Friday, May 25, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.25: Sifting for the Rudiments of Spontaneity

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
* * * * * * * * * * * ayatnato * * * * * * * || 1.25

In the old Nepalese text from which EHJ was working, all verses are missing from 1.25 through to the last line of 1.40. Moreover, for these verses, unlike for the opening verses of the chapter, EHJ makes no effort to restore Aśvaghoṣa's original Sanskrit.

This leaves us in a situation akin to the dirt-washer described in Saundarananda Canto 15, looking out for grains of gold . . .

A dirt-washer in pursuit of gold washes away first the coarse grains of dirt, /
Then the finer granules, so that the material is cleansed; and by the cleansing he retains the rudiments of gold. // 15.66 //

In that spirit I am drawn again in the Chinese translation to the character , discussed at length already in connection with BC1.23 (SpontanousFlow Facilitates Practice).

In the translations of Beal and Willemen, is rendered as “of themselves” and “by themselves.” The context is discussion of how diseases cleared up. The point is that diseases cleared up (i.e. people were healed or restored to health), naturally, without end-gaining medical intervention.

In turning now to look at the Tibetan translation, I must first acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Prof. Harunaga Isaacson for drawing my attention to a Sanskrit-German-Tibetan glossary of Buddhacarita compiled by Roland Steiner and published in BAUDDHASĀHITYASTABAKĀVALĪ 
Essays and Studies on Buddhist Sanskrit Literature, 
Dedicated to Claus Vogel by Colleagues, Students, and Friends
(Marburg 2008; ISBN : 978-3-923776-36-8).

According to the Roland Steiner glossary, the Tibetan word that corresponds to svayam ("by itself, spontaneously") in the 2nd pāda of BC1.23 is raṅ, and reassuringly the word raṅ does indeed appear in the 2nd line of the Tibetan translation of BC1.23:

| śar daṅ byaṅ gi mtshams kyi khaṅ pa’i phyogs gcig na |
| bsil ba’i chu yi khron ba raṅ byuṅ gyur pa ste |
| pho braṅ btsun mo’i ’khor rnams ya mtshan gyur rnams kyis |
| gaṅ la bya ba rnams ni stegs bźin rab tu byas |

In the 4th line of the Tibetan translation of today's verse BC1.25, the Tibetan words that correspond to the Chinese character , and to EHJ's “without effort” appear to be dag rnams ... ’bad pa

According to the RS glossary, ’bad pa... rnams = prayatna: persevering effort, continued exertion or endeavour.

And according to the Tibetan-English dictionary, dag means “free of.”

The original Sanskrit word, then, corresponding to EHJ's “without effort” and to the Chinese translator's (“by itself”), is probably the antonym of prayatna, namely ayatna, “without effort.” The latter word appears twice in Saundarananda, in SN5.17 and SN9.39, both times in the ablative/adverbial form ayatna-tas, which in those verses I translated as “without even trying” and “readily.”

The one who is more strongly self-motivated loosens ties without even trying, on receipt of the slightest stimulus; /
Whereas the one whose mind is led by circumstances struggles to find freedom, because of his dependence on others. // 5.17 //

Just as in soil, grass sprouts readily but rice is grown through sustained effort, /
So too does sorrow arise readily whereas happiness is produced with effort, if at all. // 9.39 //

In today's verse, then, Aśvaghoṣa is continuing to assert the most fundamental of all principles in the Buddha's teaching, which is that when we stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing, perfectly reflecting the 2nd law of thermodynamics, tends to do itself, naturally, effortlessly, automatically, spontaneously.

There are times, even in translating a text as difficult to translate as this one, or as difficult to translate as Shobogenzo, when a good translation seems effortlessly to do itself. Such moments, however, are generally prefaced by a lot of preparatory dirt-sifting of the kind demonstrated in today's post. But I like this kind of dirt-sifting. Sift a bit of dirt. Sit for a bit. Then sift a bit more dirt. Then sit again, looking forward to a cup of tea and slice of toast. That is my idea of happiness.

Conversely, anxious striving to meet a deadline for the presentation of something like a precious golden ornament: that is my idea, and my experience, of unhappiness.

End-gaining is unhappiness. Steadily working to a means-whereby principle in which one has confidence, is happiness. And it is out of the latter kind of effort that a person spontaneously becomes whole, or healed.

This, I submit, is the gist of what Dogen called the secret of sitting-dhyāna:

自成 一片 
spontaneously/naturally/effortlessly become all of a piece.”

Tibetan Text:
| ’tshe bar byed pa’i sems can rnams kyaṅ de yi tshe |
| phan tshun dag tu phyin te gnod pa mi byed la |
| ’tsho ba’i ’jig rten dag na nad gaṅ ji sñed pa |
| de dag rnams kyaṅ ’bad pa med par de tshe bcom |

dag: free of
bad pa... rnams = prayatna: persevering effort , continued exertion or endeavour
tshe = āyus: life, health

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan):
25. At that time the noxious creatures consorted together and did each other no hurt. Whatever diseases there were among mankind were cured too without effort.

Chinese Translation:
凶暴衆生類 一時生慈心
世間諸疾病 不療然除

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
32. All cruel and malevolent kinds of beings, together conceived a loving heart; all diseases and afflictions among men without a cure applied, of themselves were healed.

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
31. The various kinds of fierce beings momentarily had friendly thoughts, and diseases in the world disappeared by themselves, without any cure applied.

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