Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.8: Letting Nature Work

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−  Upajāti (Mālā)
ruroha sasyaṁ phalavad-yathārtu tadākṛtenāpi kṛṣi-śrameṇa
tā eva cāsyauṣadhayo rasena sāreṇa caivābhyadhikā babhūvuḥ || 2.8

Each crop developed fruitfully
in accordance with its season,

Without toil at the plough then being done at all; 

And those same plants, for him, became herbs,

Only stronger, in taste and efficacy.

A couple of key words in the text of today's verse are conjectures by EHJ: namely, sasyaṁ (“corn” or “crop”) in the 1st pāda, which in Cowell's text is originally samyak, and cāsya (“Again, for him”) in the 3rd pāda which is originally caiva.

Both of these amendments are relevant to the main philosophical point of today's verse, as I read it, which is that, for him (asya), i.e. for a bloke in the balanced state, ordinary natural food that is not generally regarded as being medicinal, like brown rice, or an apple, can be extremely tasty and extremely efficacious too. Hence “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

The 2nd pāda, as I read it, fits into that nature-affirming scheme. The meaning is not that nobody ploughed the earth; the point is rather that nobody “did” the ploughing in a manner that violated the principle of “non-doing” – that is to say, nobody got their knickers in a knot by doing the ploughing in an unduly end-gaining manner. Rather, everybody entered harmoniously into the flow, in the manner exemplified by Steve Martin's fire-crew in the film Roxeanne. (After the beautiful extinction of the fire, Steve Martin's character, the mayor, exuberantly tells the grateful throng that he would rather be the mayor of the people of his town than the mayor of the finest people in the world!)

The 2nd pāda features the word akṛta, “not done,” which also features in BC2.2 (“unwrought [gold],” i.e. bullion). Akṛta brings to mind one of the first Sanskrit words I ever looked into, namely asaṁskṛta (not prepared, not consecrated, unpolished, rude [as speech]). As I took it upon myself to discuss back in 1994 in my notes to the Shobogenzo translation, asaṁskṛta was cited as the Sanskrit word that corresponds to 無為 (Chinese: WU WEI; Japanese: MU-I).  As neatly summed up on this arty webpage,  無為 (WU WEI) is a Taoist tenet, that speaks to the idea of letting nature take its course.

Asaṁskṛta, it seems to me with the benefit of hindsight, was cited by some authority, or some authoritative Buddhist dictionary, whose word I then took, as the original Sanskrit word that was translated as 無為. Nowadays I wouldn't take anybody's word for it. I would judge from Aśvaghoṣa's writing that there are a lot of Sanskrit words that could be rendered into Chinese as 無為 (“without doing,”) , or as 自然 (“naturally”). And akṛta is one of those words.

Generally speaking, the Chinese translator of Buddhacarita, evidently being awake to the Taoist tenet, was quick to pick up on anything Aśvaghoṣa wrote that spoke to the idea of letting nature take its course. But in translating today's verse, for once, the Chinese translator missed the opportunity of getting in his favourite phrase 自然 (“naturally, spontaneously, of itself”).

Today's verse has caused me to reflect that the experience that “It was like I wasn't doing it but it was doing itself,” was integral not only to the Buddha's teaching but was also integral to the Tao as practised in China before Bodhidharma went there from India, as it is also integral to Alexander work, and to the experience of being in the zone as described by all sorts of athletes and sports men and women.

The main thing that differentiates the Buddha's teaching from these others fields of endeavour, it seems to me, is that when a follower of the Buddha's teaching makes effort to allow it effortlessly to do itself, he or she is primarily oriented towards, and oriented by, the practice of sitting in lotus.

ruroha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ruh: to ascend , mount , climb; to rise , spring up , grow , develop , increase , prosper , thrive
samyak: ind. in one or the same direction , in the same way , at the same time , together ; in one line , straight ; correctly , truly , properly , fitly , in the right way or manner , well , duly
sasyam (nom. sg.): n. corn , grain , fruit , a crop of corn
phalavat (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fruit-bearing , fructiferous , covered or laden with fruits
yathārtu: ind. according to the season
yathā: ind. according to
ṛtu: m. season

tadā: ind. then, at that time
akṛtena (inst. sg. m.): mfn. not done
api: even (emphatic)
kṛṣi-śrameṇa (inst. sg. m.): the hard work of ploughing
kṛṣi: f. ploughing , cultivation of the soil , agriculture
śrama: m. fatigue ; exertion , labour , toil , exercise , effort either bodily or mental , hard work of any kind

tā (nom. pl. f.): those
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and
asya: of him; for [the king]
oṣadhayaḥ = nom. pl. oṣadhi: f. a herb , plant, esp. any medicinal herb
rasena (inst. sg.): m. the sap or juice of plants

sāreṇa (inst. sg.): m. firmness , strength, power , energy; the substance or essence or marrow or cream or heart or essential part of anything , best part , quintessence
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
abhyadhikā (nom. pl. f.): mfn. surpassing (in number , power , kind); exceeding the common measure , pre-eminent , extraordinary ;
babhūvuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. bhū: to become , be (with nom.)

種殖不待時 收實倍豐積
五穀鮮香美 輕軟易消化

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