Sunday, September 2, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.33: Good Causes

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Haṁsī)
nṛpas-tu tasyaiva vivṛddhi-hetos-tad-bhāvinārthena ca codyamānaḥ
śame 'bhireme virarāma pāpād-bheje damaṁ saṁvibabhāja sādhūn || 2.33

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.

The content from here to the end of the canto (verse 2.56) is very similar to the content of the 2nd Canto of Saundara-nanda, titled “A Portrait of the King.”

That being so, today's verse, which introduces the new phase, might be an important one in signalling Aśvaghoṣa's intention.

In that light, I see the first significant phrase to consider, in the 1st pāda, is vivṛddhi-hetu, which means “having growth as a cause or motive.” The surface meaning is that the king's motive was to see his son grow, or get on in the world. At the same time, subliminally, the phrase might be intended to keep our attention focused on two elements that are central to this canto and to the teaching of the noble truths – namely (1) growth, and (2) causation.

Since causation and motivation in Sanskrit are expressed by the same word, hetu, the first two pādas are both about causation and about how the king was motivated, from inside and outside.

The point about causation might be that the Buddha, however, sparkling his nature, was also caused to be the Buddha through nurture, and especially the nurture received through the father who was so ambitious for his son.

The point about motivation might be that not only the king but everybody is motivated in those two ways, from inside and from outside, though different individuals lean one way or the other to different degrees. Hence:
There are understood to be two aspects to defilement; correspondingly, there are two approaches to purification: / In one with stronger motivation from within (hetu-balādhikasya), there is self-reliance; in one who assigns weight to conditions, there is outer-dependence. // SN5.16 // The one who is more strongly self-motivated (hetu-balādhikaḥ) loosens ties without even trying, on receipt of the slightest stimulus; / Whereas the one whose mind is led by circumstances struggles to find freedom, because of his dependence on others. // SN5.17 // And Nanda, whose mind was led by circumstances, became absorbed into whomever he depended on; / The Sage, therefore, made this effort in his case, wishing to lift him out of the mire of love. // SN5.18 //

The 3rd and 4th pādas are yet another expression of the fundamental principle which is brought out again and again in Aśvaghoṣa's portrait of the king in Saundara-nanda Canto 2. That principle, the starting point of the Buddha's teaching career, expressed as an imperative is: 
first, do no wrong

Expressed as a universal truth, a truth that is closely related to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the principle is that 
if we stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing tends to do itself. 

One doesn't have to be a follower of the Buddha to benefit from this truth: it is a universal truth, applicable to everybody. Aśvaghoṣa describes it in connection with King Śuddhodhana, a posh and religious person who came before the Buddha; but it is accessible equally to a bloke like me, a common and irreligious person who has followed after the Buddha.

If we stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing tends to do itself. 
In other words, as long as we refrain from doing evil, we can leave the good (sādhūn [acc. pl.]) to do itself.

And in that case, "the good"  might mean, for example, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the circulatory system, the autonomic nervous system, the unfathomable mechanisms of upright posture, and so on – not to mention grass and trees, and the moon and stars.

On the surface, saṁvibabhāja sādhūn seems to mean that the king gave gifts to good or virtuous men. Hence EBC/EHJ "[he] rewarded the good" and PO "[he] gave gifts to holy men." But if that were the only meaning, the phrase would not mean much. We are required to look for another meaning, below the surface.

By listing the three elements of (1) calmness/balance, (2) abstention from evil, (3) self-regulation and then (4?) a fourth element that on the surface doesn't seem to fit -- "rewarding the good" or "giving gifts to holy men" -- Aśvaghoṣa is inviting the imagination of the reader/listener to make a creative leap and connect with the most fundamental teaching of the Buddha, which is to control what is in our power to control, in terms of inhibiting wrong patterns of behaviour, and to allow (rather than trying to "do") the good. 

To be fair to Aśvaghoṣa, he is not asking for much of a leap, nor demanding very arduous digging – to mix my metaphors, it is as if Aśvaghoṣa has taken us to the edge of a children's sandpit where a golden coin is buried, and given us a plastic spade. And yet, however small the leap may be, however close to the surface the gold may be buried, it is obviously difficult for a person who has not struggled in his own sitting practice with the meaning of words like "let" and "allow" and "leave," to make that leap or to dig out that gold.

In order to understand what Aśvaghoṣa is really saying, below the surface, what is necessary above all is to have tasted for oneself the simplicity and yet ineffable difficulty of the teaching that was expressed in Chinese as

Not doing any evil,

Letting the good do itself.

The simplicity is in simply not doing; the difficulty is in the allowing, the letting, the leaving be.

Even on a glorious late summer's morning by the forest, it is not easy -- some little stimulus arises and the bad habits of a lifetime kick in (if indeed, they were not secretly operating already). 

nṛpaḥ (nom. sg.): m. 'ruler of men', king
tu: but
tasya (gen. sg.): his
eva (emphatic)
vivṛddhi-hetoḥ (gen. sg.): having his [son's] prosperity as his motive
vivṛddhi: f. growth , increase , augmentation , enlargement , furthering , promotion ; prosperity
hetu: m. motive, cause; ifc. = " having as a cause or motive " , " caused or effected or actuated or attracted or impelled by "

tad-bhāvinā (inst. sg. m.): about to be for him; predicted for him
bhāvin: about to be , future , imminent , predestined , inevitable ; (ifc.) being possessed of
arthena (inst. sg.): mn. aim , purpose
ca: and
codyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. passive cud: to impel , incite , animate

śame (loc. sg.): m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity ; peace
abhireme = 3rd pers. sg. perf. abhi- √ ram: to dwell, repose, delight in
virarāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ ram : to stop (esp. speaking) , pause , cease , come to an end ; to give up , abandon , abstain or desist from (abl.)
pāpāt (abl. sg.): n. evil , misfortune , ill-luck , trouble , mischief, harm ; n. sin , vice , crime , guilt

bheje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhaj: to obtain as one's share , receive as (two acc.) , partake of , enjoy (also carnally) , possess , have ; to turn or resort to , engage in , assume (as a form) , put on (garments) , experience , incur , undergo , feel , go or fall into
damam (acc. sg.) m. taming; self-command , self-restraint , self-control
saṁvibabhāja = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ-vi- √ bhaj: to divide , separate ; give a share or portion to , distribute , apportion , share with ; to furnish or provide or present with (instr.)
sādhūn (acc. pl.): m. a good or virtuous or honest man; a holy man, saint; mfn. straight, right, good

父王爲太子 靜居修純徳
仁慈正法化 親賢遠惡友

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