Thursday, August 16, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.16: The Right Thing Did Itself

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−  Upajāti (Chāyā)
tadā hi taj-janmani tasya rājño manor-ivāditya-sutasya rājye
cacāra harṣaḥ praṇanāśa pāpmā jajvāla dharmaḥ kaluṣaṁ śaśāma || 2.16

For at that time, at the time of that birth, 
in that king's kingdom 

As in the kingdom of Sun-begotten Manu, 

Joy prevailed and wickedness was no more;  

Dharma burned bright and foulness faded away. 

The place we would hope to go to, if we were wise, might be back to our original state.

The golden age of Manu can be understood as symbolizing that original state, where joy pervaded everybody's body, where the right thing everywhere was allowed to do itself, before end-gaining and faulty sensory appreciation raised their ugly heads.

Thus in the penultimate verse of Saundara-nanda Canto 3, Aśvaghoṣa describes Kapilavastu under the influence of the Buddha in terms of the golden age of Manu:
Neither from within the self, nor from without, did any terror arise; nor from fate. / By dint of their true happiness and material plenty and practical merits, the citizens there rejoiced as in the golden age of Manu. // SN3.41 //
It is as true in practice to say “the right thing does itself”  as it is true in chemistry to say “energy spreads out.” Such is the fundamental principle of “non-doing." And such is the first half of the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

It has been instructive thus far in this translation of Buddha-carita into English to keep an eye on the Buddha-carita translation which more than 1500 years ago was done into Chinese. Though by no means a reliable guide to what Aśvaghoṣa wrote, the Chinese translation does at least give us some idea of what Bodhidharma already had going for him, and what he was up against, when he went to China.

The principle of non-doing, as evidenced by the Chinese translator's fondness for using the character (see comments to BC1.23, 1.25) and 自然 (see comments BC2.5, 2.12) to express spontaneity, would not have been news to practitioners in China in Bodhidharma's day, just as the principle of non-doing, or going with the Taoist flow, is not news to practitioners in China today.

What particularly distinguishes the Buddha's teaching in Saundara-nanda, however, is what corresponds to the second half of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Just as the 2nd law in full states that energy tends to spread out, unless prevented from doing so by activation energy barriers, the fundamental law of non-doing as the Buddha teaches it, is that the right thing tends to do itself, unless prevented from doing so by the wrong doing of a faulty, thirsting individual who has failed to conquer the power of his own senses.

There is a particular emphasis in Aśvaghośa's Epic Story of Beautiful Joy, in other words, on the befouling faults.

These reflections were stimulated in me by the emphasis which the 1st pada of today's verse seems to place on the particular.

The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pādas seems to express the right thing doing what the right thing has done since the eternal past, when not prevented from doing so, like water constantly flowing.

But the 1st pāda is conspicuously not concerned with the general principle, or with the universal rule. The 1st pāda is talking emphatically about that particular time and place.

This morning as I sat in my shed/cabin/zendo with the doors open, I could hear the sounds of the nearby stream, as predicted by the 2nd law, flowing. At the same time, when I looked up through the open skylight, I could see the white wisp of a cloud. So up there, mysteriously, water particles are not yet flowing down but are rather carrying on for the present dancing around. But down here, this morning, equally mysteriously, at the place where I was sitting, the unmistakeable sound could be heard of water flowing. The 2nd law predicts “water flows” and this was a particular instance when water flowed.

I think that in the 1st pāda, the tadā (at that time), the tad  (that [baby]), and the tasya (of that [king]) are pointing us in this direction, in the direction of the particular.

tadā: ind. at that time
hi: for
taj-janmani (loc. sg.): at his birth
tad: him
janman: n. birth
tasya (gen. sg. m.): of that
rājñaḥ (gen. sg.): m. king

manoḥ (gen. sg.): m.  Manu ; " the thinking creature(?) " , man , mankind  ; the Man par excellence or the representative man and father of the human race
iva: kuje
āditya-sutasya (gen. sg. m.): son of Āditya
āditya:  mfn. belonging to or coming from aditi  ; m. " son of aditi "; m. pl. N. of seven deities of the heavenly sphere  RV.  ix , 114 , 3 ,  &c  S3Br.  iii , 1 , 3 , 3 (the chief is varuṇa , to whom the N. āditya is especially applicable); m. N. of a god in general , especially of sūrya (the sun)
suta: mfn. begotten; m. a son
rājye (loc. sg.): in the kingdom

cacāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. car:  to move one's self , go , walk , move , stir , roam about , wander; to spread , be diffused (as fire)
harṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. bristling ; joy , pleasure , happiness
praṇanāśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra √naś:  to be lost , disappear , vanish
pāpmā (nom. sg.): m. evil , unhappiness , misfortune , calamity , crime , sin , wickedness

jajvāla = 3rd pers. sg. perf. jval: to burn brightly , blaze , glow , shine
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. dharma
kaluṣaṁ (nom. sg. n.):  mfn. turbid , foul , muddy , impure , dirty (lit. and fig.) ; n. foulness , turbidness , dirt , impurity (lit. and fig.); sin, wrath
śaśāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. śam: to cease , be allayed or extinguished

過去摩王     生日光太子
擧國蒙吉祥 衆惡一時息 

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