Tuesday, August 14, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.14: Strong Social Fabric (V) – Not Thinking Wrongly

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−  Upajāti (Indravajrā)
kaś-cit-siṣeve rataye na kāmaṁ kāmārtham-arthaṁ na jugopa kaś-cit
kaś-cid-dhanārthaṁ na cacāra dharmaṁ dharmāya kaś-cin-na cakāra hiṁsām || 2.14

Nobody served desire for pleasure;

Nobody, on account of desire, guarded wealth;

Nobody practised dharma for a prize;

Nobody, in pursuit of dharma, did harm.

The three elements of this verse are “the three things” (tri-varga) which were supposed to make life meaningful. In Book 12 of the Mahābhārata, four aims of human existence (puruṣārtha) are discussed, comprised of the three things – dharma, artha (wealth/usefulness), and kāma (pleasure/love) – plus mokṣa (liberation). The three things are also mentioned in Saundara-nanda Canto 1:
Sufficient for full enjoyment of dharma, wealth, and pleasure; / Abundant; and of many kinds: these were treasures beyond the reach of enemies. // SN1.40 //
Because of the multiplicity of meanings of dharma (law, duty, practice, virtue, good works etc.) , artha (aim, advantage, utility, wealth, money; ifc. “for”), and kāma (desire, pleasure, love, sex etc.), today's verse can be understood and literally translated in many ways. Hence:
None pursued love for mere sensual pleasure; none hoarded wealth for the sake of desires; none practised religious duties for the sake of gaining wealth; none injured living beings for the sake of religious duty. (EBC)
None pursued love for sensual pleasure; none withheld wealth from others to gratify his own desires; none practised religion for the sake of riches; none did hurt on the plea of religion. (EHJ)
No one sought pleasure for the sake of lust; no one protected wealth for pleasure's sake; no one served dharma for the sake of wealth; no one caused injury for dharma's sake. (PO)
Broadly, as with almost every verse that Aśvaghoṣa wrote, there are essentially two ways of understanding the verse – accepting its surface meaning and digging for hidden or real meaning.

On the surface Aśvaghoṣa in today's verse is playing with the words dharma, artha, and kāma while expressing platitudinous condemnations of hedonism (twice), of what Chogyam Trungpa called “spiritual materialism,” and of animal sacrifice.

To convey the word play, as well as these surface meanings, it would be necessary to be consistent in translating kāma, as well as somehow reflecting the dual usage of artha to mean wealth or money, and purpose ( i.e. ifc. “for the purpose/sake of”):

Nobody served love/desire for pleasure;
[Negation of hedonism]
Nobody hoarded wealth/purpose for the purpose of love/desire;
[Repeated negation of hedonism]
Nobody practised dharma for the purpose of money; 
[Negation of spiritual materialism]
Nobody, in pursuit of dharma, did harm. 
[Negation of animal sacrifice]

However, besides presenting us with what thus appears to make sense on the surface, Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him is inviting us to dig deeper and to consider what it might really mean, for example:
(1) to serve desire, but not with a pleasure-seeking motive -- as when a man desires to climb a mountain; 
(2) to save money, but not out of love of money -- as when a child saves up his or her pocket money to buy a bicycle; 
(3) to practise a practice like sitting without having at least one of one's eyes on the ultimate prize of enlightenment;
(4) to pursue any desired end without grasping for it unconsciously  (without "end-gaining"). 

Is it for example that buddhas solely practise Buddhist dharma and pursue Buddhist truth, without serving desire or saving money?

Or are there any instances, on the contrary, when buddhas serve desire and save money, without practising any Buddhist dharma or pursuing any Buddhist truth?

As a result of asking, and failing conclusively to answer such questions, I venture a translation and interpretation based on the four-phased progression that Gudo Nishijima taught me to look out for in Dogen's writing, viz:

Nobody served desire for pleasure; 
[Implicit affirmation of the reality of desire or volition]
Nobody saved money out of love [of money]; 
[Implicit affirmation of the truth of concrete, material, economic reality]
Nobody practised dharma for a prize; 
[Implicit affirmation of the reality of practice itself]
Nobody, in pursuit of dharma, did harm. 
[Implicit affirmation of the supreme balanced truth, which is in harmony with reality]

PO adds in a note with regard to the 4th pada that “Here dharma refers specifically to ritual sacrifices that often involved the immolation of an animal. In Shuddhodhana's realm, however, people are depicted as pursuing dharma without causing injury to living beings.”

The real meaning of the 4th pāda, as I read it, is much wider than PO asserts in his note. The real meaning has to do with cessation of that habit of thirsting (or end-gaining, in Alexander jargon) which causes good intentions to go awry, so that pursuit of worthy aims produces side effects which are harmful to self and others alike.

Thirsting is a habit of the mind, a habit of thought, a habit deep in the brain and nervous system. So today's verse is considering wrong-doing on a deeper level, not only in terms of overtly wrong behaviour like sacrificing animals, but also in terms of wrong thinking, of wrong patterns deep in the brain and nervous system, of deep unconscious strivings which are born of a hidden agenda and tied up with faulty sensory appreciation, and which result in backache, neck-ache, headaches, undue emotional reactions, and other kinds of harm, in self and others.

In the end it might all boil down to this question: How, here and now, do we put an end to thirsting? 

Not by being too heavy and serious, that is for sure. Not by pompously supposing that I might be right.

If I criticized Patrick Olivelle for thinking, with his scholar's shallow understanding, that he had got to the bottom of today's verse, I would only be using him as a mirror.

Last night I assumed with all certainty that kaś-cit … na meant “nobody.” This morning, I am not so sure. On further digging, it strikes me that in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th pādas, kaś-cit might mean “anybody” i.e. “an ineffable individual.” In that case:
Anybody served desire, [but] not for pleasure;
On account of desire, nobody saved money;
Anybody did non-practise of dharma, for the prize;
Anybody, for dharma, did no harm.
Other work awaits and so there is nothing for it but to offer up my best effort at a translation and to show all my untidy workings. The only thing that can be said in conclusion with any confidence is that there is always much more to Aśvaghoṣa's poetry than meets the eye. It does not give up its gold easily.

No animals were sacrificed in the writing of this comment.
Comment may contain traces of harmful end-gaining, which could produce adverse reactions in scholars of a sensitive disposition.]

kaś-cit (nom. sg. m.): anyone
siṣeve = 3rd pers. sg. perf. sev: to remain or stay at , live in , frequent , haunt , inhabit , resort to (acc.) ; to serve , wait or attend upon , honour , obey , worship ; to devote or apply one's self to , cultivate , study , practise , use , employ , perform , do
rataye (dat. sg.): f. rest , repose ; pleasure , enjoyment ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment
na: not
kāmam (acc. sg.): m. desire; pleasure ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality

kāmārtham (ind): for love/desire/pleasure
artham (acc. sg.): m. aim , purpose (very often artham “for the sake of , on account of , in behalf of , for "); advantage , use , utility (generally named with kāma and dharma » tri-varga, “the three things”); thing , object; substance , wealth , property , opulence , money
na: not
jugopa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gup: to guard , defend , protect , preserve ; to hide, conceal
kaś-cit (nom. sg. m.): anyone

kaś-cid (nom. sg. m.): anyone
dhanārtham (ind.): for the sake of wealth; with eyes on the prize; for the money
dhana: n. the prize of a contest or the contest itself ; any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money
na: not
cacāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. car: to move oneself; to undertake , set about , under go , observe , practise
dharmam (acc. sg.): dharma ; that which is established or firm , steadfast decree , statute , ordinance , law; usage , practice , customary observance or prescribed conduct , duty; virtue , morality , religion , religious merit , good works

dharmāya (dat. sg.): dharma
kaś-cit (nom. sg. m.): anyone
na: not
cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kṛ: to do
hiṁsām (acc. sg.): f. injury , harm (to life or property) , hurt , mischief , wrong (said to be of three kinds , 1. mental as " bearing malice " ; 2. verbal , as " abusive language " ; 3. personal , as " acts of violence ")

法愛相娯樂 不生染汚欲
以義求財物 無有貪利心
爲法行惠施 無求反報想
脩習四梵行 滅除恚害心

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