Monday, September 3, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.34: Transcendent (Non-Buddhist) Virtues

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Vāṇī)
nādhīravat kāma-sukhe sasañje na saṁrarañje viṣamaṁ jananyām
dhṛtyendriyāśvāṁś-capalān vijigye bandhūṁś-ca paurāṁś-ca guṇair-jigāya || 2.34

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.

The trickiest word to translate in today's verse is janayām (locative singular of jananī;   MW: “mother”) in the 2nd pāda. EBC asked in a footnote to his translation, Can jananī mean mātṛgrāma? EHJ noted that the Tibetan translation showed EBC's reading of the 2nd pāda to be correct, and he accepted that jananī was indeed a synonym for mātṛgrāma – “the aggregate of mother”; i.e. the female sex. Hence EHJ translated jananī simply as “women” (“he cherished no improper passion for women”).

Jananī literally means, however, “the [female] one who generates,” and EBC partially reflected this sense when he translated the 2nd pāda “he felt no violent delight in any state of birth.”

I think Aśvaghoṣa's intention was indeed to express “a woman,” but to do so in a way that befitted the 2nd of four pādas – that is, in a cynical way. The cynicism, it should be emphasized, is not cynicism with regard to that half of the human species who are women; it is cynicism with regard to ideas and expectations that the male half brings – whether those ideas and expectations be romantic and optimistic, as in the case of a bloke who has fallen in love (or “into love” as Gudo Nishijima would say), or whether those ideas and expectations be misogynist and pessimistic, as in the case of the misogynist striver in Saundara-nanda. In the same way that the calm water of an empty swimming pool represents no danger to a nervous swimmer unless he reacts emotionally to it, a woman is a woman. She only becomes an agent of rebirth when a bloke becomes unduly enamoured with her; or, subsequently and consequently, when such a bloke becomes unreasonably disappointed with her.

The 3rd pāda brings our attention back to dhṛti, constancy, as the means of taming the restless horses of the senses. BC2.23 also gives pride of place to constancy, and I finished my comment to that post by asserting that “constancy, like a trickle of water slowly drilling through rock, comes from regular sitting in lotus” – one of my better concluding remarks. Another metaphor for constancy, a metaphor that I heard recently is favoured by the US Marine Corps, is the bulldog spirit. A shortcoming of the bulldog, however, might be the difficulty he has in letting go. (I know whereof I speak.) So a trickle of water that keeps on flowing might be a better metaphor to keep in mind – that is, it might be a better subject/object/cause/stimulus (nimitta) – for a person whose aim is to understand the four noble truths and to prevail over anger and other mental pollutants, using the means of growing the mind (bhāvanā)...
Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning, while getting to know the four as one, / He prevails over all pollutants, by the means of mental development (bhāvanayā) and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming. // SN16.5 //

The point of the 4th pāda as I read it is that the king's virtues were universal. Some things that are seen as virtues in one culture are seen as faults in another – like for instance being full of your own bright ideas in a school classroom (a virtue where I went to school in England) vs being like a blank slate (a virtue in classes I didn't enjoy teaching while working as an English teacher in Japan). But (1) wimpish clinging to sensual pleasures, (2) dependently getting caught in a cycle of unhealthy habits, and (3) being a fickle slave to deluded feelings, in a manner unbefitting a British bulldog or a US Marine, are not virtues anywhere. Conversely, (1) resolutely not clinging, (2) autonomy, and (3) constancy in the fight against enslavement to deluded feelings, might be virtues everywhere.

The point of the 4th pāda is, then, that when the non-Buddhist king surpassed others by his virtues, because those virtues were universal, his superiority over others had nothing to do with his high birth -- and at the same time it had nothing to do with the kind of inverted snobbery of which certain brahmin-hating British blokes are frequently guilty. Chippy bastards.

na: not
adhīravat: like one deficient in self-control, like an irresolute man
adhīra: mfn. deficient in calm self-command, exciteable, capricious, weak-minded
dhīra: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
-vat: an affix added to words to imply likeness or resemblance , and generally translatable by " as " , " like "
kāma-sukhe (loc. sg.): sensual pleasure
sasañje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. sañj: to cling or stick or adhere to , be attached to or engaged in or occupied with (loc.)

na: not
saṁrarañje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ- √ rañj: to be dyed or coloured , become red ; to be affected with any passion
viṣamam: ind. unequally , unfairly
viṣama: mfn. uneven , rugged , rough ; unequal , irregular , dissimilar , different , inconstant ; unsuitable , wrong; unfair , dishonest , partial
jananyām = loc. sg. f. janana: mfn. ifc. generating , begetting , producing , causing ; n. birth , coming into existence;
jananī: f. a mother
mātṛgrāma: m. " the aggregate of mother " , the female sex ; any woman

dhṛtyā (inst. sg.): f. holding, firmness , constancy , resolution , will ,
indriyāśvān (acc. pl. m.): the horses of the senses
indriya: n. power , force , the quality which belongs especially to the mighty indra ; bodily power, power of the senses; organ of sense, sense
aśva: m. horse
capalān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering ; wanton , fickle , inconstant
vijigye = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ ji: to conquer , win or acquire by conquest ; to vanquish , defeat , subdue , overpower , master , control

bandhūn (acc. pl.): m. connection , relation ; a kinsman (esp. on the mother's side) , relative
ca: and
paurān (acc. pl.): m. a townsman , citizen (opp. to jānapada)
ca: and
guṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
jigāya = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ji: to win or acquire (by conquest or in gambling) , conquer (in battle) , vanquish (in a game or lawsuit) , defeat , excel , surpass

心不染恩愛 於欲起毒想
攝情撿諸根 滅除輕躁意  

No comments: