na khalv-iyaṁ svarga-sukhāya me sphā na taj-janasyātmavato 'pi dur-labham |
sa tu priyo mām-iha vā paratra vā kathaṁ na jahyād-iti me mano-rathaḥ || 8.66
This longing in me is truly not for the happiness of paradise
(Nor is that happiness hard for a determined person to achieve),
But how might I never be deserted by what I hold most dear?
– That is the chariot of my mind.
If we look for hidden meaning in today's verse, the question to ask might be what is the one thing that a bodhisattva holds most dear.
What is the one thing a bodhisattva holds most dear?
Not the fleeting personal happiness of paradise, for a start.
One answer might be that what a bodhisattva holds most dear is the bodhi-mind itself, i.e. the will to understand what can be understood, not only for one's own benefit but for the benefit of the world.
Hence in BC Canto 5 the Buddha says to Kanthaka:
“Fully appreciate, then, this act of mine, yoked to dharma, of getting out, proceeding from here, for the welfare of the world; / And exert yourself, O best of horses, with quick and bold steps, for your own good and the good of the world.”//BC5.78//
As a kind of confirmation of this line of thought, Dogen wrote somewhere in Shobogenzo something to the effect, if memory serves, that the thing he feared most was not aging, sickness and death, and not cold or hunger, but the thing Dogen feared most was being deserted by the will to the truth.
In the glossary of Aśvaghoṣa's favourite terms with double meanings,
m is for mārga (way, lit. and fig.);
m is for mahārham (very precious; white sandalwood);
m is for madhya-stha (being in the middle; being in the air; being neutral);
m is for mada (intoxication) and for madā (lust or pride or intoxicating substance);
m is for mukha (mouth, face, or fore-part);
m is for mama-tā (selfishness or really owning oneself);
m is for mūla (root, lit. and fig., foundation);
m is for mokṣa (release from worldly existence, or untying [of hair], or shedding [tears]);
m is for mati (intention or mind, or view);
m is for mukuṭa (crown, headdress, head);
m is for muhur (in a moment / suddenly, at every moment / constantly);
m is for mūrdha-ja (a head-born hair, or a head-born thought); and
m is for mano-ratha (a heart's desire, or the chariot of a mind).
The ratha of mano-ratha may derive from the root √ṛ, to go (hence “goer,” chariot) or from the root √ram, to delight (hence joy or desire).
In today's verse, as ostensibly the expression of an emotional woman's romantic sentiment, me mano-rathaḥ means “my heart's desire” (EBC/EHJ: my one desire).
But in SN Canto 5, in describing Nanda's establishment of the bodhi-mind, Aśvaghoṣa picks up the sense of mano-rathaḥ meaning the chariot of a person's mind:
Turning back from heaven, the chariot of his mind (mano-rathaḥ), whose horse was willpower, / Was like a great chariot (mahā rathaḥ) turned back from a wrong road by an attentive charioteer. // SN12.5 //
Consequently Nanda tells the Buddha:
Now that I have seen through the whole world of man, with its changeability and its fixity, / It is the eradicator of all suffering, your most excellent dharma, that I rejoice in. // SN12.16 // Therefore, in detail and in summary, could you please communicate it to me, / O Best of Listeners, so that through listening I might come to the ultimate step.” // SN12.17 //
Then, knowing from where he was coming, and that, though his senses were set against it, / A better way was now emerging, the Realised One spoke: // 12.18 //
"Aha! This gaining of a foothold is the harbinger of a higher good in you, / As, when a firestick is rubbed, rising smoke is the harbinger of fire. // 12.19 // Long carried off course by the restless horses of the senses, / You have now set foot on a path, with a clarity of vision that, happily, will not dim. // 12.20 // Today your birth bears fruit; your gain today is great; / For though you know the taste of love, your mind is yearning for indifference. // 12.21 // In this world which likes what is close to home, a fondness for non-doing is rare; / For men shrink from the end of becoming like the puerile from the edge of a cliff. // 12.22 // People think 'there might be no suffering, just happiness for me!' And as they labour under this illusion, / Any respite from incessant suffering they sense not as such, but as happiness. // 12.23 // Upon whims which are transient and akin to enemies, forever causing suffering, / Upon things like love, the world is fixed. It does not know the happiness that is immune to change. // 12.24 // 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 //
The Buddha as I hear him in this passage is not saying that the nectar of immortality should be a bodhisattva's one desire. The gist is rather that, because the chariot of a bodhisattva's mind, by definition, is going in the right direction, a bodhisattva already has the nectar of immortality in his hands.
Ostensibly then, in today's verse, Yaśodharā is saying that her heart's desire is never to be separated from the man she holds most dear.
“How might the man I hold most dear never desert me? – That is my heart's desire!”
But below the surface Yaśodharā's words might be inferring that what a bodhisattva holds most dear is just the deathless nectar which is the chariot of a her mind.
“How might I never be deserted by what I hold most dear – that is, the chariot of my mind?”
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
svarga-sukhāya (dat. sg.): heavenly happiness, paradise
svarga: mfn. going or leading to or being in light or heaven , heavenly , celestial ; m. heaven , the abode of light and of the gods , heavenly bliss , (esp.) indra's heaven or paradise
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
me (gen. sg.): of/in me
sphā (nom. sg.): f. eager desire , desire , covetousness , envy , longing for , pleasure or delight in (dat.)
tad (acc. sg.): that
janasya (gen. sg.): m. a person ; m. a common person , one of the people
ātmavataḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. having a soul ; self-possessed , composed , prudent
ātman; m. the soul; essence , nature , character ; effort ; (= dhṛti) firmness
dur-labham (acc. sg.): mfn. difficult to be obtained or found , hard , scarce , rare
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
priyaḥ (nom. sg.): m. friend; lover, husband, beloved ; mfn. beloved , dear to (gen. loc. dat. or comp.) , liked , favourite , wanted , own; dear , expensive , high in price ; fond of attached or devoted to (loc.)
mām (acc. sg. f.): me
iha: ind. in this world, here and now
paratra: ind. elsewhere , in another place , in a future state or world , hereafter
katham: ind. how?
jahyāt = 3rd pers. sg. optative hā: to leave , abandon , desert , quit , forsake
me (gen. sg.): my
mano-rathaḥ (nom. sg. m.): " heart's joy "; a wish , desire ; the heart compared to a car
ratha: 1. (√ṛ, to go): m. " goer " , a chariot ; 2. m. ( √ ram, to delight) pleasure , joy , delight
[relation with Sanskrit tenuous]