Sunday, September 30, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.4: More Irony, In Prohibiting Afflicted Plebs

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Kīrti)
nivartayām-āsa ca rāja-mārge saṁpātam-ārtasya pṛthag-janasya |
mā bhūt-kumāraḥ su-kumāra-cittaḥ saṁvigna-cetā iti manyamānaḥ || 3.4

He decreed, again, that on the royal road

No afflicted common person must be met,

So that the prince with his impressionable young mind

Would not be mentally perturbed -- or so the king supposed.

The saṁvigna-cetā (being mentally perturbed) in the 4th pāda mirrors the saṁvega (perturbation) of the canto title saṁveg'otpattiḥ, lit. “Arising of Perturbation.” 

Thus the main irony in today's verse, as I read it, is a kind of dramatic irony, whereby we the audience are able to see what the king himself is unable to see -- apropos of which I would like to quote a few sentences from the annual F.M.Alexander memorial lecture given by Marjory Barlow on 9 November 1965 at The Medical Society of London.
Alexander's favourite way of describing his work was as "a means of controlling human reaction." Under this basic umbrella can be included every form of blind, unconscious reaction, and here we come to the whole question of Self-Knowledge.

The muscular bad habits of misuse harm only oneself -- unconscious habits of thought and emotion harm oneself and other people, because they determine our reactions to everyone else. It could be said that we use other people to practise our unconscious bad habits on.

The greatest misery and misunderstanding we experience is often in this field of personal relationships. Of course, these inner emotional states are mirrored in the way we use ourselves -- states of rage, anxiety, and fear -- to take only the most obvious examples -- are there for all the world to see by the unmistakeable bodily attitudes. This is also true of more subtle inner conditions such as depression, worry and hopelessness.

In some way the constant and deep reaction-patterns are more obvious to other people than to ourselves.

I sometimes think that there is a wry sense of humour lurking somewhere in the background of the Universe permitting this tragi-comic state of affairs, where certain characteristics of a person are known and clearly seen by everyone, except the person himself.

At the heart of Alexander's work as Marjory Barlow taught it  there is a paradox. The paradox can be summed in these contradictory instructions applied to the activity of lying down with knees bent and then straightening one leg with minimal disturbance to the head, neck, and back: 
(1) Decide not to move the leg (and not to do anything else), in order to be free to move the leg in a non-habitual way.
(2) While maintaining the freedom that thus arises from deciding not to move the leg, decide to move the leg -- and move it.

These paradoxical instructions are designed to deal with a certain situation irony, which is that when one tries to do something in a non-habitual way, the trying causes the thing to be done in the habitual way. When one tries to lengthen the spine, for example, one succeeds only in shortening it. When one tries to breath mindfully, one succeeds only interfering with a process that, if one stopped interfering, would otherwise do itself.

Coming up against this irony, an irresolute type gives up, and therefore continues to be pushed and pulled by the restless horses of the senses.

A resolute type, using constancy, does not give up but gradually learns doing without trying – he gradually learns, in other words, to stop doing and allow the right thing to do itself.

The king who is the protagonist of today's verse is just such a resolute type. Hence:  
dhṛtyendriyāśvāṁś-capalān vijigye
The restless horses of the senses he tamed through constancy. [BC2.34]

And yet the king supposes that he can steer the prince in the direction of the king's own choosing, primarily by tying the prince to those very restless horses he has worked so constantly to tame in himself.

The king is like politicians everywhere who try to bring about change in the right direction by doing this, that, and the other, without paying due attention first to stopping the wrong thing. Equally, the king is just like Zen meditators everywhere who strive to get the right thing to do itself without paying due attention first to stopping the wrong habitual patterns that their striving stimulates.

To laugh at the king's stupidity, which truly is laughable, might be to laugh at our own stupid selves. 

I thus venture to submit that in endeavoring on this blog to understand Aśvaghoṣa's use of irony we are endeavoring to clarify the paradox at the heart of Zen practice. Conversely, it may be that only people who devote themselves to investigating the paradox at the heart of Zen practice can truly understand Aśvaghoṣa's use of irony – on the basis of sitting on the same round cushion as him.

The irony of which I speak miscellaneous Buddhist scholars and Zen dharma-heirs, notwithstanding their various positions and titles, have not seen, as Dogen used to say, even in a dream. 

nivartayām āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perf. ni- √ vṛt: to turn back , stop (trans. and intrans.) ; [caus.] to turn away , avert or keep back from (abl.); to give up , abandon , suppress , withhold , refuse , deny ;
ca: and
rāja-mārge (loc. sg.): m. the king's highway , a royal or main road , principal street (passable for horses and elephants)

sampātam (acc. sg.): m. flying or rushing together , collision , concussion , encounter with (saha) ; taking place , happening , appearance , occurrence
ārtasya (gen. sg.): mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed ; injured ; oppressed , suffering , sick , unhappy
pṛthag-janasya: m. a man of lower caste or character or profession ; a fool , blockhead; a villain

mā: a particle of prohibition or negation most commonly joined with the Subjunctive i.e. the augmentless form of a past tense (esp. of the aorist)
bhūt = subjunctive bhū: to be, become
kumāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. the prince
su-kumāra-cittaḥ (nom. sg. m.): having the mind of a delicate youth
su-kumāra: mfn. very tender or delicate; m. a delicate youth
citta: n. mind

saṁvigna-cetā (nom. sg. m.): having an agitated mind
saṁvigna: mfn. agitated , flurried , terrified , shy
cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind
iti: “...,” thus
manyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. man: to think , believe , imagine , suppose , conjecture

平治正王路 并除諸醜穢
老病形殘類 羸劣貧窮苦
無令少樂子 見起厭惡心

Saturday, September 29, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.3: Thou Shalt Be Happy!

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
tato nṛpas-tasya niśamya bhāvaṁ putrābhidhānasya mano-rathasya |
snehasya lakṣmyā vayasaś-ca yogyām-ājñāpayām-āsa vihāra-yātrām || 3.3

Then the king, catching the gist

Of the prince's expression of his heart's desire,

Convened a procession,
commensurate with his affection and wealth,
and with a young man's energy --

The ruler of men decreed a pleasure outing.

Yesterday morning on the way to the Alexander training school which suffers us on Fridays, my wife and I chuckled at the under-developed sense of irony manifested by Hollywood screen goddess Goldie Hawn during her appearance on Desert Island Discs. Goldie, who I must admit retains a very feisty and young voice despite her advancing years, selected as one of her eight songs Let It Be, and deigned to interpret, for her BBC Radio audience in Britain and around the world, what the title of that Beatles song means. 

Come off it, Goldie! The great unwashed mass of British plebs were invaded by the Normans in 1066 and we have been learning to let it be ever since. If we hadn't spent the last thousand years letting it be, English would not be as rich a language as it is, and the Germano-Greek royal family whose head is nominally the ruler of these islands would all have had their heads chopped off long ago. Generally speaking we are a tolerant lot. But some of the less tolerant among us are liable to say to pontificators who think they know a thing or two about, say, morality, or mindfulness, or the Law of God: “Fuck off back to [Rome/Hollywood/Islaamabad/other].”

Could this tirade against a poor little innocent like Goldie, for having an underdeveloped sense of irony, be a manifestation of the mirror principle? If the cap fits, my grandma used to say, wear it.

When I went to bed last night the only thing I had in mind to comment on in today's verse was the three elements in the 3rd pāda, which seem to follow a certain order, namely: (1) something subjective (sneha; affection), (2) something objective (lakṣmī; wealth), and (3) something active (vayas; youthful energy).

Due to the resurfacing of my own Irony Deficit Disorder – the very IDD which tied me to a know-it-all named Gudo Nishijima for so many years – I totally failed to be hit by the fourth element in the series, as expressed in the punchline of the 4th pāda (ājñāpayām-āsa vihāra-yātrām; “he commanded a walking-for-pleasure procession,” “he decreed a pleasure outing”). 

The thing that saved me from my own chronic IDD, and finally allowed me to be hit by the punchline, was nothing but the lifeblood, by which I mean nothing but sitting.

I don't know how Goldie Hawn understands the mindfulness which she preaches, but in the sitting that I practice, on a good morning, like this fine sunny morning, there is a highly developed sense of irony.

At the root of this sense of irony is a truth that repeatedly obstructs a sitting practitioner who sincerely wishes to sit,  letting everything be, like Gautama Buddha under the bodhi tree – which is namely that the desire to go directly for that end is the very anti-thesis of letting it be.

In the end, what can I say?

Something within me wishes to conclude with these words:

A pint of Guiness and a big bag of fish and chips.

tataḥ: ind. then
nṛpaḥ (nom. sg.): m. “ruler of men,” king
tasya (gen. sg.): his, his son's
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
bhāvam (acc. sg.): m. true condition or state , truth , reality; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; purport , meaning , sense

putrābhidhānasya (gen. sg.): expressed by his son
putra: m. son
abhidhāna: n. telling , naming , speaking , speech , manifesting ; a name , title , appellation , expression , word
mano-rathasya (gen. sg.): m. (ifc. f(ā).) " heart's joy ", a wish , desire ; the heart compared to a car (ratha = chariot)

snehasya (gen. sg.): m. tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection
lakṣmyā (inst. sg.): f. good fortune , prosperity , success , happiness; wealth , riches ; beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre
vayasaḥ (gen. sg.): n. energy (both bodily and mental) , strength , health , vigour ; vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
ca: and
yogyām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. fit for the yoke; useful , serviceable , proper , fit or qualified for , able or equal to , capable of (gen. loc. dat. inf. with act. or pass. sense , or comp.)

ājñāpayām āsa = 3rd pers. sg. causative periphrastic perfect ā- √ jñā: to order , command , direct
vihāra-yātrām (acc. sg.): f. a pleasure excursion
vihāra: m. walking for pleasure or amusement , wandering , roaming
yātrā: f. going , setting off , journey , march , expedition ; a festive train , procession

父王聞太子 樂出彼園遊
即勅諸群臣 嚴飾備羽儀   

Friday, September 28, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.2: Making a Decision to Get Out

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
śrutvā tataḥ strī-jana-vallabhānāṁ mano-jña-bhāvaṁ pura-kānanānām |
bahiḥ-prayāṇāya cakāra buddhim-antar-gṛhe nāga ivāvaruddhaḥ || 3.2

Thus having heard how agreeable

Were the city's forests,
which the women loved so dearly,

He made a decision to get out,

Like an elephant shut inside a house.

The essence of today's verse, as I read is, is that
 he learned (1) 
some objective information (2),
on which basis he made a decision (3), 
which was much more than an intellectual exercise, much more than a function of his top two-inches. Rather, this making of a decision was something energetic and powerful like a great big elephant deciding to break out of confining area (4).

Thirty-odd years ago when I was doing a degree in Accounting & Financial Management, I learned that the role of an accountant, from the perspective of information and systems theory, is to provide information to decision makers – primarily shareholders and managers.

For the past thirty-odd years that is the essence of what, like a good but extremely poorly remunerated accountant (at least in comparison with my peers at uni), I have been doing through translation work -- that is, 
working to present information (2) 
that other Zen practitioners can read or learn (1), 
as a basis for making decisions (3),
in their own individual practice (4).

A pretty bloody thankless task it has been, as well. 

For nearly twenty of those years I have been investigating in my own Zen practice, on and off, what FM Alexander meant by making a decision.

Making a decision in Alexander work, when the work is fully understood, has both a negative aspect (deciding “no,” or withholding consent, and giving preventive directions) and a positive aspect (giving consent to an action). Out of this apparent paradox, a non-habitual action is liable to be experienced – somewhat in the manner of an elephant breaking out of an old house.

Thus, at the end of the first chapter, titled Evolution of a Technique, in FM Alexander's book The Use of the Self, he writes about giving directions so that “the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end would result in an activity differing from the old habitual activity.”

Before he worked out the means he called inhibiting and directing, “the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end had always resulted in the same habitual activity.” But “by this new procedure, as long as the reasoned directions for the bringing about of new conditions of use were consciously maintained, the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end would result in an activity differing from the old habitual activity.”

Thanks largely to a series of lessons received from FM Alexander's niece, Marjory Barlow, in which she guided me through the process of deciding to move a leg, primarily by deciding not to move the leg but to go on giving directions instead, I think I understand in practice, at least at a certain level, what FM was describing as “an activity differing from the old habitual activity.”

FM Alexander himself, mind you, thought that he had "barely scratched the surface of the egg." 

Nevertheless, I venture to assert that what FM called "an activity differing from the old habitual activity,” might be what Zen ancestors were pointing to in their writings. 

So this is how I understand Aśvaghoṣa's metaphor of an elephant getting itself on a road -- 
a road that Dogen called
“the vigorous road of getting the body out.”

śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear, listen, learn about
tataḥ: ind. from that, thence
strī-jana-vallabhānām (gen. pl.): beloved by the women
strī-jana: m. womankind, womenfolk
vallabha: mfn. beloved above all , desired , dear to (gen. loc. , or comp.)

mano-jña-bhāvam (acc. sg.): the being agreeable to the mind
mano-jña: mf(ā)n. agreeable to the mind , pleasing , lovely , beautiful , charming
bhāva: m. state of being anything , esp. ifc. e.g. bālabhāva , the state of being a child , childhood
pura-kānanānām (gen. pl.): the city's forests
pura: n. a fortress , castle , city , town
kānana: n. (said to be fr. √kan, to be pleased) a forest , grove

bahis: ind. out , forth , outwards , outside (a house , village , city , kingdom &c ; also with abl. or ifc. = out of , apart from , except , beside) (with √ kṛ , to place outside , expel , banish , exclude ; with √ bhū , to come forth ; with √ gam , or yā , to go out &c )
prayāṇāya (dat. sg.): n. setting out , starting , advancing , motion onwards
cakāra buddhim = 3rd pers. sg. perf. buddhim kṛ: to make up one's mind , resolve , decide

antar-gṛhe (loc. sg.): n. interior of the house, inner apartment
nāgaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a snake, a nāga or serpent-demon, an elephant
iva: like
avaruddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. hindered , checked , stopped , kept back ; shut in , enclosed ; imprisoned secluded (as in the inner apartments)

伎女因奏樂 弦歌告太子
太子聞音樂 歎美彼園林
内懷甚踊悦 思樂出遊觀
猶如繋狂象 常慕閑曠野 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.1: Eating a Painted Rice-cake

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
tataḥ kadā-cin-mṛdu-śādvalāni puṁs-kokilonnādita-pādapāni |
śuśrāva padmākara-maṇḍitāni gītair nibaddhāni sa kānanāni || 3.1

Then, one day, to places carpeted with tender grass

Where trees resounded with a cuckoo's calls,

To places adorned with profusions of lotuses, he went --

To forests fabricated in songs.

The old Nepalese manuscript and EBC's manuscripts have as the first word in the 4th pāda śīte, “in the cold.” Hence EBC's translation: On a certain day he heard of the forests carpeted with tender grass, with their trees resounding with the kokilas, adorned with lotus-ponds, and which had been all bound up in the cold season.

Might śīte nibaddhāni “chained in cold” mean something along the lines of “frozen in Jack Frost's grip”?

Based on the Chinese and Tibetan translations, EHJ amended śīte (“in cold”) to gītaiḥ (“with songs”) and translated “he listened to songs celebrating the forests.”

The Chinese translation of tomorrow's verse does indeed describe skilled women causing the prince to be informed by music and songs (伎女因奏樂 弦歌告太子) and the prince listening to the music (太子聞音樂).

Either way, whether with śīte or with gītaiḥ, the 4th pāda of today's verse seems designed to deliver one of Aśvaghoṣa's characterstic punchlines – that is to say a line which confounds any expectations the previous three pādas might have caused us to have. Aśvaghoṣa's builds that sense of expectation, again characterstically, by not specifying the main subject of the verse (kānanāni [acc. pl.] “forests”) until the very end. Thus, our clever and imaginative human brains, which are so adept at filling in gaps and jumping to conclusions, expect to arrive with the prince at a sunny forest glade, but that expectation is confounded – either by the cold hand of Jack Frost, or, more likely, by the realization that the forest we were beginning to picture was itself only a figment of the young prince's imagination.

The four main elements of today's verse are (1) soft grass, (2) cries of cuckoos, (3) lotuses, and (4) forests, in that order. Looking for order in this order, my first thought was that softness is perceived through the tactile sense, birdsong through the auditory sense, and lotuses through the visual (and possibly also olfactory) sense, whereas the totality of the forests is reflected as a function of all the senses. Thinking developmentally, that sequence adds up.

Thinking in sitting, likewise, that sequence adds up – the tactile/propioceptive sense of appropriate tension or tone in the muscles being the first sense whose unreliability is liable to get in the way of the right thing doing itself.

The verb śru, however, is nowhere defined as expressing either the tactile or the visual sense; it seems to express the auditory sense (to hear), as well as the mental function (to learn about). So translating śuśrāva in four parts as “he felt... he heard... he saw... and he learned of,” might be straying too far from the original Sanskrit. At the same time, the Apte dictionary defines the first meaning of śru as to go, and so I have utilized that ambiguity in the above translation, which I hope captures the spirit that Aśvaghoṣa intended, causing us to ask ourselves, as Dogen also caused us to ask ourselves, whether a painted rice cake can cure hunger.

I think it all depends on who is doing, or not doing, the painting.

tataḥ: ind. and so, from that, thence
kadā-cit: ind. at some time or other , sometimes , once
mṛdu-śādvalāni (acc. pl. n.): abounding in soft grass
mṛdu: mfn. soft , delicate , tender , pliant
śādvala: mfn. abounding in fresh or green grass , grassy , verdant , green; n. sg. and pl. a place abounding in young grass , grassy spot , turf

puṁs-kokilonnādita-pādapāni (acc. pl. n.): trees resounding with the crying out of cuckoos
puṁs-kokila: m. the male of the Indian cuckoo
unnādita: resounding with crying out
nādita: mfn. made to resound ; ifc. sounding with , reverberant
unnāda: m. crying out , clamour
pāda-pa: m. "drinking at foot or root " , a tree
śuśrāva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. śru: to hear , listen or attend to anything (acc.) ; hear or learn anything about (acc.). Apte: 1. to go; 2. to hear; 3. to be attentive

padmākara-maṇḍitāni (acc. pl. n.): adorned with rich sources of lotuses
padma: m. a lotus
ākara: m. one who scatters i.e. distributes abundantly ; accumulation , plenty , multitude; a mine ; a rich source of anything
ā- √kṝ: to scatter or sprinkle over , give abundantly
maṇḍita: mfn. adorned , decorated

gītaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. singing , song
śīte (loc. sg.): n. cold , coldness , cold weather
nibaddhāni (acc. pl. n.): mfn. mfn. bound , fettered , chained , tied ; covered with , veiled in (instr.) ; shut up , closed , obstructed ; constructed , built; ; composed , written down ; committed , intrusted
nibaddha: m. (in music) a partic. instrument
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
kānanāni (acc. pl.): n. (said to be fr. √kan, to be pleased) a forest , grove

外有諸園林 流泉清涼池
衆雜華果樹 行列垂玄蔭
異類諸奇鳥 奮飛戲其中
水陸四種花 炎色流妙香

[next verse]
伎女因奏樂 弦歌告太子
太子聞音樂 歎美彼園林
内懷甚踊悦 思樂出遊觀
猶如繋狂象 常慕閑曠野 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Canto 2: Exploring Within the Battlements

The king, following the birth of his self-begotten

– The self-conquering son
who would get to the bottom
of begetting and aging --

Day by day waxed mightier
by dint of wealth, elephants, horses and allies,

As a river develops by dint of its tributaries.

For all sorts of money and treasure,

Of wrought gold, or nothing but bullion --

Manifold reserves, did he then obtain,

Seemingly loaded even beyond the capacity
of the chariot of his mind.

And elephants that none in this world,
not even top tuskers of Padma's ilk,

Could lead around a circle --

Himālayan elephants massively in rut --

Stationed themselves,
without the making of any effort at all,
about his circle.

[Traversed] by fast movers
of different strokes and distinctive characters,
rigged out in new gold gear,

And by other types too,
adorned with long braided manes,

His city shook with [the stomping of] horses

Obtained by force,
through friendship, and with money.

Equally in his kingdom,
well-fed and well-satisfied,

Well-disposed, dustless,
and overflowing with goodness,

There were,
together with their lanky young,

Many cows, which also yielded abundant milk.

An enemy of his entered into neutrality;

Neutrality turned into friendship;

Friendship became something exceptionally solid.

For him, though he had two sides,
“the other” did not exist.

For him, equally,
with whispers of rainclouds blown by lazy breezes,

With clouds of thunder gilded by rings of lightning,

But without any flak
from showers of stone missiles or falling thunderbolts,

At the right time and place, it rained.

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.

In dealing with that circumstance which,

Like a clash between armies,
spells danger for the body,

Remaining even then in their natural state,
with ease and without disease,

Pregnant women gave birth.

Save for those observing a vow,

No man, however lacking in means,
ever begged from others;

And no noble person, however scant his resources,

Turned away when asked to give.

No disrespect nor any stinginess towards kinsmen,

Nor any lawlessness at all, or untruthfulness or cruelty,

Was shown by anybody in his kingdom at that time,

As in the realm of King Yayāti, son of Nahuṣa.

Gardens, temples, and ashrams,

Wells and drinking fountains, lotus-ponds and woods,

Lovers of dharma established there
as acts of religious sacrifice --

Almost as if they had seen heaven with their own eyes.

Exempt from famine, terror, and sickness,

People dwelt there as gladly as if they were in heaven;

And neither husband against wife
nor wife against husband

Did man and woman do each other wrong.

Nobody served desire for pleasure;

Nobody, on account of desire, guarded wealth;

Nobody practised dharma for a prize;

Nobody, in pursuit of dharma, did harm.

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.”

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.

And since in that son begotten by the king

Such fulfillment of everything was realized

The ruler of men named that son of his accordingly,

Saying “He is Sarvārtha-siddha,
Fulfillment of Everything.”

But having witnessed her offspring's mighty power,

Which could rival that of a divine seer,

Queen Māyā could not endure
the extreme joy that arose in her;

And so, rather than towards total oblivion,
she 'went to heaven.'

Then the prince whose peers were the progeny of gods,

Was brought up by the unconditional means
of love and affection:

His mother's sister, who was like his mother in her power,

Caused him to grow as if he were her own son.

And so, like the early-morning sun on the way up,

Or like a fire being fanned by wafts of air,

Gradually, the child developed well --

Like the waxing moon in the bright fortnight.

Then precious preparations of sandalwood,

And a string of jewels with herbs inside them,

And little golden carts drawn by deer,

Were brought to him, from the homes of good-hearts.

And ornaments appropriate for his age,

Toy elephants, deer and horses, made of gold,

And carts, and oxen harnessed by finely woven fabric,

With a tether for their calves, of gold and silver strands.

While thus indulged by various sense-stimulating gifts,

Of a sort appropriate for his age,

Child though he was, he was not like a child

In constancy, and in simplicity, sagacity and dignity.

For, having passed through the early stage of life
and arrived at the middle,

The young son of a king

Grasped in a few days
subjects that took many years to master --

Fields of learning 

that befitted the house to which he belonged.

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.

Then he summoned for him,
from a family of steadfast integrity,

A true woman,
the possessor of fine form, modesty and discipline,

A woman full of glory
whose name was Yaśodharā, “Bearer of Glory” --

In the shape of such a woman
did the king invoke Śrī, goddess of fortune.

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.

“How might he not see the slightest unpleasantness

That could cause disturbance in his mind?”

Reflecting thus, the king assigned him a residence

Up in the very bowels of the palace,
away from the bustle on the ground.

Then, in penthouse apartments
painted white as autumn clouds --

Like the seven-storey palaces of gods,
only on the earth --

And appointed for comfort in every season,

He roamed for fun
among female players of the finest instruments.

For, with sounds of gold-studded tambourines

Being softly beaten by women's fingers,

And with dancing
like the dancing of the choicest heavenly nymphs,

Those digs were fabulous as Mount Kailāsa.

Using sweet nothings and playful gestures

Accompanied by tipsy movements 
and charming chuckles,

The women there caressed him

With secretly arched eyebrows, and sidelong glances.

And so, embraced by experts in erotic addiction,

By women who were unsagging in pursuit of pleasure,

He did not descend
from high up in the palace down to earth –

As a doer of good would not,
from an upper carriage of gods on high.

The king, meanwhile,
having as his inner motive only his son's growth,

While also being goaded
by [Asita's] prediction of his son's future purpose,

Maintained himself in balance
and restrained himself from evil;

He did his share of self-regulation
and he left their share to the good.

He did not cling, like an irresolute type,
to sensual pleasure;

Nor was he unduly enamoured
with a female agent of rebirth;

The restless horses of the senses
he tamed through constancy.

He surpassed by his virtues
both royal relatives and townsfolk.

He did not pursue learning to the detriment of the other

But was steeped in that wisdom which is kindness;

For he wished all the best, in like manner,

For his own offspring and for every offshoot.

To the shining constellation
whose regent is the planet Āṅgirasa

He religiously recited a song of praise,
for his son's long life.

In a fiery fire of Agni, he offered what was to be offered.

And to the twice-born brahmins 
he gave both gold and cows.

To cleanse body and mind, he bathed

In the waters of sacred bathing places,
and in the waters of merit;

And at one and the same time, he imbibed
what is prescribed in the Vedas
and what is produced from within:

The soma-juice and the ease of a tranquil heart.

He spoke gently, and yet said nothing lacking in reality;

He chatted the truth, and yet said nothing nasty;

For a gently spoken untruth, or a harshly told truth,

Modesty forbade him from voicing, even inwardly.

When things pleasant and unpleasant called for action,

He did not resort to reliance on raw desire, and faults;

He dwelt in the benign state which is won without fuss;

For an act of devotion involving sacrifice
he valued not so highly.

Again, when the expectant came up,

There and then, using the waters of giving,
he washed away thirst;

And without starting a war
but using the battleaxe of action,

The enemy's swollen pride he burst.

He gave direction to the one and guarded the seven;

He shunned the seven
and turned his attention to the five;

He experienced the three and minded the three;

He knew the two and abandoned the two.

Even those who had committed a capital offence

He did not put to death, 
nor even looked upon with anger.

With gentleness, and by way of retribution,
he held them confined --

For letting go of them, obviously, 
was also to invite trouble.

Ultimate practices of the ancient seers, he repeated;

Long-harboured hostilities, he renounced;

And merit-scented feats of honour, he achieved.

[But] the defiling dust of his passions, he owned.

No inclination did he have
to raise tax (or pay tribute) that had not accrued,

To covet what belonged to others,

To discuss the wrongness of hateful foes,

Or to ignite anger in his own heart.

While that earth-lord was acting thus,

The mandarins and the townsfolk behaved likewise,

Like the senses of a person who is harnessed to practice,

When the thinking mind is peaceful and clear.

Then in time to a bearer of lovely milk,

To Yaśodharā, a bearer of glory by her own actions,

Was born a son 
who beamed like a rival of “Eclipsing” Rāhu,

And that moon-faced son of Śuddhodhana's son
was named Rāhula.

And so having had the son he desired,
and feeling satisfaction of the highest order

At the extension of his house,
a keeper of the earth,

Just as he had rejoiced at the delivery of a son,

Rejoiced equally at the delivery of a son of his son.

“By what means might there occur in my son
this same attachment to a son as I have?”

Thus joyfully pondering,

The king devoted himself in good time
to this and that prescribed practice,

As if he were an “offspring-loving” putra-priya bird
aspiring to soar to heaven.

Standing firmly on the path

Of primeval royal bulls steeped in glory,

He practised austerities with his whites still on,

And he worshipped with sacrificial acts that did no harm.

And so this pious man of pure karma blazed

With the majesty of a ruler of men,
and with the glow of hot austerity.

Made brilliant by good family, conduct and sense,

He was like the thousand-rayed sun,
desiring to emit its brightness.

having devoutly caused to be chanted
those chants of praise attributed to Svayam-bhū,
“The Spontaneously Arisen,”

He of enduring majesty muttered a prayer
for his son's enduring existence

And performed difficult karmic rites --

Like Ka, in the beginning, desiring to create creatures.

The hymn of praise he could set aside,
dogmatic scripture he could scarce abide.

He applied himself to equanimity,
and subjected himself to restraint.

Into any sensory realm, like a master, he did not slide.

All realms, like a patriarch, he realized.

For he cherished his sovereignty on account of his son,

His son for the sake of his noble house,
his house as an expression of honour,

Expression of truth as a way to heaven,
and heaven as a function of the self.

He desired the continued existence of the self
for the sake of the dharma.

Thus he practised the dharma of many strata

Which the good alight upon,
and penetrate through listening,

All the time asking himself:

“Now that my son has seen the face of his son,
how might he be stopped from going to the forest?”

Desiring to preserve their own personal power,

On this earth,
keepers of the earth guard against their sons.

But this dharma-loving lord of men
had guarded his son from dharma,

By letting him loose among sensual objects.

To the forest, nonetheless, went all bodhisattvas,
all matchless beings on the way to awakening,

Who had known the taste of sensuality
and produced a son.

Thus did he who had heaped up ample karma,
even while the cause [of his awakening]
was a developing root,

Partake of sensual enjoyment
in the period before he took possession of awakening.

The 2nd canto,
titled “Exploring Within the Battlements,”
in an epic story of awakened action.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.56: Rooting Bodhisattva, Budding Root

      −−,−⏑−−⏑−− Mālinī
vanam-anupama-sattvā bodhisattvās-tu sarve
viṣaya-sukha-rasa-jñā jagmur-utpanna-putrāḥ |
     ⏑ −−,−⏑−−⏑−−
ata upacita-karmā rūḍha-mūle 'pi hetau
     ⏑ −−,−⏑−−⏑−−
sa ratim-upasiṣeve bodhim-āpan-na-yāvat || 2.56

iti buddha-carite mahā-kāvye 'ntaḥ-pura-vihāro nāma dvitīyaḥ sargaḥ || 2 ||

To the forest, nonetheless, went all bodhisattvas,
all matchless beings on the way to awakening,

Who had known the taste of sensuality 
and produced a son.

Thus did he who had heaped up ample karma, 
even while the cause [of his awakening] 
was a developing root,

Partake of sensual enjoyment,
in the period before he took possession of awakening.

The 2nd canto, 
titled “Exploring Within the Battlements,” 
in an epic story of awakened action.

Today's verse caused me to ask what a budding root might look like, and a google search led me to this image from a 19th-century periodical called Scientific American. The accompanying caption reads: Root-bud and frost-flower of the Cunila Mariana. A, the developing or budding root. B, the old stem of the previous year. C, the congealed vapour or hoarfrost, forming the first flower of various shapes.

The main point I take from today's verse is that going to the forest is not the fundamental cause of a bodhisattva's taking possession of awakening, i.e. attaining the truth, or realizing enlightenment. The fundamental cause is rather a bodhisattva's heaping up of good karma.

Partaking of sensual enjoyment was not necessarily part of that heaping up of good karma, but neither, evidently, did it kill the budding root.

Applying the principle of non-endgaining, in the light of today's verse, bodhisattvas whose end was awakening might understand that the intelligent course for a bodhisattva is not necessarily to hasten to some remote forest with a view to attaining enlightenment. The intelligent course might rather be just to continue heaping up whatever good karma can be salvaged out of the present moment – for example, by serving buddhas, with or without the tainted expectation that there might eventually be something in it for me.

Thus, what we have been exploring in Canto 2, within the battlements of King Śuddhodana's palace, is mainly cause and effect -- but not as a Buddhist teaching.

vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest
anupama-sattvāḥ (nom. pl. m.): matchless beings
an-upama: mfn. incomparable , matchless ; excellent , best
sattva: n. being , existence , entity , reality (īśvara-sattva, " the existence of a Supreme Being "); true essence , nature , disposition of mind , character ; m. embryo , fetus , rudiment of life
bodhisattvāḥ (nom. pl.): m. " one whose essence is awakening,” , one who is on the way to the attainment of perfect knowledge
tu: but
sarve (nom. pl. m.): mfn. all

viṣaya-sukha-rasa-jñāḥ (nom. pl. m.): knowing the taste of sensual pleasure
viṣaya-sukha: n. the pleasures of sense
rasa-jña: mfn. knowing tastes or the taste of , appreciative (gen. or comp.); familiar with; m. a poet or any writer who understands the rasas ; m. an alchemist who understands the magical properties of mercury
jagmur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. gam: to go
utpanna-putrāḥ (nom. pl. m.): having produced a son
utpanna: mfn. arisen , born , produced; come forth
ut- √ pad: to be born or produced

ataḥ: ind. from this, hence ; henceforth, from this or that cause or reason
upacita-karmā (nom. sg. m.): with his former acts being heaped up; being abundantly furnished with karma
upacita: mfn. heaped up , increased; thriving , increasing , prospering , succeeding; big, fat, thick; covered over , furnished abundantly , possessing plentifully
karman: n. action ; former act as leading to inevitable results ; office , special duty , occupation , obligation (frequently ifc. , the first member of the compound being either the person who performs the action [e.g. vaṇik-k°] or the person or thing for or towards whom the action is performed [e.g. rāja-k° , paśu-k°] or a specification of the action [e.g. śaurya-k° , prīti-k°]).
rūḍha-mūle (loc. sg.): of budded root
rūḍha: mfn. mounted , risen , ascended ; budded
mūla: n. root ; basis , foundation , cause , origin , commencement , beginning
api: even, although
hetau (loc. sg.): m. motive , cause

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
ratim (acc. sg.): f. pleasure , enjoyment , delight ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment ; the pudenda
upasiṣeve = 3rd pers. sg. perf. upa- √ sev: to frequent, visit; to stay with a person , attend on , serve , do homage , honour , worship ; to have sexual intercourse with (acc.) ; to practise , pursue , cultivate , study , make use of , be addicted to
bodhim (acc. sg.): m. awakening, enlightenment; m. " wakener " , a cock
āpat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist āp: to reach , overtake , meet with , fall upon; to obtain , gain , take possession of
na yāvat: while not, before, till

iti: thus
buddha-carite mahā-kāvye (loc. sg.): in the epic story of awakened action; in the great poem “Acts of the Buddha.”
antaḥ-purāṇi (acc. pl. n.): BC1.23 “royal householders”
antaḥ-pura: n. the king's palace , the female apartments , gynaeceum ; those who live in the female apartments ; a queen
antar: inside, internal
pura: n. a fortress , castle , city , town; the female apartments , gynaeceum ; a house , abode , residence , receptacle; an upper story ; a brothel
vihāra: m. walking for pleasure or amusement , wandering , roaming ; sport , play , pastime , diversion , enjoyment , pleasure (" in " or " with " comp. ; ifc. also = taking delight in) ; a place of recreation , pleasure-ground ; (with Buddhists or jainas) a monastery or temple (originally a hall where the monks met or walked about ; afterwards these halls were used as temples) ;
vi- √ hṛ: to roam , wander through (acc.) ; (esp.) to walk or roam about for pleasure , divert one's self
nāma: ind. by name
dvitīyaḥ sargaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the 2nd canto

過去菩薩王 其道雖深固
要習世榮樂 生子繼宗嗣
然後入山林 修行寂默道