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 //

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"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

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