Saturday, June 16, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.47: Trusted Proof & Awkward Doubt

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Bālā)
evaṁ nṛpaḥ pratyayitair-dvijais-tair-āśvāsitaś-cāpy-abhinanditaś-ca |
śaṅkām-aniṣṭāṁ vijahau manastaḥ praharṣam-evādhikam-āruroha || 1.47

The king, being thus cheered and encouraged

By those trusted twice-born provers,

Banished from his mind awkward doubt

And rose to still greater heights of joy.

What did Aśvaghoṣa mean by describing these brahmins as pratyayita? EBC translated as “well-trusted;” EHJ as “trustworthy” and PO as “trusted.” The MW dictionary defines pratyayita as “proved; trustworthy.” We considered the related term pratyaya – which has a variety of meanings including belief, trust, proof, ascertainment, ground, and cause – in connection with the Buddha's advice in Saundara-nanda Canto 16 about what to do when the mind is confused:
When working of the mind is delusory, one should appreciate the causality (pratyaya-tā) therein; / For this is a path to peace when the mind is bewildered, like treating a wind condition with oil. // 16.64 //
On the surface Aśvaghoṣa seems, at least to EHJ, to be affirming the views of these brahmins as trustworthy and reliable. But how could Aśvaghoṣa's real intention be to affirm as reliable the words of brahmins who pandered to the king's desire to have a son who would get on in the world? Aśvaghoṣa's real intention is stated explicity by him at the end of Saundara-nanda, which he composed, he tells us, only for the purpose of cessation (vyupaśāntaye; 18.63).

That being so, I think “trusted” is a much better translation than “trustworthy.” At the same time, by describing the brahmins as pratyayita, which has to do with proof, or being proved, or proving, I think Aśvaghoṣa was also pointing ironically to the way the brahmins sought corroborative evidence in the literature – just as pseudo-scientific types today, from commercial advertisers with “clinically proven” products to holistic hairdressers, like to insert fancy references here and there to support their bogus claims and notions.

As regards the meaning of awkward or unwelcome doubt (śaṅkām aniṣṭām), people say that Aśvaghoṣa was a Buddhist monk whose writings show a particular concern for religious conversion. But Aśvaghoṣa to me is not like that at all. He is somebody ineffable who – as a result of sitting and being open to how things are rather than how they are supposed to be – is cynical, sceptical and a master of irony.

The brahmins who the king trusted made him joyful like a two-timing woman who tells both her lovers she loves only him. Or like a mountain climber who tells his injured friend that he won't leave him, just before he cuts the rope. That's how trustworthy those guys were, who sought “proof” in the brahmanical literature.

Real proof, of the kind the Buddha describes in Saundarananda, is not to be found in anybody's writings. The real proof, for a twirler of a fire-stick, to use the Buddha's metaphor, might be the spark that lights a fire. Again, the real proof, for a grower of cabbages, might be the opening up of a great big fucking cabbage.

Somebody left a comment on this blog expressing surprise at my rudeness, when I wrote that his comment was that of an utter twat. He said that the proof was in the pudding and that he would have expected somebody who had practised Zazen for so many years to be more polite. Dead wrong, motherfucker. Dead wrong. Q.E.D.

evam: ind. thus
nṛpaḥ (nom. sg.): m. “protector of men,” king
pratyayitaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. proved , trustworthy
dvijaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. “twice-born,” Brāhmans
taiḥ (inst. pl. m.): those

ā-śvāsitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. encouraged , animated , comforted , consoled
śvāsitaḥ: mfn. (fr. Caus. √śvas) caused to breathe &c
ca: and
api: also
abhinanditaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. delighted , made happy , saluted , applauded , &c
abhi- √ nand: to please
ca: and

śaṅkām (acc. sg.): f. apprehension , care , alarm , fear , distrust ; doubt , uncertainty , hesitation
aniṣṭām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. unwished , undesirable , disadvantageous , unfavourable ; bad , wrong , evil , ominous
vijahau = 3rd pers. perf. vi- √ hā : to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon
manastaḥ (manas + abl. suffix taḥ): from the mind

praharṣam (acc. sg.): m. erection of the hair , extreme joy , thrill of delight , rapture
eva: (emphatic)
adhikam: ind. exceedingly , too much
āruroha = 3rd pers. perf. ā-√ ruh: to ascend , mount , bestride , rise up ; to attain, gain

大王今如是 應生歡喜心
以心歡喜故 永離於疑惑

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