Thursday, October 20, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.24: Untaintedness

adyāsi śaucena pareṇa yukto
vāk-kāya-cetāṁsi śucīni yat-te /
ataḥ punaś-cāprayatāṁ[1]-asaumyāṁ
yat-saumya no vekṣyasi garbha-śayyām //18.24 //

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

[1] UoW: āprayatāp

Today you are possessed of purity of the highest order,

In that your voice, body, and mind are untainted,

And in that, henceforward, my gentle friend,
you will not again be confined

In the ungentle womb of unready slumber.

The metre in today's verse (IIUI) is called Sālā, which is the 2nd most common form of Upajāti verse in Buddha-carita.

Purity of the highest order (shaucena pareṇa) means being untainted by what? It might mean being untainted by having a fish to fry, having some agenda, having some idea of "what's in it for me?" -- as described at length in Shobogenzo chap. 87, Serving Buddhas.

If I have ever experienced such untaintedness, it has only been for the odd moment, as a work in progress (and in regress) -- nothing final.

In 18.10 Nanda, in contrast, seems confidently to announce that for him rebirth is finally over: Rebirth is over, O Refuter of Rebirth! I am dwelling as one with observance of true dharma./ What was for me to do, O Doer of the Necessary! is totally done. I am present in the world without being of the world.//

In the second half of today's verse the Buddha seems to echo Nanda's confidence that Nanda has finally got off the merry-go-round of saṁsāra.

Whether such finality is really possible or not, I for one don't know. But if I were to believe in the possibility of such finality, and strive after it in an end-gaining manner, that for sure would be just taintedness itself.

The whole of Canto 18 might be a big stimulus to tainted end-gaining, if we allow it to be... I want to get what Nanda got. I also want to get the definitive seal of approval from a truly Enlightened Buddha.

But for those of us for whom finality is not in sight, and is therefore only an unhelpful idea, the wise course might be to heed the teaching of Canto 15 and resort as a counter-measure to mindfulness of breathing.

So for the giving up, in short, of all these ideas, / Mindfulness of inward and outward breathing, my friend, you should make into your own possession. // 15.64 // Using this device you should take in good time / Counter-measures against ideas, like remedies against illnesses. //15.65//

If one allowed the possibility that the Buddha countenanced the idea of re-incarnation, then the second half of today's verse might be better translated, "And in that, henceforward, my gentle friend, you will not again be confined in the unready and ungentle bed which is a womb."

For me, the fact that the Buddha did not countenance such a whacky idea as reincarnation, which goes totally against the principle of the indivisible unity of the individual practitioner (= one whole being), is again evidenced in Canto 15:

Any idea you might have, then, that has to do with not dying, / Is, with an effort of will, to be obliterated as a disorder of your whole being.//15.52//

I prefer to understand the Buddha as affirming in today's verse that Nanda was fully awake to the Buddha's teaching, as distilled in the four noble truths; so that the Buddha is saying that, having fully woken up to these truths, Nanda will not slumber again in ignorance.

EH Johnston:
To-day you have reached the highest purity in that your voice, body and thoughts are pure, and in that henceforward, my friend, you will not experience again the impure and unholy abode of the womb.

Linda Covill:
Today you are joined to supreme purity, since your speech, body and mind are clean, and because after this you will not again enter that impure, ungentle bed that is the womb.

adya: today
asi: you are
shaucena = inst. sg. shauca: n. (from shuci) cleanness , purity , purification (esp. from defilement caused by the death of a relation) n. cleanness , purity, integrity ; n. purity of mind , integrity , honesty (esp. in money-matters) ; n. (with Buddhists) self-purification (both external and internal) ; n. evacuation of excrement
pareNa = inst. sg. para: mfn. highest, supreme
yuktaH (nom. sg. m.): joined to (inst.); furnished or endowed or filled or supplied or provided with , accompanied by , possessed of (instr.); come in contact with (instr.)

vaak-kaaya-cetaaMsi (nom. pl. n.): voice, body, and mind
shuciini = nom. pl. n. mfn. shuci: shining , glowing , gleaming , radiant , bright; clear , clean , pure (lit. and fig.) , holy , unsullied , undefiled , innocent , honest , virtuous
yat: (relative pronound) that
te (gen. sg.): your

ataH: ind. from this, hence
punar: ind. again, further
ca: and
a-prayataam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. not intent (on devotion) , not prepared (in mind) for any important action or performance
prayata: mfn. outstretched , far-extended ; placed upon (loc.) ; offered , presented , given , granted , bestowed ; piously disposed , intent on devotion , well prepared for a solemn rite (with loc. or ifc.) , ritually pure (also applied to a vessel and a place),
a-saumyaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. unlovely , disagreeable , displeasing ; unpropitious
saumya: mfn. relating or belonging to soma (the juice or the sacrifice or the moon-god); cool and moist (opp. to agneya , " hot and dry "); " resembling the moon " , placid , gentle , mild ; happy , pleasant , cheerful

yat (relative pronoun): that
saumya (voc. sg. m.): my friend! o gentle one!
no: ind. and not
vekShyasi = 3rd pers. sg. future (1) vish: to enter , enter in or settle down on, go into (acc.)
(2) viSh: to be contained in (acc.)
garbha-shayyaam (acc. sg.): a womb-bed, the bed which is a womb
garbha: m. the womb
shayyaa: f. a bed, couch, sofa; lying , reposing , sleeping ; resort , refuge (» comp.)

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

Palm-leaf manuscript: śaryyāṁ.

EHJ notes: “Garbha-śayyā ['abode of the womb'] is so regular a phrase that I have not dared to keep the MSS's interesting garbha-śaryāṁ with śaryā in the sense of 'night' and a possible pun of 'moonless' in asaumyāṁ.”

An alternative translation, then, might be along the lines of:

And in that, henceforward, my moon-like friend, you will not again be confined

In the womb of moonless night.