Monday, July 30, 2012

Buddha-carita Canto 1: The Birth of Something Beautiful

Aśvaghoṣa's poetry is written to be studied in depth by people who are devoted to sitting. When read superficially and translated by Buddhist scholars who are not devoted to sitting, Aśvaghoṣa's writing is like a big dark cloud blotting out the sun. That is not Aśvaghoṣa's fault: it is the fault of Buddhist scholars whose intellect blinds them into thinking that they might be able to understand and to transmit to others what they haven't made any effort really to experience for themselves.

Even as I write this, I feel something wrong in my criticism of the likes of EH Johnston and Richard Gombrich – two Boden professors of Sanskrit at Oxford University, whose efforts have benefitted me greatly. Is my behaviour the behaviour of what Jordan calls “a buddy fucker”? I sincerely hope not. Either way the mirror principle is doubtless at work, whereby I criticize in others a tendency that I fear in myself.

Still, the point remains that when EH Johnston translated the title of Canto 1, bhagavat-prasūtiḥ, as “Birth of the Holy One,” he opted for a perfectly literal translation which totally obsurced the deeper meaning that Aśvaghoṣa intended to convey with the words bhaga-vat “possessed of bhaga (good fortune/happiness/beauty)” and prasūtiḥ, “coming forth, birth.”

EHJ's “Birth of the Holy One,” or Patrick Olivelle's “The Birth of the Lord,” prepare our minds, even before we have read one fucking word of one fucking verse, to read something religious.

Richard Gombrich tells me that it doesn't matter whether we call the Buddha's teaching religious or not; it is only a semantic problem. But Richard Gombrich does not know whereof he speaks. It matters because when a person sits with the idea that the Buddha's teaching is a spiritual religion, that wrong idea triggers responses in the brain and nervous system which are not conducive to just sitting. And whereof I speak, I know. 

When we study Aśvaghoṣa's writing in depth and in detail, relying less upon our intellects and more upon a round black cushion, Aśvaghoṣa begins to emerge as about as keen on religion as Richard Dawkins.

So we need a translation of the canto title which, far from Birth of the Holy One, or The Birth of the Lord, is irreligious.

One such translation of bhagavat-prasūtiḥ that I have considered is “A Beautiful Birth.” But the first translation that occured to me, on a hike through beautiful scenery a few days before I began posting on Buddha-carita, and a translation of bhagavat-prasūtiḥ that, on further reflection, still seems to be the closest I can get to hitting the target, is “The Birth of Something Beautiful.” 

Something truly beautiful, as deep down we all already know, gives birth to itself. And this is why since olden times whenever an enlightened buddha has opened his or her mouth to teach, the first words to emerge have invariably been “the not doing of wrong.”

Thus, as an account of the Buddha's life, Buddha-carita begins naturally enough with a baby's birth and infancy, and the title of Canto 1 is translated naturally enough as “A Beautiful Birth.”

But as a vehicle for the transmission of the principle of the not-doing of wrong, as an epic story of awakened action, Buddha-carita naturally begins by suggesting how something beautiful tends to be born in the presence of an amateur enthusiast who likes to practise his or her own thing, without any religious or other agenda.

As an epic story of awakened action, then, Buddha-carita really begins with the description of a big strong bloke (Chinese: 大丈夫 ; Japanese: DAI-JO-BU), an individual who does not belong to any specific group, but who is devoted to sitting (āsana-stham; 1.52), and who comes and goes on the way of the wind, without the heavy baggage of views, opinions, beliefs, and other attachments.

This individual, an individual who thirsts only for the truth, is called Asita, which means dark-coloured, or black. In contrasting Asita with the aristocratic brahmins who were his contemporaries, Aśvaghoṣa presents Asita as something close to what I understand by the term white nigger. In a society where the ruling class is white and where blacks (looked down upon as “niggers”) form an underclass, a white nigger is a bloke whose skin is white but who does not belong to, or who does not enjoy the privileges associated with being a member of the white ruling class. In that sense Asita is akin to a white nigger – in the sense that in his dealings with the king he seems on the surface to be of the brahmin class, but in his behaviour he is very different from the brahmin snobs. Aśvaghoṣa describes the brahmins in many places as dvi-ja, which has both an aristocratic connotation (“twice-born”; “invested with the sacred thread”) and a religious connotation (“born again”). Aśvaghoṣa never once describes Asita as dvi-ja.

In marked contrast to Asita who tells the king the straight truth and goes away on the way of the wind, like a white nigger without anything, the brahmins, beneath a veneer of sacred learning and deep familiarity with a great body of literature, only tell the king what they think he would like to hear, and then depart bearing the treasure which, in a society dominated by brahmin thought, is deemed naturally due to them.

Whereas the brahmins are supposed to be independent men of sacred learning, with no worldly agenda, their action shows their agenda. Their agenda, as shown by their action, is to be the recipients of the king's largesse.

Another person with an agenda is the king himself, his agenda being the continuation of his royal line.

Therefore Aśvaghoṣa's description of the king's agitation and fear not only, as part of his account of the Buddha's life, sets the scene for the next canto; it also servers to underline the first point Aśvaghoṣa wishes to make about the Buddha's teaching. That point is the fundamental principle of “just sitting” -- which is devotion to sitting for the sake of sitting itself, without the agitation and fear that is invariably triggered by the presence of a religious agenda, or any other agenda.

Buddhacarita Canto 1: The Birth of Something Beautiful

Among the unshakable Śākyas there was a king,

A descendant of Ikṣvāku equal to Ikṣvāku in might,
a man of well-cleansed conduct

Who was loved by those below him,
like the autumn moon:

Śuddho-dana was his name
-- 'Possessed of Well-Cleansed Rice.'

That Indra-like king had a queen: 

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Like lotus-hued Padmā in her beauty
and self-possessed as Mother Earth,

She was Māyā by name and was like Māyā,
the peerless goddess of beauty.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

And then, like knowledge conjoined with balance,

She who was far removed from evil conceived a child.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

She did not on that account incur any pain.

She, the queen of that god-like king,

Bearing in her womb the light of his royal line,

And being devoid of weariness, sorrow,
and the māyā which is deceit,

- - - - - - - - - - -

She, to the grove called Lumbinī,

Which, with its manifold trees,
would have pleased Citra-ratha, 

- - - - - - [there to brood] 

- - - - - - [in solitude].

Appreciating the nobility of her instinct - - - - - -,

And filled with joyful anticipation,

The master of the earth departed from the blessed city

Not because he felt like an excursion, but to please her.

In that glorious grove,

Perceiving that it was time for the birth,

The queen took to a bed covered over with an awning,

Being joyfully received
into the bosom of thousands of fellow women.

as a propitious moon passed into the asterism of Puṣya,

To that queen sanctified by the manner of her action --

Through her, for the welfare of the world -- a son was born,

Painlessly and healthily.

Just as Aurva was born from the thigh, 
Pṛthu from the hand,

Indra-equalling Māndhātṛ from the head,

And Kakṣīvat from the armpit:

Of that same order was his birth.

Having emerged from the womb gradually,

He who whose position at birth was never fixed,
shone as if he had dropped from empty space.

as one whose self had been developing over many aeons,

He was born with integral awareness,
and not in the wrong position.

With brightness he shone, and with constancy,

Like a newly-risen sun inundating the earth;

Thus he blazed too brightly to be gazed upon,

And at the same time he stole the eyes,
in the manner of the hare-marked moon.

For with the blazing light of his body,

He blotted out the light of lamps as does the sun;

And with his beautiful lustre of precious gold,

He enlightened all directions.

With even footsteps,
his feet going up like water-born lotuses,

And coming down in long stamping strides:

Seven such firm steps he took,

Looking like the Seven Seer cluster of stars. 

“For awakening I am born, for the welfare of the world;

This for me is the ultimate coming into existence.”

Surveying the four quarters, as he moved like a lion,

He voiced a sound that conveyed this gist of what was to be.

Flowing out of emptiness, as radiant as moonbeams,

Two showers of raindrops, 

with a cooling and a heating effect,

Fell upon his cool, moist, moon-like head

In order to bring ease to his body,
by intimately connecting into it.

As he lay on a bed with a glorious royal canopy,

A base of shining gold and legs of cats'-eye gems,

An honour guard of yakṣa wranglers

Stood around him, with golden lotuses in hand.

Heaven-dwellers who seemed to be concealed in the sky,

With heads bowed down at his majesty,

Held up a white umbrella,

And sang their best wishes for his awakening.

Mighty serpents who, in their thirst for the choicest dharma,

Had watched over buddhas of the past,

Fanned him, their eyes exuding partiality,

And covered him in a confetti of mandāra blossoms.

Gladdened by a birth that went so well,

Those whose essence is pure
and who dwell in the clear blue yonder,

The gods, though devoid of any red taint of passion,

Rejoiced for the welfare of a world steeped in sorrow.

At his birth the earth, anchored by the king of mountains,

Shook like a ship being battered in a gale;

And a sandalwood-scented rain,
containing lillies and lotuses,

Fell from the cloudless sky.

Breezes blew that were pleasant to the touch
and agreeable to the mind,

Causing fancy clothing to fall off.

The sun shone with extra brightness,
being nothing but itself.

Fire, with a full, moon-like flame,
burned without being stirred.

In the north-eastern corner of the residence

A well of pure water spontaneously appeared;

And there the royal householders, filled with wonder,

Performed bathing practices
as if on the bank of a sacred stream.

Hosts of divine, dharma-needy beings, 

Being motivated to meet him, filled up the forest.

And such indeed was the zealous absorption,

That blossoms, even out of season,
were caused to fall from trees.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - 

[Diseases cleared up, naturally, effortlessly,
automatically, spontaneously,

And all by themselves.]

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - 

Directions became clear - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - 
The guru being born for the liberation of the world,
- - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Superstitious old women - - - - 
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Prayed to the gods for good fortune.

Brahmins of reputed good conduct - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - said to the king:

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - -
“To your people, spiritual fortune will accrue.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - -
With the lustre of gold, - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
He will be either a spiritual seer or an earthly king.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

As gold is the best of metals,
Meru of mountains,

The ocean of waters,

And as the moon is the best of planets

- - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - -

The king said to the brahmins:

“What is the cause?” - - - - - 

- - - - - - - - - - - - 

Then the Brahmans said to him:

- - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - 

“And so listen to our examples which illustrate this point:

That science of kingship which Bhṛgu and Aṅgiras,

Those two lineage-founding seers, failed to formulate,

Was created in the course of time, O Gentle Sir!,

By their sons Śukra and Bṛhas-pati.

And Sārasvata articulated again a lost Veda

Which forebears had never seen;

Vyāsa, 'the Compiler,' likewise,
arranged it into many sections,

Which Vasiṣṭha, for lack of Capability, had not done.

Vālmīki invented a metre

Which the great seer Cyavana,
in his compositions, had never used;

And that treatise on healing which Atri failed to produce

The seer Ātreya would later expound.

That rank of twice-born brahmin
which “Squint-Eyed” Kuśika never won,

O King!, the son of Gādhin did attain;

And “Poison-Possessing,” Sagara
gave the ocean a shoreline,

A boundary which formerly the Ikṣvākus had failed to fix.

The status of teacher of the method of yoga
to twice-born brahmins,

A status that nobody but a brahmin had obtained,
Janaka did attain;

And the celebrated deeds of Śauri,
“Descended from the Mighty,”

Were beyond the power of Śūra,
“the Mighty Man” himself, and his contemporaries.

The criterion, then, is neither age nor descent;

Anyone anywhere may attain pre-eminence in the world.

For, among kings and seers,
sons have achieved various things

That forebears failed to achieve.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

Then that sage who was devoted to 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.

“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.”

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:

“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, 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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

But when the ruler of men beheld Asita all teary-eyed,

Attachment to his own flesh and blood
caused the king to shudder:

Stammering, choking back astringent tears,

With his cupped hands held before him,
and his body bent low, he asked:

“On beholding him
whose form is little different from the gods,

Whose shining birth was wonderful in many ways,

And whose purpose, you said,
was destined to be of the highest order,

Why, O Steadfast Soul, would you shed tears?

Will the prince, O One Full of Fortune,
be blessed with long life?

Heaven forfend that he was born for my sorrow!

Am I in my cupped hands somehow to have gained water,

Only for Death to come and drink it?

Again, will the repository of my glory be immune to decay?

I hope the extending hand of my family is secure!

Shall I depart happily to the hereafter,

Keeping in my son, even while I sleep, one eye open?

Heaven forbid that my family's new shoot has budded

Only to wither away before opening.

Tell me quickly, O Abundantly Able One;
I have no peace,

For you know the love
that blood relatives invest in a child.”

Knowing the king to be thus agitated

By a sense of foreboding, the sage said:

“Let not your mind, O Protector of Men,
be in any way disturbed;

What I have said I have said beyond doubt.

Worried I am not about a twist of fate for him;

Distressed I am, though, about missing out myself.

For the time is nigh for me to go,
now that he is born --

The knower of the secret of putting birth to death.

Indifferent to objects, he will give up his kingdom;

Then, through exacting and unrelenting effort,
he will realize the truth;

And then,
to dispel the darkness of delusion in the world,

He will shine forth as a sun whose substance is knowing.

Out of the surging sea of suffering,
whose scattered foam is sickness,

Whose waves are old age
and whose terrible tide is death,

He will deliver the afflicted world,
which is borne helplessly along,

By means of the great raft of knowing.

The river
whose flow is the water of wisdom,
whose steep banks are sturdy integrity,

Whose coolness is balance,
and whose greylag geese, calling and answering,
are acts of obedience --

That highest of rivers,
The water of dharma flowing forth from him,

The thirst-afflicted world of living beings will drink.

To sorrow-afflicted, object-laden souls

Stuck in the scrubby ruts of saṁsāra,

He will tell a way out,

As if to travellers who have lost their way.

To people being burned in this world

By a fire of passion whose fuel is objects,

He with a rain of dharma will bring joyous refreshment

Like a great cloud with rain at the end of sweltering heat.

The door with panels of darkness and delusion
bolted shut by thirst

He will break open to let people out

By means of a thump of the highest order --

The incontestable clout of true dharma,
alongside which it is hard to sit.

For folk enswathed
in the twisted ties of their own delusion,

For folk pulled down into their misery
who lack the means to be lifted up,

He when he is fully awake
will work for them as a king of dharma

At undoing.

Therefore do not sorrow for him;

Those who deserve sorrow
are those in this human world who,

Whether through the delusion
that stems from sensual desires
or because of fervent inspiration,

Will not learn his ultimate dharma.

And since I have fallen short of that merit,

In spite of having mastered the stages of meditation,
I have failed.

Because of being a non-learner of his dharma,

I deem it a misfortune to remain
even in the highest heaven.”

Thus enlightened,
in the company of his wife and friends,

The king dismissed dejection and rejoiced;

For, thinking “Such is this son of mine,”

He saw his son's excellence as also being his own.

But then it preyed upon his mind

That his son might trace a seer's path:

Biased against dharma he surely was not,

But dread he foresaw from the ending of his line.

And so the sage Asita, having let the reality be known,

Having caused the king, who was worried about his child,
to know the inevitable reality tied to having a child,

-- While people, with varying degrees of appreciation,
looked up at his excellent form --

Went as he had come, on the way of the wind.

One who, having beheld his younger sister's son,
knew the score,

Saw to it that the sage's direction
should be listened to and given thought;

[This uncle] in many different ways, with empathy,
being himself straight and true,

Saw to this as if for his own beloved son.

Even the king, delighted at the birth of a son,

Loosened his ties to worldly objects

Whereupon, in a manner befitting his nobility,

He performed for his son, out of love for his son,
a rite of birth.

More than that, when ten days were up,

With a purified mind,
and filled with the greatest gladness,

He performed mutterings,
fire oblations, ritual movements

And other acts of religious worship,
for the ultimate well-being of his son.

Again, cows numbering fully a hundred thousand,

With strong, sturdy calves and gilded horns,

Unimpaired by age or infirmity,
yielding milk in abudance,

He freely gave to the twice-born brahmins,
with a view to his son's advancement.

With his self reined in, then, on that basis

-- After performing sacrificial acts
which were variously oriented towards his end
and which made him feel gratified in his heart --

At an auspicious moment in a good day,

He rejoicingly resolved to enter the city.

And then into a precious pallanquin
made from a tusker's two tusks,

Which was filled with the white flowers
of the White Flower, the Sita,
and had pearls for lamps,

The god-queen with her child repaired,

Having bowed down, for good fortune,
before images of gods.

Now, having let his wife enter the city ahead of him

-- Her with their offspring, and elders trailing behind --

The king also approached,
applauded by groups of townsfolk,

Like gift-bestowing Indra entering heaven,
applauded by the immortals.

Headlong into his palace, then, dived the Śākya king,

Happy as Bhava at the birth of six-faced Kārttikeya.

“Do this! Do that!”
he commanded, his face brimming with joy,

As he made arrangements
for all sorts of lavishness and splendour.

Thus at the happy development
which was the birth of the king's son,

That city named after Kapila,
along with surrounding settlements,

Showed its delight,
just as the city of the Wealth-Giver,
spilling over with celestial nymphs,

Became delighted at the birth of Nala-kūbara.

The first canto, titled “A Beautiful Birth,”
in an epic story of awakened action.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.89: Celebrations Reach a Climax

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−− Puṣpitāgrā
iti nara-pati-putra-janma-vṛddhyāṁ sa-jana-padaṁ kapilāhvayaṁ puraṁ tat |
dhana-da-puram-ivāpsaro-'vakīrṇaṁ muditam-abhūn-nala-kūbara-prasūtau || 1.89

iti buddha-carite mahā-kāvye bhagavat-prasūtir-nāma prathamaḥ sargaḥ || 1 ||

Thus at the happy event
which was the birth of the king's son,

That city named after Kapila,
along with surrounding settlements,

Showed its delight,
just as the city of the Wealth-Giver, 

spilling over with celestial nymphs,

Became delighted at the birth of Nala-kūbara.

The first canto, titled “A Beautiful Birth,”
in an epic story of 
awakened action.

EBC, EHJ and PO all have -vṛddhyā (inst. sg.) at the end of the 1st pāda. The amendment to -vṛddhyāṁ (loc. sg.), however, only requires the adding of a dot, and mirrors the grammar of -prasūtau at the end of the verse.

As mentioned in the comment to BC1.84, EHJ sees a play here on the word "vṛddhyā, which means technically 'the impurity caused by childbirth,' jananāśauca. Ceremonial impurity is not ordinarily a cause of pleasure, but in this case it was so."

I think the reason EHJ focused on such a technical irrelevance is that he missed the real point Aśvaghoṣa has been making, albeit very indirectly, throughout this opening canto. That point has been to highlight the hypocrisy of the kind of religious behaviour that tends to be construed as sacred, selfless, self-sacrificing, sincere, but which upon investigation is seen to be self-serving. Not only the aristocratic brahmins who told the king what they thought he wanted to hear, but also those groups of sycophantic subjects lower down the ancient Indian food-chain who applauded the king on his way to the palace, were all on a par with those citizens who followed the cult of Kubera, the heroic protector of precious metals, minerals, jewels and wealth generally. Here is an image gleaned from the internet of that unlikely hero (who is usually depicted as a dwarfish figure with a large paunch):

Would the citizens of the city of Kubera have rejoiced with such unbridled climactic exuberance if Kubera, here called dhana-da,“the Wealth Giver,” had not been so richly endowed with precious metals and jewels? One suspects that Aśvoghoṣa suspects not.

This verse, then, as I read it, is yet another ironical expression of Aśvoghoṣa's irreligious cynicism.

And it is in this light that I read the phrase apsaro-'vakīrṇam which at first glance seems simply to mean “filled with celestial nymphs” -- hence EBC: “crowded with heavenly nymphs;” EHJ: “thronged with Apsarases;” PO: “thronging with apsarases.” But I suspect that apsaro-'vakīrṇam might really be intended to convey a connotation of the spilling of semen, as per the first definition of avakīrṇa in the MW dictionary. So at one end of the spectrum of translations I considered is a translation that hints at this connotation, like “spilling over with celestial nymphs,” and at the other extreme is a translation that makes this connotation explicit, like “where semen would be spilled over celestial nymphs.” In the middle might be a translation along the lines of “spending itself on celestial nymphs.”

The vital philosophical point to grasp, as I see it, is that celestial nymphs are the ultimate objects of male pursuit, and from a cynical standpoint that is all those nymphs have ever been – illusory objects. In reality no city has ever been inhabited by any celestial nymph who was anything more solid than a masturbatory fantasy.

For this reason, I decided upon “nymph-absorbed," which at least has the merit, I reasoned, of bringing out the sense of celestial nymphs as objects – even if the more concrete connotation is lost of the strewing of semen. On further reflection, however, I went back to the more ambiguous “spilling over with celestial nymphs." 

In the colophon, buddha-carita ostensibly means The Life of Buddha (EBC), Acts of the Buddha (EHJ), or Life of the Buddha (PO). But, as he states explicitly at the end of Saundara-nanda, Aśvaghoṣa was not concerned with anything so much as he was concerned with conveying teaching that might lead every reader in the direction of cessation (vyupaśāntaye; SN18.63). Elucidating a principle to work to in practice, and not historical accuracy, was Aśvaghoṣa's primary aim.  For that reason, I should like provisionally to translate buddha-carite mahā-kāvye as “in the epic story of the action of an awakened man," or as “in the epic story of awakened action."

Because Aśvaghoṣa's primary intention is to tell a universal story of a man's awakening and subsequent enlightened action, he is concerned every step of the way with that fundamental obstacle to awakening which is the tendency to pursue ends or objects directly, unmindfully, relying on feelings that are faulty. This is the tendency, or habit, that FM Alexander called “end-gaining.”

I think Aśvaghoṣa observed that when ancient Indian brahmins and courtiers and humble subjects rejoiced at happy events in the lives of their rulers, such rejoicing was not entirely spontaneous. It was rather somewhat contrived, artificial, based upon some end-gaining agenda. For an outstanding modern-day example of the non-spontaneity to which I refer, we need look no further than the exagerrated public displays of emotions that seem to grip the people of North Korea, at least when the camera is on them. What could be further from awakened action?

Awakened action, as we saw in the epic story of beautiful joy (saundara-nande mahā-kāvye) is not the ugly unconscious striving of somebody in pursuit of an object. It is rather the beautiful action of somebody who has ceased the direct, end-gaining pursuit of all objects. This cessation of end-gaining, I think, is essentially what Aśvaghoṣa means in SN18.63 by vyupaśānti, cessation.

Cessation does not mean to stop doing things. Rather it means to stop triggering into action wrong inner patterns deep in the brain and nervous system. These wrong inner patterns are the “doing” which, in the practice of non-doing, we aim to prevent, or to stop off at source.

iti: thus
nara-pati-putra-janma-vṛddhyām (loc. sg.) at the positive development which was the birth of the son of the lord of men
nara-pati: m. 'man-lord,' king
putra: m. son
janman: n. birth
vṛddhī: f. growth , increase , augmentation , rise , advancement , extension , welfare , prosperity , success , fortune , happiness

sa-jana-padam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. having the same country , a fellow-countryman
sa: (possessive prefix)
jana-pada: m. sg. or pl. a community , nation , people (as opposed to the sovereign) ; sg. an empire , inhabited country
kapilāhvayam (nom. sg. n.): named after Kapila
āhvaya: m. appellation , name (generally ifc.)
puram (nom. sg.) n. the ciy
tat (nom. sg. n.): that

dhana-da-puram (nom. sg. n.): the city of the 'Wealth-Giving' Kubera
dhana-da: m. 'wealth-giving', N. of kubera [chief of the evil beings or spirits or darkness having the N. vaiśravaṇa; (afterwards) the god of riches and treasure (regent of the northern quarter which is hence called kubera-guptā diś) (he is regarded as the son of viśravas by iḍaviḍā , the chief of the yakṣas , and a friend of rudra ; he is represented as having three legs and only eight teeth]
iva: like, as
apsaro-'vakīrṇam (nom. sg. n.): spilling over with celestial nymphs ; having spent itself on celestial nymphs
apsaras: f. celestial nymph
avakīrṇa: mfn. who has spilt his semen virile , i.e. violated his vow of chastity , poured upon , covered with , filled
ava- √ kṝ : to pour out or down , spread , scatter ; to spill one's semen virile ; to bestrew , pour upon , cover with , fill

muditam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. delighted , joyful , glad
abhūt = 3rd pers. sg. aorist bhū: to be, become ; to manifest , exhibit , show , betray;
nala-kūbara-prasūtau (loc. sg.): at the birth of Nala-kūbara
nala-kūbara: m. N. of a son of kubera
prasūti: f. birth

iti: thus
buddha-carite (loc. sg.): the action of an awakened man; awakened action
buddha: mfn. awakened; the buddha
carita: mfn.  " practised " , in comp.; n. going , moving , course  ; n. acting , doing , practice , behaviour , acts , deeds , adventures
mahā-kāvye (loc. sg.): in the epic story
bhagavat-prasūtiḥ (nom. sg. m.): a beautiful birth
bhaga-vat: mfn. possessing fortune , fortunate , prosperous , happy; glorious , illustrious , divine , adorable , venerable ; holy (applied to gods , demigods , and saints as a term of address); m. " the divine or adorable one ", name of viṣṇu-kṛṣṇa
bhaga: good fortune , happiness , welfare , prosperity ; dignity , majesty , distinction , excellence , beauty , loveliness
-vat: (possessive suffix)
prasūti: f. procreation , generation , bringing forth (children or young) , birth
nāma: ind. by name
prathamaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the first
sargaḥ (nom. sg.): m. canto, chapter

毘沙門天王 生那羅鳩婆
一切諸天衆 皆悉大歡喜
王今生太子 迦毘羅衞國
一切諸人民 歡喜亦如是


Friday, July 27, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.88: Party Time

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−− Puṣpitāgrā
bhavanam-atha vigāhya śākya-rājo bhava iva ṣaṇ-mukha-janmanā pratītaḥ |
idam-idam-iti harṣa-pūrṇa-vaktro bahu-vidha-puṣṭi-yaśas-karaṁ vyadhatta || 1.88

Headlong into his palace, then, dived the Śākya king,

Happy as Bhava at the birth of six-faced Kārttikeya.

“Do this! Do that!” 

he commanded, his face brimming with joy, 

As he made arrangements 

for all sorts of lavishness and splendour.

Six-faced Kārttikeya was the son of the fire-god Agni, aka Bhava, mentioned before in BC1.61.

The irony that I read in today's verse is that Gautama Buddha, as Aśvaghoṣa has described him in Saundara-nanda, shining like the sun, far from being six-faced, was the least two-faced human being in history.

Sitting in lotus, it seems to me, does not necessarily stop a person from being two-faced, any more than it stops a person from being optimistic, or from making the mistake of falling into any kind of -ism, such as Theravada Buddhism, for example, or Zen Buddhism. But sitting in lotus has inherent in it a lengthening and widening direction, which can be summarized as “thinking up,” so that the tendency that is originally associated with sitting in lotus is away from numbers like two and six, and towards the number one. 

Today's and tomorrow's verse are part of the flourish with which the canto of a kāvya poem customarily ends. The whole series of nine verses from 1.80 written in the Puṣpitāgrā metre are part of that flourish. But Aśvaghoṣa as I read him has used that customary poetic flourish to camouflage an ironic attack on all things religious. And yesterday, albeit so stealthily that his enemies might never even notice, Aśvaghoṣa's attack on religion drew to a climax when he radioed in the coordinates for a bomb drop very close to home, on both of the original schools of Buddhism.

Thus when EHJ opined that “Our first task is obviously to determine the sect or school to which he [Aśvaghoṣa The Buddhist] belonged,” he had not noticed that Aśvaghoṣa had already dropped a bomb on that doubt forever, by very subtly denigrating not only the elders who trailed behind but also the members of applauding samghas, great and small.

How is it that the teaching of the Buddha, no more than a hundred years after the Buddha's death, could have got divided into two? One way of understanding this massive howler on the part of those who recognized two groups, one called called the Sthavira-vādins and another called the Mahā-saṁghikas,  was that the howler was a manifestation of a failure to appreciate the real meaning of the number one. 

If I speak from my own experience, when I was at primary school I was generally thought of as being “top of the class,” partly as a result of being ranked number one at end-of-year exams. Then when I skipped a year and went to a selective secondary school I was no longer number one academically, but I had the experience of captaining school rugby teams up to under-16 level. Somehow these experiences ingrained in me an idea that it is important for me to be number one.

But in the Buddha's teaching this idea of being number one is just an idea to be abandoned. When one sees this idea as it is, it is tied up with both the tendencies that Aśvaghoṣa quietly denigrates in yesterday's verse – namely (1) the Sthavira-vādin tendency to assign importance to hierarchy, to the senior over the junior; and (2) the Mahā-saṁghika tendency to assign importance to the group over the individual.

The antidote to the poison of an idea like being number one, the Buddha tells Nanda at the end of Saundara-nanda Canto 14, is to practise being aware at some solitary place:
In this manner, my friend, repair to a place suited for practice, free of people and free of noise, a place for lying down and sitting; / For by first achieving solitude of the body it is easy to obtain solitude of the mind. // 14.46 // The man of redness, the tranquillity of his mind unrealized, who does not take to a playground of solitude, / Is injured as though, unable to regain a track, he is walking on very thorny ground. // 14.47 // For a seeker who fails to see reality but stands in the tawdry playground of objects, / It is no easier to rein in the mind than to drive a foraging bull away from corn. // 14.48 // But just as a bright fire dies down when not fanned by the wind, / So too, in solitary places, does an unstirred mind easily come to quiet. // 14.49 // One who eats anything at any place, and wears any clothes,Who dwells in enjoyment of his own being and loves to be anywhere without people: / He is to be known as a success, a knower of the taste of peace and ease, whose mind is made up -- He avoids involvement with others like a thorn. // 14.50 //
As a tendency, then, following the Buddha's teaching encourages us to drop off the idea of being number one in a hiearchical sense, or within a group context, and to realize a deeper and more real meaning of the number one, in connection with realizing the one great purpose (Lotus Sutra:  一大事 因縁), by naturally becoming one piece ( 一片). 

This realization has got nothing to do with elders or juniors in a hierarchy and nothing to do with others in a group. It has to do with a one-to-one transmission from Gautama Buddha.

Coming back to today's verse, I think Aśvaghoṣa made the description of the king's exuberance as vivid as he did, for a particular reason, akin to a pickpocket's subterfuge.

Looking back on it, the celebratory hugs of the guy you briefly encountered on a high night out, when after a few drinks your face and his face were brimming with happiness, only begin to make sense in the cold light of the morning after, when you realize that some bastard has picked your pocket.

The real money, using that allegory, was contained in yesterday's verse, and today's verse is primarily part of the pickpocket's subterfuge.

Or to go back to the bomb-dropping analogy, it is as if -- in order to drown out the sounds of B52 engines, dropping bombs and flying ordinance -- an orchestra is starting up, and Aśvaghoṣa is belting out a song of happiness and joy, lavishness and splendour.

Another image that springs to mind is of a Buddhist academic and an investigative journalist, with notebooks in hand, coming to interrogate Aśvaghoṣa. Their burning question is this: 

“Did you really intend, Reverend Patriarch, to allude with the words sthavira and saṁgha to the infamous schism that took place at the 2nd Council, around 100 years after the Buddha's death?”

Aśvaghoṣa takes the notebooks, replaces them with glasses of champagne, blows into a blowout party trumpet and cries:

“This is a joyful occasion to celebrate the Buddha's birth. Let's party!”

bhavanam (acc. sg.): n. a place of abode , mansion , home , house , palace , dwelling
atha: and so, then
vigāhya = abs. vi- √ gāh: to plunge or dive into , bathe in , enter , penetrate , pervade , betake one's self into (acc. or loc.)
śākya-rājaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the Śākya king

bhavaḥ (nom. sg.): m. 'being, birth, becoming ; well-being , prosperity , welfare , excellence'; name of Agni; name of a deity attending on rudra and frequently connected with śarva (later N. of śiva or a form of śiva)
iva: like
ṣaṇ-mukha-janmanā (inst. sg.): the birth of six-faced Kārttikeya
ṣaṇ-mukha: 'having six mouths or faces', name of Kārttikeya, 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)
janman: n. birth
pratītaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. satisfied , cheerful , glad , pleased 

idam: this , this here , referring to something near the speaker ; ind. in this manner
iti: “....,” thus
harṣa-pūrṇa-vaktraḥ (nom. sg. m.): his face full of joy
harṣa: m. bristling; joy , pleasure , happiness
pūrṇa: mfn. filled with
vaktra: n. " organ of speech " , the mouth , face ,

bahu-vidha-puṣṭi-yaśas-karam (acc. sg. m.): the effecting of all sorts of opulence and splendour
bahu-vidha: mfn. of many sorts or kinds , manifold , various
puṣṭi: f. well-nourished condition , fatness , plumpness , growth , increase , thriving , prosperity , wealth , opulence , comfort;
yaśas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame
kara: mfn. a doer , maker , causer , doing , making , causing , producing; m. the act of doing , making &c
vyadhatta = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect vi- √ dhā: to distribute , apportion , grant , bestow ; to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready ; to perform , effect , produce , cause , occasion , make , do

如摩醯首羅 忽生六面子
設種種衆具 供給及請福
今王生太子 設衆具亦然

Thursday, July 26, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.87: Docile Elders & Sycophantic Sanghas

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−− Puṣpitāgrā
puram-atha purataḥ praveśya patnīṁ sthavira-janānugatām-apatya-nāthām |
nṛ-patir-api jagāma paura-saṁghair-divam-amarair-maghavān-ivārcyamānaḥ || 1.87

Now, having let his wife enter the city ahead of him

-- Her with their offspring, and elders trailing behind --

The king also approached,
applauded by groups of townsfolk,

Like gift-bestowing Indra entering heaven,
applauded by the immortals.

EBC translates “Having made his wife with her child enter first into the city, accompanied by the aged attendants...,” with a footnote to the effect that apatya-nāthām (“with their offspring”) might also mean ‘having her child as her protector.’

EHJ translates “The king then made the queen, attended by aged women and accompanied by her child, enter the city in front of him...,” with a footnote saying that this translation followed the Chinese and Tibetan translations in taking sthavira-janam (“elders”) as feminine (“aged women”).

How are we to decide? Going to visit Zen temples in Kyoto is no help whatsoever, as Jordan has recently confirmed, except in bringing about a certain emptiness in the wallet. No, there is nothing for it but to sit as an individual on the same round cushion as Aśvaghoṣa and to work out (in both senses of the word) his real message.

Visits to Zen temples (I know whereof I speak) can be a totally meaningless experience. A much better way to commune with the ancient masters of Zen is to study the words that they took the trouble to write, and to work out for oneself what those words might really mean.

The two buddha-ancestors whose words I have studied in detail are Dogen and Aśvaghoṣa. Dogen, of course, as any Buddhist scholar knows, was the founder of the Soto Sect in Japan. But to which school did Aśvaghoṣa belong? For a Buddhist scholar like EH Johnston, this was question number one. Hence, in an 85-page introduction to his translation of Buddha-carita, EHJ writes of Aśvaghoṣa “The Buddhist” (as separated from Aśvaghoṣa “The Scholar” and Aśvaghoṣa “The Poet”) as follows:
“Our first task is obviously to determine the sect or school to which he [Aśvaghoṣa The Buddhist] belonged. That he was a follower of the Hinayāna is certain, and to him perhaps any further inquiry would have savoured of impertinence; he is not a fanatical adherent of any school and avoids, as if of set purpose, all mention of those disciplinary details and philosophical subtleties which had split the community into sections...”
The first two propositions that EHJs states here are utterly false premises. The last 30-odd words of this quote I agree with. Twelve turgid pages later, however, EHJ concludes:
“To sum up a difficult enquiry, I would hold, till further light is shed on the dark places, that the best opinion is to consider Aśvaghoṣa as having been either a Bahuśrutika or an adherent of the [Mahāsaṅgika] school (the Kaukulikas?) from which the Bahuśrutikas issued.”
26th July, 2012 
Dear Professor Johnston, 
Here is some light I would like to invite you to shine into your dark places: Neither Dogen nor Aśvaghoṣa were the adherents of any sect or school. They were individual buddha-ancestors in the one-to-one transmission of the practice and experience of positioning one's dark places on top of a round black cushion. So the best opinion for you to hold on Aśvaghoṣa's sectarian affiliation, might be no opinion.
All the best, 

The Right Irreverend Mike Cross

Mostly, as EHJ correctly suggests, Aśvaghoṣa's intention as regards sectarian divisions can be inferred from what  Aśvaghoṣa avoided discussing, by what he did NOT write. But in a verse like today's Aśvaghoṣa may also have been providing one or two clues by what he did write. Because under a camouflage of bunting and frippery surrounding a beautiful birth, today's verse contains two terms which are very pertinent to what EHJ thinks of as “our first task.” Those two terms are sthavira-jana, “elders,” and saṁghaiḥ, “groups, sanghas, sections of the community.”

The significance of the juxtaposition in today's verse of sthavira and saṁgha is suggested by the following passage from The Wonder that was INDIA, by A. L. Basham:
A second general council is said to have been held at Vaiśāli, one hundred years after the Buddha's death. Here schism raised its head, ostensibly over small points of monastic discipline, and the Order broke into two sections, that of the orthodox Sthavira-vādins (Pāli Thera-vādī) or “Believers in the Teaching of the Elders,” and that of the Mahā-saṅgikas or “Members of the Great Community.”
My decision, then, taking this into account, is to translate sthavira as “elders” and saṁgha as “group.”

And the means-whereby I arrived at this decision is sitting in lotus as the abandonment of that idea which EHJ, in all the ineffable stupidity of the devoted Buddhist scholar, expressed when he wrote “Our first task is obviously to determine the sect or school to which [Aśvaghoṣa] belonged.”

If I paraphrase in my own words the gist of what Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him has been saying in this and the last few verses:

Religion is all a load of irrational old nonsense; believing in the teaching of so-called “elders,” and following the herd instinct as part of a “saṁgha,” are part and parcel of that old nonsense; and sychophantic kow-towing, in the hope or expectation of being rewarded with gifts from on high, is the saddest and most laughable manifestation of that old nonsense.

puram (acc. sg.): n. the city
atha: and, then
purataḥ: ind. before (in place or time) , in front
praveśya = abs. causative pra- √ viś: to cause to enter into (acc.)
patnīm (acc. sg.): f. mistress, wife

sthavira-janānugatām (acc. sg. f): accompanied by elders
sthavira: mfn. broad, thick, strong; old , ancient , venerable ; m. (with Buddhists) an " Elder " (N. of the oldest and most venerable bhikṣus)
jana: m. person, people
anugata: mfn. followed by , having anything (as a skin) hanging behind
apatya-nāthām (acc. sg. f.): furnished with the offspring; having the offspring as refuge/protector
apatyan. (fr. ápa, away, off, down) offspring , child , descendant
nātha: n. refuge , help ; m. a protector , patron , possessor , owner , lord (often ifc. , esp. in names of gods and men; but also mf(ā)n. possessed of occupied by , furnished with cf. sa-)
nāth: to seek aid , approach with prayers or requests (loc.); to ask , solicit , beg for ; to have power , be master

nṛ-patiḥ (nom. sg.): m. " lord of men " , king ,
api: also
jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go , set out ; to go to or towards , approach
paura-saṁghaiḥ (inst. pl.): by/with groups of citizens
paura: m. a townsman , citizen
saṁgha: m. " close contact or combination " , any collection or assemblage , heap , multitude , quantity , crowd , host , number (generally with gen. pl. or ifc. , e.g. muni-saṁgha , " a multitude of sages"); any number of people living together for a certain purpose , a society , association , company , community

divam (acc. sg.): n. heaven, sky
a-maraiḥ (inst. pl.): m. “not dying,” a god , a deity
magha-vān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. possessing or distributing gifts , bountiful , liberal , munificent (esp. said of indra and other gods): m. N. of indra
magha: m. ( √ maṁh) a gift , reward , bounty
maṁh: to give , grant , bestow
iva: like
arcyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. causative pres. part. ṛc: to praise

然後昇寶輿 婇女衆隨侍
王與諸臣民 一切倶導從
猶如天帝釋 諸天衆圍遶

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.86: Whiter than White Religious Worship

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−− Puṣpitāgrā
dvi-rada-rada-mayīm-atho mahārhāṁ sita-sita-puṣpa-bhtāṁ maṇi-pradīpām |
abhajata śivikāṁ śivāya devī tanayavatī praṇipatya devatābhyaḥ || 1.86

And then into a precious pallanquin
made from a tusker's two tusks,

Which was filled with the white flowers
of the White Flower, the Sita,
and had pearls for lamps,

The god-queen with her child repaired,

Having bowed down, for good fortune,
before images of gods.

The merits of today's verse are more obviously poetical than philosophical.

Thus, “ivory” is dvi-rada-rada-mayīm (lit. made of a two-tusker's tusks); “filled with white sita-puṣpa flowers” is sita-sita-puṣpa-bhṛtāṁ (lit. filled with white whiteflowers); and “a pallanquin... for good fortune” is śivikāṁ śivāya. A fourth and final correspondence, separated by the space of one pāda is between devī (queen) and devatābhyaḥ (images of gods). 

Still, I think a certain scepticism or cynicism remains descernible in Aśvaghoṣa's description of the queen's worship of religious idols, for good fortune.

The MW dictionary indicates that śivāya has an adverbial usage -- “auspiciously, fortunately,” and EHJ asserts that its place next to śivikām (a pallanquin, regarded as a lucky object) makes it necessary to construe śivāya with śivikām (and not praṇipatya), so that what the queen did auspiciously, or for good forutne, was to enter the pallanquin (and not bow to the gods).

Not buying EHJ's argument on this point, I have followed EBC in taking śivāya with praṇipatya. (PO omitted to translate śivāya.)

In any event śivāya means “for good fortune,” and so the irony intended may be that though the scene being depicted is one that is whiter than white, replete with ivory and pearls and the white flowers of the white-flowering White Flower tree, the queen's religious worship is in fact tainted by her agenda of securing good fortune, happiness, welfare, prosperity.

A further philosphical point that can be drawn from today's verse is that situations which can be portrayed by poets in glowing terms as whiter than white, and situations which can be expected by idealistic minds to be whiter than white, and situations which can be believed by religious minds to be whiter than white, are in reality never so pure as all that. Hence Dogen's memorable observation, in Shobogenzo chap. 73, that if water is too pure fish cannot live in it.

Etymologically the word sita, white, is thought to be derived from asita, which means dark-coloured or black. So asita, which sounds like a compound of a- (not) and sita (white) was probably originally just asita, and not in fact  a-sita. In other words, in the same way that sura “god” is thought to be back-formed from the original asura “demon, anti-god,” sita “white” is thought to be back-formed from the original asita “black, not-white.” Either way, my sense is that in the background to Aśvaghoṣa's earlier descriptions of the non-Buddhist Asita, and in the background to his descriptions in today's verse of the whiter than white sita-puṣpa flowers, there was investigation, on the same round cushion as Dogen's round cushion, of the fact that if water is too pure fish cannot live in it.

On further reflection, on thinking about today's verse in four phases (viz. abstract number 2; natural flowers and pearls; human action; and real stupidity thereof), though I had intended to translate dvi-rada-rada-mayīm “made of a two-tusker's tusks” simply as “ivory,” it occured to me that Aśvaghoṣa may have intended something by dvi, the number two. For one thing, as the first word in today's verse,  dvi draws attention to the dual correspondences underlined above. For another thing, in the pure realm of mathematics two is an even number. Artists drawing or painting real objects, however, report that in drawing or painting a still life of, say, items of fruit in a dish, it is more difficult to make a picture look balanced with two items than with three. Again, the tradition I heard in Japan for putting sticks in an incense burner was to use one stick or three sticks, but not to use two sticks.

In mathematics, an even number is always easily divisible into two perfectly equal parts. The samādhi which is king of samādhis, in contrast, which every verse of Buddhacarita is ultimately about, is never about perfect symmetry. It is more akin to keeping one's balance while riding a bike around a bend or around a corner, in which case worrying about symmetry is liable to cause one to fall off.

In conclusion, then, I read today's verse as the painting of a pretty picture whose real intention is to subvert itself.

When the god-like queen bows down before images of gods, for good fortune, her flowers may be whiter than white, but her mind is tainted as hell. That, as I read it, is Aśvaghoṣa's real intention. He is out to subvert the basic beliefs and practises of ancient Indian religion in particular and religion in general.

dvi-rada-rada-mayīm (acc. sg. f.): made of a two-tusker's tusks; ivory
dvi-rada: m. 'two-tusked,' an elephant
rada: m. the act of splitting or gnawing; a tooth; the tusk of an elephant
-maya: made of
atho: ind. and so, then
mahārhām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. very valuable or precious , splendid

sita-sita-puṣpa-bhṛtām (acc. sg. f.): filled with white Whiteflowers
sita: mfn. (prob. formed fr. a-sita as sura fr. asura) white , pale , bright
sita-puṣpa: m. 'white flower,' Tabernaemontana Coronaria ; Saccharum Spontaneum ; Acacia Sirissa ; n. Cyperus Rotundus
bhṛta: (ifc.) filled , full of.
maṇi-pradīpām (acc. sg. f.): with jewel/crystal lights; whose lamps were jewels
maṇi: m. a jewel , gem , pearl (also fig.) , any ornament or amulet , globule , crystal
pradīpa: m. a light , lamp , lantern ; ifc. " the light i.e. the glory or ornament of "

abhajata = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect bhaj: to partake of , enjoy (also carnally) , possess , have ; to turn or resort to , engage in , assume (as a form) , put on (garments) , experience , incur , undergo , feel , go or fall into
śivikām (acc. sg.): f. a palanquin , palkee , litter , bier
śivāya (dat. sg.): m. happiness, welfare ; n. welfare , prosperity , bliss (śivāya , -éna or -ébhis , " auspiciously , fortunately , happily , luckily " ; śivāya gamyatām , " a prosperous journey to you! ")
devī (nom. sg.): f. a female deity, a goddess; the queen

tanaya-vatī (nom. sg. f.): with her child
praṇipatya = abs. pra-ṇi- √ pat : to throw one's self down before , bow respectfully to (acc. , rarely dat. or loc.)
devatābhyaḥ (dat. pl.): f. godhead , divinity (abstr. & concr.) ; image of deity, idol

二飯白淨牙 七寶莊嚴輿
雜色珠絞絡 明焔極光澤
夫人抱太子 周匝禮天神

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.85: Suppressing the Self in Selfish Pursuit of an End

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−− Puṣpitāgrā
bahu-vidha-viṣayās-tato yatātmā sva-hṛdaya-toṣa-karīḥ kriyā vidhāya |
guṇavati divase śive muhūrte matim-akaron-muditaḥ pura-praveśe || 1.85

With his self reined in, then, on that basis

-- After performing sacrificial acts
which were variously oriented towards his end
and which made him feel gratified in his heart --

At an auspicious moment in a good day,

He rejoicingly resolved to enter the city.

On that basis (tataḥ) means on the basis of having the ulterior motive of his son's advancement. The self-restraint that Aśvaghoṣa is describing in today's verse, then, is self-restraint of the order that Nanda practises in Saundara-nanda Canto 11. It is the self-restraint of the man who, dead set on the gaining of an object or end (sexual union with celestial nymphs in Nanda's case; his son's advancement in the king's case), ties himself to restraint as a tethering post. Hence:
And so, having gazed upon those women who wander in the Gladdening Gardens of Nandana, / Nanda tethered the fickle and unruly mind to a tethering post of restraint. // SN11.1 // Failing to relish the taste of freedom from care, sapless as a wilting lotus, / He went through the motions of dharma-practice, having installed the apsarases already in his heart. // SN11.2 // Thus did one whose sense-power had been restless, whose senses had grazed on the pasture of his wife, / Come, by the very power of sense-objects, to have his sense-power reined in. // SN11.3 //
But still more pertinent is the following verse in Saundara-nanda Canto 3 in which Aśvaghoṣa contrasts the shining splendour of the Buddha with the multifarious dark end-gaining of ordinary people:
To people possessed by ends (viṣayātmakasya janasya), serving many and various paths (bahu-vividha-mārga-sevinaḥ), / Splendour had arisen that seemed like the sun: Gautama was like the sun, dispelling darkness. // SN3.16 //
Read in this light, the key word in today's verse is viṣaya (object, end).

In a footnote to his translation, however, EHJ notes: “The European translations omit viṣaya as pleonastic.”

EBC was one of the guilty ones who omitted viṣaya, simply translating, “having performed all kinds of ceremonies,” 
EHJ himself, did not make the mistake of omitting viṣaya, but neither did he seem to grasp the full significance of the word. EHJ translated “he prescribed the performance of ceremonies directed to many ends."
EHJ added in his footnote on viṣaya that The literal meaning is either 'having many kinds of scope,' or 'having many kinds of objects' (sacrificial victims?).
PO's translation followed EHJ with the pithier, “he carried out rites for varied ends.”

In Aśvaghoṣa's description of the king as I read it, the king was not concerned with many ends and was not concerned with varied ends. The king was concerned with only one end, namely, the advancement of his son. But his concern with this end influenced him, as end-gaining is ever liable to influence a person, in all sorts of ways -- because going directly for an end, as if with tunnel vision, invariably has all sorts of unintended side-effects.

It is for this reason, I think Aśvaghoṣa wishes us to understand, that the Buddha encourages Nanda not to pursue any end, even liberation itself, in an end-gaining way, but rather to have confidence in a means-whereby, and to stick always, with mindfulness, to the means-whereby principle.

Again, Aśvaghoṣa describes the rites or ceremonies that the king performed as sva-hṛdaya-toṣa-karīḥ lit. “producing gratification in his own heart,” i.e. making him feel deeply right in himself. What Aśvaghoṣa is describing here, as I hear him, is just the consummation of that desire which FM Alexander identified as the end-gainer's primary desire – the desire to feel right in the gaining of his end.

Remembering that FM Alexander had written about the end-gainer's “desire to feel right in the gaining of his end,” in connection with The Golfer Who Cannot Keep His Eyes on the Ball, I initiated a google search accordingly, thinking that some wordy Alexander advocate might have bothered to type up the relevant passages and posted them onto the internet. Sure enough, some guy who really ought to get a life had indeed typed up the passages I was seeking:
The lure of the familiar proves too strong for him and keeps him tied down to the habitual use of himself which feels right. This is not surprising, seeing that the golfer's desire to employ his habitual use at all costs in gaining his end, on account of the familiar sensory experiences that go with it, is an instinctive desire which mankind has inherited and continued to develop all through the ages. The desire to feel right in the gaining of his end is therefore his primary desire, in comparison with which his desire to make a good stroke is new and undeveloped, and exerts only a secondary influence. This is proved by the fact that although he starts out with the desire to make a good stroke, his desire to repeat sensory experiences that 'feel right' acts as a stimulus to him to use himself in the habitual way which is associated with these experiences, although it is this very manner of use that prevents him from satisfying his newer desire to make a good stroke.

The desire to carry out his teacher's instructions to keep his eyes on the ball is a still newer desire, and consequently suffers in intensity as compared with the other two desires [to feel right; to make a good stroke]. Moreover, it stands even less chance of being carried out, firstly, because the stimulus which gives rise to it does not come from within, like the others, but from without, ie, from the teacher; and secondly, because the instruction is framed with the purpose of correcting something wrong with the pupil's use, ie, the use of the eyes, and so is bound to come at once into conflict with the pupil's desire to employ his faulty habitual use which, as we have just explained, is the dominating influence in whatever he tries to do. The conflict between these two desires is therefore bound to be an unequal one, and his desire to carry out his teacher's instruction goes by the board.
It is the dominating influence of his desire to gain his end by means of a use of his mechanisms which feels right, but is in fact wrong for the purpose, that explains not only why he continues to take his eyes off the ball and so to fail in his stroke, but also why, in spite of this repeated experience of failure, he does not give up 'end-gaining' and set to work in a different way. 
The nub of the matter, as I see it, is this: Dogen encouraged every individual, without distinction, to practise just sitting upright. But the truth for most if not all of us is that our sense of uprightness, our feeling of where up is, is faulty. That being so, to go directly for the end of an upright posture, and to rein oneself in on that basis, on the basis of what feels right, is a basic mistake. The best way to avoid making this mistake may be to entrust oneself into the hands of a reliable teacher.

The vital matter is first to direct the whole body up, and thereby to keep one's awareness turned towards the body (ṛjuṃ samagraṃ praṇidhāya kāyaṃ kāye smṛtiṃ cābhimukhīṃ vidhāya; SN17.4).

What does it mean to direct the whole body up? Nobody can say in words. But it doesn't necessarily mean to adopt that posture which, because it feels right, makes one feel gratified in one's heart.

I think of a friend of mine who likes to stand in a pose that feels familiar and right to him after many years practising the martial arts, but which involves pulling his legs into his pelvis, which feels to him like he is protecting himself in a martial way, but looks to me like he is just bone-headedly indulging in an old habit. (And no Ian, I am not thinking about you... though if the cap fits...)

If my friend's stubborn adherence to feeling and habit irritates me, nothing is more certain than that the mirror principle is at work.

bahu-vidha-viṣayāḥ (acc. pl. f.): having multiple objects, directed at sundry ends; variously concerned with, related in many and various ways with his end, variously oriented towards his end
bahu-vidha: mfn. of many sorts or kinds , manifold , various
bahu-vidham: ind. diversely , in several directions , up and down
viṣaya: m. scope ; special sphere or department , peculiar province or field of action , peculiar element , concern (ifc. = " concerned with , belonging to , intently engaged on "); an object
tatas: ind. then, thence, on that basis, on those grounds
yatātmā (nom. sg. m.): mfn. self-restrained
yata: mfn. restrained , held in , held forth , kept down or limited , subdued , governed , controlled &c
yam: to sustain , hold , hold up , support ; to stretch out ; to hold or keep in , hold back , restrain , check , curb , govern , subdue , control
ātman: m. self

sva-hṛdaya-toṣa-karīḥ (acc. pl. f.): which produced satisfaction in his own heart, which in his heart felt right
sva-hṛdaya: his own heart
hṛdaya: n. the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations) , soul , mind (as the seat of mental operations); the heart or interior of the body
toṣa: m. ( √ tuṣ) satisfaction , contentment , pleasure , joy
√ tuṣ: to become calm , be satisfied or pleased with any one ; to satisfy , please , appease , gratify
kara: mf(ī , rarely ā)n. a doer , maker , causer , doing , making , causing , producing
kriyāḥ (acc. pl.): f. doing , performing , performance, act; a religious rite or ceremony , sacrificial act , sacrifice
vidhāya = abs. vi- √ dhā: to perform , effect , produce , cause , occasion , make , do (like √ kṛ to be translated variously in connection with various nouns)

guṇavati (loc. sg.): mfn. " furnished with a thread or string " and " endowed with good qualities "; endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences , excellent , perfect
divase (loc. sg.): m. heaven, a day
niyate (loc. sg.): mfn. fixed , established , settled
śive (loc. sg.): mfn. auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign
muhūrte (loc. sg.): m. n. a moment , instant , any short space of time

matim akarot = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect matiṁ kṛ: to set the heart on , make up one's mind , resolve , determine
muditaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. delighted , joyful , glad , rejoicing
pura-praveśe (loc. sg.): entry into the city
pura: n. city
praveśa: m. entering, entrance

卜擇選良時 遷子還本宮

Monday, July 23, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.84: Expectant Free Giving

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−− Puṣpitāgrā
api ca śata-sahasra-pūrṇa-saṁkhyāḥ sthira-balavat-tanayāḥ sahema-śṅgīḥ |
anupagata-jarāḥ payasvinīr-gāḥ svayam-adadāt-suta-vṛddhaye dvijebhyaḥ || 1.84

Again, cows numbering fully a hundred thousand, 

With strong, sturdy calves and gilded horns,

Unimpaired by age or infirmity,
yielding milk in abudance,

He freely gave to the twice-born brahmins,
with a view to his son's advancement.

EHJ points in today's verse and in 1.89 to a play on the word vṛddhi (prosperity, growth, advancement), which, EHJ notes, means technically 'the impurity caused by childbirth.'

PO refers to a parallel in the Upaniṣads (Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 3.1.1), where King Janaka gives one thousand cows, to each of whose horns are tied ten pieces of gold.

The attention of educated brahmins of Aśvaghoṣa's day, like the attention of Indophile scholars of recent times, was most probably drawn primarily to such puns and allusions.

With their attention thus drawn, ancient Indian brahmins along with modern scholars who are fans of brahmanism, are not liable to be offended by the real message of today's verse, which as I read it is one that subverts the ancient beliefs and practices of the brahmanical tradition.

Aśvaghoṣa is neither attacking the king's generosity nor attacking the king's desire to see his son prosper and advance. What Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him is attacking, albeit indirectly and through nothing more violent than irony, is the false perception or belief in the king's mind of a causal linkage between giving to the brahmins and securing the desired advancement of his son. 

Aśvaghoṣa's irony is concentrated in the last pāda, which tells us that the king gave freely, willingly, spontaeously (svayam) because of a purpose or agenda, namely, for his son's advancement (suta-vṛddhaye).

So just as yesterday's verse causes us to question what purity of mind really is, today's verse is asking us to consider what act of giving is truly free, willing, spontaneous, and what act of free giving is obstructed or hindered or tainted by some personal agenda.

Pondering this problem in my sleep, I woke up asking myself what example I could think of giving that is truly free, spontaneous, natural. One example that sprang to mind from many years ago was my wife breast-feeding our sons. Then it occured to me that when Aśvaghoṣa asked himself for a natural example of free giving, he also might have thought of the example of a mammalian mother giving her milk. And this might by why at the centre of today's verse are a hundred thousand cows with calves, each overflowing with milk.

Today's verse then, as I read it, is all about giving, freely or otherwise. On the surface it relates to brahminism and to a legend in the brahmanical tradition. But digging deeper it goes to the heart of sitting-zen, and to the heart of a person's efforts to serve the buddha-ancestors – activities which, in practice if not in theory, are very easily tainted by the expectation that ultimately there might be something in it for me.

On the surface the king's great act of giving is exemplary behaviour, and the cows are incidental. But digging deeper, the king's behaviour is irrational, superstitious, religious, and it is the cows in today's verse who are the true examplars of free giving.

These truths are not revealed to me without me digging for them. But when I dig them out and leave them on public display they don't seem to have anything to do with me. There they just are – fucking brilliant in themselves. Waiting for some non-brahmin non-Buddhist to come along with a spade and dig them out, all Aśvaghoṣa's nuggets were already there, untarnished by hundreds of years of neglect, shining with a brilliance that keeps on surprising. And what surprises me more is that people don't seem particular interested. Yesterday's post, for example, attracted 8 page views. A somewhat hopeful sign, however, is that India has just overtaken Japan on the new visitor counter – about time, too. Come on, India, wake the fuck up! This is your long-lost, irreligious cultural heritage that I am excavating for you.

In return what can I expect? Some kind of statue perhaps, on a Himālayan peak, of me posing heroically at a keyboard, neck craning forward to read a computer screen? Or maybe a statue of me sitting in full lotus, at which brahmins and Buddhist scholars can come along and throw rotten tomatoes.

api ca: and also, again
śata-sahasra-pūrṇa-saṁkhyāḥ (acc. pl. f.): amounting to fully a hundred thousand
śata-sahasra: n. sg. or pl. a hundred thousand (the counted object may be in gen. or in apposition or comp.)
śata: n. a hundred
sahasra: n. a thousand
pūrṇa: mfn. filled , full ; complete , all , entire ; n. fulness , plenty , abundance
saṁkhyā: f. a number , sum , total (ifc. " amounting to ")

sthira-balavat-tanayāḥ (acc. pl. f.): with hardy and strong calves
sthira: mfn. firm , hard , solid , compact , strong
bala-vat: mfn. possessing power , powerful , mighty , strong
tanaya: n. posterity , family , race , offspring , child
sahema-śṛṅgīḥ (acc. pl. f.): with golden horns
sa: (possessive prefix)
heman: n. gold ; gold piece
śṛṅga: n. ifc. f(ā or ī) horn

anupagata-jarāḥ (acc. pl. f.): mfn. not impaired by old age or infirmity
upagata: mfn. arrived, happened
jara: mfn. ( √ jṝ) becoming old; m. the act of wearing out , wasting
√jṝ: to make old or decrepit ; to cause to grow old ,
payasvinīḥ (acc. pl. f.): mfn. abounding in sap or milk
payas: n. ( √pī, to overflow) any fluid or juice , (esp.) milk , water , rain
gāḥ (acc. pl.): f. cow

svayam: ind. self , one's self, of or by one's self , spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord
adadāt = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect dā: to give
suta-vṛddhaye (dat. sg.): for his son's welfare
vṛddhi: f. growth , increase , augmentation , rise , advancement , extension , welfare , prosperity , success , fortune , happiness
dvijebhyaḥ (dat. pl.): to the twice-born

沙門婆羅門 呪願祈吉福
嚫施諸群臣 及國中貧乏
村城婇女衆 牛馬象財錢
各隨彼所須 一切皆給與

Sunday, July 22, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.83: Purely Petitional Offerings

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−− Puṣpitāgrā
daśasu pariṇateṣv-ahaḥsu caiva prayata-manāḥ parayā mudā parītaḥ |
akuruta japa-homa-maṅgalādyāḥ parama-bhavāya sutasya devatejyāḥ || 1.83

More than that, when ten days were up,

With a purified mind,
and filled with the greatest gladness,

He performed mutterings,
fire oblations, ritual movements

And other acts of religious worship,
for the ultimate well-being of his son.

The first point to consider in today's verse is its relation with yeserday's verse. An easy and convenient understanding is that today's verse simply expands on yesterday's verse. In this case the somewhat inconvenient caiva at the end of the 1st pāda might simply be translated as a colon or dash at the end of 1.82, or else ignored. EBC and PO followed the latter tack, not translating  caiva, presumably on the basis that both ca and eva may sometimes be used merely as expletives. EHJ, however, who always manifests as a translator the merit of endeavoring to translate every one of Aśvaghoṣa's words, begins his translation, “And, when the ten days were fulfilled....”

If today's verse is simply an explanation of what was meant in yesterdays' verse by jāta-karma, a birth rite, then EHJ's “And” sticks out like a sore thumb and any English editor would recommend it to be dropped. But I follow EHJ in suspecting that when Aśvaghoṣa uses words that seem to be superfluous, the fault is not in Aśvaghoṣa as a poet but rather in the reader or translator who fails to get the point of the word judged to be superfluous. So in my first stab at translating today's verse I went with “Again, when the ten days were up.” But probably like EHJ when he wrote “And,” I had no clear idea of what my “Again,” might mean.

Then when I woke up this morning and recited today's verse from memory, Aśvaghoṣa's caiva seemed to have been doing some digging of its own through the night. It was asking me to translate it as “More than that,...”

Why was caiva asking to be translated as “More than that...”? I think in the background there is Aśvaghoṣa's affirmation in yesterday's verse of a rite of birth, as a natural impulse, like a rite of mourning as practised by elephants in their element. But acts of religious worship like mutterings, fire oblations and fortune-seeking ritual movements are something more artificial, something added on by supersitious human beings. So in the background to today's verse, as I read it, is a certain skepticism towards things religious.

Even before the above thought processes had taken place, the very first thing that sprang into my mind stimulated by today's verse was the image of naturalist David Attenborough on Graham Norton's chatshow. DA was responding to an observation by Kathy Burke about children today being on the one hand over-protected, and on the other hand being readily able to access on the internet images of “a frog shagging a donkey.” Good old David responded to this proposition of a frog mating with a donkey like the true scientist he is -- by opening his eyes wide and starting to make entries in an imaginary notepad.

That may be the spirit in which Aśvaghoṣa is relating in today's verse the performance of religious actions, observing those actions with a certain detached interest and classifying them in a certain order, beginning with verbal mutterings, progressing through the chemical reality of combustion, and on into the realm of bodily movement.

The irony in today's verse centres on two phrases which describe the king as prayata-manāḥ (“with a purified mind”) and describe his actions as parama-bhavāya sutasya (“for the ultimate well-being of his son”).

As is clarified in this ancient sutra quoted by Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 87, when offerings are served to buddhas with a thought that there might be something in it for me and mine, those efforts do not receive the affirmation of buddhas, precisely because the practitioner's motivation is not pure.

Prayata literally means “outstretched,” and, by extension, sincere or pure. In particular prayata was used to express the sincerity or purity of a mind that had been well prepared for a solemn brahminical rite. And such preparation is alluded to in today's verse by mention of the ten day period following the birth of a child during which immediate family members were considered impure, and therefore ill-prepared to perform sacred rituals.

These various meanings of prayata are illusrated by three instances where Aśvaghoṣa uses the term in Saundara-nanda:
The Incomparable Vessel was offering his own vessel, to reap a fruit in the human world, / And so Nanda, outstretched (prayataḥ), held the bowl with lotus-like hands, which were better suited to the holding of a bow. // 5.12 //

For those brought up well are ashamed of unpleasant occurrences going on in the mind, /As one who is bright, young and good-looking is ashamed of unsightly, ill-prepared (a-prayataiḥ) objects hanging around his neck. // 16.76 //

By first directing the whole body up, and thus keeping his awareness turned towards the body, / And thus integrating in his person all the senses, there he threw himself all-out (prayataḥ) into practice. // 17.4 //
In Shobogenzo Dogen asserts that sincerity is the very body-and-mind of the buddha-ancestors. In that spirit Aśvaghoṣa in today's verse, as I read it, is asking us to consider what sincerity, or purity of mind, really is.

I don't know what it is. But what it isn't, evidently, is me performing some supposedly sacred act with the question in the back of my mind, “What's in it for me?”

So today's verse as I read it is a kind of mirror that Aśvaghoṣa is holding up to brahmins and followers of the buddha alike. Ignorant brahmins among Aśvaghoṣa's audience are liable to remain blissfully ignorant, looking approvingly at what they see of themselves in Aśvaghoṣa's mirror. Devout Buddhists, along with Buddhist scholars and the like, probably won't see much to interest them in the mirror, thinking that the verse lacks any “point of Buddhistic interest” (to use EHJ's phrase).

For those who dig deeper the challenge might be just to see whatever is reflected, warts and all – somewhat in the manner of the veteran naturalist -- and not react.

To see and not react. No more than that.

daśasu = loc. pl. n. daśan: ten
pariṇateṣu (loc. pl. n.): mfn. bent down; developed , ripened , mature , full-grown , perfect ; full (as the moon) ; set (as the sun)
ahaḥsu = loc. pl. ahan: n. a day
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

prayata-manāḥ (nom. sg. m.): with a sincere mind, with a mind prepared for a solemn rite
prayata: mfn. outstretched , far-extended ; piously disposed , intent on devotion , well prepared for a solemn rite (with loc. or ifc.) , ritually pure; self-subdued , dutiful , careful , prudent
manas: mind
parayā (inst. sg. f.): mfn. better or worse than , superior or inferior to , best or worst , highest , supreme , ultimate
mudā = inst. sg. mud: f. joy , delight , gladness , happiness
parītaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. surrounded , encompassed , filled , taken possession of, seized (with instr.)

akuruta = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect kṛ: to do, make ; to give an order , commission
japa-homa-maṅgalādyāḥ (acc. pl. f.): including the muttering of prayers, the casting of ghee into fires, and ceremonies to bring good luck
japa: m. muttering prayers , repeating in a murmuring tone passages from scripture or charms or names of a deity , &c , muttered prayer or spell
homa: m. the act of making an oblation to the devas or gods by casting clarified butter into the fire; oblation with fire , burnt-offering , any oblation or sacrifice
maṅgala: n. happiness , felicity , welfare , bliss; anything auspicious or tending to a lucky issue (e.g. a good omen , a prayer , benediction , auspicious ornament or amulet , a festival or any solemn ceremony on important occasions &c; a good old custom
√ maṅg: to go , move
√ maṅk: to move or to adorn
ādi: beginning with , et cetera , and so on

parama-bhavāya (dat. sg. m.): for the highest prosperity
parama: mfn. chief , highest , primary , most prominent or conspicuous ; (in comp.) very much , excessively , excellently , in the highest degree
bhava: m. coming into existence , birth; becoming ; worldly existence , the world (= saṁsāra ) ; (with Buddhists) continuity of becoming (a link in the twelvefold chain of causation) ; well-being , prosperity , welfare , excellence (= śreyas )
sutasya (gen. sg.): of his son
devatejyāḥ (acc. pl.): f. sacrifice to a deity
devatā: f. godhead , divinity (abstr. & concr.); image of a deity , idol
ijyā: f. (from √ yaj) a sacrifice , making offerings to the gods or manes ; f. a gift , donation ; f. worship , reverence
√ yaj: to worship , adore , honour (esp. with sacrifice or oblations)

生子滿十日 安隱心已泰
普祠諸天神 廣施於有道