imaṁ tārkṣyopama-javaṁ turaṅgam-anugacchatā |
darśitā saumya mad-bhaktir-vikramaś-cāyam-ātmanaḥ || 6.5
This horse as swift as Tārkṣya,
O mellow man of soma, you have shown devotion to me.
This, at the same time, is your own valiant doing.
The title of the present Canto is “The Turning Back of Chandraka” and in today's verse, as I read it, Aśvaghoṣa is hinting at the essence of turning back. The essence of turning back might be the gold standard for the transmission of the Buddha's dharma, that standard being 自受用三昧 (Jap: JI-JU-YO-ZANMAI), the samādhi of accepting and using the self.
自受 (JI-JU), accepting the self, suggests something passive, easy, mild, cool, mellow – something in fact befitting a moon-like man of soma.
自用 (JI-YO), using the self, suggests something more active, enterprising, courageous, or self-assertive.
One of the innumerable differences that can be drawn, then, between the Buddha's teaching and God-fearing religions is that the Buddha's teaching, insofar as it affirms the submissive anuvartitā of “Thy will be done,” asks us to balance this out with the valiant vikrama of “My will be done.”
Nowhere does the Buddha demand this more clearly and explicitly than at the end of the monologue he delivers to Nanda in SN Canto 16:
yaṃ vikramaṃ yoga-vidhāv-akurvaṃs-tam-eva śīghraṃ vidhivat kuruṣva
Be quick to show the courage (vikramam) that they have shown in their practice, working to principle. (SN16.92)
On a grammatical point, in the 3rd pāda of today's verse, darśitā (nom. sg. f.) agrees with mad-bhaktiḥ in the 3rd pāda, and not with vikramaḥ in the 4th pāda. Strictly speaking, then, I think (please correct me somebody if I am wrong) that the 4th pāda should be read as a stand-alone statement.
The three professors of Sanskrit on whose shoulders I have been standing, however, all translate as if darśitā modified both mad-bhaktiḥ and vikramaḥ:
‘Good friend, thy devotion to me and thy courage of soul have been proved by thy thus following this steed whose speed is like that of Tārkṣya. [EBC]
"In following this horse, whose speed is like that of Tārkṣya, you have shown, good friend, both loyalty to me and your own prowess. [EHJ]
"By following this steed, as fast as Garuda, You have shown devotion to me, as well as this prowess of yours." [PO]
It may be small potatoes, but in the original Sanskrit as I read it (again, please correct me if I am wrong) the contrast is starker between the 3rd and 4th pādas. So it is not that you have proved or shown A and B, good friend. It is rather that you have shown or proved or demonstrated A (devotion), O mild and mellow one. And at the same time, even in the act of following, you are evidently in the possession of B (a will of your own), such that you aren't necessarily concerned with showing or proving or demonstrating anything to me or to anybody but your own stalwart self.
The Wikipedia entry on Tārkṣya clarifies, incidentally, why PO went with "as fast as Garuda":-
Tārkṣya is the name of a mythical being in the Rigveda, described as a horse with the epithet áriṣṭa-nemi "with intact wheel-rims" (RV 1.89.6, RV 10.178.1), but alternatively taken to be a bird (RV 5.51) and later identified with Garuda (Mahabharata, Harivamsha) or Garuda's father (Bhagavata Purana 6.6.2, 21).
In SN Canto 5 Aśvaghoṣa explains how, there being two types, the Buddha saw Nanda as belonging to the type who follows easily, and so the Buddha led him accordingly:
For he saw that in Nanda the seed of liberation, which is wisdom, was tenuous; while the fog of the afflictions was terribly thick; / And since he was susceptible to the afflictions and sensual by nature, therefore the Sage reined him in. // SN5.15 //There are understood to be two aspects to defilement; correspondingly, there are two approaches to purification: / In one with stronger motivation from within, there is self-reliance; in one who assigns weight to conditions, there is outer-dependence. // 5.16 // The one who is more strongly self-motivated loosens ties without even trying, on receipt of the slightest stimulus; / Whereas the one whose mind is led by circumstances struggles to find freedom, because of his dependence on others. // 5.17 // And Nanda, whose mind was led by circumstances, became absorbed into whomever he depended on; / The Sage, therefore, made this effort in his case, wishing to lift him out of the mire of love. // 5.18 // But Nanda followed the Guru meekly and helplessly, squirming with discomfort, / As he thought of his wife's face, her eyes looking out restlessly, and the painted marks still moist. // SN5.19 //
So an implicit point of today's verse might be to emphasize, using a swift horse as a metaphor for the Buddha or the Buddha's teaching, that following the Buddha and his teaching involves not only submissive devotion but also a valiant struggle on the part of each person to work the whole bloody thing out for oneself. It is not only a matter of saying in the first instance to a trusted teacher, and thence to nature, thy will be done; it is also a matter of saying to oneself, and really meaning, my will be done.
Conversely, for the other type who, unlike Nanda, is naturally self-motivated, and for whom submissive following might not always come easy, in order to be a follower of the Buddha and his teaching, it is necessary to be a devoted follower. It is necessary, in other words, to submissively follow, to show devotion to the Buddha and his teaching – as opposed, for example, to founding the Mike Cross Method (TM, All Rights Reserved). And that may be why the Buddha Gautama, though a prime example of one with strong self-motivation, saw himself as belonging to a line of Seven Ancient Sages whose teaching – centred on the not doing of wrong – he was devotedly following.
imam (acc. sg. m.): this
tārkṣyopama-javam (acc. sg. m.): with speed equal to Tārkṣya
tārkṣya: m. N. of a mythical being (originally described as a horse with the epithet áriṣṭa-nemi, "with intact wheel-rims" )
upama: ifc. equal to, like
java: mfn. swift ; m. speed , velocity , swiftness
turaṅgam (acc. sg.): m. 'fast-going,' horse
anugacchatā = inst. sg. pres. part. anu- √ gam: to go after, follow
darśitā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. shown , displayed , exposed to view
saumya (voc. sg.): O moon-like man of the soma; my friend
mad-bhaktiḥ (nom. sg. f.): devotion to me
bhakti: f. attachment , devotion , fondness for , devotion to (with loc. , gen. or ifc.)
vikramaḥ (nom. sg. ): m. a step, stride ; going , proceeding , walking , motion , gait ; course , way , manner ; valour , courage , heroism , power , strength ; (°maṁ- √kṛ , to display prowess , use one's strength)
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker ; known , present
ātmanaḥ (gen. sg.): m. the breath ; the individual soul , self ; essence , nature , character , peculiarity ; the person or whole body considered as one and opposed to the separate members of the body