Monday, October 1, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.5: Clearing Aśvaghoṣa's Road

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
pratyaṅga-hīnān vikalendriyāṁś-ca jīrṇāturādīn kṛpaṇāṁś-ca dikṣu |
tataḥ samutsārya pareṇa sāmnā śobhāṁ parāṁ rāja-pathasya cakruḥ || 3.5

Those bereft of extremities, with disabled organs of sense,

Along with pitiable people everywhere
-- the old, the infirm, and the like --

Were therefore caused, with great gentleness, 
to clear the area,

So that the royal road 
was made to shine with great splendour.

It feels like I have been in training for the last four years to nail the translation of today's verse. If I have failed, never mind, because tomorrow will be the day of another Olympic final. 

On the face of it, the king in today's verse is a patrician ruler who, ableit gently, says in so many words to so many squalid plebs on his royal road, "Know your place, you plebs and morons. You are not running this country. I am. So clear off out of the way." (Any resemblance of the king, thus portrayed, to any patrician British politician recently in the news, is purely intentional.)

Thus EBC translated today's verse, perfectly literally, as follows:
Then having removed out of the way with the greatest gentleness all those who had mutilated limbs or maimed senses, the decrepit and the sick and all squalid beggars, they made the highway assume its perfect beauty.

EHJ likewise:
Then with the greatest gentleness they cleared away on all sides those whose limbs were maimed or senses defective, the aged, sick and the like, and the wretched, and made the royal highway supremely magnificent.

PO likewise: 
Then, removing very gently from every side those lacking a limb or with defective organs, the wretched, the decrepit, the sick, and the like, they heightened the grandeur of the royal highway. 

On the face of it, today's verse is not one of those that encourages us to dig for hidden meaning.

But if we do dig anyway, if only for the sake of digging itself, the first pointer to buried meaning might be in rāja-pathasya (EBC: the highway; EHJ/PO: the royal highway).

In yesterday's verse Aśvaghoṣa used the expression rāja-marge (“on the royal road”). In today's verse he writes of śobhāṁ parāṁ rāja-pathasya (“the great splendour of the royal road”). In BC3.6 he again uses the expression rāja-marge (“on the royal road”), and in BC3.10 and BC3.25 rāja-patham (“the royal road”).

In addition to the ostensible meaning of “the king's highway,” the real intention of rāja-patha might be to suggest, as "a royal road," the life of a bloke for whom the most important thing is simply sitting and who is thus very gradually freed, with great indirectness, from lack of integrity and from enslavement to faulty sensory appreciation. 

In that case, “one bereft of extremities, with disabled organs of sense,” means a non-buddha. A non-buddha means, for example, a bloke whose main aṅgas (e.g. head and torso) when he sits are not discomknockerated out of alignment by his misuse of pratyaṅgas (e.g. by clenching his jaw, unduly tensing his toes and, above all, grasping with his hands). A non-buddha, again, might be a bloke with seriously faulty sensory appreciation who has worked out a means whereby in his practice of upright sitting faulty feelings may be circumvented.

In that case, if samutsārya is translated as “causing to clear away,” even if away is spelled “away,”  samutsārya might best be understood as meaning “causing to clear a way" --  in which case the objects to be swept out of the way are not human beings who are less than perfect, but rather faulty habits of use rooted in faulty sensory appreciation and end-gaining ideas.

In that case, again, if samutsārya is translated as "causing to get out of the area," the area to be got out of is not the royal road -- except insofar as the area to get out of might be the whole idea of "a royal road." The area to be got out of, again, is the area of faulty habits of use rooted in faulty sensory appreciation and end-gaining ideas. 

The final word of today's verse, cakruḥ is in the 3rd person plural: it means "they did/made/effected." Aśvaghoṣa, however, did not specify the subject who made the royal road shine with splendour, by clearing stuff away, or by clearing a way, or by clearing the whole area. 

Was omitting to specficy the subject of a verb an uncharacteristically inelegant oversight on Aśvaghoṣa's part? I don't think so. My intuition is that Aśvaghoṣa saw it as his own job, as also it was the job of his predecessors and it would be the job of his progeny, to clear a way for non-buddhas, and a way for ordinary plebs and ordinary toffs too. The unspecified subject of cakruḥ, in that case, might be the buddha-ancestors along with blokes who labour in service of buddha-ancestors, with shovels and brooms in hand, mining Aśvaghoṣa's gold and sweeping Aśvaghoṣa's road. 

The real meaning that Aśvaghoṣa intended by pratyaṅga-hīnān, “being bereft of extremities,” I am sure, is what Dogen meant by 自成一片 JI-JO-IPPEN “becoming all of a piece.” And to clarify that meaning, for self and others, is what I have been endeavouring to do for the past thirty years, so far, I must admit, with very limited success.

Incidentally, when I came to search this blog for  自成一片 JI-JO-IPPEN “becoming all of a piece," in order to cut and paste it here, I was confounded by not being able to find the navigation bar which always used to appear at the top of the screen. In attempting to fix that problem I accidentally changed the whole template of the blog, and then was unable to change it back. So the new layout of the blog is nothing intentional, just another in a continuing series of mistakes. 

pratyaṅga-hīnān (acc. pl. m.): those with missing/defective limbs ; those [whose core is] free from [interference from] extremities
pratyaṅga: n. a minor or secondary member of the body (as the forehead , nose , chin , fingers , ears &c ; the 6 aṅgas or chief members being the trunk , head , arms and legs)
hīna: mfn. deficient , defective , faulty , insufficient , short , incomplete , poor , little , low , vile , bad , base , mean ; bereft or deprived of , free from , devoid or destitute of , without (instr. abl. loc. acc. , or comp)
vikalendriyān (acc. pl. m.): those deprived of organs of sense ; those in whom reliance on the power of the senses is absent
vi-kala: mfn. deprived of a part or a limb or a member , mutilated , maimed , crippled , impaired , imperfect , deficient in or destitute of (instr. or comp)
indriya: n. bodily power , power of the senses ; faculty of sense , sense , organ of sense
ca: and

jīrṇāturādīn (acc. pl. m.): the decrepit, the sick, and the like
jīrṇa: mfn. old , worn out , withered , wasted , decayed
ātura: mfn. suffering , sick (in body or mind) ; diseased or pained by (in comp.)
ādi: et cetera
kṛpaṇān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. inclined to grieve , pitiable , miserable , poor , wretched , feeble; low, vile; m. a poor man; a scraper, a niggard
ca: and
dikṣu (loc. pl.): f. quarter or region pointed at , direction , cardinal point

tataḥ: ind. then, thence
samutsārya = abs. caus. sam-ut- √ sṛ: to send away , dismiss ; to drive away , disperse , dispel
ut- √ sṛ: to hasten away , escape; (causative) to expel , turn out , drive away , put or throw away , leave off ; to cause to come out ; to challenge
pareṇa: ind. farther , beyond ; out of the way
sāmnā (inst. sg.): n. calming , tranquillizing , (esp.) kind or gentle words for winning an adversary , conciliation , negotiation (one of the 4 upāyas or means of success against an enemy)

śobhām (acc. sg.): f. splendour , brilliance , lustre , beauty , grace , loveliness
parām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. extreme; superior , best , highest , supreme
rāja-pathasya (gen. sg.): m. the king's highway , a main road , public road or street
cakruḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. kṛ: to do, make


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