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Then the Śākyas, each clothed in accordance with his wealth and accomplishments, got down from their horses, chariots, and elephants, /

And the traders came out of their big shops: by dint of their devotion, they bowed down before the great Sage. // 5.1 //


Some bowed and then followed for a while; some bowed and went, being compelled to work; /

But some remained still at their own sitting-places, their hands joined and eyes observing him in the distance. // 5.2 //


The Buddha then, and there, on the royal road, struggled on /

Into the gushing throng of the greatly devoted, as if entering the torrent of a river in the rains. // 5.3 //


And so, with the great and the good rapidly converging on the road, to honour the Tathāgata, /

Nanda was unable to make a bow; but still he could delight in the Guru's greatness. // 5.4 //


Wishing to shake off adherents1 to him on the road, while tending the devotion of people who were differently minded,2 /

And wishing to take Nanda in hand, who was turning for home, the One Gone Well therefore took a different3 path. // 5.5 //


He of the solitary and separate mind, a knower of the true path, took a solitary and separate path; /

And Nanda whose name was Joy, going out in front, could bow to him, the One gone beyond joy, who was furthest out in front. // 5.6 //


Walking forward meekly, with respectful seriousness, with cloak over one shoulder, body half-stooped, /

Hands held down and eyes raised up, Nanda stuttered these words: // 5.7 //


"While I was in the palace penthouse, Glorious One, I learned that you came in for our benefit; /

And so I have come in a hurry, indignant with the many members of the palace household. // 5.8 //


Therefore, rightly, O Favourer of the Righteous, and as a favour to me, be there [at the palace], O Supreme Seeker of Alms, at the time for eating alms, /

For the sun is about to reach the middle of the sky, as if to remind us of the time." // 5.9 //


Thus addressed by the bowing Nanda, whose expectant eyes looked up with tender affection, /

The One Gone Well made a sign such that Nanda knew he would not be taking a meal. // 5.10 //


Then, having made his bow to the Sage, he made up his mind to head home; /

But, as a favour, the One Gone Well, with lotus petal eyes, handed him his bowl. // 5.11 //


The Incomparable Vessel was offering his own vessel, to reap a fruit in the human world, /

And so Nanda, outstretched, held the bowl with lotus-like hands, which were better suited to the holding of a bow. // 5.12 //


But as soon as he sensed that the mind of the One Gone Well had gone elsewhere and was not on him, Nanda backtracked; /

Wanting, even with the bowl in his hands, to go home, he sidled away from the path -- while keeping his eye on the Sage. // 5.13 //


Then, at the moment that he in his yearning for his wife, despite holding the bowl, was about to head for home, /

Just then the Sage bamboozled him, by blocking his entrance to the highway. // 5.14 //


For he saw that in Nanda the seed of liberation, which is wisdom, was tenuous; while the fog of the afflictions was terribly thick; /

And since he was susceptible to the afflictions and sensual by nature, therefore the Sage reined him in. // 5.15 //


There are understood to be two aspects to defilement; correspondingly, there are two approaches to purification: /

In one with stronger motivation from within, there is self-reliance; in one who assigns weight to conditions, there is outer-dependence. // 5.16 //


The one who is more strongly self-motivated loosens ties without even trying, on receipt of the slightest stimulus; /

Whereas the one whose mind is led by circumstances struggles to find freedom, because of his dependence on others. // 5.17 //


And Nanda, whose mind was led by circumstances, became absorbed into whomever he depended on; /

The Sage, therefore, made this effort in his case, wishing to lift him out of the mire of love. // 5.18 //


But Nanda followed the Guru meekly and helplessly, squirming with discomfort, /

As he thought of his wife's face, her eyes looking out restlessly, and the painted marks still moist. // 5.19 //


And so the Sage led him, lover of garlands of pearls and flowers, whom the month of Spring, Love's friend, had appropriated, /

To a playground where women were a broken amusement -- to the vihāra,4 beloved as a pleasure-ground of learning. // 5.20 //


Then the Greatly Compassionate One, watching him in his moment of misery and pitying him, /

Put a hand, with wheel-marked palm, on his head and spoke to him thus: // 5.21 //


"While murderous Time has yet to come calling, set your mind, my friend, in the direction of peace. /

For operating in all situations, using all manner of attacks, Death kills. // 5.22 //


Restrain the restless mind from sensual pleasures, which are common, dream-like, and insubstantial; /

For no more than a wind-fanned fire is sated by offerings are men satisfied by pleasures. // 5.23 //


Most excellent among gifts is the gift of confidence. Most satisfying of tastes is the taste of real wisdom. /

Foremost among comforts is being comfortable in oneself. The bliss of ignorance is the sorriest bliss.5 // 5.24 //


The kindest-hearted friend is he who tells one what is truly salutary. The most meritorious effort is to exhaust oneself in pursuit of the truth. /

Supreme among labours is to work towards true understanding. Why would one enter into service of the senses? // 5.25 //


Select then that which is conclusive, which is beyond fear, fatigue and sorrow, and which is neither dependent on others nor removable by others: /

Select the lasting and benign happiness of extinction. What is the point of enduring disappointment, by making an object of sense-objects? // 5.26 //


Nothing takes away people's beauty like aging, there is no misfortune in the world like sickness, /

And no terror on earth like death. Yet these three, inevitably, shall be obeyed. // 5.27 //


There is no fetter like love, no torrent that carries one away like thirst, /

And likewise no fire like the fire of passion. If not for these three, happiness would be yours. // 5.28 //


Separation from loved ones is inevitable, on which account grief is bound to be experienced. /

And it is through grief that other seers who were princes have gone mad and fallen helplessly apart. // 5.29 //


So bind on the armour whose fabric is wisdom, for the arrows of grief are as naught to one steeped in patience; /

And kindle the fire of your own energy to burn up the great tangled web of becoming, just as you would kindle a small fire to burn up undergrowth collected into a great heap. // 5.30 //


Just as a man concerned with science, herbs in hand, is not bitten by any snake, /

So a man without concern, having overcome the folly of the world, is not bitten by the snake of grief. // 5.31 //


Staying with practice and fully committed to what is, at the hour of death he is not afraid -- /

Like a warrior-hero standing in battle, clad in armour, and equipped with a good bow, with skill in archery, and with the will to win." // 5.32 //


Addressed thus by the One Thus Come, the Tathāgata, in his compassion for all living beings, /

Nanda while sinking inside said boldly to the Sugata, the One Well Gone: "So be it!" // 5.33 //


And so wishing to lift him up out of heedlessness, and deeming him to be a vessel worthy of the living tradition, /

The Great Seer, with kindness in his heart, said: "Ānanda!6 Let Nanda go forth towards tranquillity." // 5.34 //


Then the sage of Videha7 said to Nanda, who was weeping inside: "Come!" /

At this Nanda approached him meekly and said "I won't go forth." // 5.35 //


On hearing Nanda's idea, the Videha sage related it to the Buddha; /

And so, after hearing from him also as to Nanda's actual state, the Great Sage spoke to Nanda again: // 5.36 //


"O you who have yet to conquer yourself! Given that I, your elder brother, have gone forth, and your cousins have gone forth after me, /

And seeing that our relatives who remain at home are committed to practice, are you minded to be conscious of consciousness, or are you not? // 5.37 //


Evidently the royal seers are unbeknown to you who retreated smiling into the forests; /

Having spat out desires, they were desirous of tranquillity and thus not stuck in lower order desires. // 5.38 //


Again, you have experienced the drawbacks of family life and you have observed the relief to be had from leaving it, /

And yet you, like a man in a disaster area who is resigned to his death, have no intention of giving up and leaving house and home. // 5.39 //


How can you be so devoted to the wasteland of saṁsāra and so devoid of desire to take the auspicious path /

When -- like a desert trader who drops out from a caravan -- you have been set on that very path? // 5.40 //


One who in a house burning on all sides, instead of getting out of there, would lie down in his folly to sleep, /

Only he might be heedless, in a world burning in the fire of Time, with its flames of sickness and aging. // 5.41 //


Again, like the condemned man being led, drunkenly laughing and babbling, to the stake, /

Equally to be lamented is one whose mind is upside-down, cavorting while Death stands by, with noose in hand. // 5.42 //


When kings and humble householders, leaving relations and possessions behind, /

Have gone forth, will go forth, and even now are going forth, what is the point of pandering to fleeting fondnesses? // 5.43 //


I do not see any pleasure which might not, by turning into something else, become pain. /

Therefore no attachment bears scrutiny -- unless the grief is bearable that arises from the absence of its object. // 5.44 //



So, my friend, knowing the human world to be fickle, a net of Indra, a web of fictions, like a gaudy magic show, /

Abandon the net of delusion you call 'my love,' if you are minded to cut the net of suffering. // 5.45 //


Unfancied food that does one good is better than tasty food that may do harm: /

On that basis I commend you to a course which, though unpalatable, is wholesome and honest. // 5.46 //


Just as a nurse keeps firm hold of an infant while taking out soil it has put in its mouth, /

So, wishing to draw out the dart of passion, have I spoken to you sharply for your own good. // 5.47 //


And just as a doctor restrains a patient then gives him bitter medicine; /

So have I given you, in order to help you, this disagreeable advice with beneficial effect. // 5.48 //


Therefore, while you are meeting the present moment, while death has yet to come, /

So long as you have the energy for practice, decide on better." // 5.49 //


Addressed thus by his benevolent and compassionate guide, /

Nanda said, "I shall do, Glorious One, all that you say, just as you teach it." // 5.50 //


At this the sage of Videha reclaimed him, and held him close as he led him off writhing, /

And then, while Nanda's eyes welled with tears, he separated the crowning glory of his hair from the royal umbrella of his head. // 5.51 //


As his hair was thus being banished, his tearful downcast face /

Resembled a rain-sodden lotus in a pond with the top of its stalk sagging down. // 5.52 //


Thence, in drab garb with the dull yellow-red colour of tree bark, and despondent as a newly-captured elephant, /

Nanda resembled a waning full moon at night's end, sprinkled by the powdery rays of the early morning sun. // 5.53 //


The 5th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Nanda Is Caused to Go Forth."








1 Or adherence – the original is singular.

2 Anya-mateḥ on the surface means heretical, non-Buddhist, skeptical, disbelieving, in a perjorative sense, but Aśvaghoṣa's real intention may be that the Buddha discouraged blind belief and valued the efforts of individuals to think his teaching out for themselves.

3 For futher examples of this use of anya, which means not only “other” or “different” but also “odd, individual, singular, alternative, unconventional,” see especially Canto 10.

4 Vihāra, which means walking for pleasure or amusement, and hence a place of recreation or pleasure-ground was the name given to a hall where monks met or walked about. It came to mean the grounds of a monastery or temple.

5 Alternative reading: “delight in [intellectual] knowledge is the sorriest delight.” If 'vidya is read, with the silent prefix a-, then the sentence means that ignorance is the sorriest bliss. With the silent prefix, the sentence means that [intellectual] knowledge is the sorriest bliss. The ambiguity may well be intentional.

6 The bhikṣu Ānanda, a cousin of the Buddha and Nanda, is the protagonist of Canto 11, in which he guides Nanda to understand the folly of aspiring to heavenly bliss, which can only ever be temporary.

7 The sage of Videha is an epithet of Ānanda. Videha corresponds to the area north of the Ganges which is now known as Tirhut, in the state of Bihar (Land of Vihāras).






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