Monday, May 28, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.28: Wall of Silence




[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.28

COMMENT:
The transmission of Aśvaghoṣa's teaching into China was not accomplished with the translation of Buddhacarita from Sanskrit into Chinese. The transmission of Aśvaghoṣa's teaching into China was accomplished years later when Bodhidharma sailed from India to China and, so the legend has it, spent nine years facing the wall.

Facing the wall sounds like a retreat into something austere, but it is not necessarily so. Even in facing the wall there are phases. The first phase is full of fun and of words. Although there are no words on the wall, there are words in the mind. If the first phase in facing the wall was not full of words, there might not be any such poem as Saundarananda or Buddhacarita. The second phase is even more fun but there are no words, either on the wall or in the mind – except maybe a lingering residue of the gist of “head forward and up, back to lengthen and widen, knees forwards and away, lengthening to the elbows and widening across the upper arms as you widen the back...”

Generally speaking when I sit, on a good day, I am wandering in the lower foothills of the first phase of sitting-meditation. I might, for example, do a bit of gardening and sit in lotus surveying my work while listening to birdsong and letting my mind wander. A verse like today's verse, a blank, might be taken as encouragement for a wastrel like me to seek out the deeper, thoughtless enjoyment of the second dhyāna – by literally facing a wall.


Tibetan Text:
| śin tu ṅo mtshar sras kyi skye pa mthoṅ gyur nas |
| mi bdag brtan pa yin yaṅ rnam par ’gyur nas soṅ |
| rab dga’ skyes pa ñid daṅ yid mi bde skyes te |
| brtse ba las ni mchi ma rnam pa gñis byuṅ ṅo |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/Chinese):
28. On seeing the miraculous birth of his son, the king, steadfast though he was, was much disturbed, and from his affection a double stream of tears flowed, born of delight and apprehension.

Chinese Text:
父王見生子 奇特未曾有
素性雖安重 驚駭改常容

二息交胸起 一喜復一懼

[二息交胸起=自慮交心胸<三>]

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
36. The Royal Father (Suddhodana) beholding his son, strange and miraculous, as to his birth,
37. Though self-possessed and assured in his soul, was yet moved with astonishment and his countenance changed,
whilst he alternately weighed with himself the meaning (of such an event), now rejoiced and now distressed.

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
35. When the king, his father, saw the birth of his son, he was amazed in wonder. Although ordinarily his disposition was serious, he was startled and his usual countenance changed. In his anxiety he had mixed feelings of both joy and distress.

2 comments:

Dorella Belle said...

"Though self-possessed and assured in his soul, was yet moved with astonishment and his countenance changed, whilst he alternately weighed with himself the meaning (of such an event), now rejoiced and now distressed."
These is the description of how I'm feeling these days. When you read about some amazing facts like these, you can explain them in a metaphorical way, but when things happen directly to you, and are outside of what you are able to accept as possible, you really " alternately weighed yourself the meaning (of such an event), now rejoiced and now distressed"

Mike Cross said...

Hi Dorella,

I think Willemen's translation is closer to the mark than Beal's; and I wouldn't particularly trust the Chinese translation in the first place. Aśvaghoṣa must have written about the king simultaneously feeling contradictory emotions. But I wonder exactly what he wrote about.