Monday, November 5, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.40: One Sick Individual

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
athāparaṁ vyādhi-parīta-dehaṁ ta eva devāḥ sasṛjur-manuṣyam |
dṛṣṭvā ca taṁ sārathim-ābabhāṣe śauddhodanis-tad-gata-dṛṣṭir-eva || 3.40

Then one whose body was encompassed by sickness,

A human being unlike any other,
those same old gods conjured up;

And on seeing him the son of Śuddhodana
addressed the driver of the chariot,

With his eye directed squarely in that direction.

This sick human being unlike any other (a-param manuṣya) sounds like he might be the person Marjory Barlow told me about – the one who is the best friend an individual has in Alexander work.

Aparam can be read in at least three ways.

The dictionary gives a-para firstly as “having nothing beyond or after , having no rival or superior.” This, as I read it, gives a-param manuṣya “a human being who has no rival or superior,” its hidden meaning. I think Aśvaghoṣa has in mind what Chinese Zen masters called 非仏 (Jap: HI-BUTSU), a non-buddha, an individual whose body is shot through with faulty sensory appreciation, an individual who suffers from the sickness of clouded eyes.

A second meaning of aparam in aparam manuṣya is simply “another.” Thus, EBC: “Then the same deities created another man with his body all afflicted by disease,” and PO: “Then those same gods fashioned another man with a body afflicted by disease.”

Thirdly the dictionary defines aparam as “again, moreover,” in which case aparam in today's verse is the indeclinable (or acc. sg. n.) second half of the compound athāparam meaning “thereupon.” Hence EHJ: “Thereupon the same gods created a man with body afflicted by disease.”

A-param manuṣya (“a human being unlike any other”) parallels narebhyaḥ pṛthag-ākṛtim (“of an order different to other men”) in BC3.27, the translation of which I have revised so as to allow Aśvaghoṣa's words to be read, like today's verse, as describing a non-buddha. Hence:  
And so the prince beheld that man humbled by growing old, who was of an order different to other men; / He quizzed the driver, being full of interest in that state, in which sole direction he rested his eyes, immovably. // BC3.27 //
Tad in today's verse parallels tatraiva in 3.27. In today's verse, then, I asked myself, to what object, or person, or state should we understand that tad points?

As in BC3.27, one way of reading the 4th pāda is as a suggestion of sitting practice itself, in which, at least in theory, the eyes are directed squarely, immovably, upon some object. In practice sometimes I close my eyes when I am sitting, but even with the eyes closed, there should be, in theory, some sense in which the attention/energy is directed in some direction, that direction being mainly up.

For this reason, as a result of thinking about today's verse in four phases the last of which is sitting practice itself, I have tentatively decided to translate tad as “in that direction.”

The honest truth, however, is that when I sit in practice, I sit in practice, not in theory. If I ever paint a theoretically coherent picture of how sitting practice ought to be, nobody should believe a word of it, least of all me. My body is as encompassed as it ever was by the sickness associated with congenital vestibular dysfunction, and philosophical understanding of how things fall into four phases, while useful for translating a four-line verse like today's verse, is utterly impotent in the face of such faulty sensory appreciation. Certainly, if I preached my theoretical understanding to my companions here, I am afraid that there is not a single tree in the forest who I might hope to impress. 

atha: ind. and, and so, then
a-param (acc. sg. m.): mfn. having nothing beyond or after , having no rival or superior
aparam (acc. sg. m.): posterior , later , latter ; inferior , lower (opposed to pára); other , another (opposed to svá) ; different (with abl.)
aparam: ind. (acc. sg. n.) again, further on, moreover
vyādhi-parīta-deham (acc. sg. m.): his body encompassed by disease
vyādhi: m. disorder , disease , ailment , sickness , plague (esp. leprosy)
parīta: mfn. standing or moving round , surrounding; surrounded , encompassed , filled , taken possession of , seized (with instr. or in comp.)
pari- √i: to go about , move in a circle ; (trans.) to go or flow round (acc.) , circumambulate , surround , include , grasp , span
deha: mn. the body

taḥ eva devāḥ (nom. pl. m.): those same old gods
sasṛjur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. sṛj: to let go or fly , discharge ; to release , set free ; to draw out and twist (a thread) , twist , wind , spin (lit. and fig. ) ; (in older language only A1.) to emit from one's self i.e. create , procreate , produce , beget ; to use, employ
manuṣyam (acc. sg.): m. a man , human being

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see
ca: and
tam: him
sārathim (acc. sg.): m. a charioteer , driver of a car
ābabhāṣe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ā- √ bhāṣ: to address, speak to

śauddhodaniḥ (nom. sg.): m. the son of Śuddhodhana
tad-gata-dṛṣṭiḥ (nom. sg. m.): with his eye on him
tad: him; that ; there , in that place , thither , to that spot
gata: come to , approached , arrived at , being in , situated in , contained in; directed to
dṛṣṭi: f. seeing, sight, eye, look, gaze
eva: (emphatic)

天復化病人 守命在路傍

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