Saturday, August 11, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.11: Strong Social Fabric (II) – Not Doing Wrong

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Indravajrā)
nāgauravo bandhuṣu nāpy-adātā naivāvrato nānṛtiko na hiṁsraḥ
āsīt-tadā kaś-cana tasya rājye rājño yayāter-iva nāhuṣasya || 2.11

No disrespect nor any stinginess towards kinsmen,

Nor any lawlessness at all, or untruthfulness or cruelty,

Was shown by anybody in his kingdom at that time,

As in the realm of King Yayāti, son of Nahuṣa.

Cowell's text begins with nāśo vadho, which means death and destruction (EBC: “There was no ruin nor murder”). EH Johnston's amendment, based on the Tibetan translation, to nāgauravo, is also supported by the Chinese translation, which has 無慢, “there was no conceit.”

I have followed EHJ's amendment but not his translation which is “no one was disrespectful to his elders.” Agaurava means thinking light or making light, failing to show due respect. But why did EHJ see fit to limit it to respect shown or not shown to elders? What about respect due from elders to non-elders? What about mutual respect between equal partners? What about having respect for all one's kinsmen, whether elder, junior or equal?

Just because England in the 1930s was a class-ridden society ruled by brahmins who expected deference, EHJ was not necessarily justified in assuming that Aśvaghoṣa was portraying Kapilavastu like that. Patrick Olivelle, translating in 2007, followed EHJ with “there was no one... who was rude to elders.” Translations like that seem to ask for Aśvaghoṣa to be consigned to the dusty recesses of a museum or university library.

Again, as a translation of naivāvrataḥ in the 2nd pāda of today's verse, EB Cowell went with “there was no... breaker of obligations,” EH Johnston “no one... was irreligious,” and P Olivelle “no one... was non-observant.”

Of these three, I much prefer the original one, that of EB Cowell. The other two translations, and especially EHJ's translation, introduce a religious connotation that is not there in the original as I, for one, read it. The definition of avrata which makes best sense to me is the first definition listed in the MW dictionary, that is, “lawless.” I am happy to live as an irreligious person in a fairly irreligious society, but I would not like to live as a lawless person in a lawless society, any more than I would like to have lived in the deferential Britain of the 1930s.

Two models for a strong society are the Taliban-type religious model, and the law & order model under which proletarian wrong-doing is fine so long as no threat is implied to the social order by such vices as rudeness to elders. The kind of strong society Aśvaghoṣa is describing has got nothing whatever to do with either of these models. He is portraying Kapilavastu, as also he portrayed Kapilavastu in the 3rd canto of Saundara-nanda, under the influence of the enlightened Buddha, as a society based on individual non-doing of wrong.

In such a society, I would think, anybody is free to be as irreligious as they fucking well like (or indeed as religious as they like; see tomorrow's verse), and as free as they like to treat a miscreant elder with all due rudeness.

In the 4th pāda, I think the significance of Yayāti is that he represents somebody in ancient Indian history/mythology who recognized the error of his former ways, with beneficial subsequent results for his kingdom. Hence:

Those equals of Indra took charge of that city with noble ardour but without arrogance; / And they thus took on forever the fragrance of honour, like the celebrated sons of Yayāti.// SN1.59 //

Bhūri-dyumna and Yayāti and other excellent kings, / Having bought heaven by their actions, gave it up again, after that karma ran out -- // SN11.46 //

The present series of five verses from BC1.10 to 1.14 can be seen as forming the 3rd of four phases in Aśvaghoṣa's portrayal of Kapilavastu as a birthplace which, if not totally perfect, was more than good enough.

To begin with, in the first six verses which I put under the heading “Politics & Economics,” Aśvaghoṣa considers the elements of statecraft. In the 2nd phase (BC1.7 to 1.9) he takes nature into account. In the 3rd phase beginning yesterday he is considering a moral or ethical environment, which, in my book, has fuck all to do with god-fearing (or elder-adulating) religion, but has to do with fronting up as an individual and looking the bugger in the eye, and has above all to do with not doing wrong.

na: not
agauravaḥ (nom. sg. m.): disrespectful
gaurava: mfn. relating or belonging to a Guru or teacher ; n. gravity; respect shown to a person
aguru: mfn. not heavy , light
nāśaḥ (nom. sg.): m. ( √naś) the being lost , loss , disappearance , destruction , annihilation , ruin , death
vadhaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the act of striking or killing , slaughter , murder , death , destruction
bandhuṣu (loc. pl.): m. relative, kinsman
na: not
api: also, at all
adātā (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not giving, not liberal, miserly

na: not
eva: (emphatic)
avrataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. lawless , disobedient , wicked ; not observing religious rites or obligations
vrata: n. will, command, rule ; obedience , service
na: not
anṛtikaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. untruthful
ṛta: proper , right , fit , apt , suitable , able , brave , honest ; true
na: not
hiṁsraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. injurious , mischievous , hurtful , destructive , murderous , cruel , fierce , savage

āsīt = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect as: to be
tadā: ind. then, at that time
kaś-cana: anybody
tasya (gen. sg.): his
rājye (loc. sg.): realm, kingdom

rājñaḥ (gen. sg.): m. king
yayāteḥ (gen. sg.): m. Yayāti ; N. of a celebrated monarch of the lunar race (son of king Nahuṣa whom he succeeded ; from his two wives came the two lines of the lunar race )
iva: like
nāhuṣasya (gen. sg.): m. Nāhuṣa; m. (fr. náhuṣa) patronymic of Yayāti
Nahuṣa: n. of an ancient king (son of āyu or āyus and father of yayāti ; he took possession of indra's throne but was afterwards deposed and changed into a serpent )

無慢無慳嫉 亦無恚害心
一切諸士女 玄同劫諸人

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