Thursday, July 5, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.66: Emotional Investment in One's Blood

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Vāṇī)
kac-cin-na me jātam-aphullam-eva kula-pravālaṁ pariśoṣa-bhāgi |
kṣipraṁ vibho brūhi na me 'sti śāntiḥ snehaṁ sute vetsi hi bāndhavānām || 1.66

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.”

The English word “love” covers such a multitude of sins and virtues that it is apt to lead to confusion.

Nevertheless, “love” rather than the alternative translations of “affection” or “attachment” seems to be the natural translation for sneham in today's verse.

When in BC1.62 “Attachment to his own flesh and blood caused the king to shudder,” attachment was snehāt.

In SN15.35, when the Buddha tells Nanda, “In this originally shattered world nobody is the beloved of anybody,” beloved is priyaḥ. But in discussing what love is, the Buddha then goes on to use the word sneham three times:
As long as relatives act agreeably towards each other, / They engender affection (sneham); but otherwise it is enmity (riputvam). // 15.37 // A close relation is demonstrably unfriendly; a stranger proves to be a friend. / By the different things they do, folk break and make affection (sneham) . // 15.38 // Just as an artist, all by himself, might fall in love (rajyet, lit. might redden) with a woman he painted, / So, each generating attachment (sneham) by himself, do people become attached to one another. // 15.39 //
Earlier in Saundara-nanda Canto 15, the Buddha encourages Nanda to opt for another kind of love, namely maitrīm, the kind of love that is diametrically opposed to hatred:
Towards all beings, it is kindness (maitrīṃ) and compassion, / Not hatred or cruelty, that you should opt for. // 15.17 //
So the kind of love that the king is expressing in today's verse, sneham, is the kind of love associated not with peace but with the absence of peace, because it is love as emotional attachment, tied up with fear, anxiety, worry and -- as indicated by the king's kṣipram ("Quickly!") -- impatience.

My teacher Gudo Nishijima, who was a big fan of the state of zero, and a constant cautioner against the dangers of romantic thought, would speak comically of somebody who had fallen in love as having fallen INTO love, as if love were some kind of misfortune, like a great big pit or an elephant trap, or like a lake or a stormy sea, or like an imbalanced state of the autonomic nervous system. From a linguistic point of view, Gudo's words were mistaken. But in the perception behind the words, something may have been operating that wasn't mistaken.

Another aspect of love brought out by today's verse as I read it is that sneham takes the locative case – so that more than a father's love FOR a son, and more than a father's attachment TO a son, I take a sense a father's love being invested INTO his son.

When we make an investment we generally have a hope or expectation of a return. Whereas a more wholesome state of mind for a father to have might be not so much what he expects to get from his son or daughter, but more a sense of what he as a father owes his son or daughter.

This thought was stimulated in part by a very helpful email I received last night from a pandit named Harunaga Isaacson, who cleared up a doubt I had about the meaning of a word in a fragment of Saundara-nanda that was discovered in the Wild West of China subsequent to the publication of EHJ's critical edition. The word, tādātmyato, is in Canto 16 (SN16.23), the text of which I will be amending on my website shortly.  Harunaga Isaacson joins Ānandajoti Bhikkhu, Jordan Fountain, Jiblet, et cetera, et cetera, on a long list of people I am indebted to, or obliged to – people I owe.

But stronger than a sense of me owing them individually is a sense of us, i.e. fans/servants of Aśvaghoṣa, owing the future descendants of Aśvaghoṣa.

A few years before she died Marjory Barlow gave a workshop for student teachers which she began by saying, “Let me tell you something. You are the most important people in the world. Because you are the future of the Alexander Technique.”

Marjory was not investing her love in those students, and nor was she expecting to get any love back in return. She was there to meet the most important people in the world and to serve them, because she owed them.

In this originally shattered world nobody is the beloved of anybody. / Held together by cause and effect, humankind is like sand in a clenched fist. // 15.35 //
On the surface, it sounds like a pessimistic view. Digging deeper, it might be the words of a person who has abandoned all views, and especially romantic ones. It might be the words of a person who sees cause and effect not only as a factor that binds us but also, precisely because cause and effect binds us, as a factor that facilitates freedom in the living of a happy life.  

kac-cid: ind. used as a particle of interrogation ; or kaccid may be translated by "I hope that"
na: not
me (gen. sg.): my
jātam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. born ; grown , produced , arisen , caused , appeared
aphullam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. unblown (a rose)
eva: (emphatic)

kula-pravālam (nom. sg. n.): new shoot of my family
kula: family
pravāla: mn. a young shoot , sprout , new leaf or branch (to which feet and lips are often compared)
pariśoṣa-bhāgi (nom. sg. n.): being destined to wither away
pariśoṣa: m. complete dryness , desiccation , evaporation
bhāgin: mfn. entitled to or receiving or possessing a share , partaking of , blessed with , concerned in , responsible for (loc. , gen. or comp.)

kṣipram: ind. quickly
vibho = voc. sg. m. vibhū: being everywhere , far-extending , all-pervading , omnipresent , eternal ; abundant , plentiful ; mighty , powerful , excellent , great , strong , effective , able to or capable of ; m. a lord , ruler , sovereign , king
brūhi = 2nd pers. sg. imp. brū: to speak, tell
na: not
me (gen. sg.): of/in me
asti: there is
śāntiḥ (nom. sg.): f. tranquillity , peace , quiet , peace or calmness of mind

sneham (acc. sg.): m. tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection for (loc.
sute (loc. sg.): m. son, child, offspring a son , child , offspring (sutau du. = " son and daughter "); mfn. begotten , brought forth
vetsi = 2nd pers. sg. vid: to know
hi: for
bāndhavānām (gen. pl.): m. (fr. bandhu) a kinsman , relation

莫如秋霜花 雖敷而無實
人於親族中 愛深無過子
宜時爲記説 令我得蘇息


an3drew said...

my feeble efforts at 15.35

in this shattering

love is an illusion

as is the seamless continuity of being



are like a handful of



out !

Mike Cross said...

When I looked up from sitting this morning, I saw two sparrows in the branches of a lilac tree, very rapidly mating.

The Buddha never expressed a view that love is an illusion.