Friday, September 21, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.52: What a Patriarch Is Like

−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Buddhi)
tatjyāja śastraṁ vimamarṣa śāstraṁ samaṁ siṣeve niyamaṁ viṣehe
vaśīva kaṁ-cid-viṣayaṁ na bheje piteva sarvān-viṣayān dadarśa || 2.52

The hymn of praise he could set aside,
dogmatic scripture he could scarce abide --

He applied himself to equanimity,
and subjected himself to restraint.

Into any sensory realm, like a master, he did not slide. 

All realms, like a patriarch, he realized.

A verse like today's verse is always going to seem more worthwhile in its original Sanskrit, given the plays on śastraṁ (hymn of praise / weapon) and śāstraṁ (edict / sacred scripture / teaching); on siṣeve (applied himself) and viṣehe (subjected himself); on viṣayaṁ (sense object, sensuality, sensory domain) and viṣayān ([a king's] territories, dominions).

The 1st pāda belongs to the first of four phases because it concerns itself with religious matters -- but in a way that I take, again, to be subversive. People will say that my translation of the 1st pāda is “idiosyncratic.” But I am not the one who amended the original word in the old Nepalese manuscript, vimamarṣa (“he could hardly bear”) to vimamarśa (“he pondered”).

Taking śastraṁ to mean “weapon,” EBC translated He laid aside weapons and pondered the Śāstra;” EHJ likewise “He laid aside weapons, he pondered on the Śāstra;” and PO “He laid down the sword and mulled over texts.”

Laying aside weapons and reflecting on sacred texts is the kind of thing one would expect from a man like the King, as a pious man of pure karma (puṇya-karmā; 2.50). But today's verse as I read it is portraying the King in a different light, as one who was not always a pious religious type, but as one who, on a good day, could be more like an old Zen drill -- like, for example, the 6th patriarch in China, Daikan Eno. The 6th patriarch was formerly an illiterate woodcutter, who had never read a sacred text in his life, and who neither studied nor preached any religious dogma.

With his example in mind, then, I have taken śastraṁ to mean “hymn of praise” and left vimamarṣa unamended so that it means “he could barely abide [a sacred text / religious treatise / dogmatic scripture].”

Whether or not this reading of the 1st pāda is the reading that Aśvaghoṣa intended, or whether (which is more likely) Aśvaghoṣa was playing with the amibiguity of words and intended more than one meaning, the gist of the verse as whole is such that in the space of two verses King Śuddhodhana seems to have gone from being portrayed as a risible religious sap who is blind to cause and effect, to a paragon of the universal virtue to be realized via sitting-meditation. That is a sizeable leap to ask any reader or listener to make, but Aśvaghoṣa may have reasoned that having had more than 50 verses to sharpen up our critical faculties, we should be up to speed by now.

The 2nd pāda is not concerned either with affirmation or with negation of religious matters. It is concerned with equability/even-handedness/level-headedness, and restraint/inhibition as irreligious matters.

In the 3rd pāda, transcending the religious and the irreligious, Aśvaghoṣa expresses what it is in practice to be the master of oneself.

In the 4th pāda, what does it mean to see all realms piteva (= pitā + iva), “like a father”?

My first thought was that a father is one who is at least more experienced than a child, one who is therefore more informed by understanding that the world is impermanent, full of suffering, and not all about me. The 4th pāda, in that case, might be read as an expression of that mature but mundane practice which causes the tree of afflictions to shake:
For, on those grounds, on the grounds of impermanence and emptiness, on the grounds of absence of self, and of suffering, / He, by the most excellent among mundane paths, caused the tree of afflictions to shake. //SN 17.17 //
Digging deeper, and having just described 6th patriarch in China, Daikan Eno, as a patriarch, I think that pitā might be intended to suggest not any old father -- not any old ejaculator into a woman's vagina of his sperm -- but rather a forefather, that is, a Zen patriarch like Daikan Eno. The 6th patriarch in China, though he could not read the Lotus Sutra to save his life, was famous for having understood every word of it without even trying -- without pondering or mulling over a single sacred word.

What did a patriarch like Daikan Eno, together with a patriarch like Daiman Konin, understand?

Possibly something along these lines:

Desire, delusion, hatred,
All we think and feel:
Not a bit of it is sacred,
But everything is real.

The final word of today's verse, dadarśa, then, does not mean to see intellectually or to perceive through the visual sense.  Dadarśa might rather be intended to express a realization that is related with spontaneously becoming, while sitting on a round black cushion, all of a piece.

tatjyāja = 3rd pers. sg. perf. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to let go , dismiss , discharge; to give up , surrender , resign , part from , renounce ; to shun , avoid , get rid of , free one's self from (any passion &c ); to set aside, leave unnoticed , disregard
śastram (acc. sg.): (1) n. invocation , praise (applied to any hymn recited either audibly or inaudibly , as opp. to stoma , which is sung , but esp. the verses recited by the hotṛ and his assistant as an accompaniment to the grahas at the soma libation); (2) n. an instrument for cutting or wounding , knife , sword , dagger , any weapon
vimamarṣa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ mṛṣ : to be distressed , bear hardly
√ mṛṣ : to forget , neglect ; to disregard , not heed or mind , mind , bear patiently , put up with (acc.)
vimamarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ mṛś: (often confounded with vi- √mṛṣ) to touch (with the hands) , stroke , feel ; to touch (mentally) , be sensible or aware of , perceive , consider , reflect on , deliberate about ; to investigate , examine , try , test
śāstram (acc. sg.): n. an order , command , precept , rule ; teaching , instruction , direction , advice , good counsel; any instrument of teaching , any manual or compendium of rules , any bock or treatise , (esp.) any religious or scientific treatise , any sacred book or composition of divine authority; a body of teaching (in general) , scripture , science

samam (acc. sg.): n. equability , equanimity , imperturbability
śamam (acc. sg.): m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity , quietude ; peace
siṣeve = 3rd pers. sg. perf. sev: to remain or stay at , live in , frequent , haunt , inhabit , resort to (acc.) ; to devote or apply one's self to , cultivate , study , practise , use , employ , perform , do
niyamam (acc. sg.): m. restraining , checking , holding back ; any fixed rule or law , necessity , obligation
viṣehe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi + sah: to bear , withstand , resist ; to endure , suffer , put up with (acc.)

vaśī = nom. sg. vaśin: m. a ruler ; m. a sage with subdued passions ; mfn. having will or power , having authority , a ruler , lord; compliant , obedient ; master of one's self; having the mastery of one's passions
iva: like
kaṁ-cid: ind. any
viṣayam (acc. sg.): m. sphere (of influence or activity) , dominion , kingdom , territory , region , district , country , abode (pl. = lands , possessions); an object of sense ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
na: not
bheje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhaj: to obtain as one's share , receive as (two acc.) , partake of , enjoy (also carnally) , possess , have (acc.); to turn or resort to , engage in , assume (as a form) , put on (garments) , experience , incur , undergo , feel , go or fall into (with acc.)

pitā = nom. sg. pitṛ: m. father
iva: like
sarvān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. all
viṣayān (acc. sg.): m. sphere (of influence or activity) , dominion , kingdom , territory , region , district , country , abode (pl. = lands , possessions)
dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś: to see , behold , look at , regard , consider ; to see with the mind , learn , understand; to notice , care for , look into , try , examine

已樂智慧増 悟道弘正法
先勝名聞所 受行衆妙道
唯願令太子 愛子不捨家
一切諸國王 生子年尚小 

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