Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.43: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd) – Being Wrong

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Rāmā)
ārṣāṇy-acārīt-parama-vratāni vairāṇy-ahāsīc-cira-saṁbhtāni
yaśāṁsi cāpad-guṇa-gandhavanti rajāṁsy-ahārsīn-malinī-karāṇi || 2.43

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.

One way of reading this verse is to see the first three pādas as preparing the way for the punchline to be delivered in the fourth pāda – a 1-2-3 combination, followed by a knock-out blow.

The 1-2-3 combination can be seen as following the pattern of affirmation, negation, and action, that is to say, (1) affirmation of something affirmed in ancient Indian culture as having the highest value; (2) negation of something negative; and (3) celebration of actions achieved in the middle way.

The 4th pāda struck me when I read it as another expression of “looking the bugger in the eye” -- like babandha etān (holding those [transgressors] confined) in the previous verse.

This reading rests on an understanding of ahārsīt, from the root √hṛ, which I think Aśvaghoṣa may have intended – taking ahārsīt to be in the middle voice (ātmanepada). If somebody who knows Sanskrit grammar better than me lets me know that ahārsīt is not in fact in the middle voice then I will be left with egg on my face. If  ahārsīt  is not in the middle voice but in the active voice (parasmaipada), then EHJ's "swept away" would be a better translation: EHJ: “he swept away the dust of defiling passions.”

EBC and PO both seemed to take ahārsīt as equivalent to ahāsīt in the 2nd pāda, from the root √hā. Thus EBC: “he relinquished all passions involving defilement”; PO: “he abandoned passions that produce defilement.”

I think the 4th pāda becomes a veritable punchline only if we take √hṛ not in the sense of “remove, sweep away, get rid of,” but in the more real and meaningful sense of “to take to one's self, appropriate, come into possession of.”

When I first read today's verse, it actually struck me not as a 1-2-3 combination followed by a knock-out blow; it struck me as akin to three and a half feints and a knock-out blow. But yesterday when I came to write the above comment, I retreated from daring to give the impression that the first three lines were just ineffectual shams, so I compared them to a 1-2-3 combination rather than to feints. 

Digging deeper, however when I am devoting my energy to nothing but sitting, just in the moment of that sitting, what have the extreme practices of ancient Indian seers got to do with it? 
Absolutely nothing.

What have long-harboured hostilities got to do with it? 
Sweet f. a.

What have achievements in the world go to do with it? 
San fairy Ann. 

And what has my greed, anger and faulty sensory appreciation got to do with it? 
Everything -- because those guys are the raw material of my practice. Which is why a famous teacher of the FM Alexander Technique named Patrick Macdonald spoke of "Looking the bugger in the eye"; and which is why another famous teacher of the FM Alexander Technique named Marjory Barlow used to say that "Being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work." 

If I have understood today's verse as Aśvaghoṣa intended, that understanding stems from being constantly devoted to sitting; and equally it stems from the teaching of FM Alexander which is the most effective antidote I know, to the poison of trying to be right. 

ārṣāṇi (acc. pl. n.): mfn. relating or belonging to or derived from ṛṣis (i.e. the poets of the Vedic and other old hymns) ; n. the speech of a ṛṣi , the holy text , the vedas
acārīt = 3rd pers. sg. aorist √ car: to move oneself; to undertake , set about , under go , observe , practise , do or act in general
parama-vratāni (acc. pl. n.): highest/most severe/extreme practices
parama: mfn. most distant, extreme ; chief , highest , primary
vrata: sphere of action , function , mode or , manner of life (e.g. śuci-vrata, " pure manner of life " ), conduct , manner , usage , custom; a religious vow or practice ; any vow

vairāṇi (acc. pl.): n. enmity , hostility , animosity , grudge , quarrel or feud; mfn. hostile , inimical , revengeful
ahāsīt = 3rd pers. sg. aorist hā: to leave, quit ; to put away , take off , remove , lay aside , give up , renounce
cira-saṁbhṛtāni (acc. pl. n.): long-harboured
cira: mfn. long , lasting along time , existing from ancient times
sambhṛta: mfn. brought together , collected , assembled , accumulated , concentrated ; carried , borne (in the womb)

yaśāṁsi (acc. pl.): n. beautiful appearance; honour , glory , fame , renown
ca: and
āpat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist āp: to reach ; to obtain , gain , take possession of
guṇa-gandhavanti (acc. pl. n.): mfn. having the fragrance of (i.e. resembling) virtue ; merit-scented
guṇa: m. virtue, merit
gandhavat: mfn. endowed with fragrance , scented

rajāṁsi (acc. pl.): n. " coloured or dim space " ; impurity , dirt , dust , any small particle of matter ; the " darkening " quality , passion , emotion , affection
ahārsīt = 3rd pers. sg. aorist hṛ: to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob ; to shoot or cut or hew off , sever (the head or a limb) ; to remove , destroy , dispel , frustrate , annihilate ; to turn away , avert (the face) ; A1. (older and more correct than P.) , to take to one's self , appropriate (in a legitimate way) , come into possession of (acc.) , receive (as an heir) ; to master , overpower , subdue , conquer , win , win over (also by bribing)
malinī-karāṇi (acc. pl. n.): mfn. defiling; filth-making, soiling, tarnishing
malina: mfn. dirty , filthy , impure , soiled , tarnished (lit. and fig.)
kara: mfn. a doer , maker , causer , doing , making , causing , producing 

受學神仙道 滅除怨恚心
名徳普流聞 世間永消亡 

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