Saturday, July 14, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.75: Working At Undoing

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
svair-moha-pāśaiḥ pariveṣṭitasya duḥkhābhibhūtasya nirāśrayasya |
lokasya saṁbudhya ca dharma-rājaḥ kariṣyate bandhana-mokṣam-eṣaḥ || 1.75

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.

Today's verse can be read as the last in the series of metaphors which began in 1.69 and saw the seer Asita foreseeing that the Buddha would be like the sun dispelling darkness (1.69), like the provider of a raft (1.70), like the source of a river (1.71), like a guide out of a wasteland (1.72), like a cloud releasing cooling rain (1.73), and like a bloke who bashes open a bolted door (1.74).

I think a better understanding is that verses 1.69 to 1.72 are an introductory series of four metaphors drawn from the usual literary sources, 1.73 is a metaphor drawn from nature, 1.74 is a metaphor expressing sitting itself, and today's verse is not a metaphor at all.

If today's verse is understood as a metaphor, then the metaphor is of a world enveloped or ensnared (pariveṣṭitasya) by fetters or chains (pāśaiḥ). The picture, in other words, is of a world trapped in a snare like a hunted animal, or held in chains like an imprisoned human being. Into this picture the Buddha will come, and he will accomplish (kariṣyate) for that world deliverance/release from metaphorical bondage/imprisonment (bandhana-mokṣam).

Hence, EBC: “he will achieve the deliverance from its bonds of the world enveloped in its own chains of delusion”
EHJ: “he will release from prison the world which is entangled in its own snares of delusion”
PO: “[he] will release the world from bondage, a world bound with the snares of its own delusion...”

Against this understanding I would point to the fact that the Buddha did not in fact accomplish the deliverance of humankind from all the things that bind us, like faulty sensory appreciation, thirsting, faulty conceptions, and the force of habit. But the Buddha did leave us some clues as to how to work on undoing that which binds us. And some of us are continuing to work at this, as works in progress.

So I prefer to read today's verse not as a metaphor at all, in which case today's verse can be read as a fairly literal description of the work of an experienced Alexander teacher -- one who, in the words of Patrick Macdonald “knows the score” (saṁbudhya).

In that case “delusion” (moha) is another word for what FM Alexander called “faulty sensory appreciation.” This faulty sensory appreciation, FM observed, is the means by which, before we learn any better, we translate everything into distorting conditions of muscular tension which pull us down.

You translate everything, whether physical or mental or spiritual, into muscular tension.
-- FM Alexander
EHJ translates dharma-rāja as “king of the Law” and adds in a footnote that “dharma-rāja [MW: 'righteous king'] is also to be understood in the technical sense of ideal ruler.”

EHJ is correct, of course, in perceiving that Aśvaghoṣa's wording invites understanding on more than one level. But the understanding that EHJ is dallying with in his footnote is the sucker's understanding, associated with religious belief in the Buddha as some kind of omnipotent saviour. This is the very understanding which Aśvaghoṣa as I read him is inviting us not only to consider but also to see through and utterly to reject.

In the one-to-one transmission between kings of dharma, the principle is accepted that the lifeblood of the Buddha has never stopped flowing. But literally thinking the lifeblood of the Buddha stopped flowing about 2,500 years ago. The Buddha's lifeblood is no longer flowing at all, except possibly in a metaphorical sense. So if I said that today's verse was nothing but the Buddha's lifeblood, that might be to insult today's verse.

In summary, then, what Asita is saying in today's verse, as I read it, is not that the world is metaphorically ensnared or chained; rather Asita is describing the fact that, each in our own peculiar way, we are LITERALLY enswathed in sheets of muscles which are individual expressions of faulty sensory appreciation. It is through this faulty sensory appreciation, in connection with an idea of doing or getting or achieving something, that we enswathe ourselves in the twisted ties of our own distorted musculature.

Again, Asita was not making the idealistic and ultimately false prediction that the Buddha would come along like some sort of Jewish messiah and set everybody free; rather he was making the more modest and ultimately accurate prediction that the Buddha would demonstrate what it means to work at undoing.

svaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): its own
moha-pāśaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): fetters of delusion
moha: m. delusion, ignorance
pāśa: m. a snare , trap , noose , tie , bond , cord , chain , fetter (lit. and fig.)
pariveṣṭitasya (gen. sg.): mfn. surrounded , beset , covered , veiled , swathed
veṣṭ: to wind or twist round

duḥkhābhibhūtasya (gen. sg. m.): laid low by sorrow
duḥkha: n. uneasiness , pain , sorrow , trouble , difficulty
abhibhūta: mfn. surpassed , defeated , subdued , humbled ; overcome
abhi- √ bhū: to overcome , overpower , predominate , conquer , surpass , overspread
nirāśrayasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. supportless , having or offering no prop or stay , destitute , alone
āśraya: m. that on which anything depends or rests; seat , resting-place ; dwelling , asylum , place of refuge , shelter

lokasya (gen. sg.): m. the world, the earth or world of human beings
saṁbudhya = abs. sam- √ budh: to wake up ; to perceive or understand thoroughly , notice , observe , know
ca: and
dharma-rājaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a just or righteous king; a/the king of dharma

kariṣyate = 3rd pers. sg. future kṛ: to do , make , perform , accomplish , cause , effect ; to do anything for the advantage or injury of another (gen. or loc.) ; to manufacture , prepare , work at
bandhana-mokṣam (acc. sg. m.): undoing of acts of binding; setting free from bondage; release from imprisoment
bandhana: mfn. binding , tying , fettering; n. the act of binding , tying , fastening , fettering; n. a bond , tie (also fig.) , rope , cord , tether ; n. catching , capturing , confining , detention , custody , imprisonment or a prison
bandh: to bind , tie , fix , fasten , chain , fetter
mokṣa: m. emancipation , liberation , release from ; setting free , deliverance (of a prisoner) ; loosing , untying (hair)
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this, sometimes used to give emphasis to the personal pronouns

愚癡網自纒 窮苦無所依
法王出世間 能解衆生縛

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