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

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