−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Indravajrā)rūpasya hantrī vyasanaṁ balasya śokasya yonir-nidhanaṁ ratīnām |
−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−nāśaḥ smṛtīnāṁ ripur-indriyāṇām-eṣā jarā nāma yayaiṣa bhagnaḥ || 3.30
“Ripping away of beautiful form, defeat of force,
Beginning of sorrow, ending of joys of passion,
And fading out of things remembered:
An adversary of the senses
Is this process, called 'ageing,'
by which the one here is being undone.
Another adversary of the senses, and one that needn't take so long to cause a person to come undone, is what FM Alexander called “thinking.”
The slower you go, the more you see.
My first attempt at translating today's verse demonstrates its ostensible meaning:
“The slayer of beauty and sapper of strength,
The birthplace of sorrow and a death knell for joys,
The ender of memories,
the enemy of the organs of sense:
By this process named ageing this man is being dismantled.
The earlier version somehow sounds better does it not? Whether or not you agree that the earlier version is closer to poetry, what I can say for sure is that I put a lot of effort into trying to make it sound good, at least on the surface. Then it took me even more time to rip away the surface meaning I had striven to present so beautifully, and understood what the verse was really saying.
When I was the age my sons are now, I was mad keen on books on Zen & the martial arts, written by the likes of Eugene Herrigel (Zen & the Art of Archery), Trevor Legget (Zen & the Ways) and Joe Hyams (Zen & the Martial Arts). Thus it was that thirty years ago I went to Japan and searched out Gudo Nishijima, who had written a book in English called “How to Practise Zazen.” From him I heard that Zen was not, as I had been led to believe, a late East Asian flowering of an original Indian root; rather, sitting-Zen was just the essence of the teaching transmitted from the time of the Buddha through many Zen patriarchs in India, China and Japan.
Thirty years ago, however, at least as far as I knew, no reliable translation of any written record of the teaching of any of these Zen patriarchs was available. Gudo Nishjima had very strong confidence in his ability to transmit the whole of the Buddha's teaching in his own English, and that confidence won me over, but in retrospect I think the confidence was misplaced. Gudo had misplaced confidence in his ability to say what he meant in English. Besides that he had misplaced confidence in his understanding of how to practise Zazen. In Gudo's Zazen there was no true opposing of the senses. One was rather a slave to the senses.
Notwithstanding this fundamental objection to his teaching, I cannot deny that Gudo directed my energy broadly in a constructive direction, by encouraging me to sit upright, concentrating on posture, and to study his English translation of the words of the 1st Japanese Zen patriarch in his lineage, namely, Eihei Dogen. Later, he helped me study those words in their original Japanese and encouraged me further to learn Sanskrit and study the words of the 14th Indian patriarch, Nāgārjuna.
I was caused to reflect like this by asking myself what today's verse really means, and being more or less content to fail to answer my own question. Even though on first reading today's verse appeared to me to be nothing more than a cliched description of old age, I was happy enough just to learn the words and recite them to myself -- sort of like enjoying being around a person one reveres without being eager to get something out of them.
The background to me being able to enjoy Aśvaghoṣa's writing like this, now that I am here by the forest, is those years that I spent groping around painfully in the dark without being able to read what I would like to have been able to read. I really appreciate now, when I stop and reflect on it, being able to read and study for myself any words -- even if it is only one verse of four lines that I can't understand -- so long as those words were really written by the 12th Zen patriarch in India, named Aśvaghoṣa. I appreciate it like a bloke who has known acute thirst appreciates water.
In a similar way, because of years of darkness spent concentrating on my Zazen posture, I really appreciate now, when I stop and reflect on it, how great is the teaching of FM Alexander which points us in sitting in the direction of un-concentrating.
Reflecting further on what I actually mean by un-concentrating, I mean, for example, letting the legs release, and letting the head release, out of a lengthening and widening torso in which two big sheets of spiral musculature are being as if torn apart from each other.
Digging deeper, then, I finally asked myself last night as the darkness deepened, might there any connection between what I have described as un-concentrating and any hidden meaning in the word bhagnaḥ, “being dismantled”?
If we take bhagnaḥ to mean “coming undone,” it finally struck me, after several hours of failing to get the point, and of writing the gist of the above comment, this "coming undone" might be a key to unlock a hidden meaning of today's verse along the following lines:
Ripping away of outward appearances and defeating of oppressive force,
The font of [true] sorrow and a receptacle for [true] joys,
The obsolescence of whole bodies of sacred learning and codes of law,
and the fading out of irksome memories:
the opponent of being ruled by the senses
Is this process of maturing, called “ageing,”
by which a person here and now comes undone.
You might think that after more than a thousand verses and counting, I would be on the lookout for the hidden meaning in a verse like today's from the outset, rather than taking all day about it. Even after 30 years, evidently, certain bitter old fruits are not fully mature.
rūpasya (gen. sg.): n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure ; handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty
hantrī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (the former with gen. , the latter with acc.) slaying , killing , a slayer , killer , murderer , robber , disturber , destroyer
vyasanam (nom. sg.): n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail); evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune (vyasanāni pl. misfortunes) , ill-luck , distress , destruction , defeat , fall , ruin
balasya (gen. sg.): n. power , strength , might , vigour, force ; military force , troops , an army
śokasya (gen. sg.): m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
yoniḥ (nom. sg.): m. womb ; place of birth , source , origin , spring , fountain
nidhanam (nom. sg.): n. settling down , residence or place of residence , domicile , receptacle; n. conclusion , end , death , destruction , loss , annihilation
ratīnām (gen. pl.): f. rest, repose; pleasure , enjoyment ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment
nāśaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the being lost , loss , disappearance , destruction , annihilation , ruin , death
smṛtīnām (gen. pl.): f. remembrance , reminiscence; memory ; the whole body of sacred tradition or what is remembered by human teachers (in contradistinction to śruti or what is directly heard or revealed) ; the whole body of codes of law as handed down memoriter or by tradition (esp. the codes of manu
ripuḥ (nom. sg.): m. an enemy , adversary , foe
indriyāṇām (gen. pl.): n. bodily power , power of the senses ; faculty of sense, sense organ
eṣā (nom. sg. f.): this
jarā (nom. sg.): f. aging, old age; digestion; dicrepitude
nāma: ind. by name
yayā (inst. sg. f.): by which
eṣa (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker
bhagnaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. broken (lit. and fig.) , shattered , split , torn , defeated ; bent, curved