Canto 14: ādi-prasthānaḥ
Stepping Into Action

Introduction

Ādi means start or beginning. Prasthāna is an -na neuter action noun from the verb pra-√sthā, which means to stand up or set out or march forth. So ādi-prasthāna suggests stepping forth in earnest on the noble path that leads in the direction of the cessation of suffering. It is in the context of such directed effort that the Buddha again emphasizes the importance of smṛti, mindfulness or awareness, as a defence against the faults which threaten our integrity in the everyday round – when we are taking food, and when we are going to sleep; when we are standing and walking and lying down; and even, ultimately, when we are sitting in solitude.

 

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atha smṛti-kavāṭena pidhāyendriya-saṁvaram /
bhojane bhava mātrā-jño dhyānāyānāmayāya ca // 14.1 //

And so using the floodgate of awareness Smṛti is translated in this Canto as awareness, mindfulness, or vigilance. In SN9.33 smṛti was translated as memory. 01 to close a dam on the power of the senses, / Know the measure, in eating food, that conduces to meditation and to health. // 14.1 //

prāṇāpānau nigṛṇhāti glāni-nidre prayacchati /
kṛto hy atyartham āhāro vihanti ca parākramam // 14.2 //

For it depresses in-breath and out-breath, and brings tiredness and sleepiness, / When food is taken in excess; it also destroys enterprise. Parākrama, enterprise or initiative, is one of the elements of the noble eightfold path – sometimes included under the heading of prajñā, and sometimes under samādhi. See SN16.32.02 // 14.2 //

yathā cātyartham āhāraḥ kṛto ’narthāya kalpate /
upayuktas tathātyalpo na sāmarthyāya kalpate // 14.3 //

And just as eating too much conduces to a dearth of value, / So eating too little makes for a lack of efficacy. // 14.3 //

ācayaṁ dyutim utsāhaṁ prayogaṁ balam eva ca /
bhojanaṁ kṛtam atyalpaṁ śarīrasyāpakarṣati // 14.4 //

Of its substance, lustre, and stamina; of its usefulness and its very strength, / A meagre diet deprives the body. // 14.4 //

yathā bhāreṇa namate laghunonnamate tulā /
samā tiṣṭhati yuktena bhojyeneyaṁ tathā tanuḥ // 14.5 //

Just as a weighing scale bends down with a heavy weight, bends upwards with a light one, / And stays in balance with the right one, so does this body according to intake of food. // 14.5 //

tasmād abhyavahartavyaṁ sva-śaktim anupaśyatā /
nātimātraṁ na cātyalpaṁ meyaṁ māna-vaśād api // 14.6 //

Therefore food is to be eaten, each reflecting on his own energy, / And none apportioning himself too much or too little under the influence of pride. // 14.6 //

atyākrānto hi kāyāgnir guruṇānnena śāmyati /
avacchanna ivālpo ’gniḥ sahasā mahatendhasā // 14.7 //

For the fire of the body is damped down when it is burdened by a heavy load of food, / Like a small blaze suddenly covered with a big heap of firewood. // 14.7 //

atyantam api saṁhāro nāhārasya praśasyate /
anāhāro hi nirvāti nirindhana ivānalaḥ // 14.8 //

Excessive fasting, also, is not recommended; / For one who does not eat is extinguished like a fire without fuel. // 14.8 //

yasmān nāsti vināhārāt sarva-prāṇabhṛtāṁ sthitiḥ /
tasmād duṣyati nāhāro vikalpo ’tra tu vāryate // 14.9 //

Since without food there is none that survives among those that bear breath, / Therefore eating food is not a sin; but being choosy, in this area, is prohibited. // 14.9 //

na hy eka-viṣaye ’nyatra sajyante prāṇinas tathā /
avijñāte yathāhāre boddhavyaṁ tatra kāraṇam // 14.10 //

For on no other single object are sentient beings so stuck / As on the heedless eating of food. To the reason for this one must be awake. // 14.10 //

cikitsārthaṁ yathā dhatte vraṇasyālepanaṁ vraṇī /
kṣud-vighātārtham āhāras tadvat sevyo mumukṣuṇā // 14.11 //

Just as one who is wounded, for the purpose of healing, puts ointment on a wound, / So does one who wills freedom, for the purpose of staving off hunger, eat food. // 14.11 //

bhārasyodvahanārthaṁ ca rathākṣo ’bhyajyate yathā /
bhojanaṁ prāṇa-yātrārthaṁ tadvad vidvān niṣevate // 14.12 //

Just as, in order to ready it for bearing a burden, one greases a wagon’s axle, / So, in order to journey through life, does the wise man utilize food. // 14.12 //

samatikramaṇārthaṁ ca kāntārasya yathādhvagau /
putra-māṁsāni khādetāṁ dampatī bhṛśa-duḥkhitau // 14.13 //

And just as two travellers in order to cross a wasteland / Might feed upon the flesh of a child, though grievously pained to do so, as its mother and father, // 14.13 //

evam abhyavahartavyaṁ bhojanaṁ pratisaṁkhyayā /
na bhūṣārthaṁ na vapuṣe na madāya na dṛptaye // 14.14 //

So food should be eaten, consciously, / Neither for display, nor for appearance; neither to excite hilarity, nor to feed extravagance. // 14.14 //

dhāraṇārthaṁ śarīrasya bhojanaṁ hi vidhīyate /
upastambhaḥ pipatiṣor durbalasyeva veśmanaḥ // 14.15 //

Food is provided for the upkeep of the body / As if to prop, before it falls, a dilapidated house. // 14.15 //

plavaṁ yatnād yathā kaś-cid badhnīyād dhārayed api /
na tat-snehena yāvat tu mahaughasyottitīrṣayā // 14.16 //

Just as somebody might take pains to build and then carry a raft, / Not because he is so fond of it but because he means to cross a great flood, // 14.16 //

tathopakaraṇaiḥ kāyaṁ dhārayanti parīkṣakāḥ /
na tat-snehena yāvat tu duḥkhaughasya titīrṣayā // 14.17 //

So too, by various means, do men of insight sustain the body, / Not because they are so fond of it but because they mean to cross a flood of suffering. // 14.17 //

śocatā pīḍyamānena dīyate śatrave yathā /
na bhaktyā nāpi tarṣeṇa kevalaṁ prāṇa-guptaye // 14.18 //

Just as [a king] under siege yields, in sorrow, to a rival king, / Not out of devotion, nor through thirsting, but solely to safeguard life, // 14.18 //

yogācāras tathāhāraṁ śarīrāya prayacchati /
kevalaṁ kṣud-vighātārthaṁ na rāgeṇa na bhaktaye // 14.19 //

So the devotee of practice tenders food to his body / Solely to stave off hunger, neither with passion nor as devotion. // 14.19 //

mano-dhāraṇayā caiva pariṇāmyātmavān ahaḥ /
vidhūya nidrāṁ yogena niśām apy atināmayeḥ // 14.20 //

Having passed the day self-possessed, through maintenance of the mind, / You may be able, shaking off sleep, to spend the night-time too in a state of practice. // 14.20 //

hṛdi yat saṁjñinaś caiva nidrā prādur bhavet tava /
guṇavat saṁjñitāṁ saṁjñāṁ tadā manasi mā kṛthāḥ // 14.21 //

Since even when you are conscious sleep might be holding out in your heart, / Consciousness properly revealing itself is nothing to be sure about. // 14.21 //

dhātur ārambha-dhṛtyoś ca sthāma-vikramayor api /
nityaṁ manasi kāryas te bādhyamānena nidrayā // 14.22 //

Initiative, constancy, inner strength and courage are the elements / Always to bear in mind while you are being oppressed by sleep. // 14.22 //

āmnātavyāś ca viśadaṁ te dharmā ye pariśrutāḥ /
parebhyaś copadeṣṭavyāḥ saṁcintyāḥ svayam eva ca // 14.23 //

Recite clearly those dharma-teachings that you have learnt; / Point others in their direction, and think them out for yourself. // 14.23 //

prakledyam adbhir vadanaṁ vilokyāḥ sarvato diśaḥ /
cāryā dṛṣṭiś ca tārāsu jijāgariṣuṇā sadā // 14.24 //

Wet the face with water, look around in all directions, / And glance at the stars, wanting always to be awake. // 14.24 //

antargatair acapalair vaśa-sthāyibhir indriyaiḥ /
avikṣiptena manasā caṁkramyasvāsva vā niśi // 14.25 //

By the means of inner senses Antargatair.. indriyaiḥ, “by means of internal senses,” would seem to refer primarily to the vestibular and proprioceptive senses. 03 that are not impetuous but in a state of subjection, / By the means of a mind that is not scattered, walk up and down at night or else sit. // 14.25 //

bhaye prītau ca śoke ca nidrayā nābhibhūyate /
tasmān nidrābhiyogeṣu sevitavyam idaṁ trayam // 14.26 //

In fear, in joy and in grief, one does not succumb to sleep; / Therefore against the onslaughts of sleep resort to these three: // 14.26 //

bhayam āgamanān mṛtyoḥ prītiṁ dharma-parigrahāt /
janma-duḥkhād aparyantāc chokam āgantum arhasi // 14.27 //

Feel fear from death’s approach, joy from grasping a teaching of dharma, / And from the boundless suffering inherent in a birth, feel the grief. // 14.27 //

evam-ādiḥ kramaḥ saumya kāryo jāgaraṇaṁ prati /
vandhyaṁ hi śayanād āyuḥ kaḥ prājñaḥ kartum arhati // 14.28 //

Such a step may need to be taken, my friend, in the direction of being awake; / For what wise man, out of sleep, makes a wasted life? // 14.28 //

doṣa-vyālān atikramya vyālān gṛha-gatān iva /
kṣamaṁ prājñasya na svaptuṁ nistitīrṣor mahad bhayam // 14.29 //

To neglect the reptilian faults, as if ignoring “As if stepping over snakes in the house” may be closer to the literal meaning of the original – ati-√kram means to step over, and hence to neglect. 04 snakes in the house, / And thus to slumber on, does not befit a man of wisdom who wishes to overcome the great terror. // 14.29 //

pradīpte jīvaloke hi mṛtyu-vyādhi-jarāgnibhiḥ /
kaḥ śayīta nirudvegaḥ pradīpta iva veśmani // 14.30 //

For while the world of the living burns with the fires of death, disease and aging, / Who could lie down insensibly, any more than in a burning house? // 14.30 //

tasmāt tama iti jñātvā nidrāṁ nāveṣṭum arhasi /
apraśānteṣu doṣeṣu sa-śastreṣv iva śatruṣu // 14.31 //

Therefore, knowing it to be darkness, you should not let sleep enshroud you / While the faults remain unquieted, like sword-wielding enemies. // 14.31 //

pūrvaṁ yāmaṁ tri-yāmāyāḥ prayogeṇātināmya tu /
sevyā śayyā śarīrasya viśrāmārthaṁ sva-tantriṇā // 14.32 //

But having spent the first of the three night-watches actively engaged in practice, / You should, as one who is pulling his own strings, Sva-tantrin, “being in possession of one’s own threads,” means not being amenable to manipulation by somebody else – hence, free, independent. 05 go to bed to rest the body. // 14.32 //

dakṣiṇena tu pārśvena sthitayāloka-saṁjñayā /
prabodhaṁ hṛdaye kṛtvā śayīthāḥ śānta-mānasaḥ // 14.33 //

On your right side, then, remaining conscious of light, / Thinking in your heart of wakefulness, you might with peace of mind fall asleep. // 14.33 //

yāme tṛtīye cotthāya carann āsīna eva vā /
bhūyo yogaṁ manaḥ-śuddhau kurvīthā niyatendriyaḥ // 14.34 //

Again, by getting up in the third watch and going into movement, or indeed just sitting, / You might renew your practice, with mind refreshed, and power of the senses curbed. // 14.34 //

athāsana-gata-sthāna-prekṣita-vyāhṛtādiṣu /
saṁprajānan kriyāḥ sarvāḥ smṛtim ādhātum arhasi // 14.35 //

And so, upon acts like sitting, moving, standing, looking, and speaking – / Being fully aware of every action – you should bring mindfulness to bear. // 14.35 //

dvārādhyakṣa iva dvāri yasya praṇihitā smṛtiḥ /
dharṣayanti na taṁ doṣāḥ puraṁ guptam ivārayaḥ // 14.36 //

When [a man], like a gatekeeper at his gate, is cocooned in vigilance, Praṇihitā smṛtiḥ could perhaps more literally be translated “with mindfulness placed in front.” Pra-ṇi-√dhā means to place in front, to cause to precede. At the same time the meanings of praṇihita include 1. laid on, applied; and 2. directed towards (with locative). The former meaning has been taken here. Since dvari (gate) is locative, EHJ took the latter meaning and translated, “The man, whose attention is directed towards the door (of his actions) like a doorkeeper towards his door....” I have taken praṇihitā smṛtiḥ, “mindfulness being laid on” to suggest a situation in which the practitioner is as if blanketed in mindfulness, or as if wearing the armour of reflective awareness (SN13.37; 14.38), or as if cocooned in vigilance. In any case, the point to take from these metaphors might be that mindfulness is not necessarily a state of narrow focus; on the contrary, it might be a state of un-concentration, or all-round vigilance. 06 / The faults do not venture to attack him, any more than enemies would attack a guarded city. // 14.36 //

na tasyotpadyate kleśo yasya kāya-gatā smṛtiḥ /
cittaṁ sarvāsv avasthāsu bālaṁ dhātrīva rakṣati // 14.37 //

No affliction arises in him for whom awareness pervades the body – / Guarding the mind in all situations, as a nurse protects a child. // 14.37 //

śaravyaḥ sa tu doṣāṇāṁ yo hīnaḥ smṛti-varmaṇā /
raṇa-sthaḥ pratiśatrūṇāṁ vihīna iva varmaṇā // 14.38 //

But he is a target for the faults who lacks the armour of mindfulness: / As for enemies is he who stands in battle EHJ notes a play on the word raṇa, which means battle but is also a synonym of kleśa (affliction). 07 with no suit of armour. // 14.38 //

anāthaṁ tan-mano jñeyaṁ yat smṛtir nābhirakṣati /
nirṇetā dṛṣṭi-rahito viṣayeṣu carann iva // 14.39 //

Know to be vulnerable that mind which vigilance does not guard – / Like a blind man without a guide groping after objects. Both palm-leaf and paper manuscripts have viṣayeṣu carann, which means “moving himself in the direction of sense objects,” or “living in the realm of sensual enjoyments.” Based on Gawronki’s conjecture, EHJ amended to viṣameṣu carann (going over uneven ground). 08 // 14.39 //

anartheṣu prasaktāś ca svārthebhyaś ca parāṅmukhā /
yad bhaye sati nodvignāḥ smṛti-nāśo ’tra kāraṇam // 14.40 //

When [men] attach to meaningless aims and turn away from their proper aims, Thus, mindfulness as the Buddha taught it is associated with directed effort. 09 / Failing to shudder at the danger, loss of mindfulness is the cause. // 14.40 //

sva-bhūmiṣu guṇāḥ sarve ye ca śīlādayaḥ sthitāḥ /
vikīrṇā iva gā gopaḥ smṛtis tān anugacchati // 14.41 //

Again, when each virtue, beginning with integrity, is standing on its own patch, / Mindfulness goes after those virtues like a herdsman rounding up his scattered cows. // 14.41 //

pranaṣṭam amṛtaṁ tasya yasya viprasṛtā smṛtiḥ /
hasta-stham amṛtaṁ tasya yasya kāya-gatā smṛtiḥ // 14.42 //

The deathless nectar is lost to him whose awareness dissipates; / The nectar exists in the hands of him for whom awareness pervades the body. // 14.42 //

āryo nyāyaḥ kutas tasya smṛtir yasya na vidyate /
yasyāryo nāsti ca nyāyaḥ pranaṣṭas tasya sat-pathaḥ // 14.43 //

Where is the noble principle of a man who lacks awareness? / And for whom no noble principle exists, to him a true path has been lost. Again, the Buddha is taking pains to connect his teaching of mindfulness with directed effort on the noble eightfold path. The point is underlined in SN16.33. 10// 14.43 //

pranaṣṭo yasya sanmārgo naṣṭaṁ tasyāmṛtaṁ padam /
pranaṣṭam amṛtaṁ yasya sa duḥkhān na vimucyate // 14.44 //

He who has lost the right track has lost the deathless step. / Having lost that nectar of deathlessness, he is not exempt from suffering. // 14.44 //

tasmāc caran caro ’smīti sthito ’smīti ca dhiṣṭhitaḥ /
evam-ādiṣu kāleṣu smṛtim ādhātum arhasi // 14.45 //

Therefore walking with the awareness that “I am walking” and standing with the awareness that “I am standing” – / Upon such moments EHJ queried reading kāryeṣu for kāleṣu. That would give “Upon such actions as these, you should bring mindfulness to bear.”11 as these, you should bring mindfulness to bear. // 14.45 //

yogānulomaṁ vijanaṁ viśabdaṁ śayyāsanaṁ saumya tathā bhajasva /
kāyasya kṛtvā hi vivekam ādau sukho ’dhigantuṁ manaso vivekaḥ // 14.46 //

In this manner, my friend, repair to a place suited for practice, free of people and free of noise, a place for lying down and sitting; / For by first achieving solitude of the body it is easy to obtain solitude of the mind. // 14.46 //

alabdha-cetaḥ-praśamaḥ sa-rāgo yo na pracāraṁ bhajate viviktam /
sa kṣaṇyate hy apratilabdha-mārgaś carann ivorvyāṁ bahu-kaṇṭakāyām // 14.47 //

The man of redness, the tranquillity of his mind unrealized, who does not take to a playground of solitude, / Is injured as though, unable to regain a track, he is walking on very thorny ground. // 14.47 //

adṛṣṭa-tattvena parīkṣakeṇa sthitena citre viṣaya-pracāre /
cittaṁ niṣeddhuṁ na sukhena śakyaṁ kṛṣṭādako gaur iva sasya-madhyāt // 14.48 //

For a seeker who fails to see reality but stands in the tawdry playground of objects, / It is no easier to rein in the mind than to drive a foraging bull away from corn. // 14.48 //

anīryamāṇas tu yathānilena praśāntim āgacchati citra-bhānuḥ /
alpena yatnena tathā vivikteṣv aghaṭṭitaṁ śāntim upaiti cetaḥ // 14.49 //

But just as a bright fire dies down when not fanned by the wind, / So too, in solitary places, does an unstirred mind easily come to quiet. // 14.49 //

kva-cid bhuktvā yat-tad vasanam api yat-tat parihito
vasann ātmārāmaḥ kva-cana vijane yo ’bhiramate /
kṛtārthaḥ sa jñeyaḥ śama-sukha-rasa-jñaḥ kṛta-matiḥ
pareṣāṁ saṁsargaṁ pariharati yaḥ kaṇṭakam iva // 14.50 //

One who eats anything at any place, and wears any clothes, / Who dwells in enjoyment of his own being and loves to be anywhere without people: / He is to be known as a success, a knower of the taste of peace and ease, whose mind is made up – / He avoids involvement with others like a thorn. // 14.50 //

yadi dvandvārāme jagati viṣaya-vyagra-hṛdaye
vivikte nirdvando viharati kṛtī śānta-hṛdayaḥ /
tataḥ pītvā prajñā-rasam amṛtavat tṛpta-hṛdayo
viviktaḥ saṁsaktaṁ viṣaya-kṛpaṇaṁ śocati jagat // 14.51 //

If, in a world that delights in duality and is at heart distracted by objects, / He roves in solitude, free of duality, a man of action, his heart at peace, / Then he drinks the essence of wisdom as if it were the deathless nectar and his heart is filled. / Separately he sorrows for the clinging, object-needy world. // 14.51 //

vasañ śūnyāgāre yadi satatam eko ’bhiramate
yadi kleśotpādaiḥ saha na ramate śatrubhir iva /
carann ātmārāmo yadi ca pibati prīti-salilaṁ
tato bhuṅkte śreṣṭhaṁ tridaśa-pati-rājyād api sukham // 14.52 //

If he constantly abides as a unity, in an empty abode, / If he is no fonder of arisings of affliction than he is of enemies, / And if, going rejoicing in the self, he drinks the water of joy, / Then greater than dominion over thirty gods Tridaśa-pati-rājya, “the realm of the lord of the 3 x 10,” means heaven, i.e, the kingdom of Indra, ruler of the 33 gods (10 being approximately equal to 11). The 33 gods are the 12 ādityas (“sons of the Eternal and Infinite Expanse [= the Goddess Aditi]”), 8 vasus (“good or bright ones”), 11 rudras (“howlers”; storm-gods), and the 2 aśvins (“charioteers”). 12 is the happiness he enjoys.// 14.52 //

/ saundara-nanda mahākāvya ādi-prasthāno nāma caturdaśaḥ sargaḥ//14//
The 14th canto of the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled “Stepping Into Action.”