Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.15: Self-Sufficiency, Nothing Wild

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−  Upajāti (Bālā)
steyādibhiś-cāpy-aribhiś-ca naṣṭaṁ svasthaṁ sva-cakraṁ para-cakra-muktam
kṣemaṁ subhikṣaṁ ca babhūva tasya purānaraṇyasya yathaiva rāṣṭre || 2.15

Theft and suchlike were non-existent, 
as also were enemies;

His realm was self-sufficient, 
immune to outside interference, 

Pleasant to live in and plentifully provided --

Just as it was, once upon a time, 
in the kingdom of An-araṇya, “Nowhere Wild.”

Verses BC2.15 to 2.17 form a fourth phase in the opening part of this canto wherein Aśvaghoṣa depicts Kapilavastu as a kingdom which, as a  buddha's birthplace, was more than good enough.

Today's verse, then, is all about self-sufficiency – in the deepest meaning of that word, which the dictionary defines as “not needing things from others.”

The precept “not to steal,” on a gross level, means not to commit the criminal act of theft or robbery, but on a deeper and subtler level it points to a balanced state of being whereby one is happy with the number of chips already on one's plate, and therefore not inclined to nick a few chips from somebody else's plate.

Similarly “enemies” could mean invading armies intent on rape and pillage, or it could mean far-away people who present no imminent threat but who I perceive to be “the other.” For a bloke like me, Buddhist monks and Buddhist scholars, not to mention Buddhist bloggers who espouse thinly grounded opinions,  are always easily liable to become "the other," even if they mean nobody any harm.

Being self-sufficient (sva-stham), Aśvaghoṣa seems to be suggesting, is a condition of not needing things from others, and a condition of not even needing “others” (see also BC2.6).

Understood like this, being self-sufficient is both an ideal and at the same time a real state of being which from time to time, mainly here in France by the forest, I seem to experience on an individual and momentary basis, with a sense that there is nothing I want that is not here. (It doesn't take much, however, to set me worrying again about this and that.)

The Buddha tells Nanda in Saundara-nanda Canto 15 that no place is kṣemaḥ (safe, secure, easy to live in). In so doing he uses three elements common to today's verse, namely, su-bhikṣaḥ, kṣemaḥ and svasthaḥ:
Even an area that is pleasant, abundant in provisions (su-bhikṣaḥ), and safe (kṣemaḥ), / Should be regarded as a deprived area where burn the fires of affliction. // SN15.48 // In this world beset by hardships physical and mental, / There is no cosy (kṣemaḥ) place to which one might go and be at ease (svasthaḥ). // SN15.49 //
I think the resolution to the apparent contradiction between these verses and today's verse lies in understanding that the Buddha was encouraging Nanda to give up an idea, or to drop off an expectation, of finding some ideal place to practice – "the other monastery." Whereas in the present series of verses, Aśvaghoṣa was basing his depiction of Kapilavastu upon total acceptance of cause and effect, whereby nothing comes out of nothing.

So in the realm of ideas, “self-sufficiency” or “being at ease,” is an ideal, a hope, the original trigger of end-gaining and associated suffering, an expectation to be dropped off.

In the realm of cause and effect, conversely, the ultimate paragon of self-sufficiency and ease who was the historical Buddha, must have owed his development to a society that was at least good enough.

But all the above is too philosophical, too concerned with philosophical phases, too dry, too abstract, not practical enough. During my sleep and on my round cushion, I find myself acutely dissatisfied with my own verbiage.

All that really needs to be said, and all that really needs to be practised, is the not doing of the wrong that starts, invariably, at the first budding of an end-gaining idea. When such an idea is nipped in the bud, then there might be a basis for talking the talk of self-sufficiency.

steyādibhih (inst. pl.): theft and the like
ādi: ifc. beginning with, etc.
steya: n. theft , robbery , larceny
ca: and
api: also
aribhiḥ = inst. pl. ari: m. an enemy
ca: and
naṣṭam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. lost , disappeared  ;  deprived of (instr.)

svastham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self "  Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy; relying on oneself, independent
sva-cakram (nom. sg. n.): his own realm
cakra: n. a circle ; a troop of soldiers , army , host; the wheel of a monarch's chariot rolling over his dominions , sovereignty , realm
para-cakra-muktam (nom. sg. n.): free of enemy armies
para-cakra: n. the army of a foe
mukta: mfn. loosened , let loose , set free; left free (as a road)

kṣemam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. habitable ; giving rest or ease or security; at ease , prosperous , safe  ; mn. safety , tranquillity , peace , rest , security , any secure or easy or comfortable state , weal , happiness
subhikṣam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. having good food or an abundant supply of provisions; n.  abundance of food (esp. that given as alms) , abundant supply of provisions , plenty
ca: and
babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū: to be
tasya (gen. sg.): his

purā: ind.  before , formerly , of old
anaraṇyasya = gen. sg. An-araṇya: m. N. of a king of ayodhyā , said by some to have been pṛthu's father
araṇya: n. a foreign or distant land; a wilderness , desert , forest
yathā: ind. just as
eva: (emphatic)
rāṣṭre (loc. sg.): m. kingdom, realm, dominion


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