idaṁ vacas-tasya niśamya te janāḥ su-duṣkaraṁ khalv-iti vismayam yayuḥ |
patadd-hi jahruḥ salilaṁ na netra-jaṁ mano nininduś-ca phalārtham-ātmanaḥ || 8.11
When those common folk heard this utterance of his,
Because of its very great difficulty, they were dismayed;
For the eye-born flood of falling tears they had not averted,
And their own minds, taking account of karmic retribution,
they did blame.
In the 2nd pāda, the old Nepalese manuscript has iti niścayam yayuḥ (they came to the conclusion that... [EHJ]; they concluded: “....” [PO]). But Luders conjectured iti vismayaṁ yayuḥ, and this is supported by the Chinese translation, in which 驚 means to be surprised, astonished, or dismayed. Besides that, reading vismayam rather than niścayam allows me to make better sense of the whole verse.
The logic, as I read it, is that those common folk were dismayed precisely because they were common folk (janāh; plural), as contrasted with the people (janaḥ; singular) of that city which Aśvaghoṣa identified with emptiness.
As common folk, they had no means-whereby they might avert the eye-born flood of their falling tears, and no means-whereby they might allow tears to fall. Since they were not in possession of a practical means-whereby, the truth expressed in Chandaka's words was too difficult for them – however well-informed they may have been in the realm of intellectual knowledge – and so they were dismayed.
As common folk, equally, they reacted to their grief and dismay by seeking to apportion blame. And in particular, as devout religious believers (bhaktimataḥ), in the time-honoured spirit of mea culpa, they blamed their own sinful minds.
A contrast may be drawn then, between (a) the practice suggested in yesterday's verse as I read it, namely, just sitting with the confidence to let it (= the child/embryo of a lord among men) be; and (b) the habits of religious believers who blame the problems of the world on original sin (or on the ancient Indian equivalent of that doctrine).
Again, then, today's verse can be read as one of those verses that encourages us to sit primarily by demonstrating how NOT to. And the great thing NOT to practice, today's verse as I read it reminds us, is blame.
The individual in Aśvaghoṣa's writing who is biggest on blame is the striver in SN Cantos 8 & 9. In process of translating and commenting on those cantos, I came back several times to the noble truth of Margaritaville – “some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I know, it's my own damn fault.” The folk described in today's verse don't put the blame on women, or anywhere outside of themselves, which is good. Still, they blame themselves, or blame their own minds, as religious folk are ever prone to do. And this blame, we are to understand, is not the same as seeing where faults originally lie, as the Buddha taught Nanda to do. Yes, the fault, dear Brutus, is in ourselves not in the stars. But seeing where the fault lies, in our own minds, need not be a prelude to blaming our own minds.
If those of us who tend to apportion blame before we see faults as faults, could train our minds to blame less and see more, that for a start might be an example of the work on the self that the Buddha called bhāvanā.
Speaking for myself, I have observed over the years a tendency among women to put the blame on men – a tendency that some women and men have attempted to justify intellectually under the banner of an -ism – and equally the tendency among men to say that there's a woman to blame, instead of knowing that it's our own damn fault. And seeing through those two deluded tendencies, I have tended to ask myself the question: where, below surface appearances, does the blame really lie?
So today's verse, when I reflect on it, reminds me that the asking of such a question is not necessarily part of the solution – it might rather be part of the problem.
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
vacaḥ (acc. sg.): n. speech, words
tasya (gen. sg.): his
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to hear, observe
te (nom. pl. m.): those
janāḥ (nom. pl.): m. people
su-duṣkaram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. very difficult to be done , most arduous
duṣkara: mfn. hard to be done or borne , difficult , arduous ; rare , extraordinary ; doing wrong , behaving ill , wicked , bad ; n. difficult act , difficulty ;
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
iti: “....,” thus
niścayam (acc. sg.): m. resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
vismayam (acc. sg.): m. wonder , surprise , amazement , bewilderment , perplexity ; doubt, uncertainty
yayur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. yā: to go , proceed , move ; to go towards or against , go or come to , enter , approach , arrive at , reach
patad = acc. sg. n. pres. part. pat: to fly , soar , rush on ; to fall down or off
jahruḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. hṛ: to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob ; to shoot or cut or hew off , sever (the head or a limb); to remove , destroy , dispel , frustrate , annihilate ; to turn away , avert (the face)
vijahruḥ [EBC] = 3rd pers. pl. perf. vi- √ hṛ: to put asunder ; to carry away , remove ; to shed (tears)
salilam (acc. sg.): n. flood , surge , waves ; n. water, rainwater ; n. eye-water , tears ; mfn. flowing , surging , fluctuating , unsteady
netra-jam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. 'eye-born' ; n. a tear
manaḥ (acc. sg.): n. mind
ninindur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. nind: to blame , censure , revile , despise , ridicule
phalārtham (acc. sg. n.): on account of retribution
phala: n. fruit ; fruit (met.) , consequence , effect , result , retribution (good or bad) , gain or loss , reward or punishment
artha: m. aim, purpose; cause , motive , reason (artham: for the sake of , on account of , in behalf of , for); thing, object ; affair, concern ; sense , meaning , notion
phalottham [EHJ]: arising from fruit
uttha: mfn. (generally ifc.) standing up , rising , arising; coming forth , originating , derived from
ātmanaḥ (gen. sg.): their own