Friday, November 11, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.46: A Fool & Full Awakening

yathā hi ratnākaram-etya durmatir-
vihāya ratnāny-asato maṇīn haret /
apāsya saṃbodhi-sukhaṃ tathottamaṃ
śramaṃ vrajet kāma-sukhopalabdhaye // 18.46 //

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

For just as a fool, having made it to a jewel mine,

Might leave the jewels and carry off inferior crystals,

So would one reject the highest happiness
of full awakening

And struggle to gain sensual gratification.

This is the verse in which the dangerous concept of saṃbodhi, full awakening or Enlightenment, makes its one and only appearance. Here then is the twirling flower. How should we respond to it?

If I have learned anything over the past 30 years, it is how NOT to respond to it -- by an unconscious reaction rooted in faulty sensory appreciation.

On the swing of saṁsāra there is a whole spectrum of unenlightened reactions to the stimulus of the word Enlightenment, but at the two extremes there is grasping effort to get one's dirty paws on Enlightenment, and there is disappointed denial of the existence of Enlightenment.

A handy tool for a fool who is hoisted in this swing of saṁsāra might be a ladder. And a wise first step for the fool with newly acquired ladder who is hoisted in the swing of saṁsāra might not be a step up in the direction of highest-order happiness. A wise first step, if the fool were somehow minded to take it, might be back down to earth.

In today's verse, as I read it, Nanda is reporting indirectly, almost in passing, that having been brought right back down to earth by the Buddha (taṃ punar-agaman-mahītalam; 10.64), and having then gone up step by step, he himself has now arrived at happiness of the highest order, the deepest happiness of full awakening.

So implictly the message of this verse is that there is such a thing as full awakening or Enlightenment, and that Nanda has experienced it for himself as the highest happiness. I can respond to this message as I like, for example by cursing and throwing my toys out of the pram, but this undeniably is the implicit message.

And the explicit message of the verse is that the happiness of full awakening is supremely valuable, much more valuable than the lower-order happiness that we experience through the gratification of sensual desires.

So a bloke who pursues lower order happiness and eschews highest-order happiness is like a fool who chooses inferior crystals over real jewels.

But an even bigger fool might be a bloke who eschews every kind of happiness in his striving to mine jewels without tools like a pick, a spade, and a ladder. And in this I speak from experience.

When I was helping him get what he wanted about 25 years ago Gudo Nishijima said to me, "Your suffering has meaning for all people in the world." I think now that that teaching was bullshit, though it factored in my decision to stay in Japan and work on the Shobogenzo translation, which was an incredibly altruistic/stupid thing to do.

In marked contrast, after an Alexander lesson about ten years ago Marjory Barlow told me that the only way to spread happiness around was to be happy in oneself. This somewhat shocking teaching caused me to go to France and find a place by the forest, to go off and enjoy sitting by myself -- which various onlookers, including my brother and wife, have seen as a selfish thing to do.

A central point to take from Saundarananda, as I read it, is that Nanda is portrayed as having obtained the highest happiness of full awakening by working on himself, by himself, for himself. Nanda of course credits the Buddha, but the truth is that the Buddha after a certain point in this process was no use to Nanda. Nanda had to head off for the forest on his own and find the highest happiness of full awakening for himself.

EH Johnston:
For the man, who would reject the most excellent bliss of enlightenment and undergo toil in order to experience sensory pleasure, is like the fool, who, proceeding to a jewel-mine, should pass by the jewels and take away worthless semi-precious stones.

Linda Covill:
Just as a simpleton would come to a mine and carry off semi-precious stones of no value whilst leaving behind the jewels, so might a man labor to win sensual gratification whilst discarding the supreme bliss of perfect enlightenment.

yathaa: just as
hi: for
ratn'-aakaram (acc. sg. m.): a jewel mine
ratna: n. jewel
aakara: m. a mine
etya = abs. e (aa-√i): to come near or towards , go near , approach
dur-matiH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. weak-minded , silly , ignorant (rarely " malicious " , " wicked ") ; m. fool , blockhead (rarely " scoundrel " , " villain ")

vihaaya = abs. vi- √ haa: to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon
ratnaani (acc. sg. n.): jewels
a-sataH = acc. pl. m. asat: unreal ; untrue , wrong ; bad
maNiin = acc. pl. m. maNi: a jewel , gem , pearl (also fig.) , any ornament or amulet , globule , crystal
haret = 3rd pers. sg. optative hR: to take , bear , carry in or on (with instr.) , carry , convey , fetch , bring ; to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob

apaasya = abs. apaas: to fling away , throw away or off , discard , to scare , drive away ; to leave behind ; to take no notice of , disregard
sambodhi-sukham (acc. sg. n.): the happiness of enlightenment
sambodhi: f. (with Buddhists) perfect knowledge or enlightenment
sam: prefix expressing " conjunction " , " union " , " thoroughness " , " intensity " , " completeness "
bodhi: mf. (with Buddhists or jainas) perfect knowledge or wisdom ; m. m. " wakener " , a cock
sukha: n. ease, comfort, happiness
tathaa: so, likewise
uttamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. uppermost, highest

shramam (acc. sg.): m. fatigue , weariness , exhaustion ; exertion , labour , toil
vrajet = 3rd pers. sg. optative vraj: to go, undergo , go to any state or condition
kaama-sukh'-opalabdhaye (dat. sg.): for the gaining of sensual happiness, for sensual gratification
kaama: desire, pleasure, love, sensuality
sukha: n. ease, comfort, happiness
upalabdhi: f. obtainment , acquisition , gain

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