Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Canto 2: Exploring Within the Battlements

The king, following the birth of his self-begotten

– The self-conquering son
who would get to the bottom
of begetting and aging --

Day by day waxed mightier
by dint of wealth, elephants, horses and allies,

As a river develops by dint of its tributaries.

For all sorts of money and treasure,

Of wrought gold, or nothing but bullion --

Manifold reserves, did he then obtain,

Seemingly loaded even beyond the capacity
of the chariot of his mind.

And elephants that none in this world,
not even top tuskers of Padma's ilk,

Could lead around a circle --

Himālayan elephants massively in rut --

Stationed themselves,
without the making of any effort at all,
about his circle.

[Traversed] by fast movers
of different strokes and distinctive characters,
rigged out in new gold gear,

And by other types too,
adorned with long braided manes,

His city shook with [the stomping of] horses

Obtained by force,
through friendship, and with money.

Equally in his kingdom,
well-fed and well-satisfied,

Well-disposed, dustless,
and overflowing with goodness,

There were,
together with their lanky young,

Many cows, which also yielded abundant milk.

An enemy of his entered into neutrality;

Neutrality turned into friendship;

Friendship became something exceptionally solid.

For him, though he had two sides,
“the other” did not exist.

For him, equally,
with whispers of rainclouds blown by lazy breezes,

With clouds of thunder gilded by rings of lightning,

But without any flak
from showers of stone missiles or falling thunderbolts,

At the right time and place, it rained.

Each crop developed fruitfully
in accordance with its season,

Without toil at the plough then being done at all;

And those same plants, for him, became herbs,

Only stronger, in taste and efficacy.

In dealing with that circumstance which,

Like a clash between armies,
spells danger for the body,

Remaining even then in their natural state,
with ease and without disease,

Pregnant women gave birth.

Save for those observing a vow,

No man, however lacking in means,
ever begged from others;

And no noble person, however scant his resources,

Turned away when asked to give.

No disrespect nor any stinginess towards kinsmen,

Nor any lawlessness at all, or untruthfulness or cruelty,

Was shown by anybody in his kingdom at that time,

As in the realm of King Yayāti, son of Nahuṣa.

Gardens, temples, and ashrams,

Wells and drinking fountains, lotus-ponds and woods,

Lovers of dharma established there
as acts of religious sacrifice --

Almost as if they had seen heaven with their own eyes.

Exempt from famine, terror, and sickness,

People dwelt there as gladly as if they were in heaven;

And neither husband against wife
nor wife against husband

Did man and woman do each other wrong.

Nobody served desire for pleasure;

Nobody, on account of desire, guarded wealth;

Nobody practised dharma for a prize;

Nobody, in pursuit of dharma, did harm.

Theft and suchlike were non-existent,
as also were enemies;

His realm was self-sufficient,
immune to outside interference,

Pleasant to live in and plentifully provided --

Just as it was, once upon a time,
in the kingdom of An-araṇya, “Nowhere Wild.”

For at that time, at the time of that birth,
in that king's kingdom

As in the kingdom of Sun-begotten Manu,

Joy prevailed and wickedness was no more;

Dharma burned bright and foulness faded away.

And since in that son begotten by the king

Such fulfillment of everything was realized

The ruler of men named that son of his accordingly,

Saying “He is Sarvārtha-siddha,
Fulfillment of Everything.”

But having witnessed her offspring's mighty power,

Which could rival that of a divine seer,

Queen Māyā could not endure
the extreme joy that arose in her;

And so, rather than towards total oblivion,
she 'went to heaven.'

Then the prince whose peers were the progeny of gods,

Was brought up by the unconditional means
of love and affection:

His mother's sister, who was like his mother in her power,

Caused him to grow as if he were her own son.

And so, like the early-morning sun on the way up,

Or like a fire being fanned by wafts of air,

Gradually, the child developed well --

Like the waxing moon in the bright fortnight.

Then precious preparations of sandalwood,

And a string of jewels with herbs inside them,

And little golden carts drawn by deer,

Were brought to him, from the homes of good-hearts.

And ornaments appropriate for his age,

Toy elephants, deer and horses, made of gold,

And carts, and oxen harnessed by finely woven fabric,

With a tether for their calves, of gold and silver strands.

While thus indulged by various sense-stimulating gifts,

Of a sort appropriate for his age,

Child though he was, he was not like a child

In constancy, and in simplicity, sagacity and dignity.

For, having passed through the early stage of life
and arrived at the middle,

The young son of a king

Grasped in a few days
subjects that took many years to master --

Fields of learning 

that befitted the house to which he belonged.

But having heard before, from the great seer Asita,

That the prince's future purpose 
would be transcendent bliss,

The Śākya king encouraged in his son
attachment to sensual desires,

So that he might not go to the forest.

Then he summoned for him,
from a family of steadfast integrity,

A true woman,
the possessor of fine form, modesty and discipline,

A woman full of glory
whose name was Yaśodharā, “Bearer of Glory” --

In the shape of such a woman
did the king invoke Śrī, goddess of fortune.

The prince, with his supremely fine form shining forth,

Like “the Prince Who Was Forever Fresh,” Sanat-kumāra,

Enjoyed himself together with that Śākya princess

As did mighty “All-Eyed” Indra, mightily, with Śacī.

“How might he not see the slightest unpleasantness

That could cause disturbance in his mind?”

Reflecting thus, the king assigned him a residence

Up in the very bowels of the palace,
away from the bustle on the ground.

Then, in penthouse apartments
painted white as autumn clouds --

Like the seven-storey palaces of gods,
only on the earth --

And appointed for comfort in every season,

He roamed for fun
among female players of the finest instruments.

For, with sounds of gold-studded tambourines

Being softly beaten by women's fingers,

And with dancing
like the dancing of the choicest heavenly nymphs,

Those digs were fabulous as Mount Kailāsa.

Using sweet nothings and playful gestures

Accompanied by tipsy movements 
and charming chuckles,

The women there caressed him

With secretly arched eyebrows, and sidelong glances.

And so, embraced by experts in erotic addiction,

By women who were unsagging in pursuit of pleasure,

He did not descend
from high up in the palace down to earth –

As a doer of good would not,
from an upper carriage of gods on high.

The king, meanwhile,
having as his inner motive only his son's growth,

While also being goaded
by [Asita's] prediction of his son's future purpose,

Maintained himself in balance
and restrained himself from evil;

He did his share of self-regulation
and he left their share to the good.

He did not cling, like an irresolute type,
to sensual pleasure;

Nor was he unduly enamoured
with a female agent of rebirth;

The restless horses of the senses
he tamed through constancy.

He surpassed by his virtues
both royal relatives and townsfolk.

He did not pursue learning to the detriment of the other

But was steeped in that wisdom which is kindness;

For he wished all the best, in like manner,

For his own offspring and for every offshoot.

To the shining constellation
whose regent is the planet Āṅgirasa

He religiously recited a song of praise,
for his son's long life.

In a fiery fire of Agni, he offered what was to be offered.

And to the twice-born brahmins 
he gave both gold and cows.

To cleanse body and mind, he bathed

In the waters of sacred bathing places,
and in the waters of merit;

And at one and the same time, he imbibed
what is prescribed in the Vedas
and what is produced from within:

The soma-juice and the ease of a tranquil heart.

He spoke gently, and yet said nothing lacking in reality;

He chatted the truth, and yet said nothing nasty;

For a gently spoken untruth, or a harshly told truth,

Modesty forbade him from voicing, even inwardly.

When things pleasant and unpleasant called for action,

He did not resort to reliance on raw desire, and faults;

He dwelt in the benign state which is won without fuss;

For an act of devotion involving sacrifice
he valued not so highly.

Again, when the expectant came up,

There and then, using the waters of giving,
he washed away thirst;

And without starting a war
but using the battleaxe of action,

The enemy's swollen pride he burst.

He gave direction to the one and guarded the seven;

He shunned the seven
and turned his attention to the five;

He experienced the three and minded the three;

He knew the two and abandoned the two.

Even those who had committed a capital offence

He did not put to death, 
nor even looked upon with anger.

With gentleness, and by way of retribution,
he held them confined --

For letting go of them, obviously, 
was also to invite trouble.

Ultimate practices of the ancient seers, he repeated;

Long-harboured hostilities, he renounced;

And merit-scented feats of honour, he achieved.

[But] the defiling dust of his passions, he owned.

No inclination did he have
to raise tax (or pay tribute) that had not accrued,

To covet what belonged to others,

To discuss the wrongness of hateful foes,

Or to ignite anger in his own heart.

While that earth-lord was acting thus,

The mandarins and the townsfolk behaved likewise,

Like the senses of a person who is harnessed to practice,

When the thinking mind is peaceful and clear.

Then in time to a bearer of lovely milk,

To Yaśodharā, a bearer of glory by her own actions,

Was born a son 
who beamed like a rival of “Eclipsing” Rāhu,

And that moon-faced son of Śuddhodhana's son
was named Rāhula.

And so having had the son he desired,
and feeling satisfaction of the highest order

At the extension of his house,
a keeper of the earth,

Just as he had rejoiced at the delivery of a son,

Rejoiced equally at the delivery of a son of his son.

“By what means might there occur in my son
this same attachment to a son as I have?”

Thus joyfully pondering,

The king devoted himself in good time
to this and that prescribed practice,

As if he were an “offspring-loving” putra-priya bird
aspiring to soar to heaven.

Standing firmly on the path

Of primeval royal bulls steeped in glory,

He practised austerities with his whites still on,

And he worshipped with sacrificial acts that did no harm.

And so this pious man of pure karma blazed

With the majesty of a ruler of men,
and with the glow of hot austerity.

Made brilliant by good family, conduct and sense,

He was like the thousand-rayed sun,
desiring to emit its brightness.

having devoutly caused to be chanted
those chants of praise attributed to Svayam-bhū,
“The Spontaneously Arisen,”

He of enduring majesty muttered a prayer
for his son's enduring existence

And performed difficult karmic rites --

Like Ka, in the beginning, desiring to create creatures.

The hymn of praise he could set aside,
dogmatic scripture he could scarce abide.

He applied himself to equanimity,
and subjected himself to restraint.

Into any sensory realm, like a master, he did not slide.

All realms, like a patriarch, he realized.

For he cherished his sovereignty on account of his son,

His son for the sake of his noble house,
his house as an expression of honour,

Expression of truth as a way to heaven,
and heaven as a function of the self.

He desired the continued existence of the self
for the sake of the dharma.

Thus he practised the dharma of many strata

Which the good alight upon,
and penetrate through listening,

All the time asking himself:

“Now that my son has seen the face of his son,
how might he be stopped from going to the forest?”

Desiring to preserve their own personal power,

On this earth,
keepers of the earth guard against their sons.

But this dharma-loving lord of men
had guarded his son from dharma,

By letting him loose among sensual objects.

To the forest, nonetheless, went all bodhisattvas,
all matchless beings on the way to awakening,

Who had known the taste of sensuality
and produced a son.

Thus did he who had heaped up ample karma,
even while the cause [of his awakening]
was a developing root,

Partake of sensual enjoyment
in the period before he took possession of awakening.

The 2nd canto,
titled “Exploring Within the Battlements,”
in an epic story of awakened action.

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