Monday, October 31, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.35: Work On Yourself, By Yourself, For Yourself

adya prakṛṣṭā tava buddhimattā
kṛtsnaṃ yayā te kṛtam-ātmakāryam /
śrutonnatasyāpi hi nāsti buddhir-
notpadyate śreyasi yasya buddhiḥ // 18.35 //

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
- = - = / = - - / = - = = //= = - = / = - - / = - = =
Upajāti (Sālā)

Developed in you today is the real wisdom

By which you have done, totally,
the work you had to do on yourself.

For even a highly educated man lacks wisdom,

If wisdom fails to show in his practice of a better way.

When highly educated academics of the 19th and 20th century working in the field of "Buddhist studies," encountered and examined Aśvaghoṣa's writings, they wondered whether he was primarily a poet or a proselytizing religious person, and -- writing strictly from the outside -- they described Saundara-nanda as a poem whose theme was conversion.

Much more than it is an evangelical tract whose theme and aim is religious conversion, Saundara-nanda as I read it is a guide to individual work on the self. Being converted, in the sense of changing one's religious beliefs, is easy. To work on the self in such a way as to get totally (kṛṭṣnam) free of all religious beliefs is mightily difficult. And that is what Saundara-nanda, as I read it -- from the inside -- is primarily about: working on the self, for the self, by the self.

Aśvaghoṣa as I have noted before does not use the word saṁgha as it is customary to use the word today, to mean something like a religious congregation of Buddhists. He uses the word in the non-Buddhist sense of any collection or assemblage, as for example, in 7.24: "hosts of gods, kings and seers." But there is no mention in Saundara-nanda of anything that could be called a "Buddhist samgha."

This does not mean that Nanda is portrayed as somebody who did it all by himself, or as an anti-social island unto himself. In addition to the Buddha, who guides Nanda how to work on himself, there is Ānanda, a master in his own right in the art of working on and forgetting the self; there is the practitioner who impresses Nanda by emanating calm as he sits by a waterfall (7.20); and there is the striver, best described as a work in progress.

So the Buddha, Ānanda, Nanda, the meditator by the waterfall, and the striver: that makes a network of five individuals, at least, who each in their own way have worked, are working, or are on the way to true work, on the self.

EH Johnston:
To-day your intelligence is admirable since by it you have done all that there was for you to do ; for however eminent a man may be in learning, he has not intelligence if it is not developed in the sphere of the highest good.

Linda Covill:
Today your intelligence is superlative, for through it your task is entirely complete. For even an outstandingly learned man has no intelligence if his intelligence does not give rise to Excellence.

adya: today
prakRShTaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. drawn forth , protracted , long (in space and time); superior , distinguished , eminent ; violent, strong
kRSh: to draw , draw to one's self , drag , pull , drag away , tear ; to lead or conduct (as an army) ; to draw into one's power , become master of , overpower ; to obtain
tava (gen. sg.): of you, your
buddhimattaa: f. intelligence , wisdom
buddhimat: mfn. endowed with understanding , intelligent , learned , wise
-taa: (abstract noun suffix) -ness

kRtsnam: mfn. all , whole , entire
yayaa (inst. sg. f.): by which
te (gen. sg.): of you
kRtam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. done, finished
aatma-kaaryam (nom. sg.): n. one's own business , private affairs
aatma: one's own, self
kaarya: n. work or business to be done , duty , affair

shrut'-onnatasya (gen. sg.): of one who is eminent in learning
shruta: n. anything heard , that which has been heard (esp. from the beginning) , knowledge as heard by holy men and transmitted from generation to generation , oral tradition or revelation , sacred knowledge; learning, teaching
unnata: mfn. bent or turned upwards , elevated , lifted up , raised , high , tall , prominent , projecting , lofty ; (figuratively) high , eminent , sublime , great , noble
api: even
hi: for
n' aasti: there is not
buddhiH (nom. sg.): f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement

na: not
utpadyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive ut- √ pad: to arise, originate , be born or produced ; to come forth , become visible , appear ; to take place ,begin
shreyasi: loc. sg. shreyas: higher good
yasya (gen. sg.): in whom
buddhiH (nom. sg.): f. intelligence


Fred said...

I always wondered if what is
happening in Zen practice could be
stated in non-religious terms . At
first I thought perhaps psychologi-
cal terms, but that leads to a trap.

Work on yourself, by yourself, for
yourself sounds about right.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks, Fred.

Physiogical terms is one kind of trap. Psychological terms is another kind of trap. To steer clear of both those traps might be 'to drop off body and mind' (c) Mike Cross, 2011.

Only kidding -- I think somebody else might have got there first, by a few centuries.

I can't even honestly claim ownership of 'working on yourself, by yourself, for yourself' -- as nearly 20 years ago I heard Kodo Sawaki saying something very similar in Japanese, in one of his final talks -- on HACHI DAI-NIN-GAKU, "the eight truths of a great person."

I think it was along the lines of: