Thursday, June 3, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.57: Why Kapilavastu Was So Called

kapilasya ca tasya rShes
tasminn aashrama-vaastuni
yasmaat te tat puraM cakruH
tasmaat kapilavaastu tat

- - = - - = = =
= = = - - = - -
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And since, on the site of the ashram

Of the seer Kapila,

They had built that city,

Therefore it was called Kapilavastu.

Here is the content of the first canto in a nutshell; and its substance, as I read it, is recognition of cause and effect.

What were the causes of the rise and fall of the Roman and British empires? What caused Bodhidharma to go to China? What causes attachments to form, within a person, or between people; and what causes those ties to come undone? What is the fundamental cause of all the suffering in our world?

The answers are not always clear-cut, but what is not in doubt is cause and effect itself.

One of my teachers was an unconventional man named Peter Blythe, the son of a stage hypnotist. Back in the 1970s Peter had some unique and original insights into the influence on human behaviour of immature or 'aberrant' primitive reflexes. Why did certain children, many of them highly intelligent, exhibit symptoms that educational psychologists, not understanding the causes of those symptoms, labelled "specific learning difficulties"? Peter Blythe gradually got to the bottom of immature vestibular reflexes as root causes, guided by the confidence that, deep in the brain, or deep in human subconsciousness, there were causes -- it wasn't that God had come down and decreed that this one and that one would be cursed with specific learning difficulties.

Another one of my non-Buddhist teachers, though my experience of him is only (literally) second hand, was FM Alexander. Alexander saw that the fundamental cause of modern ills was that civilization has progressed so rapidly that evolution has not been able to keep up. That being so, Alexander advocated a kind of leap forward from reliance on the instinctive mechanisms with which evolution has equipped us, up onto the conscious plane -- the plane of constructive conscious control of the individual.

But yesterday as I took refuge from computer-related frustration, turning back to more primitive activities like digging, cycling, and sitting -- activities in which I am not subordinated to the whims of electronic technology -- I understood with renewed clarity why Dogen wrote (in Shobogenzo chap. 14, Sansui-gyo, The Sutra of Mountains & Water) that there should be both a forward step and a backward step. Each forward step, when coming out of the backward step, is a cause of happiness. Each backward step, as a rest and refuge from forward stepping, is happiness itself.

What caused Kapilavastu to be called Kapilavastu? Was it divine intervention? No. Since (yasmaat...) the city was built on the site of Kapila's ashram, therefore (tasmaat...) it was called Kapilavastu.

EH Johnston:
The city was called Kapilavastu, because they built it on the site of the hermitage of the seer, Kapila.

Linda Covill:
named Kapila-vastu because they had built it on the ashram of the seer Kapila.

kapilasya (gen. sg.): of Kapila
ca: and
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
rSheH (gen. sg.): of the seer

tasmin (loc. sg.): on that
aashrama-vaastuni (loc. sg.): ashram-site
aashrama: hermitage, ashram
vaastu: n. the site or foundation of a house , site , ground

yasmaat: ind. since
te (nom. pl.): they
tat (acc. sg. n): that
puram (acc. sg.): n. city
cakrur = 3rd pers. pl. perfect kR: to do, make, accomplish

tasmaat: ind. therefore
kapilavaastu (nom. sg. n.): "Kapila's Site," Kapilavastu
tat: (emphatic) that, that very

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