sa vikṣṭatarāṁ vanānta-bhūmiṁ vana-lobhāc-ca yayau mahī-guṇāc ca |
salilormi-vikāra-sīra-mārgāṁ vasu-dhāṁ caiva dadarśa kṣyamāṇām || 5.4
To the edge of a more distant forest,
He rode, by dint of his impatient yearning for the woods,
and on the grounds of the merit inherent in the Earth;
And there indeed,
where tracks of ploughs had turned the soil to waves,
He saw the bountiful earth being tilled.
Today's verse brings to mind the merit of the earth cited by the Buddha in the Long Discourse Giving Advice to Rāhula (Mahārāhulovādasuttaṁ; MN 62) – namely, that the earth takes nothing personally, but always remains unbothered by anything.
The earth (along with light) seems to feature prominently in the present series of verses.
Perhaps the conclusion we are working towards, in regard to the earth, is to sit on it. Hence in BC5.9 Aśvaghoṣa tells us that there on that ground he [the prince] sat (niṣasāda sa yatra bhuvi).
In the practice which Chinese Zen masters called 坐禅 (Jap: ZAZEN), is the primary thing 坐 (Jap: ZA), sitting; or is the primary thing 禅 (Jap: ZEN, from Sanskrit dhyāna), meditation?
If we translate 坐禅 as “seated meditation” that sounds like the meditation is primary and the fact of being seated is incidental.
If we translate 坐禅 as “sitting in Zazen,” which is a solution I adopted for the Shobogenzo translation, that might reflect a bias against meditation, mindfulness, thinking, in favour of sitting as a physical act
Some years ago I started proposing that 坐禅 be translated as “sitting-Zen” or “sitting-meditation.” Nobody, however, seemed to take any notice.
Develop the meditation, Rāhula, that is to be even as the earth, for, Rāhula, from developing the meditation that is to be even as the earth, appealing and unappealing contacts that have arisen in the mind will not take a hold there. Just as, Rāhula, they throw what is clean on the earth, and they throw what is unclean, and they throw what has become dung, and they throw what has become urine, and they throw what has become spit, and they throw what has become pus, and they throw what has become blood, but the earth is not distressed, or ashamed, or disgusted by it, just so do you, Rāhula, develop the meditation that is to be even as the earth, for, Rāhula, from developing the meditation that is to be even as the earth appealing and unappealing contacts that have arisen in the mind will not take a hold there.
The Pali words translated here as “develop the meditation” are bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi, which could also be translated as “develop the development” or – for an earthy-sounding variant – “cultivate the cultivation.”
In Saundara-nanda Cantos 15 and 16, the Buddha gives the impression that he sees bhāvana s a means for eradicating end-gaining desires, so that bhāvana sounds something similar to what in Alexander work is called "working on the self."
Even if, as a result of calm consideration, you have let go of desires, / You must, as if shining light into darkness, abolish them by means of their opposite. // SN15.4 // What lies behind those desires sleeps on, like a fire covered with ashes; / You are to extinguish it, my friend, by the means of mental development/cultivation (bhāvanayā), as if using water to put out a fire. // SN15.5 //
Yesterday in preparing the above comment I asked myself what Chinese characters in Shobogenzo might have been used to represent bhāvana.
Last night I slept, though not very well, on the overnight ferry to France. I had a cabin, and the sea was calm, so I was able to sit fairly normally. Even on a metal boat floating in deep water, I pondered, the merit inherent in the Earth is inherent in the Earth, and 1g continues to be experienced as 1g.
The answer that came to me this morning about how bhāvana might have been rendered into Chinese, is that one candidate is 修 (Jap: SHU, osa[meru]), to cultivate, as in the 7th of the eight great truths of a human being:- 修智恵 (Jap: SHU-CHIE), to cultivate wisdom.
In conclusion, then, I think the subtext of today's verse has to do with the merit of the earth, as cited by the Buddha in his discourse to Rāhula, and as constant provider of 1g in sitting-meditation. Until now when he suddenly becomes aware of people working it, the prince, in his yearning for a distant forest, has literally been passing over it.
sa (nom. sg. m.) he
vikṛṣṭatarām (acc. sg. m.): most/more isolated
vi- √ kṛṣ: to draw apart or asunder , tear to pieces , destroy
vikṛṣṭa: mfn. drawn apart or asunder &c ; separated , isolated
-tara: an affix forming the compar. degree of adjectives
vanānta-bhūmim (acc. sg. f.): a forest area; a place at the edge of the forest
vanānta: m. " forest-region " , a wood ; mfn. bounded by a forest
bhūmi: f. the earth; a territory , country , district ; a place
vana-lobhāt (abl. sg.): out of longing for the woods
lobha: m. impatience , eager desire for or longing after (gen. loc. or comp.)
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. yā: to go , proceed , move , walk , set out , march , advance , travel , journey
mahī-guṇāt (abl. sg.): because of the earth's excellence
mahī: f. " the great world " , the earth
guṇa: m. good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
mahī-guṇecchuḥ [EBC] (nom. sg. m.): mfn. aspiring to the merit of the earth
icchu: mfn. wishing , desiring (with acc. or inf.)
salilormi-vikāra-sīra-mārgām (acc. sg. f.): with the track of a plough changing its form into waves on water
salila: n. flood , surge , waves; water
urmi: mf. a wave
vikāra: m. change of form or nature , alteration or deviation from any natural state , transformation , modification , change (esp. for the worse) of bodily or mental condition , disease , sickness , hurt , injury , (or) perturbation , emotion , agitation , passion
sīra: mn. a plough
mārga: m. the track of a wild animal , any track , road , path
vasu-dhām (acc. sg.): f. 'producing wealth'; the earth ; f. the ground , soil
vasu: n. wealth , goods , riches , property; n. gold ; n. a jewel , gem , pearl ; n. any valuable or precious object
dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś: to see
kṛṣyamāṇām = acc. sg. f. pres. part. passive kṛṣ: to plough
[Relation to Sanskrit tenuous]