adṣṭa-tattvasya sato 'pi kiṁ tu me śubhāśubhe saṁśayite śubhe matiḥ |
vthāpi khedo hi varaṁ śubhātmanaḥ sukhaṁ na tattve 'pi vigarhitātmanaḥ || 9.75
Even in my present state of not having realized the truth,
Yet still, though good and bad be in doubt,
my inclination is to the good.
For better the toil, though the toil was in vain,
of a soul given over to the good,
Than the gratification of one, though onto the truth,
whose attitude was reprehensible.
In today's verse as I read it the bodhisattva is expressing the principle that in Alexander work is called non-endgaining. This principle recognizes the folly of trying to arrive at a good end by bad means.
To put it the other way round, positively, the principle recognizes the wisdom of giving all one's attention to a means one knows to be good, without worrying about whether the unknown end result will be good or bad. The wisdom, in short, of making effort in the right direction, having given up caring about right and wrong.
Read like this, today's verse might be another verse that relates to the greatest and most redemptive principle in the universe, which is namely that, even though there is no such thing as a right position, there is such a thing as a right direction.
The ultimate folly for a Zen practitioner, contrary to the approach advocated by the bodhisattva in today's verse, might be to pursue Enlightenment in an end-gaining manner, so that the practitioner sets his sights on the ultimate prize of Enlightenment – like a great power hell-bent on securing global hegemony – without concern for maintenance of integrity on the inside or collateral damage on the outside.
Come to think of it, if I hated America because of the stupid end-gaining of its policy-makers, and the blatant hypocrisy of recent American criticisms of Russia, I might be using America as a mirror in which to see myself.
The 4th pāda is rendered a bit difficult to translate by the parenthetic phrase tattve' pi, which in the end I translated “though onto the truth.”
EBC: the man of base soul has no joy even in the truth;
EHJ: than the bliss, even though in the real truth, of the man who gives himself up to what is contemptible;
PO: than the comfort of one given to evil, though it is the truth.
The classic example to illustrate the meaning of the 4th pāda, as I have translated it, might be the attitude of Devadatta, at the time of the Buddha; or the attitude of Bodhirucci, at the time of Bodhidharma. Each of these men of infamous and nefarious conduct were very much onto the truth, or in contact with the truth, their karma having led them to live at the time and place of the Buddha and of Bodhidharma. But prompted by a jealousy born of personal ambition, each failed to inhibit the end-gaining impulses in his mind, and each decided to go ahead and commit a very bad action, so that Devadatta tried to do the Buddha in by causing a big rock to roll down on him, and the translator Bodhirucci, the story goes, tried to poison Zen Master Bodhidharma.
In conclusion, then, today's verse causes me to come back to truths that I always tend to come back to, as an antidote to my old habits of worrying and trying to be right:
There is no such thing as a right position,
but there is such a thing as a right direction.
but there is such a thing as a right direction.
Being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work.
Don't think good / bad.
Don't care right / wrong.
(Zen Master Dogen)
adṛṣṭa-tattvasya (gen. sg. m.): not having seen the truth, not having realized the truth
sataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. as: to be
kim tu: but , however , nevertheless (bearing the same relation to tu that kiṁ-ca bears to ca)
kiṁ-ca: moreover , further
me (gen. sg.): of me, my
śubhāśubhe (loc. sg.): n. weal and woe , good and evil
saṁśayite (loc. sg. n.): mfn. subject to doubt , uncertain , dubious , questionable
śubhe (loc. sg.): n. anything bright or beautiful &c ; mfn. splendid , bright , beautiful ; good (in moral sense) , righteous , virtuous , honest
matiḥ (nom. sg.): f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire (with loc. dat. or inf.)
vṛthā: ind. at will , at pleasure , at random; in vain , vainly , uselessly , fruitlessly , idly
khedaḥ (nom. sg.): m. lassitude, depression ; exhaustion , pain , affliction , distress
varam: ind. it is better than , rather than (in these senses varam is followed by , na , na ca na tu , na punaḥ tad api na or tathā*pi na , with nom. e.g. varaṁ mṛśyur nacā*kīrtiḥ , " better death than [lit. " and not "] infamy)
śubhātmanaḥ (gen. sg. m.): one with a beautiful soul ; a good guy
sukham (nom. sg.): n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
tattve (loc. sg.): n. true or real state , truth , reality
vigarhitātmanaḥ (gen. sg. m.): one whose character is reprehensible
vigarhita: mfn. blamed , reprehensible
ātman: m. self; essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karmātman , one whose character is action , endowed with principles of action )