Canto 15: vitarka-prahāṇaḥ
Abandoning Ideas


Vitarka means thought or idea, and prahāṇa is an -na neuter action noun from pra-√hā, to abandon or give up. So vitarka-prahāṇaḥ means giving up thoughts or abandoning ideas. And the fundamental means of giving up troublesome ideas, the Buddha teaches Nanda in the present Canto, is, again, smṛti, mindfulness or awareness.

In the preceding two cantos the Buddha has described how the armour of mindfulness protects śīla, the discipline of integrity. In the present Canto the Buddha’s extolling of mindfulness seems mainly to relate to samādhi, meditative balance. For the abandoning of ideas, the Buddha tells Nanda in verse 64, he should master mindfulness of inward and outward breathing – this mindfulness to be practised, the Buddha recommends from the outset, with the legs crossed in the traditional way and the body directed upward.

Thus, insofar as the cause of trouble is the idea of gaining some end, that troublesome idea can be countered, in sitting, by mindfulness as a means, and can be countered by mindfulness of sitting as a means.

At the same time, in verse 5 the Buddha introduces the option of using not only one’s mindfulness and not only one’s sitting but also bhāvanā, cultivation or development of one’s mind, to extinguish what lies behind troublesome desires, like using water to put out a fire.

Again, where negative thoughts are associated with specific afflictive emotions, the Buddha in verses 13-14 advises cultivation of specific antidotes – so that, for example, goodwill can be cultivated as the antidote to ill will.

In the closing verses of the Canto these various skillful efforts to cleanse the mind, eliminating faults in the order of their grossness, and to develop the mind, are compared to the efforts of the dirt-washing miner and the goldsmith, whose job it is to produce gold.



yatra tatra vivikte tu baddhvā paryaṅkam uttamam /
ṛjuṁ kāyaṁ samādhāya smṛtyābhimukhayānvitaḥ // 15.1 //

In whatever place of solitude you are, cross the legs in the supreme manner / And align the body so that it tends straight upward; Ṛjum is (according to the MW dictionary) lit. “tending in a straight direction.” See also SN17.4. 01 thus attended by awareness that is directed... // 15.1 //

nāsāgre vā lalāṭe vā bhruvor antara eva vā /
kurvīthāś capalaṁ cittam ālambana-parāyaṇam // 15.2 //

Towards the tip of the nose or towards the forehead, or in between the eyebrows, / Let the inconstant mind be fully engaged with the fundamental. Ālambana-parāyaṇam. Ālambana means 1. depending or resting on, and hence 2. foundation, base (but see also MMK ch. 1, where ālambanam is the 2nd pratyaya of four). As the second half of a compound, parāyaṇa means making anything one’s chief object, being wholly devoted to or engaged in. EHJ took ālambana-parāyaṇam to mean “wholly intent.” Thus: “You should make your wandering mind wholly intent on an object such as the tip of your nose or your forehead or the space between the brows.” An alternative reading is that being fully engaged with the fundamental, or being wholly devoted to the foundation, describes practice that is directed towards the ending of suffering. 02// 15.2 //

sacet kāma-vitarkas tvāṁ dharṣayen mānaso jvaraḥ /
kṣeptavyo nādhivāsyaḥ sa vastre reṇur ivāgataḥ // 15.3 //

If some desirous idea, a fever of the mind, should venture to offend you, / Entertain no scent of it but shake it off as if pollen had landed on your robe. // 15.3 //

yady api pratisaṁkhyānāt kāmān utsṛṣṭavān asi /
tamāṁsīva prakāśena pratipakṣeṇa tāñ jahi // 15.4 //

Even if, as a result of calm consideration, you have let go of desires, / You must, as if shining light into darkness, Tamas (here used in the plural, tamaṁsi) means 1. darkness, and by extension 2. ignorance. 03 abolish them by means of opposition. Pratipakṣeṇa means “by means of [their] opposite” or “by means of opposition.” The opposite of desirous ideas, insofar as those ideas are unconscious, might be conscious awareness itself (as suggested by verses 64 and 65). Again, insofar as desirous ideas are associated with discontentment, that discontentment might be countered by the cultivation of joy. But the most likely reading here would seem to be that the ignorance which is darkness is to be abolished by the wisdom which is symbolized by light. 04// 15.4 //

tiṣṭhaty anuśayas teṣāṁ channo ’gnir iva bhasmanā /
sa te bhāvanayā saumya praśāmyo ’gnir ivāmbunā // 15.5 //

What lies behind those desires sleeps on, The 1st pāda is more literally translated: “The dormant tendency (anuśayaḥ) behind those [desires] (teṣāṃ) remains (tiṣṭhati).” Seven dormant or latent tendencies, as listed in DN33, are: sensual greed, resentment, holding views, doubt, conceit, undue interest in becoming, and ignorance (see SN17.58). Since the Buddha refers in the singular to the object to be extinguished, however, again we can think that here he was targetting mainly ignorance. 05 like a fire covered with ashes; / You are to extinguish it, my friend, by the means of mental development, Bhāvanā, lit. means “bringing into being,” and hence developing or cultivating [the mind]. In Tibetan and Theravādan practice, bhāvanā is sometimes translated as “meditation,” but in the present work “meditation” has been reserved as a translation of dhyāna, which lit. means “thinking, reflecting, contemplating, meditating.” The practice known in Japan as 坐禅, zazen, means “sitting-dhyāna.” Zazen (or “just sitting”) can also be revered as a practice of bhāvanā, by which the ignorance that sleeps behind end-gaining desires is extinguished, through cultivation of the wisdom of non-doing. From verse 12, however, the Buddha evidently has in mind the use of specific antidotes to specific afflictive emotions. 06 as if using water to put out a fire. // 15.5 //

te hi tasmāt pravartante bhūyo bījād ivāṅkurāḥ /
tasya nāśena te na syur bīja-nāśād ivāṅkurāḥ // 15.6 //

For from that source they re-emerge, like shoots from a seed. / In its absence they would be no more – like shoots in the absence of a seed. // 15.6 //

arjanādīni kāmebhyo dṛṣṭvā duḥkhāni kāminām /
tasmāt tān mūlataś chindhi mitra-saṁjñān arīn iva // 15.7 //

See how acquisition and other troubles stem from the desires of men of desire, / And on that basis cut off at their root those troubles, which are akin to enemies calling themselves friends. // 15.7 //

anityā moṣa-dharmāṇo riktā vyasana-hetavaḥ /
bahu-sādhāraṇāḥ kāmā barhyā hy āśī-viṣā iva // 15.8 //

Fleeting desires; desires which bring privation; flighty Rikta means empty, void, hollow, worthless. At the same time, in augury rikta is the name of one of the four wagtails which serve for omens. 07 desires, which are the causes of wagging to and fro; Vyasana means the wagging of a tail, or moving to and fro, and hence what does not go smoothly, a calamity or disaster. 08 / And common desires, are to be dealt with The meaning of barhyāḥ here is uncertain, except that the word is a gerundive, meaning “to be –ed.” On a superificial reading, the suggestion is that pesky desires should simply be got rid of. Hence EHJ translated “the passions should be killed like poisonous snakes.” EHJ noted: “neither barhyā nor varhyā is satisfactory in d and on the strength of Abhidharma-kośa, IV, p. 10... I would read vadhyā [to be killed, destroyed].” For √barh, the dictionary gives various meanings including to speak, to hurt, to cover, and (possibly significant in light of verse 4) to shine. Perhaps the suggestion below the surface is that a good strategy in dealing with poisonous snakes, before rushing in to try and kill them, is to shine a light on them to see where they are hiding, and to keep a careful eye on them. 09 like poisonous snakes – // 15.8 //

ye mṛgyamāṇā duḥkhāya rakṣyamāṇā na śāntaye /
bhraṣṭāḥ śokāya mahate prāptāś ca na vitṛptaye // 15.9 //

The chasing of which leads to trouble, the keeping of which does not conduce to peace, / And the losing of which makes for great anguish. Securing them does not bring contentment. // 15.9 //

tṛptiṁ vitta-prakarṣeṇa svargāvāptyā kṛtārthatām /
kāmebhyaś ca sukhotpattiṁ yaḥ paśyati sa naśyati // 15.10 //

Satisfaction through extra-ordinary wealth; success through the gaining of paradise, / And happiness born from desires: he who sees these things comes to nothing. Kāma, desire, is a broad concept. In the plural, its meanings include “objects of desire” (see SN9.47; 11.37). At the same time, in the singular and in the sense of subjective volition, it may mean the same as chanda (“wishing”) as in dharma-cchandam, “the wish for dharma” (SN12.31). So is the real intention of this series of verses about desires necessarily what it seems to be on the surface? For example, isn’t the gift of confidence the imparting of a kind of wealth? Was not Nanda’s trip to Indra’s paradise instrumental in his ultimate success? And in realizing that success, did Nanda become something? Or is it truer to say that he came to nothing? 10 // 15.10 //

calān apariniṣpannān asārān anavasthitān /
parikalpa-sukhān kāmān na tān smartum ihārhasi // 15.11 //

Pay no heed to the changeable, unformed, insubstantial and ungrounded desires, / Which are presumed to bring happiness; being here and now, you need pay no heed to those desires. The ostensible meaning is as per EHJ: “Take heed (arhasi) not to fix your attention (na smartum) in this world (iha) on the passions (kāmān... tān).” The deeper hidden teaching might be “Being here and now (iha), you need not (na arhasi) be [overly] mindful (smartum) about those desires (kāmān... tān).” In the hidden meaning, in other words, the Buddha might be encouraging Nanda not to worry too much about desires per se – because the central gist of the Buddha’s teaching is not, as in misguided asceticism, to put an end to desire; it is rather to veer towards alleviation of suffering. 11 // 15.11 //

vyāpādo vā vihiṁsā vā kṣobhayed yadi te manaḥ /
prasādyaṁ tad-vipakṣeṇa maṇinevākulaṁ jalam // 15.12 //

If hatred or cruelty should stir up your mind, / Let it be charmed by their opposite, as turbid water is by a jewel. // 15.12 //

pratipakṣas tayor jñeyo maitrī kāruṇyam eva ca /
virodho hi tayor nityaṁ prakāśa-tamasor iva // 15.13 //

Know their opposite to be kindness and compassion; / For this opposition is forever like brightness and darkness. I.e, goodwill rules out ill will in the way that brightness instantly rules out darkness – brightness and darkness, symbols of wisdom and ignorance, cannot exist simultaneously. 12 // 15.13 //

nivṛttaṁ yasya dauḥśīlyaṁ vyāpādaś ca pravartate /
hanti pāṁsubhir ātmānaṁ su-snāta iva vāraṇaḥ // 15.14 //

He in whom wrongdoing has been given up and yet hatred carries on, / Hits himself with dust like an elephant after a good bath. Insofar as vyāpāda means (as per MW) “evil intent” or “malice,” this verse is probably best taken at face value. But if hidden meaning is sought here, one thinks of a metaphorical elephant like Zen Master Dogen who in Shobogenzo chap. 73 expressed intense hatred towards the attitude of so-called monks in China who were mainly interested in garnering their own fame and profit. 13 // 15.14 //

duḥkhitebhyo hi martyebhyo vyādhi-mṛtyu-jarādibhiḥ /
āryaḥ ko duḥkham aparaṁ sa-ghṛṇo dhātum arhati // 15.15 //

Upon mortal beings who are pained by sickness, dying, aging, and the rest, / What noble person with human warmth would lay the utmost pain? Duḥkham aparam can be read (as per EHJ) as “further suffering,” in which case aparam means “further.” But aparam can also mean “having nothing beyond” or “having no superior” – i.e. being of the highest order, being supremely valuable. So, again, if hidden meaning is sought here, one could question whether the Buddha, for example, with utmost human warmth, laid the utmost pain on Nanda and Sundarī. 14 // 15.15 //

duṣṭena ceha manasā bādhyate vā paro na vā /
sadyas tu dahyate tāvat svaṁ mano duṣṭa-cetasaḥ // 15.16 //

Again, a tainted mind here and now may or may not trouble the other; / But instantly burned up in this moment is the mind of the man of tainted consciousness himself. Ostensibly the point is that anger, for example, is primarily damaging to the health of the angry person. The deeper meaning may be related with Nāgārjuna’s observation that Whatever is the cusp of nirvāṇa, is the cusp of saṁsāra. Between the two, not the slightest gap is to be found. (MMK25.20). 15// 15.16 //

tasmāt sarveṣu bhūteṣu maitrīṁ kāruṇyameva ca /
na vyāpādaṁ vihiṁsāṁ vā vikalpayitum arhasi // 15.17 //

On this basis, towards all beings, it is kindness and compassion, / Not hatred or cruelty, that you should opt for. // 15.17 //

yad-yad eva prasaktaṁ hi vitarkayati mānavaḥ /
abhyāsāt tena-tenāsya natir bhavati cetasaḥ // 15.18 //

For whatever a human being continually thinks, / In that direction, through habit, the mind of this person veers. // 15.18 //

tasmād akuśalaṁ tyaktvā kuśalaṁ dhyātum arhasi /
yat te syād iha cārthāya paramārthasya cāptaye // 15.19 //

Therefore disregarding what is not helpful focus on what is helpful, / Which might be valuable for you here and now and might be for the reaching of ultimate value. // 15.19 //

saṁvardhante hy akuśalā vitarkāḥ saṁbhṛtā hṛdi /
anartha-janakās tulyam ātmanaś ca parasya ca // 15.20 //

For unhelpful thoughts carried in the heart densely grow, / Producing in equal measure nothing of value for the self and for the other. // 15.20 //

śreyaso vighna-karaṇād bhavanty ātma-vipattaye /
pātrībhāvopaghātāt tu para-bhakti-vipattaye // 15.21 //

Because they make obstacles on the better path, they lead to the falling apart of the self; / And because they undermine the worthy condition, they lead to the falling apart of the other’s trust. // 15.21 //

manaḥ-karmasv avikṣepam api cābhyastum arhasi /
na tv evākuśalaṁ saumya vitarkayitum arhasi // 15.22 //

Concentration during activities of the mind, you should certainly practise too. / But above all, my friend, nothing unhelpful should you think. // 15.22 //

yā tri-kāmopabhogāya cintā manasi vartate /
na ca taṁ guṇam āpnoti bandhanāya ca kalpate // 15.23 //

That anxious thought of enjoying the three desires The three desires can be understood as the desire to get something, the desire to become something, and the desire to be rid of something. 16 which churns in the mind / Does not meet with merit, but produces bondage. // 15.23 //

sattvānām upaghātāya parikleśāya cātmanaḥ /
mohaṁ vrajati kāluṣyaṁ narakāya ca vartate // 15.24 //

Tending to cause offence to living beings and torment for oneself, / Disturbed thinking Kāluṣya (from kaluṣa, turbid) means 1. foulness, dirtiness, turbidness, opacity; 2. disturbance or interruption of harmony. 17 becomes delusion and leads to hell. // 15.24 //

tad vitarkair akuśalair nātmānaṁ hantum arhasi /
suśastraṁ ratna-vikṛtaṁ mṛdd-hato gāṁ khanann iva // 15.25 //

With unhelpful thoughts, therefore, you should not mar your self / – Which is a good sword and bejewelled – as if you were digging the earth and getting spattered with mud. // 15.25 //

an-abhijño yathā jātyaṁ dahed aguru kāṣṭhavat /
a-nyāyena manuṣyatvam upahanyād idaṁ tathā // 15.26 //

Just as an ignoramus might burn as firewood the best aloes, / So, wrong-headedly, would one waste this state of being human. // 15.26 //

tyaktvā ratnaṁ yathā loṣṭaṁ ratna-dvīpāc ca saṁharet /
tyaktvā naiḥśreyasaṁ dharmaṁ cintayed aśubhaṁ tathā // 15.27 //

Again, just as he might leave the jewel and carry away from the jewel-island a clod, / So would one leave the dharma that leads to happiness and think evil. // 15.27 //

himavantaṁ yathā gatvā viṣaṁ bhuñjīta nauṣadham /
manuṣyatvaṁ tathā prāpya pāpaṁ seveta no śubham // 15.28 //

Just as he might go to the Himālayas and eat not herbs but poison, / So would one arrive at being a human being and do not good but harm. // 15.28 //

tad buddhvā pratipakṣeṇa vitarkaṁ kṣeptum arhasi /
sūkṣmeṇa pratikīlena kīlaṁ dārv-antarād iva // 15.29 //

Being awake to this, you must see off thought by antagonistic means, Pratipakṣeṇa, as in verse 4, means “by antagonistic means” or “by means of opposition.” The opposition the Buddha seems to have in mind in the following long section is the challenging of general assumptions by detailed investigation of what really is. 18 / As if using a finely-honed counter-wedge to drive a wedge from a cleft in a log. // 15.29 //

vṛddhy-avṛddhyor atha bhavec cintā jñāti-janaṁ prati /
svabhāvo jīva-lokasya parīkṣyas tan-nivṛttaye // 15.30 //

And so, should there be anxiety about whether or not your family is prospering, / Investigate the nature of the world of the living in order to put a stop to it. // 15.30 //

saṁsāre kṛṣyamāṇānāṁ sattvānāṁ svena karmaṇā /
ko janaḥ sva-janaḥ ko vā mohāt sakto jane janaḥ // 15.31 //

Among beings dragged by our own doing through the cycle of saṁsāra / Who are our own people, and who are other people? It is through ignorance that people attach to people. // 15.31 //

atīte ’dhvani saṁvṛttaḥ sva-jano hi janas tava /
aprāpte cādhvani janaḥ sva-janas te bhaviṣyati // 15.32 //

For one who turned on a bygone road into a relative, is a stranger to you; Janas tava, lit. “a person to you,” means in other words (contrasted with sva-jana), just another person, a stranger. 19 / And a stranger, on a road to come, will become your relative. // 15.32 //

vihagānāṁ yathā sāyaṁ tatra tatra samāgamaḥ /
jātau jātau tathāśleṣo janasya sva-janasya ca // 15.33 //

Just as birds in the evening flock together at separate locations, / So is the mingling over many generations of one’s own and other people. // 15.33 //

pratiśrayaṁ bahu-vidhaṁ saṁśrayanti yathādhvagāḥ /
pratiyānti punas tyaktvā tadvaj jñāti-samāgamaḥ // 15.34 //

Just as, under any old roof, travellers shelter together / And then go again their separate ways, so are relatives joined. // 15.34 //

loke prakṛti-bhinne ’smin na kaś-cit kasya-cit priyaḥ /
kārya-kāraṇa-sambaddhaṁ bālukā-muṣṭivaj jagat // 15.35 //

In this originally shattered world nobody is the beloved of anybody. / Held together by cause and effect, humankind is like sand in a clenched fist. // 15.35 //

bibharti hi sutaṁ mātā dhārayiṣyati mām iti /
mātaraṁ bhajate putro garbheṇādhatta mām iti // 15.36 //

For mother cherishes son thinking “He will keep me,” / And son honours mother thinking “She bore me in her womb.” // 15.36 //

anukūlaṁ pravartante jñātiṣu jñātayo yadā /
tadā snehaṁ prakurvanti riputvaṁ tu viparyayāt // 15.37 //

As long as relatives act agreeably towards each other, / They engender affection; but otherwise it is enmity. // 15.37 //

ahito dṛśyate jñātir ajñātir dṛśyate hitaḥ /
snehaṁ kāryāntarāl lokaś chinatti ca karoti ca // 15.38 //

A close relation is demonstrably unfriendly; a stranger proves to be a friend. / By the different things they do, folk break and make affection. // 15.38 //

svayam eva yathālikhya rajyec citra-karaḥ striyam /
tathā kṛtvā svayaṁ snehaṁ saṁgam eti jane janaḥ // 15.39 //

Just as an artist, all by himself, might fall in love with a woman he painted, / So, each generating attachment by himself, do people become attached to one another. // 15.39 //

yo ’bhavad bāndhava-janaḥ para-loke priyas tava /
sa te kam arthaṁ kurute tvaṁ vā tasmai karoṣi kam // 15.40 //

That relation who, in another life, was so dear to you: /
What use to you is he? What use to him are you? // 15.40 //

tasmāj jñāti-vitarkeṇa mano nāveṣṭum arhasi /
vyavasthā nāsti saṁsāre sva-janasya janasya ca // 15.41 //

With thoughts about close relatives, therefore, you should not enshroud the mind. / There is no abiding difference, in the flux of saṁsāra, between one’s own people and people in general. // 15.41 //

asau kṣemo janapadaḥ subhikṣo ’sāv asau śivaḥ /
ity evam atha jāyeta vitarkas tava kaś-cana // 15.42 //

“That country is an easy place to live; that one is well-provisioned; that one is happy.” / If there should arise any such idea in you, // 15.42 //

praheyaḥ sa tvayā saumya nādhivāsyaḥ kathaṁ-cana /
viditvā sarvam ādīptaṁ tais-tair doṣāgnibhir jagat // 15.43 //

You are to give it up, my friend, and not entertain it in any way, / Knowing the whole world to be ablaze with the manifold fires of the faults. // 15.43 //

ṛtu-cakra-nivartāc ca kṣut-pipāsā-klamād api /
sarvatra niyataṁ duḥkhaṁ na kva-cid vidyate śivam // 15.44 //

Again, from the turning of the circle of the seasons, and from hunger, thirst and fatigue, / Everywhere suffering is the rule. Not somewhere is happiness found. // 15.44 //

kva-cic chītaṁ kva-cid gharmaḥ kva-cid rogo bhayaṁ kva-cit /
bādhate ’bhyadhikaṁ lokaṁ tasmād aśaraṇaṁ jagat // 15.45 //

Here cold, there heat; here disease, there danger / Oppress humanity in the extreme. The world, therefore, has no place of refuge. // 15.45 //

jarā vyādhiś ca mṛtyuś ca lokasyāsya mahad bhayam /
nāsti deśaḥ sa yatrāsya tad bhayaṁ nopapadyate // 15.46 //

Aging, sickness and death are the great terror of this world. / There is no place where that terror does not arise. // 15.46 //

yatra gacchati kāyo ’yaṁ duḥkhaṁ tatrānugacchati /
nāsti kā-cid gatir loke gato yatra na bādhyate // 15.47 //

Where this body goes there suffering follows. / There is no way in the world going on which one is not afflicted. // 15.47 //

ramaṇīyo ’pi deśaḥ san su-bhikṣaḥ kṣema eva ca /
ku-deśa iti vijñeyo yatra kleśair vidahyate // 15.48 //

Even an area that is pleasant, abundant in provisions, and safe, / Should be regarded as a deprived area where burn the fires of affliction. // 15.48 //

lokasyābhyāhatasyāsya duḥkhaiḥ śārīra-mānasaiḥ /
kṣemaḥ kaś-cin na deśo ’sti svastho yatra gato bhavet // 15.49 //

In this world beset by hardships physical and mental, / There is no cosy place to which one might go and be at ease. // 15.49 //

duḥkhaṁ sarvatra sarvasya vartate sarvadā yadā /
chanda-rāgam ataḥ saumya loka-citreṣu mā kṛthāḥ // 15.50 //

While suffering, everywhere and for everyone, continues at every moment, / You are not to enthuse, my friend, over the world’s shimmering images. // 15.50 //

yadā tasmān nivṛttas te chanda-rāgo bhaviṣyati /
jīva-lokaṁ tadā sarvam ādīptam iva maṁsyate // 15.51 //

When your enthusiasm is turned back from all that, / The whole living world you will deem to be, as it were, on fire. // 15.51 //

atha kaś-cid vitarkas te bhaved amaraṇāśrayaḥ /
yatnena sa vihantavyo vyādhir ātmagato yathā // 15.52 //

Any idea you might have, then, that has to do with not dying, / Is, with an effort of will, to be obliterated as a disorder of your whole being. // 15.52 //

muhūrtam api viśrambhaḥ kāryo na khalu jīvite /
nilīna iva hi vyāghraḥ kālo viśvasta-ghātakaḥ // 15.53 //

Not a moment of trust is to be placed in life, / For, like a tiger lying in wait, Time Kāla means Time and equally, since time is the destroyer of all things, Death. 20 slays the unsuspecting. // 15.53 //

balastho ’haṁ yuvā veti na te bhavitum arhati /
mṛtyuḥ sarvāsv avasthāsu hanti nāvekṣate vayaḥ // 15.54 //

That “I am young,” or “I am strong,” should not occur to you: / Death kills in all situations without regard for sprightliness. // 15.54 //

kṣetra-bhūtam anarthānāṁ śarīraṁ parikarṣataḥ /
svāsthy-āśā jīvitāśā vā na dṛṣṭārthasya jāyate // 15.55 //

As he drags about that field of misfortunes which is a body, / Expectations of well-being or of continuing life do not arise in one who is observant. // 15.55 //

nirvṛtaḥ ko bhavet kāyaṁ mahā-bhūtāśrayaṁ vahan /
paraspara-viruddhānām ahīnām iva bhājanam // 15.56 //

Who could be complacent carrying around a body, a receptacle for the elements, / Which is like a basket full of snakes each opposed to another? // 15.56 //

praśvasity ayam anvakṣaṁ yad ucchvasiti mānavaḥ /
avagaccha tad-āścaryam aviśvāsyaṁ hi jīvitam // 15.57 //

That a man Ayam... manavaḥ is lit. “this man.” 21 draws breath and next time around breathes in again, / Know to be a wonder; for staying alive is nothing to breathe easy about. // 15.57 //

idam āścaryam aparaṁ yat suptaḥ pratibudhyate /
svapity utthāya vā bhūyo bahv-amitrā hi dehinaḥ // 15.58 //

Here is another wonder: that one who was asleep wakes up / Or, having been up, goes back to sleep; for many enemies has the owner of a body. // 15.58 //

garbhāt prabhṛti yo lokaṁ jighāṁsur anugacchati /
kas tasmin viśvasen mṛtyāv udyatāsāv arāv iva // 15.59 //

He who stalks humankind, from the womb onwards, with murderous intent: / Who can breath easy about him? Death, poised like an enemy with sword upraised. // 15.59 //

prasūtaḥ puruṣo loke śrutavān balavān api /
na jayaty antakaṁ kaś-cin nājayan nāpi jeṣyati // 15.60 //

No man born into the world, however endowed with learning and power, / Ever defeats Death, maker of ends, nor has ever defeated him, nor ever will defeat him. // 15.60 //

sāmnā dānena bhedena daṇḍena niyamena vā /
prāpto hi rabhaso mṛtyuḥ pratihantuṁ na śakyate // 15.61 //

For cajoling, bribing, dividing, or the use of force or restraint, / When impetuous Death has arrived, are powerless to beat him back. // 15.61 //

tasmān nāyuṣi viśvāsaṁ cañcale kartum arhasi /
nityaṁ harati kālo hi sthāviryaṁ na pratīkṣate // 15.62 //

So place no trust in teetering life, / For Time is always carrying it off and does not wait for old age. // 15.62 //

niḥsāraṁ paśyato lokaṁ toya-budbuda-durbalam /
kasyāmara-vitarko hi syād anunmatta-cetasaḥ // 15.63 //

Seeing the world to be without substance, as fragile as a water-bubble, / What man of sound mind could harbour the notion of not dying? // 15.63 //

tasmād eṣāṁ vitarkāṇāṁ prahāṇārthaṁ samāsataḥ /
ānāpāna-smṛtiṁ saumya viṣayī-kartum arhasi // 15.64 //

So for the giving up, in short, of all these ideas, / Mindfulness of inward and outward breathing, Ānāpāna-smṛtiṃ. Ānāpāna = āna (breathing in, from √an, to breath) + apāna (breathing out, from apa-√an). The Great Sutta on Mindfulness (DN 22) describes three stages: 1. Being aware that a long in-breath is long, being aware that a long out-breath is long; being aware that a short in-breath is short, being aware that a short out-breath is short – thus abandoning the end-gaining idea of improving the breathing by direct intervention (“Let it all be wrong!”). 2. Thinking “being conscious of the whole body, I will breathe in”; thinking “being conscious of the whole body, I will breathe out” – thus abandoning the idea of doing anything now, in a piecemeal manner, to influence the breathing. 3. Thinking “causing bodily doings to cease, I will breathe in”; thinking “causing bodily doings to cease, I will breathe out” – thus abandoning any idea whatever that might trigger bodily doings. In the Sutta, there is no word “thinking,” but only the quotation particle ti. So the thinking involved is not so much thinking as mindfulness or awareness – or what in Chinese Zen was called 非思量, “non-thinking.” 22 my friend, you should make into your own possession. // 15.64 //

ity anena prayogeṇa kāle sevitum arhasi /
pratipakṣān vitarkāṇāṁ gadānām agadān iva // 15.65 //

Using this device you should take in good time / Counter-measures against ideas, like remedies against illnesses. // 15.65 //

suvarṇa-hetor api pāṁsu-dhāvako vihāya pāṁsūn bṛhato yathāditaḥ /
jahāti sūkṣmān api tad-viśuddhaye viśodhya hemāvayavān niyacchati // 15.66 //

A dirt-washer in pursuit of gold washes away first the coarse grains of dirt, / Then the finer granules, so that the [material] is cleansed; and by the cleansing he retains the rudiments of gold. // 15.66 //

vimokṣa-hetor api yukta-mānaso vihāya doṣān bṛhatas tathāditaḥ /
jahāti sūkṣmān api tad-viśuddhaye viśodhya dharmāvayavān niyacchati // 15.67 //

In the same way, a man whose mind is poised, in pursuit of liberation, lets go first of the gross faults, / Then of the subtler ones, so that his [mind] is cleansed, and by the cleansing he retains the rudiments of dharma. // 15.67 //

krameṇādbhiḥ śuddhaṁ kanakam iha pāṁsu-vyavahitaṁ
yathāgnau karmāraḥ pacati bhṛśam āvartayati ca /
tathā yogācāro nipuṇam iha doṣa-vyavahitaṁ
viśodhya kleśebhyaḥ śamayati manaḥ saṁkṣipati ca // 15.68 //

Just as gold, washed with water, is separated from dirt in this world, methodically, / And just as the smith heats the gold in the fire and repeatedly turns it over, / Just so is the practitioner’s mind, with delicacy and accuracy, separated from faults in this world, / And just so, after cleansing it from afflictions, does the practitioner temper the mind and collect it. // 15.68 //

yathā ca sva-cchandād upanayati karmāśraya-sukhaṁ
suvarṇaṁ karmāro bahu-vidham alaṁkāra-vidhiṣu /
manaḥ-śuddho bhikṣur vaśagatam abhijñāsv api tathā
yathecchaṁ yatrecchaṁ śamayati manaḥ prerayati ca // 15.69 //

Again, just as the smith brings gold to a state where he can work it easily / In as many ways as he likes into all kinds of ornaments, / So too a beggar of cleansed mind tempers his mind, / And directs his yielding mind among the powers of knowing, Abhijñāsu refers either to five or to six higher powers of knowing. The five powers, as listed in SN16.2, are called five “mundane” powers – though nowhere in Saundara-nanda does the Buddha himself call them that. The sixth, “supramundane” power, attainable through penetrating insight (Pali: vipassanā), is the power of knowing how to eradicate the āsravas, those influences that pollute the mind (see SN17.22).23 as he wishes and wherever he wishes. // 15.69 // //

saundaranande mahākāvye vitarka-prahāṇo nāma pañca-daśaḥ sargaḥ //15//
The 15th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled “Abandoning Ideas.”