Saturday, June 9, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.40: The Brahmans Speak of Causality

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
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* * * * * * * * * * * nidarśanāny atra ca no nibodha || 1.40

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And so listen to our examples which illustrate this point:

The 4th leaf of the old Nepalese manuscript (the 3rd leaf being missing) begins traiva ca no nibodha; therefore nidarśanāny atra is EHJ's conjecture, based on the fact that the Tibetan translation shows a plural word.

The point in question is causality, as confirmed by the Chinese translation of the 3rd pāda:
物性之所生 各從因縁起
That which in the nature of things is born/produced, in each case arises out of causality.

The characters 因縁 “causality,” or “causes and conditions,” are as per the king's question in the previous verse.

EHJ's own direct translation of the Chinese was “every product by the nature of things arises from a cause.”

The point, then, in short, is that every effect arises from a cause. The point is to affirm the principle of cause and effect. Not content with merely stating the principle, however, the Brahmans intend to corroborate it with reference to concrete examples. 
As I speculated yesterday, I think Aśvaghoṣa is framing this exchange between the king and the Brahmans in such a way as to cause us to recognize that Brahmans at the time of the Buddha were not only steeped in Aryan pursuit of religious truth but were also accustomed to reasoning things out on the basis of cause and effect, adopting an approach that we would call scientific.

A couple of days ago I listened to a BBC Radio 4 documentary on the "Father" of the Big Bang, a Catholic priest named Georges Lemaitre who taught physics at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

Lemaitre evidently had a deep faith in God, and at the same time a great aptitude for the advanced mathematical equations which physicists and astronomers seem to able to read as the fundamental language of the Universe. Neither, evidently, was he greedy for fame and profit. His biography indicates that he was content to call a law that he discovered “Hubble's Law,” even though he did the maths before Hubble. Albert Einstein evidently rated Lemaitre very highly. 

The blurb about the programme on the BBC website says of Lemaitre that “His story challenges the assumption that science and religion are always in conflict.”

This part of Buddhacarita, likewise, might be challenging that assumption. I started out with the conception that the Brahmans represented religious believers. But in the present series of verses they seem to be trying to adopt (if not totally convincingly) a more scientific approach -- i.e., providing corroborating evidence for a proposition made on the basis of cause and effect.

Neither the Brahmans nor Lemaitre, however, possessed though they may have been of excellent brains, were devoted to the one great matter which is pursuit of the truth through acceptance and use of the whole self in sitting.

Aligning the ears in opposition with the shoulders, and the nose in opposition with the navel, is not a matter of geometry.

In conclusion, digging out of personal experience, I wouldn't say that the Buddha's dharma is the consummation and fulfillment of religion, or of science, or of science & religion. I would say it is the consummation and fulfillment of a practical discipline like running or dancing or singing or playing a musical instrument or – in my case – rugby and the martial arts.

Now I am in France and I did not come here to reason things out using mathematics, still less to pray to God. Neither did I come to write overly wordy blog posts or to compose crappy haiku. I came here to sit. Nevertheless...

Cycling to buy bread
I am joined by an old friend:
White moon in blue sky.

nidarśanāni (acc. pl.): n. instance , example , illustration 
atra: ind. in this matter
ca: and 
no (gen. pl.): of us
nibodha = imperative ni- √ budh: to attend or listen to

Tibetan Text:
| blo daṅ thos pa las daṅ grags pa rnams la ni |
| mi skyoṅ sṅon daṅ phyi ma ñid ni tshad ma yin |
| dṅos po’i lugs la ’dir ni bya ba rgyu yin la |
| ’dir yaṅ bdag gi dper brjod dag ni mkhyen par mdzod |

EHJ's translation (from the partial Sanskrit and Tibetan/Chinese):
40. "In respect of wisdom, renowned deeds and fame of kings there is no question of former and latter. And, since in the nature of things there is a cause here for the effect, listen to our parallels thereto. 

Chinese Text:
多聞與智慧 名稱及事業
如是四事者 不應顧先後
物性之所生 各從因縁起
今當説諸譬 王今且諦聽

S. Beal:
55. ’For with regard to renown and wisdom, personal celebrity, and worldly substance, these four things indeed are not to be considered according to precedent or subsequence; 56. 'But whatever is produced according to nature [Or, whatever is born according to the nature of things], such things are liable to the law of cause and effect: but now whilst I recount some parallels let the king attentively listen;

C. Willemen:
50. Learning or wisdom, fame or career, for such four things there must not be any question of former or later. 51. “The specific natures of things are each produced arising from a cause. I shall now give you parallels. O king, listen carefully now!

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