Saturday, August 25, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.25: The King's End-gaining Plan

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Bālā)
naiḥśreyasaṁ tasya tu bhavyam-arthaṁ śrutvā purastād-asitān-maharṣeḥ
kāmeṣu saṅgaṁ janayāṁ-babhūva vanāṁ na yāyād-iti śākya-rājaḥ || 2.25

But having heard before, from the great seer Asita,

That the prince's future purpose would be transcendent bliss,

The Śākya king encouraged in his son 
attachment to sensual desires,

So that he might not go to the forest.

Two of the three manuscripts upon which EB Cowell based his text omitted the 4th pāda of today's verse. Relying on the other manuscript (which may have contained a 4th pāda only as a result of the copyist's conjecture), EBC's text has:
vṛddhir bhavac-chākyakulasya rājñāḥ
“the increase of the king of the present Śākya race.”
EBC noted that “The last pāda seems spurious as it is only found in C [the third of the three manuscripts]. I have tried to make some sense by reading buddhiḥ (judgement) for vṛddhiḥ (increase).”
Hence EBC's translation of the 3rd and 4th pādas is:
“the anxious care of the king of the present Śākya race turned the prince to sensual pleasures.”

EH Johnston surmised that the 4th pāda of the old Nepalese manuscript (of which EBC's manuscripts were copies) was illegible except for the last two syllables, rājñāḥ. Based on the Tibetan translation, EHJ amended his text of the 4th pāda to:
vanāni yāyād-iti śākya-rājaḥ.

At the translation stage, however, EHJ noted that “the restoration of T [the Tibetan translation] is not quite certain, apparently vanaṁ for vanāni. C [the Chinese translation] is no help and I should prefer vanaṁ na yāyād iti.

EHJ's translation of the 3rd and 4th pādas was:
“he feared lest he should go to the forests and therefore he turned him to sensual pleasures.”

On the surface, then, today's verse points to an important fact in the Buddha's biography, which is namely that the king took steps to encourage his son to become attached to sensual pleasures and thereby, by the universal law of unintended consequences, helped to bring about the very result that he feared.

Digging deeper is always difficult, but particularly so in today's verse when so much uncertainty attaches to the 4th pāda.

I have accepted EHJ's final conjecture as a stopgap, but I suspect that if we had Aśvaghoṣa's original words, they would contain an encouragement to dig deeper, and ask just what it is about the end-gaining mind, that it causes us to bring about a result that is the opposite of what we wanted. 

This irony relates to the tactic that the Buddha used to help Nanda move on from attachment to his sensual desire for Sundarī, in Aśvaghoṣa's Epic Story of Beautiful Joy. It also relates to ironies that everybody can observe for himself or herself in sitting practice -- whereby in our efforts to be mindful, we go around looking like zombies; in our efforts not to interfere with breathing, we interfere like hell; and in our efforts to let body and mind spontaneously drop off,  we become self-conscious, stilted and stiff. 

I could go on -- in our efforts to keep precepts we can't stop breaking them; and in our efforts to be seen as heroic, we end up looking to everybody like the bad guy. Enough said. 

naiḥśreyasam (acc. sg.): mfn. leading to happiness or future beatitude
naiḥ: (strengthening particle)
śreyasa: n. welfare , happiness , bliss (mostly ifc.)
tasya (gen. sg.): his
tu: but
bhavyam (acc. sg.): mfn. future, due to be
artham (acc. sg.): mn. aim, purpose; cause , motive , reason

śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear, listen, learn, be informed/enlightened [see discussion in BC1.76-1.78]
purastāt: ind. before
asitāt (abl. sg.): m. Asita, “the Not-White One.”
maharṣeḥ (abl. sg.): m. the great seer

kāmeṣu (loc. pl.): m. desires, sensual pleasures
saṅgam (acc. sg.): m. sticking , clinging to , touch , contact with (loc.); addiction or devotion to , propensity for , (esp.) worldly or selfish attachment or affection , desire , wish , cupidity
janayām babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic causative perfect jan: to generate , beget , produce , create , cause

vanāni (acc. pl.): n. forest
yāyāt = 3rd per. sg. optative yā: to go to, set out for
iti: thus
śākya-rājaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the Śākya king, king of the Śākyas
vṛddhiḥ (nom. sg.): f. growth , increase , augmentation , rise , advancement , extension , welfare , prosperity , success , fortune , happiness
buddhi: f. intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement
bhavac-chākyakulasya rājñāḥ (gen. sg. m.): of the king of the present Śākya clan
bhavat: mfn. present
shākya-kula: Śākya clan
rājan: m. king

父王見聰達 深慮踰世表 

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