Saturday, October 27, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.31: Developmental Milestones



−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
pītaṁ hy-anenāpi payaḥ śiśutve kālena bhūyaḥ parisarpam-urvyām |
⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−
krameṇa bhūtvā ca yuvā vapuṣmān krameṇa tenaiva jarām-upetaḥ || 3.31

3.31
For even such a man sucked milk in infancy

And, in the course of time, again
he went on hands and knees upon the earth;

Having thus become, step by step, an adult in possession of his body,

By that same process, step by step, he has realized old age.”

COMMENT:
EHJ noted that kālena bhūyaḥ (“in the course of time, again”) is clumsy and there is much to be said for following Gawronski's suggested amendment from kālena (“in the course of time”) to bālena (“during childhood”), so as to balance śiśutve (“in infancy”) and yuvā (“as a young man/adult”).

I disagree with EHJ and Gawronski on this point, because whereas the 2nd pāda ostensibly describes something happening during childhood, I think the real meaning relates to going on hands and knees as a movement with developmental significance that can be beneficially performed not only by children but also by adults.

If kālena needed to be amended, I would think that another krameṇa (“step by step”) would be a better option, because Aśvaghoṣa is clearly intending to emphasize a process of growth that precedes in gradual stages, step by step. 

More serious textual uncertainty attaches to the word I have taken in the 2nd pāda to be parisarpam, which the MW dictionary gives as an indeclinable participle (i.e. an -am form gerund) from pari-√sṛp, to crawl. The old Nepalese manuscript has the impossible parisṛṣṭam, which Amṛtananda presumably amended to parimṛṣṭam (hence, EBC has parimṛṣṭam, “groped” – “and in course of time he learned to grope on the ground”). EHJ amended to parisṛpṭam (“crawled”) based on Bohtlingk's conjecture. I cannot understand the grammar of EHJ's amendment – which is not to say that the grammar is wrong, only that I cannot understand it. (EHJ's amendment to parisṛpṭam seems to me to require a kṛtam, indicating that crawling was done by him, in the same way that milk was sucked by him.) CSL has parisṛṭam, which does not fit the Upajāti metre, but PO translated as “crawled” (parisṛpṭam).

Taking parisarpam as a gerund/absolutive fits with my reading of the hidden meaning of the verse, which is that going on hands and knees, whether as a crawling child or as a bowing adult, is a natural developmental precursor to assuming a mature adult form – a mature adult form being a fully upright condition which is not impeded by the action of immature primitive reflexes like the STNR (symmetrical tonic neck reflex).

In this reading, jarā, “old age,” suggests not so much a condition of decrepitude or demented senility as a condition of true maturity like a ripe fruit or a withered tree.

The real point of today's verse, then, as I read it, is to test our ability to drop off a one-sided view of the terror of aging.

When Marjory Barlow got too old to live on her own, she went quietly to live with her son and daughter-in-law, at whose house I visited her just the once. During this visit I asked Marjory if she was happy in her old age. “Oh yes!” she replied feistily, “Happier than I have ever been!” This was despite the fact that her short-term memory had become very poor, and she was, in her own words, “as deaf as a post.” “When you get old,” Marjory expanded, “you don't worry any more about the things you used to worry about.”

The existence of people like Marjory, who seem to falsify the “old age is a disaster” hypothesis, was surely not lost on Aśvaghoṣa. But not everybody is like Marjory. Marjory in her old age had become Marjory in her old age step by step, as a result of a very gradual developmental process.

And when I think of the human developmental process (I sense readers of this blog rolling their eyes and thinking “here he goes again”), I cannot help coming back to the importance of primitive reflexes, among the earliest of which are the sucking and rooting reflexes, which, all being well, are fully present at a baby's birth. At somewhere between 6 and 9 months the baby, all being well, starts to go on its hands and knees in the gradual, step by step process of inhibition of primitive reflexes and stimulation of postural reflexes. This process, by the way, can be recapitulated at any age – for example, by going on hands and knees and bowing, and by practising what in Alexander work is called “standing in monkey.” By such means, step by step, reflexes may become fully mature (or may not as the case may be – as evidenced by my own example), and a human being may truly come into possession of his or her own body. And by such means, today's verse seems to me to suggest, step by step, such a human being can go on developing, onward and upward, into his old age.

So the hidden meaning of today's verse, as I read it, is related with what in Chinese Zen was celebrated as 仏 向上 事 (Jap: BUTSU KOJO NO JI), “the matter of a buddha keeping going on up.”



VOCABULARY
pītam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. drunk , sucked , sipped , quaffed , imbibed
hi: for
anena (inst. sg.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
api: also
payaḥ (acc. sg.): n. ( √pī, to drink) any fluid or juice , (esp.) milk , water , rain
śiśutve (loc. sg.): n. childhood , childishness
śiśu: m. (fr. śū, to swell , grow , increase) a child , infant

kālena: ind (inst. sg.) in the course of time
bālena (inst. sg.): m. a child , boy (esp. one under 5 years)
bhūyaḥ: ind. more , most , very much , exceedingly; still more , moreover , besides , further on ; once more, again, anew
parisṛptam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. crawling
parisarpam = ind. p. pari- √ sṛp: to move round about or to and fro , hover ; to creep or crawl upon
pari- √ mṛś: to touch , grasp , seize ; to examine , consider , inquire into
urvyām (loc. sg.): f. the earth

krameṇa: ind. (inst. sg.) in regular course , gradually , by degrees , step by step
bhūtvā = abs. bhū: to be, become (with nom.)
ca: and
yuvā (nom. sg.): m. a youth , young man ; young , youthful , adult (applied to men and animals) , strong , good , healthy
vapuṣ-mān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a body ; having a beautiful form , handsome
vapus: n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty; n. the body

krameṇa: ind. (inst. sg.) in regular course , gradually , by degrees , step by step
tena: ind. (inst. sg.) in that manner, by that process
eva: (emphatic)
jarām (acc. sg.): f. old age
upetaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. arrived at, reached

此本爲嬰兒 長養於母乳
及童子嬉遊 端正恣五欲

年逝形枯朽 今爲老所壞 

5 comments:

jiblet said...

Hi Mike,

About your problem with the grammar of EHJ's amendment:

pītaṁ hy-anenāpi payaḥ śiśutve kālena bhūyaḥ parisṛpṭam-urvyām

I'm not sure what you mean when you say 'parisṛpṭam seems to require a kṛtam...' Regardless, for me the pada works if parisṛpṭam is read as an example of the impersonal use of the ppp (in the acc), with the agent in the instrumental. So, read with anena from the first pada:

*Again, in the course of time, it was crawled by him (anena) on the ground* = 'Again, in the course of time he crawled on the ground'.

What do you think?

Malcolm

jiblet said...

Edit:

All as before, except -

"...impersonal use of the ppp (neuter nom)..."

- I think.

How's that?!

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Malcom,

Since you ask "How's that?" my response is to spend a few moments staring immovably at the target before raising the right index finger and dispatching parisarpam to the pavillion.

In due course, I shall change the text back to parisṛptam as per EHJ, and shall change the translation, for the present to:

For even such a man sucked milk in infancy

And, in the course of time, again he went on hands and knees upon the earth;

Having become, step by step, an adult in possession of his body,

By that same process, step by step, he has grown old.”

jiblet said...

I'm not saying your reading of parisarpam is wrong, but only that EHJ's amendment works.

- a view from the boundary.

Mike Cross said...

Since EHJ's amendment is paleographically closer, it is EHJ's call. I changed the text file already and added this footnote:

Old Nepalese manuscript has parisṛṣṭam, which Amṛtananda presumably amended to parimṛṣṭam (since EBC has parimṛṣṭam). EHJ amended to parisṛpṭam based on Bohtlingk's conjecture. CSL has parisṛṭam, which does not fit the Upajāti metre, but the CSL translation has “crawled” (parisṛpṭam). Another possible amendment might be to parisarpam (-am form gerund from pari-√sṛp); the effect on the meaning would be to connect crawling in the 2nd pāda with becoming a mature adult in the 3rd pāda. Since EHJ's amendment is paleographically closer to the Old Nepalese manuscript, however, parisṛpṭam has been preferred.

In the developmental work, there is a phenomenon that is commonly observed among adults with strongly residual primitive fear reflexes, known as "Moro pedantry." We might just have demonstrated an example of it.