Of spaces which are openings in his body,
First he forms a picture;
Then in solid masses also
He affirms space.
The self that permeates space
Another one who is wise, in contrast,
condenses into the centre
And, seeing even that as unbounded,
Thereby attains distinction.
But one who is different,
being conversant with the Supreme Self
– or being skilful in regard to his own self –
Having got rid of the self with the self
– having dropped off the self, using the self –
Realizing that there is nothing there,
Is known as a man of being without anything.
Thus, like the stalk from a sheath of muñja grass,
Like a big bird from its cage,
The Knower of the Field, escaped from the body,
Is said to be liberated.
This is that supreme Brahma,
Beyond emblematic representation, constant, imperishable,
Which those who know the truth, learned brahmins,
Thus the means, and the liberation,
I have revealed to you;
If you have understood it, and if it pleases you,
Undertake it properly.
For Jaigīṣavya, 'Son of Ambition,' and Janaka, 'The Begetter',
As well as Vṛddha Parāśara, 'The Old Crusher,'
By realizing this path in their sitting,
– as were other liberation-seekers, being different.”
But he [the bodhisattva],
having taken in these words of the other,
And reflected on them this way and that,
Being possessed of the power of previous causes,
Spoke up in reply:
“I have listened to this wisdom of yours,
Which grows more subtle stage by stage,
and more wholesome,
But insofar as the Knower of the Field is not abandoned,
I see this wisdom as short of the ultimate.
For, I consider 'the Knower of the Field,'
Even freed from 'the Transformed and the Primary,'
To be engendering in nature
And to be, in its very nature, a seed.
For even if the pure self, 'the soul,'
Is declared to have been released,
Once again, as long as the grounds exist,
It will become not released.
Just as, in the absence of season, soil and water,
A seed does not grow,
But does rise up when those various grounds are present,
So also, as I see it, does 'the soul.'
And as for liberation being brought about
Through letting go of karma, ignorance and thirsting,
There is no complete abandonment of them
So long as the soul persists.
By deeper and deeper abandoning of these three,
Higher distinction is obtained,
But where the soul prevails,
There – subtly – these three are.
And yet, because of the subtlety of the faults,
Because of the inactivity of the mind,
And because of the length of a lifetime,
Liberation is posited.
As for this abandonment of the self-consciousness of 'I-doing'
Which, again, is posited –
So long as the soul persists
There has been no abandonment of 'I-doing.'
Again, when not freed from intellectual efforts like enumeration,
This [abandonment] does not become free of defining features;
Therefore, in the absence of freedom from defining features,
There is said to be no freedom in it.
For between things defined by features
and the defining features
There is no gap –
Bereft of form and heat,
No fire, for example, is realized.
Prior to the body, no owner of a body can exist;
Prior to defining features, likewise,
nothing defined by features can exist.
On this basis does the possessor of a body,
having been free from the beginning,
Become bound again.
Again, a disembodied knower of the field
Must be either a knower or else unknowing.
If he is a knower, something remains that he should know,
And in something remaining that he should know,
he is not liberated.
Or else, if it's your conclusion that he is unknowing,
Then what is the point of inventing a soul?
For even without a soul, not knowing is well established,
For even without a soul, the act of knowing is accomplished,
For when the self is truly absent, realization is realized,
As in the case of a log or a wall.
But since abandonment that goes further and further back,
Is known, according to tradition, to be excellent,
Therefore I suppose that from abandoning all
Follows complete accomplishment of the task.”
Thus, having understood the dharma of Arāḍa,
He was not satisfied.
Knowing it to be incomplete,
Back he went from there.
So, desiring to learn of deeper distinction,
He went to the ashram of Udraka.
And his doctrine,
which was grounded in the notion of a soul,
He also did not accept.
For, knowing the fault
in the duality of consciousness and unconsciousness,
The sage Udraka had glimpsed,
Beyond being without anything,
The [single] realm made up of consciousness and unconsciousness.
Since, again, there are subtle dual underpinnings
In consciousness and in unconsciousness,
[Udraka understood] that beyond that duality
There was neither the unconscious nor consciousness,
On which grounds, being there, one was free of aspiring.
Again, because the mind, being right there,
Stood still, not wandering elsewhere,
Therefore in that state
– that subtle, not intellectual, state of the mind –
There was neither unconsciousness nor consciousness.
But since, again, even having reached that state,
[The mind] returns to the jostling world,
Therefore, desiring to reach the ultimate,
The bodhisattva left Udraka.
Thus having abandoned the ashram of that sage,
Seeking better, with determination,
He betook himself to the hermitage of the royal seer Gaya –
To the ashram known as Nagarī.
And so, on a pure bank of the Nairaṇjanā,
He whose heroic endeavour was pure
Took up his dwelling
As a sage who delighted in a solitary vihāra –
a lonely practice-place,
and the pleasure ground of devotion to a single end.
Then he saw the five who had retreated there before him,
Raised up by their dominion over the five senses
As they upheld their vows of ascetic practice –
He saw the five ascetic mendicants.
Those bhikṣus saw him there
And, desiring liberation, came up to him
As sensory objects answer to the capable one
Whose material riches, and freedom from disease, are earned on merit.
He was greatly honoured by those five humble followers.
While, being obedient, because of training, they deferred to him,
Abiding as disciples under his dominion,
Like the restless senses deferring to the mind,
He intuited that here might be a means to end death and birth –
On which grounds, then,
He undertook harsh austerities,
Going without food.
Doing many kinds of fasting
That were difficult for a man to do,
For six years, in the quest for peace,
He wasted himself away.
With jujube fruits, sesame seeds,
and grains of rice, one by one,
In his quest for the far end of saṁsāra,
where there is no end to ends,
He kept himself alive.
Whatever was taken out of his body
By that ascetic practice,
Was made up for
By his amazing energy.
Pared down as he was,
yet with his glory and majesty unimpaired,
He gladdened other eyes,
As the hairy moon-lilies are gladdened,
At the beginning of the bright fortnight,
by the autumn moon.
Reduced to skin and bone,
With no reserves remaining of fat or flesh or blood,
Diminished, and yet undiminished in his inner depths,
Like the sea, he sparkled.
And so the sage
Whose body was evidently being tormented,
to no avail, by pernicious austerities,
Formed – while being wary of becoming –
The following resolve, in his longing for buddhahood.
“This dharma is good neither for detachment,
Nor for awakening, nor for liberation.
What I realized back then, at the foot of the rose-apple tree –
That is a sure method.
But that cannot be realized by one who is weak.”
Thus did he reflect.
Still more, with a view to increasing his bodily strength,
On this did he meditate further:
"Worn out by hunger, thirst and fatigue,
With a mind that, from fatigue, is not well in itself,
How can one obtain the result
which is to be realized by the mind –
When one is not contented?
Contentment is properly obtained
Through keeping the senses constantly appeased;
By full appeasement of the senses,
Wellness of the mind is realized.
In one whose mind is well and tranquil,
Samādhi, balanced stillness, sets in.
In one whose mind is possessed of samādhi,
Dhyāna, meditative practice, progresses.
Through meditation's progress
are obtained dharmas, timeless teachings,
By which is realized the deathless –
That hard-won, quieted, unaging,
Ultimate immortal step.”
Having therefore decided
that eating food is the foundation
Of this means to an end,
He, the firm and constant one,
whose resolve was beyond measure,
Resolving to take food...
… had got out of the water –
Having bathed, he climbed up the bank of the Nairañjanā,
Ascending, in his wizened state, gradually,
While, lowering the tips of their branches in devotion,
The trees on the shore lent him a hand.
Just then a dairy farmer's daughter,
Impelled by the gods, came by,
With joy swelling up in her heart –
There came Nanda-balā, 'Power of Joy.'
She wore a dark-blue shawl,
And her arms were all lit up with white shells,
So that she seemed like the Yamunā, best of rivers,
When its dark-blue waters are wreathed with foam.
She with a gladness bolstered by trust,
With the lotuses of her eyes beaming,
Bowed her head respectfully to him
And made him accept milk rice.
He caused her, by eating that food,
To attain the fruit of her birth,
And he became capable of attainment of awakening,
His six senses now being fully appeased.
His physical body having realized fullness,
Along with the glory of his person,
The sage, as one, bore the radiant charm
and the deep, constant calm
Of the moon and the ocean.
Knowing that he had turned back,
The five bhikṣus left him
Like the five elements melting away
When a thinking self has been set free.
And so with resolve as his companion,
To where the earth was covered with fresh green grass,
To the foot of a fig-tree
– an aśvattha, 'under which horses stand,' –
Setting his heart firmly in the direction of awakening.
Just then the snake with the spirit of an elephant-king
Was awakened by the peerless sound of the sage's feet;
Realizing that the great sage was set on awakening,
The black cobra Kāla,
most excellent of serpents, sang the sage's praises:
“As surely as the earth, O sage!,
pressed down under your footsteps,
Rolls like thunder,
And as surely as the light of you
shines forth like the sun,
You today will enjoy the longed-for fruit.
As surely as flocks of blue jays wheeling through the sky
Keep you, O lotus-eyed one!, on their right wing,
And as surely as in the sky gentle breezes blow,
You today will be an awakened one, a buddha.”
Then, his praises having been sung by the best of serpents,
The sage accepted from a grass-cutter some pristine grass,
And making a vow in the direction of awakening, he sat
At the foot of the great tree,
placing himself in the compass of the great pristine tree.
Then the supreme, unshakeable cross-legged posture –
In which sleeping serpents' coils are rolled into a ball – he took up,
As if to say, "I shall not break this sitting posture on the earth
Until I have done completely what is to be done."
Then the denizens of heaven felt unequalled joy;
No sound did any beast make, nor any bird;
No forest tree creaked, though buffeted by the wind –
When the Glorious One took his sitting posture, resolute to the core.
The 12th canto, titled Seeing / Arāḍa, in an epic tale of awakened action.