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 ,
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
arcyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. causative pres. part. ṛc: to praise