Saturday, June 30, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.61: Sitting Somewhere Good Enough

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Sālā)
dhātry-aṅka-saṁviṣṭam-avekṣya cainaṁ devy-aṅka-saṁviṣṭam-ivāgni-sūnum |
babhūva pakṣmānta-vicañcitāśrur-niśvasya caiva tridivonmukho 'bhūt || 1.61

As he watched him sitting in the lap of a nurse,

Like the son of Agni sitting in the lap of divine nymphs,

Asita's tears dangled on the ends of his eyelashes,

And, taking a deep breath, he looked up towards the heavens.

In 1.59 the king's baby son is desribed as dhātry-aṅka-gatam, which I translated two days ago as “sitting on his mother's lap.” My reasoning was that dhātrī literally means “female supporter,” and since this includes the meaning of both “nurse” and “mother,” and a mother's lap is the most natural one for a baby to sit on, it might be natural to assume that Aśvaghoṣa had the baby's natural mother in mind. One counter-argument is that if Aśvaghoṣa had meant to refer specifically to the baby's mother, he might have used the compound mātry-aṅka-gatam.

Today's verse seems to provide a still stronger argument against understanding dhātrī to mean the baby's natural mother.

EBC identifies the son of Agni as Skanda, EHJ in a footnote also identifies the son of Agni as Skanda, who was nursed successively by Svāhā, by Pārvati, and by a group of divine mothers. PO agrees that the son of Agni, the fire god, probably means Skanda, and refers the reader to an analysis of Skanda's birth by WD O' Flaherty in Śiva the Erotic Ascetic (1981).

In BC1.88 Aśvaghoṣa himself alludes to the birth of “the six-faced one” i.e. Skanda aka Kārttikeya. “According to one legend,” the MW dictionary states, “[Skanda/Kārttikeya] was son of Śiva without the intervention of Pārvatī , the generative energy of Śiva being cast into the fire and then received by the Ganges, whence [Skanda/Kārttikeya] is sometimes described as son of Agni and Gaṅgā ; when born he was fostered by the six kṛttikās, and these offering their six breasts to the child he became six-headed."

Today's verse, then, seems strongly to suggest that Aśvaghoṣa wanted to emphasize that the Buddha was nursed not only by his mother but also by another woman or women, as was six-mouthed Kārttikeya who in the ancient legend had six wet-nurses.

So then the question is why Aśvaghoṣa wished to emphasize that the infant prince was nursed by a woman or women other than his mother.

The first answer to this question that sprung into my mind relates to the principle that a child does not need to be nurtured by a perfect mother, but just needs to be nurtured by a woman who is good enough.

I heard this principle while listening to Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 a couple of years ago while I was in France – where I tend to listen to BBC Radio 4 Long Wave indiscriminately (even including, when I get my timing wrong, the daily service). Googling “good-enough mother” leads to this Wikipedia entry on Donald Winnicott.

Going further back, I remember discussing on a previous blog what Alice Miller had written to the effect that many children who were abused by their natural parents go on to become abusers, but some abused children do not, providing that they come into contact with “an enlightened witness.”

Digging deeper for meaning in today's verse that might relate to the great thing which is sitting, I decided to change the translation of saṁviṣṭa from “resting” to “sitting” -- noting that one meaning of the root √viś is “to be absorbed into,” so that saṁviṣṭa can be understood to mean “resting” and “sitting together with” and at the same time “being totally absorbed in.”

In that case, today's verse can be read as an expression of the principle of not fussing about a place to become absorbed in sitting.

Dogen said that a quiet room – not necessarily the inner sanctum of a great Zen master on a remote mountain – is good for sitting-dhyāna. It may be that, in similar vein, Aśvaghoṣa is saying in today's verse that a woman's lap – not necessarily the lap of baby's natural mother – is good for a baby to sit on.

dhātry-aṅka-saṁviṣṭam (acc. sg. m.): sitting in his nurse's lap
dhātrī: f. " female supporter " , a nurse; midwife; mother; the earth
aṅka: m. hook, curve, the curve in the human , especially the female , figure above the hip (where infants sitting , astride are carried by mothers hence often = " breast " or " lap ")
saṁviṣṭam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. resting , reposing , sleeping ; seated together with (instr.)
saṁ- √ viś: to approach near to , associate or attach one's self to ; to enter into ; to merge one's self into ; to lie down , rest , repose in or upon ;
√ viś: to enter , enter in or settle down on , go into ; pervade ; to be absorbed into (acc.) ; to sit down upon (acc. or loc.)
avekṣya = abs. ava-√īkṣ: to look at, behold
ca: and
enam (acc. sg. m.): him, this (enclictic pronoun)

devy-aṅka-saṁviṣṭam (acc. sg. m.): sitting in Devī's lap
devī: f. a female deity , goddess; N. of nymph beloved by the Sun
iva: like
agni-sūnum (acc. sg. m.): the son of Agni; [Skanda/ kārttikeya ]
skanda: " Attacker " , N. of kārttikeya (q.v. , son of śiva or of agni ; he is called god of war as leader of śiva's hosts against the enemies of the gods ; he is also leader of the demons of illness that attack children , also god of burglars and thieves)
kārttikeya: N. of son of śiva and pārvatī (popularly regarded as god of war , because he leads the gaṇas or hosts of śiva against the demon hosts; accord. to one legend he was son of śiva without the intervention of pārvatī , the generative energy of śiva being cast into the fire and then received by the Ganges , whence he is sometimes described as son of agni and gaṅgā ; when born he was fostered by the six kṛttikās, and these offering their six breasts to the child he became six-headed)
kṛttikā: f. pl. N. of a constellation (the Pleiads , originally the first , but in later times the third lunar mansion , having agni as its regent ; this constellation , containing six stars , is sometimes represented as a flame or as a kind of razor or knife ; in mythol. the six kṛttikās are nymphs who became the nurses of the god of war , kārttikeya).

babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū: to be, become ; arise , come into being , exist , be found , live , stay , abide
pakṣmānta-vicañcitāśruḥ (nom. sg. m.): with tears dangling on the ends of his eyelashes
pakṣma: m. eye-lash
anta: end
vicañcita: dangling
cañc: to leap , jump , move , dangle , be unsteady , shake
aśru: n. a tear

niśvasya = abs. ni- √ śvas: to draw in the breath , inspire ; to hiss , snort &c
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
tridivonmukhaḥ (nom. sg. m.) looking up to heaven
tri-diva: n. the 3rd or most; sacred heaven , heaven (in general)
unmukha: mfn. raising the face , looking up or at
abhūt = 3rd pers. sg. aorist. bhū: to be, become

見生未曾想 流涙長歎息

Friday, June 29, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.60: Seeing Signs, Disbelievingly

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Bālā)
cakrāṅka-pādaṁ sa tato maharṣir-jālāvanaddhāṅguli-pāṇi-pādam |
sorṇa-bhruvaṁ vāraṇa-vasti-kośaṁ savismayaṁ rāja-sutaṁ dadarśa || 1.60

Then the great seer observed the wheel-marked feet,

The webbed fingers and toes,

The circle of hair between the eyebrows,
And the testes drawn up like an elephant's:

Disbelievingly did he behold the son of the king.

EHJ notes: “It is still disputed whether the jāla on the fingers and toes means webbing or meshed lines.” But EBC, EHJ, and PO all went with webbing rather than meshed lines.

EHJ notes further that “the last mark mentioned [having testicles drawn up into the body like an elephant's testicles] is still considered a sign of great strength in India”

Since Aśvaghoṣa elected to list in today's verse four signs, and lists of four in the writings of buddha-ancestors such as Aśvaghoṣa and Dogen often manifest a four-phased progression:
(1) the mark of a wheel or circle may be understood as symbolizing something round, perfect, or ideal, like a golden full moon in a cloudless night sky;
(2) webbed fingers and toes may be understood as representing something unexpected, like a white crescent moon in a blue morning sky;
(3) a circle of hair between the eyebrows may be taken as indicative of the intuitive third eye, whose wisdom transcends both romantic thinking and its falsification via scientific investigation of facts; and
(4) having bollocks like an elephant's is suggestive of hidden potential and at the same time tremendous power.

The key word in today's verse, as I read it, is savismayam, which I have translated as “disbelievingly.” Aśvaghoṣa as I read him is describing Asita's attitude not as the superstitious astonishment of a religious person but rather the skeptical inquiry of an irreligious one.

By describing Asita as disbelieving, I think Aśvaghoṣa is offering us a clue to how we should approach not only today's verse but also the whole subject of Āryan signs. We should approach that subject not on the basis of religious belief but on the basis of the confidence to be had from making the Buddha's teaching of the four noble truths into one's own possession.

My teacher, Gudo Nishijima, conspicuously made the four noble truths into his own possession, to which he affixed the trademark SOAR (standing for Subject, Object, Action, Reality).

Thus, a perfect circle can be seen an example of a Subjective or idealistic conception, along the lines of a Platonic form. Webbed fingers and toes might be an Objective fact, contrary to usual conceptions of how human fingers and toes should be. A circle of hair around the area of the third eye might mark a vital centre for Action – a centre of thinking in activity. And balls like an elephant's might be symbols of power that is very Real and great.

In my 20s I tended to hang believingly on Gudo's every word, which is how I came to understand fairly well his way of thinking in four phases, and also how I began to learn, the hard way, that compared with religious belief, disbelief conduces a whole lot better to discernment of the cosmic directive.

Gudo used to say that the practice of Zazen embraces all four phases, which sounds nice in theory. In practice, from where I sit, Gudo did not clearly understand that the idealism of “right posture” is only a Subjective delusion; hence he taught his students to pursue, according to the lowly end-gaining principle, “the right posture” of a vertically straight spine.

Gudo's attitude to the discoveries of FM Alexander was that “If AT is the same as Buddhism, it is not necessary for me to study it. And if AT is not the same as Buddhism, I do not have any interest in studying it.”

“Buddhism is not a religion,” Gudo used to say, “Buddhism is a philosophy.” But when he unexpectedly met a Tasmanian being akin to a real dragon with webbed fingers and toes, Gudo preferred to believe religiously in Buddhism as he conceived it.

An irony that would not have been lost on that lover and master of irony Aśvaghoṣa is that although Gudo wrote a book titled “To Meet the Real Dragon,” when it came in practice to the vital matter of teaching others how to sit, my teacher was in some respects just a fake elephant.

It is not easy for anybody to understand how I might be serving my teacher by calling him an arrogant little twat. But his own fundamental teaching was that we sit every day, and tell the truth, letting the chips fall where they may. He was the one who said that Buddhism is not a religion -- even if he failed to understand the meaning of his own words.

cakrāṅka-pādam (acc. sg. m.): with wheel-marked feet
cakra: a wheel, a circle
aṅka: m. a hook, curve ; a curved line; a numerical figure , cipher , a figure or mark branded on an animal , &c
pāda: m. the foot
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tataḥ: ind. then, from that
maharṣiḥ (nom. sg.): m. the great seer

jālāvanaddhāṅguli-pāṇi-pādam (acc. sg. m.): with webbed/net-covered fingers and toes
jālāvanaddha: mfn. having toe- and finger-membranes
jāla: n. a net, web
avanaddha: mfn. bound on , tied , covered with
aṅguli: f. a finger or toe
pāṇi: m. the hand
pāda: m. the foot

sorṇa-bhruvam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. having a circle of hair between the eye-brows
sa: (possessive prefix) having
ūrṇā: f. wool; a circle of hair between the eyebrows
bhruva: (ifc.) = bhrū: f. an eyebrow , the brow
vāraṇa-vasti-kośam (acc. sg. m.): his testicles withdrawn into his lower abdomen like an elephant
vāraṇa: mfn. resisting; m. an elephant (from its power of resistance)
vasti: mf. the lower belly , abdomen ; the pelvis
kośa: m. a cask ; a covering ; a treasury ; a nutshell; a testicle or the scrotum

savismayam: ind. having astonishment , surprised , perplexed , doubtful
sa: possessive prefix
vismaya: m. wonder , surprise , amazement , bewilderment , perplexity; pride , arrogance ; doubt , uncertainty
rāja-sutam (acc. sg.): m. the king's son, the prince
dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś: to see, behold

仙人觀太子 足下千輻輪
手足網縵指 眉間白毫跱
馬藏隱密相 容色炎光明

Thursday, June 28, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.59: What Put a Spring in the King's Step

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Vāṇī)
ity-etad-evaṁ vacanaṁ niśamya praharṣa-saṁbhrānta-gatir-narendraḥ |
ādāya dhātry-aṅka-gataṁ kumāraṁ saṁdarśayām-āsa tapo-dhanāya || 1.59

Thus discerning this direction,

The king, with a joyful spring in his step,

Took the prince, who was sitting on a nurse's lap,

And showed him to austerity-rich Asita.

Asita was, with his whole being, devoted to sitting. And so through Asita the king was able to observe, perceive, hear and learn something that was a word, an instruction, a direction, and/or an order, which caused the king to have a spring in his step.

That direction which put a spring in the king's step, I venture to suggest, was a lengthening and widening direction. As an order, it might be expressed “Let the head go forward and up in such a way that the spine lengthens and the back widens!” If vacanam is understood to mean “a word,” the word might be up.

The Chinese translator's treatment of the 2nd pāda is interesting:
王聞仙人説 決定離疑網
“The king, hearing the seer's assertion, decisively quit the net of doubt.”

Compare EHJ's “When the king heard him speak thus, his bearing was disordered with delight,”

EHJ's translation has the virtue, as always, of his effort to mirror Aśvaghoṣa's original Sanskrit as closely as he can. But on this occasion the spirit of the original, as I read it, is better captured by the Chinese translation. The king's bearing was not disordered; on the contrary, thanks to Asita, the king's whole being was informed and ordered by a direction that freed him from all disordered mental states like intellectual doubt.

iti: “...,” thus
etat (acc. sg. n.): this , this here ; ind. in this manner , thus , so , here , at this time , now
evam: ind. thus, such
vacanam (acc. sg.): n. the act of speaking , utterance ; n. statement , declaration , express mention ; n. speech , sentence , word ; n. advice , instruction , direction , order , command
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn

praharṣa-saṁbhrānta-gatiḥ (nom. sg. m.): going with a lively gait in his extreme joy
praharṣa: m. erection ; erection of the hair , extreme joy , thrill of delight , rapture
saṁbhrānta: mfn. whirled about , flurried , confused , perplexed , agitated , excited ; quickened , brisk , lively (gait)
gati: f. going , moving , gait ,
narendraḥ (nom. sg.): m. " man-lord " , king

ādāya = abs. ā- √ dā : to take
dhātry-aṅka-gatam (acc. sg. m.): sitting on his nursing mother's curve
dhātrī: f. " female supporter " , a nurse; midwife; mother; the earth
dhātṛ: m. establisher , founder , creator , bearer , supporter
aṅka: m. a hook; a curve ; the curve in the human , especially the female , figure above the hip (where infants sitting , astride are carried by mothers hence often = " breast " or " lap ")
gata: mfn. being in
kumāram (acc. sg.): m. prince

saṁdarśayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perf. causative saṁ- √ dṛś: to cause to be seen , display , show
tapo-dhanāya (dat. sg. m.): mfn. rich in religious austerities , (m.) a great ascetic
tapas: n. warmth , heat ; pain , suffering ; religious austerity , bodily mortification , penance , severe meditation
dhana: any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money , treasure , gift

王聞仙人説 決定離疑網
命持太子出 以示於仙人

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.58: Intuiting the Cosmic Directive

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Sālā)
śrutvā vacas-tac-ca manaś-ca yuktvā jñātvā nimittaiś-ca tato 'smyupetaḥ |
didṛkṣayā śākya-kula-dhvajasya śakra-dhvajasyeva samucchritasya || 1.58

Listening for that directive, applying the mind to it,

And intuiting it by signs, on that basis I am arrived,

Desirous of seeing the banner of the Śākya clan

Held aloft like the flag of mighty Indra.”

Asita in today's verse, depending on how his words are understood and translated, is either expressing a delusory/psychotic state of hearing non-existent voices, or else he is expressing the essence of the tradition of upright sitting which the Buddha received and cherished.

EBC translated śrutvā vacas-tat as “Having heard that voice,” EHJ as “As soon as I heard the voice,” and PO as “When I heard those words.”

But Asita, as I hear him, is not talking about a voice or some words that he heard in the past. What Asita called divyā vak, “the cosmic word,” is always providing a practitioner with the fundamental basis for arriving, providing that he or she listens out for it, and applies the mind to it, and intuits it, by signs.

On that basis I have translated vacas tat in today's verse not as “that voice” or as “those words” but as “that directive.” And that cosmic directive, it seems to me, on the basis of 30 years of listening out for it, and applying my mind to it, and intuiting it by signs, has to do with gravity and has to do with evolution of consciousness. It has to do, in short, with what is known in Alexander work as “thinking up.”

As regards the meaning of nimittaiḥ, “by signs,” the primary signs for a practitioner who is sitting in lotus might be provided, for example, by how the whole organism is working, or not working, as a respiratory mechanism. And this, I venture to assert, might be why the Buddha recommended Nanda to practise the practice known in Sanskrit as ānāpāna-smṛtiṃ, mindfulness of inward and outward breathing:
So for the giving up, in short, of all these ideas, / Mindfulness of inward and outward breathing, my friend, you should make into your own possession. // 15.64 //
The nub of the matter is this: my sense of up is not reliable, and so I cannot feel whether I am truly going up or depressing myself by stiffening or slumping. What I can do is (1) to adopt a listening attitude, a condition of openness which is very different from believing that I know or feel what is right; (2) to apply my mind; or, in short, to think – to think the up which I cannot feel; and (3) to intuit whether or not I am in fact going up, not directly by feeling, but indirectly by means of signs.

Those signs may be subtle good signs, like an easy movement of the floating ribs, or subtle bad signs like a faint sniffing sound as air passes in and out of the nose. I am not sure whether there is any such thing as a gross good sign, but gross bad signs certainly do arise, as a result of the practitioner failing to attend to subtle bad signs. An example of a gross bad sign might be a constant gnawing pain in the stomach, of the like of which I was suffering before beginning this job of mining Aśvaghoṣa's gold.

One of the latest new-fangled -isms to be trotted out by sceptical Christian thinkers is so-called “post-religionism.” Recently there was a series on BBC Radio 4 titled “Honest Doubt” presented by one such radical sceptic named Richard Holloway, a fomer Bishop of Edinburgh. I am tempted to react to Holloway's post-religionist thesis by describing myself as a pre-religionist. But pre-religionism would also be just another -ism to be abandoned. What I would say is that the non-Buddhist Asita represents to me an examplar of a tradition which is prior to religion, and I belong to that tradition. In the same degree as I look down on the Buddhist striver who features in Saundara-nanda, I look up to the non-Buddhist Asita who is expressing in today's verse truth that no Buddhist religionist or post-religionist has ever seen, even in a dream. 

My own teacher, Rev. Gudo Nishijima, never saw so clearly as Asita the truth that Asita is expressing in today's verse. If he had seen it, for one thing, he would not have called himself "Rev." For another, he would not have been so prejudiced as he was against the teaching of FM Alexander.

Because Asita could describe himself as asmyupetaḥ “arrived, I am,” Gautama could subsequently refer to himself as tathāgata, “come in the same manner” -- on the basis of opening the ears and listening out for the cosmic directive, applying the mind thereto (i.e. thinking up), and intuiting that direction indirectly, by means of signs.

śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear, listen
vacaḥ (acc. sg.): n. speech , voice , word ; singing , song (of birds) ; advice , direction , command , order ; an oracular utterance (declarative of some future fate or destiny) ; a sentence
tat (acc. sg. n.): that
ca: and
manaḥ (acc. sg.): n. mind
ca: and
yuktvā = abs. yuj: to yoke or join ; to make ready , prepare , arrange , fit out , set to work , use , employ , apply ; to turn or direct or fix or concentrate (the mind , thoughts &c ) upon (loc.)

jñātvā = abs. jñā: to know, perceive , apprehend , understand
nimittaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. a butt , mark , target ; sign , omen
ca: and
tataḥ: ind. from that ; thereupon , then , after that , afterwards
asmi (1st pers. sg. as): I am
upetaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who has come near or approached , one who has betaken himself to , approached (for protection) , arrived at , abiding in

didṛkṣayā = inst. sg. didkṣā: f. ( √ dṛś Desid.) desire of seeing
śākya-kula-dhvajasya (gen. sg.): the banner of the Śākya clan
śākya-kula: the Śākya clan
kula: n. a herd; a race , family , community , tribe
dhvaja: m. a banner , flag , standard; mark , emblem , ensign , characteristic , sign

śakra-dhvajasya (gen. sg.): m. the banner of mighty Indra
śakra: mfn. strong , powerful , mighty (applied to various gods , but esp. to indra)
iva: like
samucchritasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. well raised or elevated ; surging , high ; exalted , powerful

并見先瑞相 今故來到此
欲觀釋迦王 建立正法幢

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.57: The Cosmic Word that Asita Heard

−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Kīrti)
prayojanaṁ yat-tu mamopayāne tan-me śṛṇu prītim-upehi ca tvam |
divyā mayāditya-pathe śrutā vāg-bodhāya jātas-tanayas-taveti || 1.57

But as to my own motive in coming here,

Hear it from me and be glad:

The cosmic word, I have heard
-- on Āditi's way, on the path of the sun --

Is that your son has been born for the sake of awakening.

The tu (“But”) in the first pāda has meaning. Yesterday's verse was a sort of digression on good governance of a sovereign nation. But that for Asita was not the primary thing. What Asita himself was primarily interested in, what gave him the motive for coming, was something cosmic or universal, something on the path of the sun – something that far transcended the dual concerns of the brahmins, who were interested in Aryo-centric spiritual religion and in earthly advancement.

In Asita's expression, as I hear it, is the confidence of an individual who, with no fish to fry, is telling the truth in the first person singular. Unlike the brahmins, Asita is not inclined to tell the king what he necessarily wants to hear. Also unlike the brahmins he does not seek dubious corroboration for his assertions in ancient Brahmanical myths. He simply says what he has intuited, through being devoted to sitting, with his whole being, on the path of the sun, and then he buggers off again, the same way he came, on the path of the wind.

EBC translated divyā vak as “a heavenly voice,” EHJ as “a divine voice” and PO as “a voice divine.” These translations look like they might have drawn their inspiration from the Old Testament. The Chinese translator went with  空中天説 “a god in the sky preached...”

But that's not the cosmic word that I have heard. I drew the inspiration for my translation from a less ancient, less mystical, and altogether less religious source.

prayojanam (acc. sg.): n. occasion , object , cause , motive , opportunity , purpose , design , aim , end
yat (acc. sg. n.): [that] which
tu: but
mama (gen. sg.): my
upayāne (loc. sg.): n. the act of coming near , approach

tat (acc. sg. n.): that
me (gen./dat. sg.): to me
śṛṇu = 2nd pers. sg. imperative śru: to hear , listen or attend to anything (acc.) ; to hear (from a teacher) , study , learn; to be attentive , be obedient , obey
prītim (acc. sg.): f. any pleasurable sensation , pleasure , joy , gladness , satisfaction (with loc.)
upehi = 2nd pers. sg. upa- √i: betake one's self to , enter into any state
ca: and
tvam (nom. sg.): you

divyā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. divine , heavenly , celestial ; supernatural , wonderful , magical ; charming , beautiful , agreeable
mayā (inst. sg.): by me
āditya-pathe (loc. sg.): on Āditi's way, on the sun's path
āditya: mfn. belonging to or coming from aditi ; m. pl. N. of seven deities of the heavenly sphere (the chief is varuṇa , to whom the N. āditya is especially applicable); m. N. of a god in general , especially of sūrya (the sun)
patha: m. a way , path , road , course , reach (generally ifc. for pathin)
śrutā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. heard
vāk (nom. sg.): f. speech , voice , talk ; a word , saying , phrase , sentence , statement

bodhāya = dat. sg. bodha: m. waking , becoming or being awake , consciousness
jātaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. born
tanayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a son
tava (gen. sg.): your, to you
iti: “....,” thus

我從日道來 聞空中天説
言王生太子 當成正覺道

Monday, June 25, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.56: Accepting Treasure and Using It Wisely

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Bālā)
etac-ca tad-yena nṛpa-rṣayas-te dharmeṇa sūkṣmeṇa dhanāny-avāpya |
nityaṁ tyajanto vidhivad-babhūvus-tapobhir-āḍhyā vibhavair-daridrāḥ || 1.56

This, moreover, is the means whereby
those seers who were rulers of men,

On garnering riches, by the subtle method,

And constantly giving those riches away,
in a principled manner, 

Became flush with austerities and bereft of luxuries.

On the surface, what Asita seems to be saying in this verse is that the King's attitude of adoring appreciation is the very dharma by which royal seers have given their palaces and crown jewels away – as if the most important thing for a royal seer to accomplish were a once-and-for-all religious act of renouncing his riches. In this reading of today's verse, the first word etad (“this”) refers to the King's adoring appreciation – a royal seer's adoring attachment to a sage is the means that enables him to give away his wealth.

Digging deeper, another way of reading today's verse emerges if one takes etad to mean THIS, i.e. “this very devotion to sitting which I, Asita, being absorbed here and now in the action of sitting in the lotus posture, am demonstrating to you, with my whole being, going up to breathe out and going up to breathe in again, constantly accepting and using the treasure of the self.”

In translating nṛpa-rṣayas-te (EHJ: “those royal seers,” PO: “those royal sages”) the vitally important thing about those seers might be not so much their royal status as their practical function as rulers and protectors of their subjects – which is the literal meaning of nṛpa, “governor of men.”

A ruler of men who garners riches “by the subtle method” (dharmeṇa sūkṣmeṇa) might be one who raises taxes in order to build communal irrigation ditches and granaries, as opposed to one who employs the direct method of slaughtering neighbouring populations and plundering their treasuries. And constantly giving those riches away might mean, for example, regularly releasing grain from communal granaries, and distributing it to deserving recipients.

The principle in question, then, whether in sitting or in governing, might be the principle of balance between accepting and using, or taxing and spending. And “in a principled manner,” (vidhi-vat) might mean not just flinging wealth away but distributing it wisely, so as not to reward the undeserving but to benefit the deserving.

Examples of managers of men today who would seem to be adhering to this principle, accumulating wealth in order to give it away wisely, are Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in the US. A counter-example from my own country might be the old woman of royal status but no political power whom people call the Queen, or her son Charles, for whom keeping it in the family rather than giving it away has evidently been priority number one. I cannot really blame those two as individuals, however. In a way, they are victims of the social station into which they were born. Much more blameworthy are the brahmins of Balliol College who with their air of effortless superiority have inhabited the upper echelons of British academia, policy-making and finance, and overseen the formation of a massively overblown financial sector and a correspondingly massive debt bubble. Future generations of Brits who create wealth by making discoveries and designing and making stuff, providing they don't flee the country like rats deserting a sinking ship, before they can think about distributing wealth wisely, will have to use large fractions of it to pay off debts accumulated for fighting other people's wars and paying single mothers to bring up fatherless children.

Googling “accumulating wealth to give it away” led me to a webpage with a quote from “The Gospel of Wealth” written by the grand-daddy of philanthropy, a real manager of men named Andrew Carnegie:
“This then is held to be the duty of the man of wealth. First: to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him, and after doing so, to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is strictly bound as a matter of duty, to administer in the manner which in his judgment is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community.

The man of wealth must become a trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer. Those who would administer wisely must indeed be wise. For one of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminate charity. It were better for mankind that the millions of the rich were thrown into the sea than so spent as to encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy.”

etat (nom. sg. n.): this
ca: and
tad (nom. sg. n.): that
yena (inst.): by which ; by means of which , by which way
nṛpa-rṣayaḥ (nom. pl. m.): m. king-seers, royal sages
nṛpa: m. man-ruler, king
pa: mfn. protecting, ruling
rṣi: m. seer
te (nom. pl. m.): those

dharmeṇa (inst. sg.): m. dharma, method, law
sūkṣmeṇa (inst. sg. m.): mfn. minute , small , fine , thin ; acute, subtle
dhanāni (acc. pl.): n. any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money , treasure , gift
avāpya = abs. ava-√āp: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get

nityam: ind. always , constantly , regularly , by all means
tyajantaḥ = nom. pl. m. pres. part. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to let go, give up, give away
vidhivat: ind. according to rule , duly
babhūvuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. bhū: to be, become

tapobhiḥ (inst. pl.): n. austerities, ascetic practices
āḍhyāḥ (nom. pl.): mfn. rich or abounding in , richly endowed or filled or mixed with (instr.)
vibhavaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. power , might , greatness , exalted position ; m. (also pl.) wealth , money , property , fortune ; m. luxury , anything sumptuary or superfluous
daridrāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. poor , needy , deprived of (instr. )


Sunday, June 24, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.55: Affectionate Appreciation Befits a Benevolent Dictator

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Mālā)
mahātmani tvayy-upapannam-etat priyātithau tyāgini dharma-kāme |
sattvānvaya-jñāna-vayo-'nurūpā snigdhā yad-evaṁ mayi te matiḥ syāt || 1.55

“This befits you, great and noble soul that you are,

Hospitable, generous, and dharma-loving,

That you should show towards me,
reflecting your character, family, wisdom and vitality,

Such affectionate appreciation.

This verse, as I read it, contains at least a couple of buried teachings.

The first is a very indirect practical pointer to any great ruler of men who might happen to be listening or reading, along the lines of “If there is a sage whose teaching you affectionately appreciate, then such appreciation reflects well on you, and it is appropriate for you to show yourself to be hospitable, generous and dharma-loving.”

The second truth, buried much deeper below the surface, under a thick layer of irony, is the principle that only a person devoted to sitting really appreciates a person who is devoted to sitting (āsana-stham; BC1.52).

Reading between the lines, I suppose that if there was any mighty tyrant who had expressed his affectionate appreciation of Aśvaghoṣa, Aśvaghoṣa would certainly not have been lying if he pleased the tyrant by saying that the tyrant's expression of affectionate appreciation reflected well on the tyrant himself. But in the back of his mind Aśvaghoṣa might also have been conscious of the fact that the tyrant had never truly appreciated his devotion to sitting, even in a dream. 

Again, the king's appreciation is described as snigdhā, attached, affectionate, tender, loving. Recently the Dalai Lama has been on tour in the UK, filling arenas with adoring fans like a rock and roll star. But from where I sit that kind of affectionate appreciation of a person, on its own, does not amount to much. If it led people to be devoted to sitting, that would be a different thing.

At the end of Saundarananda, when Nanda compares himself to a baby elephant extricated from a mire, his overriding emotion seems to be one not of affection towards the Buddha but of gratitude. The Saundarananda is not, I have argued, a story of religious conversion, but it is a story of Nanda's redemption or salvation or liberation. And what redeemed him, what redeems any of us, is not so much affectionate appreciation of a person as sincere devotion to an action, primarily sitting. What really redeemed, saved, and liberated Nanda, in the final analysis, was devotion to sitting (āsana-stham), with his whole being (sarveṇa bhāvena).

On the surface, then, Asita's affirmation of the king looks strongly affirmative. But Aśvaghoṣa's writing is always an invitation to dig deeper – and not only intellectually but with one's whole being (sarveṇa bhāvena), through being devoted to sitting (āsana-stham).

mahātmani (loc. sg. m.): mfn. " high-souled " , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble ; highly gifted , exceedingly wise ; eminent , mighty , powerful , distinguished
tvayi (loc. sg.): to you
upapannam (nom. sg. n.): fit , suited for the occasion , adequate , conformable
etat (nom. sg. n.): this

priyātithau (loc. sg. m.): devoted to guests; hospitable
priya: mfn. fond of attached or devoted to (ibc. e.g. priya-devana , " fond of playing ")
atithi: m. a guest , a person entitled to hospitality
tyāgini = loc. sg. m. tyāgin: mfn. sacrificing , giving up; liberal; free-giving; m. a donor
dharma-kāme (loc. sg. m.): mfn. loving justice , observing right

sattvānvaya-jñāna-vayo-'nurūpā (nom. sg. f.): befitting your goodness, knowledge, and prime of life
sattva: n. true essence , nature , disposition of mind , character; vital breath , life , consciousness , strength of character , strength , firmness , energy , resolution , courage , self-command , good sense , wisdom , magnanimity; the quality of purity or goodness
anvaya: m. following , succession; connection , association , being linked to or concerned with; descendants , race , lineage , family.
jñāna: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge
vayas: n. energy (both bodily and mental) , strength , health , vigour , power , might; n. vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
anurūpa: mfn. following the form , conformable , corresponding , like , fit , suitable; adapted to

snigdhā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. sticky; adhesive , attached , affectionate , tender , friendly
yad: that
evam: ind. thus, such
mayi (loc. sg.): to me
te (gen. sg.): of/in you
matiḥ (nom. sg.): f. devotion; thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire ; the mind , perception , understanding , intelligence , sense , judgement
syāt (3rd pers. sg. optative as): there might be

善哉常勝王 衆徳悉皆備
愛樂來求者 惠施崇正法
仁智殊勝族 謙恭善隨順

Saturday, June 23, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.54: The Sound of an Empty Vessel

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Sālā)
evaṁ nṛpeṇopamantritaḥ san-sarveṇa bhāvena munir-yathāvat |
sa vismayotphulla-viśāla-dṛṣṭir-gambhīra-dhīrāṇi vacāṁsy-uvāca || 1.54

Being bidden like this by a ruler of men,

The sage, with his whole being, [responded] appropriately;

He whose expansive eye was,
in his state of wonderment, wide open,

Voiced words whose sound was deep and sonorous:

A truth that is readily apparent in today's verse, as I read it, is that the more open a man's mind is, the fuller and more resonant his voice tends to be.

Digging deeper, we might find buried here not only two but four elements of practice, namely (1) the preservation of psycho-physical integrity, in (2) making an appropriate response to a challenging stimulus, in such a way as ultimately to (3) abandon all views, and (4) express the truth roundly and fully, in one's own words and voice.

On the subject of acting with one's whole being (sarveṇa bhāvena), a sage named FM Alexander wrote:
"The fact to be faced is that the human self was robbed of much of its inheritance when the separation implied by the conception of the organism as 'spirit,' 'mind' and 'body' was accepted as a working principle, for it left unbridged the gap between the 'subconscious' and the conscious. I venture to assert that if the gap is to be bridged, it will be by means of a knowledge, gained through practical experience, which will enable us to inhibit our instinctive, 'subconscious' reaction to a given stimulus, and to hold it inhibited while initiating a conscious direction, guidance, and control of the use of the self that was previously unfamiliar."

With the words sarveṇa bhāvena (“with his whole being”), I venture to assert, Aśvaghoṣa is continuing to praise the attitude of Asita, and contrasting it with the attitude of the aformentioned brahmins.

EHJ understood that sarveṇa bhāvena (“with all cordiality”) described the attitude of the king; hence he translated “When the sage was invited in this befitting fashion by the king with all cordiality,...”

From where I sit, EHJ failed to hit the target in his translation because of studying the Buddha's teaching only as an excellent Sanskrit scholar and not with an effort of his own whole being. To study the Buddha's teaching with one's whole being might mean, for example, sitting in lotus as an act of accepting and using the whole self. Or it might mean, for another example, the act of bowing before a guru:
Having thus had pointed out to him the path of what is, Nanda took that path of liberation. / He bowed with his whole being (sarveṇa bhāvena) before the Guru and, with a view to abandoning the afflictions, he made for the forest. // SN17.1 //

Digging deeper still, I think today's verse might be intended to contain not only the essential elements of practice but also elements of the autobiography of Aśvaghoṣa himself. If as some ancient records suggest Aśvaghoṣa was indeed summoned by a hitherto genocidal king of the Kuṣāṇ empire to serve at his royal court, then I suppose that Aśvaghoṣa might not have responded half-heartedly. He might rather have deemed it appropriate, while sheltering under the protection of the powerful king, to devote his whole being to making a record for future generations of the essential elements of the Buddha's teaching – making, in other words, the very best that he could of a bad job.

So the main point that I am making, as usual, mainly to myself, is that Zen practice is never done in the perfect vacuum of the other monastery, but is generally akin to making the best of whatever cards one has been dealt. Contrary to the divided view of the aforementioned brahmins, the Buddha's teaching is not followed in the rarified atmosphere of a separate religious sphere but is followed in the wonderful world, wherein, for every generation, difficult stimuli are presented by genocidal rulers, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, direct marketers, dangerous drivers, debt bubbles, current account deficits, mass unemployment, consumer price inflation, clients who cancel their appointments at the last minute or who fail to show up, gurus who get things wrong, crowing cockerels, low-flying aircraft, et cetera.

evam: ind. thus
nṛpeṇa (inst. sg.): m. protector of men, king
pa: mfn. guarding , protecting , ruling
upa-mantritaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. called near or hither ; summoned , invited , persuaded ; addresssed
san = nom. sg. m. pres. part. as: to be

sarveṇa (inst. sg.): all
bhāvena (inst. sg.): m. being; love, affection ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind (parituṣṭena bhāvena , with a pleased mind)
muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. the sage
yathāvat: ind. according to what is right , properly , correctly; duly , rightly , suitably , exactly

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
vismayotphulla-viśāla-dṛṣṭih (nom. sg. m.): his wide eye opened wide in wonderment
sa-vismayotphulla-viśāla-dṛṣṭih (nom. sg. m.): his wide eye opened wide in wonderment
sa-: (possessive prefix)
vismaya: m. wonder , surprise , amazement
utphulla: mfn. blown (as a flower); wide open (as the eyes)
viśāla: mfn. spacious , extensive , broad , wide , large ; great , important , powerful , mighty , illustrious , eminent
dṛṣṭi: f. seeing, sight, view, eye

gambhīra-dhīrāṇi (acc. pl. n.): deep-sounding and sonorous
gambhīra = gabhīra: mfn. deep in sound , deep-sounding , hollow-toned ; profound , sagacious , grave , serious , solemn , secret , mysterious
dhīra: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave ; deep , low , dull (as sound)
vacāṁsi (acc. pl.): n. speech, voice, word
uvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vac: to speak, say

如是勸請已 仙人大歡喜

Friday, June 22, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.53: The King's Request – Tell Me What to Do!

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Indravajrā)
dhanyo 'smy-anugrāhyam-idaṁ kulaṁ me yan-māṁ didṛkṣur-bhagavān-upetaḥ |
ājñāpyatāṁ kiṁ karavāṇi saumya śiṣyo 'smi viśrambhitum-arhasīti || 1.53

“Fortunate am I and favoured is my family

In that you, Beauty-Possessed Man, have come to see me.

Let me know, O moonlike man of soma, what I should do.

Please believe in me, for I am ready to be taught.”

In today's verse again, the king treats Asita in a way that is very different from how he treats the brahmins.

In the earlier exchange, the king asks a question in which he expresses a doubt and the brahmins try to allay that doubt, saying, in so many words, “We understand causation. Trust us.” In that exchange the ancient Indian brahmins were like brahmin academics of today who continue to believe in the underlying truth of classical economics and who say to policymakers: “We understand causation. Trust us.”

In this exchange on the contrary, the king does not pose an intellectual question; rather, he makes a request, when he says to Asita, like a would-be apprentice seeking to learn a practical discipline under a master of that discipline: “Trust me.”

Digging deeper (by which I mean snoring for seven hours and then sitting for an hour), ājñāpyatāṁ kiṁ karavāṇi is exactly the question I asked Gudo Nishijima when I first met him in his office 30 years ago, when he was a 62-year old Buddhist teacher and I was a 22-year old martial artist -- “Tell me what to do.” I didn't want to be told any abstract stuff. “I'm a sportsman and a fighter in search of Zen enlightenment– show me what I should do.” Gudo proceeded to launch into a lecture on “the four philosophies” of idealism, materialism, action and reality.

“Tell me what to do,” again, is what new Alexander pupils say. “I know I've got poor posture. I would like to have good posture. Show me what to do. Preferably give me some physical exercises that I can go home and practise.”

Asita, as will be revealed in the coming series of verses, does not in fact tell the king what he should do. Rather, Asita tells the king the truth as Asita sees it and then goes, as he came, on the way of the wind.

A friend of mine who is an Alexander Technique teacher and a professional musician told me a story which I love about a conversation he was having with fellow members of his orchestra, on the subject of how much everybody charged for one-to-one music lessons on their particular instrument. A certain grumpy Hungarian remained silent. When asked how much he charged, he replied tersely, “£200 for half an hour.” “Wow! That is a lot! How many pupils do you have?” László smiled: “None!”

dhanyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bringing or bestowing wealth , opulent , rich; fortunate, happy
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
anugrāhyam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. to be favoured or furthered
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
kulam (nom. sg.): n. a herd, multitude; a race , family , community , tribe , caste , set , company ; a house ; a noble or eminent family or race
me (gen. sg.): my

yat: that
mām (acc. sg.): me
didṛkṣuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. wishing to see, wishing to visit
bhagavān = nom. sg. bhagavat: m. possessing fortune , fortunate , prosperous , happy; glorious , illustrious , divine , adorable , venerable
upetaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. come to, come near

ājñāpyatām = imperative passive causative ā- √ jñā: to order , command , direct
kim (interrogative pronoun): what
karavāṇi = 1st pers. sg. imperative kṛ: to do
saumya (voc.): " resembling the moon " , placid , gentle , mild (saumya voc. = " O gentle Sir! " " O good Sir! " " O excellent man! " as the proper mode of addressing a Brahman )

śiṣyaḥ (nom. sg.): m. “to be taught”; a pupil , scholar , disciple
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
viśrambhitum = inf. vi- √ śrambh: to confide , be confident , trust in or rely on (loc.)
arhasi (2nd pers. sg. arh): you should
iti: “....,” thus.

時王白仙人 我今得大利
勞屈大仙人 辱來攝受我
諸有所應爲 唯願時教勅

Thursday, June 21, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.52: Offerings Befitting One Devoted to Sitting

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Ṛddhi)
tato nṛpas-taṁ munim-āsana-sthaṁ pādyārghya-pūrvaṁ pratipūjya samyak | 
nimantrayām-āsa yathopacāraṁ purā vasiṣṭhaṁ sa ivāntidevaḥ || 1.52

Then that sage who was absorbed in sitting

The king 
fittingly honoured, 
with foot-washing water and with welcoming water;

The king offered to him appropriate service,

As once upon a time Antideva did to Vasiṣṭha.

The compound āsana-stham at the end of the 1st pāda might look at first glance like an incidental description of what the sage happened to be doing at that time – keeping his bum plonked down on some kind of chair or seat. Hence the Chinese translator described Asita as reposing on “a true-dharma seat” (正法座). Hence also EBC translated “to the sage who was seated in his seat;” EHJ “the sage, when seated;” PO “When seated....”

The suffix stham can indeed simply mean “being” or “remaining” as in “remaining in a seat.” And āsana can simply mean “a seat.” But stham can also mean “devoted to” or “practising” and āsana is originally an action noun that means “sitting.” 

In Chinese, similarly, āsana can be translated either , “seat,"  or 坐, “sitting” -- as in 坐禅 sitting-meditation. Dogen, by the way, never wrote 座禅 , “seated meditation;” he always wrote 坐禅 sitting-meditation.

So it might not look like āsana-stham is saying anything deep about the sage himself, but truly  āsana-stham  is saying everything about why Aśvaghoṣa deemed Asita to be worthy of being served water.

The story of how Antideva went to heaven after serving warm water to Vasiṣṭha is contained in the Mahābhārata.

So I think Aśvaghoṣa wishes us to notice that when the king gave the brahmins the reward that they were after, he gave them riches, assets with a monetary value that appropriately reflected their elevated social status. But the offering that was appropriate for Asita was water.

What is generally going on in this first chapter of Buddhacarita is that Aśvaghoṣa is describing for us what we need to know about the milieu from which the Buddha sprang. 

The main gist is that there were loads of posh brahmins, who fell into two main groups. On one one side was the idealistic or religious lot who were convinced that the moon was the best of planets and who drew a clear dividing line between religious life and action in the world. On the other side were those more materialistic or proto-scientific brahmins who were more inclined to look at history objectively, as  modern academics are trained to do, as the playing out of the principle of cause and effect.

Quite apart from this bunch of snobs there were individual ascetics like Asita who went into the forest to practice, amongst other practices, the yoga of sitting in the full lotus posture.

And it was in this latter tradition that the Buddha went into the forest and sat – for six years, according to Dogen in Fukan-zazengi.

Because the Buddha was following an ancient tradition, the list of buddha-ancestors to which Aśvaghoṣa and Dogen belonged does not begin with the Buddha Śākyamuni; it rather counts the Buddha Śākyamuni as 7th in a line of Seven Ancient Buddhas.

I apologize to Patrick Olivelle that I am now going to have another go at his Buddhist view. Hopefully as a university professor he is a big enough boy to take my criticism. The thing is that it is so easy, at least it comes easy to me, to attack a Buddhist view that is patently wrong. So in a sense I am grateful to Patrick Olivelle for making it easier for me to serve Aśvaghoṣa by clarifying what his teaching is not. It is most definitely not a “presentation of the Buddha's dharma as the consummation and fulfillment of the Brahmanical tradition.” Nor did Aśvaghoṣa ever seek to uphold “the Buddhist view of the ascetic life as the highest religious aspiration.” 

On the contrary, Aśvaghoṣa presents the Buddha's dharma in such a way as constantly to undermine the snobbish intellectual conceptions of the Brahmanical tradition; and he guides us to revere the ascetic life, through examples like Asita and Nanda himself, as a starting point in the work of abandoning all Buddhist views, and especially religious asceticism.

How come such a lovely and intelligent man as Professor Patrick Olivelle is reputed to be can get it so spectacularly wrong? And how come such a foul-mouthed ignoramus as Mike Cross admittedly is can point so clearly to the good professor's blunder? There is only one criterion, and it is expressed in today's verse as āsana-stham, which means “being devoted to sitting.”

In order to let the point be made less directly, I have translated āsana-stham in today's verse as “absorped in sitting,” rather than as "devoted to sitting," but Aśvaghoṣa's real intention was not only to describe a momentary scene but also to hint at what has supreme value in the house of buddha-ancestors, and that is simply sitting.

The point to understand from today's verse is that in the house of the buddha-ancestors, since the time of the Seven Ancient Buddhas, there has not necessarily been any cash, but there has been sitting, and there has been water.

Today's verse is so important I wish I could have written a shorter comment. But being tired from yesterday's journey back from France, I can only manage another unduly wordy one.

tataḥ: ind. then
nṛpaḥ (nom. sg.): m. protector of men , prince , king
tam (acc. sg. m.): him, that
munim (acc. sg.): m. sage
āsana-stham (acc. sg. m.): abiding in sitting
āsana: n. sitting , sitting down ; seat, place
stha: mfn. standing , staying , abiding , being situated in ; occupied with , engaged in , devoted to performing , practising

pādyārghya-pūrvam (ind.): with water for washing the feet and water of welcome
pādya: mfn. relating or belonging to the foot ; n. water used for washing the feet
arghya: mfn. " valuable "; deserving a respectful reception (as a guest); belonging to or used at the respectful reception of a guest ; n. water offered at the respectful reception of a guest
pūrvam: ifc. in the sense of " with "
pratipūjya = abs. prati- √ pūj : to return a salutation , reverence , salute respectfully , honour , praise , commend , approve
samyak: ind. in one or the same direction ; correctly , truly , properly , fitly , in the right way or manner , well , duly

nimantrayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perfect ni- √ mantr: to invite or entertain with (instr.) or offer anything to (acc.)
yathā: ind. according to, as ; according to what is right , properly , correctly (= yathāvat)
upacāram: m. approach , service , attendance; act of civility , obliging or polite behaviour , reverence

purā: ind. before , formerly , of old
vasiṣṭham (acc. sg.): m. " the most wealthy " , N. of a celebrated Vedic ṛṣi or sage (owner of the " cow of plenty ")
sa (nom. sg.): he
iva: like
antidevaḥ (nom. sg.): m. “being in the presence of the gods , near the gods,” N. of an ancient king and sage

安處正法座 加敬尊奉事
如安低牒王 奉事波尸吒

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.51: An Exceptional Ascetic (Not Your Typical Striver)

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Upendravajrā)
sa pārthivāntaḥ-pura-saṁnikarṣaṁ kumāra-janmāgata-harṣa-vegaḥ |
viveśa dhīro vana-saṁjñayaiva tapaḥ-prakarṣāc-ca jarāśrayāc-ca || 1.51

He entered the intimate surroundings
of the women's quarters of the palace,

Bristling with a rush of joy at the prince's birth,

But steady, seeing the harem as if it were a forest,

Through his exceptional practice of austerities
– and thanks also to old age.

As a general rule, as documented by Nanda at length in Saundara-nanda Canto 7, ascetics in the Brahmanical tradition tended to suppress their sexual desire for years at a time before succumbing to sex with wives, prostitutes, nymphs, outcastes, et cetera. So today's verse as I read it describes Asita's ascetic practice as exceptional or extraordinary in the sense that he was not liable to succumb in the time-honoured manner to hedonistic pursuit of sexual enjoyment. At the same time, in the closing words of the verse it seems that Aśvaghoṣa, who was generally out to undermine the whole idea of asceticism, couldn't resist adding a sardonic note.

Digging deeper, there are two words in today's verse derived from the root √kṛṣ, to drag: namely, saṁnikarṣam (intitmate surroundings) in the 1st pāda and prakarṣāt (because of being exceptional) in the 4th pāda. Saṁ-ni-√kṛṣ, etymologically, suggests being “dragged together and down/in,” and pra-√kṛṣ suggests something or somebody being “dragged forth.”

So what? I think an implicit suggestion might be intended that hedonism and asceticism are two faces of one coin. Hedonistic indulgence in sensual pleasure drags us off the middle way to one side, and in ascetic indulgence of asceticism we drag ourselves off the other way.

This kind of veering off the middle way, however, is not a sin akin to stabbing your buddy in the back, or cutting the rope and leaving him half-way up the mountain.

When we reflect on Nanda's story, hedonistic indulgence was his starting point, and the Buddha deliberately caused him to go to the ends of asceticism. Those experiences of opposing -isms did not ultimately prevent Nanda from experiencing for himself the ultimate peace of which the Buddha spoke.

What is more seriously sinful than indugling in some -ism, in the value system of buddha-ancestors as I understand it, is to peddle some -ism, as if it were the Buddha's teaching, for one's own fame and profit. This is what the priests in Sung China were doing to incur such vehement wrath from Dogen. This is what Buddhist fortune tellers do in Thailand today. And this is what academic Buddhist scholars are ever liable to do, perhaps because the academic system to which they belong encourages -ism peddling.

Nanda, for all his faults, and despite his excursions into hedonism and asceticism, was able in the end to make the nectar of deathlessness into his own possession.

There is no record of the enlightenment of the striver, however, whose fault was the hypocrisy of preaching what apparently he lacked the will to practise.

The great thing is to be sincere about sitting. And Aśvaghoṣa as I read him is portraying Asita as somebody who, despite a certain ascetic tendency, was sincere about sitting. That sincerity put him a cut above the typical ascetic brahmin striver. Praise be to the Seven Ancient Buddhas! 

sa: (nom. sg. m.): he
pārthivāntaḥ-pura-saṁnikarṣam (acc. sg. m.): the vicinity of the king's gynaeceum; the vicinity of the women's quarters of the king's palace
pārthiva: m. a lord of the earth , king
antaḥ-pura: n. the king's palace , the female apartments , gynaeceum
antar: interior, inner
pura: n. fortress; the female apartments , gynaeceum
saṁnikarṣa: m. neighbourhood , proximity , vicinity
saṁ-ni- √ kṛṣ: (Pass.) to come into close or immediate contact with

kumāra-janmāgata-harṣa-vegaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with a rush of joy at the birth of the prince
kumāra:m. child, son, prince
janman: n. birth
āgata: mfn. having come, advent
harṣa: m. bristling; joy , pleasure , happiness
vega: m. shock; a stream , flood ; rush; outbreak , outburst (of passion) , excitement , agitation , emotion

viveśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. viś: to enter
dhīraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
vana-saṁjñayā (inst. sg.): conceiving it to be a forest, with consciousness that it was a forest
vana: n. forest
saṁjñā: f. consciousness , clear knowledge or understanding or notion or conception;
eva: (emphatic)

tapaḥ-prakarṣāt (abl. sg.): from his pre-eminence in ascetic practice
tapas: n. ascetic practice
prakarṣa: m. pre-eminence , excellence , superiority , excess , intensity , high degree (often ifc. e.g. adhva-pr° , a great distance R. ; kāla-pr° , a long time Sus3r. ; guṇa-pr° , extraordinary qualities)
pra- √ kṛṣ: to draw or stretch forth , drag along or away
ca: and
jarāśrayāt (abl. sg.): thanks to being endowed with old age
jarā: f. old age
āśraya: mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with
ca: and

梵行相具足 時王大歡喜
即請入宮内 恭敬設供養
將入内宮中 唯樂見王子
雖有婇女衆 如在空閑林

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.50: Only a Brahma-Knower, Together With a Brahma-Knower

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Bālā)
taṁ brahmavid-brahmavidāṁ jvalantaṁ brāhmyā śriyā caiva tapaḥ-śriyā ca |
rājño gurur-gaurava-satkriyābhyāṁ praveśayām-āsa narendra-sadma || 1.50

A knower of brahma among brahma-knowers,

Ushered in him who was blazing
with brahma-begotten brilliance,
and with the glowing heat of ascetic exertion –

The king's guru, 

with the gravity and hospitality due to a guru,

Ushered Asita into the king's royal seat.

Uncertainty surrounds the reading brahmavid-brahmavidāṁ. The original reading in the old Nepalese manuscript, and also in the more recent Amṛtānanda-edited manuscript from which EBC was working, is brahmavid-brahmavidāṁ (“a brahma-knower [nom.] among brahma-knowers [gen.]”). With this reading, the brahma-knower in question is the king's guru. Based on the Tibetan translation, EHJ amended the text to brahmavid-brahmavidaṁ and took it to be a single compound (a-brahma-knower-among-brahma-knowers [acc.]), describing Asita. PO followed EHJ's amendment of the Sanskrit text but instead of taking it as a single compound read it as brahmavid (a brahma-knower [nom.; the king's guru]) who ushered in brahmavidam (the brahma-knower [acc.]; Asita).

In my first effort, I accepted EHJ's amendment brahmavid-brahmavidaṁ and followed PO in reading it as consisting of nominative subject and accusative object. Hence:

That brahma-knower who was blazing 

With brahma-begotten brilliance,
and with the glowing heat of ascetic exertion –

Was ushered, with the gravity and hospitality due to a guru,
by the brahma-knowing guru of the King

Into the King's royal seat.

Understood like that, the verse presents a pleasing symmetry between two individual gurus, via the juxtaposition in line 1 of brahmavid and brahmavidam (“dharma-knowing,” nominative and accusative), and in line 3 of guruḥ (guru) and gaurava (respect/gravity due to a guru).

On further reflection, however, I decided that this kind of symmetry emerges even more strongly if we stick to the original Sanskrit text and understand that it is also praising the king's guru not as a brahmin but as one who truly knew brahman, as something real, like growth, or development, or like a well-recited Om filling up the expanding universe.

Patrick Olivelle observes, with regard to today's verse, that “the repeated use of bhahman here is noteworthy. The meaning of the term in this context, however, is not altogether clear, although it probably refers to the Veda.”

What is particularly noteworthy, as I see it, is that whereas Aśvaghoṣa refers to the previous bunch or bunches of brahmins as dvi-ja “the twice-born,” he does not use this expression dvi-ja to refer either to Asita or to the king's guru. Rather in the coming series of verses Aśvaghoṣa  refers to Asita as the great seer, or the seer, or the seer Asita. And sometimes, setting what I see as a good example for future generations, Aśvaghoṣa refers to Asita as Asita.

Is it just my imagination, running away with me? I seem to hear Asita calling out through the centuries:

Aśvaghoṣa  might have seen dvi-ja, “twice born,” as a class-ridden concept. According to the dictionary it was used to mean a man of any one of the three upper classes in the ancient Indian class system, or any Aryan, but especially a Brahman who had been re-born at his initiation ceremony through investiture with the sacred thread.

So Aśvaghoṣa is not referring either to the king's guru or to Asita in these class-tainted terms. He seems to be saying that Asita was not a Brahman, as class-conscious people generally understood the term Brahman. Aśvaghoṣa's description of the king's guru and of Asita, however, as PO points out, is soaked in brahma/brahman.

The translation of  brahman into English is a minefield, complicated by the uncertainty described above. Thus:
Him shining with the glory of sacred knowledge (brahman) and ascetic observances, the king's own priest, — himself a special student among the students of sacred knowledge (brahman), — introduced into the royal palace with all due reverence and respect. [EBC] 
He was the chief among the knowers of the Absolute (brahman) and shone with the majesty of priestly power (brahman) and with the majesty of asceticism. Accordingly the king's spiritual director brought him into the regal palace with reverence and honour. [EHJ]
PO, wisely in my view, left brahman untranslated:
That knower of brahman, blazing with the splendour of brahman and the splendour of ascetic toil, was ushered in by the brahman-knowing preceptor of the king with reverence and homage into the chamber of the king. [PO]
What is readily apparent, in each of the above translations, including mine, is that Aśvaghoṣa's attitude towards brahma/brahman in this verse was at least somewhat affirmative. Even though he didn't affirm Brahmanism – and in my view, he most definitely did not affirm Brahmanism – here he seems to affirm the realility of brahma/brahman itself.

In that case, I am tempted to suggest that even though Aśvaghoṣa did not affirm the fundamental concepts of the racist or class-ridden ideology of Brahmanism, and he did not affirm the means whereby the ordinary masses of brahmin ascetics pursued their truth of brahma, he paradoxically was prepared to affirm the brahma itself that a bloke like Asita was pursuing.

What was it that Aśvaghoṣa affirmed? Growth? Evolution? Development? Swelling of the soul? Rounded utterance of a sacred sound?

Today's verse, on many levels, is a difficult one, challenging us to dig deeper.

For example: What is sitting?

Is it growth? Is it evolution? Is it development? Is it swelling of the soul? Is it a mystical reverberation?

Jumping to a hasty conclusion is generally a mistake. But my tentative answer would be: No, is it fuck.

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
brahma-vit (nom. sg. m.): a brahma-knowing one; mfn. knowing the one brahma , a Vedic philosopher ; skilled in sacred spells or magic
brahma = in. compounds for brahman: n. (lit. " growth " , " expansion " , " evolution " , " development " " swelling of the spirit or soul " , fr. √bṛh) pious effusion or utterance , outpouring of the heart in worshipping the gods , prayer ; the sacred word (as opp. to vāc , the word of man) , the veda , a sacred text , a text or mantra used as a spell ; the sacred syllable Om ; religious or spiritual knowledge (opp. to religious observances and bodily mortification such as tapas &c ) ; holy life (esp. continence , chastity ; cf. brahma-carya) ; the brahma or one self-existent impersonal Spirit , the one universal Soul (or one divine essence and source from which all created things emanate or with which they are identified and to which they return) , the Self-existent , the Absolute , the Eternal (not generally an object of worship but rather of meditation and-knowledge); n. the class of men who are the repositories and communicators of sacred knowledge , the Brahmanical caste as a body (rarely an individual Brahman)
brahma-vidām (gen. pl. m.): among brahma-knowing men
brahma-vidam (acc. sg. m.): to the brahma-knowing one
jvalantam = acc. sg. m. pres part. jval: to burn brightly , blaze , glow , shine ; to burn (as a wound)

brāhmyā = inst. sg. f. brāhma: mfn. relating to brahma or brahmā , holy , sacred , divine ; relating or belonging to the Brahmans
śriyā (inst. sg.): f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness ; high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
tapaḥ-śriyā (inst. sg. f.): with the light/power of ascetic practice
tapas: n. warmth , heat; pain ; religious austerity , bodily mortification , penance , severe meditation , special observance ; N. of a month intervening between winter and spring ; the hot season
ca: and

rājñaḥ (gen. sg.): m. king
guruḥ (nom. sg.): m. any venerable or respectable person ; a spiritual parent or preceptor
gaurava-satkriyābhyām (inst. dual): with showing of respect and hospitality
gaurava: mfn. relating or belonging to a Guru or teacher ; n. heaviness, importance, gravity; respect shown to a person.
satkriyā: f. good action; f. (sg. or pl.) kind or respectful treatment , hospitable reception , hospitality

praveśayām āsa = periphrastic perfect causative pra- √viś: to cause or allow to enter , bring or lead or introduce to , usher into
narendra-sadma (acc. sg.): the seat of the man-lord
narendra: m. " man-lord " , king
sadman: n. a seat , abode , dwelling , house , place (esp. of sacrifice) , temple

來詣王宮門 王謂梵天應
苦行樂正法 此二相倶現

Monday, June 18, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.49: Enter an Individual of Colour

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Kīrti)
atho nimittaiś-ca tapo-balāc-ca taj-janma janmānta-karasya buddhvā |
śākyeśvarasyālayam-ājagāma saddharma-tarṣād-asito maharṣiḥ || 1.49

Then, awoken by dint of practice of austerities
and alerted via signs

To the birth of the one who would put an end to birth,

There appeared at the palace of the Śākya king,

Driven by a thirst for true dharma,
the great seer Asita, “the Not White One.”

Patrick Olivelle in his Notes says that the identify of Asita is unclear: some scholars identify this Asita with the famous brahmin sage Asita Devala; other scholars argue that the two should be distinguished.

As an adjective, asita has two literal meanings: (1) “unbound” and (2) “dark-coloured, black.” As past participles from the root si, sita means “bound, tied, fettered,”  and its antonym asita, means “unbound." As a colour, asita, means “black” and  its antonym  sita means “white” (asita in this case being thought to be etymologically earlier than sita).

A clue to Aśvaghoṣa's intentions might be contained later in this chapter when the queen is described as mounting a palanquin which is filled with sita-sita-puṣpa, or white Whiteflowers (BC1.86). Sita in this compound obviously means white, in which case its antonym asita means not white, dark, black.

My intuition is that Aśvaghoṣa wanted to portray the great seer Asita as singularly different from the generic brahmins he has quoted hitherto, in the same way that he portrays certain trees in Saundarananda Canto 10 as different, odd, individual (anya).

Read in this light, the name Asita “Black,” or “Not White,” might be intended to convey some sense that Asita was not a bland generic bhrahmin of the kind who has just spoken, from the standpoint of religious idealism and pseudo-scientific materialism. He was more interesting than that: not a colourless generic bhramin, but a real individual with a chequered past of many trials and errors.

Reading this verse and the verses that follow it might be intended as an exercise in dropping off prejudices, or habitual reactions to trigger words. Today's verse, for example, contains the words tapas (austerities, ascetic practice) and tarṣā (thirst), both of which we have understood from reading Saundara-nanda are obstacles on the path to peace. So we might expect those words to carry a negative connotation. But that expectation also might be something to drop off.

Having prepared the above comment yesterday I memorized today's verse as I usually do, preparatory to reciting it to myself when I wake up in the night or early in the morning. This morning I could not for the life of me remember the opening words of the 4th line – saddharma-tarṣāt (out of thirst for true dharma), and so I had to look them up before going to the zendo, aka shed. I then found myself reflecting more deeply on those words, imbued as they were with the residue of my failed effort to remember them, and I found myself wanting to draw a distinction between thirst and thirsting.

Thirst, i.e., strong desire, is a painful fact, like the state of a fish in a dwindling pond. 

Thirsting is a kind of behaviour which one can learn to stop.

The distinction is important in the sense that a person like Asita who is suffering from thirst might be deserving of sympathy, whereas a person who is indulging in thirsting might be deserving of a kick up the backside, or some other form of negative feedback.

About ten years ago I was privileged to receive such negative feedback from Marjory Barlow when I described myself to her in self-deprecatory terms as an end-gainer. Marjory, halted her progress around the table on which I was lying, and said: “Listen. You either end-gain, or you follow the means-whereby. It is your choice.” 

Following the means-whereby means attending to a process. In the Buddha's true dharma, what is called “the lifeblood” is following a means-whereby, or attending to a process.

For 13 years in Japan I went for a vertically straight spine in a direct, end-gaining manner, thirsting to feel right. Marjory Barlow and other Alexander teachers saved me from such folly, by demonstrating to me how to attend to a process which, indirectly, allows the whole self to work better as a respiratory mechanism. This, and only this, have I truly understood – except when I forget.

I cuss and swear on this blog, quite apart from feeling angry about this and that, because I want people to understand that my enlightenment on this point, under the guidance of Marjory and others, has got absolutely fuck all to do with religion. My delusion on this point had a lot to do with religion. But my enlightenment on this most fundamental of all points has got fuck all to do with religion.

The reason that the url for this blog is “nothingbutthelifeblood” is because four years ago I decided that I would go back to translation work as a means of conveying just this point, to all the Buddhist dumbfucks out there who persist, as I have persisted, in thinking of the Buddha's teaching as if it were a religion. People who thirst for true dharma may eventually be caused to ask themselves how come such a foul-mouthed non-Buddhist has spent so long producing such a good translation of the Buddha's true dharma.

Last week I had an email from a university professor in India who wants to take extracts from my Saundarananda translation for a book he is writing. Some part of me thought “Oh, oh! What is this eminent professor going to think if he visits my blog and finds me using words like motherfucker?” But there again, what have I got to lose? If the professor wants to use my translation, he is welcome. If, like Ānandajoti, he can't stand my use of foul and abusive language, then fuck him.

Yesterday this professor wrote me an email in which he called me “Mr Cross.” Grrrr.. Restraining myself I replied:

Not Mr.
Not Ven.


What I wanted to write was 
As my left knee is healing up, I must admit, my language seems to be getting more colourful.

atho: ind. now, next, therefore
nimittaiḥ (ins. pl.): n. sign, omen
ca: and
tapo-balāt (abl. sg.): m. the power acquired by religious austerities
ca: and

tad (acc. sg. n.): that
janma (acc. sg.): n. birth
janmānta-karasya (gen. sg. m.): maker of an end to birth
janman: n. birth
anta: m. end, end of life, death
anta-kara: mfn. causing death , mortal , destructive
buddhvā = abs. budh: to wake up, heed, perceive

śākyeśvarasya (gen. sg.): the Śākya king
śākya: m. N. of a tribe of landowners and kṣatriyas in kapila-vastu
īśvara: m. master , lord , prince , king
ālayam (acc. sg.): house, dwelling
ājagāma = 3rd pers. perf ā-√ gam: to come, make one's appearance

saddharma: true dharma
tarṣāt (abl. sg.): thirst
asitaḥ (nom. sg.): m. “black,” name of a descendant of kaśyapa (composer of RV. ix , 5-24), named also devala or asita devala
asita: mfn. (1) unbound (2) dark-coloured , black (sita , " white " , appears to have been formed from this word , which is probably original , and not a compound of a and sita ; cf. asura and sura)
maharṣiḥ (nom. sg.): m. great seer

時近處園中 有苦行仙人
名曰阿私陀 善解於相法

Sunday, June 17, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.48: The Brahmins Get Their Reward

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Indravajrā)
prītaśca tebhyo dvija-sattamebhyaḥ satkāra-pūrvaṁ pradadau dhanāni | −−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−
bhūyād-ayaṁ bhūmi-patir-yathokto yāyāj-jarām-etya vanāni ceti || 1.48

And so upon those truest of the twice-born,

He joyfully bestowed riches, along with hospitality,

“May the boy become a king as prophesied

And retire to the forest in his old age.”

This verse is not saying much – unless one understands Aśvaghoṣa's use of irony, in which case it is saying a lot.

If those brahmans really had been the truest, in the sense of being most free of deceit, how come they got their prophecy so wrong? I think Aśvaghoṣa meant they were truest only in the sense of being true to form, as fortune-tellers who were happy to tell the king what he wanted to hear, in exchange for money.

When in 1988 I visited Thailand, a country whose establishment includes elders of the religion called Theravada Buddhism, I saw shaven-headed fortune tellers wearing Buddhist robes and selling superstitious people lucky numbers. As a follower of the Buddha that kind of so-called monk who panders to people's superstitions is not true at all. I suppose that Aśvaghoṣa felt the same about brahmins of his day who told people what they wanted to hear, hoping to be rewarded for it.

As a rule, religious Buddhists worship three objects: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. But when we read what the Buddha taught Nanda in Saundara-nanda, we get the sense that he taught Nanda to have confidence in the buddha-dharma and, having made it his own, to stand firm in it, but he didn't say anything about worship, and he didn't mention anything about a Buddhist Sangha at all.

Aśvaghoṣa might have been so far ahead of his time that his teaching would blow the minds of religious Buddhists, if they understood it. In Theravada Buddhism as practised in recent years in a place like Thailand, worship of the Sangha boils down to worship of monks. But that kind of practice, as I see it, ironically, is not traditional. The Buddha's teaching, as I endeavour to follow it, is traditionally not a way of worship but a way of individual practice.

My cooperation with the Theravada monk Ānandajoti Bhikkhu seems to have broken down. The reason may be that I felt, rightly or wrongly, that Ānandajoti expected me to show him the respect that is due to a senior monk. That stimulated me to tell him to fuck off, on several occasions. I do in fact respect Ānandajoti highly, for his work and his generous helpfulness, but not because he wears a Buddhist monk's uniform.

Theravada Buddhism, in any event, is bound to go the way of all religions, via a process akin to natural selection. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin

Returning to today' verse, the underlying point as I see it, is that in the value system of buddha-ancestors, a purported monk who tells lay people what they want to hear for money is the falsest of the false. To the mind of Zen Master Dogen such so-called monks were like dogs trying to grovel the shit and piss of lay people on which to feast. Aśvaghoṣa's mind was the same as Dogen's, and is in the background to today's verse, as I read it. The difference is not in the mind but in the directness of expression: Dogen's expression was very straight and direct; while Aśvaghoṣa, acting circumspectly as was doubtless wise in an age where capital punishment was at the whim of the powerful, hid his real intention behind a veil of irony.

The Chinese translator, for one, totally missed the point, making the king the subject who will go to the forest when old:
我年已朽邁 出家修梵行
I , when already aged, [shall] leave home and practise brahma-conduct.
無令聖王子 捨世遊山林
So that the sacred prince will not have to abandon the world and wander in the forest.

Here is another case of “send three and fourpence we are going to a dance,” and further confirmation that relying on anybody's translation of the Buddha's teaching is not wise.

A far wiser course might be to monitor the influence of what one thinks or does not think, and what one does or does not do, on one's own breathing – preferably on an amateur basis!

prītaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. pleased , delighted , satisfied , joyful , glad
ca: and
tebhyaḥ (dat. pl. m.): to them
dvija-sattamebhyaḥ (dat. pl. m.): the best of the twice-born
dvija: twice-born
sat-tama: mfn. very good or right , the best , first , chief of (gen. or comp.)

satkāra-pūrvam: with hospitality
satkāra: m. (sg. or pl.) kind treatment , honour , favour ; hospitable treatment , hospitality
pūrvam: (ifc.) with
pradadau = 3rd pers. perf. pra-√ dā : to give, offer
dhanāni (acc. pl.): n. any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money , treasure , gift

bhūyāt = 3rd pers. sg. benedictive bhū: to be, become
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this one
bhūmi-patiḥ (nom. sg.): m. “earth-lord,” king
yathā: ind. as
uktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. told, proclaimed, declared

yāyāt 3rd pers. sg. optative yā: to go
jarām (acc. sg.): f. old age
etya = abs. ā- √i : to draw near, to reach, enter into
vanāni (acc. pl.): n. forest, wood
ca: and
iti: “....,” thus

王聞仙人説 歡喜増供養
我今生勝子 當紹轉輪位
我年已朽邁 出家修梵行
無令聖王子 捨世遊山林