Tuesday, May 15, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.15: The First Lion's Roar

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Sālā)
bodhāya jāto 'smi jagadd-hitārtham-antyā bhav-otpattir-iyaṁ mameti |
catur-diśaṁ siṁha-gatir-vilokya vāṇīṁ ca bhavyārtha-karīm uvāca || 1.15

“For awakening I am born, for the welfare of the world;

This for me is the ultimate coming into existence.”

Surveying the four quarters, as he moved like a lion,

He voiced a sound that conveyed this gist of what was to be.

Even if legend says that the prince of the Śākyas emerged from the womb speaking words, I don't accept the legend literally, and I don't think Aśvaghoṣa did either.

With siṁha-gatiḥ I think Aśvaghoṣa is describing what a normal, healthy baby does, usually from around 6 months after conception, which is to rock backwards and forwards on hands and knees and then to crawl forwards, in the well-coordinated and effortless manner of a big cat.

In those first six months babies do not speak words; they certainly do not string together sentences composed in Upajāti metre. So the words vāṇīm uvāca as I read them describe the infant Śākyamuni not speaking words but rather making the kind of sound that many normal healthy babies make – a big sound that belies the size of their bodies, and which seems to announce in no uncertain terms sentiments like “I am the boss” and “Here I am!”

The sound might have been something along the lines of “Goo! Goo!" or  "Gaaah!”

The Alexander teacher Marjory Barlow used to say “You are all perfect, apart from what you are doing.”

The “doing” she referred to, she went on to clarify, means wrong inner patterns in the brain and nervous system.

A normal, naturally-born baby like the infant Śākyamuni – notwithstanding his tendency to shit himself from time to time – is perfect in the sense that he is free from these wrong inner patterns. And a fully enlightened human being like the awakened Śākyamuni is also perfect in the sense that he is free from these wrong inner patterns, aka “the faults which start with thirsting” (tṛṣṇādayo doṣa; SN16.17).

Understood along these lines, these opening verses of Buddhacarita are not intended to put the Buddha on a par with mythical Brahmanical heroes who were fancifully imagined to have had miraculous births. Aṣvaghoṣa's real intention in these opening verses is rather the intention that Dogen had in beginning his instructions for sitting with the affirmation that



“Awakening originally is all around.
How could it depend on training and verification?”

bodhāya = dat. sg. bodha: m. waking , becoming or being awake , consciousness ; m. the opening of blossom , bloom
jātaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. born
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
jagadd-hitārtham (ind): for the welfare of the world
jagat: n. the world , esp. this world , earth
hitārtham: ind. for the sake of another's welfare

antyā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. last in place , in time , or in order
bhav-otpattiḥ (nom. sg. f.): coming into existence
bhava: m. coming into existence , birth , production ; being , state of being , existence , life
utpatti: f. arising , birth , production , origin ; producing as an effect or result , giving rise to , generating as a consequence; occurrence
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
mama (gen. sg.): my, of/for me
iti: “...,” thus

catur-diśam: ind. towards the 4 quarters , on all sides , all around
siṁha-gatiḥ (nom. sg. m.): going in the manner of a lion
siṁha: m. lion
gati: f. going , moving , gait , deportment , motion in general ; manner or power of going; path , way , course
vilokya = abs. vi- √ lok : to look at or upon , regard , examine , test , study

vāṇīm (acc. sg.): f. sound , voice , music ; speech
ca: and
bhavyārtha-karīm (acc. sg. f.): effecting the substance of what was to come, conveying a sense of what was to be
bhavya: mfn. being , existing , present ; to be about to be or become , future ; likely to be , on the point of becoming ; what ought to be , suitable , fit , proper , right , good , excellent ; handsome , beautiful , pleasant ; gracious , favourable; auspicious , fortunate
artha: mn. aim, purpose, cause, motive; use; substance; sense; meaning
kari: mfn. (ifc.) causing , accomplishing
uvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vac: to speak , say , tell , utter , announce , declare , mention , proclaim 

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