Monday, August 27, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.27: The Fresh Prince Has Fun, Frankly

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Vāṇī)
vidyotamāno vapuṣā pareṇa sanatkumāra-pratimaḥ kumāraḥ
sārdhaṁ tayā śākya-narendra-vadhvā śacyā sahasrākṣa ivābhireme || 2.27

The prince, with his supremely fine form shining forth,

Like “the Prince Who Was Forever Fresh,” Sanat-kumāra,

Enjoyed himself together with that Śākya princess

As did mighty “All-Eyed” Indra, mightily, with Śacī.

śacyā in the 4th pāda means “mightily” and at the same time “with Śacī” – Śacī being the name of Indra's wife.

The reference to Indra being “all-eyed” (lit. “thousand-eyed”) is explained in detail in this Wiki entry on Ahalya, whose aged husband Gautama punished Indra for seducing his wife by cursing Indra to carry his shame on his body in the form of a thousand vulvae. These female organs, according to an account in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, turned to eyes when Indra worshipped the sun-god Surya.

In some sense, then, the verse is euphemistically saying “the prince and princess had enjoyable sex with each other” But in another sense the verse could hardly be less euphemistic, bringing to the reader's mind a thousand …. [choose your own four-letter word for a female sexual organ].

In today's verse, then, as I read it, two somewhat opposing tendencies are at play – the first is the tendency to prefer indirectness to directness of expression; the second is a tendency to see things directly, as they are. A stone lantern in the temple garden is a stone lantern in the temple garden. And just as a stone lantern in the garden is like that, so too is the act of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman like that. 

The paradoxical combination of indirectness and directness is paralleled in Dogen's writing in his effort to transmit a subtle method which is supreme and free of doing (最上 無為の妙 術, SAIJO-MUI NO MYO-JUTSU), and at the same time a way that is directly indicated and straightforward (直指端的の道, JIKISHI-TANTEKI NO DO).

The direct (JIKI) of "directly indicated" suggests the transmission of the Buddha's teaching face-to-face (as opposed to via the internet, for example). At the same time straightforward  (端的; TANTEKI) means straightforward, frank, not euphemistic, direct. 

Where the indirectness comes in is in the subtle (妙, MYO) of "subtle method." Indirectness has to come into the equation in order to circumvent the end-gaining mind. Closely allied to this subtlety and indirectness is the irony by which a master of irony like Aśvaghoṣa constantly subverts the end-gaining mind. 

Far-fetched though the claim may seem to be, then, I see even in today's verse a suggestion of the paradox at the heart of Zen practice.

Move your leg,” Marjory Barlow used to say to me, going to the heart of this paradox, in order to point me towards re-discovery of what her uncle had re-discovered – “the secret of Zen for our time,” as a friend and pupil of hers had put it. She gave me the instruction “move your leg” because she wanted me in the first instance to give up all idea of moving my leg, because she knew that if I had in the back of my mind the hint of an idea of doing something, I would revert instantly to my habitual manner of using myself (together with my habitual manner of not accepting myself).

Marjory wanted me to give up all idea of moving a leg – not like hitting the pause button on a CD player, but like hitting the stop button and going over to the wall and unplugging the damn thing. She wanted me consign the idea of moving a leg to total oblivion... and yet move the leg.

This (Sunday) afternoon it has been very quiet here by the forest. I have been sitting for two or three hours, interspersed with throwing and kicking balls for the dog to retrieve, and re-visiting what Aśvaghoṣa meant by “those enemies that grab the heel." Aśvaghoṣa describes Nanda overpowering those enemies as a prelude to entering the first stage of sitting-meditation:
In order to go entirely beyond the sphere of desire, he overpowered those enemies that grab the heel, / So that he attained, because of practice, the fruit of not returning, and stood as if at the gateway to the citadel of nirvāṇa. // SN17.41 // Distanced from desires and tainted things, containing ideas and containing thoughts, / Born of solitude and possessed of joy and ease, is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered. // SN17.42 //
It is as if Marjory Barlow gave me a very powerful weapon for overpowering those old enemies which, though you thought and felt you had put them behind you, come back from time to time and bite you on the backside. Like the terminator, the old enemy is not easily overpowered. But just what is this old enemy? Nothing more than an idea. And nothing less.

The idea is very old. It is intimately related with fear, and with desire. If it could speak it might be saying to every muscle in the body "You had better do something." 

As FM Alexander so truly said, "the most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist."

I think that the ultimate aim of every verse that Aśvaghoṣa wrote, including today's verse, is to encourage us to get rid of those most difficult of things to get rid of. 

vidyotamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vi- √ dyut: to flash forth , lighten , shine forth (as the rising sun) ; (ví-dyotate , " it lightens " ; vi-dyótamāne , " when it lightens ") ;
vapuṣā (inst. sg.): n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty
pareṇa (inst. sg. n.): mfn. furthest out; best or worst , highest , supreme

sanatkumāra-pratimaḥ (nom. sg. m.): like Sanatkumāra
sanatkumāra: m. " always a youth " or " son of brahmā " , N. of one of the four or seven sons of brahmā (cf. sanaka ; he is said to be the oldest of the progenitors of mankind ; the N. of sanat-kumāra is sometimes given to any great saint who retains youthful purity)
sanat: ind. from of old , always , ever
kumāra: m. boy, youth, prince
pratimā: f. image, likeness; ifc. like , similar , resembling , equal to
kumāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. the prince, boy

sārdham: ind. jointly , together , along with , with (instr.)
tayā (inst. sg. f.): with her
śākya-narendra-vadhvā (inst. sg. f.): the younger female relation of the Śākya man-lord; the Śākya princess
śākya-narendra: the Śākya man-lord, the king of the Śākyas
vadhvā (inst. sg.): f. a bride or newly-married woman , young wife, any wife or woman; a daughter-in-law ; any younger female relation

śacyā = inst. sg. śacī: f. the rendering of powerful or mighty help , assistance , aid (esp. said of the deeds of indra and the aśvins , instr. śácyā and śácībhis , often = " mightily " or , " helpfully ") RV. ; N. of the wife of indra (derived fr. śacī-pati q.v.);
śacī-pati: m. 'lord of might or help'; name of Indra
sahasrākṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. 'thousand-eyed' ; all-perceiving , all-inspecting ; m. N. of indra (so called from the curse of gautama who detecting indra in a desire to seduce his wife ahalyā covered him with a thousand marks of the female organ , afterwards changed to eyes )
sahasra: thousand
akṣa: (ifc. = akṣi); the eye
iva: like
abhireme = 3rd pers. sg. perf. abhi- √ ram : to dwell, delight

太子志高遠 徳盛貎清明
猶梵天長子 舍那鳩摩羅

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