Sunday, May 20, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.20: Far-flung Ripples of Gladness

−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Kīrti)
tathāgatotpāda-guṇena tuṣṭāḥ śuddhādhivāsāś-ca viśuddha-sattvāḥ |
devā nanandur-vigate 'pi rāge magnasya duḥkhe jagato hitāya || 1.20

Gladdened by a birth that went so well,

Those whose essence is pure
and who dwell in the clear blue yonder,

The gods, though devoid of any red taint of passion,

Rejoiced for the welfare of a world steeped in sorrow.

What people call "Buddhism," as if it were some kind of ideology, is the practical teaching of one who went well, having realized what is as it is, coming like this -- though, as EHJ pointed out, "Aśvaghoṣa does not apply such terms [as Sugata and Tathāgatato him till he reached bodhi."

Thus whereas EBC and PO left tathāgata in the 1st pāda untranslated as “the Tathāgata” (i.e. the One Thus Come, or the One [from whom afflictions are] Thus Gone, or the Realised One, the Buddha),  EHJ translated  tathāgata  as “in this fashion.” 

EBC: Gladdened through the influence of the birth of the Tathāgata...
EHJ: And gladdened by the virtue of his birth in this fashion...

I think EHJ was right up to a point; at the same time, Aśvaghoṣa as he often does in Saundarananda, was making a play on the various possible meanings of  tathāgata,  in order to emphasize that the Buddha was already, at his birth, one who went well. Even though he was one who was already going well at the time of his birth, he was not called  Sugata or Tathāgata until after he had experienced a spell of not going so well, during which he devoted himself to extreme asceticism. After that, (in EHJ's words) he "reached bodhi" -- i.e. realized full awakening -- and thenceforth was known by such epithets as Sugata and Tathāgata and Buddha

At the end of an Alexander lesson, Marjory Barlow would sometimes say to me, by way of encouragement, as I was heading for the door, "You are going well." 

Going well, for me, has to do with not end-gaining. When I make the choice not to end-gain but give myself time, then I go well. When I become impatient and anxious about a result, then I don't go so well. 

This translation effort, going at the undemanding snail's pace of one verse per day,  was intended from the beginning as an exercise in not end-gaining, but going well instead. 

In the months between finishing the verse-per-day translation of Saundarananda and starting the verse-per-day translation of Buddhacarita, I got a bit bogged down in dotting i's and crossing t's, as well as making audio recordings, of the Saundarananda text and translations. I have a sense of not having gone so well in those months -- through nobody else's fault but my own. 

To decide not to end-gain, thereby giving oneself space and time to act freely, and in that space to experience what an action is -- an action, say, like moving a leg -- makes a person happy. And to be happy, Marjory Barlow taught me, is important not only for the person himself but also for others, since happiness tends to ripple outwards... even to those far-flung orbits of samsāra where the air is vanishingly thin and gods may be imagined, in a magical realist scenario, harmlessly to reside. 

We are conditioned to believe that gods might be important, and conditioned to see the gaining of ends as important. But in the teaching of buddhas, as I have heard it, gods are not important and gaining of ends is not important. What is important is to go well -- then gods and gaining of ends can be left to take care of themselves. 

tathāgatotpāda-guṇena: (inst. sg.): by the excellence of the being born in such a manner
tathāgata: mfn. being in such a state or condition , of such a quality or nature ; realised like this ; the Realized One (epithet of the awakened Buddha)
utpāda: m. coming forth , birth , production
guṇa: good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
tuṣṭāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. satisfied , pleased

śuddhādhivāsāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. inhabiting pure abodes
śuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear
adhivāsa: m. an inhabitant; a neighbour; one who dwells above
ca: and
viśuddha-sattvāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. of a pure character
viśuddha: mfn. completely cleansed or purified (also in a ritual sense) , clean , clear , pure (lit.and fig.)
sattva: n. being, existence; true essence , nature , disposition of mind , character

devāḥ (nom. pl.): m. gods
nananduḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. nand: to rejoice , delight
vigate (loc. abs.): mfn. gone asunder , dispersed ; gone away , departed , disappeared , ceased , gone
api: though
rāge (loc. abs.): redness; inflammation; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love

magnasya (gen. sg. n.): mfn. sunk , plunged , immersed in (loc. )
duḥkhe (loc. sg.): n. uneasiness , pain , sorrow , trouble , difficulty, suffering
jagataḥ (gen. sg.): n. people, mankind; the world
hitāya (dat. sg.): n. anything useful or salutary or suitable or proper , benefit , advantage , profit , service , good , welfare , good advice &c

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