Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.29: Send Three-and-Fourpence

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.29

If corroboration were needed of the principle that no translation is better than a half-arsed translation, the corroboration is here in the Rev. Samuel Beal's rendering of 不由常道生 into “born thus contrary to laws of nature.”

How did Samuel Beal get Aśvaghoṣa's teaching so totally arse over tit? How did “send reinforcements, we are going to advance,” turn so spectacularly into “send three-and-fourpence, we are going to a dance”?

There might be a clue in the name “the Rev. Samuel Beal.” It turns out that Beal went to China as a chaplain in the Royal Navy , at roughly around the time that Charles Darwin was publishing “The Origin of Species.”

The Rev. Beal presumably read the five Chinese characters 不由常道生, through the filter of Christian belief in miracles, as "birth not relying on the constant Tao," i.e. a miraculous birth in the religious [n0n-]sense of a miracle.  A better translation of those characters, as per Willemen's interpretation, would be “birth not relying on an ordinary way," i.e. an extra-ordinary birth. 

While I am particularly offended by a religious dimwit's negation of cause and effect, others might be equally offended by allusions to women as the weaker sex.

Exactly what it was that Aśvaghoṣa actually said, judging from past experience of Aśvaghoṣa's use of irony, was very probably ambiguous. It probably had a surface meaning which invited the kind of misunderstanding which translators – from Sanskrit into Tibetan and Chinese, and thence into English -- have exhibited who failed to sit on the same round cushion as Aśvaghoṣa. And below this surface meaning there was probably another completely different, or opposite, meaning.

The most important matter, in the transmission of the Buddha-dharma, my teacher taught me, is sitting. Other things are not so important.

The thing is, if you say that, you had better fucking well mean it. If I preach that, I had better fucking well practice it.

If sitting is the most important thing, what is sitting?

Is it a religious act?

Is it fuck.

Does it operate contrary to the laws of nature?

Does it fuck.

Did my teacher, the Reverend Gudo Nishijima, when he tried to show me how to sit in the right posture in Zazen, know what he was talking about?

No, did he fuck. That is why I came back to England to train as a teacher in the FM Alexander technique.

The pursuit of conscious direction in Alexander work is truly scientific in that it requires falsification of the beliefs that are unconsciously tied up with habit.

I believed that  Rev. Gudo Nishijima was a true master in the matter of how to sit. But upon further investigation, was he fuck. More fool me for religiously believing a Reverend So and So. 

FM Alexander himself said (quoting from memory), “When an investigation comes to be made, it will be found that every single thing we are doing in the work is what happens in nature when the conditions are right – the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously.”

Was the birth of the Buddha something extra-ordinarily beautiful and auspicious? I don't know. Aśvaghoṣa seems to be painting it as such, as the beginning of something beautiful.

But was the Buddha's birth, as per the translation of Reverend Samuel Beal, “contrary to the laws of nature”? The answer to that question, I do know. And my answer is: “No, was it fuck.”

Religious Buddhists -- doubtless via the mirror principle --  offend me, and I can't help wishing to offend them right back, by telling them to fuck off.

If, in the evolution vs creation debate, your Buddhist idea is to steer a middle way between the two sides, then you can fuck off as well, you red-necked American dimwit. If that is how you see things, a hundred and fifty years after Darwin published the Origin of Species, then you are even dumber than the Reverend Samuel Beal was.

Here endeth today's rant.

Tibetan Text:
| mi ma yin pa’i sras po ñid kyi nus pa daṅ |
| ma yi raṅ bźin kyaṅ ni stobs chuṅ ñid kyi phyir |
| graṅ daṅ dro ba’i chu dag ’dres pa’i chu kluṅ bźin |
| lha mo ’jigs pa (3)daṅ ni dga’ bas gaṅ bar ’gyur |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/Chinese):
29. The queen was filled with fear and joy, like a stream of hot and cold water mixed, because the power of her son was other than human on the one hand, and because she had a mother’s natural weakness on the other.

Chinese Translation:
夫人見其子 不由常道生
女人性怯弱 㤹惕懷冰炭
不別吉凶相 反更生憂怖

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
38. The queen-mother beholding her child, born thus contrary to laws of nature, her timorous woman’s heart was doubtful; her mind through fear, swayed between extremes: 39. Not distinguishing the happy from the sad portents, again and again she gave way to grief;  

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
36. When his wife saw that her son was not born in the usual way—a woman being timorous by nature—she felt contradictory emotions in her distress. She did not distinguish an auspicious mark from an inauspicious one but became even more fearful.


Happi said...

Mike -

You didn't by any chance get tackled by the sceptic tank did you?

Because the last time I heard language like the above was when we got the van stuck in a freshly fertilized field at Antaiji. It was a mess.

Mike Cross said...

Hi Gisela,

You weren't there listening from behind the bushes, were you? How did you know?

Yes, sorry about the industrial language. Sometimes I like to write as if talking to myself, forgetting that others might be reading.

Happi said...

Hi Mike -

It seemed like a safe bet on account of what you said a couple of days ago. If I had been there, I might have had a hard time keeping myself from cracking up -- my reaction at Antaiji and one that many find as difficult to deal with as a foul mouth. So no problem.

Congratulations on a job well done, hopefully anyway.

an3drew said...

i quite like the phrase "born contrary to nature", it conveys something !

the beal is the best translation there imho : o )

keep ranting, i think everyone who has been in zen and then gets out (which one never does entirely) spends the rest of their lives recovering !

Mike Cross said...

an3drew, whoever you are, your comment is that of an utter twat.

"Zen" is not something one gets into and then gets out of, as if it were a club or a cult run by others.

Sitting-dhyāna is practice that you do for yourself, by yourself, on your own -- or don't do.

When I write that your comment is that of an utter twat, I do so totally from the inside of sitting.

an3drew said...

surely experience in zen gives facility to expose errors in a reasoned and polite way rather than name calling?

the proof of the pudding .........

Mike Cross said...

Experience in zen gives you experience in zen, and fuck all else.

The proof of the pudding is in the pudding.

A person who likes to discuss others' eating of puddings, or who writes poems about pudding-eating, but who fails to eat his own pudding, in my book, is an utter twat.

I don't say that you, an3drew, are an utter twat. I don't know you. But your comment was certainly that of an utter twat. If you have seen the error in it, good for you.