tad-imaṁ vyavasāyam-utsja tvaṁ bhava tāvan-nirato gha-stha-dharme |
puruṣasya vayaḥ-sukhāni bhuktvā ramaṇīyo hi tapo-vana-praveśaḥ || 5.33
Therefore give up this fixity of purpose
And be, for the present moment,
devoted to the dharma that abides in living at home;
For when a man has already experienced the joys of vernal energy,
His entry then into the ascetic's grove is something to delight in.”
On the surface the king has in mind for the prince the pursuit of a dharma that is different from the dharma of one who has left home for ascetic practice in the forest. In that case, gṛha-stha-dharma means “the dharma of one who remains at home/in a house” or “the dharma of one who continues to engage in family life” – i.e. the dharma of a householder. Hence: “devote thyself for the present to the duties of a householder” [EBC]; “devote yourself for the present to the duties of a householder” [EHJ]; “give yourself now to household dharma” [PO]. The Chinese translator went with 受習世間法 "accept and learn the law/dharma of worldly life.”
But if once again we understand that the king's is unknowingly pre-saging the teaching of the enlightened Buddha, then the compound gṛha-stha-dharma has to take on an completely different meaning – because in the Buddha's teaching there are not two different dharmas, a lower worldly one and a higher transcendent one, but only what Dogen calls 一大事, the one great matter, which is the untainted reality of sitting-meditation. In that case, gṛha-stha-dharma means “the dharma, which [also] exists, in a house, in a home, in a family life” – as well of course as existing in a wonderful pristine forest, and even in a grove frequented by grimly striving ascetics.
In the latter case, again, if the king is uknowingly speaking words of Buddha-dharma, there is more meaning to tāvat in the 2nd pāda than “for the present” in the sense of temporarily, i.e., in the sense of killing time in a lower division before fully engaging in the premier league dharma of the ascetic mendicant. The real meaning of tāvat might rather be “here and now” or “making the most of the present moment.”
Similarly, if we are in the business of digging for hidden meaning in the king's words, bhava in the 2nd pāda is a word whose meaning should not be overlooked. Bhava is the imperative of √bhū, to be. On the surface, the king is concerned with which dharma the prince is going to devote himself to, and when. But the real point might be more simple: here and now, to be or not to be.
The difficult compounds to translate in today's verse, so as to convey the surface meaning and at the same time to allow contrarian readings, are firstly gṛha-stha-dharme (lit. to house-abiding-dharma) and secondly vayaḥ-sukhāni (lit. energy-joys).
The surface meaning of vayaḥ-sukhāni, as conveyed by the MW dictionary, is “the pleasures of youth.” Hence vayaḥ-sukhāni bhuktvā is naturally translated “who has enjoyed the pleasures of his prime” [EBC]; “after he has enjoyed the delights of youth” [EHJ]; or “after he has enjoyed the joys of youth” [PO].
Before it means the prime of life or energetic youth, however, vayas means energy itself. That being so, I would like to read vayaḥ-sukhāni bhuktvā, “having experienced the joys of energy,” as a description of the Buddha at the time when he rose from his seat under the bodhi-tree, strongly motivated (jata-rāgaḥ), by something imperishable (akṣaya-dharma), to make more widely known what he had discovered.
Translating vayas as “vernal energy” is an unsatisfactory compromise. “Vernal” is added to preserve the surface meaning of vayas as “youth” or “the prime of life.” If we follow the hidden meaning, however, it would be better to drop the “vernal” – since, if the 1st law of thermodynamics holds, energy has not aged since the beginning of time, in which case “vernal energy” is as much of a truism as is “eternal energy.”
On the surface, then, the 3rd and 4th pādas describe a mature man being happy, having already enjoyed the pleasures of youth, to enter an ascetic grove in search of release from worldly existence – as per the ancient tradition in Brahmanism, in which gṛha-stha, a householder, means [MW]: a Brahman in the 2nd period of his religious life (performing the duties of the master of a house and father of a family after having finished his studies and after investiture with the sacred thread).
But I think the ironic meaning that Aśvaghoṣa has in mind is to describe a buddha – and not an ascetic seeker – being able to go delightfully even into an ascetic grove. He is able to go delightfully having already experienced the real joys of that imperishable something (akṣaya-dharma) which is energy itself (vayas), and having totally abandoned the whole Brahminist idea of pursuing liberation through ascetic practice.
tad: ind. therefore
imam (acc. sg. m.): this
vy-avasāyam (acc. sg.): m. strenuous effort or exertion; settled determination , resolve , purpose , intention (°yam √kṛ to make up one's mind , resolve , determine)
avasāya: m. " taking up one's abode " ; termination ; determination , ascertainment
√ so: to destroy , kill , finish
ava- √ so: to loosen , deliver from ; to unharness (horses) , put up at any one's house , settle , rest ; to unharness (horses) , put up at any one's house , settle , rest ; to finish , terminate (one's work) ; to be finished , be at an end , be exhausted; to decide
vy-ava- √ so: to settle down or dwell separately ; to differ (in opinion) , contest , quarrel ; to separate , divide (opp. to sam- √as) ; to determine , resolve , decide
utsṛja = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ut- √ sṛj : to let loose, let go; to lay aside, quit, abandon
tvam (nom. sg. m.): you
bhava = 2nd pers. sg. imperative bhū: to be, become
tāvat: ind. meanwhile , in the mean time ; at once , now , just , first
nirataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. pleased , satisfied , delighting in , attached or devoted to , quite intent upon , deeply engaged in or occupied with (loc. instr. or comp.)
gṛha-stha-dharme (loc. sg.): the dharma of a householder ; the dharma of engaging in family life ; the dharma that abides [even] in a house
gṛha-stha: m. a householder , a Brahman in the 2nd period of his religious life (performing the duties of the master of a house and father of a family after having finished his studies and after investiture with the sacred thread)
gṛha: mn. a house , habitation , home ; m. the inhabitants of a house , family ; family life
stha: standing , staying , abiding , being situated in , existing or being in or on or among ; occupied with , engaged in , devoted to performing , practising
puruṣasya (gen. sg.): to/for a man
vayaḥ-sukhāni (acc. pl.): n. the pleasures of youth
vayas: n. enjoyment , food , meal , oblation ; energy (both bodily and mental) , strength , health , vigour , power , might ; vigorous age , youth , prime of life
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness ; joy , delight in
bhuktvā = abs. bhuj: to enjoy ; to make use of , utilize , exploit ; (with pṛthivīm , mahīm &c ) to take possession of , rule , govern ; to suffer , experience , undergo , be requited or rewarded for (acc.) ; to pass , live through , last (a time)
ramaṇīyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. to be enjoyed , pleasant , agreeable , delightful , charming
tapo-vana-praveśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): entry into the ascetic grove
tapo-vana: n. a grove in which religious austerities are performed
praveśa: m. entering , entrance , penetration or intrusion into