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)

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