Tuesday, September 11, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.42 Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd) – Neither Killing Nor Absolving Criminals

−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Haṁsī)
ktāgaso 'pi pratipādya vadhyān-nājīghanan-nāpi ruṣā dadarśa
babandha sāntvena phalena caitāṁs-tyāgo 'pi teṣāṁ hy-anayāya-dṣṭaḥ || 2.42

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.

Investigating unenlightened responses to past mistakes, primarily in the laboratory of my own mind, I observe in the first instance a tendency to beat myself up over them. The opposite tendency, on the other side of the middle way, is to forget all about them, to absolve myself from them, to think that I might have got away scot free – a tendency which is generally a precursor to moaning minnie thoughts along the lines of “Why me?” or “It's not fair.”

The king is portrayed in today's verse, as I read it, as not exhibiting either of these unenlightened tendencies.

Once again, then, today's verse on the surface relates to how King Śuddhodhana ruled his kingdom, whereas the real intention is to presage later cantos by suggesting how a buddha regulates himself.

The suggestion, as I read it, is that in dealing with wrong – even the most serious of sins or mistakes -- acceptance is the primary virtue. Acceptance means, in other words, seeing the wrongness as it is, not reacting to it by trying to get rid of it, or starting a war on it, a la George W. Bush, but rather “looking the bugger in the eye.” “He looked the bugger in the eye” might be another way of saying, as per yesterday's verse, prāpa tri-vargaṁ bubudhe tri-vargam, “he experienced the three and he minded the three.”

If such thoughts around acceptance seem to belong to a world that is too good to be true, they are balanced by the second half of today's verse, which seems to me  to have a bit of subversive humour about it.

A sketch show called “Not the Nine O' Clock News” years ago came up with a memorable parody of earnest do-gooders discussing why young hooligans behaved as they did. With outpourings of compassion and understanding, an eminent academic and a down-with-the-kids social worker put the blame on everything except the individual young person himself. Then, as the sketch came to its humorous denouement and the earnest sociologists passed from the analytic to the prescriptive stage of their arguments, they reasoned that the only enlightened policy would be to cut the litte buggers' goolies off.

The serious point might be that acceptance of the self, which is one side of the samādhi of accepting and using the self discussed yesterday, does not mean turning a blind eye to one's past mistakes. The kind of acceptance Aśvaghoṣa is pointing to in today's verse, in other words, is the sort of tough love which belongs neither to the political left nor to the political right, neither to liberals nor to conservatives – and which at the same time, at the level of the individual practitioner, is neither too lax nor too tight.

The title of this canto, which I intend to translate as “Exploring Within the Battlements,” seems to mean “Life in the Palace,” but I think what Aśvaghoṣa really had in mind was to explore some workings of cause and effect. Read in that light, today's verse really has less to do with realism in a king's administration of criminal justice than it has to do with the reality of a beggar's practice of yoga, in which, Because of the instinct-led accumulation, from time without beginning, of the powerful mass of afflictions, / And because true practice is so difficult to do, the faults cannot be cut off all at once. // SN16.71 //

kṛtāgasaḥ (acc. pl. m.): mfn. one who has committed an offence , criminal , sinful
āgas: n. transgression , offence , injury , sin , fault
api: even
pratipādya = abs. causative prati- √ pad: to establish , substantiate , prove ; to deem , consider , regard as (2 acc.)
vadhyān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. to be slain or killed , to be capitally punished , to be corporally chastised (cf. under vadha) , sentenced , a criminal

na: not
ajīghanat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist han: to put to death , cause to be executed
na: not
api: even
ruṣā (inst. sg.): f. anger , wrath , rage , fury , passion
dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś: to see

babandha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bandh: to bind , tie , fix , fasten , chain , fetter ; to hold captive ; to punish , chastise
sāntvena (inst. sg. n.): n. (sg. and pl.) consolation , conciliation , mild or gentle language or words ; mfn. mild , gentle
phalena (inst. sg.): n. fruit (esp. of trees) ; fruit (met.) , consequence , effect , result , retribution (good or bad) , gain or loss , reward or punishment
ca: and
etān (acc. pl. m.): them, those guys

tyāgaḥ (nom. sg.): m. leaving, discharging
api: also
teṣām (gen. sg. m.): of them, of those guys
hi: for
anayāya = dat. sg. (1) a-naya: m. bad management ; bad conduct (gambling , &c ); (2) an-aya: m. evil course , ill luck ; misfortune , adversity
dṛṣṭaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. seen; considered , regarded ; visible , apparent ; understood, known

求情得其罪 應死垂仁恕
務施以財物 指授資生路 

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