Sunday, October 2, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.6: Individual Testimony, Please

athātmanaḥ śiṣyaguṇasya caiva
mahāmuneḥ śāstṛguṇasya caiva /
saṃdarśanārthaṃ sa na mānahetoḥ
svāṃ kāryasiddhiṃ kathayāmbabhūva //18.6//

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

as a manifestation of his individual merit as a student

And, indeed, of the great Sage's merit as a teacher

-- Not out of pride --

He described his own accomplishment
of the work that has to be done:

The four pādas of today's verse are again in the 11-syllable Upajāti metre, the 1st and 2nd pādas being in the Upendravajrā form (U) and the 3rd and 4th pādas being in the Indravajrā form (I). In Ānandajoti Bhikku's analysis of the Sanksrit prosody of Buddha-carita, this UUII scheme is identified as the type of verse called Mālā (garland).

With regard to the meaning of today's verse, it prompts me to ask something I have been thinking of asking for some months, which is namely that I would like to invite anybody who has been following this blog to write your own individual account, as long or as short as you like, describing your own accomplishing of the work that has to be done in order to make the teaching of the four noble truths one's own.

When we get to the end of Canto 18, which all being well will be in 60 days time, I would like to devote one post per day to these individual accounts, if any are offered. I would be particularly grateful to receive the testimony (email: of people like Jordan Fountain, Ian Cross, Plato, jiblet, Ted, Gisela, Harry and others who I know have been checking in on the translation day by day for much of the past three years, plus anybody else who may have been reading without necessarily offering comments.

My Zen teacher was fond of asserting that Buddhism is humanism. In the background to this -ism-fest was the influence of Dogen's teaching, and in particular the influence of Fukan-zazengi, which Dogen wrote for the intended benefit of all individuals who practise sitting-dhyāna, or (in Japanese) Zazen. That is to say, Fukan-zazengi, in my understanding, was not written with four target audiences in mind. Dogen did not write it thinking of bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs, and male and female lay practitioners (upāsakas and upāsikās). The target audience is every individual -- be he or she regarded as Buddhist or as non-Buddhist -- who is moved to practise non-movement as the Buddha taught it.

The same respect for the individual that Dogen exhibited in writing Fukan-zazengi, Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him also exhibited in writing Saundara-nanda. The target audience is individuals everywhere.

It is in this light that I think we should understand the words in today's verse ātmanaḥ (of the individual self) and svām (his own).

The title of Canto 18, by the way, is ājñāvyākaraṇa. ājñā is given in the dictionary as order, command. But as a verb ā-√jñā means to notice or understand; and according to a footnote by EHJ "ājñā is the special knowledge of the man who has attained salvation." vyākaraṇa is given in the dictionary as: separation , distinction , discrimination ; explanation , detailed description ; manifestation , revelation ; (with Buddhists) prediction , prophecy (one of the nine divisions of scriptures). In this latter technical sense, vyākaraṇa corresponds to 授記 JUKI, the title of Shobogenzo chap. 32, which would conventionally be translated as "prediction" or "assurance of future enlightenment," but which in the Nishijima-Cross translation is translated as "affirmation" or "giving affirmation."

Reflecting his understanding that ājñā means insight, EHJ's choice of canto title is "The Declaration of Insight." Reflecting her decision to stick with the ordinary, non-technical understanding of ājñā, i.e., order or command, LC goes with "His Instructions Revealed." So EHJ interprets ājñāvyākaraṇa to mean Nanda declaring Nanda's insight. And LC interprets ājñāvyākaraṇa to mean the Buddha making known the Buddha's orders.

This might be the last in a very long line of ironies in Saundara-nanda (or the 2nd last if we understand Aśvaghoṣa's description of himself at the end -- as a skilled wordsmith -- to be ironic self-deprecation).

If we follow EHJ's line of thought, ājñāvyākaraṇa is Nanda's own personal testimony of the insight that he as an individual has gained by his own individual effort. If we follow LC's line of thought, ājñāvyākaraṇa is nothing so democratic and autonomous; on the contrary, it is the Buddha's top-down command, like the kind of order a feudal lord might give to a serf, or an officer to a foot-soldier.

Which was Aśvaghoṣa's intention? I'm damned if I know. But having become familiar over these past three years with Aśvaghoṣa's tendency repeatedly to invite the unknowing reader down the path of easy but false understanding, I wouldn't be surprised if the cunning old devil intended the irony. In which case, a good title might be one which on the surface seemed to mean "The Buddha Reveals His Command," but which also allowed the possibility of Nanda saying, in a spirit of democracy and individual autonomy, "No, thanks." Or even, "Sod that hierarchical crap for a game of cards."

My working title for this canto so far has been "Affirmation," which has the virtue of not coming down on either side. "Bearing Witness" has the same virtue, and as I write this comment I find myself leaning in favour of Bearing Witness.

"Revelation of His Command"?

No, sod that hierarchical crap for a game of cards. Sounds too much like organized religion for my taste. Let's hear it for the individual.

EH Johnston:
Then, not out of pride but to demonstrate the relationship of master and pupil between the great Sage and himself, he praised his success in attaining his object: --

Linda Covill:
Then he spoke of his own success in his task, not out of conceit, but to fully demonstrate the characteristics of a pupil in himself, and the characteristics of a teacher in the great sage.

atha: ind. now, then, etc.
aatmanaH (gen. sg. m.): of himself
shiShya-guNasya (gen. sg.): the merit of a pupil
shiShya: m. a pupil , scholar , disciple
guNa: m. a quality , peculiarity , attribute ; good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
ca: and
eva: (emphatic

mahaa-muneH (gen. sg.): the great sage
shaastR-guNasya (gen. sg.): the merit of an instructor
shaastR: m. a chastiser , punisher ; a ruler , commander ; a teacher , instructor

saMdarshan'-aartham (acc. sg. n.): for the purpose of demonstrating
saMdarshana: n. the act of looking, steadfastly gazing , viewing , beholding , seeing ; surveying , inspection , consideration ; appearance , manifestation ; (fr. causative) the act of causing to see , showing , displaying , exhibition of or to (comp.)
artha: purpose
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
na: not
maana-hetoH (abl. sg.): from the cause of conceit
maana: m. self-conceit , arrogance , pride (with Buddhists one of the 6 evil feelings ; or one of the 10 fetters to be got rid of)
hetu: cause

svaam = acc. sg. f. sva: his own
kaarya-siddhim (acc. sg. f.): task-accomplishment
kaarya: n. work or business to be done , duty , affair
siddhi: f. accomplishment , performance , fulfilment , complete attainment (of any object) , success
kathayaam babhuuva = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perfect kath (class 10 verb): to tell , relate , narrate , report , inform , speak about , declare , explain , describe (with acc. of the thing or person spoken about)
babhuuva: after the syllable aam is put for the pf. of verbs of the 10th class

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