pitaram-abhimukhaṁ sutaṁ ca bālaṁ janam-anuraktam-anuttamāṁ ca lakṣmīm |
kta-matir-apahāya nir-vyapekṣaḥ pit-nagarāt sa tato vinirjagāma || 5.83
The father who doted on him, a son who was still young,
The people who loved him, and an incomparable fortune –
With his mind made up and without a care,
he had left them all behind,
And so, on that basis, from the city of his fathers,
away he went.
In a list of four elements the ironic punch line is ever liable to be contained in the fourth and final element, and so it is in today's verse as I read it, where ambiguity can be read into the description of lakṣmīm (fortune, wealth, riches) as an-uttamām. An-uttamām ostensibly means “unsurpassed” or “incomparably the best,” but it has two sub-meanings, the first of which I suppose that Aśvaghoṣa may have had in mind.
The first sub-meaning of an-uttama – which Aśvaghoṣa likely saw as a vein to be tapped for ironic plays on words – is “not the best.” Taking an-uttamām like that, the suggestion is that his father's kingdom was a lesser fortune than the inheritance that awaited the prince under the bodhi tree. In an effort to include this meaning I have traslated an-uttamām as “incomparable” utilizing the two meanings given in the dictionary for “incomparable” viz: 1. eminent beyond comparison, matchless; 2. not suitable for comparison.
The second sub-meaning of an-uttama, which is probably not so relevant to today's verse but which I shall mention anyway, just in case, is as a term used in Sanskrit grammar to mean “not used in the uttama, the first person.” In describing in SN Canto 17 how Nanda cuts the five upper fetters, Aśvaghoṣa repeats the phrase uttama-bandhanāni, and this repetition led EHJ to think that the text might be suspect. Aśvaghoṣa may in fact have been playing with the various meanings of uttama, including its use in grammar to mean the first person. Hence:
Then he cut the five upper fetters: with the sword of intuitive wisdom which is raised aloft by cultivation of the mind, / He completely severed the five aspirational fetters, which are bound up with superiority (uttama-bandhanāni), and tied to the first person (uttama-bandhanāni). // SN17.57 //
The gist of today's verse, in any event, is contained in its second half, which describes the prince's decisive attitude, expressed again (as in yesterday's verse) in movement. Extra emphasis is lent to the sense of going or moving by the prefixes vi- and nir- in vi-nir-√gam – not just going, but going away, or getting the hell out. Also, by placing vinir-jagāma (“he went away”) at the end of the verse, Aśvaghoṣa further emphasized the sense of the prince now being in movement.
Apropos of which, and apropos also of nir-vyapekṣaḥ (being without a care), I shall finish by quoting again the Alexander teaching of Marjory Barlow:
When you think you are wrong,
give your directions,
and go into movement, without a care in the world....
Right now I don't think I am wrong. I know I am wrong. Last night I read this article by Russell Brand, and it disturbed me more deeply than did the event on which it is commentating. Why? Because, it seems to me, Brand is in lazy denial of the real problem. And the mirror principle never fails.
Whether we like it or not, we are all participants in a war on terror. In that situation "appealing for calm" is what a Buddhist might be expected to do. But on the evidence of Aśvaghoṣa's epic tale of Beautiful Joy, what the Buddha actually did was encourage his brother to fight the fight – in the battlefield of his own mind.
After posting this I shall, with all the decisiveness I can muster, go and empty the compost bin.
pitaram = acc. sg. pitṛ: m. father
abhimukham (acc. sg. m.): mfn. with the face directed towards , turned towards , facing ; ind. towards (often used in a hostile manner Kir. vi , 14 , &c ), in the direction of , in front or presence of , near to (acc. gen. ; or ifc.)
sutam (acc. sg.): m. son
bālam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. young
janam (acc. sg.): m. people
anuraktam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. fond of , attached , pleased ; beloved
anuttamām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. unsurpassed , incomparably the best or chief , excellent ; excessive ; not the best ; (in Gr.) not used in the uttama , or first person.
uttama: uppermost , highest , chief ; most elevated , principal ; best , excellent ;
lakṣmīm (acc. sg. ): f. a mark , sign , token; (with or without pāpī́) a bad sign , impending misfortune ; (but in the older language more usually with púṇyā) a good sign , good fortune , prosperity , success , happiness ; wealth, riches ; beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre ; N. of the goddess of fortune and beauty
kṛta-matiḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who has taken a resolution , who has resolved upon anything
apahāya = abs. apa- √ hā: 1. to run away from (abl.) or off ; 2. to remain behind , fall short , not reach the desired end
nir-vyapekṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. disregarding , indifferent to (loc. or comp.)
vy-apa- √īkṣ: to look about , look for , regard , mind , pay regard or attention to (acc.)
pitṛ-nagarāt (abl. sg.): his father's city ; the city of his fathers
nagara: n. a town , city
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tataḥ: ind. then, on that basis
vinirjagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi-nir- √ gam : to go out or away , depart or escape from (abl.) ; to be beside one's self