today's verse -- can be read as teaching around sukha and duHkha that is really quite close to the original teaching of the Buddha.

In any event, from Raji Ramanan's recitation, one gets a sense of the kind of rhythm to use in reading aloud Asvhagosha's verse, with heavy syllables being assigned due weight.

EH Johnston:
Of the pleasure they experience from sensuous enjoyment in heaven and the suffering from their fall, the suffering is far the greater.

Linda Covill:
They experience happiness when they savor pleasures in heaven, and suffering when they fall, but it is suffering which predominates.

sukham (nom. sg.): n. suffering
utpadyate = 3rd pers. sg. ut- √ pad: to arise , rise , originate , be born or produced ; to come forth , become visible , appear ; to take place
yat (nom. sg. n.): which
ca: and
yac ca-yac ca , " both - and "

divi (loc. sg.): heaven
kaamaan (acc. pl.): m. desires, objects of desire, sensual pleasures; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
upaashnataam = gen. pl. m. upa- √aś: to eat , taste , enjoy

to throw off , throw or cast down upon , throw under

yat (nom. sg. n.): that
ca: and
dukham (nom. sg.): n. suffering, sorrow
nipatataam = gen. pl. m. ni- √ pat: to fly down, fall down

duHkham (nom. sg.): n. suffering, sorrow
eva: (emphatic)
vishiShyate = 3rd pers. sg. vi- √ śiṣ: to be pre-eminent , excel , be better than (abl. or instr.) or best among ; to surpass , excel

Friday, September 16, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.53: Safeguarding Feedback

etaany aadau nimittaani cyutau svargaad divaukasaaM /
an-iShTaan' iiva martyaanaam ariShTaani mumuurShataaM //11.53//

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

These are the first signs

Of the imminent fall from heaven of the sky-dwellers,

Like the unwelcome but sure signs

Of the approaching death of those subject to dying.

At first glance, the adjective ariShTaani in line 4 seems to describe the signs in question (nimittani) as "boding misfortune" or "ominous." Understood like that, lines 3 and 4 are expressing a less than cheery prognosis for mortal human beings.

But another meaning of ariShTaani is "being proof against injury or damage," "secure," or "safe." Understood like that, the hidden intention of lines 3 and 4 might not be so pessimistic. On the contrary, the intention might be to affirm the possibility of all of us realizing the deathless, through the preventive merit of negative feedback.

The practical point, as I see it, is that when our sitting fails to be graced by enjoyment, that can be a very useful sign that we are somehow going in the wrong direction, straying from the path to the deathless.

So today's verse as I read it relates to the possibility of making the deathless nectar one's own -- a possibility that Nanda himself realizes, as described in Canto 17.

Negative feedback is the principle upon which a thermostat functions to prevent a central heating system from creating too much heat. It is a truly excellent principle, a preventive principle.

Is Theravada Buddhism the original teaching of the Buddha?

No, it is not that.

Is Zen Buddhism the original teaching of the Buddha?

No, it is not that.

Is Ashvaghosha's teaching the original teaching of the Buddha?

Maybe we can all agree that it is really quite close!

EH Johnston:
These are the signs at first of the approaching fall from Paradise of the dwellers therein, like those ominous symptoms which herald the death of mortals.

Linda Covill:
These are signs of the imminent fall of the sky-dwellers from heaven, like the unwanted and ominous signs of mortals approaching death.

etaani (nom. pl. n.): these
aadau: ind. in the beginning , at first
nimittaani (nom. pl.): n. a butt , mark , target; sign , omen

cyutau = loc. sg. cyuti: f. " banishment "; falling down; fall from any divine existence (so as to be re-born as a man)
svargaat (abl. sg.): m. heaven
divaukasaam = gen. pl. divaukas: m. " sky-dweller " , a deity

an-iShTaani (nom. pl. n.): mfn. unwished , undesirable ,
iva: like
martyaanaam = gen. pl. martya: mfn. who or what must die , mortal ; m. a mortal , man , person

ariShTaani (nom. pl. n.): mfn. unhurt ; proof against injury or damage ; secure , safe; mfn. boding misfortune (as birds of ill omen , &c ) ; fatal , disastrous (as a house)
riShTa: mfn. torn off , broken , injured ; mfn. hurt , injured wounded ; failed, miscarried ; n. misfortune , calamity ; n. a bad omen ; n. good luck , fortune
mumuuRshataam = gen. pl. m. pres. part. desid. mR: to wish or be about to die , face death