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


Anonymous said...

Is Ashvaghosha's teaching very
close to the Buddha's original

If so, he teaches " When one is
rising, standing, walking, doing
something, stopping one should
constantly concentrate one's mind
on the act and the doing of it."

Thankyou Mike, this is truly the
gold to be mined.

Mike Cross said...

Alternatively, he might teach "Un-concentrate the mind, in such a way as to allow the right thing to do itself."

Holding gold in the mouth of a furnace,

A goldsmith in this world blows it at the proper time,

Douses it with water at the proper time,

And gradually, at the proper time, he leaves it be.

For he might burn the gold by blowing at the wrong time,

He might make it unworkable by plunging it into water at the wrong time,

And he would not bring it to full perfection

If at the wrong time he were just to leave it be.

If somebody said to Ashvaghosha, with regard to his metaphor of the goldsmith working gold, that the Buddha's teaching is that a goldsmith constantly blows gold to make it hotter, I think Ashvaghosha might say:

"No, it is not that."

Anonymous said...

Yes, and some nuggets are fool's gold.