Thursday, October 4, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.8: Gold Trappings, Four Horses, Good Driver, Gold Carriage

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Ārdrā)
tataḥ sa jāmbūnada-bhānḍa-bhṛdbhir-yuktaṁ caturbhir-nibhṛtais-turaṅgaiḥ |
aklība-vidvac-chuci-raśmi-dhāraṁ hiraṇ-mayaṁ syandanam-āruroha || 3.8

Yoked to four calm submissive horses

Bearing golden trappings,

With an assertive driver at the reins,
a man of knowledge and integrity,

Was the golden carriage which he then ascended. 

If yesterday's verse was an investigation into the unreality which is a function of our human self-consciousness, today's verse as I read it is pointing, through the use of metaphor, to the kind of unfathomable reality we encounter as if in a dream.

The elements of the metaphor are (1) golden trappings, (2) four horses, (3) the driver, and (4) ascending the golden carriage – in that order.

The order of the four elements is important insofar as (1) the gold of the golden trappings can be taken as symbolizing what is supremely valuable and beautiful; (2) each of the four horses is a concrete individual, having attained its present calm submissive state through a particular relationship with the whip (see Shobogenzo chap. 85, Shime); (3) the driver is the buddha, the man of action who guides the horses to direct their energy in the direction he desires; and (4) ascending the golden carriage on the royal road can be taken as a metaphor for the real life of an individual non-buddha who keeps going on up.

I have not been able to maintain this fourfold order in any kind of natural-sounding way in English, and so in the above translation the order of the four elements is (2), (1), (3), (4).

Today's verse and yesterday's verse seem to be opposed to each other in the same way as Dogen's metaphorical description of sitting-meditation as “a backward step of turning light and letting it shine” can be seen as opposed to Aśvaghoṣa's more detailed and literal description of four stages of sitting-meditation, which are each entered by finding fault in oneself at a progressively deeper level – for example, by seeing the fault in end-gaining desire, in thinking/ideas, in attachment to joy, and in attachment to ease.

In today's verse, which I have thus understood to be not so much a literal description of the prince's journey on the king's highway as a metaphor for a sitting practitioner's journey on the royal road, gold makes two appearances – in the 1st pāda (jambūnada) and in the 4th pāda (hiraṇ-mayam).

I think this reflects that Aśvaghoṣa firstly uses gold to symbolize something to which human beings universally tend to assign high value – and consideration of what human subjects value belongs to the first phase.

Secondly he uses gold to symbolize what is real, as opposed to what human beings treat as if it were real, like digitized money for example. So long as we all believe our digitized money is real, financial mayhem may be averted. But if we begin to lose confidence in money, as governments create more and more of it in the effort to keep the economy afloat, then the demand for gold goes up, and since the global supply of gold is limited, the price of gold (in terms of made-up money) rises. This is what has been happening for the past several years, so that some people think that the rising price of gold already represents a speculative bubble. Those central banks which are now adding to their own gold reserves are evidently not of this view, and neither am I -- though I am always liable to be wrong.

The good thing about a global free market in gold is that the rising or falling price keeps in perfect balance the desires, on the one side, of people who wish to sell gold for made-up money, and on the other side, of people who wish to buy gold for made-up money -- and so looking at the price, everybody who has gold, or who has made-up money, can decide where they stand.

John Maynard Keynes, who belongs to that class of brainy classical economists whose bright ideas precipitated the current crisis, in 1924 described the gold standard as “a barbarous relic.” 

The poor Indian farmers who have continued nonetheless to use gold as the primary vehicle for their savings, have doubtless never read Keynes.

Is one side right and one side wrong?

When a sitting practitioner learns to turn his own light and let it shine, is that golden light a metaphor? Or is it a real energy?

Again, if it is energy, is it a particle? Or is it a wave?

I don't know. But when it comes to trusting big governments, I am with the Indian farmers.

tataḥ: ind. thence, from that
sa (nom. sg.): he
jānbūnada-bhānḍa-bhṛdbhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): bearing golden trappings
jāmbūnada: n. gold from the jambū river , any gold
bhānḍa: n. tool; n. horse-trappings , harness
bhṛdbhiḥ = inst. pl. m. bhṛt: mfn. bearing , carrying , bringing , procuring , possessing , wearing , having

yuktam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. yoked, harnessed
caturbhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): four
nibhṛtaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. ( √ bhṛ) borne or placed down , hidden , secret; firm , immovable ; attached , faithful ; still , silent ; quiet , humble , modest , mild , gentle
turaṅgaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. 'fast-goers,' horses

aklība-vidvac-chuci-raśmi-dhāram (acc. sg. n.): with a man who was manly, knowing, and honest holding the reins
aklība: mfn. not impotent, manly
klība: mfn. impotent , emasculated , a eunuch; unmanly , timorous , weak , idle , a coward ; having no water (as a cloud)
klīb: to be impotent , behave like a eunuch ; to be timorous or modest or unassuming
vidvas: mfn. one who knows , knowing , understanding , learned , intelligent , wise , mindful of , familiar with , skilled in
śuci: mfn. shining , glowing , gleaming , radiant , bright ; clear , clean , pure (lit. and fig.) , holy , unsullied , undefiled , innocent , honest , virtuous ; (ifc.) one who has acquitted himself of or discharged (a duty » rahaḥ-śuci, 'one who has executed a secret commission')
raśmi: m. a string , rope , cord , trace , rein , bridle , leash , goad , whip; a ray of light , beam , splendour
dhāra: mfn. ( √ dhṛ) holding , supporting , containing

hiraṇ-mayam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. golden , gold-coloured
syandanam (acc. sg.): n. 'moving on swiftly,' a war-chariot , chariot , car
āruroha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ā- √ ruh: to ascend , mount , bestride , rise up

衆寶軒飾車 結駟駿平流
賢良善術藝 年少美姿容

妙淨鮮花服 同車爲執御

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