Monday, November 7, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.42: A View from the Summit

śāntasya tuṣṭasya sukho viveko
vijñāta-tattvasya parīkṣakasya /
prahīṇa-mānasya ca nirmadasya
sukhaṃ virāgatvam-asakta-buddheḥ // 18.42 //

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = -
- = - = / = - - / = - = - // - = - = / = - - / = - = =
Upajāti (Rāmā)

Solitude is sweet for one who is calm and contented,

Who looks into and has learned what is.

Again, for one who is sober and shorn of conceits,

For one who is detached in his decision-making,
dispassion is a pleasure.

In this and the next four verses, Nanda is expressing the happiness/pleasure of full awakening or perfect enlightenment (saṃbodhi-sukhaṃ; 18.46), and contrasting this happiness/pleasure with the kind of sensual pleasure (kāma-sukham) to which we look forward in the world.

In 13.2 Aśvaghoṣa refers to Gautama Buddha as saṃbuddhaḥ, a fully awakened one, and in 17.73 (the final verse of Canto 17), Nanda describes his bow to Gautama Buddha as a salute to saṃbuddhaṃ, a fully awakened one. But 18.46 is the only verse in Saundara-nanda in which we find the word saṃbodhi, full awakening or enlightenment.

There is no point at which Nanda declares saṃbuddho asmi, "I am enlightened" -- which declaration might cause the skeptical listener to question whether he is listening to a delusory thought born of wishful thinking. But in this series of five verses in which Nanda describes the happiness or pleasure of full awakening (saṃbodhi-sukhaṃ), Aśvaghoṣa's indirect intention might be to invite us to understand implicitly that Nanda and the Buddha are now both dwelling in the same condition of full awakening, so that fully enlightened Buddha is meeting fully enlightened Buddha.

How is an unenlightened bystander to respond? By finding renewed belief in enlightenment, and trying doubly hard to get his own dirty paws on it? By wishing to be there instead of here?

In short, by trying harder to be right?

Or is there a better way?

I think that whole point of Saundara-nanda might be -- whether or not one believes in enlightenment -- to gain confidence in a better way than striving after enlightenment.

Gautama was born a bodhi-sattva (a being whose essence was awakening/enlightenment), but the bodhi-citta (will to awakening/enlightenment) led even him astray.

How come? Because he was a human being who, like all human beings, had evolved to go directly for any end in view, relying on the unconscious mechanisms with which evolution has provided us. Sadly, awakening or enlightenment is inherently unsuited to being pursued by unconscious means. Darkness is not turned into light by upping the intensity of the darkness. Moreover, as civilization has advanced, and man has tended to grow apart from nature, the problem that FM Alexander identified as faulty sensory appreciation seems to have got worse, so that even a relatively simple act like rising from a chair -- let alone a giant undertaking like pursuing enlightenment, or going to the supermarket -- is liable to be fraught with unseen dangers.

So, as documented in Canto 3, even a bodhi-sattva goes wrong when he end-gains for awakening. Growth in the direction of awakening of consciousness requires a particular kind of effort which did not come naturally even to Gautama as a bodhi-sattva. How much less does it come naturally to any of us?

In listening now, then, to Nanda expressing his view from the summit, it might be wise to focus attention on the path immediately ahead. Because down here, at the bottom of the bloody mountain, boulders are everywhere liable to fall down, and deep crevasses lie concealed, plus plenty of minor potholes and puddles to trip up the unwary plodder....

EH Johnston:
For discrimination is easy to the man of investigating mind who knows reality and is tranquil and contented ; and freedom from passion is easy to the man who has abandoned pride and conceit and whose intelligence is devoid of attachment.

Linda Covill:
Solitude is delightful for a man who is calm and contented, who has an understanding of reality and who makes careful investigations; and the absence of amorous love is delightful for a man who has put pride aside, who is without lust, and whose mind does not cling.

shaantasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. tranquil, calm
tuShTasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. contented
sukhaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. running swiftly or easily; pleasant, agreeable; comfortable, happy
vivekaH (nom. sg.): m. (from vi- √vic) discrimination , distinction ; [as per 14.46] separateness, solitude
vi-√vic: to sift (esp. grain by tossing or blowing) , divide asunder , separate from

vijNaata-tattvasya (gen. sg. m.): reality-knowing
vijNaata: mfn. discerned , understood , known
vijñā: to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand; to become wise or learned
tattva: n. true or real state , truth , reality
pariikShakasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. trying , examining ; m. a prover , examiner , judge
pari- √iikSh: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive

prahiiNa-maanasya (gen. sg. m.): shorn of conceits
prahiiNa: mfn. left , remaining ; standing alone i.e. having no relatives ; cast off , worn out (as a garment); m. removal , loss , waste , destruction; (ifc.) wanting , destitute of
maana: m. ( √ man) opinion , notion , conception , idea ; purpose , wish , design ; self-conceit , arrogance , pride
ca: and
nir-madasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. unintoxicated , sober , quiet , humble , modest ; (elephant) not in rut
mada: m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication; ardent passion

sukham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. running swiftly or easily; comfortable, happy ; n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
viraagatvam (nom. sg.): n. indifference; absence of colour
viraaga: mfn. passionless , without feeling , dispassionate , indifferent; m. change or loss of colour
-tvam: (abstract noun suffix)
a-sakta-buddheH (gen. sg. m.): of detached judgement
a-sakta: free from ties , independent ; detached from worldly feelings or passions , unattached or indifferent
sakta: mfn. clinging or adhering to , sticking in ; fixed or intent upon , directed towards , addicted or devoted to , fond of
buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement

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