Saturday, September 8, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.39: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd) – Staying Back in One's Back

−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Māyā)
iṣṭeṣv-aniṣṭeṣu ca kārya-vatsu na rāga-doṣāśrayatāṁ prapede
śivaṁ siṣeve 'vyavahāra-labdham yajñaṁ hi mene na tathā yathāvat || 2.39

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.

As I read them the first two pādas mean, in other words, “When there were ends to be gained, agreeable or disagreeable, he did not rely on end-gaining and faulty sensory appreciation.” This is pure Alexander. At the same time, it is the essence of Zen.

The second half of the verse, as I read it, is a natural extension of the first half, because blind devotion to an end, such that faulty sensory appreciation is brought into play, invariably involves sacrificing something of one's own integrity – centred on one's use of the head, the spine, and the rest of the back. Whereas inhibiting the end-gaining desire that triggers faults into action, and thereby dwelling in the benign state of psycho-physical integrity, might be the most valuable thing there is.

Today's verse as I read it, thus expresses something very simple: inhibition of end-gaining, or in Alexander jargon “staying back in one's back.” And in the interests of simplicity, I would like to leave it there.

But I should have learned by now that translating Aśvaghoṣa is never so simple, firstly because of the ambiguity and irony inherent in almost every line, and secondly because of uncertainties surrounding how to read the original Sanskrit text in the first place.

The ambiguity inherent in today's verse centres on vyavahāra, which has many possible meanings. The first definition given in the dictionary is simply “doing,” reflecting the derivation of vyavahāra from the verb vy-ava-√hṛ which has a connotation of “be active” or “get busy.” So the 3rd pāda might be translated “He dwelt in the benign state which is realized without doing.”

At the same time, the first definitions given for vy-ava-√hṛ are “to exchange,” and “to meet as foes,” and a specific meaning is “to carry on legal proceedings, to litigate.” Vyavahāra can therefore mean legal contest, litigation, lawsuit, legal process, or practices of law and kingly government. With the latter meaning, vyavahāra is used to describe the king in SN2.7:
Due to his good governance (su-vyavahārāt), and under his protection, his subjects rested at ease, / Free from anxiety, as if in a father's lap. // SN2.7 //
Vyavahāriṇaḥ is also used in SN5.1 to mean "traders."

Again, in SN18.19, Nanda uses vyavahāra in the sense of “ordinary [busy] life” or “the daily round”:
In the daily round of dharma-practice (vyavahāra-dharme) since I am neither certain about nor bound in mind to visual, auditory and other kinds of perception, / And since through that dharma-round I am graced by trailing equanimity, on that account I am detached and am free." // SN18.19 //
There is enough evidence in Saundara-nanda, therefore, to support the understanding that the 3rd pāda of today's verse describes the king as dwelling, like a Zen master, in the benign state realized "without doing" – i.e. without fuss, without busy doing, without busy [self-]governance.

This is what I think the verse really means. Left to my own devices, I would not have seen any other meaning. But there clearly is another meaning that people who translated the verse before me evidently did see, based on the understanding that vyavahāra means litigation – in which case the natural translation of kārya-vatsu in the 1st pāda is not "things which required to be done" (EBC) or "things/ends calling for action" (MC) so much as "people requiring things to be done" or "people with an agenda" or "people with a lawsuit," i.e. "petititoners" (EHJ) or "litigants" (PO). (That does raise a question, however, as to how such litigants with an agenda might have been seen as something agreeable, pleasant or good.)

Again, rāga-doṣa (lit. “redness and faults”), which I have understood to express the toxic combination of eager desire to gain an end, and faulty sensory appreciation (“raw desire and faults”), the three previous translators have all understood to mean desire/love and the fault which is its opposite, that is, dislike/hate/malevolence (EBC: “desire or dislike”; EHJ: “feelings of partiality or the reverse”; PO: “love or hate”).

As far as textual uncertainties go, my version of the Sanskrit text is the same as that published by EB Cowell back in 1890-something.

EBC slightly muddied the waters by adding in a footnote that, “Professor Max Müller would read vyavahāra-labdham, ‘all bliss which could be obtained in the lower or vyāvahārika sphere’.”

EH Johnston amended the text in three ways: (1) he followed Max Müller in reading vyavahāra (as opposed to a-vyavahāra); (2) he amended vyavahāra-labdham to vyavahāra-śuddham (EHJ: “purity of justice”; PO: “honesty in court”); and (3) in accordance with the conjecture of another scholar named Formichi, EHJ amended yathāvat to yathā tat.

P Olivelle accepted all three of EHJ's textual emendations.

With all the above explanations in mind, each of the following translations – though they may at first glance appear to be of a different verse than the one translated above by me – makes sense in its own way.

In things which required to be done, whether they were pleasant or disagreeable (iṣṭeṣv-aniṣṭeṣu ca kārya-vatsu), he found no reason either for desire or dislike (na rāga-doṣāśrayatāṁ prapede); he pursued the advantageous which could be attained without litigation (śivaṁ siṣeve 'vyavahāra-labdham); he did not so highly value sacrifice (yajñaṁ hi mene na tathā yathāvat).”

“He gave no opening to feelings of partiality of the reverse (na rāga-doṣāśrayatāṁ prapede), according as he liked or disliked his petitioners (iṣṭeṣv-aniṣṭeṣu ca kārya-vatsu), and observed purity of justice as being holy (śivaṁ siṣeve vyavahāra-śuddham); for he did not esteem sacrifice to be so in the same degree (yajñaṁ hi mene na tathā yathā tat).”

“Towards litigants, whether friend or foe (iṣṭeṣv-aniṣṭeṣu ca kārya-vatsu), he never displayed either love or hate (na rāga-doṣāśrayatāṁ prapede); honesty in court he practised as a sacred act (śivaṁ siṣeve vyavahāra-śuddham); for he deemed it better than a sacrificial rite (yajñaṁ hi mene na tathā yathā tat).”

In taking doṣa in the 2nd pada to equal dveṣa, hate or dislike, EHJ further muddied the waters, and weakened his own argument, with a footnote to the effect that doṣa is also used to mean  dveṣa  (hate/malevolence) in SN16.22. This citation does not stand up to scrutiny. In fact SN16.22 is missing from the palm-leaf manuscript of Saundara-nanda, and the paper manuscript has roṣādhike janmani tīvra-roṣa (“In a life dominated by anger arises violent anger”). EHJ amended this to doṣādhike janmani tīvra-doṣa, and then took doṣa to equal dveṣa (hatred/malevolence), so that his translation was: “In the (new) birth of one addicted to malevolence extreme malevolence is developed.”

Do you see what EHJ did here? He amended the text of Saundara-nanda for no good reason, and then cited his own wrong amendment in support of taking doṣa (“faults”) in today's verse to mean  dveṣa  (hatred -- the reverse of partiality). Such scholarly busy-ness is ironic, isn't it, if what Aśvaghoṣa is really pointing to in today's verse is a condition of simplicity, a state without undue fussing about?

That EHJ amended the text of SN16.22 for no good reason was confirmed by the publication in 1988 of a German paper by Jens-Ewe Hartmann titled “Neue Aśvaghoṣa- und Mātṛceṭa Fragmente aus Ostturkistan.” The  Fragmente referred to in the title was the fragment of an early palm-leaf manuscript of about the 2nd or 3rd century CE written in an Indian Kushan script but found in Sorcuq, in China.  Sorcuq is on the ancient Northern Silk Road near the oasis of Turfan in the sparsely populated Xinjiang, formerly known as Chinese Turkestan. It sort of makes you want to put on a pair of desert boots, pack a ruck-sack and an Indiana Jones-style hat, and get on a plane, doesn't it? What other precious fragments might be lying in the sparsely populated dust of Xinjiang? Anyway, Hartmann's fragment has bits of the 13 verses from 16.21c to 16.33a of EHJ's edition, including the relevant section of SN16.22. And guess what? Hartmann's fragment confirms the paper manuscript's reading of roṣādhike janmani tīvra-roṣa. So EHJ needn't have bothered, after all, to amend  roṣa to doṣa

In conclusion, the real aim of today's verse is to point to a condition of non-doing, a condition of ultimate simplicity in which the right thing is being allowed to do itself, with no sacrifice to the integrity of the allower. That much I feel sure about.

Was it Aśvaghoṣa's intention to hide this meaning behind a facade of describing practices of law and kingly government, which the king valued more than he valued sacrificial worship? Such a combination of surface and buried meaning would be Aśvaghoṣa's usual modus operandi, and if that was Aśvaghoṣa's intention, then I am indebted to the previous translators for picking up on a meaning that I honestly would not have noticed.

Nevertheless, I haven't accepted EHJ's amendments, and even if Aśvaghoṣa did intend with vyavahāra to allude to practices of law and kingly government, I have decided on this occasion to ignore the surface meaning in translation. I have chosen instead to consider any such surface meaning in excruciating detail in this comment – in the spirit of fighting scholarly fire with scholarly fire.

In so doing, I have now thoroughly bored even myself. In endeavouring to point to the simplicity of non-doing, a condition without fuss, which has nothing to do with litigation in court, I seem to have set out a convoluted case for the prosecution. The ironic twists never cease. To any reader who has managed to stay with this comment this far, well-done and thank you!

From Monday, when I head off back, somewhat reluctantly, to England, this phase of writing mammoth comments is likely to come to an end. (The sofa and TV remote beckon.)

iṣṭeṣu (loc. pl. m./n.): mfn. sought, wished, liked, agreeable ; regarded as good , approved ; n. wish , desire ; n. sacrificing , sacrifice; n. sacred rite , sacrament
aniṣṭeṣu (loc. pl. m./n.): mfn. unwished , undesirable , disadvantageous , unfavourable ; n. bad , wrong , evil , ominous
ca: and
kārya-vatsu = loc. pl. m./n.:
people having an agenda
kārya-vat: mfn. having any business or duty , engaged in a business; having a cause or motive ; pursuing a certain purpose ; the state of being engaged in a work
kārya: n. work or business to be done , duty , affair ; n. a religious action or performance; n. occupation , matter , thing , enterprise , emergency , occurrence , crisis ; n. lawsuit, dispute
-vat: (possessive suffix)

na: not
rāga-doṣāśrayatām (acc. sg. f.): dependence on redness and faults
rāga: m, colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness; colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love ; affection or sympathy for , vehement desire of , interest or joy or delight in (loc. or comp.)
doṣa: (1) m. evening , darkness ; (2) m. fault , vice , deficiency , want , inconvenience , disadvantage ; badness , wickedness , sinfulness
āśraya: mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with
-tā: (feminine abstract noun suffix)
prapede = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra- √ pad: to throw one's self down (at a person's feet); to go forwards set out for , resort to , arrive at , attain , enter ; to come to a partic. state or condition , incur , undergo (acc.)

śivam (acc. sg.): m. happiness , welfare; liberation , final emancipation ; n. welfare , prosperity , bliss ; mfn. auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent ;
siṣeve = 3rd pers. sg. perf. sev: to remain or stay at , live in , frequent , haunt , inhabit , resort to (acc.) ; to serve , wait or attend upon , honour , obey , worship ; to devote or apply one's self to , cultivate , study , practise , use , employ , perform , do ; to exist or be found in anything (acc.)
avyavahāra-labdham (acc. sg. n.): realized without doing, without a performance, without fuss
labdha: mfn. taken , seized , caught , met with , found &c ; got at, arrived (as a moment)
labh: to take , seize , catch ; catch sight of , meet with , find ; to gain possession of , obtain , receive , conceive , get ; to gain the power of (doing anything) , succeed in ; to possess , have ; to perceive , know , understand , learn , find out
vyavahāra: m. doing , performing , action , practice , conduct , behaviour ; affair , matter ; activity , action or practice of occupation or business with (loc. or comp.) ; mercantile transaction , traffic , trade with , dealing in (comp.) ; legal procedure , contest at law with (saha) , litigation , lawsuit , legal process ; practices of law and kingly government
vy-ava-√hṛ: to transpose , exchange ; to meet (as foes) , fight with ; to act , proceed , behave towards or deal with (loc.) ; to be active or busy , work ; to carry on commerce , trade , deal in ; to carry on legal proceedings , litigate
vyavahāra-śuddham (acc. sgn. n.): free from fuss, free from wheeling and dealing
śuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear , free from (with instr.) , bright , white; n. anything pure &c

yajñam (acc. sg.): m. worship , devotion , prayer , praise ; act of worship or devotion , offering , oblation , sacrifice (the former meanings prevailing in veda , the latter in post-Vedic literature
yaj: to worship , adore , honour (esp. with sacrifice or oblations)
hi: for
mene = 3rd pers. sg. perf. man: to think, deem ; to regard or consider any one or anything (acc.) as (acc. with or without iva , or adv. , often in -vat ; in later language also dat. , to express contempt [cf. Pa1n2. 2-3 , 17] , e.g. g. rājyaṁ tṛṇaya manye , " I value empire at a straw " i.e. I make light of it = laghu √ man , and opp. to bahu , or sādhu √ man , to think much or well of , praise , approve)
na: not
tathā: ind. so, in that way
yathāvat: ind. duly , properly , rightly , suitably , exactly ; as , like (= yathā)
yathā: ind. as, accordingly
tat (acc. sg. n.): that

以有慚愧故 不能如實説
於愛不愛事 不依貪恚想  

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