−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Māyā)
snigdhābhir-ābhir-hdayaṁ-gamābhiḥ samāsataḥ snāta ivāsmi vāgbhiḥ |
ratiś-ca me dharma-nava-grahasya vispanditā saṁprati bhūya eva || 7.46
By these emollient words of yours,
which seep through to the heart,
I am as if smeared all over;
And the enjoyment a beginner feels,
at newly laying hands on dharma,
Is now pulsing through me all over again.
In today's verse as I read it, as in yesterday's, the Buddha-to-be is ostensibly venting the bhāva of what he really feels, but in so doing is also hinting indirectly at the truth of a way and the truth of a dharma that is beyond the orbit of what anybody feels.
In a world governed by impermanence – or by the 2nd law of thermodynamics – the Buddha-to-be, relying on his excellent power of reasoning, being already first in perspicacity, has seen that an ascetic dharma aiming at a temporary sojourn in heaven is not it.
And yet in a world governed by impermanence, he will shortly come back after all to ascetic practice – and in particular to extreme fasting – as a putative means of pursuing the dharma of parinirvāṇa.
In what sense, then, has a way opened up for him (assuming that I read yesterday's verse correctly)? And in what sense has he newly grasped, or newly laid hands on, a true dharma?
It may be instructive to contrast and compare the processes of the Buddha-to-be, first in perspicacity, and his younger brother Handsome Nanda, who was not first in perspicacity but was first in looking good.
In the story of Handsome Nanda, it is Canto 12 (whose title means "Gaining a Foothold" or at least "Gaining a Hold") where Nanda is described as turning back from end-gaining for heaven and gaining a foothold on a better way:
"You are practising dharma to earn the apsarases as wages!" To be upbraided thus, / As Nanda then was by Ānanda, made him deeply ashamed. // SN12.1 // Because of the great shame the exuberance in his heart was no more. / His mind was downcast, due to disenchantment, and did not stick with practice. // 12.2 // Though he was fixated on sensual love, and at the same time indifferent to ridicule, / Nanda's motivation had matured to a point where neither could he disregard Ānanda's words. // 12.3 // Being of an unquestioning nature, he had presumed heaven to be a constant; / So on learning that it was perishable he was fiercely shocked. // 12.4 // Turning back from heaven, the chariot of his mind, whose horse was willpower, / Was like a great chariot turned back from a wrong road by an attentive charioteer. // 12.5 // After turning back from his thirst for heaven, he seemed suddenly to become well. / He had given up something sweet that was bad for him, like a sick man finding the will to live. // 12.6 // Just as he forgot about his beloved wife on seeing the apsarases, / So also, when startled by their impermanence, did he put the apsarases behind him. // 12.7 // "Even the greatest beings are subject to return!" So he reflected, / And from his shock, though given to redness, he seemed to blanch. // 12.8 // It was for growth in him of a better way that the shock happened -- / Just as the verb "to grow" is listed [after "to happen"] in the lexicon recited by students of grammar. // 12.9 //
One contrast, then, is that the Buddha-to-be reasoned a priori that a dharma involving pursuit of an impermanent heaven was not what he was looking for, whereas Handsome Nanda only got the point after the fact -- after making himself ugly through end-gaining for heaven, and even then only after Ānanda had intervened and pointed out the folly of such end-gaining.
But in spite of this difference, both Nanda and his older brother, as Aśvaghoṣa tells their stories, feel boosted by the realization that thirsting for heaven is folly.
This boost, today's verse as I read it reminds us, is a function of beginner's mind, and it is not something that I experienced when I took the bodhisattva precepts in 1983, never to experience again – any more than the folly of end-gaining for “right posture” is something I realized in my first Alexander lesson in 1994, never to experience again. On the contrary, the enjoyment of seeing the folly of end-gaining and thereby opting to follow a means-whereby, a better way, can be repeated bhūya eva – over and over again.
Sometimes verses in Aśvaghoṣa's epic tale of Awakened Action (or Life of the Buddha) and verses in his epic tale of Beautiful Happiness (or Handsome Nanda) echo each other. Sometimes words, verses, and themes, more than echoing each other, form interweavng strands that give the whole thing the integrity of one great big basket of Buddha-dharma.
Thus, speaking of newly laying hands on dharma, the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 12:
But that deathless nectar which prevents all suffering you have in your hands: / It is an antidote which, having drunk poison, you are going in good time to drink. // SN12.25 //
Without the confidence that corn will grow in the soil he tills, / Or without the need for corn, the farmer would not sow seeds in the earth. // SN12.35 // And so I call this confidence the Hand, because it is this confidence, above all, / That grasps true dharma, as a hand naturally takes a gift. // SN12.36 //
snigdhābhiḥ (inst. pl. f.): mfn. sticky , viscous or viscid , glutinous , unctuous , slippery , smooth ; oily ; adhesive , attached , affectionate , tender , friendly , attached to or fond of ; soft , mild , bland , gentle; lovely , agreeable , charming
ābhiḥ (inst. pl. f.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
hṛdaya-gamābhiḥ (inst. pl. f.): heart-going
hṛdaya: n. the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations ; hṛdaye- √kṛ , " to take to heart ") , soul , mind
gama: mfn. ifc. going; riding on (in comp.)
samāsataḥ: ind. in a summary manner , succinctly , concisely
snātaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bathed , washed , cleansed or purified from (abl. or comp.)
snā: to bathe , perform the ceremony of bathing or certain prescribed oblations (esp. on returning home from the house of a religious preceptor , or on concluding certain vows &c , also with avabhṛtham); to smear one's self with (instr.)
iva: like, as if
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
vāgbhiḥ (inst. pl.): f. (fr. √ vac) speech , voice , talk ; words
ratiḥ (nom. sg.): f. pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for
me (gen. sg.): in me
dharma-nava-grahasya (gen. sg.): of newly grasping dharma
nava-graha: mfn. recently caught
vispanditā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. quivering
vi- √ spand: to quiver , throb , tremble ; to come forth, appear
saṁprati: ind. now , at this moment , at present
taṁ prati [EHJ/PO]: towards it , towards [dharma]
bhūyaḥ: ind. more , most , very much , exceedingly ; still more ; once more , again , anew