Thursday, June 7, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.38: Who's Interested in Aryan Eyeballs?


[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.38

COMMENT:
In the Chinese translation the baby's eyes are described as deep blue (紺青色) . Having deep blue eyes is one of the 32 signs of a great man (mahāpuruṣa lakṣaṇa). Another sign is having “eyelashes like a royal bull.”

I think if Aśvaghoṣa had seen the racial descent of the Buddha as significant, he might have put discussion of it in his own commentary, or in the Buddha's own words, or in the words of a reliable witness.

Rather, the ones who discuss the eye colour of the newly arrived prince of the Śākyas are the Brahmans. 

So what is Aśvaghoṣa intending to convey here? Is he giving us some hint as to the Aryan descent of the Buddha, as if that were worth mentioning? Or is he almost imperceptibly subtly pointing out an absolute difference between the racist view of Brahmans and the teaching of the Buddha which is to abandon all views. 

Even in this verse, then, I don't see evidence to support the assertion that the Buddha-Dharma is the consummation of Brahmanism. I see evidence to the contrary of that assertion.

Two more reliable signs of a great human being which are mentioned in Saundarananda, not by Brahmans but by the Buddha himself, are wanting little and contentment (Chinese/Japanese: 少欲知足).

Giving oneself to this path with its three divisions and eight branches -- this straightforward, irremovable, noble path -- / One abandons the faults, which are the causes of suffering, and comes to that step which is total well-being. // 16.37 // Attendant on it are constancy and straightness; modesty, attentiveness, and reclusiveness; / Wanting little, contentment, and freedom from forming attachments; no fondness for worldly activity, and forbearance. // 16.38 //

Forbearance?

Rain on zendo roof
Soothes the mind and silences
That fucking cockerel


Tibetan Text:
| gaṅ gi spyan dag mi ’dzums mig gzir rnam par spaṅs pa ste |
| brtan źiṅ śin tu riṅ la dkar min rdzi ma daṅ |
| gzi brjid ldan pa yin yaṅ ’on kyaṅ źi ba ñid |
| ’di ni kun nas gzigs pa’i spyan mṅa’ ci la min |


EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan):
38. His eyes gaze unwinkingly and are limpid and wide, blazing and yet mild, steady and with very long black eyelashes. How can he not have eyes that see everything?"

Chinese Text:
淨目脩且廣 上下瞬長睫
瞪矚紺青色 明煥半月形
此相云何非 平等殊勝目


明煥=猶如<三>
目=因<三>


S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
his eyes clear and expanding, the lashes both above and below moving with the lid, 52. ’The iris of the eye of a clear blue colour. in shape like the moon when half full, such characteristics as these, without contradiction, foreshadow the most excellent condition of perfect (wisdom).’

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
48. “His pleasant eyes are long and wide, opening and closing with longeyelashes. His eyes are blue, shaped like half-moons. How could these signs be negative, as they are all causes of excellence!”


2 comments:

Jordan said...

Mike,
Loved the poem at the end.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Jordan. It didn't take much work, especially the last line seemed to write itself.