Tuesday, October 2, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.6: In Action On the Royal Road

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Ārdrā)
tataḥ kṛte śrīmati rāja-mārge śrīmān vinītānucaraḥ kumāraḥ |
prāsāda-pṛṣṭhād-avatīrya kāle kṛtābhyanujño nṛpam-abhyagacchat || 3.6

And so in majestic action on the royal road,

A majesty-possessing heir-apparent
with an amenable assembly in his train,

Having alighted at the proper time
from atop his elevated perch,

Approached, with his assent, a protector of men.

Today's verse as I read it has below its surface a particularly strong autobiographical component. It may be true to say that every verse that Aśvaghoṣa wrote has an autobiographical component, insofar as Aśvaghoṣa was not in the business of composing a biography, like a voyeuristic journalist, or a Buddhist scholar, as if the Buddha's teaching had nothing to do with him personally. Rather he was always writing out of his own practice and experience.

That being so, whereas on the surface kṛte śrīmati rāja-mārge means “on the king's highway which had been made beautiful/splendid [by getting rid of the great unwashed, the disabled etc.]" (EBC: “Along this road made beautiful”; EHJ: “when the road had been made beautiful”; PO: "when the royal highway had been made splendid"), below the surface kṛte śrīmati rāja-mārge might really mean “on the royal road in the splendid sate of action.” In that case, pratyaṅga-hīnaḥ (being bereft of extremities) and kṛte śrīmati (being in the splendid state of action) are one and the same state of being, which is called a royal road.

Whereas on the surface śrīmān vinītānucaraḥ kumāraḥ describes the son of King Śuddhodana as “the fortunate prince with his well-trained attendants” (EBC) or “the prince in full splendour with well-trained attendants” (EHJ) or “the splendid prince along with his trained attendants” (PO),  below the surface śrīmān vinītānucaraḥ kumāraḥ might be intended to describe every individual practitioner of Aśvaghoṣa's acquaintance who practised slow walking in a group of fellow practitioners, such that everybody led everybody else, as “a majesty-possessing heir-apparent with an amenable assembly in his train.” In other words, śrīmān vinītānucaraḥ kumāraḥ, as I read it, is an expression of Aśvaghoṣa's practice and experience in the order of the 11th Zen patriarch in India, Puṇyayaśas.

That being so, whereas prāsāda ostensibly means the upper storey of Śuddhodana's royal palace, I think prāsāda is really intended to mean a raised sitting platform.

And whereas when Aśvaghoṣa wrote nṛpam, “protector of men,” he was ostensibly referring to King Śuddhodana, Aśvaghoṣa might really have had in mind his own experience of approaching a teacher like Puṇyayaśas.

Speaking of elevated perches, when I sit in France I generally sit on one of a number of basic sitting platforms that I have enjoyed constructing for that purpose, both inside a Zendo/shed and out  in the open air, whereas in England I generally sit on a thick mat placed on the floor. And one thing I have noticed since coming back from France after the summer is that it is easier for me to establish the “knees forwards and away” direction prior to sitting on a platform constructed at roughly knee height, than it is when I am called upon to sit on a cushion on the floor. This was particularly the case following an injury to my left knee which made it more difficult for me to keep directing myself up while going into a low squat. For those who sit on the floor but who lack the flexibility to go into a low squat, another alternative is to go onto hands and knees first, get a lengthening and widening direction going there, and then from all fours place the pelivs on top of the round cushion. But all things considered, if it is possible, with the aid of a raised platform, to go into the “position of mechanical advantage” that Alexander teachers and students through the ages have referred to as “monkey,” in the process of and immediately prior to parking one's backside upon a round cushion, this in my experience is most conducive to sitting with the knees going forwards and away, which I would recommend to anybody.

Majestic action (kṛṭam śriyam), I submit, is a state of being bereft of extremities (pratyaṅga-hīnaḥ). And as a subtle, delicate, indirect and at the same time very accurate means-whereby for realizing that state, nothing in my experience beats the technique evolved for that purpose by FM Alexander. 

tataḥ: ind. then, thence; from that, in consequence of that
kṛte (loc. sg.): mfn. made ; n. deed , work , action
śrīmati (loc. sg.): mfn. beautiful , charming , lovely , pleasant , splendid , glorious ; possessed of fortune , fortunate , auspicious , wealthy , prosperous , eminent , illustrious , venerable (used , like śrī , as a prefix before the names of eminent persons and celebrated works and sometimes corrupted into śrīmant) , of high rank or dignity
śrī: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches ; high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity ; symbol or insignia of royalty
-mat: (possessive suffix)
rāja-mārge (loc. sg.): m. the king's highway , a royal or main road , principal street (passable for horses and elephants); (met.) the great path

śrīmān (nom. sg. m.): splendid; illustrious
vinītānucaraḥ (nom. sg. m.): with a well-behaved assembly in his train
vinīta: mfn. led ; tamed , trained , educated , well-behaved , humble , modest
anucara: m. companion , follower , servant
anu- √ car: to walk or move after or along ; to follow , pursue , seek after ; to follow out , adhere to , attend
kumāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. child, youth; son; prince ; heir-apparent

prāsāda-pṛṣṭhāt (abl. sg.): from the palace roof ; from atop his sitting platform
prāsāda: m. (for pra-sāda lit. " sitting forward " , sitting on a seat in a conspicuous place) a lofty seat or platform for spectators , terrace; the top-story of a lofty building ; a lofty palatial mansion (approached by steps) , palace , temple ; (with Buddhists) the monks' hall for assembly and confession
pṛṣṭha: n. the back, the hinder part or rear of anything; the upper side
avatīrya = abs. ava- √ tṝ: alight from , alight (abl.) ; to descend (as a deity) in becoming incarnate
kāle (loc. sg.): in time, in good time, at the right time

kṛtābhyanujñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with his assent
kṛta: mfn. done, achieved
abhyanujñā: f. assent , approval ; authorization , permission
nṛpam (acc. sg.): m. ruler/protector of men, king
abhyagacchat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect abhi- √ gam: to go near to, to approach

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