Monday, November 14, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.49: Nothing Superfluous in Nanda

tato munis-tasya niśamya hetumat
prahīṇa-sarvāsrava-sūcakaṃ vacaḥ /
idaṃ babhāṣe vadatām-anuttamo
yad-arhati śrīghana eva bhāṣituṃ // 18.49 //

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

Then the Sage, hearing his well-founded words

Which signified the end of everything superfluous,

Voiced, as the Very Best of Speakers,

These lines that none but a buddha,
being 'Sheer Radiance,' should voice:

The first half of today’s verse, as I read it, relates to the main point of Alexander work, which is that "The wrong inner patterns are the doing which has to be stopped."

If stopping of the wrong inner patterns feeds through, indirectly, to a use of the self in sitting that bystanders judge to look like “good posture,” then all well and good, but that is no reason to put the cart before the horse. (If you are reading this Mats Senshin, then yes, I am thinking about you!)

The Lotus Sutra, as quoted in Shobogenzo, opens by describing the Buddha accompanied on Vulture Peak by twelve thousands great bhikṣus, all of whom were arhats, having ended all outflows (諸漏既尽).

The Chinese characters 諸漏, SHO-RO ("all leaks/outflows/superfluities"), it is safe to assume, represent the Sanskrit words appearing in line 2 of today's verse, sarvāsrava.

Given the great emphasis that the Buddha places, for example at the end of Canto 16, on vigorous direction of vital energy, on one level we might understand that the Buddha now recognizes from Nanda's voice and words that Nanda has stopped his vital energy from leaking out inefficiently, i.e. he has become able to prevent energy from being directed unconsciously, so that it flows only via the paths along which he wishes consciously to direct his energy.

Possibly more profound, however, is understanding which seeks to stop the superfluous not at the level of energy flow but at the deeper level of wrong inner patterns, or wrong tendencies.

One definition of āsrava in the Monier-Williams dictionary is the influence or action of body and mind and speech in impelling the soul to generate Karma. Hence LC's translation of sarvāsrava as "all rebirth-producing tendencies" -- which strikes me, on reflection, as not such a bad translation, so long as the word "rebirth" is not taken too literally. “All those wrong inner patterns that tend to produce noise in the system,” might be closer to the mark, as an explanation if not as a translation.

The second half of today’s verse, as I read it, relates to the principle introduced in 18.43 and followed up in 18.50 and 18.51; that is, namely, the central teaching of the Lotus Sutra that

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

śrīghana “Sheer Radiance” or “Nothing But Radiance,” is a rare epithet for a buddha. I think Aśvaghoṣa’s intention in using this rare epithet in today’s verse was to emphasize that only one who is fully enlightened (= being nothing but sheer radiance, a human being who is just himself with nothing added and nothing taken away) should speak to another one who is fully enlightened as the Buddha is about to speak to Nanda now.

From where I sit, what do I know about it?

I know, or at least I observe, that realism is not it. In fields like business, politics, and family life, realists tend to thrive and prosper (probably lucky for me that I married one!). But what is much more fundamental than realism, in my book, is how a person accepts and uses himself. In that respect, I think I was fortunate that my use of myself was somewhat grounded in rugby training and in traditional karate-do, before I met Gudo Nishijima at the age of 22, and started striving in earnest to keep my spine straight vertically. I used to find playing rugby very liberating, a release from the daily grind of academic study. In playing rugby, at least, I wasn't trying to be right. And trying to be right might be, in stopping the superfluous, the first tendency to abandon.

I don’t know what is the perfect realization of which the Buddha in the Lotus Sutra speaks. But it seems to me that if the fundamental basis of it is the samādhi of accepting and using the self, then it can’t be a matter of a spine being kept straight vertically, or an autonomic nervous system remaining in balance, or a realistic viewpoint. If the fundamental basis of a fully-enlightened buddha’s full awakening is the samādhi of accepting and using the self, then it must be a matter of accepting the whole self and using the whole self. Nothing more. And nothing less.

EH Johnston:
Then the Sage, the Best of Speakers, hearing his well-reasoned speech which showed that he had extirpated all the infections, spoke these words which were such as a Buddha Shrighana should speak : --

Linda Covill:
Then the sage, peerless among speakers, listened to his reasoned speech that indicated his lack of all rebirth-producing tendencies, and said what a Buddha Shri-ghana ought to say:

tataH: ind. from that, then
muniH (nom. sg.): m. the sage
tasya (gen. sg.): of him, his
nishamya = abs. ni-√śam : to observe , perceive , hear , learn
hetumat (acc. sg. n.): mfn. having a reason or cause , proceeding from a cause ; accompanied with arguments , provided with reasons or proofs , well-founded, reasonable
hetu: m. " impulse " , motive , cause , cause of , reason for

prahiiNa-sarv'-aasrava-suucakam (acc. sg. n.): indicating the stopping of all outflows
prahiiNa: m. removal , loss , waste , destruction
pra. √hā: to leave ; to desert , quit , abandon , give up , renounce , violate (a duty) , break (a promise) ; to send off , throw , hurl ; to cease , disappear
sarva: all
aasrava: m. a door opening into water and allowing the stream to descend through it ; m. (with Buddh. ) impurity, defilement, sin ; the influence or action of body and mind and speech in impelling the soul to generate Karma
ā- √ sru: to flow near or towards ; to flow , stream , flow from ; to spring a leak ; to flow off , go off , deteriorate
suucaka: mfn. pointing out , indicating , showing
suc: , to point out , indicate , show , manifest , reveal , betray (in dram. = " to indicate by gesture , communicate by signs , represent ") MaitrUp. MBh. Ka1v. &c ;
vacaH (acc. sg.): n. speech , voice , word

idam: ind. with these words
babhaaShe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhaaSh: to speak , talk , say , tell
vadataam (gen. pl. pres. participle vad): of speakers
an-uttamaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unsurpassed , incomparably the best or chief , excellent

yad: (relative pronoun) that which, what
arhati: he should
shriighanaH (nom. sg. m.): n. coagulated milk , sour curds; m. a buddha
shrii: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches , high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity ; symbol or insignia of royalty
ghana: full of (in comp.) , densely filled with (in comp.) ; m. ifc. mere , nothing but (e.g. vijNaana-ghana , " nothing but intuition " )
eva: (emphatic)
bhaaShituM = inf. bhaaSh: to speak

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

Literally ā-srava seems to mean not outflow but inflow, or influence (from the prefix ā, near, towards, and the root √ śru, to flow or leak).

Reviewing Canto 16 in this light, as well as thinking about the meaning of the title of Canto 18 (Affirmation of Full Autonomy), translating ā-srava as "influence" suddenly starts to make a lot of sense.