Sunday, July 11, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.32: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Serving the Non-Buddha Dharma (ctd.)

a-dharmiShThaam acakathan
na kathaam a-kathaMkathaH
cakra-vart" iiva ca paraan
dharmaay' aabhyudasiiShahat

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He talked no talk that went against dharma,

Being free in himself of doubts and questions,

While, like a wheel-roller, he caused others

To bear up in service of dharma.

This verse as I read it presages the whole story of how the Buddha unwaveringly intervened to cause his brother Nanda to stop behaving like an elephant in rut and start behaving like a war elephant -- fully aware and indifferent -- in the service of the Buddha-Dharma. The main point, and it is the main point of this whole Canto, seems to be to emphasize that, at the centre of many miscellaneous virtues, is the virtue of assigning weight to the Dharma.

Perhaps to avoid jarring the listener's ears by too preachy a tone, or to avoid offending the audience's nose with the stink of religious Buddhism, Ashvaghosha has buried this preaching of the supreme value of serving the Buddha-Dharma in a Canto in which he praises a non-Buddhist king's reverence for a dharma which is not the Buddha-Dharma itself.

The first 44 verses of this Canto list the virtues of King Shuddhodhana in, as far as I can make out, no obvious order. The kind of progression through four phases that is prevalent in Shobogenzo, and which can often be discerned in the unfolding of one of Ashvaghosha's four-line verses, is not readily in evidence. Rather, there appears to be in this Canto a less ordered, more random inter-weaving of recurring themes.

Perhaps it is Ashvaghosha's conscious intention not to present the kingly virtues that pre-saged the Buddha's enlightenment in such an ordered manner. Perhaps the suggestion is that, having brought more clearly into human consciousness all virtues pertaining to the ending of faults, the Buddha was able for the first time to order and systemize those virtues -- by means, for example, of the chessboard-like plan which is alluded to in 1.32 and set out in 16.30 - 37.

In any event, the main recurring theme in this Canto is the devotion of King Shuddhodhana to dharma as he knew it -- to non-Buddhist dharma, as dharma was before the time of Gautama's realization of the Buddha-Dharma. This devotion has already been touched on in four verses, viz: 2.6, 2.20, 2.25, and 2.31; and it will be touched on again in 2.35, 2.36, 2.37, and 2.44, so that what emerges as the overriding virtue of the Shakya king, and the virtue that attracts the interest of the dharma-loving denizens of heaven, is his devotion to dharma as his royal duty.

A wheel-roller (cakra-vartin in line 3), on one level, suggests one of those ancient Indian emperors whose chariots could roll unhindered anywhere through their immense domains. So overtly a wheel-roller means an emperor who had the unbridled power to impose his will upon others, causing subjects each to do his dharma-duty as the emperor conceived it. At the non-overt level, describing the non-Buddhist king as "like a wheel roller" presages the description in Canto 3 of Gautama Buddha as the wheel-turning King of Dharma:

Then the wheel of Dharma, whose hub is truthfulness, / Whose rim is a constant veering towards balanced stillness, / And whose spokes are the rules of discipline, there the seer turned. / In that assembly, for the welfare of the world, he caused the wheel to turn: / "This is suffering; and this, / Is the tangled mass of causes producing it; / This is cessation; and this is a means." [3.11 - 12]

Borrowing a phrase from rugby parlance, I would like to translate abhyudasiiShahat in line 4, at least for my own purposes, as "he caused them to front up." To use a slang phrase like that might go against the dharma of a dutiful translator, but the real meaning of abhyudasiiShahat as I hear it is like that -- the Buddha, like a warrior king, caused others to front up and serve the Dharma.

EH Johnston:
He was not full of questionings and he did not hold discourses against the Law of Righteousness, and (justifying the title of Cakravartin) he caused others to be drawn to the Law, as though he were turning the Wheel (of the Law).

Linda Covill:
He did not make unrighteous speeches, nor did he give voice to doubts; and like a true wheel-turning emperor he inspired his enemies to turn to dharma.

a-dharmiShThaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. most wicked , impious
dharmiShTha: mfn. (superl.) very virtuous or righteous , completely lawful or legal
acakathan = 3rd pers. sg. aorist kath: to converse with any one ; to tell , relate , narrate , report , inform , speak about ; ([fr. katham , " to tell the how "])

na: not
kathaam (acc. sg.): f. conversation , speech , talking together ; talk ; tale
a-kathaMkathaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not being full of questionings/doubts
cf. kathaM-kathika: mfn. one who is always asking questions , an inquisitive person

cakra-vartii = nom. sg. m. cakravartin: mfn. rolling everywhere without obstruction ; m. a ruler the wheels of whose chariot roll everywhere without obstruction , emperor , sovereign of the world , ruler of a cakra (or country described as extending from sea to sea ; 12 princes beginning with bharata are esp. considered as cakravartins)
iva: like
ca: and
paraan (acc. pl.): m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary

dharmaaya (dat. sg.): towards dharma
abhyudasiiShahat = 3rd pers. sg. causitive aorist abhy-ut- √sah: to be able to resist (with acc.) ; to feel competent , venture (with Inf.)
abhi: to , towards , into , over , upon
ut: up, upwards, upon, over, above
√ sah: to prevail , be victorious ; to overcome , vanquish , conquer , defeat (enemies) , gain , win (battles) ; to offer violence to (acc.) ; to master , suppress , restrain ; to be able to or capable of (inf. or loc.) ; to bear up against , resist , withstand ; to bear , put up with , endure , suffer , tolerate; (causative) to forbear

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