−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− 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:
I , when already aged, [shall] leave home and practise brahma-conduct.
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
tebhyaḥ (dat. pl. m.): to them
dvija-sattamebhyaḥ (dat. pl. m.): the best of the 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
iti: “....,” thus