Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.27: Being Interested In Just That

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Haṁsī)
tataḥ kumāro jarayābhibhūtaṁ dṛṣṭvā narebhyaḥ pṛthag-ākṛtiṁ tam |
uvāca saṁgrāhakam-āgatāsthas-tatraiva niṣkampa-niviṣṭa-dṛṣṭiḥ || 3.27

And so the prince beheld that man defeated by old age,

Who was different in form to other men;

He quizzed the driver, 
being full of interest in that very state, 

Wherein he rested his eyes immovably. 

In the 1st pāda jarayābhibhūtam (“defeated by old age”) can be read as a generic expression of that state of decrepitude which is cited a classic example of suffering.

The 2nd pāda points to the salient external signs of the suffering of advanced old age -- white hair, sunken eyes, flaccid limbs, stooped posture, et cetera, as detailed in tomorrow's verse. 

The 3rd pāda reports the response of the prince, that is, how he was and what he did.

The 4th pāda can be read as extending the 3rd pāda in such a way as to bring the scene more vividly to life, suggesting just how full of interest the prince was – so interested that even while interrogating the driver, he kept his gaze fixed on the target of the old man's wizened form.

Digging deeper, we can read the 3rd and 4th pāda as suggestive of the state of being absorbed in sitting meditation, in which case the emphatic expression tatraiva (= tatra + eva) can be understood as meaning something along the lines of "being right in that zone." 

This post is late because I caught the 5.40 Eurostar from St Pancras this morning, and all was going swimmingly until the train from Paris broke down. After a three-hour delay and a cramped journey in a bus, and 12 miles of weary cycling followed by some fairly ropey sitting (though admittedly amid uplifting autumn scenery), I find myself now that night has fallen slumped before the computer and anything but in the zone. 

Perfunctory though the session was that I sat at dusk, as I intermittently let my drooping eyelids close, it did cause me to reflect that the 4th pāda, tatraiva niṣkampa-niviṣṭa-dṛṣṭiḥ, ("eyes resting immovably on that very object / in that very state of being here and now") might have been intended to allude to the condition of the eyes in sitting-Zen. 

As a provisional best effort to preserve some ambiguity, for the present I have translated tatraiva as "the other's state," i.e. the old man's state, thinking that if the verse is listened to in English rather than read, it will also sound like "the other state," i.e. that still-still state which I am not in now but which I hope to direct myself towards tomorrow. 

tataḥ: ind. from that, on that basis, thus
kumāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. the prince
jarayā (inst. sg.): f. aging, old age
abhibhūtam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. surpassed , defeated , subdued , humbled ; overcome , aggrieved , injured.

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see, behold
narebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): m. men
pṛthag-ākṛtim (acc. sg. m.): different in form, of a different species
pṛthak: ind. widely apart , separately , differently , singly ; (as a prep. with gen. or instr.) apart or separately or differently from
ākṛti: f. a constituent part ; form , figure , shape , appearance , aspect ; kind , species
tam (acc. sg. m.): him

uvāca = 3rd pers. pref. vac: to speak, say
saṁgrāhakam (acc. sg.): m. the one who holds (the reins) together ; driver, charioteer
saṁ- √ grah: to seize or hold together , take or lay hold of; grab , grasp , gripe , clasp , clench , snatch
grāhaka: mfn. one who seizes or takes captive
saṁgrāha: m. holding together , seizing , grasping , taking , reception , obtainment ; taking (in the sense of eating or drinking food , medicine &c ); collecting , gathering ; drawing together , making narrower
āgatāsthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. full of interest

tatra: ind. in that place, there; at that time, then; therein, thereon; in that state
eva: (emphatic)
niṣkampa-niviṣṭa-dṛṣṭiḥ (nom. sg. m.): with gaze immovably turned upon
niṣkampa: mfn. not shaking or tremulous , motionless , immovable
niviṣṭa: mfn. settled down , come to rest ; entered , penetrated into (also with antar) , lying or resting or sticking or staying in (loc. or comp.); turned to , intent upon (loc. or comp.)
dṛṣṭi: f. seeing , viewing , beholding; eye , look , glance

太子見老人 驚怪問御者


Mike Cross said...


"And so the prince beheld that man humbled by growing old..."

Mike Cross said...

And so the prince beheld that man
humbled by growing old,

Who was of an order different to other men;

He quizzed the driver,
being full of interest in that state,

In which sole direction he rested his eyes, immovably.