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apsaro-bhṛtako dharmaṃ carasīty-atha coditaḥ /

"You are practising dharma to earn the apsarases as wages!" To be upbraided thus,

ānandena tadā nandaḥ paraṃ vrīḍam-upāgamat // 12.1 //

As Nanda then was by Ānanda, made him deeply ashamed.


tasya vrīḍena mahatā pramodo hṛdi nābhavat /

Because of the great shame the exuberance in his heart was no more.

aprāmodyena vimukhaṃ nāvatasthe vrate manaḥ // 12.2 //

His mind was downcast, due to disenchantment, and did not stick with practice.


kāma-rāga-pradhāno 'pi parihāsa-samo 'pi san /

Though he was fixated on sensual love, and at the same time indifferent to ridicule,

paripāka-gate hetau na sa tan-mamṛṣe vacaḥ // 12.3 //

Nanda's motivation had matured to a point where neither could he disregard Ānanda's words.


aparīkṣaka-bhāvāc-ca pūrvaṃ matvā divaṃ dhruvam /

Being of an unquestioning nature, he had presumed heaven to be a constant;

tasmāt kṣeṣṇuṃ pariśrutya bhṛśaṃ saṃvegam-eyivān // 12.4 //

So on learning that it was perishable he was fiercely shocked.


tasya svargān-nivavṛte saṃkalpāśvo mano-rathaḥ /

Turning back from heaven, the chariot of his mind, whose horse was willpower,

mahā-ratha ivonmārgād-apramattasya sāratheḥ // 12.5 //

Was like a great chariot turned back from a wrong road by an attentive charioteer.


svarga-tarṣān-nivṛttaś-ca sadyaḥ svastha ivābhavat /

After turning back from his thirst for heaven, he seemed suddenly to become well.

mṛṣṭād-apathyād virato jijīviṣur-ivāturaḥ // 12.6 //

He had given up something sweet that was bad for him, like a sick man finding the will to live.


visasmāra priyāṃ bhāryām-apsaro-darśanād yathā /

Just as he forgot about his beloved wife on seeing the apsarases,

tathānityatayodvignas-tatyājāpsaraso 'pi saḥ // 12.7 //

So also, when startled by their impermanence, did he put the apsarases behind him.


mahatām-api bhūtānām-āvṛttir-iti cintayan /

"Even the greatest beings are subject to return!" So he reflected,

saṃvegāc-ca sa-rāgo 'pi vīta-rāga ivābhavat // 12.8 //

And from his shock, though given to redness, he seemed to blanch.1


babhūva sa hi saṃvegaḥ śreyasas-tasya vṛddhaye /

It was for growth in him of a better way that the shock happened --

dhātur-edhir-ivākhyāte paṭhito 'kṣara-cintakaiḥ // 12.9 //

Just as the verb "to grow" is listed [after "to happen"] in the lexicon recited by students of grammar.2


na tu kāmān-manas-tasya kena-cij-jagṛhe dhṛtiḥ /

Because of his sensuality, however, his mind was by no means gripped by the kind of constancy

triṣu kāleṣu sarveṣu nipāto 'stir-iva smṛtaḥ // 12.10 //

Which is shown, in all three times, by the received usage of the irregularity which is "being."3


khela-gāmī mahā-bāhur-gajendra iva nirmadaḥ /

Trembling went he of mighty arm, like a top bull elephant, through with rut:

so 'bhyagacchad guruṃ kāle vivakṣur-bhāvam-ātmanaḥ // 12.11 //

At a suitable moment, he approached the Guru, wishing to communicate his intention.


praṇamya ca gurau murdhnā bāṣpa-vyākula-locanaḥ /

After bowing his head to the Guru, with eyes filled with tears,

kṛtvāñjalim-uvācedaṃ hriyā kiṃ-cid-avāṅmukhaḥ // 12.12 //

He joined the palms of his hands and spoke as follows, his face somewhat lowered, because of shame:4


apsaraḥ prāptaye yan-me bhagavan pratibhūr-asi /

For my gaining of the celestial nymphs, Glorious One, you stand as guarantor.

nāpsarobhir-mamārtho 'sti pratibhūtvaṃ tyajāmy-aham // 12.13 //

But for the nymphs I have no need; I relinquish your guarantee.


śrutvā hy-āvartakaṃ svargaṃ saṃsārasya ca citratām /

For since I have heard of heaven's fleeting whirl and of the varieties of aimless wandering,

na martyeṣu na deveṣu pravṛttir-mama rocate // 12.14 //

Neither among mortal beings nor among heavenly beings does doing appeal to me.5


yadi prāpya divaṃ yatnān-niyamena damena ca /

If, after struggling to get to heaven, through self-restriction and restraint,

a-vitṛptāḥ patanty-ante svargāya tyāgine namaḥ // 12.15 //

Men fall at last, unsatisfied, then homage to the heaven-bound who give up on the way.


ataś-ca nikhilaṃ lokaṃ viditvā sacarācaram /

Now that I have seen through the whole world of man, with its changeability and its fixity,

sarva-duḥkha-kṣaya-kare tvad-dharme parame rame // 12.16 //

It is the eradicator of all suffering, your most excellent dharma, that I rejoice in.


tasmād vyāsa-samāsābhyāṃ tan-me vyākhyātum-arhasi /

Therefore, in detail and in summary, could you please communicate it to me,

yac-chrutvā śṛṇvatāṃ śreṣṭha paramaṃ prāpnuyāṃ padam // 12.17 //

O Best of Listeners, so that through listening I might come to the ultimate step.”


tatas-tasyāśayaṃ jñātvā vipakṣāṇīndriyāṇi ca /

Then, knowing from where he was coming, and that, though his senses were set against it,

śreyaś-caivāmukhī-bhūtaṃ nijagāda tathāgataḥ // 12.18 //

A better way was now emerging, the Realised One spoke:


aho pratyavamarśo 'yaṃ śreyasas-te purojavaḥ /

"Aha! This gaining of a foothold is the harbinger of a higher good in you,

araṇyāṃ mathyamānāyām-agner-dhūma ivotthitaḥ // 12.19 //

As, when a firestick is rubbed, rising smoke is the harbinger of fire.

ciram-unmārga-vihṛto lolair-indriya-vājibhiḥ /

Long carried off course by the restless horses of the senses,

avatīrṇo 'si panthānaṃ diṣṭyā dṛṣṭyāvimūḍhayā // 12.20 //

You have now set foot on a path, with a clarity of vision that, happily, will not dim.


adya te sa-phalaṃ janma lābho 'dya su-mahāṃs-tava /

Today your birth bears fruit; your gain today is great;

yasya kāma-rasa-jñasya naiṣkramyāyotsukaṃ manaḥ // 12.21 //

For though you know the taste of love, your mind is yearning for indifference.


loke 'sminn-ālayārāme nivṛttau durlabhā ratiḥ /

In this world which likes what is close to home, a fondness for non-doing is rare;

vyathante hy-apunar-bhāvāt prapātād-iva bāliśāḥ // 12.22 //

For men shrink from the end of becoming like the puerile from the edge of a cliff.


duḥkhaṃ na syāt sukhaṃ me syād-iti prayatate janaḥ /

People think 'there might be no suffering, just happiness for me!' And as they labour under this illusion,

atyanta-duḥkhoparamaṃ sukhaṃ tac-ca na budhyate // 12.23 //

Any respite from incessant suffering they sense not as such, but as happiness.


ari-bhūteṣv-anityeṣu satataṃ duḥkha-hetuṣu /

Upon whims which are transient and akin to enemies, forever causing suffering,

kāmādiṣu jagat saktaṃ na vetti sukham-avyayam // 12.24 //

Upon things like love, the world is fixed. It does not know the happiness that is immune to change.


sarva-duḥkhāpahaṃ tat-tu hasta-stham-amṛtaṃ tava /

But that deathless nectar which prevents all suffering you have in your hands:

viṣaṃ pītvā yad-agadaṃ samaye pātum-icchasi // 12.25 //

It is an antidote which, having drunk poison, you are going in good time to drink.


anarha-saṃsāra-bhayaṃ mānārhaṃ te cikīrṣitam /

In its fear of worthless wandering your intention is worthy of respect,

rāgāgnis-tādṛśo yasya dharmonmukha parāṅ-mukhaḥ // 12.26 //

For a fire of passion such as yours, O you whose face is turned to dharma, is being turned around.


rāgoddāmena manasā sarvathā duṣkarā dhṛtiḥ /

With a mind unbridled by lust it is exceedingly difficult to be steadfast --

sa-doṣaṃ salilaṃ dṛṣṭvā pāntheneva pipāsunā // 12.27 //

As when a thirsty traveller sees dirty water.


īdṛśī nāma buddhis-te niruddhā rajasābhavat /

Obviously, the dust of passion was blocking the consciousness that is now awakening in you,

rajasā caṇḍa-vātena vivasvata iva prabhā // 12.28 //

Like the dust of a sand-storm blocking the light of the sun.


sā jighāṃsus-tamo hārdaṃ yā saṃprati vijṛmbhate /

But now [consciousness] is blossoming forth, seeking to dispell darkness of the heart,

tamo naiśaṃ prabhā saurī vinirgīrṇeva meruṇā // 12.29 //

Like that sunlight spewed forth from mount Meru which dispells the darkness of night.


yukta-rūpam-idaṃ caiva śuddha-sattvasya cetasaḥ /

And this indeed befits a soul whose essence is simplicity:

yat-te syān-naiṣṭhike sūkṣme śreyasi śraddadhānatā // 12.30 //

That you should have confidence in a better way which is ultimate and subtle.6


dharma-cchandam-imaṃ tasmād-vivardhayitum-arhasi /

This wish for dharma, therefore, you should nurture;

sarva-dharmā hi dharmajña niyamāc-chanda-hetavaḥ // 12.31 //

For all dharmas, O knower of dharma, invariably have wishing as their cause.


satyāṃ gamana-buddhau hi gamanāya pravartate /

As long as the intention of moving is there, one mobilizes for the act of moving;

śayyā-buddhau ca śayanaṃ sthāna-buddhau tathā sthitiḥ // 12.32 //

And with the intention of staying at rest there is an act of staying at rest; with the intention of standing, likewise, there is standing up.


antar-bhūmi-gataṃ hy-ambhaḥ śraddadhāti naro yadā /

When a man has confidence that there is water under the ground

arthitve sati yatnena tadā khanati gām-imām // 12.33 //

And has need of water, then, with an effort of will, here the earth he digs.


nārthī yady-agninā vā syāc-chraddadhyāt-taṃ na vāraṇau /

If a man had no need of fire, nor confidence that fire was in a firestick,

mathnīyān-nāraṇiṃ kaś-cit-tad-bhāve sati mathyate // 12.34 //

He would never twirl the stick. Those conditions being met, he does twirl the stick.


sasyotpattiṃ yadi na vā śraddadhyāt kārṣakaḥ kṣitau /

Without the confidence that corn will grow in the soil he tills,

arthī sasyena vā na syād bījāni na vaped bhuvi // 12.35 //

Or without the need for corn, the farmer would not sow seeds in the earth.


ataś-ca hasta ity-uktā mayā śraddhā viśeṣataḥ /

And so I call this confidence the Hand, because it is this confidence, above all,

yasmād gṛṇhāti sad-dharmaṃ dāyaṃ hasta ivākṣataḥ // 12.36 //

That grasps true dharma, as a hand naturally takes a gift.


prādhānyād-indriyam-iti sthiratvād balam-ity-ataḥ /

From its primacy I describe it as Sensory Power; from its constancy, as Strength;

guṇa-dāridrya-śamanād dhanam-ity-abhivarṇitā // 12.37 //

And because it relieves poverty of virtue I describe it as Wealth.


rakṣaṇārthena dharmasya tatheṣīk-ety-udāhṛtā /

For its protection of dharma, I call it the Arrow,

loke 'smin durlabhatvāc-ca ratnam-ity-abhibhāṣitā // 12.38 //

And from the difficulty of finding it in this world I call it the Jewel.


punaś-ca bījam-ity-uktā nimittaṃ śreyaso yadā /

Again, I call it the Seed since it is the cause of betterment;7

pāvanārthena pāpasya nadīty-abhihitā punaḥ // 12.39 //

And for its cleansing action, in the washing away of wrong, again, I call it the River.


yasmād-dharmasya cotpattau śraddhā kāraṇam-uttamam /

Since in the arising of dharma confidence is the primary cause,

mayoktā kāryatas-tasmāt-tatra tatra tathā tathā // 12.40 //

Therefore I have named it after its effects in this case like this, in that case like that.


śraddhāṅkuram-imaṃ tasmāt saṃvardhayitum-arhasi /

This shoot of confidence, therefore, you should nurture;

tad-vṛddhau vardhate dharmo mūla-vṛddhau yathā drumaḥ // 12.41 //

When it grows dharma grows, as a tree grows with the growth of its root.


vyākulaṃ darśanaṃ yasya durbalo yasya niścayaḥ /

When a person's seeing is disordered, when a person's sense of purpose is weak:

tasya pāriplavā śraddhā na hi kṛtyāya vartate // 12.42 //

The confidence of that person is unsteady, for he is not veering in the direction he should.


yāvat-tattvaṃ na bhavati hi dṛṣṭaṃ śrutaṃ vā tāvac-chraddhā na bhavati bala-sthā sthirā vā /

So long as the real truth is not seen or heard, confidence does not become strong or firm;

dṛṣṭe tattve niyama-paribhūtendriyasya śraddhā-vṛkṣo bhavati sa-phalaś-cāśrayaś-ca // 12.43 //

But when, through restraint, the power of the senses is subjugated and the real truth is realised, the tree of confidence bears fruit and weight."



saundaranande mahākāvye pratyavamarśo nāma dvādaśaḥ sargaḥ // 12 //

The 12th Canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Gaining a Foothold."





1 This line may be taken as evidence of Aśvaghoṣa's insight into the mutually antagonistic fear responses (fear paralysic and panic) which are at the core of human existence. Of the two, it is fear paralysis which is deeper and more primitive; hence Aśvaghoṣa is emphasizing how deep was the shock to Nanda's system.

2 The lexicon in question is Pāṇini's dhātu-pāṭha, "Recital of Grammatical Roots," an ancient list of 2200 verbal roots, the first of which is bhu (be, exist, happen) and the second of which is edh (increase, grow). The beginning of the list might have been almost as familiar to people of Aśvaghoṣa's day who knew Sanskrit as “abc” is familiar to us. (Thanks to Malcolm Markovich for clarifying this background.)

3 Nipāta originally means falling down, decay, accidental occurrence; in grammar it means 1. irregular form, irregularity, exception, and 2. a particle. Linda Covill notes that asti (existent, present) is considered to be an example of an indeclinable particle; i.e., an irregular particle whose form is supposed to remain constant. So Aśvaghośa is saying that Nanda does not yet show that kind of constancy. At the same time, Aśvaghośa might be saying something about the impossibility of pinning down the state of being present, or – more widely – existence itself.

4 Here shame is cause, and the face being lowered is effect. (It is not a question of a practitioner arranging the angle of his head in an effort to regulate his own mind.)

5 Pra-vṛtti is defined as “moving onwards, advance, progress, active life.” In short it means “doing;” that is, the doing which keeps the wheel of saṁsāra rolling – as opposed to ni-vṛtti, non-doing. See 12.22 and 16.42.

6 The subtlety might be related with the principle that purity/simplicity is a person's original nature.

7 Here nimitta evidently means “cause.” See discussion of nimitta from 16.53.






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