Friday, May 18, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.18: Magical Realism (ctd.), for Waking's Sake

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Indravajrā)
[nigūḍha-bhūtā]ś-ca divaukasaḥ khe yasya prabhāvāt-praṇataiḥ śirobhiḥ |
ādhārayan pāṇḍaram-ātapa-traṁ bodhāya jepuḥ paramāśiṣaś-ca || 1.18

Heaven-dwellers who seemed to be concealed in the sky,

With heads bowed down at his majesty,

Held up a white umbrella,

And sang their best wishes for his awakening.

EHJ wrote in a footnote to his English translation that the first eight syllables are illegible in the old Nepalese manuscript, and that the restoration of the first five syllables cannot be easily determined; judging from the Tibetan and Chinese translations, EHJ surmised that the first three syllables were adṛśya (invisible), avyakta (not manifest, invisible) or nigūḍha (hidden), compounded with bhūtāḥ (being, being like) or bhāvāḥ (becoming, being).

EBC, working in the 1890s from a more recent Nepalese manuscript copied by the Regency pandit Amṛtānanda, had māyātanūjasya (“to the son of Māyā”). This was presumably a conjecture by Amṛtānanda, made without the benefit of being able to access the old Nepalese manuscript or to check the Tibetan and Chinese translations.

EHJ originally conjectured (in a footnote to his Sanskrit text) that the first eight syllables were adṛśya-bhāvāś ca divaukasaḥ. This conjecture was based on the Tibetan (mi mṅon gyur pa’i lha rnams kyis).

| mi mṅon gyur pa’i lha rnams kyis kyaṅ nam mkha’ la |
| gaṅ gi mthu las mgo bo yis ni rab ba tud ciṅ |
| kun nas gduṅ ba skyob ba’i gdugs dkar rnams bzuṅ ste |
| byaṅ chub ched du mchog gi bsṅags pa dag kyaṅ smras |

The Chinese translation offers no clues: the five Chinese characters corresponding to the 1st pāda in Sanskrit simply mean “gods in the sky.” (諸天於空中)

諸天於空中 執持寶蓋侍
承威神讃歎 勸發成佛道

S. Beal:
Meanwhile the Devas in space, seizing their jewelled canopies, attending, raise in responsive harmony their heavenly songs, to encourage him to accomplish his perfect purpose.

C. Willemen:
The gods waited upon him in the sky, holding a precious parasol. Acknowledging his majesty, the spirits were full of praise and they urged him to complete the Buddha’s path.

The Clay Sanskrit Library version (PO trans.), following EHJ's footnote, has [adṛśya-bhāvā]ś ca (“remaining invisible”).

I have gone with nigūḍha (“concealed”) partly on the basis that I remembered Aśvaghoṣa using nigūḍha in SN1.52.

So much for textual nit-picking. By way of comment, for fear of incurring the wrath of any hard-to-wrangle yakṣas who may be reading, I shall just venture that this is another verse that might be described as in the genre of magical realism. So “heaven-dwellers” might originally be birds and insects, and a “white umbrella” might be a cloud.

After I prepared this comment on Thursday night, it struck me while I was sitting on Friday morning that I had failed to appreciate the significance of bodhāya (for [his] awakening, for waking's sake). 

As Marjory Barlow used to say, “You are all perfect apart from what you are doing.” Or in Dogen's words “Englightenment originally is all around.” Those truths being true, the Buddha was born into a magical reality, a world that was already perfectly beautiful. And yet it still remained for him to go through a lot before he was fully awakened.

Similarly for us, it may be possible for some of us to sit in beautiful gardens, take beautiful photographs, translate beautiful poetry, witness beautiful births, and live beautiful lives, while remaining all the time more or less unconscious, not awake in the true sense of being liberated from the slavery of unconscious reaction.

Unconscious behaviour, on many levels, is in the sway of feeling. There are times when we are confronted with situations that we feel we simply cannot bear. But those feelings are not necessarily reliable. After Gudo Nishijima fell out with Mike Luetchford over their translation of Nagarjuna's Mula-madhyaka-karika, Gudo Nishijima asked me to get back into what he considered to be the passenger's seat and re-write his translation of Nagarjuna from Sanskrit into English. I did in fact start studying Sanskrit at that time. Then, a week or two into it, I remember waking up one night in a cold sweat and thinking “I simply cannot do it.” But that wasn't real thinking; it was only my feeling, which at that time I wasn't strong enough to transcend.

Living a beautiful life in magical reality is all very well. But insofar as one's aim is awakening, then it seems inevitable that one will be tested, on many levels, not to react emotionally on the basis of feeling.

This morning as I sat I had a strong sense of the direction that FM Alexander called “knees forwards and away.” It is a direction that has little to do with the knees, but a lot to do with the lower back, or what the Japanese call the hara, the belly, the centre. 

When Gudo Nishijima asked me to translate Nagarjuna for him, I shouldn't have given any credence to what I felt was or was not possible for me to bear. I should have sent my knees forwards and away and got on with it. Bad mistake, that one.

As Bodhidharma tells Taiso Eka, as reported in Shobogenzo chap. 30, Gyoji (paraphrasing from memory) in pursuit of the buddhas' truth of awakening, it is necessary to bear what feels impossible to bear.

nigūḍha-bhūtāḥ (nom. pl. m.): being hidden, as if concealed
nigūḍha: mfn. concealed , hidden , secret , obscure (lit. and fig.)
bhūta: ifc. being, being like
ca: and
divaukasaḥ (nom. pl.): m. " sky-dweller " , a deity
khe (loc. sg.): n. cavity; vacuity , empty space , air , ether , sky

yasya (gen. sg.): (relative pronoun) because of his
prabhāvāt (abl. sg.): m. might , power , majesty , dignity ; splendour, beauty
praṇataiḥ (inst. pl. n.): bowed
śirobhiḥ = inst. pl. śiras: n. head

ādhārayan = 3rd pers. pl. imperfect caus. ā- √ dhṛ: to hold; (caus.) to bring , supply
pāṇḍaram mfn. whitish-yellow , pale , white
ātapa-tram (acc. sg.): n. " heat-protector ", a large umbrella (of silk or leaves)

bodhāya (dat. sg.): m. waking , becoming or being awake
jepuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. jap: to utter in a low voice , whisper , mutter (esp. prayers or incantations)
paramāśiṣaḥ (acc. pl. f.): best wishes
parama: mfn. highest, best
āśis: f. asking for , prayer , wish ; blessing, benediction
ca: and 

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