Wednesday, July 18, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.79: Dejection Fights Back

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
ārṣeṇa mārgeṇa tu yāsyatīti cintā-vidheyaṁ hṛdayaṁ cakāra |
na khalv-asau na priya-dharma-pakṣaḥ saṁtāna-nāśāt-tu bhayaṁ dadarśa || 1.79

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.

The old Nepalese manuscript which was EHJ's primary source has āryeṇa mārggeṇa (the noble path) as do the manscripts from which Cowell was working, which were 19th-century copies by Amṛtananda of the old Nepalese manuscript. The Chinese translation, however, has 修習仙人道 , “cultivating the path/way of the sage/seer.” And on this basis, EHJ decided to amend āryeṇa (noble) to ārṣena (of the ṛṣis/seers). Though the basis is admittedly rather shaky, in that the Chinese translation is not very literal, I have followed EHJ's amendment, which does make sense in the context that this action was taking place before the Buddha established the noble eightfold path.

The main philosphical point of today's verse seems to be the point that Aśvaghoṣa has already made for example in BC1.62; namely, that the positive emotion of joyful attachment to something tends to beget a corresponding negative emotion in connection with losing it.

The king's dread, then, can be taken as confirmation that when Aśvaghoṣa in the previous verse described the king as śrutārthaḥ, Aśvaghoṣa's intention was ironic – the king had only heard reassuring sounds coming out of Asita's mouth. True, such reassuring sounds can help temporarily to put a spring in a person's step (BC1.59), especially when transmitted in combination with the touch of a reassuring hand. But the only way for the king truly to have listened to and been informed/enlightened by Asita's teaching might have been for him to sit on the same round cushion as Asita, sharing a devotion to sitting (āsana-stham; BC1.52) that was true devotion, and not a superficial attempt to deceive self and others (but mainly oneself).

This kind of self-deception is what happens when one goes through the motions of practising dharma, as Nanda is criticized for doing by Ānanda in Saundara-nanda Canto 11: one is lying to oneself.

In yesterdays' verse Aśvaghoṣa describes the king as tyaktvā viṣādaṁ, which literally means  “abandoning the drooping state.” Translated as “abandoning depression,” that could be understood as a description of a buddha's enlightenment; or translated as “dismissing dejection” it might suggest an ordinary person's delusion. 

On the evidence of today's verse, the king had not truly abandoned all those tendencies that pull a person down, which might be a kind of enlightenment.

He had merely dismissed those downward tendencies, like an inwardly depressed man who stiffens up and makes an effort to sit in an upright posture. This is a delusion – and in this I speak from ongoing experience.

So what Aśvaghoṣa is pointing to in this and the previous verse as I read them, is a difference between dismissing and truly abandoning, or dropping off, those tendencies that pull a person down.

ārṣeṇa (inst. sg. m.): mfn. relating or belonging to or derived from ṛṣis (i.e. the poets of the Vedic and other old hymns)
āryeṇa (ins. sg. m.): mfn. noble
mārgeṇa (inst. sg.): m. path, way
tu: but
yāsyati = 3rd pers. sg. future yā: to go , proceed , move , walk , set out , march , advance , travel , journey
iti: “....,” thus

cintā-vidheyam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. prey to an anxious thought
cintā: f. thought , care , anxiety , anxious thought
vidheya (gerundive from vi- √ dhā): mfn. to be bestowed or procured ; to be performed or practised or done ; to be kindled (as fire) ; to be exhibited or displayed or shown or betrayed
vi- √ dhā: to distribute , apportion , grant , bestow ; to furnish , supply , procure ; to spread , diffuse ; to perform , effect , produce , cause , occasion , make , do Mn. MBh. &c (like √ kṛ to be translated variously in connection with various nouns)
hṛdayam (acc. sg.): n. the heart
cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kṛ: to do, make

hṛdi- √kṛ: to take to heart , mind , think over , consider
na: not
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
asau (nom. sg. m.): that, he
na priya-dharma-pakṣaḥ (nom. sg. f.): biased against dharma; not on the side of devotion to dharma
priya: fond of attached or devoted to (in comp. , either ibc. e.g. priya-devana , " fond of playing " , or ifc. e.g. akṣa-priya , " fond of dice ");
pakṣa: m. a wing; one of two cases or one side of an argument , an alternative ; any supposition or view , motion , idea , opinion (mukhyaḥ pakṣaḥ , " an excellent idea”);

saṁtāna-nāśāt (abl. sg.): from the loss of continued succession, from the end of his line
saṁtāna: m. continued succession , continuance , continuity ; an uninterrupted series , continuous flow
nāśa: m. the being lost , loss , disappearance , destruction , annihilation , ruin , death (ifc. destroying)
tu: but
bhayam (acc. sg): n. fear ; sg. and pl. terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress
dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś: to see

出家捨世榮 修習仙人道
遂不紹國位 復令我不悦

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