Saturday, September 29, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.3: Thou Shalt Be Happy!

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
tato nṛpas-tasya niśamya bhāvaṁ putrābhidhānasya mano-rathasya |
snehasya lakṣmyā vayasaś-ca yogyām-ājñāpayām-āsa vihāra-yātrām || 3.3

Then the king, catching the gist

Of the prince's expression of his heart's desire,

Convened a procession,
commensurate with his affection and wealth,
and with a young man's energy --

The ruler of men decreed a pleasure outing.

Yesterday morning on the way to the Alexander training school which suffers us on Fridays, my wife and I chuckled at the under-developed sense of irony manifested by Hollywood screen goddess Goldie Hawn during her appearance on Desert Island Discs. Goldie, who I must admit retains a very feisty and young voice despite her advancing years, selected as one of her eight songs Let It Be, and deigned to interpret, for her BBC Radio audience in Britain and around the world, what the title of that Beatles song means. 

Come off it, Goldie! The great unwashed mass of British plebs were invaded by the Normans in 1066 and we have been learning to let it be ever since. If we hadn't spent the last thousand years letting it be, English would not be as rich a language as it is, and the Germano-Greek royal family whose head is nominally the ruler of these islands would all have had their heads chopped off long ago. Generally speaking we are a tolerant lot. But some of the less tolerant among us are liable to say to pontificators who think they know a thing or two about, say, morality, or mindfulness, or the Law of God: “Fuck off back to [Rome/Hollywood/Islaamabad/other].”

Could this tirade against a poor little innocent like Goldie, for having an underdeveloped sense of irony, be a manifestation of the mirror principle? If the cap fits, my grandma used to say, wear it.

When I went to bed last night the only thing I had in mind to comment on in today's verse was the three elements in the 3rd pāda, which seem to follow a certain order, namely: (1) something subjective (sneha; affection), (2) something objective (lakṣmī; wealth), and (3) something active (vayas; youthful energy).

Due to the resurfacing of my own Irony Deficit Disorder – the very IDD which tied me to a know-it-all named Gudo Nishijima for so many years – I totally failed to be hit by the fourth element in the series, as expressed in the punchline of the 4th pāda (ājñāpayām-āsa vihāra-yātrām; “he commanded a walking-for-pleasure procession,” “he decreed a pleasure outing”). 

The thing that saved me from my own chronic IDD, and finally allowed me to be hit by the punchline, was nothing but the lifeblood, by which I mean nothing but sitting.

I don't know how Goldie Hawn understands the mindfulness which she preaches, but in the sitting that I practice, on a good morning, like this fine sunny morning, there is a highly developed sense of irony.

At the root of this sense of irony is a truth that repeatedly obstructs a sitting practitioner who sincerely wishes to sit,  letting everything be, like Gautama Buddha under the bodhi tree – which is namely that the desire to go directly for that end is the very anti-thesis of letting it be.

In the end, what can I say?

Something within me wishes to conclude with these words:

A pint of Guiness and a big bag of fish and chips.

tataḥ: ind. then
nṛpaḥ (nom. sg.): m. “ruler of men,” king
tasya (gen. sg.): his, his son's
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
bhāvam (acc. sg.): m. true condition or state , truth , reality; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; purport , meaning , sense

putrābhidhānasya (gen. sg.): expressed by his son
putra: m. son
abhidhāna: n. telling , naming , speaking , speech , manifesting ; a name , title , appellation , expression , word
mano-rathasya (gen. sg.): m. (ifc. f(ā).) " heart's joy ", a wish , desire ; the heart compared to a car (ratha = chariot)

snehasya (gen. sg.): m. tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection
lakṣmyā (inst. sg.): f. good fortune , prosperity , success , happiness; wealth , riches ; beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre
vayasaḥ (gen. sg.): n. energy (both bodily and mental) , strength , health , vigour ; vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
ca: and
yogyām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. fit for the yoke; useful , serviceable , proper , fit or qualified for , able or equal to , capable of (gen. loc. dat. inf. with act. or pass. sense , or comp.)

ājñāpayām āsa = 3rd pers. sg. causative periphrastic perfect ā- √ jñā: to order , command , direct
vihāra-yātrām (acc. sg.): f. a pleasure excursion
vihāra: m. walking for pleasure or amusement , wandering , roaming
yātrā: f. going , setting off , journey , march , expedition ; a festive train , procession

父王聞太子 樂出彼園遊
即勅諸群臣 嚴飾備羽儀   


shubham bhavatu said...

भो मैक्-महोदय,
I'm reading this sarga with my students at the moment, so I thought I'd have a look at the resources available online. Hats of to you for all of the thought you've poured into these verses!

My 2 cents on this verse is that EHJ is correct to take पुत्राभिधानस्य as a बहुव्रीहि (पुत्रः इति अभिधानं यस्य तस्य, "of which the name is 'son'"): "Then the king learned of the state of that heart's desire, named son". It's the kind of metaphor Sanskrit mahākāvya delights in, and is germane to the context of bhāva—the state or feeling or (in this case, on the basis of the second verse) strong desire—of his son. On the other hand, I see no reason to follow EHJ (or Olivelle, following him) in dividing up the list coordinated by ca in pāda 3. Why not assume that the outing is to be suitable to Gautama's "kindness/tenderness, luxury (in which he's been reared) and age," all of which were highlighted in the preceding sarga? If you know of another place in the poem that divides up this group between father and son, I'd love to know of it.

Anyway, congratulations on completing your annotated translation and making it so easily accessible online. Best wishes,


Mike Cross said...

Thanks Guy. Good to hear from you.

Yes, those things seem obvious now you point them out.

It takes a certain effort not to follow, but to abandon, the wrong ideas of those who went before us -- august though those forebears may be -- and on this occasion I was too busy thinking of other things to make that necessary effort.

May you be blessed with students who point out your mistakes. And may they be blessed with a teacher who appreciates that therein lies a way forward (and back, to the original source).

Shubam bhavatu, indeed.
Let it be... beautiful.

shubham bhavatu said...

Agreed, we need both an unflagging gratitude for the vast learning and sacrifice in the name of knowledge on the part of the whole vast chain of teachers that have come before us, and yet also the bravery, once we've learned what we can from that tradition, to think things through for ourselves.

Thank you for that blessing! As my teacher said, "Good students produce good teachers." So if I'm not a good teacher by now, it's my own fault!