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

As Nanda then was by Ānanda, made him deeply ashamed. // 12.1 //

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

His mind was downcast, due to disenchantment, and did not stick with practice. // 12.2 //

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

Nanda's motivation had matured to a point where neither could he disregard Ānanda's words. // 12.3 //

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

So on learning that it was perishable he was fiercely shocked. // 12.4 //

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

Was like a great chariot turned back from a wrong road by an attentive charioteer. // 12.5 //

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

He had given up something sweet that was bad for him, like a sick man finding the will to live. // 12.6 //

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

So also, when startled by their impermanence, did he put the apsarases behind him. // 12.7 //

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

And from his shock, though given to redness, he seemed to blanch.1 // 12.8 //

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

Just as the verb "to grow" is listed [after "to happen"] in the lexicon recited by students of grammar.2 // 12.9 //

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

Which is shown, in all three times, by the received usage of the irregularity which is "being."3 // 12.10 //

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

At a suitable moment, he approached the Guru, wishing to communicate his intention. // 12.11 //

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

He joined the palms of his hands and spoke as follows, his face somewhat lowered, because of shame:4 // 12.12 //

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

But for the nymphs I have no need; I relinquish your guarantee. // 12.13 //

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

Neither among mortal beings nor among heavenly beings does doing appeal to me.5 // 12.14 //

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

Men fall at last, unsatisfied, then homage to the heaven-bound who give up on the way. // 12.15 //

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. // 12.16 //

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.” // 12.17 //

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. // 12.25 //

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

For a fire of passion such as yours, O you whose face is turned to dharma, is being turned around. // 12.26 //

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

As when a thirsty traveller sees dirty water. // 12.27 //

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

Like the dust of a sand-storm blocking the light of the sun. // 12.28 //

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

Like that sunlight spewed forth from mount Meru which dispells the darkness of night. // 12.29 //

And this indeed befits a soul whose essence is simplicity: /

That you should have confidence in a better way which is ultimate and subtle.6 // 12.30 //

This wish for dharma, therefore, you should nurture; /

For all dharmas, O knower of dharma, invariably have wishing as their cause. // 12.31 //

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

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. // 12.32 //

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

And has need of water, then, with an effort of will, here the earth he digs. // 12.33 //

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

He would never twirl the stick. Those conditions being met, he does twirl the stick. // 12.34 //

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

Or without the need for corn, the farmer would not sow seeds in the earth. // 12.35 //

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

That grasps true dharma, as a hand naturally takes a gift. // 12.36 //

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

And because it relieves poverty of virtue I describe it as Wealth. // 12.37 //

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

And from the difficulty of finding it in this world I call it the Jewel. // 12.38 //

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

And for its cleansing action, in the washing away of wrong, again, I call it the River. // 12.39 //

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

Therefore I have named it after its effects in this case like this, in that case like that. // 12.40 //

This shoot of confidence, therefore, you should nurture; /

When it grows dharma grows, as a tree grows with the growth of its root. // 12.41 //

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

The confidence of that person is unsteady, for he is not veering in the direction he should. // 12.42 //

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

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." // 12.43 //

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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