Thursday, May 24, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.24: The Power of Zealous Absorption

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Indravajrā)
dharmārthibhir-bhūta-gaṇaiś-ca divyais-tad-darśanārthaṁ vanam āpupūre |
kautūhalenaiva ca pāda-pebhyaḥ puṣpāny akāle 'pi [nipātitāni] || 1.24

Hosts of divine, dharma-needy beings,

Being motivated to meet him, filled up the forest.

And such indeed was the zealous absorption,

That blossoms, even out of season,
were caused to fall from trees.

The old Nepalese manuscript on which EHJ based his Sanskrit text ends with the 10th syllable of the 3rd pāda (-pe), but EHJ felt confident enough working back from the Tibetan to include in his devanagari text -pebhyaḥ puṣpāny akāle 'pi. The final five syllables of the verse, however, EHJ left blank, stating that the last word is a verb compounded with ni, equivalent to sraṁs (to drop) or vyadh (to pelt) – possibly nipātitāni.

The 1st and 2nd pāda of today's verse each centre on words from the root arth: to strive to obtain, desire, wish, request.

The 1st pāda as I read it is an expression of the truth of suffering, the essence of suffering being desire for an end one lacks (as heavenly beings inevitably lack) the practical means to gain. A divine or religious state of being desirous of dharma or needy for dharma (dharmārthin) is a state of suffering, in which the suffering subject is right here, separated from the desired object over there.

The 2nd pāda represents progress into a more real, concrete or material sphere, in which desire manifests itself in purposeful movement of subject towards desired object. Thus the purpose of seeing him (tad-darśanārtham) causes the material forest to fill up.

In the 3rd pāda as I read it intense interest or zealous absorption  (kautūhala) takes the discussion of subjective volition onto the next level, in which subject is no  longer separated from object, but subject is rather absorbed in object, or object and subject are absorped into each other.

It is this kind of zealous absorption, or obsessive interest – the virtue of which others are liable to question – that tends to precipitate change in the world, as described in the 4th pāda. 

The phrase akāle 'pi “even out of season,” means in other words “not at the expected time.”

Reality changes unexpectedly, but because of the power of his zealous absorption into his sitting practice, without worrying about good and bad, a Zen practitioner is able to cope skilfully with the unexpected change.

That is one view.

But today's verse as I read it points to another kind of situation altogether; namely, that because of his zealous absorption, a Zen practitioner in his blind stupidity unexpectedly changes reality.

Finding myself in such a situation, as seems to happen several times a day, I typically respond by thinking “Oh fuck! Now what have I gone and done?”

Today's translation and comment really is the product of 30 years of making one continuous mistake. That being so, I wrote a couple of paragraphs yesterday to illustrate the meaning of the first two lines from personal experience. But on re-reading this morning what I wrote yesterday, the content was too embarrassing even for me to make public. So I decided to suppress the awful truth. 

dharmārthibhiḥ = inst. pl. m. dharmārthin: being desirous of dharma
arthin: one who wants or desires anything (instr. or in comp); longing for , libidinous
bhūta-gaṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. the host of living beings ; a multitude of spirits or ghosts
bhūta: n. that which is or exists , any living being (divine , human , animal , and even vegetable) ; n. a spirit (good or evil)
gaṇa: m. a flock , troop , multitude , number ,
ca: and
divyaiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. divine , heavenly , celestial

tad-darśanārtham (ind.): with the aim/purpose of seeing/visiting him
tad: him
darśana: n. seeing , observing , looking; n. visiting ; n. audience , meeting
artha: aim, purpose; cause, motive, reason
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest, wood, grove
āpupūre = 3rd pers. pl. perf: ā- √ pṝ : to fill up, fill

kautūhalena (inst. sg.): n. curiosity , interest in anything , vehement desire for
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and
pāda-pebhyaḥ = abl. pl. pāda-pa: m. “drinking at foot or root " , a tree , plant

puṣpāni (acc. pl.): n. flower, blossom
akāle (loc. sg.): m. a wrong or bad time; (ind.) unseasonably
kāla: m. a fixed or right point of time
kāle: ind. loc. in time , seasonably
api : even
nipātitāni (acc. pl. n.): made to fly down
ni- √pat : to fly down , settle down
pātita: mfn. (fr. Caus. √pat) made to fall , felled , struck down , lowered , depressed , overthrown

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