Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.35: A Developmental Sequence

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
niḥśvasya dīrghaṁ sva-śiraḥ prakampya tasmiṁś-ca jīrṇe viniveśya cakṣuḥ |
tāṁ caiva dṛṣṭvā janatāṁ saharṣāṁ vākyaṁ sa saṁvigna idaṁ jagāda || 3.35

He took an audible deep breath, then shook his head,

Then fixed his eye upon the old man,

And then he took in the joyful throng;

After that, still in a state of alarm, he uttered these words:

I have commented before that when Aśvaghoṣa uses a series of absolutive (“... and then”) forms, as he does in today's verse, there may be meaning to be found in examining the order of elements.

Thus when Nanda is described as first directing the whole body up, and thus keeping his awareness turned towards the body, and thus integrating in his person all the senses, and thereby throwing himself all-out into practice (SN17.4), our attention is indirectly drawn to the all-important first step in the sequence, namely directing the whole body up.

Similarly Aśvaghoṣa tells us in today's verse that 
(1) first the prince breathed emotionally, and then 
(2) he moved his head relative to his body, and then 
(3) he fixated his eye upon a target, and then 
(4) he mentally registered what was going on, and finally, after all that, 
(5) he expressed himself.

What today's verse suggests to me (whose view of course is inevitably jaundiced by obsessive interest in the link between immature primitive reflexes and faulty sensory appreciation) is actions that have to do with 
(1) the Moro, or “baby panic” reflex; 
(2) the asymmetric tonic neck reflex (ATNR) and tonic labyrinthine reflex (TLR), which are stimulated by movement of the head relative to the body; 
(3) that fixation of the eyes which becomes possible with the inhibition of the three aforementioned primitive reflexes – fixation of the eyes being not so much a function of the visual system as a more primitive ocular-motor (eye movement) function, involving a very ancient circuit of neurones called the vestibular oculomotor reflex arc; 
(4) cognitive function involving the top two inches and the visual system and at the same time the function of the vestibular system at brainstem level as integrator of vestibular, auditory, visual and other senses; 
(5) a psycho-physical response, expressed using the voice.

Digging deeper, what is particularly interesting, especially in view of the title of the present canto, is the reappearance of saṁvigna (“being flustered” / “being [still] in a state of alarm”) in the 4th pāda. The title of this canto is saṁvignotpattiḥ (= saṁvigna + utpatti, arising). So how should we understand saṁvigna, in today's verse and in the canto title?

Saṁvigna is from saṁ-√vij whose first definition in the dictionary is to tremble or start with fear. That Aśvaghoṣa had this original meaning in mind is indicated by his use in yesterday's verse of the verb saṁvivije, also from saṁ-√vij, which I translated as “recoiled" -- like a startled bull. 

Simply thinking, the Moro reflex is personified in Aśvaghoṣa's writings by Māra, “the Destroyer, the Evil One” -- the Buddha's great enemy. But upon deeper investigation sometimes fear is not the enemy; sometimes fear is a great motivating and awakening force.

Again, simply thinking, fear or being flustered might be a starting point in establishing the will to leave home and pursue the truth, like a mighty bull frightened by a thunderbolt; but in a buddha who is sitting immovably like the king of mountains, nothing fearful or flustered is operative.

Today's verse, then, as I read it, with saṁvigna making its reappearance in the 4th pāda, at the end of a developmental sequence, indirectly suggests a real situation which is more real, more integral, than our a priori thoughts about enlightenment.

niḥśvasya = abs. niḥ- √ śvas: , to hiss (said of a serpent) ; to snort (said of an elephant) ; to breathe , exhale, inhale; to sigh
dīrgham: ind. long
sva-śiraḥ (acc. sg. n.): his head
prakampya = abs. pra- √ kamp: to tremble, shake

tasmin (loc. sg. m.): on him
ca: and
jīrṇe (loc. sg. m.): mfn. old , worn out , withered , wasted , decayed; m. an old man
viniveśya = abs. vi-ni- √ viś: set down or place in , put on ; to apply ; to fix (the eyes or thoughts) upon (loc.)
cakṣuḥ (acc. sg.): n. faculty of seeing , sight ; the eye

tām (acc. sg. f): that
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
dṛṣṭvā = abs. drś: to see , behold , look at , regard , consider
janatām (acc. sg.): f. a number of men , assemblage of people , community ,
saharṣām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. joyful , glad

vākyam (acc. sg.): n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words (
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
saṁvignaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. agitated , flurried , terrified , shy
saṁ- √ vij: to tremble or start with fear , start up , run away ; to fall to pieces , burst asunder
idam (acc. sg. n. ): this
jagāda = 3rd pers. perf. gad: to speak articulately , speak , say , relate , tell

菩薩亦如是 震怖長嘘息 
繋心於老苦 頷頭而瞪矚

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