Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA Colophon: Great New Beginnings?

saundaranande mahā-kāvya ājñā-vyākaraṇa nāmaṣṭādaśaḥ sargaḥ/

ārya-suvarṇākṣī-putrasya sāketakasya bhikṣor ācārya-bhadant'-āśvaghoṣasya mahā-kaver mahā-vādinaḥ kṛtir iyam //

The 18th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "Affirmation of Full Autonomy."

This is the work of a beggar, the respected teacher Aśvaghoṣa of Saketa, son of the noble Suvarṇākṣī, crafter of epic poetry and talker of the great talk.

My working title for Canto 18 was originally simply "Affirmation" but for the last couple of months, further to commenting on 18.6, I have favoured "Bearing Witness."

In 18.21, I translated vyākaraṇaṁ as "testimony" (EHJ: "declaration;" LC: "discriminating analysis"). Canto titles consistent with that translation might be "Attesting to Enlightenment" or "Enlightened Testimony."

But I have reverted to "affirmation" for the vyākaraṇaḥ of the canto title," firstly because (as already mentioned in comments to 18.6) vyākaraṇa corresponds to 授記 JUKI, the title of Shobogenzo chap. 32, which in the Nishijima-Cross translation is translated as "affirmation" or "giving affirmation;" and secondly because "affirmation" fits the content of Canto 18, in which the Buddha and Nanda affirm each other's respective virtues.

That leaves the problem of how to understand ājñā, which as a noun is given first in the dictionary as order, command, unlimited authority, power -- "Affirmation of a Mission"? "Affirmation of Unlimited Authority/Power"?

As a verb, ā-√jñā means to notice, undertand or realize. Hence, according to a note by EHJ, "ājñā is the special knowledge of the man who has attained salvation" -- and hence EHJ's chapter title "The Declaration of Insight." Accepting EHJ's gist might lead us in the direction of "Affirmation of Insight" or "Affirmation of Enlightenment."

This would fit well enough with the content of Canto 18. But since the original meaning of ājñā, according to the dictionary, has to do not so much with the exercise of wisdom as with the exercise of power, I am drawn back to translations like "Affirmation of Free Rein" or "Affirmation of Unlimited Power" or "Affirmation of Full Autonomy."

The canto title I have thus arrived at could hardly be further away from the spirit of LC's "His Instructions Revealed." But again, it would be not uncharacteristic of Aśvaghoṣa to choose a title which seemed to mean one thing while really meaning the opposite.

Some readers might like to ask a supreme Buddhist authority for a ruling on the canto title -- they might like to ask some Buddhist Patriarch or other to reveal his instructions. Some might prefer to use their own head.

You pays your money and you takes your choice. But it is Aśvaghoṣa fans from the latter group whose individual testimonies I am interested in, and I will start publishing those contributions the day after tomorrow, beginning with Jordan's, on Friday. Anybody who wishes to contribute but hasn't yet is welcome to do so by emailing me at

Moving from the canto title to the closing sentence (or "colophon"), this line represents Aśvaghoṣa taking individual responsibility for a work of Sanskrit literature -- the first buddha-ancestor, as far as we know, who thus announced that "I, So and So, son of So and So, wrote this."

This attitude of Aśvaghoṣa, it might be argued, also says something about the affirmation of full individual autonomy.

To what extent was Aśvaghoṣa approach a new departure?

The Monier Williams dictionary defines mahā-yāna as: "great vehicle" (as opposed to hīna-yāna), name of the later system of Buddhist teaching said to have been first promulgated by Nāgārjuna and treated of in the Mahā-yāna-sūtras.

I regard with skepticism this designation of a great vehicle beginning with Nāgārjuna. Should we recognize that there was anything great in the teaching of later ancestors like Nāgārjuna, Bodhidharma, and Dogen that wasn't already greatly present in the teaching of earlier ancestors like Gautama, Ānanda, and Aśvaghoṣa?

As a rule, probably not. At the same time, I remember Dogen praising, as a secret of the great vehicle, the tradition of wearing a buddha-robe to sit in, regardless of distinctions such as male and female monk, lay man and lay woman.

However one understands the significance of the mahā in the closing words of the colophon, I think the attempts of EHJ and LC to translate mahā-kaver mahā-vādinaḥ (great eloquent poet; great poet and eloquent speaker) fail to reflect real understanding of the value system of a buddha-ancestor like Aśvaghoṣa, according to which the primary thing -- as he has just told us -- is never great poetry. The first way these epithets should be undestood, as I read them, is ironic self-deprecation.

mahā-vādin is given in the dictionary as "a great controversialist." In this sense Aśvaghoṣa following on from yesterday's verse, I am sure, was describing himself in a self-deprecating way, as a purveyor of verb-root-rooted dust, as a great talker of the talk -- that is to say, not necessarily a great walker of the walk.

At the same time, mahā-vādin can also be understood as "a propounder of the great" i.e. "teacher of the great vehicle" or "proponent of the mahāyāna teaching." Might this also be what Aśvaghoṣa intended?

My answer is the usual refuge of the dabbler whose staff lacks the iron thump of Zen enlightenment: I don't know.

In the end, the only certainty is that Saundara-nanda is full of ironic twists and ambiguity. From the first verse to the colophon, what Aśvaghoṣa seems to mean on the surface is not what he seems to mean after one has dug around for a while. And there may be deeper and deeper levels of meaning that requie a spade sharper than mine to dig them out.

It is perhaps permissible, nevertheless, to hope that this work, despite its shortcomings, may attract readers to a very fine poem, and that it may help them to the understanding and enjoyment of it. So wrote EH Johnston, 80 years ago in October 1931 in the preface to his English translation of Saundara-nanda. It is perhaps permissible to hope, in other words, even as Aśvaghoṣa himself may have hoped and intuited two thousand years ago, that this moment might not be the end of anything but rather the beginning of something, based on true foundations.

* The discoveries of FM Alexander.
* Practical understanding of how vestibular reflexes underpin all human behaviour.
* Reliable translations (based on the original words, not some poser's Buddhist intuition) of ancient texts.
*Devotion to upright sitting in the traditional cross-legged manner.

These are my four corners stones. Whether they are solid enough foundations for what Gudo Nishijima called "the establishment of true Buddhism" in the world, time will tell. My sense, as an old rugby player, is that, deep into the second half, we are several converted tries behind.

EH Johnston:
This poem was written by the great eloquent poet, the mendicant and teacher, his reverence Ashvaghosha, the noble son of Suvarnakshi of Saketa.

Linda Covill:
End of Canto 18: His Instructions Revealed

This is the composition of the Venerable Ashva-ghosha of Saketa, noble son of Suvarnakshi, monk, teacher, great poet and eloquent speaker.

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye (loc.): in the epic poem Handsome Nanda
aajNaa-vyaakaraNaH (nom. sg. m.)
aajNaa: f. order , command ; authority , unlimited power ; permission
ā- √ jñā: to mind , perceive , notice , understand ; (causative) to order , command , direct ; to assure
vyaakaraNa: n. separation , distinction , discrimination ; explanation , detailed description ; manifestation , revelation ; (with Buddhists) prediction , prophecy (one of the nine divisions of scriptures)
vy-aa-√kR: to undo , sever , divide , separate from (instr.) ;
to expound , explain , declare ; (with Buddhists) to predict (esp. future births)
naama: by name
aShTaa-dashaH sargaH (nom. sg. m.): 18th canto

aarya-suvarNaakShii-putrasya (gen. sg.): the son of noble Suvarṇakṣī
aarya: noble
suvarNaakShii: f. name
suvarNa: of a good or beautiful colour , brilliant in hue , bright , golden , yellow ; gold , made of gold ; of a good tribe or caste
putra: m. son
saaketakasya (gen. sg.): of Saketa
bhikShoH = gen. sg. bhikShu: m. a beggar , mendicant
aacaarya-bhadant'-aashvaghosasya (gen. sg. m.): the respected/celebrated teacher Aśvaghoṣa
aacaarya: m. "knowing or teaching the aacaara or rules" , a spiritual guide or teacher (especially one who invests the student with the sacrificial thread , and instructs him in the vedas , in the law of sacrifice and religious mysteries)
bhadanta: m. (from √bhand) a term of respect applied to a Buddhist , a Buddhist mendicant
√bhand: to be greeted with praise , receive applause
ashva: m. a horse
ghosa: m. indistinct noise , tumult , confused cries of a multitude , battle-cry , cries of victory , cries of woe or distress , any cry or sound , roar of animals ;
mahaa-kaveH = gen. sg. mahaa-kavi: m. a great or classical poet ; a great seer, an eminently sly man, a man of great cunning
mahat: great (in space , time , quantity or degree) i.e. large , big , huge , ample , extensive , long , abundant , numerous , considerable , important , high , eminent
kavi: mfn. gifted with insight , intelligent , knowing , enlightened , wise , sensible , prudent , skilful , cunning ; m. a thinker , intelligent man , man of understanding , leader ; m. a wise man , sage , seer , prophet
mahaa-vaadinaH = gen. sg. mahaa-vaadin: m. a great controversialist ; a great talker ; a propounder of the great
vaadin: mfn. saying , discoursing , speaking , talking , speaking or talking about ; m. a speaker , asserter , (ifc.) the teacher or propounder
kRtiH (nom. sg.): f. the act of doing , making , performing , manufacturing , composing; creation , work ; literary work
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.64: Mining Aśvaghoṣa's Gold

prāyeṇālokya lokaṃ viṣaya-rati-paraṃ mokṣāt pratihataṃ
kāvya-vyājena tattvaṃ kathitam-iha mayā mokṣaḥ param-iti /
tad-buddhvā śāmikaṃ yat-tad-avahitam-ito grāhyaṃ na lalitaṃ
pāṃsubhyo dhātu-jebhyo niyatam-upacitaṃ cāmīkaram-iti // 18.64 //

= = = = - = = - - - - - - = = = - - - =
= = = = - = = - - - - - - = = = - - - =
= = = = - = = - - - - - - = = = - - - =
= = = = - = = - - - - - - = = = - - - =

Seeing, in general, that the world
is moved primarily by fondness for objects
and is repelled by liberation,

I for whom liberation is paramount
have told it here like it is,
using a kāvya poem as a pretext.

Being aware of the deceit,
take from this what pertains to peace
and not to idle pleasure.

The elemental (verb-root-rooted) dust,
assuredly, shall yield up abundant gold.

As we limp towards the finishing line, rather than sailing through victorious and unimpeded, we find that last line of the last verse of Saundara-nanda presents some difficulties and dangers -- like fences, walls, tiles and pebbles, not to mention potholes.

LC translates upakaraṁ cāmīkaram as "serviceable gold," which might be difficult to improve upon if one accepts the reading upakaraṁ. EHJ, however, notes that upakara is not met with elsewhere, nor is there any obvious amendment, so that its exact sense is uncertain.

Setting that difficulty aside for a moment, another difficulty is that the last line of the last verse of Saundara-nanda, as I read it, contains one of Aśvaghoṣa's most memorable, and least easily translatable, plays on words.

dhātu-jebhyaḥ is defined as 1) elemental, born of primary elements of the earth, and 2) derived from a verbal root.

The latter definition "derived from a verbal root," describes the vast majority of the words in Saundara-nanda. In today's verse, for example, prāyeṇa is derived from the root √i, to go; ālokya is derived from the root √lok, to see; lokaṃ is thought possibly to be derived from the root √ruc, to shine; viṣaya is derived probably either from √viṣ, to act, or from vi + √si, to extend; rati is derived from the root √ram, to delight; and so on, and so on.

Following only the former definition, dhātu-jebhyaḥ is a literal description of dust: it describes the dust from which gold is to be extracted as "born from the primary elements of the earth." In that case the 4th line, as a bare statement of the facts about dust and gold, sounds almost apologetic:
"Out of dust born from earth elements, necessarily, [comes] serviceable gold."

But what Aśvaghoṣa is really saying in the 4th line, as I read it, is not only self-deprecating but also cocksure: his intention is explicitly to describe his own poem as only so many words, so much verbage, so much of the dust that is dhātu-jebhyaḥ "derived from verbal roots." And yet from this verbal dust, Aśvaghoṣa is confident -- for those of us who are inspired on a regular basis to get off the sofa, put down the remote, and sit on a round cushion swallowing the bitter pill -- the essence of the Buddha's teaching can be extracted. Read like this, the fourth line is an assurance, a confident prediction, a guarantee, and an expression of Aśvaghoṣa's own prajñā:
"Out of [this] dust derived from verbal roots, it is guaranteed, [there shall be] abundant gold."

Read like this, the last line of Saundara-nanda is very close to the last line of Fukan-zazengi, in which Dogen promises that the treasure house will spontaneously open, allowing us to accept and use the treasure as we please.

For that reason I have dared to amend the uncertain upakaraṁ into upacitaṁ, which means furnished abundantly, posessed plentifully, from the verbal root upa- √ci: to heap up, to furnish oneself with.

The difficulty of the last line does not allow any sense of going out in a blaze of glory, or of closure. Rather one is left with a sense of lingering ambiguity and uncertainty, of difficulty continuing.

So the rainbow-chaser in me cannot help but feel empty and disappointed: there is evidently no pot of gold waiting to be found at the end of this particular rainbow, just continuing uncertainty and the promise of gold. The miner in me who likes mining, however, is undeterred, because Aśvaghoṣa's Buddha-carita might be another goldmine -- or it might be another bottle of bitter pills, deceitfully presented in the guise of kāvya poetry.

EH Johnston:
Since I saw mankind mainly given over to the pleasure of the objects of the senses and averse from Salvation, I have here told of the final truth under the guise of a Kavya, considering Salvation to be supreme. Let the reader understand this and study attentively in it that which leads to tranquillity and not that which is merely pleasurable, as only the residue of gold is taken after it has been separated from the metal dust.

Linda Covill:
Seeing that the world generally holds the pleasure of sensory experience uppermost and is resistant to liberation, I, holding liberation to be paramount, have described the truth in the guise of poetry. Knowing this, that part which relates to peace should be carefully extracted from it, not the entertaining part; serviceable gold necessarily comes from ore-born dust.

praayeNa: ind. mostly , generally , as a rule
aalokya = abs. aa - √ lok: to look at, behold
lokam (acc. sg.): m. the world
viShaya-rati-param (acc. sg. m.): delighting in objects as its paramount aim
viShaya: m. an object of sense; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
rati: f. pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for (loc. or comp)
paraa: f. any chief matter or paramount object (ifc. having as the chief object , given up to , occupied with , engrossed in
mokShaat (abl. sg.): liberation, release
pratihatam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. struck or striking against ; repelled ; hostile
prati- √ han: to beat against (gen.) ; to attack ; to strike in return , strike back , ward off, remove , dispel , check , prevent , frustrate

kaavya: m. a poem
vyaajena (inst.): treacherously , deceitfully , under the pretext or guise of
vyaaja: m. deceit , fraud , deception , semblance , appearance , imitation , disguise , pretext , pretence
tattvam (nom. sg.) n. true or real state , truth , reality
kathitam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. told, related, narrated
iha: here
mayaa (inst. sg.): by me
mokShaH (nom. sg.): m. liberation, release
param (acc. sg.): mfn. best, highest, supreme, chief, paramount
iti: thus

tad (acc. sg. n.): that, it
buddhvaa = abs. to wake , wake up , be awake ; to perceive , notice , learn , understand , be aware of
shaamikam (acc. sg.) : (from √ sham) tranquillity, peace
√ sham: be quiet or calm or satisfied or contented ; to cease , be allayed or extinguished
yat (acc. sg. n.): [that] which
tat (acc. sg n.): that [which]
avahitam (acc. sg.): mfn. plunged into (loc.); fallen into , placed into , confined within
itaH: ind. (used like the abl. case of the pronoun idam) from this, from it
graahyam = acc. sg. gerundive grah: to seize , take ; to pluck , pick , gather ; to receive into the mind , apprehend , understand , learn
na: not
lalitam (acc. sg.): mfn. sported , played , playing , wanton , amorous ;
n. sport , dalliance , artlessness , grace , charm ; languid gestures in a woman (expressive of amorous feelings , " lolling , languishing " &c )

paaMsubhyaH = abl. pl. paaMsu: m. crumbling soil , dust , sand (mostly pl.)
dhaatu-jebhyaH = abl. pl. m dhaatu-ja: mfn. produced or derived from a verbal root ; born from a primary element of the earth
dhaatu: primary element of the earth i.e. metal , mineral , are (esp. a mineral of a red colour) ; element of words i.e. grammatical or verbal root or stem
ja: mfn. ( √jan) ifc. born or descended from , produced or caused by ; prepared from ; belonging to , connected with , peculiar to
niyatam (nom. sg. n.): fixed , established , settled , sure , regular , invariable , positive , definite; : ind. always , constantly , decidedly , inevitably , surely
upakaram (nom. sg. n.): doing a favour (?), providing a service (?), being yielded up (?);
upa- √ kR: to bring or put near to , furnish with , provide ; to assist , help, favour; to serve
upakāra: m. help , assistance , benefit , service , favour; use , advantage ; preparation , ornament , decoration , embellishment (as garlands suspended at gateways on festivals , flowers &c )
upakaraNa: n. the act of doing anything for another , doing a service or favour , helping , assisting , benefiting
upacitam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. heaped up , increased; big , fat , thick ; covered over , furnished abundantly , possessing plentifully
upa- √ ci: to heap up, to furnish oneself with
upagatam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. obtained
upacaram (nom. sg. n.): mfn. accessory , supplementary
upanatam (nom. sg. n.): fallen to one's share
uparavam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. eclipsed, obscured
caamiikaram (nom. sg.) n. gold
iti: "....," thus

Monday, November 28, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.63: A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

ity-eṣā vyupaśāntaye na rataye mokṣārtha-garbhā kṛtiḥ
śrotṛṛṇāṃ grahaṇārtham-anya-manasāṃ kāvyopacārāt kṛtā /
yan-mokṣāt kṛtam-anyad-atra hi mayā tat-kāvya-dharmāt kṛtaṃ
pātuṃ tiktam-ivauṣadhaṃ madhu-yutaṃ hṛdyaṃ kathaṃ syād-iti // 18.63 //

= = = - - = - = - - - = = = - = = - =
= = = - - = - = - - - = = = - = = - =
= = = - - = - = - - - = = = - = = - =
= = = - - = - = - - - = = = - = = - =

This work is pregnant with the purpose of release:
it is for cessation, not for titillation;

It is wrought
out of the figurative expression of kāvya poetry
in order to capture an audience
whose minds are on other things --

For what I have written here
not pertaining to liberation,
I have written
according to the conventions of kāvya poetry.

This is through asking myself
how the bitter pill might be made pleasant to swallow,
like bitter medicine mixed with something sweet.

Here is Aśvaghoṣa, as a named individual, taking ownership in the first person singular of a poem -- a kāvya poem replete with courtly imagery and metaphors, and written in strict conformity with the rules of classical Sanskrit metre -- that he has written himself.

Hence in the 3rd line yad... kṛtam... mayā tat... kṛtaṃ (lit. "what was done by me... that was done by me").

In the 4th line, as I read it "the bitter pill" is understood.

A bitter pill is something that is difficult to accept -- like, for example, the fact that I can't hope to change for the better, in the direction of release or liberation, while hanging on to all my old views, bad habits, and attachments.

Being in the Śārdūlavikrīḍitā metre, today's verse as I read it, is composed in four distinct lines, and so the kind of four-phased progression which my teacher Gudo Nishijima was so adept in identifying is readily apparent. That is to say, the 1st line relates to meaning, aim, or purpose. The 2nd line describes the stuff the poem is wrought out of. The 3rd line is subject expressing object realized by his own action -- what was done by me was done by me. And the 4th line just points us exactly to where we are, still struggling to swallow the bitter pill.

EH Johnston:
This poem, dealing thus with the subject of Salvation, has been written in the Kavya style, not to give pleasure, but to further the attainment of tranquillity and with the intention of capturing hearers devoted to other things. For, that I have handled other subjects in it besides Salvation is in accordance with the laws of Kavya poetry to make it palatable, as sweet is put into a bitter medicine to make it drinkable.

Linda Covill:
This composition on the subject of liberation is for calming the reader, not for his pleasure. It is fashioned out of the medicine of poetry with the intention of capturing an audience whose minds are on other things. Thinking how it could be made pleasant, I have handled in it things other than liberation, things introduced due to the character of poetry, as bitter medicine is mixed with honey when it is drunk.

iti: thus
eShaa (nom. sg. f.): this
vyupashaantaye = dat. sg. vyupashaanti.
shaanti: f. tranquillity , peace , quiet , peace or calmness of mind , absence of passion; alleviation (of evil or pain) , cessation , abatement , extinction
vyupashaanta: mfn. calmed , allayed , ceased (as pain) ; desisting
vy-upa- √ śam: to become quiet , be allayed , cease
na: not
rataye = dat. sg. rati: f. rest , repose ; pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment
mokSh'-aartha-garbhaa (nom. sg. f.): filled with the purpose of release
mokSha: m. emancipation , liberation , release
artha: aim, purpose
garbha: m. womb; ifc. f. (garbhaa), having in the interior , containing , filled with
kRtiH (nom. sg.): f. act of doing; creation , work ; literary work

shrotRRnaaM = gen. pl. m. shrotR: mfn. one who hears, a hearer
grahaN'-aartham: in order to capture
grahaNa: n. seizing , holding , taking; n. catching , seizure , taking captive
artha: aim, purpose
anya-manasaam = gen. pl. m. anya-manas: mfn. whose mind is fixed on something else, absent
anya: other, something else
manas: mind
kaavy'-opacaaraa (abl. sg.): out of the figurative expression of a kāvya poem
kaavya: mfn. (fr. kaví) , endowed with the qualities of a sage or poet , descended or coming from a sage , prophetic , inspired , poetical; m. a poem , poetical composition with a coherent plot by a single author
upacaara: mode of proceeding towards (gen.) , treatment ; attendance on a patient , medical practice , physicking; present , offering , bribe; usage , custom or manner of speech ; a figurative or metaphorical expression (upacaaraat ind. metaphorically) , metaphor , figurative application
upa- √ car: to come near , wait upon , serve , attend ; to attend on (a patient) , physic (a person) , treat , tend , nurse; to use figuratively or metaphorically , apply figuratively
kRtaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. done , made , accomplished ; worked, wrought

yat (acc. sg. n.): what (relative pronoun)
mokShaat (abl. sg.): liberation, release
kRtam (nom./acc. sg. n.): done, worked
anyat (acc. sg. n.): other than , different from , opposed to (abl. or in comp.)
atra: ind. in this matter , in this work, in it; here, at this time
hi: for
mayaa (inst. sg.): by me
tat: (correlative of yat) that
kaavya-dharmaat (abl. sg.): because of the law of the poem, because of the conventions of poetry
kaavya: poem, poetry
dharma: that which is established or firm, law; usage , practice , customary observance or prescribed conduct.
kRtam (nom./acc. sg. n.): done, worked

paatum = infinitive paa: to drink, suck, swallow
tiktam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. bitter
iva: like
auShadham (acc. sg.) n. herbs used in medicine , simples , a medicament, drug , medicine in general
madhu-yutam (acc. sg. n.): combined with something sweet, mixed with honey
madhu: mfn. sweet , delicious , pleasant ; n. anything sweet (esp. if liquid) , mead &c ; honey ; n. the juice or nectar of flowers , any sweet intoxicating drink ; sugar
yuta: mfn. united , combined , joined or connected or provided or filled or covered with , accompanied by , possessed of (instr. or comp.)
hRdya (acc. sg. n.): mfn. being in the heart ; pleasing or dear to the heart ; pleasant to the stomach, savoury , dainty (as food)
katham: how
syaat (3rd pers. sg. optative as): it might be
iti: [thinking] thus

Sunday, November 27, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.62: Nanda Uses His Head Nicely

bhikṣārthaṃ samaye viveśa sa puraṃ dṛṣṭīr-janasyākṣipan
lābhālābha-sukhāsukhādiṣu samaḥ svasthendriyo niḥspṛhaḥ /
nirmokṣāya cakāra tatra ca kathāṃ kāle janāyārthine
naivonmārga-gatān parān paribhavann-ātmānam-utkarṣayan // 18.62 //

= = = - - = - = - - - = = = - = = - =
= = = - - = - = - - - = = = - = = - =
= = = - - = - = - - - = = = - = = - =
= = = - - = - = - - - = = = - = = - =

When the occasion arose
he entered the town for begging
and attracted the citizens' gaze;

Impartial towards gain, loss,
comfort, discomfort, and the like,
his senses composed, he was free of longing;

And being there, in the moment,
he talked of liberation to people so inclined --

Never putting down others on a wrong path
or raising himself up.

Nanda has walked the walk of liberation following a course prescribed by the Buddha, which involved going alone into the forest, sitting with the legs crossed in the manner traditionally prescribed for yoga practitioners, observing progress (or regress) through four stages of sitting-meditation, and so on.

The point of today's verse, and especially the 3rd line, seems to be that talking the talk of liberation is less a question of following a protocol and more a question of intuiting what is appropriate at a particular place and time.

Note to self -- putting down others who are on a wrong path, and thereby seeming to big oneself up, might not be enlightened behaviour at any place or time.

The point about wrong paths might be not to put down people who are on them, but rather to steer clear of them oneself and point them out to others, so that eventually a lot of long grass and brambles might grow over them.

EH Johnston:
Indifferent to gain or loss, to pleasure or suffering etc., free from yearnings and with senses stilled, he entered the city to ask for alms at the due time and attracted the gaze of the folk ; and there in due course he told the tale of Salvation to the folk who had need of it, neither contemning others still wandering far from the true Path nor exalting himself.

Linda Covill:
At the appropriate time he entered the city for alms, catching the eye of the people. Staying the same in gain or loss and in happiness and sadness alike, he was free of longings, with his senses in sound health. There in due course he spoke of deliverance to people in need of it, not disparaging those on the wrong path nor vaunting himself.

bhikShaa: f. the act of begging or asking
artham: for, for the purpose of
samaye: ind. (loc.) at the appointed time, at the right moment, in good time for
samaya: m. coming together; appointed or proper time , right moment for doing anything, opportunity , occasion , time , season
vivesha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vish: to enter, to into
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
puram (acc. sg.): n. a fortress , castle , city , town
dRShTiiH = acc. pl. dRShTi: f. seeing , viewing , beholding; regard , consideration; eye , look , glance
janasya = gen. sg. jana: m. people , subjects (the sg. used collectively)
akShipan = 3rd pers. pl. imperfect aa-√ kSip: to draw or take off or away ,
√ kSip: to throw, send; to throw a glance

laabha: m. obtaining , getting , attaining , acquisition , gain , profit
alaabha: m. non-acquirement, loss
sukha: n. n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
asukha: n. sorrow , pain , affliction
aadiShu (loc. pl.): and so on
samaH (nom. sg. m.): always the same , constant , unchanged , fair , impartial towards (loc.)
svasth'-endriyaH (nom. sg. m.): being well in his senses
svastha: mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self , uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound, well , healthy ; relying upon one's self , confident , resolute , composed
indriya: n. power of the senses; n. faculty of sense , sense , organ of sense
niH-spRhaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not longing for (loc. or comp.) , abstaining from (abl.)
√spRh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for ; to envy , be jealous

nirmokShaaya (dat. sg.): m. liberation , deliverance
cakaara = 3rd pers. sg. kR: to do, make
tatra: ind. there, therefore, in those circumstances
ca: and
kathaam (acc. sg.): f. conversation , speech , talking together ; talk
kaale: ind. in due time, in due course
janaaya (dat. sg.): m. the people
arthine = dat. sg. m. arthin: mfn. one who wants or desires anything

na: not
eva: (emphatic)
unmaarga-gataan: on a/the wrong way
unmaarga: m. deviation from the right way , wrong way (lit. and fig.)
gata: being located on, situated in
paraan (acc. pl. m.): others
paribhavan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. pari-√bhuu: to be superior , excel , surpass , subdue , conquer ; to pass round or over , not heed , slight , despise , insult ; to disgrace
aatmaanam (acc. sg. m.): himself
utkarShayan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. causative ut-√ kRSh: to draw or drag or pull up

Saturday, November 26, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.61: What the Buddha Taught

ity-arhataḥ parama-kāruṇikasya śāstur-
mūrdhnā vacaś-ca caraṇau ca samaṃ gṛhītvā /
svasthaḥ praśānta-hṛdayo vinivṛtta-kāryaḥ
pārśvān-muneḥ pratiyayau vimadaḥ karīva // 18.61 //

= = - = - - - = - - = - = =
= = - = - - - = - - = - = =
= = - = - - - = - - = - = =
= = - = - - - = - - = - = =

Thus spoke the Worthy One,
the instructor whose compassion
was of the highest order,

Whose words and equally whose feet
Nanda had accepted, using his head;

Then, at ease in himself, his heart at peace,
his task ended,

He left the Sage's side like an elephant free of rut.

Why is the Buddha's compassion described as supreme, or of the highest order (parama)?

I think Aśvaghoṣa described the Buddha's compassion as being of the highest order in the sense that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day; whereas if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.

This principle has from an early age informed, I confess, my own ambition.

Translation is in essence very modest work, sort of like being a referee in a football match. If you stand out, it is probably because you have committed some major blunder, like impulsively reaching for a red card in the first twenty minutes, or like neglecting the real meaning of the author's original words in your eagerness to assert your own crappy views and opinions. No young lad is likely to have a photo pinned on his bedroom wall of a referee or a translator in some heroic pose -- vigorously blowing his whistle, or stooping over the Monier-Williams dictionary.

The reason I have been doing such modest work all these years, ironically, is a big desire to do something momentous with my life. I always thought, and indeed was very much encouraged so to think by Gudo Nishijima, that if I could succeed in helping to clarify what the Buddha really taught, then I might thereby live a supremely meaningful and valuable life.

Now, according to Dogen, the one and only way to live a life which in meaning and value surpasses the Buddha himself, is to spend it sitting in full lotus.

At the same time, in the final chapter of Shobogenzo Dogen quotes the ultimate teaching of the Buddha on the night before he died as to have small desire and know satisfaction.

Mindful of these two points, I am limping to the end of this final canto at something of a low ebb, feeling like a failure, unable to sit in full lotus due to a torn bit of cartilage in my left knee that resulted from falling off my push-bike at the end of May, and at the same time suffering, as has been my wont for 30 years, from a gnawing sense of frustrated ambition.

Such are the clouded eyes of the bad referee who wants to be a sporting legend, or the rubbish translator who wants to broadcast his own pet theory.

Endeavouring nonetheless, with my whole body and mind, to keep my clouded eye on the ball, I am struck in line 2 by the word mūrdhnā, which is instrumental singular of mūrdhan (forehead, head). So the point might be that Nanda used his own head.

And that may be why needy Nanda was finally able to leave the Sage's side, like a great war elephant free of all wildness -- because he had learned for himself how to use his head.

What was it that the Buddha taught about the use of the head?

I haven't yet fully understood. But it wasn't what Gudo Nishijima taught me in the Zazen Hall of Tokei-in temple, when he grabbed my chin and yanked it several inches backwards, wishing to cause my neck bones to become straight vertically. That is for damn sure.

If the teaching of a buddha-ancestor like Gudo Nishijima can patently be so utterly unreliable, what else is there for each of us to do but to learn to use our own heads?

With this in mind I am looking foward next week to publishing contributions from individual readers of this blog. So far I have received individual testimonies (in the order of receiving them) from Jordan, Ian, Harry, George, and Malcolm. Anybody else is welcome to contribute, whether man or woman, Buddhist or non-Buddhist. The only criterion is that you have to be an individual who, instead of subscribing to anybody's Buddhist view, is willing to use his or her own head.

EH Johnston:
Then Nanda grasped with his head the words and the feet simultaneously of the worshipful, supremely compassionate Master, and cheerful with heart at rest and his aims accomplished, he left the Sage, being freed from conceit like an elephant from must.

Linda Covill:
So with his head he grasped the words and feet together of the worthy one, the supremely compassionate teacher ; and sound in himself, his heart at ease, his task ended, he left the sage's side like an elephant free of rut.

iti: "....", thus
arhataH (gen. sg. m.): worthy , venerable , respectable
parama-kaaruNikasya (gen. sg. m.): supremely compassionate
parama: highest, supreme
kaaruNika: mfn. compassionate
shaastur (gen. sg.): m. a chastiser , punisher ; a ruler , commander ; a teacher , instructor

muurdhnaa = inst. sg. muurdhan: m. the forehead , head in general , skull
vacaH = acc. sg. vacas: n. speech , voice , word ; advice , direction , command , order
ca: and
caraNau = acc. dual caraNa: foot
ca: and
samam: ind. in like manner , alike , equally , similarly
gRhiitvaa = abs. √grah: to seize , take, lay hold of ; to lay the hand on , claim ; to place upon (instr. or loc.) ; to take on one's self ; to receive hospitably (a guest) , take back (a divorced wife) ; to perceive (with the organs of sense or with m/anas) , observe , recognise ; to receive into the mind , apprehend ; to accept , admit , approve ; to obey, follow

sva-sthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy (in body and mind ; comfortable , at ease
prashaanta-hRdayaH (nom. sg. m.): his heart at peace
prashaanta: mfn. tranquillized , calm , quiet ; extinguished , ceased , allayed
hRdaya: n. heart
vinivRtta-kaaryaH (nom. sg. m.): his work to be done having ended
vinivRtta: mfn. turned back , returned , retired , withdrawn ; desisting from (abl.) , having abandoned or given up R, disappeared , ended , ceased to be
kaarya: n. work or business to be done , duty , affair

paarshvaat (abl. sg.): n. the side
muneH (gen. sg.): m. the sage
pratiyayau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect prati- √yaa:to come or go to
vi-madaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. free from intoxication , grown sober ; free from rut ; free from pride or arrogance
karii = nom. sg. karin: m. " having a trunk " , an elephant
iva: like

Friday, November 25, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.60: What the Buddha Foresaw -- a Woman Walking the Walking of Dispassion

tvayi parama-dhṛtau niviṣṭa-tattve
bhavana-gatā na hi raṃsyate dhruvaṃ sā /
manasi śama-damātmake vivikte
matir-iva kāma-sukhaiḥ parīkṣakasya // 18.60 //

- - - - - - = - = - = =
- - - - = - - = - = - = =
- - - - - - = - = - = =
- - - - = - - = - = - = =

For, with you showing constancy of the highest order,
as you get to the bottom of what is,

She surely will not enjoy life in the palace,

Just as the mind of an enlightened man
does not enjoy sensual pleasures

When his mental state is tranquil and controlled,
and his thinking is detached, distinct, separate."

In my inelegant endeavour to capture the meaning of today's verse, I have translated manasi twice (mental state, thinking) and vivikte three times (detached, distinct, separate).

Today's verse as I read it contains a kind of meditation by the Buddha, in his final words in Saundara-nanda, on the meaning of separation (vivikte), which can be the essence of suffering, and the essence of a solitary sitter's enlightenment.

So the love story between Nanda and Sundarī is not a fairy story that ends, once Nanda has slain dragons and crossed moats, with the two of them re-united and living together happily ever after. On the contrary, the story ends with the Buddha foreseeing that Sundarī, following Nanda's example, may opt herself for the higher-order happiness of solitude and detachment -- separation without stress.

Getting to the bottom of what is (niviṣṭa-tattve) might be akin to water that is totally transparent, in which fishes are swimming like fishes.

Understood like that, both constancy of the highest order (parama-dhṛtau) and getting to the bottom of what is (niviṣṭa-tattve), are expressions of nothing but the lifeblood, which is sitting-dhyāna.

Being an enlightened man (or woman -- though parīkṣakasya is masculine), that is to say, a person who is truly looking all around, having abandoned all views, might be an expression of nothing but the lifeblood, which is sitting-dhyāna.

And being in a mental state of tranquillity, composure, and separated thinking (manasi śama-damātmake vivikte) might also be an expression of nothing but the lifeblood, which is sitting-dhyāna.

EH Johnston:
For certainly since you are filled with supreme steadfastness and have entered into reality, she will find no pleasure in the palace, just as the intelligence of the enlightened man, whose mind is discriminating and characterised by tranquillity and self-restraint, finds none in the pleasure of love.'

Linda Covill:
Since your firmness is paramount and you have penetrated the real nature of things, she will certainly not enjoy being in the palace -- just as when the mind of a careful examiner is discerning, tranquil and subdued in its nature, his thoughts find no enjoyment in sensuality."

tvayi (loc. sg.): you
parama-dhRtau (loc. sg.): firmness of the highest order
parama: chief , highest , primary, best
dhRti: f. firmness , constancy , resolution ,
niviShTa-tattve (loc. sg.): penetrating reality
niviShTa: mfn. settled down , come to rest; entered , penetrated into
ni- √ viś: to enter or penetrate into (acc. or loc.) ; to alight , descend ; to come to rest , settle down or in a home ; to encamp ; to sit down upon. ; to resort to (acc.) ; to settle , take a wife ; to be founded (said of a town) ; to be fixed or intent on (loc. , said of the mind) ; to sink down , cease , disappear , vanish
tattva: n. true or real state , truth , reality

bhavana-gataa (nom. sg. f.): being in the palace
bhavana: n. a place of abode , mansion , home , house , palace
gata: mfn. being in, contained in
na: not
hi: for
raMsyate = 3rd pers. sg. future ram: to stop , stay ; to delight ; to enjoy one's self
dhruvam: ind. surely, certainly
saa (nom. sg. f.): she

manasi (loc. sg.): n. mind (in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers) , intellect , intelligence , understanding , perception , sense , conscience , will
shama-dam'-aatmake (loc. sg.): being tranquil and tamed in nature
shama: m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity
dama: mfn. ifc. " taming , subduing "; m. taming; self-command , self-restraint , self-control
aatmaka: mfn. having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)
vivikte (loc. sg.): mfn. separated , kept apart , distinguished , discriminated ; isolated , alone , solitary; discriminative , judicious ;

matiH (nom. sg.): f. the mind , perception , understanding , intelligence , sense , judgement
iva: like
kaama-sukhaiH (inst. pl.):
kaama: m. desire; love , affection , object of desire or of love or of pleasure ; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
pariikShakasya = gen. sg. pariikShaka: m. a prover , examiner , judge
pariikSh: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive

Thursday, November 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.59: More Talk of Dispassion, By a Woman for Women

dhruvaṃ hi saṃśrutya tava sthiraṃ mano
nivṛtta-nānā-viṣayair-mano-rathaiḥ /
vadhūr-gṛhe sāpi tavānukurvatī
kariṣyate strīṣu virāgiṇīḥ kathāḥ // 18.59 //

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

For, surely, when she hears of your steadfast mind

With its chariots turned back from sundry objects,

Your wife following your example will also talk,

To women at home, the talk of dispassion.

The 2nd line of today's verse can be read as referring back to Aśvaghoṣa's description of Nanda at the beginning of Canto 12:

Turning back from heaven, the chariot of his mind, whose horse was willpower, / Was like a great chariot turned back from a wrong road by an attentive charioteer. // 12.5 //

At that time, thanks to the Buddha's skillfulness, the chariot of Nanda's mind turned back from one particular desired object, namely celestial nymphs. In the interventing cantos, through learning well the backward step of turning his light and letting it shine, Nanda has turned back his mental chariots, or heart's desires, not only from one sort of object but from all sorts of objects (nānā-viṣaya).

Such is talking the talk of dispassion -- or more literally making "dispassionate mentions/overtures" (virāgiṇīḥ kathāḥ [plural]).

Dispassion means freedom from, mainly, greed and anger.

A starting point of dispassion might be to see greed as it is and anger as it is, without fear of being wrong. When I observe anger welling up in me, and observe my habitual reaction to it, I am not sure that I have even quite arrived yet at this starting point. Even if one understands in principle that it is OK to be wrong, even if one understands that being wrong is both fuel and raw material for work on the self, still in practice fear of being wrong runs deep -- it does in me, for one -- because of habit, and because of fear itself.

Voice the dharma-directions, Marjory Barlow might say, and go into movement without a care in the world. Let it come out in the wash....

My overriding response to seeing Gudo Nishijima's so-called "translation" of mūla-madhyamika-kārikā out in print has turned out to be a reaction of anger. As Gisela pointed out in a comment some time ago, to walk away from a problem is not always the same as leaving it behind, or letting go of it. And so my anger shows me that there is much I haven't let go of yet. One might argue that I haven't even walked very far away.

When I reflect on my anger, and my habitual response to it (trying to suppress it, witnessing it explode, et cetera) in light of Aśvaghoṣa's teachings, it seems appropriate and pertinent to dwell on the method by which Nanda is described in Canto 17 as shaking the tree of afflictions.

For, on those grounds, on the grounds of impermanence and emptiness, on the grounds of absence of self, and of suffering, / He, by the most discerning empirical path, caused the tree of afflictions to shake. // 17.17 //

In this verse "on the grounds of emptiness" is śūnyatas.

And exactly what Aśvaghoṣa means by this he explains in 17.20:

Since separateness is a construct, there being no-one who creates or who is made known, / But doing arises out of a totality, he realised, on that basis, that this world (lokam) is empty (śūnyam). // 17.20 //

śūnyatā, emptiness, is thus described as a condition of the world, to be investigated while the tree of afflictions is flowering and fruiting. Aśvaghoṣa does not describe emptiness as a state that is realised when the autonomic nervous system has become balanced by keeping the spine straight vertically. He describes it as an objective condition of the world which Mr. Angry, when the red taint of his passion is at its very height, can investigate. So when Sanskrit scholars foam at the mouth at Gudo's translation of śūnyatā as balanced state [of the autonomic nervous system], I am on their side. "Balanced state [of the autonomic nervous system]," is not only a terrible translation of śūnyatā; it is also a wrong interpretation of śūnyatā.

On such matters Gudo Nishijima, IMHO, encouraged his students to take sides, either with him or against him. To a man who he deemed to be on his side, even a deeply deluded man, he happily transmitted the Dharma. A bloke who told him he was wrong, like me, he treated like an enemy. For that I am eternally angry with him. And for that I am angry with those who, in awe of the Buddha-Dharma, sided with him even when it was not reasonable to do so. That kind of sectarian prejudice is the typical attitude of the religious believer, and to my nostrils it stinks -- not that I wasn't like that myself for many years.

However we understand the goal of dispassion, which thus seems to me at time of writing a very distant one, and however we understand the possible starting points for pursuing it (as described for example in 13.10 and 17.17), what is clear from today's verse and even moreso from tomorrow's verse, is that the Buddha by no means saw dispassion as an exclusively male pursuit. Rather, he saw dispassion as a virtue to be discussed among women at home, and as a virtue that a woman like Sundarī might wish to pursue by going forth from her home.

EH Johnston:
For certainly when your wife hears that your mind has become steadfast with its desire turned away from the various objects of the senses, she too will imitate you in the palace and will preach among the women of freedom from passion.

Linda Covill:
When your wife at home hears about your stability of mind, now that its desires for the various sense-objects have been turned away, she too is sure to follow your example, and speak of dispassion to her women.

dhruvam: ind. firmly , constantly , certainly , surely
hi: for
saMshrutya = abs. saM- √shru: to hear
tava (gen. sg.): your
sthiram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. firm, strong; not wavering or tottering , steady ; constant , steadfast , resolute , persevering
manaH (acc. sg.): n. mind

nivRtta-naanaa-viShayaiH (inst. pl.): turned back from manifold objects
nivRtta: turned back
naanaa: ind. differently , variously , distinctly , separately , (often used as an adj. = various , different)
viShaya: object ; an object of sense ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
mano-rathaiH (inst. pl.): m. " heart's joy " , a wish , desire (also = desired object) ; fancy , illusion ; (in dram.) a wish expressed in an indirect manner , hint ; the heart compared to a car
mano = manas: mind
ratha: 1. m. (from √ ṛ, to go) " goer " chariot; 2. m. ( fom √ ram, to enjoy) pleasure , joy , delight

vadhuuH (nom. sg.): f. a bride or newly-married woman , young wife spouse any wife or woman
gRhe = loc. sg. gRha: n. a house , habitation , home; (also) domestic or family life
saa (nom. sg.): f. she
api: even, also
tava (gen. sg.): of you, your
anukurvatii = nom. sg. f. pres. participle anu-√kR: to follow in doing ; to imitate , copy

kariShyate = 3rd pers. sg. future kR: to do, make
striiShu = loc. pl. strii: f. woman
vi-raagiNiiH = acc. pl. f. vi-raagin: mfn. indifferent, without colour/passion
kathaaH = acc. pl. kathaa: f. talk, story, mention

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.58: Miraculous Directions

bravītu tāvat puri vismito janas-
tvayi sthite kurvati dharma-deśanāḥ /
aho batāścaryam-idaṃ vimuktaye
karoti rāgī yad-ayaṃ kathām-iti // 18.58 //

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

Just let the astonished people in the city say,

While you are standing firm, voicing dharma-directions,

'Well! What a miracle this is,

That he who was a lover boy is preaching liberation!'

If my translation of the 2nd line of today's verse seems to have been informed by my practice of the FM Alexander Technique, damn right it has.

In Alexander work, directions (deśanāḥ [plural]) are what Alexander called "the means-whereby," which he opposed to the attitude of going directly for an end without due attention to process.

Thus Alexander work, rather like translation work, is very modest work. Intuition plays a part, but trying to show oneself to be inspired or original sometimes produces results that are not so good -- because trying is always end-gaining.

In Alexander work we usually talk about giving directions, or attending to directions, or thinking directions (as opposed to trying to do directions), as an internal process. But in the context of today's verse, kurvati (lit. doing or making) is understood to mean speaking, teaching or voicing directions.

For example: "I wish to allow my whole self to expand in expanding space, so that the neck releases, to allow the head to go forward and up, so that the back lengthens and widens, and the limbs are released out."

The approach of working indirectly for future ends by paying attention to present directions caused Alexander to get results which people who had previously been suffering from various ailments related to "bad posture" regarded as miraculous. But Alexander did not see himself as a miracle-worker, just a bloke in the middle way working to a means-whereby principle. "There are many miracles in nature" was how Alexander put it.

EH Johnston:
Just let the inhabitants of the town be astonished while you preach the Law and let them say, "Look, this is a miracle that he who was addicted to passion now tells the tale of final emancipation!"

Linda Covill:
Just let the astonished people in the city say, when you stand giving instruction in dharma, 'Goodness! It's amazing that this man, who was a libertine, gives talks on liberation!'

braviitu (3rd pers. sg. imperative bruu): let it say!
taavat: ind. at once , now , just ; indeed, truly etc.
puri = loc. sg. pur: f. a rampart , wall , stronghold , fortress , castle , city , town
vismitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. amazed , surprised
janaH (nom. sg.): m. people

tvayi = loc. sg. tvad: you
sthite = loc. sg. sthita: mfn. standing firm (yuddhe , " in battle ") ; standing , staying , situated
kurvati = loc. sg. pres. participle kR: to do , make , perform , accomplish , cause , effect , prepare , undertake ; to execute , carry out (as an order or command); to think of (acc.); to give an order ; to proceed , act , put in practice
dharma-deshanaaH (acc. pl.): dharma-directions
dharma: m. the Dharma, the law, the teaching
deshanaa: f. (fr. dish, to point out) direction , instruction

aho: ind. a particle (implying joyful or painful surprise) Ah! ; often combined with other particles of similar signification , as aho bata , &c
bata: ind. an interjection expressing astonishment
aashcaryam (nom. sg. n.) mfn. appearing rarely , curious , marvellous , astonishing , wonderful , extraordinary; n. a wonder , miracle , marvel , prodigy
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
vimuktaye = dat. sg. vimukti: f. release , deliverance , liberation ; release from the bonds of existence , final emancipation

karoti = 3rd pers. sg. kR: to do, make etc.
raagii = nom. sg. m. raagin: mfn. coloured ; red , of a red colour ; impassioned , affectionate , enamoured ; m. a lover , libertine
yad: that
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this one, this man
kathaam (acc. sg.): f. conversation , speech , talk ; story , tale , fable
iti: ".....", thus

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.57: Let There Be Light

vihāya tasmād-iha kāryam-ātmanaḥ /
kuru sthirātman para-kāryam-apy-atho/
bhramatsu sattveṣu tamo-vṛtātmasu
śruta-pradīpo niśi dhāryatām-ayam // 18.57 //

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

forgetting the work that needs to be done
in this world on the self,

Do now, stout soul, what can be done for others.

Among beings who are wandering in the night,
their minds shrouded in darkness,

Let the lamp of this transmission be carried.

Implicit in the first line, as I read it, might be the principle that truly to work on the self is sometimes to forget the self. That might mean losing oneself in doing some job for the future -- like, say, chopping up wood to be used in a future winter for keeping warm; or like, say, clearly describing the meter of Sanskrit and Pali verse for future students of those languages to use -- as opposed to going around the whole time trying mindfully to be in the present moment.

In line 2 the appellation sthirātman, "stout soul," I can only find in one other verse ("man of grit," 8.57). sthirātman might be the opposite of the frequently recurring calātman (fickle, 1.20; out of balance in himself, 8.11; one who easily changes his mind, 8.24; fickle, 8.46; an imbalanced person, 9.48; an impulsive person 18.23).

In the second half of today's verse, the darkness of night can be understood as representing ignorance or unconsciousness, and a light or lamp can be understood as representing enlightenment or consciousness.

One can't become less unconscious, Marjory Barlow insightfully stated, relying on unconsciousness. The conditions are rather created for the growth of consciousness when one inhibits unconscious behaviour.

This is the truth I first stumbled on, as I alluded to yesterday, at the age of around 19 or 20 in the context of tournament karate, while stalking an opponent and waiting for the opportunity to counter-punch. Marjory Barlow very skillfully created laboratory-like conditions to study this principle in the less physically demanding context of lying on her teaching table, investigating the decision to move or not to move a leg.

While writing yesterday's comment I googled mūla-mādhyamika-kārikā and found a whole lot of praise and criticism directed at Gudo Nishijima's English version, which I found by sheer coincidence has just been published. I felt so tempted to add my two-pennyworth at once. Even though I didn't wade in, I wouldn't say that I totally inhibited my desire to say something sharp and insightful.

I suppose that if, in a thought experiment, I put myself back on Marjory's teaching table and saw myself through Marjory's eyes, she might see a bloke who still hadn't totally given up trying to be right.

This delusory desire to be right, which is itself generally unconscious, being all bound up with fear of being wrong, seems to be at the root of a lot of the darkness that shrouds people's minds.

EH Johnston:
Therefore abandoning all concern with your own affairs in this world, work with steadfast soul for others and hold up this torch of revelation for the beings who with souls clouded with mental darkness are wandering in the night.

Linda Covill:
Therefore give up doing things for yourself here in the world, O you who are firm in yourself, and do things for others. Let this lantern of learning be carried among living beings enveloped in dark ignorance who roam in the night.

vihaaya = abs. vi- √ haa: to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon, give up ; to get rid of or free from (acc.)
tasmaad: ind. therefore
iha: here, in this world
kaaryam (acc. sg.): n. work or business to be done , duty , affair
aatmanaH (gen. sg.): of/for yourself, your own

kuru = 2nd pers. sg. imperative kR: to do
sthir'-aatman (voc. sg. m.): O stout individual!
sthira: mfn. firm , hard , solid , compact , strong
aatman: m. the individual soul , self ; the person
para-kaaryam (acc. sg. n.): work to be done for others
api: even (emphatic)
atho = atha: now, then, etc.
[EHJ queried avyathaḥ]
avyathaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. untroubled ; intrepid ; painless

bhramatsu = loc. pl. m. present participle bhram: to wander or roam about , rove , ramble
sattveShu (loc. pl. m.): living beings
tamo-vRt'-aatmasu (loc. pl. m.): minds shrouded in darkness
tamas: n. darkness
vRta: mfn. concealed , screened , hidden , enveloped , surrounded by , covered with (instr. or comp.)
aatman: m. the individual soul , self ; the person ; essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karmātman, active); (ifc.) " the understanding , intellect , mind " » naṣṭātman , deprived of mind

shruta-pradiipaH (nom. sg. m.): lamp of transmission
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
pradiipa: m. a light , lamp , lantern (often ifc. " the light i.e. the glory or ornament of " ; also in titles of explanatory works = elucidation , explanation)
nishi = loc. sg. nishaa: f. night
dhaaryataam = 3rd pers. sg. causative, passive dhR: to bear, carry
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this

Monday, November 21, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.56: Desire to Teach Tranquillity

ihottamebhyo 'pi mataḥ sa tūttamo
ya uttamaṃ dharmam-avāpya naiṣṭhikam /
acintayitvātma-gataṃ pariśramaṃ
śamaṃ parebhyo 'py-upadeṣṭum-icchati // 18.56 //

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

But deemed to be higher than the highest in this world

Is he who, having realized the supreme ultimate dharma,

Desires, without worrying about the trouble to himself,

To teach tranquillity to others.


Having decided, in the middle of last night, to leave today's comment there, I slept like a baby until 8.30 this morning.

And though when I decided before to go for a one-word comment, I really meant it, now that I have sat for an hour there is more I want to say.

Having walked a thousand days in Aśvaghoṣa's tracks, I with the benefit of hindsight am sure about one thing, which is that when it came to prajñā/foresight, Aśvaghoṣa was higher than the highest in this world (ihottamebhyaḥ uttamaḥ).

The man in the middle who Aśvaghoṣa described in yesterday's verse as working for a result in the future, I am sure, was nobody but Aśvaghoṣa himself.

kriyām-amutraiva phalāya madhyamaḥ
Translating the expletive eva more freely than I did yesterday:
A man in the middle [does] work for a result -- now wake up and listen! -- in the future.

Was Aśvaghoṣa a monk or a poet? scholars ask, supposing that he must have been a superior type, but truly neither knowing nor caring who Aśvaghoṣa really was.

Aśvaghoṣa was a man in the middle working for a result -- wake up! -- in the future.

And one very conspicuous future result that Aśvaghoṣa was working towards, as a man in the middle (madhyamaḥ) was Nagarjuna's writing of his mūla-mādhyamika-kārikā, which means something like "a rudimentary statement in verse of being in the middle."

Higher than the highest in this world (uttamebhyaḥ uttamaḥ) sounds like a state that is very exalted and grand, but the irony buried in this and the previous verse, as I read them, is that the Buddha is pointing to the supreme ultimate dharma as something that is realized not by the superior type, but just by the bloke in the middle way, whose desire is to teach tranquillity.

In practice, how does a man or woman in the middle teach tranquillity -- or, to coin a phrase, stillness without fixity? In my experience of stumbling on tranquillity as a young bloke, and eventually being taught tranquillity by an old woman in the middle who understood the process well, there is paradoxical consciousness of (a) working towards a future result, like the throwing of a counter-punch or the movement of a leg or the completion of a translation, and (b) keeping one's eye on the ball; that is to say, giving all one's attention to what is going on here and now, which involves total giving up of all temptation to do anything yet.

The whole process rests on saying "no" -- on saying, to the impatient desire to go directly or hurriedly for the end, "no."

EH Johnston:
But he is deemed best among the best in this world who, after obtaining the supreme, ultimate Element, desires, careless of the trouble it involves for him, to teach this tranquillity to others also.

Linda Covill:
However, the man who is considered better than the best in the world is he who has obtained the supreme and ultimate dharma and wishes to guide others to tranquillity, without thinking of the trouble to himself.

iha: here, in this world
uttamebhyaH = abl. pl. uttama: mfn. uppermost, highest, best
api: even, also (emphatic)
mataH (nom. sg. m.): thought, considered, deemed
saH (nom. sg. m.): he [who]
tu: but
uttamaH (nom. sg m.): uppermost, highest, best

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
uttamam (acc. sg. m.): uppermost, best
dharmam (acc. sg.): m. the Dharma, the teaching
avaapya = abs. avaap: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get
naiShThikam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. forming the end , final , last

a-cintayitvaa (abs.): without taking into consideration
a: (negative prefix)
cint: to think , have a thought or idea , reflect , consider ; take into consideration
aatma-gatam (acc. sg. m.): coming to himself, brought upon himself
parishramam (acc. sg.): m. fatigue , exertion , labour , fatiguing occupation , trouble , pain
pari- √ śram: to fatigue or exert one's self

shamam (acc. sg.): m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity, peace
parebhyaH (dat. pl.): to others
api: also, even (emphatic)
upadeShTum = infinitive upa- √ dish: to point out to ; to indicate , specify , explain , inform , instruct , teach ; to advise, to mention , exhibit , speak of
icchati = 3rd pers. sg. iSh: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to desire , wish , long for , request ; to wish or be about to do anything , intend to assent , be favourable , concede

Sunday, November 20, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.55: Songs of the Middle Way

ihārtham-evārabhate naro 'dhamo
vimadhyamas-tūbhaya-laukikīṃ kriyām /
kriyām-amutraiva phalāya madhyamo
viśiṣṭa-dharmā punar-apravṛttaye // 18.55 //

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

The lowest sort of man only ever sets to work
for an object in this world.

But a man in the middle does work
both for this world and for the world to come.

A man in the middle works for a result,
I repeat, in the future.

The superior type, however,
tends towards abstention from goal-oriented action.

On first reading, the Buddha appears to be contrasting the bloke in the middle discussed in today's verse with the best of the best, the highest of the high (uttamebhyaḥ uttamaḥ) discussed in tomorrow's verse.

But if we understood the two verses like that, I think the Buddha's joke might be on us.

A great batsman, it seems to me, when he talks of the importance of keeping one's eye on the ball, is singing a song of the middle way. Keeping his eye on the ball is at the forefront of his mind. But in the back of his mind there is always the intention of thwacking a thwackable ball to the boundary.

When a great footballer talks of the importance of keeping one's eye on the ball, what is his ulterior purpose? It might be, in the final analysis, to see the ball nestling in the back of the opponent's net.

When a great golfer talks about keeping his eye on the ball, his purpose, it is understood, is not to appreciate the shape and colour of a golf ball, as if it were a Monet painting or something. His ulterior motive is, taking as few shots as possible, to get the ball in the hole.

I heard that a bloke in the middle named FM Alexander, who wrote of "the great broad midway path" residing in between the extremes of unconscious behaviour, told an old lady at the end of her last lesson with him: "Now, my dear, see to it that you don't stiffen your neck. And make sure that you always have something to look forward to." That, as I hear it, is a fundamental song of the middle way.

When I hear a bloke in the lineage of Taisen Deshimaru boasting about sitting Zazen for 14 hours in a day, and assuring me that there are still today a few true Japanese Zen masters teaching, if only I would make the effort to seek them out, it somehow doesn't quite sound to my ears like a song of the middle way. It sounds more like somebody striving to be a superior type and wanting to associate himself with other superior types -- not that I haven't been there myself.

If you take the "Don't think. Just do it!" philosophy to its logical conclusion, that is what you get -- a lot of repetition which is sometimes only mechanical repetition and not necessarily meaningful repetition. Sitting for 14 hours a day, or 15 or 16 or 17 hours, and so on -- until it is difficult to discern any difference between the pleasant practice of a buddha and the bone-headed striving of an ascetic striver who is trying to be right.

Back in the days when there really were true Zen masters in China and Japan, a phrase that was used was "Let him kill himself for a while with Zazen."

EH Johnston:
The lowest class of man undertakes action for this world only, the next class both for this world and the world above, the middle man for results in the hereafter only, and the man of superior character for freedom from rebirth.

Linda Covill:
An inferior man works towards goals here in the world, the next man for both this world and the other world; the average man acts for reward in the hereafter, but the man of superior character works for the cessation of active life.

iha: ind. here, now, here & now
artham: ind. for, for the sake of; (acc. sg.) n. thing, object; concern (Ved. often acc. ártham with √ i , or gam , to go to one's business , take up one's work RV. &c )
eva: (emphatic) just
aarabhate = 3rd pers. sg. √ rabh: to lay or take hold of ; commence, undertake
naraH (nom. sg.): m. a man
adhamaH (nom. sg. m. ): lowest , vilest , worst , very low or vile or bad (often ifc. , as in naraadhama , the vilest or worst of men)

vimadhyamaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. middling, indifferent
vi-: ind. apart, asunder (prefix sometimes used to intensify, sometimes with no meaning)
madhyama: mfn. (superl. of mádhya) middle middle, being or placed in the middle , middlemost , intermediate
tu: but
ubhaya-laukikiim (acc. sg. f.): [work] belonging to both worlds
ubhaya: both , of both kinds , in both ways
laukika: worldly, terrestrial; (ifc.) belonging to the world of
kriyaam (acc. sg.): f. action, work

kriyaam (acc. sg.): f. action, work
amutra: ind. there ; there above i.e. in the other world , in the life to come
eva: (emphatic) "I repeat"
phalaaya (dat. sg.): n. fruit, result
madhyamaH (nom. sg.): m. one in the middle

vishiShTa-dharmaa (nom. sg. m.): a man of pre-eminent nature
vishiShTa: mfn. distinguished , distinct , particular , peculiar ; pre-eminent , excellent , excelling in or distinguished by
dharman: m. bearer , supporter ; n. (esp. ifc.) nature , quality
punar: ind. again, moreover, however
a-pravRttaye (dat. sg.): f. not proceeding ; no further effect or applicability of a precept ; abstaining from action , inertion , non-excitement ; (in med.) suppression of the natural evacuations , constipation
pravRtta: n. (with karman n. action) causing a continuation of mundane existence

Saturday, November 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.54: Enlightened Compassion

avāpta-kāryo 'si parāṃ gatiṃ gato
na te 'sti kiṁ-cit karaṇīyam-aṇv-api /
ataḥ-paraṃ saumya carānukampayā
vimokṣayan kṛcchra-gatān parān-api // 18.54 //

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

Walking the transcendent walk,
you have done the work that needed to be done:

In you, there is not the slightest thing left to work on.

From now on, my friend, go with compassion,

Loosening up others
who are pulled down into their troubles.

Today's verse, as I read it, is rooted, as is the whole of Saundara-nanda, in primacy of individual work on the self. This was ultimately the only means-whereby Nanda, even with the Buddha's help and guidance, could get himself free.

The kind of thing that the Buddha means by the fourth line has been demonstrated to us already, by the manner in which the Buddha helped Nanda.

My first attempt at translating the fourth line, before I sat on it and slept on it and sat on it again, was "Setting free others who are in trouble."

But did the Buddha set Nanda free? Did the Buddha deliver Nanda? Did the Buddha liberate Nanda?

It was natural for Nanda in his gratitude to say so, but the truth as I see it is not necessarily so. The truth is that in the end it was up to Nanda to go into the forest by himself and liberate himself, by working the teaching out for himself, by working on himself, and that is precisely what Nanda did.

Despite an excellent karmic inheritance, Nanda formed a very deep attachment to the lovely Sundarī, as a result of which he was bound, sooner or later, to find himself in deep doo-dah. Due to the Buddha's intervention, Nanda found himself in that trouble sooner rather than later, and the prejudiced teaching of the well-intentioned striver was of no use at all in helping Nanda out of the mess. Whatever compassion the striver had, it was not a buddha's compassion. The striver's compassion was not compassion of the kind that the Buddha advocates in today's verse; it was not compassion of the kind that the Buddha demonstrated to Nanda, when he encouraged Nanda to fantasize about sex with nymphs whose gorgeousness surpassed even Sundarī's.

The point I am endeavouring to make is that it is easy to think in the abstract that an enlightened Buddha such as Nanda is now can roam about setting others free, as if by simply radiating out his enlightenment to all and sundry. But the evidence for such an assumption is not contained in the story of Handsome Nanda. Handsome Nanda is rather the story of how the Buddha intervened to loosen the ties which bound Nanda, skilfully using a particular and somewhat unconventional means, and thereafter guided Nanda, by working to a principle, to liberate himself.

EH Johnston:
By following the highest Path you have reached the goal and there is not the slightest thing further for you to do ; henceforward, my friend, practise compassion, bringing liberation to those in difficulties even when they are your enemies.

Linda Covill:
Your task is complete, you have traveled the high path, and there is nothing, not even the smallest thing, left for you to do. From now on wander with compassion, delivering others who are also in trouble.

avaapta-kaaryaH (nom. sg. m.): one who has achieved a task, one who has attained a goal
avaapta: mfn. one who has attained or reached ; obtained , got
ava -√āp: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get
kaarya: n. work or business to be done , duty , affair ; n. an effect , result; n. motive , object , aim , purpose
asi: you are
paraam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. far , distant , remote (in space) , opposite , ulterior , farther than , beyond , on the other or farther side of , extreme; best, highest, supreme ; other than , different from (abl.)
gatim (acc. sg.): f. going , moving ; path , way , course
gataH (nom. sg. m.): having walked (a path acc.)

na: not
te (gen. sg.): in/of/for you
asti: there is
kiM cit: anything
karaNiiyam (nom. sg. n. ): mfn. to be done or made or effected &c ; n. an affair, business, matter
aNu: mfn. fine , minute , atomic; ind. minutely
api: even

ataH param: after this, henceforward, from now on
saumya (voc. sg. m.): friend!
cara = 2nd pers. imperative car: to move one's self , go , walk , roam about, wander
anukampayaa (inst. sg.): f. sympathy, compassion

vimokShayan = nom. sg. m. pres. participle vi-√mokSh: to set free , let loose , liberate
kRcchra-gataan (acc. pl. m.): being in difficulty
kRcchra: mfn. (perhaps fr. √kṛś , and connected with kaṣṭa) , causing trouble or pain , painful , attended with pain or labour, being in a difficult or painful situation ; mn. difficulty , trouble , labour , hardship , calamity , pain , danger
gata: mfn. come to, being in, situated in
paraan = acc. pl. para: m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
api: even, also (emphatic)

Friday, November 18, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.53: All Because of Abiding by Dharma

sa-dharma dharmānvayato yataś-ca te
mayi prasādo 'dhigame ca kauśalam /
ato 'sti bhūyas-tvayi me vivakṣitaṃ
nato hi bhaktaś-ca niyogam-arhasi // 18.53 //

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

O possessor of dharma!
Since, because of abiding by dharma,

You have skill in making it your own
and quiet confidence in me,

I have something else to say to you.

For you are surrendered and devoted,
and up to the task.

Hearing that Nanda's success has been "because of abiding by dharma" (dharmānvayataḥ), and therefore wishing likewise to abide by dharma, might be fraught with unseen danger, tied up with trying to be right.

The most difficult thing, it seems to me, for a person who aspires to abide by dharma, is not to try to be right but rather to know for damn sure that one is faulty, wrong, and on that basis to intuit what next to do or not to do.

EH Johnston:
You possess the Law and since in accordance with the Law you have obtained faith in Me and skill in attainment, I have more to say to you ; for, being humble and devoted, you are worthy of receiving a command.

Linda Covill:
Dharma-endowed man, from following dharma, confidence in me and skill in achievement are yours. I would like to ask more of you, for you are modest and devoted, and worthy of a calling.

sa-dharma (voc. sg. m.): O possessor of dharma!; . mfn. virtuous , honest
sa: an inseparable prefix expressing "junction" , "conjunction" , "possession" (and when compounded with nouns to form adjectives and adverbs it may be translated by " with " , " together or along with " , " accompanied by " , " added to " , " having " , " possessing " , " containing ")
anvayataH = abl./gen. sg. pres. part. anv- √ i: to go after or alongside , to follow ; to seek ; to be guided by
dharm'-aanvaya: m. obedience to law
yataH: since, because of
ca: and
te (gen. sg.): in/of you

mayi (loc. sg.): in me
prasaadaH (nom. sg.): m. clearness; calmness , tranquillity , absence of excitement ; serenity of disposition , good humour [6.17 "clearly settled"; 17.30 "quiet certainty"; 18.4 "tranquillity"]
pra- √ sad: to become satisfied or pleased or glad , be gracious or kind
adhigame (loc. sg.): m. the act of attaining , acquisition ; acquirement , mastery , study , knowledge
ca: and
kaushalam (nom. sg.): n. well-being , welfare , good fortune , prosperity ; skilfulness , cleverness , experience (with loc. or ifc.)

ataH: hence
asti: there is
bhuuyaH: ind. more
tvayi (loc. sg.): to you
me (gen. sg.): of/in me
vivakShitam (nom. sg.): n. (fr. Desid. of √ vac) what is wished or intended to be spoken; n. any desired object or aim
√ vac : to speak , say , tell , utter , announce , declare , mention , proclaim , recite , describe (

nataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bent , bowed , curved , inclined , inclining ; bowing to , saluting ; deep, hanging down
√ nam: to bend or bow (either trans. or oftener intr. ) to bow to , subject or submit , one's self ; to yield or give way , keep quiet or be silent
hi: for
bhaktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. distributed , assigned; served; dressed, cooked ; engaged in , occupied with , attached or devoted to , loyal , faithful , honouring , worshipping , serving (loc. gen. acc. or comp.); m. a worshipper
ca: and
niyogam (acc. sg.): m. tying or fastening to ; m. employment , use , application ; injunction , order , command, commission , charge , appointed task or duty , business (esp. the appointing a brother or any near kinsman to raise up issue to a deceased husband by marrying his widow)
arhasi = 2nd pers. sg. arh: to deserve , merit , be worthy of, to have a claim to , be entitled to (acc.) , to be allowed to do anything (Inf.) ; to be obliged or required to do anything (acc.) ; to be worth , counterbalance , to be able

Thursday, November 17, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.52: None But a Work-Knower, Together With a Work-Knower

rajas-tamobhyāṃ parimukta-cetasas-
tavaiva ceyaṃ sadṛśī kṛtajñatā /
rajaḥ-prakarṣeṇa jagaty-avasthite
kṛtajña-bhāvo hi kṛtajña durlabhaḥ // 18.52 //

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

This gratitude is fitting, again, in none but you

Whose mind has been liberated
from the dust of the passions and from darkness.

For while dust prevails in the world,

O man of gratitude! real gratitude is a rare state of being.

If the three root faults to be eliminated are greed, hatred, and ignorance, then rajas (dust) may be taken as standing for the passions of greed and hatred, and tamas (darkness) as standing for ignorance.

The compound translated three times in today's verse as "gratitude" is kṛta-jña, whose literal meaning can be understood as "appreciating work done." This work might include work done for others but, before that, it might include work done on oneself, for oneself, all by oneself -- for the sake of self and others.

So there is the kind of gratitude that we all naturally feel when somebody in the line of duty or going beyond the line of duty gives us good service, or does a good job for us -- on, for example, car, teeth, or house -- without overcharging us or ripping us off.

But a rarer and deeper gratitude might be knowing what somebody has done for us primarily by working on him or her self. For such gratitude really to exist, the grateful person has to know in his own experience what the work in question really is. And that might be why the Buddha calls such a state of being durlabhaḥ, hard to find, or rare.

Understood like this, today's verse might be rooted, again, in the central truth of the Lotus Sutra, namely that

“None but a buddha, together with a buddha, is able perfectly to realize, here and now, that all things are reality.”

So on the surface the Buddha seems to be saying in today's verse that it is only natural, or fitting, for one whose mind has been liberated from the three poisons to be grateful. But more than that, he might be saying that it is only possible for such a person, and for such a person alone, together with another such person, to be truly appreciative of the Work -- that is to say, the work that has been done, the work that is being done, and the work that all being well will continue to be done.

EH Johnston:
And this gratitude is fitting in you, whose mind is freed from passion and ignorance ; for, O grateful one, gratitude is hard to find in this world conditioned by excess of passion.

Linda Covill:
O grateful man, this awareness of what has been done for you is worthy of you, whose heart is freed from passion and darkness; for gratitude is hard to find while the world abides in its excess of passion.

rajas-tamobhyaaM (abl. dual): from dust and darkness
rajas: n. " coloured or dim space " , the sphere of vapour or mist ; vapour , mist , clouds , gloom , dimness , darkness ; impurity , dirt , dust ; the " darkening " quality , passion , emotion , affection
tamas: n. darkness , gloom
parimukta-cetasaH (gen. sg. m.): whose mind is liberated
parimukta: mfn. released , liberated from
cetas: mind

tava (gen. sg.): you
eva (emphatic): [you] alone; nobody but [you]
ca: and
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
sadRshii (nom. sg. f.): conformable , suitable , fit , proper , right , worthy
kRta-jNa-taa: f. gratitude
kRta-jNa: mfn. knowing what is right , correct in conduct ; acknowledging past services or benefits , mindful of former aid or favours , grateful
-taa: (noun suffix)

rajaH-prakarSheNa (inst. sg.): a great deal of dust
rajas: gloom, passion etc.
prakarSha: m. pre-eminence , excellence , superiority , excess , intensity , high degree ; (often ifc. e.g. adhva-pr° , a great distance ; kāla-pr° , a long time ; guṇa-pr° , extraordinary qualities ; phala--pra-karṣa° mfn. consisting chiefly in fruit ; śakti-pr° , possessing extraordinary power )
pra-√kRSh: to draw or stretch forth , drag along or away
jagati = loc. sg. jagat: the world
avashtite = loc. sg. avashita: mfn. standing near , placed , having its place or abode
ava- √ sthā: to abide in a state or condition (instr.)

kRta-jNa-bhaavaH (nom. sg. m.): being grateful
bhaava: being, state ; manner of being , nature , temperament ; manner of acting , conduct , behaviour
hi: for
kRta-jNa (voc. sg. m.): O grateful one!
dur-labhaH: mfn. difficult to be obtained or found , hard , scarce , rare

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.51: None But an Arhat, Together With an Arhat

avaiti buddhaṃ nara-damya-sārathiṃ
kṛtī yathārhann-upaśānta-mānasaḥ /
na dṛṣṭa-satyo 'pi tathāvabudhyate
pṛthag-janaḥ kiṃ-bata buddhimān-api // 18.51 //

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

An arhat, a man of action whose mind has come to quiet,

Knows the Buddha as a charioteer
of human steeds who needed taming:

Not even a seer of truth
appreciates the Buddha in this manner:

How much less does the common man,
however intelligent he may be?

arhan in line 2 of today's verse was interpreted by EHJ as in the nominative case and by LC as in the vocative ("O worthy man").

I have followed EHJ's understanding of the grammar. So in that sense, once again, I am standing on EHJ's shoulders. But insofar as he translates kṛtī arhan as "the saintly Arhat," I would like once again to tread on EHJ's scholar's crown.

An arhat is so-called not because he or she is a saint; he or she is so-called as a man of action whose mind has come to quiet, as a result of getting to the bottom of the four noble truths, which process might require the whole idea of sainthood to be given up, as a religious idea all tied up with noise in people's systems.

In today's verse as I read it, an arhat knows buddha as a condition of directed human energy because an arhat is buddha as a condition of directed human energy.

So once more it is a case of
“None but a buddha, together with a buddha, is able perfectly to realize, here and now, that all things are reality.”

Implicit in today's verse is a hierarchy with buddhas and arhats knowing each other at the top. Lower down the food chain than these lions and tigers are truth-seers. An example of a truth-seer (dṛṣṭa-satyaḥ) might be a market researcher, or a police detective, or a laboratory scientist, or an investigative journalist, or a yoga teacher, or a newly qualified Alexander teacher, or a Buddhist scholar, or a professor of Sanskrit, who does his or her job well. Such partial seers of fragmentary truths are a cut above the common man, however intelligent he might be in his blind pursuit of objects, but from the Buddha's standpoint something truly worthy or valuable is inevitably lacking in them.

That worthy something (or valuable bit of nothing), so the Zen tradition has it, is centred upon the practice of sitting in lotus and enjoying the samādhi of accepting and using the whole self. So the word damya (needing to be tamed), as I read it, means being in need of guidance in the direction of enjoying this samādhi of accepting and using the whole self.

Just after I qualified as a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique in the summer of 1998, I went back to Japan to see my old Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima. I did my best to report the relevance, as I understood it, of FM Alexander's discoveries around right posture in sitting -- i.e. that there is no such thing as right posture in sitting, though it might be possible to enjoy a condition of relative freedom from unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions. In the process of this discussion of reflexes I mentioned the support given to FM Alexander by the neuro-physiologist Charles Sherrington, and discussed postural or "anti-gravity" reflexes.

Gudo was not much interested in Alexander's discoveries. Gudo's line of reasoning was that if what Alexander discovered was the Buddha's teaching, then there was no need for him to study it. Whereas if what Alexander discovered was different from the Buddha's teaching, then why should he be interested in studying it? So implicit in this reasoning was the premise or the confidence or the arrogance that "I know what the Buddha taught."

When it came to the discoveries of Sir Charles Sherrington, however, who was clearly not some kind of quacky alternative therapist but a bona-fide scientist, Gudo was all ears. He was especially interested in the existence of postural or "anti-gravity" reflexes. "I would like to prostrate myself to Sir Charles Sherrington!" Gudo enthused. That was Gudo for you. He was always interested in and open to the kind of truths uncovered by physiologists like Charles Sherrington and psychologists like Karl Menninger. Thus, he was by a long way a cut above the common man. Stupid as I am, if Gudo had not been a cut above the common man, I would not have served him as I did for all those years.

EH Johnston:
Not even a man who has seen the truth would understand the Buddha, the Charioteer Whose steeds are men, in the same way as the saintly Arhat does whose mind is tranquillised; how much less then will a man outside the pale of the Law do so, intelligent though he be?

Linda Covill:
O worthy man, since even a man who has seen the truth, whose mind is at peace and whose goal is accomplished, does not understand the Buddha, the charioteer of men who need to be tamed, still less so does the man in the street, clever though he may be.

avaiti = 3rd pers. sg. ave (ava √i): to go down to, to go to; to look upon, consider; to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know
buddham (acc. sg. m.): the Buddha, the awakened one
nara-damya-saarathim (acc. sg. m.): the charioteer of men that were to be tamed
nara: m. a man , a male , a person (pl. men , people); husband; hero
damya: mfn. tamable ; m. a young bullock that has to be tamed
saarathi: m. a charioteer

kRtii = nom. sg. m kirtin: mfn. one who acts , active ; expert , clever , skilful , knowing , learned; good, virtuous, pure
yathaa: just as
arhan = nom./voc. sg. m. arhat: mfn. deserving , worthy , venerable , respectable ; m. a buddha who is still a candidate for nirvāṇa ; m. the highest rank in the Buddhist hierarchy
upashaanta-maanasaH (nom. sg. m.): whose mind has come to quiet
upashaanta: mfn. calmed , appeased , pacified ; n. tranquillity, peace
upa- √ śam: to become calm or quiet
maanasa: n. the mental powers , mind , spirit , heart , soul

na: not
dRShTa-satyaH (nom. sg. m.): a man who has seen/experienced the truth/reality
dRShTa: mfn. seen , looked at , beheld , perceived , noticed ; experienced , learnt , known , understood
satya: n. truth, reality ; n. demonstrated conclusion , dogma; n. the quality of goodness or purity or knowledge
api: even
tathaa: ind. in that manner, so
avabudhyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive ava-√budh: to become sensible or aware of , perceive , know

pRthag-janaH (nom. sg. m.): m. a man of lower caste or character or profession; an ordinary professing Buddhist ; a fool , blockhead ; pl. common people , the multitude (also sg.)
pRthag in comp. for pRthak: ind. widely apart , separately , differently , singly , severally ; (as a prep. with gen. or instr.) apart or separately or differently from
jana: m. person, people ; a common person , one of the people
kiM bata: how much less? how much more?
buddhimaan = nom. sg. m. buddhimat: mfn. endowed with understanding , intelligent , learned , wise
api: even

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.50: Affirmation, By None But a Bloke Who Got the Job Done

idaṃ kṛtārthaḥ paramārthavit kṛtī
tvam-eva dhīmann-abhidhātum-arhasi /
atītya kāntāram-avāpta-sādhanaḥ
sudaiśikasyeva kṛtaṃ mahā-vaṇik // 18.50 //

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

"As a man of action
who got the job done and knows the primary task,

None but you, O Crafty Man!,
should express this affirmation --

Like a great trader,
having crossed a wasteland and got the goods,

Who affirms the work of a good guide.

The tone of today's verse, as I read it, together with the many verses throughout Saundarananda linked by the caravan metaphor, is pointedly not religious but is strongly practical.

I dare say that EH Johnston, for all his great ground-breaking, foundation-laying work as a Sanskrit translator and Buddhist scholar, got the register of today's verse totally arse-over-tit. It might serve as an example of how, despite years of diligent study, a Buddhist scholar is ever liable totally to miss the basic point of the Buddha's words. That said, without the groundwork of EH Johnston, where would this translation effort be?

Should I see myself, then, I wonder, as standing on the shoulders of a giant? Or as treading on the head of a gormless religious sap who never really knew the score?

The opening word of the verse, idaṃ, refers to Nanda's affirmation of Gautama, and so I have translated it as "this affirmation." Though neither the word "affirmation" or "affirms" appears in the original Sanskrit, the sense of affirmation -- in both directions -- I think is understood.

"Affirmation" remains a candidate for the canto title, which in Sanskrit is ājñā-vyākaraṇa. vyākaraṇa is the Sanskrit name of one of nine divisions of the scriptures, the name being translated into Chinese as 授記 JUKI, which in turn was chosen by Dogen as the title of Shobogenzo chap. 32, 授記 JUKI, Affirmation.

Today's verse as I read it makes it clear that this affirmation, and especially Gautama's affirmation of Nanda, has a distinctly practical emphasis. Hence the three words in today's verse from the root √kṛ, to do or to make, and the double appearance in the first line of artha, whose many meanings include job and task -- as in kṛtārthaḥ, one who has got the job done, and paramārthavit, one who knows the primary task, one who knows the score.

So today's verse as I read it is all about practical, non-religious vyākaraṇa, that is, 授記 (JUKI), that is, affirmation. At the same time, today's verse, again, relates to the central teaching of the Lotus Sutra:

“None but a buddha, together with a buddha, is able perfectly to realize that all things are reality.”

That all things are not religious but are just reality was absolutely the thrust of the teaching of my own teacher, Gudo Nishijima, who pissed me off intensely by asking me to strive to keep my spine straight vertically, and then criticizing me as not being sufficiently realistic. I haven't finished yet criticizing him right back.

Standing on the shoulders of a giant? I don't think so. Treading on the head of a blind fucking dwarf, more like.

That is all the affirmation that my purported guide through the wasteland is getting from me.

EH Johnston:
'It is right for you, O wise one, to say this, seeing that you have attained your goal, know the highest truth and are a saint, just as a great merchant who has crossed the desert and made great gains may praise the deeds of his excellent guide.

Linda Covill:
"You have achieved your goal, you know the ultimate truth, you are successful. Wise man, it is proper for you to say this, just as it is proper for a great merchant who has passed through the wilderness and acquired a fortune to declare what his good guide has done for him.

idam (acc. sg. n.): this, these words
kRt'-arthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who has attained an end or object or has accomplished a purpose or desire , successful
param'-aartha-vit (nom. sg. m): knowing ultimate value/purpose; knowing what is primary
param'-aartha: m. the highest or whole truth , spiritual knowledge ; any excellent or important object
parama: chief , highest , primary
artha: aim, purpose, object, meaning, value
vid: mfn. knowing , understanding , a knower (mostly ifc)
kRtii = nom. sg. kRtin: m. mfn. one who acts , active ; expert , clever , skilful , knowing , learned (with loc. or ifc.) ; good , virtuous

tvam (nom. sg.): you
eva: (emphatic)
dhiiman = voc. sg. m. dhiimat: mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible
dhii: f. thought , (esp.) religious thought , reflection , meditation , devotion , prayer ; understanding , intelligence , wisdom (personified as the wife of rudra-manyu BhP. ) , knowledge , science , art
abhidhaatum = abhi-√dhaa: inf. (in classical Sanskrit generally) to set forth , explain , tell , say
arhasi: you should

atiitya = abs. atii: to pass over, overcome
kaantaaram (acc. sg.): mn. a large wood , forest , wilderness , waste
avaapta: obtained , got
saadhana: n. any means of effecting or accomplishing ; n. means of enjoyment , goods , commodities &c ; n. fruit , result

su-daishikasya (gen. sg.): of a good guide
su-: (laudatory particle) well, goo
daishika: knowing a place , a guide
iva: like
kRtam (acc. sg.): n. deed , work , action ; n. service done , kind action , benefit
mahaa-vaNik (nom. sg. m.): a great merchant
mahaa: great
vaNij: m. a merchant , trader